Record of Ragnarok review of Season 1

Many of us dream of seeing showdowns between ultimate sporting legends, like a matchup between Don Bradman and Curtly Ambrose in cricket, or Muhammed Ali versus Mike Tyson. Or how about Fangio, Senna, Schumacher and Hamilton all lining up on the F1 grid? Maybe it’s impossible to compare eras, with their different techniques and technologies and levels of professionalism.

But now we can compare gods and men thanks to Netflix’s Record of Ragnarok. The gods have decreed that humanity is a waste of space and time. They convened a council and unanimously voted to end humanity’s feeble existence.

One demi-goddess opposes the decision: The Valkyrie Brunhilde. She intervenes, reciting a directive stating that humanity must be allowed one final battle before their fate is decided. They must be allowed to fight the gods themselves. This series of bouts is known as Ragnarok.

The Valkyrie Brunhilde
Brunhilde defiantly stands before the gods pleading for humanity.

This Netflix anime series is based on the manga, Valkyrie of the End (終末のワルキューレ, Shūmatsu no Warukyūre) written in 2017. Most of the action takes place in a vast arena where a crowd of gods and lucky humans witness the final showdown. The crowd shots are among the most interesting of the show, even if they’re a little overused. It’s fun to scan the crowd for the detail the illustrators put into depicting the various mythical species and the responses to the action in their faces. Witness the look of the shocked lizardman, the delight of the triumphant devil, the surprise of some amphibian. Every imaginable creature is in the crowd.

Record of Ragnarok isn’t quite sure what genre it is. Is it a collection of fantasy stories, a comedy, or action? The idea is good: a collection of various gods battle it out one-on-one with historical and legendary figures. Thus we have ancient Chinese warlord Lü Bu fighting with Thor in the opening match. All fights are to the death, and Lü Bu is willing to risk everything, including his limbs, to ensure humanity’s survival.

Next on the card is Shiva against Adam. Yes, mythical Adam from the Bible, who hates the gods for expelling him from the Garden of Eden. But Zeus wants to fight Adam, and orders Shiva to let him take his place. Shiva calls him “gramps” in return.

Shiva
Shiva just wants to be seen.

Apparently this series didn’t go down well in parts of India due to its depiction of Shiva. This could be an indication of India’s conservative direction perhaps hindering social, and therefore technological, progress. It seems sections in Indian society don’t know the meaning of satire, and ironically in the manner of Shiva, seem intent on destroying creativity. The portrayal of Shiva in Ragnarok is by no means negative. He is depicted as assertive and independent and including him is a sign of respect. Japanese admire Indian culture having adopted Buddhism as one of their religions. This can be seen in other anime, with shows like Demon Slayer taking inspiration from the goddess Kali for one of their demonic characters with six arms.

Christians could take issue at the portrayal of Adam, appearing in the arena with just a fig leaf. He uses the spell Divine Reflection against his opponent. Having been made in God’s image, he has also inherited his attributes. Adam proves a tough fight for Zeus, who has to transform from frail-looking old “gramps” to a bursting bag of muscles.

Thor, Poseidon, Zeus, Adam, Kojirō Sasaki, Lü Bu
From left to right: Thor, Poseidon, Zeus, Adam, Kojirō Sasaki, Lü Bu

Season one climaxes with a showdown between Poseidon and Kojirō Sasaki, the sixteenth century Japanese swordsman. Heimdall announces Sasaki as having lost every battle he has previously fought in. But it is this characteristic that makes him formidable. He chose to fight adversaries better than him so he could relentlessly improve. Will Sasaki achieve his first, and most important victory?

Final verdict: 6.5

There are three fights across twelve episodes for season one. But the action is rather slow. We are subject to frequent flashbacks telling the story of the god or human in combat. The flashbacks aren’t woven into the action seamlessly, making the flow very stop/start. Record of Ragnarok doesn’t quite have the toughness of Baki or the energy of Kengan Ashura. If they can fix the pacing for season two this will lead to some improvement. Two episodes should be sufficient to cover each matchup. I’ll return nevertheless, just to see how electricity man Nikola Tesla fares in the arena.

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