Content warning: gore, sexism
What’s it about? In our current day, mankind was nearly driven to extinction by a darkness of its own creation, only to be saved by a legendary warrior of light who was subsequently lost. 400 years later, the Kingdom of Meta-llicana finds itself under siege by the Dark Rebel Army. Priestess Tia Noto Yoko is the only one who can help, by awakening the evil wizard Dark Schneider sealed within her childhood friend with a virgin’s kiss.
Hey. Hey. Dee Snider.
Does that reference look like a joke to you? If so, you may be qualified for a senior discount. Please settle into this comfortable chair, lest your bones finish desiccating before the end of this review.
Back in 1988, two roads diverged in an edgy wood. On one of them was Berserkv, an undeniably grimdark series that also starred a trio of sexual assault survivors and eventually blossomed into exploring the consequences of toxic masculinity. On the other was Bastard!!, as whose title is just a descriptor of its protagonist; it dove into tits, gore, and sexual violence and gave it a good motorboating.
I wish I could say that Bastard!!’s edgelordery was charming in its excess—something like the first season of Castlevania, which was so gleeful in splashing around guts, dead babies, and swear words that it achieved a kind of jubilance (though in fairness, to my knowledge nobody working on Bastard!! has ever had multiple allegations of sexual assault brought against them). The gore here is a little juicier than a lot of modern anime, with some exposed rib cages on an exposed orc, but it’s far from the showers of viscera that reigned supreme when Bastard!! was a 90s OVA.
So, the gore’s just okay. How’re the characters? Well, Yoko is so flustered at the thought of chastely kissing her childhood friend Lucien that she watches multiple people get crushed to death before working herself up to a meeting of lips worthy of the best high school drama production. It feels less like sincere characterization and more “this is the Virgin Character™ so she can’t be so slutty as to KISS someone unless he’s unconscious already.”
And I mean, this girl has been told from childhood that she’ll never be allowed to fuck, ever, lest it take away her virgin powers—which gets triply reinforced when Schneider turns out to have world conquest on his mind and Yoko’s kiss is the only thing that turns him back into meek, kindhearted Lucien. I feel like I ought to cut her a little slack.
This is the kind of series where women exist strictly along the virgin/whore dichotomy, with Yoko denoted as the main interest because
she’s “pure” she and Lucien grew up together (and granted, the scene of her bullying a man so ripped his armpits have abs into saving the day is the highlight of the episode). Meanwhile, every other woman is there for cheesecake, or for Schneider to have sex with. It’s also worth noting that while there’s no sexual assault in the premiere, the content warnings for the series do include “sexual violence.” “Heavy Metal” is right there in the title, and boy is it fitting.
The references to famous figures in the metal scene are the third pillar on which the series rests, right along with sex and violence. The invading priest is called “Osborn.” The spells including references to Slayer and Megadeath. I don’t deny that it’s cute, and the series’ whole aesthetic is in keeping with the aesthetic thereof, but it just feels like a title plucked out of time—thoroughly itself but with nothing of particular note to add for a modern viewer. DEVILMAN crybaby remains the benchmark to which I hold remakes of this type, and this just can’t measure up. If you’ve got nostalgia for the original this will likely be a good time, as it’s clearly made with love; newcomers are better off begging Discotek to rescue the 90s Berserk anime instead.
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