ANIME REVIEW: Blood Blockade Battlefront

BLOOD BLOCKADE BATTLEFRONT
Producer: Nihon Ad Systems, Mainichi Broadcasting System, TOHO animation, Shueisha, Toy’s Factory, Sony PCL, Bones
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Comedy, Super Power, Vampire, Shounen
Air Dates: April 5th, 2015 – October 4th, 2015
Episodes: 12 (Season 1)
Status: Completed
Sub Version Available: Yes
Dub Version Available: Yes
Available on Funimation

What You Need To Know:

Blood Blockade Battlefront or Kekkai Sensen is an ongoing manga from Nightow Yasuhiro, who fans may recognize as the creator of Trigun. The manga launched in 2009, but it didn’t receive an anime adaptation until 2015. Produced by Bones, the anime currently holds a score of 7.73 and ranked at #1043 by MyAnimeList.

What You’ll Find Out:

The story opens in Hellsalem’s Lot, formerly New York’s New Amsterdam. The New York we knew was destroyed by a portal opening to another world during what is called the “First Great Collapse.” In the city that rose from the ashes, humans co-exist with all manner of strange otherworldly beings. Some benign, some quite malevolent. 

The event, currently under the investigation of the Libra is still classified as origins unknown. A shadowy organization, Libra is dedicated to keeping the peace and ferreting out both the cause of the collapse and safeguarding the city from paranormal attacks.

After befriending a lonely ghost named White, protagonist Leonardo learns too late that their meeting is not an encounter of chance. White, a ghost who acts as a barrier and seal keeping the city from total collapse has a twin brother Black who is determined to end her and thus the existence of Hellsalem’s Lot. The King of Despair would love nothing more than seeing each and every one of its populace killed simply because “everyone has to die sometime.”

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Characters: (Main) Libra

Leonardo Watch is a kind and humble young recruit who journeys to Hellsalem’s Lot to help his ailing sister. A mysterious entity gave him the “All Seeing Eyes of the Gods, “granting him a variety of powerful (mostly benign,) ocular abilities at the cost of his sister’s sight. His eyes have their limits; when overused they have a tendency to “shatter,” causing his eyes to bleed. His best friend is Zapp who often bullies him yet is highly protective at the same time. His lack of offensive capability normally places him in danger especially to those who covet his power.

Klaus Von Reinherz is the leader of Libra. A large, very powerful man with a distinctive underbite, he is actually very well composed and gentlemanly and honest to a fault, with an unshakable will. Master of the Brain Grid Blood Battle Technique which he can use to create large cross-shaped weaponry and seal away enemies. Klaus is also very intelligent, being able to play “Prosfair”, a three-dimensional chess-like game so complex and bizarre that it is known to drive humans mad (Klaus himself begins to bleed internally after playing the game for four consecutive days without rest) and is usually reserved only for one distinct species in Hellsalem’s Lot that has studied it for a thousand years. His ultimate technique allows him to imprison the Blood Breeds, as they can not be killed due to their immortal nature, but to do so, he must learn the enemy’s true name, thus requiring Leo using his powers to reveal it.

Zapp Renfro is a hot-blooded, womanizing Libra member and master of the Big Dipper blood-fighting style’s Kagutsuchi branch, which allows him to manipulate his blood into blades and explosions. He is very well trained, being able to keep up with beings much faster than what the human eye can normally follow. His juvenile actions often get him and the rest of Libra into trouble. He is Leonardo’s partner and despite his usual attitude, he cares about him in some way. He is always trying to defeat Klaus in a battle but is always the one to lose.

Chain Sumeragi A suit-clad werewolf with the power of invisibility and collaborator from the Loups-Garous from the Nowhere organization. She can move at high speeds (being able to keep up with Zapp’s chain of explosions from one end of the real world to deep into the alter-world) and does a large portion of Libra’s reconnaissance work. Her personality is sadistic, often causing physical harm to others or showing indifference to those in peril (mainly to Zapp for his womanizing tendencies). However, she is shown to be somewhat caring of her teammates at certain points in the series, mostly evidenced towards Leo. Her power is erasing her presence, which needs a link (a chain) to connect her to the world in order to counter the effect of her ability or she will cease to exist.

Steven A. Starphase is Libra’s second-in-command. A shady man with many connections. Master of the Esmerelda Blood Freeze, a kick-based fighting style that freezes enemies on contact. He is a gentleman like Klaus.

