There’s nothing better in anime and manga than a good tournament arc. Countless authors use this structure to set up a series of battles that can excite and interest readers and viewers in ways that no other type of structure can do. The authors can also introduce a series of characters all at once without feeling forced or overwhelmed. It is really one of the best tools in the anime and manga arsenal. Record of Ragnarok feels like the ultimate tournament arc, and it arrives with its second season on Netflix this weekend.
Record of Ragnarok is an anime TV series based on manga of the same name, written by Shinya Umemura and Takumi Fukui, and illustrated by Ajichika. The series is developed for the Netflix streaming service and produced by Graphinica, and Yumeta Company studios. The series tells the story of the ultimate tournament, where battles are fought between two sides, Gods against humans. The existence of the entire human race is at stake after the gods decide to end humanity for its bad behavior throughout history. However, humans will not stand down without a fight.
Graphinica and Yumeta Studios have once again produced an anime series that feels fun to watch from beginning to end. Each battle is an extended sequence that lasts for several episodes, and they are filled with action, powerful visuals, and lots of emotion. There is just something fun about seeing all these famous Gods from different cultures just battling against these equally famous humans from history. The pairings are outrageous and sometimes completely ridiculous, but that is where the fun is. To see how the author will put these two in a fight and who will emerge victorious.
Of course, each fight is more than just a fight, and season 2 continues to build on the structure of the first season. In each battle, learn great things about each of the fighters by seeing how they work around their enemies’ abilities and how they apply that knowledge to defeat them. The series also often goes into these flashback sequences, where we learn even more about the characters and their motivations. The result is that a lot of emotion is put into the story. Seeing that both Gods and humans go through similar situations throughout their lives is fascinating.
In season 2, there are just enough episodes for two battles, but each of them is quite impressive, and the characters that walk onto the arena are equally interesting and cool. The two battles go on for long periods of time, but the story still manages to remain compelling thanks to the characters themselves, they are all quite colorful, and their abilities are all just so unique. Seeing the strategy and the thought it goes behind every single battle is also quite entertaining and helps the story go beyond just being a punching contest.
The soundtrack is a real standout in Record of Ragnarok. The music really helps the story build up in emotion or seriousness at the right time. Here in season two, things are getting very complicated after each battle, and the music really sells the fact that with every new battle, the stakes get higher and higher and the tournament participants become more and more desperate. All these feelings and emotions are displayed in a very beautiful way, and it is the music that really pushes them forward.
In terms of animation, Graphinica has become famous for its work creating 3D models, which is a very controversial tool when used in anime. The 3D work this season is very unusual. Sometimes it is just there for a couple of shots, and it makes you wonder why those precise shots were done in CGI. Especially because most of them could have been done in proper 2D animation, and they would have looked so much better. The 2D animation, while good, is not the best, and the character models are very inconsistent from episode to episode.
However, the animators have been able to produce a show that feels modern and yet still has the sensibilities, and character designs of something that could have been produced in the 90s. Anime nowadays can feel truly impressive, but there is also a sense that with so many shows being produced, some of them have lost that special something that made anime so watchable just a couple of decades ago. Record of Ragnarok still has that feeling and look, and it makes for the strongest element in this season and in the show overall.
Record of Ragnarok Season 2 maintains the elements that made the first season so watchable. The tournament art structure still allows the introduction of countless characters in an organic way, and the tension it generates to know who is going to win each battle will really make you binge-watch this entire season in one go. The animation can be irregular, and sometimes even poor in certain sections, but it still manages to work. We could only hope the project could receive more money and time in future seasons to fix these issues. We’ll see.