On My Shelves: Bastard!!




"Several hundred years after the fall of human civilization, 'twas a lawless period, a time without order; only blood, flesh, bone, and iron. It was also a time of sorcery. Having been terrorized by demonic creatures their entire lives, human beings were miserably inadequate, and forced to subsist in a barren, hostile environment."


     (Yes, that's a quote directly from the opening of the anime. Painful, isn't it?)


     Bastard!! (no link; looks to be out of print) is a somewhat twisted D&Dish fantasy manga by Kazushi Hagiwara, adapted into a short OVA series. I've never seen any of the manga, so this review's based on the anime.


     In brief outline, the basic plot driver of the anime is that about 15 years ago, the incredibly powerful wizard Dark Schneider nearly conquered the world, only defeated by a confrontation with the most powerful surviving priest of the country Metallicana. The priest, Soto, couldn't kill Schneider, so he instead sealed his spirit inside the body of an innocent (and possibly somewhat dimwitted) baby named Luche. As with all such seals, it has a way of being released – a kiss from a completely chaste (i.e., virgin) girl.


Soto keeps this a secret and expects to never have to reveal it, but naturally a powerful wizard appears, leading an army which threatens the city to the point that finally they cross the Godzilla Threshold and figure there is no way that even releasing Dark Schneider could make things worse. Soto's daughter, Yoko, releases Schneider from Luche's spiritual bonds.


Schneider does, indeed, save the city, and – somewhat to everyone's surprise, including his own – doesn't quite go on an unstoppable rampage of rape and slaughter as his reputation would imply. It turns out that living for 15 years in the body of a complete innocent has had some effect on him; Luche and Schneider are, by now, merging, and as Luche has a very deep affection for and loyalty to Yoko, Schneider also shares this affection (with, of course, additional more base interests).


The joke turns out to be on Dark Schneider, though, because when he goes to steal a kiss from Yoko he discovers that a second kiss from the chaste maiden reactivates the seal.


Later OVA episodes develop a deeper plot, with some very nasty people trying to basically awaken the goddess of destruction and unleash it upon the world.


Dark Schneider himself (referred to by those who are his friends as "Darshu") is the titular Bastard!! of the title. By the time things get rolling, it's obvious he's not the utterly evil monster the original stories implied, but he can be a massive jerk, with an ego the size of a planet. Darshu can get away with this because his power is the equal of his ego and he has a lot of style, being by far the coolest being on his planet. How powerful and cool is he? He manages to kill a Balrog (or something as near as makes no difference) with a fire spell. His fire's so powerful that even the fire-demon can't handle it.


Bastard!! is filled with in-jokes and wordplay focused mostly around heavy metal bands of the era in which it was made (the late 80s). People, cities, and spells will be named after classic "Hair metal" bands: Dark Schneider himself is named either after Udo Dirkschneider of the band Accept, or after Dee Schneider from Twisted Sister (or, possibly, inspired by both); the city central to the story is Metallicana (need I elaborate?), one of the knights is Sir Bon Jovina, the dark goddess is named Anthrax, and the powerful spells include Venom, Halloween, and Megadeth. It should be noted that the American translators were somewhat leery of being sued, so they mangled the names a bit, quite deliberately (so we have "Meta-Ricana" as the city, and so on).


There is some excellent background music for Bastard!!, some of which I have in my collection. There's a strong, almost Germanic component to it that gives it an epic feel.


Despite its D&D plus Heavy Metal origins, there are some very powerful and touching scenes in the anime – the best focused around Arshes Nei, a Dark Elf woman who was raised by Darshu since she was orphaned, who fell in love with him, and is then cursed to go after him and kill him, with a spell that will kill HER if she does not bathe her hand in his heart's blood. In this sequence we get to see Schneider as both more human and more awesome than in any prior sequences.


That all being said, Bastard!! is not without many flaws. It is filled with sexism and more fanservice than you can shake a box of brassieres at. Yoko is written as a fairly typical anime heroine of the period – a sort of screamy tsundere who only slowly improves, although it is to the show's credit that she does improve some over the course of the OVAs. And while it's true that Darshu's super-powered wizardry is one of the points of the series, it can also become somewhat tiresome to see him beaten down only to pull some ludicrously powerful spell out of nowhere to finish off his enemy in one shot. The late-80s, early –90s of anime are pretty well distilled into Bastard!!, and the distillation isn't always to its benefit.


     Still, if you're in the right frame of mind, Bastard!! can be a fun watch, and if you're not too triggered/bothered by the above tropes, it's well worth a look.






Your comments or questions welcomed!