It's always interesting to deal with the Japanese understanding of our language. Watch enough anime, and you'll see folks strangle the English language in all sorts of unique and interesting ways. (Not that I could do any better with Japanese...) Then there comes a show called Bastard! It actually gets it right, amazingly enough. The title actually refers to a type of two-handed sword that, when in skillful hands, could quickly make a child fatherless. However, there's also a double entendre at play since the main character of this show, Dark Schneider, is indeed...well, you know. The show starts off with real potential and continues to ride pretty high for a while, despite some minor fan service and slight pacing issues. Unfortunately, the middle and end gets bogged down in huge fight scenes that aren't all that exciting. There are surprises along the way, and it's still an OK show, but the entire series would have been better had it stayed truer to its beginnings.
Our story begins in a far future where the world has been through an apocalypse that spawned all sorts of strange and evil creatures, leaving human beings in a precarious position. Things have gone back to a feudal era where sorcery, sword fighting, and armor plating rule the day. Four warlords of chaos get together to break the seals that hold back a creature of ultimate darkness, and as the viewer knows, this can't be good. At the same time...Yoko is best friends with Rushe, a little boy who follows her everywhere. Little does she know that buried deep within Rushe is a secret weapon, the wizard known as Dark Schneider. When the warlords' plans come to the attention of the free world, there's a realization that Dark Schneider is the only hope of defeating the threat.
There's only one problem. Dark Schneider is a freak.
Nevertheless, when your kingdom is under fire from the most powerful magic known to man, you resurrect whomever you can. With Yoko's kiss, Rushe becomes the legendary Dark Schneider. Now he's not really happy about the arrangement, since he was essentially imprisoned for a very long time. Eventually, he figures, why not? He'd love to prove that he's still the most powerful being on Earth, and if that takes defeating some of his old comrades in arms, so be it. As long as he can get his groove on, he's happy...but is a rusty white-haired jerk of a warlock going to be able to handle the job?
Bastard! really is a fun show, at least through its first half. Things move quickly and the artwork is great in the first two episodes. The humor is fresh and invigorating, too. If nothing else, when things get a little tired past this point, that start keeps you going. Now the third episode shows a little bit of problems, primarily because the artistic style takes a big left turn. A couple of characters are hard to identify at first because of the changes! But that's something that can be dealt with.
However, the second half gets a little snoozeworthy. Here's where Dark Schneider takes on his foes in humongous battles. Now I'm all for great melees, myself, but these just get old quickly. There's just not enough excitement to them and no sense of real danger--if a hero cannot lose, then a half hour of violence is pretty worthless. Now there is a surprise at the end of the fifth episode that some might find shocking, but it is negated in the sixth episode. So, for the last 90 minutes, we get a little antsy, particularly because the humor and life starts to slowly drain out like the water in a tub where the drain cap doesn't quite fit. It's not terrible, but unfortunate.
There's also a very real problem in that much of the show's humor is based around something that didn't get completely translated. In the original version, the various kingdoms, spells, etc. were all named after different 80s metal and hair bands. Because of copyright issues, a lot of these jokes didn't make it into the official US release. My best recommendation is to watch with the Japanese language track where at least the names are pronounced correctly and you can get in on the jokes. I mean, the funniest parts of the show are things like the "Stryper defense"!
So what's my position on this show? If you like violent, humorous fantasy shows with long battle sequences, this is something to run out and get as soon as possible. If your tastes are a bit more refined, then this is a questionable pick. I wish that the show had stayed on the funny, likable, yet action-packed track it set for itself in the beginning. It's not bad, but it starts off better than it finishes.
Bastard! -- violence, nudity, profanity -- B-