Previously on the Bastard!! Review:
"Even if it's technically unfinished, Crime & Punishment isBastard!!at its most ambitious, taking the manga into a direction that only makes one wonder "Where the hell can it possibly go from here?!"... And that's likely what all the fans in Japan were wondering once the Seasonal Specials came to an end."
As mentioned in the final part of the Crime & Punishment review, Kazushi Hagiwara was hit with a double-whammy in the middle of 1996. First, Shueisha decided to put an end to the Shonen Jump Seasonal Specials, with the 1996 Summer Special being the last one, & in its place was Akamaru Jump starting at the end of the year, which returned to being solely about one-shots; Akamaru's later replacements, Jump NEXT! & Jump Giga, would bring back regular serializations, though. Second, in some sort of unexplained freak accident, Hagiwara & his Studio Loud in School staff of assistants no longer had any of the pre-production work for what was going to come next in Bastard!!'s storyline. Now they did get some stuff done, as seen in the self-published Unused・Revised Edition book from 2000, but it was scattershot & pretty much unusable for actual serialization; simply put, Hagiwara was up S*** Creek without a paddle.
|Huh, didn't know Jump still did the mangaka group shot covers as late as 1997...|
I wish Jump still did those, but I totally understand why it doesn't anymore.
So, how were each of these problems resolved? In regards to the loss of the Seasonal Specials, Shueisha simply decided to bring Bastard!! back to Weekly Shonen Jump at the start of 1997, and Hagiwara would be allowed to publish new chapters on an irregular basis, i.e. whenever he felt a new chapter was ready to go. Interestingly enough, Bastard!! missed all of the second half of the "Golden Age" by finding its own place to call home, so the Jump it was returning to was a wildly different one, compared to the one it had left back in 1989. For example, Rokudenashi Blues debuted just a couple of months after Bastard!! did, but when Hagiwara's series returned, Masanori Morita's was not only one of only three manga that was "familiar to it", the others being JoJo's Bizarre Adventure & Kochikame, but it was actually nearing its end; in fact, they'd share just a single issue before Morita's yankii manga icon finished. Not just that, but after that one issue in early 1997, Bastard!!'s next appearance would be about 30 issues later, during which a manga named One Piece debuted. As for Hagiwara's pace, 1997 would see only five chapters, 1998 saw eight, & 1999 saw seven. At the very least, after that initial 30-issue gap, Hagiwara stayed semi-consistent, putting out a new chapter about every month or two. Following that last chapter in late 1999, though, Hagiwara wouldn't release another chapter until mid-2000, almost a solid year later; during that gap, another new manga named Naruto had debuted, & JoJo had even soft-rebooted. It's easy to see that Bastard!! was likely feeling pretty out of place in the magazine it originally debuted in, as things entered the 21st Century.
At this point, it was decided that Bastard!! would leave Weekly Shonen Jump once again, this time for good, though all new tankouban from this point forward would still be published under the "Jump Comics" label. Combined with Hagiwara's more violent & sexual storytelling tendencies, Shueisha moved Bastard!! over to seinen magazine Ultra Jump, where it'd make its "debut" in the first issue of 2001. Eventually, Bastard!! would be joined by JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (via Steel Ball Run) & Ninku (via Second Stage: Etonin-hen) to create a sort of exclusive "Shonen-to-Ultra" club. Unfortunately, after only four issues of consistency, Hagiwara quickly moved Bastard!! into irregular serialization in Ultra Jump, resulting in this new story arc of Bastard!! not actually ending until 2008, 11 years after the manga returned to Weekly Shonen Jump; at the very least, Hagiwara switched over to longer chapters, much like the Seasonal Specials. In other words, it took longer for the chapters of these next eight books, Volumes 19 to 26, to come out than literally everything that had been published in Bastard!! before said story arc even started in early 1997... & that's including the original Wizard!! one-shot published in late 1987! As for the English release in North America, Viz Media sadly stopped releasing Bastard!! after Volume 19's release in July of 2009, though Volume 20 was solicited & scheduled for an early 2010 release. Yes, Viz stopped releasing the manga right as it started a new story arc, and because of that I will be relying on English scanlations for Volumes 20 to 26, which are fine, if hit with the occasional spelling & grammatical error; them's just the breaks, sometimes.
