Netflix announced it will be drop a brand new anime adaptation of Kazushi Hagiwara‘s Bastard!! manga. So with that in mind, Abhi from The Cartoon Cipher revisits the original anime adaptation to see how well it holds up and what we might be able to expect from this upcoming new installment!
Content warning: this anime (and video) contains some violent and sexual imagery. Viewer discretion is advised.
Recently, Netflix announced they would be streaming a brand new anime adaptation of Kazushi Hagiwara‘s Bastard!! manga. Owing to that, now is as good a time as any to revisit Bastard!!‘s previous anime adaptation: how does it hold up? What does the new adaptation have to potentially build upon? What else can we expect from an adaptation that will cover more of the source material? And for those unfamiliar with Bastard!!what exactly is it?
The six episode OVA was created by studio AIC under director Katsuhito Akiyama from 1992 to 1993, released in North America by Pioneer in 1998. The story is set in a Dungeons & Dragons-esque fantasy world with battles between ninjas, fiends, and sorcerers. The Four Lords of Havoc seek to reawaken a God of Destruction, and the only one who can stop them is a reckless, lustful, yet powerful sorcerer called Dark Schneider. However, he’s been sealed within the body of an innocent boy, only able to break free with a virgin’s kiss.
Before watching this series, the main thing I had heard about it online was its explicit content. Bastard!! is full of violent fantasy fights that sometimes involve gore, and also pretty ranchy. Limbs not only come apart, sometimes they explode in fully-animated glory. Meanwhile the female lead Yoko almost comically ends up naked each time. Furthermore, the male lead Dark Schneider, raised the dark elf child Arshes Nei as his own, but since this is a magical world where elves and sorcerers can live for much longer than humans, eventually his adopted daughter becomes his lover. At the center of it all is Dark Schneider himself who isn’t the most noble hero, but it’s hard not to be in awe of him. He very much feels like a product of this hellish and brutal world inspired by heavy metal iconography. His name is arguably derived from German singer Udo Dirkschneider after all, while many locations, other characters, and spell names are also inspired by famous metal bands or figures. The manga chapters the OVA adapts show the character as a brutal, womanizing…bastard, yet still incredibly firm in his desire to protect his human companion Yoko, and his egocentricity is legitimately amusing! There are plenty of laughs to be had in the hellish world of Bastard!! to balance things out. Some of it comes from Yoko bickering with Dark Schneider, never afraid to stand up to her former friend despite his threatening power. As mentioned before, Schneider’s sheer arrogance is also a good laugh; he and other characters occasionally break the 4th wall for good measure too.
The episodes follow his various battles against the Lords of Havoc and their forces despite being a former comrade, as well as having little attachment for the kingdom who sought his help anyway. As someone who “died” fifteen years before the series’ events, his evolving relationships with both enemies and comrades alike form a solid backbone for the series’ drama. Dark Schneider’s disposition gets confronted by his adopted-daughter-turned-lover-turned-enemy Arshes Nei in episode 5, who believes the Lords of Havoc are fighting to create a utopia. Schneider roundly rejects this of course, claiming that ignorance and hatred are at the core of human nature. It’s a thematic thread that can be felt throughout the rest of the series’ intense content. Most of the other characters are also memorable and distinct though unfortunately, some like Kall-Su don’t get to shine as much in the OVA due to its limited run-time. The Netflix The adaptation will definitely have the advantage of more time to cover more story events, however one concern I’ve seen regarding the new version is the potential backlash all this sexual and violent content might receive from a modern audience. Some even fear that this content will get dialed down in the Netflix version, diluting the manga’s notorious intensity. Personally, I think Bastard!!‘s style would fit in quite well with other dark, edgy animations that are popular on Netflixnamely DEVILMAN crybaby and Castlevania.
