Netflix finally decided to give us the second half of BASTARD!! -Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy-, the anime equivalent of playing a D&D game with level 20 characters while someone blasts metal music in the background. I won’t waste too much time going over the general appeal of BASTARD because if you’re reading this review then chances are you are at least somewhat familiar with its general tone, atmosphere, and plot progression. The heavy metal soundtrack is still absolutely incredible, all of the designs are simple yet retain a very retro appeal, and the animation ranges from mostly solid to amazing, especially when it comes to some of the more extravagant spell attacks. The show is 100% in your face, sticking its tongue out and winking at the camera with a sense of humor that ranges from being raunchy to unapologetically self-aware.
My biggest issue with the first half was that parts of it felt more restrained than they should be. When you have a main character like Dark Schneider who possesses nothing but terrible qualities—from his narcissism to his blatant disrespect towards everyone—yet still has everyone he comes into contact with become overwhelmed with the incredible urge to bone him, wish-fulfillment might as well be flashing on the screen in neon lights. This is a power fantasy that promises its viewers over-the-top action, sex, and violence. However, aside from Dark Schneider, there wasn’t nearly as much excess as I was expecting from a show like this. The violence was relatively tame, and much of the nudity or implied intimate scenes are either censored to some extent or done off-screen.
I think a lot of this came down to the fact that many of the villains that Dark Schneider fought against in the first half were people that he knew and would eventually either recruit or seduce, which prevents them from having a more ridiculous personality than Schneider. But by the midway point, the main cast is completely established, meaning all that’s left is to take on the remaining villains of the Dark Army. With that original pretense removed, I feel like Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy finally was able to scream at the top of its lungs…well, mostly.
Sexual explicitness is roughly the same if not more toned down compared to the first half, but I think by this point it’s pretty firmly established that Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy would much rather poke fun at sexual innuendos than promise any actual sex on screen, and those moments definitely got a laugh out of me. Aside from that, almost everything else ramped up in this second half—from the violence, to the action, to the comedy. There’s a lot more blood and body mutilation, we get introduced to more over-the-top and destructive spells, and the villains are hamming it up like MAD.
One thing I especially loved about the second half is the villains, who strike the perfect balance between being intimidating and incredibly corny. A lot of that is helped by the voice acting in both versions, but special mention goes to Ray Chase as Abigail. I loved his air of self-importance that seemed to almost match Dark Schneider while also being like this cockroach that just wouldn’t die. While a lot of the fights do just kind of come down to Dark Schneider pulling a new random spell out of his ass to defeat the villain, there were some moments where other characters were allowed to shine, as well as moments where Schneider was genuinely caught off guard.
However, just because everything was ramped up doesn’t mean that it was all good. While I did appreciate a lot of the self-aware humor that started making its way towards the middle of the show, some of the jokes in this second half don’t really work, especially when they lean a little bit too hard on referencing modern stuff in this medieval setting. The references to Shonen Jump tropes felt at least consistent, but the ones revolving around Santa Claus, for example, just felt a little bit too out there even for this material. Plus, with the action (and occasionally tension) constantly cranked to the max, I feel like the show didn’t really know when or how to wind down, like it was constantly trying to outdo itself. Without giving too much away, Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy had more endings than The Lord of the Rings and it definitely felt a bit exhausting once everything wrapped up, even if the teaser for more things to come was enticing.
Overall, this second half is probably the closest BASTARD!! -Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy- gets to what it set out to be. It’s violent, it’s aggressively in your face, and it struts around with a confidence that you don’t see in a lot of shows these days. If you weren’t interested in any of the stuff from the first half then this next batch of episodes probably isn’t gonna do it for you. If you made it this far into the show then you’re probably all in at this point, so it’s nice that the show rewards you with even more of the things that we probably liked. Overall, BASTARD!! -Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy- is nothing short of a good time for those who enjoy its particular brand of excess and ridiculousness.