Meanwhile, in regards to what Hagiwara did to combat the loss of his pre-production work, he simply invoked a large time skip, which brings us to the final (completed) story arc of Bastard!!,The Immoral Laws
It's been four years since the attack by the Angels of Heaven resulted in "The Ark", King Crimson Glory, crashing into the Earth below, and "Eden" (as the Angels & Demons call the planet) has since become a giant battleground where the forces of Heaven & Hell clash, with humanity simply being caught helplessly in the middle; the Angels have put a temporary halt to their "Human Eradication Project" to stop Demonkind. Sorcerer Shogun Macalpine Toni Strauss, Ba Thory, & Shella E. Lee are trying to guide a caravan of fellow humans to any form of sanctuary they can find, only to wind up caught & teleported to a colony of Hell, one ruled by a Devil/Fallen Angel named Conlon. In reality, capturing these humans was simply a ploy to get the attention of the Four Great Seraphs, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, & Michael, who have been killing other Demons in the area. Unbeknownst to all, though, Dark Schneider has also finally made his way back to the realm of the living... And he's become even more powerful than ever before, as he now has access to seven of the eight pieces of the Judas Pain, which allows him to take the form of Majin/Demon God Dark Schneider. D.S.'s new powers will be tested, as Uriel falls from grace after Conlon reveals that his "sister" Amriel has been fused into him in order to make him nigh-impervious to Angel offense; if Uriel has to kill the sister he loves to maintain God's "justice", then he has no need for it. Meanwhile Beelzebub, the only one of the Seven Kings of Hell who held onto his Pain, has a new human "wife" named Lilith, a woman who has no memory of her past & bears a shocking resemblance to a certain someone who fought against the Angels on King Crimson Glory four years ago.
With a four-year time skip in effect, it's important to start with what exactly Hagiwara did with this. First & foremost, Earth (Metallion specifically) is now a re-apocalyptic world, one where people either live in fear of death suddenly coming at one point, or traverse the land in an attempt to find a place of (comparative) safety, all while hoping not to get caught, tortured, or simply eaten by Demons. The latter is the situation Macalpine, Ba Thory, & Shella find themselves in at the start of this arc, with Macalpine even admitting to himself, when he felt death was to finally come, that they had no real destination in sight. Really, they were just trying to help give hope to the crowd they were leading, as well as a "Mystery Girl" (as the manga calls her) that they actually first came across in their few side appearances during Crime & Punishment, though now she's lost her little brother & has one of her eyes bandaged. Second, it's revealed early on that both the Angel's Central Galaxy Guardian Fleet, which was keeping watch over the Divine Demon God that was gestating in the black hole abyss, & the force that attacked everyone on KCG have all been completely destroyed, resulting in the Demons effectively claiming providence over the land of the living. Finally, not only has the Angel Gabriel, who D.S. first met sealed in Judecca, been freed & rejoined her angelic friends, but D.S. has also previously met Michael, Raphael, & Uriel at some point, with the last of which instantly despising our lead, which is reciprocated, simply because he's 2 cm taller than our "ultra-handsome" hero; D.S. also makes a vague reference to having already been killed by God, which angers Uriel. As for our goofy Satan, he looks to now be bound upside down in Hell, awaiting his time to be properly unleashed on Earth, preferably before his Divine Demon God can arrive.