If the old OVA is known for anything else though, it would definitely be its outstanding visuals. Don’t let the video-quality fool you; The fantasy creatures are dripping with detail, while the effects animation for the magic and explosions are full of life (although photosensitive viewers may want to be careful at some points). The action animation is obviously a strong suit, but the characters’ facial expressions also go to great lengths to portray the tension of the fight in a more visceral way. A highlight is the animated backgrounds which simulate exciting 3D camera movement in climactic moments. When these different aspects of the visuals come together, Bastard!!‘s animation feels truly iconic. It doesn’t just excel in the action scenes either; the settings and backgrounds have their own intrigue. Even for a six-episode story, looking at them made my imagination go into overdrive. Likewise the imagery itself is nothing to ignore, and sometimes is punctuated further with colored light for an extra dramatic effect. At a distance, this looks like a story about scantily-clad girls and ultraviolence, but it can also be very beautiful. The climax of episode 5’s major fight was especially poignant: everything from the music to the animation to the use of color hammered home the tragedy of Schneider and Arshes rediscovering their love in the heat of battle.
The new adaptation might have its own great animation, but I imagine it will be very hard to recapture the magic of how this OVA looks. Granted, the Netflix version will have the advantage of telling more of the story laid out in the original manga, where things ended up taking quite a turn. Bastard!! it began running in Weekly Shonen Jump back in 1988, but most of it was irregularly published in Ultra Jump where it’s still technically ongoing despite being on hiatus since 2010. At a certain point, the story started focusing more on things like belief, morality, and religion, points this OVA never got around to. Perhaps this will give fans a chance to see these characters in a new light and get more personally invested in their stories. In any case, Viz Media‘s English release stopped after volume 20, but even the Japanese manga’s future is uncertain due to the aforementioned hiatus. The OVA did take some liberties with the chapters it adapted, such as condensing Schneider’s first two battles into one, or peppering in some panty jokes during the first episode. Netflix Bastard!! could be an opportunity to keep in more details from the manga, provided it doesn’t cause the story to drag. Series composition is being handled by veteran writer Yosuke Kuroda, who’s handled solid anime adaptations including Trigun, My Hero Academy and Jormungand. The director Takaharu Ozaki has a notable amount of director of photography credits, and also helmed adaptations like Goblin Slayer which itself was a popular dark fantasy, and the less-violent yet atmospheric Girls’ Last Tour. In an interview hosted on Netflix‘s YouTube channel as part of a promotional event, Ozaki mentioned that as a child he was a fan of the Bastard!! manga, and has even paid homage to the volume cover illustrations in the OP and ED sequences. Ozaki clearly has a reverence for Hagiwara’s stories and art which for now, bodes well.
As for other expectations of this new Bastard!! anime, its localization will be worth keeping an eye on. In a similar vein to the Stands in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventuremany aspects of Bastard!! which were named after real-life musicians or bands have slightly different names in the official English version, presumably to avoid legal issues. Metallicana became Meta-Rikana, Anthrax became Anslasax, as well as some other unintentionally hilarious workarounds. In terms of voice acting, we have confirmation the Japanese cast of the Netflix adaptation will be brand new so at this point it’s unknown what that will mean for the English cast. The OVA‘s dub was produced by the same companies responsible for dubs like Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shellsome Gundam Movies and OVAs among other things, and featured actors that were common in those dubs: Wendee LeeSteve Blum, Richard Epcar, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and so on. For the most part the dub is great at immersing you in the fantasy world with its larger-than-life characters. While it can sound campy here and there, the ridiculousness is sometimes warranted, and I think it would be a welcome surprise to see these performers return to the series. The most memorable performance is probably of Dark Schneider himself by Daran Norriswho fans may recognize as various characters from anime like Cowboy Bebopor from cartoons like Fairly OddParents.
Obviously with the content mentioned here, I don’t expect Bastard!! to be for everyone but if this sounds like a good time to you, you’re probably gonna love this six-episode anime. It’s a shame that it didn’t continue beyond six episodes and adapt more of the original story, but it still did a fine job with what it did cover in my opinion.