It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad fantasy world.
If anyone ever grumbles to you that all fantasy is the same, just shove these two shows into their faces, because while they may share a genre label, that’s about all they share right now. Bahamut is a western medieval barnburner full of heavenly forces, historical figures, and larger-than-life personalities, while Yona is an eastern political drama that spends as much time in the past developing its characters’ histories as it does on the dramatic events of the current timeline. Yes, these two are complete opposites – except, of course, for the fact that I’m enjoying the hell out of both. Hit the jump to see just how much.
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis (Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis)
Deals with demons: Making your life more interesting since 500 A.D.!
This isn’t the most emotionally complex or thematically ambitious show of the season, but hot damn, it may just be the most fun. Every episode clips along at a fast, frenetic pace, full of enjoyable character interactions, a dash of tongue-in-cheek humor, and dynamically animated sequences both epic and intimate in scale. The cast is full of likable rogues and naive badasses, and the writers already seem to have a great grasp on everyone’s speech and behavior patterns, as each character stands out as a recognizable individual with their own strengths, faults, and motivations.
Yet if there’s one thing I like best about this series (other than the energy and confidence that seem to exude from every frame), it might be the story’s willingness to leave its viewers in the dark. So often anime/manga feel the need to dump a lot of heavy-handed exposition in the early episodes/chapters, fearful that the audience will get confused and bail, but Bahamut has no such concerns: It chucks us into the world and reveals new details bit by bit, using dialogue and key scenes rather than narrative voiceovers to gradually unveil a world and tale of seriously epic proportions. The series has faith that the viewers will put the pieces together, and this viewer, in turn, has more faith in the series because of it. I’m strapped in and ready for the ride, Bahamut. Where you gonna take me next?
Yona of the Dawn (Akatsuki no Yona)
It’s hard out there for a princess.
Note: This was originally listed as “Akatsuki no Yona” on Crunchyroll, but when Funimation obtained dual streaming rights (i.e., it’s available on both CR and Funi now), they began listing it under its English name, “Yona of the Dawn.” So I’ll be calling it that from now on, too.
While Bahamut gallops forward with hardly a moment to breathe, AnY (sorry, I know I’m using the English name now, but I can’t stop calling it by the Japanese abbreviation) is content to take its time, balancing tense political action/intrigue with quieter moments of backstory and character development made all the more bittersweet given the dramatic events that take place during the first and second episodes. I get the feeling AnY is going to be a bit of a slow burn, as focused on the steps in Yona’s journey as it is on the much-teased destination, but as long as I’m invested in the characters, I’m perfectly content to travel along with her.
And so far, I’m definitely invested. While Yona is at times frustratingly helpless in these early episodes, it doesn’t really bother me because it’s perfectly realistic given both her historical and personal context. She’s a pampered princess during a time when high-born women were generally given very little freedom, and these cultural expectations are only exacerbated by her upbringing, as her father let her have everything she wanted except weapons training. (Also, she’s in shock, a state that far too many shows like to brush aside, so bully to AnY for actually allowing its characters reacting to sudden tragedy.)
That said, thanks to a few important flash forwards, we all know this isn’t going to last: Yona is going to transform into a leader and a fighter in her own right, and AnY looks to be the story of how she gets there. I’m getting Twelve Kingdoms with a dash of Saiunkoku vibes from this show, which is basically like saying “shut up and give me more episodes.” You can bet I’ll be back for more.