Another major aspect of The Immoral Laws when compared to everything prior is the sheer amount of absurd power creep that's suddenly come about, due to the fact that D.S. is now interacting with high-ranking Angels & Demons, which were previously shown to be powerful beyond all possible comprehension in Crime & Punishment. For example, Angels & Demons are described as having layers upon layers of defensive shields around them on a constant basis, with just a single shield requiring something around the power of a nuclear blast to even penetrate, let alone break, while D.S. starts things off with only "five or six" (according to Conlon)... So he's reduced to literally nothing more than a head by the end of Volume 19; granted, it's a head that continues to speak & act cocky. Not just that, but it's also explained that since neither being actually has a physical form, you have to destroy the "spirit" & "soul", effectively removing them from existence itself, in order to actually kill an Angel or Demon. Not only that, but everyone's essentially holding back at all times, because to go 100% would mean reverting to their Augoeides forms, the simple presence of just one can literally turn "lesser beings" into nothing but salt. I mean, hell, Gabriel literally can cry so powerfully that it breaks through Conlon's Amriel-powered "Void Howling" barrier to physically damage his ears; it's so strong that it actually makes its own giant sound effect hiragana crumble to dust.
And that's to say nothing of D.S., who has now gone from cheekily super-powered to pure, unadulterated, godlike. There's a joke that Hagiwara wanted to put an end to all "Who's the most powerful" arguments, and you could certainly believe that, because Majin D.S. (& later D.S. piloting the Dragon Warrior) is truly one of, it not THE most powerful characters ever seen in, at the very least, the history Jump...Any Jump
. Countless magic shields constantly surrounding him that he can regenerate instantly, instant regeneration from any physical damage actually dealt to him, speed so fast that he can deliver literally millions of offense & defense in a single second, the ability to cast spells without needing incantations, said spells being powered up beyond belief (it's stated that D.S.'s iconic Exodus actually melted Cocytus, which allowed the Demons to escape Hell), literal jaws in his abdomen that allow him to actually eat a Demons & Angels alive... And all of this is not just powered by the Judas Pain, itself created from Judas Iscariot's emotional pain over Jesus forgiving him for his betrayal, but D.S.'s own sheer hatred of both Angels & Demons, because they killed all of his friends, loved ones, & "servants", most importantly Yoko... Or did they? As indicated in the synopsis, Lilith is very blatantly an amnesiac Yoko, but as the story arc continues we do see the occasional reappearance of the old cast here & there; of course, D.S. has no idea of this, but then he couldn't even remember who Macalpine was.
Speaking of Macalpine, we winds up being the equivalent of the John from the Book of Revelations, as he is nothing more than the meek human who bears witness to the sheer power, grandeur, & insanity of the events before him, knowing that there's literally nothing he can do, much like how John could do nothing more than be helplessly shown how Armageddon will happen; I actually feel bad for the guy, in that regard. Then there's the Mystery Girl that he's first shown protecting, who hasn't aged at all in the four years since but is quickly shown to have seen plenty of horrors during that time, like the rise of the Behemoth (as seen inUnused・Revised Edition) & the moment when, as she puts it, "The Sky/God is falling!", which also resulted in humans getting mutated into seemingly having Angels grow out of their bodies, which in turn led to the death of her brother; we soon enough see that she, too, has an Angel wing sprouting out of her bandaged eye. As for "Lilith", her main deal in this arc is reacting to everything that's happening during the fights, whether it's trying her hardest to explain her sad empathy towards Uriel's plight to the Kings of Hell... Or remarking at how gigantic D.S.'s penis is, once he regenerates back from being a head; she also manages to consistently beat the crap out of Beelzebub when he gets too maniacal, just like with D.S. As for the other Kings, we're still only given bits & pieces of character for them, like Paimon (& later Byleth) falling in love with Lilith due to her feisty attitude, Belial's short-fused temper, or Asmodeus noticing how "dangerous" Lilith is to Demonkind. It's similar with the Seraphs, as we see that Gabriel is the kindest & most loving of them all (as she actually doesn't really want to eradicate humanity anymore), Raphael is generally the calm & collected analyzer of the group (though even he enters despair as the D.S./Uriel fight continues), & Michael is still the stringent "what I do is the right thing" Angel that she was in Crime & Punishment, though she does feel for Uriel as he Falls. As for Uriel, he truly is the tragic figure of this arc, an Angel who was given a second chance early in life to become one of God's most loyal & stalwart agents... Only for his entire life to wind up possibly being nothing more than a giant long-term ploy of Satan's overall goal of starting "Negative Genesis", the Demonic inverse to how God created the world.
