Well, the relative majority thought it was a good idea, so let’s sum up what Virgin Soul has given us this April in preparation for the next five months.
Rage of Bahamut wasn’t exactly the most popular show when it first came out, but it got enough attention and money to the point that a sequel was definitely feasible, although for all my complaints about the original, an inconclusive ending wasn’t exactly one of them. Nevertheless, it didn’t look like the second Garo anime in terms of being a step down, and the series as a whole is light on plot anyways, so long as it delivers on the action spectacle, I’ll be happy. Of course, a few minutes into Virgin Soul will make things clear that this new Bahamut is more Fire Emblem than Pirates of the Caribbean, and for all of the things that make Fire Emblem well-loved, having good storytelling isn’t one of them. There’s very little action, the main character is a blushing moron with little connection to what’s going on, and the anti-racism is pretty one-sided (not helped by how much of a douche Azazel is). But despite some fans noticing this, Virgin Soul is still getting lots of love. Because hey, at least the good production values are still around.
Thank god I rewatched the first four episodes with a friend this weekend. I forgot quite a few details that you guys would have murdered me for not mentioning or saying incorrectly.
Virgin Soul’s plot at the moment reminds me a lot of those console Fire Emblem games with Ike in it, most specifically Radiant Dawn because it takes place after a giant war and the main plot is focused on the aftermath of that. I played the entirety of that game five times in my life, but it definitely wasn’t for the atrocious story regarding Gods judging humanity for its malevolence. Nevertheless, I did think the whole “losing country fighting to regain glory after being turned into an underdog by war” aspect was an interesting one, although in Virgin Soul’s case, it’s “losing species”. Demons are now being persecuted in a vein similar to the laguz what with being used as sport or trophies for pleasure, and thanks to the new king discovering some great power that I’m still not clear on the details of five years ago, said demons can’t exactly stage a revolution. Don’t expect aid from the angels either. As we established last season, and throughout life in general, angels are assholes.
In terms of main players, Favaro hasn’t shown up yet despite being featured on the promotional material, which has caused quite a few people to beg he make this anime great again. However, we do have Nina – the focus character who a lot of people think is funny and endearing, but I think her constant blushing around hot guys along with the requirement to turn into a dragon (oh yeah, she’s a half-human/half-dragon) is stupid and lame. We have Azazel, who is still a giant douchebag even when he’s on the sympathetic side. We have Mugaro, a mute demon who is revealed in the latest episode to be Jeanne’s son. And we have Kaiser, who has been promoted to the king’s right-hand man over time, and is not exactly in a good position to be helping anyone out, but is still a goofball underneath the more serious demeanor his position requires.
Also there’s Rita, who is still my favorite character, but part of her charm is that she can’t majorly influence events.
The closest thing we have to a main antagonist at the moment is the new King, Cicero VII. Or was it Caesar the Eighth? Honestly, I find the guy to be too much of a boring asshole to bother remembering his name correctly considering he’s just another one-sided, racist, evil-looking Fire Emblem villain. Nevertheless, he’s the main reason why anti-demonism runs around, if not the main source for how humans can fight the demons. And there’s really no moral ambiguity with him either, right down to his design, so even if he’s not the true main antagonist as the story goes on, he’s definitely going to need to be dethroned at some point in the story.
Virgin Soul so far has been a little slow to get into its story, not helped by how the first four episodes feel more like two hour-long episodes that were chopped in half so that they could fit into the time slots that Japan reserves for their anime. Try watching Episodes 1 and 2 (or 3 and 4) and saying to me that they don’t feel like two separate halves to an episodic event. My theory based on this show going for two cours and such is that this new Bahamut wanted to go bigger by adopting more of a live-action TV format, but the industry wouldn’t have any of that, hence we have an approach similar to Darker than Black’s first season. Plus, there’s the fact that making even one episode is hard in general. I remember reading interviews about Danganronpa 3 after it finished airing and how doing two episodes a week made the creators go “never doing that shit again”.