As for how this story arc is told, it's comprised of three real portions. Volumes 19 to 21, which is the majority of the irregular return to Shonen Jump, introduce things & deal with the epic battle against Conlon, as well as Uriel's Fall. Volumes 22 & 23, which move things into the Ultra Jump run, then detail the early part of D.S.'s fight with Uriel, while also establishing things like the concept of an "Adam", God's chosen one who appears every 2,000 years to unite humanity against the Demons, like the original Adam, Abraham, & Jesus all were; this is why D.S. is the "Adam of Darkness", the literal Antichrist. At the end of Volume 23 we are also introduced to a new "Adam", a literal "Messiah" (complete withstigmata) who Joshua Berahia is shown to follow, as per orders from Kall-Su... The literal "Elijah" to this Messiah. Finally, Volumes 24 to 26, covering roughly from 2004 to 2008, are technically titledThe Immoral Laws: Final Verse, which starts by putting a focus on the actual world of Bastard!!; Volume 24 even starts with a literal world map, the first one ever shown in the series. Aside from showing that Princess Sheila, Geo Noto Soto, Bon Jovina, Arshes Nei, Gara, Kai Harn, & Sean Ari are indeed all alive (Kai even somehow got her leg back!), we also finally see other fantasy races (Centaurs, Unicorns, Leprechauns, Fairires, Amazons, Lycans, etc.), as well as leaders like Prince A'lexi Laiho Chil Bo Do & Princess Janne Wino Chil Bo Do of the Hobbits and King GeloiBjörn of the Dwarves, & especially Princess Dani of the Elves, who all want to stop Negative Genesis from happening by breaking "The Seal of the Moon"; for the first time ever, the entire world of Bastard!! has united against a common foe. We are also told of events that Hagiwara obviously wanted to tell but couldn't during Crime & Punishment, like Lars Uhl having died on KCG, only to be revived by the Messiah afterwards, or the fact that Kall has since become blind (but powerful enough to freeze Giants in ice prisons). Eventually, things do return to the D.S./Uriel fight, but that detour helps really make the world of Bastard!! feel even larger than it already stated feeling; it now feels like a "true" high fantasy storyline.
Also, Abigail's on the Moon... For some reason I feel like that just makes sense.
|Yes, the D.S./Uriel fight is so intense that they|
BREAK THROUGH REALITY ITSELF!
You might wonder if this arc kind of drags, since it's pretty much just two gigantic fights in succession, but Hagiwara keeps things flowing excellently by interspersing conversations between the Angels, the Kings of Hell conversing with Lilith, & Beelzebub slowly revealing the grand tapestry he wove for this entire situation, as well as Hagiwara just telling some damn strong character development. For example, Uriel's entire backstory gets told during Volume 20 via flashbacks, especially once Amriel is brought into the picture, explaining how a pre-Fall Satan (later given the name "Satanel", making him truly distinct from Lucifer the Fallen Angel) cured Uriel of a "Black Cancer" that got him imprisoned to die as a child, his intensely tight bond with Amriel, & even how exactly she managed to get captured. Similarly, Volumes 21 & 22 act as a slow introduction into the sheer, unfathomable power D.S. now has access to through the Judas Pain, leaving even the Angels in pure shock; Volume 23, in turn, is really just about D.S. deciding to pull out his trump card & fuse with the Dragon Warrior. In all honesty, the events of the entire story arc all happen in literal sequential order, with no gaps in time (except for that world-building detour in Volume 24), so the idea is that, from Macalpine & Co.'s capture by Conlon all the way to the end of D.S.'s fight with Uriel, only about a single day goes by, as Michael remarks at the end of Volume 26. The end result is a constantly moving, always building, & utterly unpredictable crazy train of a ride, with the only real problem being that Hagiwara does occasionally make reference to events that he never actually got the chance to tell, due to the pre-production fiasco that ended Crime & Punishment early. This results in the reader having to take a lot of things at face value, without questioning much of it. Volume 24 even has a trio of two-page splashes referencing all manner of characters & events never seen before in the manga, likely including stuff from the drama CDs & novels, which tell original prequel stories of their own.
One thing that's interesting about Bastard!!, though,is that much ado tends to get made about its move to Ultra Jump, often to the point of making it sound like a large portion of the manga came from the move to a magazine for young adults, rather than teenagers. However, the fact of the matter is that very little of Bastard!!'s overall length actually comes from its time in Ultra Jump. In fact, the switch from Shonen Jump to Ultra Jump doesn't happen until the middle of Volume 22, which means that only 5.5 volumes-worth of content (remember, I am including Volume 27) from the entire manga was actually "aimed" at an older audience. Obviously, by the time Bastard!! returned to Weekly Shonen Jump, I'm sure it was mainly long-time readers who were still really anticipating new chapters, but for all the talk people try to put towards the manga's move to Ultra Jump, it actually only corresponds to ~20% of the entire length. To be fair, though, that 1/5 of total manga length, in terms of content, still took about 10 whole years to come out, which corresponds to ~45.5% of total manga length, in terms of time span. Regardless, though, what's easily the most interesting thing about this aspect of The Immoral Laws is that, if anything, moving to Ultra Jump actually resulted in there being LESS sexuality than before! Now, to be fair, this is mainly because of the fact that, by the time the manga switched magazines, it was moving into the D.S./Uriel fight, so sexuality couldn't really be a focus, but it should say something that the most sexualized moment in this entire arc is when D.S. regenerates from being just a head, and the first thing he does is sexually touch a naked Michael (whose clothing disintegrated from the attack she tried hitting Conlon with), only to wind up doing a gansha onto her... And this happened early in Volume 21, when the mangawas still running in Weekly Shonen Jump
! Also take into consideration Volume 27, which I covered last time, in which Hagiwara actually held back on the sexuality during the Porno Dianno fight, as he added in more sexual content for the later tankouban release. Honestly, I just think Hagiwara liked pushing boundaries while being published in Shonen Jump, and after being moved to Ultra Jump it just didn't have that "scandalous" air to it, anymore.
|Look, I'm an easy guy to please...|
You makeRing ni Kakeroreferences, you instantly gain my approval.
However, it's not as though Hagiwara rested on his laurels once he started going irregular in Ultra Jump. The artwork from Volumes 19 to 22 is still just as excellent as was previously, but upon seeing literally the first page of Volume 23 you realize that Hagiwara makes up for his lack of any consistent schedule by delivering absolutely stunning artwork, resulting in Bastard!! now becoming truly one of the most beautifully & exquisitely drawn manga ever; this is Hagiwara's self-destructive perfectionism at it's best. The characters tend to be drawn with such detail & screentone that some panels or even entire pages almost look like they're just black & white anime cels, while environments & colossal beings are drawn with such exquisite detail that the only way to properly describe the art is to paraphrase a now-defunct YouTube channel: "Every Frame a Painting". When you compare Kazushi Hagiwara's artwork from Bastard!!'s debut to how it looks come the end of Volume 26, you almost can't quite believe it's from the same artist. He may poke fun at himself for his obsession for perfection & how his body pretty much breaks down from all of the work he puts himself though, but Hagiwara is easily one of the greatest artists to ever come from Shonen Jump. It's no exaggeration to put him up there with the likes of Takehiko Inoue, Tetsuo Hara, & Takeshi Obata, among many others, when it comes to naming the absolute best who ever drew manga for the magazine.