But even taking that into account, my main problem with Virgin Soul so far is that it’s replacing the fun parts of Genesis for the one thing I didn’t like about the show: talking. I mean the dialogue isn’t bad or anything, but since Bahamut is more of a genre piece than a fantasy game-changer, that means that the subject matter the characters generally banter about is pretty much every fantasy trope you’ve ever seen. That may not be much of a problem if you’re a fan of fantasy in general. but when you combine that with Virgin Soul’s slow pace and lack of action, you’ll be hard-pressed to convince me that the creators couldn’t have come up with some better world-building.
Speaking of the action, it’s not like I want constant Pirates of the Caribbean-style fanservice or anything, but I can’t think of one good set piece in this show so far. The closest the show has gotten to being cinematic is when Nina turns into a dragon, and when she does, it’s mostly just her breathing fire while characters shoot arrows at her large ass (and miss). And it only lasts a minute because Nina isn’t good at being a dragon to begin with. Every other action scene we’ve seen has been beam spams and gladiator matches where the action is supposed to be more disturbing than fun. Plus, all of those scenes combined can’t make up more than ten minutes of the show at most. The rest of it has been dedicated to Nina lollygagging around, Rita being snarky, Mugaro being mysterious, and everything else we expect the characters to be doing their off time. Sometimes it’s humorous without any of the forced wit that make up a lot of today’s action films, but I roll at my eyes at Nina running out of Rita’s cottage wearing nothing but a blanket.
Oh and by the way, I like how her clothes get ripped every time she transforms, but apparently breaking her headband is crossing the line.
Anyone who’s played the Tellius saga of Fire Emblem will also remember how racism against beast-men was a big part of its story. If you were to ask me what my opinion of how said topic was handled in that game, I’d say it did it fairly well for the most part for a lot of reasons that Bahamut is sort of lacking at the moment like lead characters who represented the various sides of the debate and a common enemy that helped spearhead why racism was wrong. The one advantage it does have though is that we saw the war in the first season, so it’s not like we don’t understand where this persecution is coming from. I mean hell, Azazel killed Kaiser’s father for crying out loud, and Kaiser hasn’t exactly forgotten that despite trying to save the douche.
Obviously, what the demons did to humans back then does not justify what they do to demons now. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that it’s pretty easy to blame an entire race for your misfortune if a select few from said race give you grief. Not many people can be Kaiser when it comes to making peace with the culprit who ruined your life after all. Having never been in that situation myself, I can’t guarantee how I’d turn out either. But there’s no denying the fact that I’d be very uncomfortable around demon folk, simply because some of them have spikes protruding from their shoulders, and hugging one would most likely be very fatal to me. In that regard, Bahamut’s anti-racism (or demon-ism if you want to be technical) agenda is a little interesting. I’d still like these characters to have stronger stances regarding what side they’re on though.
Especially Nina. In addition to being a moron, she doesn’t really have any stakes in regards to this conflict, which is definitely something that even Rita surpasses her in. I know she’s supposed to be a female version of Favaro, but let’s not forget that our favorite afro dude was tricked into a deal that forced him to accompany a demon on an adventure he didn’t want to be on. Nina does not have any reason to help Azazel or anyone aside from thinking they’re hot, and she thinks a lot of guys are hot in this show. She’s only in the show because she’s a half-dragon girl trying to make a living in the area while coincidentally receiving training from our absent prior lead, with the only thing driving her forward is sending money to her village, which has been reported to be in fine condition. In fact, do dragons count as demons? I’m not really clear on that.
Yes her sprite in the ending theme is kinda cute and she can be a little funny at times, but you might as well have brought Favaro back in the beginning if that and the occasional short dragon action is all she contributes.
Underneath all the niggling annoyances, Virgin Soul is still entertaining enough with a fantasy world that I find more engaging than Tolkien’s or George RR Martin’s, characters that we want to root for or see burn in hell, and good production that make us cry when we remember that the new Berserk is also airing right now. It does a lot to separate itself from its predecessor, even if it leans more on its crappier qualities in order to do so, and it’s definitely more entertaining to watch than White Fox’s new fantasy show, which I can only describe at this point as completely average. Hopefully, the plot doesn’t go full Radiant Dawn near the end like the first season kinda did. Without the ability to marry off your character, more people are going to notice when you fuck something up that majorly, MAPPA.