As for Hagiwara's penchant for references, gags, & homages, we still get plenty of those in this arc. When Uriel enters his "Executioner Mode" to fight Conlon, D.S. insults him by poking fun at his red & blue color scheme, comparing him to Kikaider, Gill from Street Fighter III, & even ChoRyuJin from GaoGaiGar; D.S. even shouts "Symmetrical... Docking!". Speaking of GaoGaiGar, the Dragon Warrior is pretty much Bastard!!'s equivalent to the giant robot, with D.S. piloting it in a more extreme variant of how Guy Shishio pilots his mech, and he even literally screams out "Fusion!" (as in the English word) to merge with it, just like Guy. Meanwhile, the (seemingly) remaining two Wise Men of Europea watch over the usage of the Dragon Warrior, with their screens easily paying homage to Neon Genesis Evangelion's Eva Unit monitoring screens. In easily the most interesting gag, though, Hagiwara literally squeezes in a cameo by some microbes from Moyashimon, even crediting mangaka Masayuki Ishikawa & publisher Kodansha in the margin above the panel they're seen in. As for my personal favorite gag, it's easily one that happens in Volume 19, when the Seraphs all hit Conlon with attacks that directly pay homage to the superblows from Masami Kurumada's Ring ni Kakero; the closest thing to ever seeing that manga official released in English. Finally, the heavy metal references are still in effect, with spells & attacks like Cannibal Corpse, Judas Priest (took long enough for this one!),Jawbreaker, Bloodstone, Vanden Plas, & Loudness.
Finally, three of the books covering this story arc also feature bonus shorts, the first of which is actually meant to tie in with Bastard!!. Said 16-page short, Tale of the Sacrifice - Story #0 - Victim of Changes, is at the end of Volume 19 & takes place in 1999, nine years prior to the apocalypse in 2008 that led to the creation of Bastard!!'s fantastical world. It introduces Dita Darks, a 16-year old German Kabbalist who has come to an airport in Japan with her familiars Devon & Lavoisier, who both take the forms of large black men, after receiving a prophecy from her "electro-diving PDA". Meanwhile, high-school student Tatsuo Ueza is seeing off her older sister Yoriko, who's going on an archaeology trip, and their joined by Mikan Shido, a childhood friend of Tatsuo's. The short ends with Dita getting a sudden prediction of a "rain of blood" & "falling airplanes", right before an airplane literally crashes into the terminal all of the characters are in; it ends with all of them seeing a six-winged Angel, while the pages simply read "1999 The end of days. This is... Armageddon!"; the short did begin with an Angel & Demon clashing in the skies above. Sadly, it's nothing more than a basic tease, & Hagiwara did hope to continue making more of it (even joking that 1999 would actually happen before then... which it did), but there is one highly interesting thing about Victim of Changes: All four of the main characters look very much like characters from Bastard!!. Namely, Mikan looks like Michael, Tatsuo looks like Uriel, Dita looks like Gabriel, & Yoriko looks like Amriel. Considering that this short is part of Bastard!!'s canon, & specifically the close relationship between Mikan, Tatsuo, & Yoriko (especially the latter two), I can only guess that Hagiwara is hinting that his lead Angels may actually have had human counterparts, in some fashion.
As for the other shorts, they're actually reprints of Hagiwara's other pre-Bastard!! one-shots. The end of Volume 22 includes Binetsu Rouge, which actually star Tatsuo & Yoriko, though whether or not this story takes place in the world of Bastard!! is up to you, as this one-shot is definitely of its time, i.e. the mid-to-late 80s, not 1999. The one-shot is a simple one, detailing how Tatsuo becomes worried about a date his sister is going on, partially out of a feeling that he should protect his sibling, even if he's the younger one, as well as maybe having his own romantic feelings. Yeah, Hagiwara makes it seem like both siblings might have romantic feelings for each other, but it also might just be him trying to explain the unsure & inexperienced feelings of adolescent romance; the "Rouge" of the title is a lipstick that Tatsuo gives Yoriko at the end, to help her out on her dates. Finally, the end of Volume 26 includes Virgin Tyrant, which stars a high school student named Yoshiya Robu as he has to deal with the return of Rumiko Udo as a new transfer student, who as kids used to take advantage of, bully, & even physically abuse Yoshiya. Rumiko, naturally, is not just multi-talented student & looks beautiful, but also takes absolutely no crap from students who hit on her, even smashing a chair into one's face. Still, she becomes popular in her class, though in the years since she's come to realize that she actually has feelings for Yoshiya, & is jealous of the friendship he has with a female classmate. Admittedly, it seems like a neat twist on your standard romantic comedy manga of the time, as it does look like Yoshiya doesn't simply forgive Rumiko for her past behavior by the end. Still, seeing as neither of these one-shots were translated into English, I can't really judge them in any way.
So, to reiterate following the end of Crime & Punishment... Where the hell can it possibly go from here?! Turns out Hagiwara decided to go in a direction of absolute, & seeming infinite, escalation, which in turn makes The Immoral Laws easily the most audacious story arc in all of Bastard!!. Starting from the re-introduction of the remaining Sorcerer Shogun to their capture by Conlon, Hagiwara somehow manages to not just repeatedly raise the bar when it comes to spectacle & sheer power, but he constantly shatters said bar to infinitesimally small pieces, with the end result being a Dark Schneider so absolutely powerful that you probably wouldn't believe me if I actually told you what exactly he does at the very end, but if you read this story arc you'd totally understand why & how. Of course, that's not to take anything away from Uriel, who's essentially the deuteragonist of this arc & deserves just as much credit. While it is occasionally annoying to see Hagiwara make reference to events that were never actually told in the manga, it all does help give greater meaning & context to an arc that would otherwise simply be described as "D.S. fights a Fallen Angel in a battle that could lead to the end of the world... Just as Beelzebub planned". Among all of the mega-ultra-über-epic battling & powering up, there's a real heartfelt message about how tragic & depressing all of this is. As much as Conlon is the primary villain for the first three volumes of the arc, & Uriel becomes the main conflict for D.S. to take on for the remaining five volumes, the real villain of it all is truly Beelzebub, which in turn does give Lilith/Yoko some nice attention, as she verbally "fights" his evil machinations with simple emotion, logic, & love.
And really, after 27 volumes of it, that's the main message to be found within Bastard!!. Once you get past the "Heavy Metal Dark Fantasy", the violence, the sexuality, & the heavy crassness featured throughout, it's really a "Good vs. Evil" story (that likes to go all out on the Biblical call backs, admittedly), only starring a character who fully embraces both sides of the spectrum whenever he feels like it... As indicated by the final form Dark Schneider takes at the very end of The Immoral Laws. While it doesn't finish the overall plot of the manga by any means, while also hinting at very little as to what would come next, it is at least a complete storyline, so when taken completely chronologically, Bastard!! doesn't leave you cliffhanging, which is nice. It does suck that this manga may never truly see a proper ending, but I can forgive that simply because this series is absolutely outstanding.
And this brings an end to my reviews of all four story arcs of Bastard!! by Kazushi Hagiwara. Without a doubt, this giant endeavor has only reinforced why this remains one of my all-time favorite manga (hell, comics in general), because it truly feels like an evolution over the course of time. Upon reading the first volume without any pre-existing knowledge, you could never predict that it'd end up being by the end of Volume 27, and the best part is that all of it feels earned. This is a series that truly deserves more credit than it gets, and more than needs another chance in North America.
That being said, I still have one more part of Bastard!! to cover, so check back next week as we go over the "Expanded World" that Kazushi Hagiwara created outside of the manga!