K.K. is a lively and confident Libra member who sports an eye patch, who can be very impatient bordering on gruff at times, but also motherly. She is very devoted to her husband and two young sons and fights with high-power guns that electrocute enemies.

Deldro Brody & Dog Hummer are two men in one body. Dog Hummer is a handsome man who had his blood replaced with the liquefied body of the serial killer and “bad boy” Deldro Brody. Brody can materialize as a gigantic living armor that surrounds Hummer, granting him immense physical strength. The two are often kept sealed away in the deepest part of Hellsalem’s Lot’s largest prison but are sometimes called up to aid Libra in dire situations, due to their raw power.

White is a mysterious and beautiful girl that appears before Leo and becomes friends with her. She is, in reality, not a human, but a sentient barrier, one of the many (not sentient ones) holding back the Great Collapse from happening. The reason for her still being on the Earth is by her parents’ sacrifice to make her part of the barriers. At the end of the first season, she sacrifices herself to completely reseal the Great Collapse again, as the rest had been destroyed by her brother. Her brother aids her in this feat, being repentant of his actions. Her real name is Mary Macbeth

Black is the series primary antagonist and White’s older twin brother who shares his body with the King of Despair one of the Thirteen Kings who has an interest in Leo. Black had taken up the mantle of a blood breed host in order to save his sister. His Blood Breed also tries to cause the Great Collapse a second time but at the end, he rebels against his Blood Breed and accepts his sister’s wish to sacrifice herself in order to save the world, and helps her with it. His real name is William Macbeth.

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What Just Happened?

Another series that when watching the trailer the viewer is entirely misled into thinking that there is any true level of complexity, gravity, and consequence. Instead what we have here is almost entirely fan service.

The biggest flaw of the series is the overwhelming distraction of bad writing and filler content. Basically, you could get the gist of the series by watching episode 1 and picking it up again at roughly episode 10. (Skipping 10.5 which is a recap.)

And then there’s the ending. It’s a disjointed mess with an inadequate build up behind it, poorly attempting to tie up all of the ongoing plot points. The series also suffers a bit from tone problems. Most of the time it goes for a more over the top and fun type of aesthetic, but it also tries to have some real emotional moments. The emotional moments don’t work well and come across as out of place because they’re so heavily divorced from the tone of most of the series. They’re simply too few in number with too vast of stretches betwixt them. There’s also the narrative device of Leo writing a letter to his sister. Ultimately, it contributes nothing and exactly what parts of the series are included is unclear. It can’t be the whole thing since there are a lot of scenes that he isn’t in and where he just has no way of knowing what happened. The episodes also vary pretty widely in terms of fit into the overall story that at the end I felt frustrated that I committed so much time into watching in the first place having hoped for so much more.

On the positive side, there are some intriguing ideas behind the series. If they had been better fleshed out, Blockade Battlefront could have been really good. Though the comedy vein disrupts the story and any real significance which is a shame because omitting it would have made this a hamstrung this anime even more. The world building is pretty decent and I do like that the series tries to show some of the alien, foreign, or secondary perspectives at times.

The characters really vary but lack real connection or significance to the overall story. There are some that are kind of interesting and have some depth to them, Klaus, Black, and White being the most obvious. However, most of the characters are pretty trite. Chain, Gilbert, K.K, Steven, Zed, Deldro, Dog, and a variety of other characters are just kind of there and only have a couple of very basic traits. Leo himself is kind of a boring generically nice but out of his league type of character and frankly the weakest link in the series itself.

The character designs are nicely varied and distinctive. The action sequences are pretty strong, although they suffer a bit from overblown attacks that have to be awkwardly labeled on-screen, and there are some really nice details both in terms of the various creatures and in terms of the backgrounds. The comedic injections detract from the raw power of these combat sequences. Frankly, I believe there should have been far more battle coming from a title called Battlefront. Yes, the story is important but pacing lingers and goes off on tangents intended for comedy relief that frankly misses the mark.

The acting is obnoxious and over the top and is perfectly serviceable for the current Shounen environment in 2018. No that’s not a good thing.

Score: 3/10
Final Thought: There was some real potential for this series. It has some good ideas and a world with a lot of potential, unfortunately, it falls pretty short with writing and characters that are quite mediocre. If you’re looking for an exaggerated action-oriented series, Kekkai Sensen will likely be satisfactory for some and short for others. But if you’re looking for something with more depth and maturity, Blockade is definitely one to pass on.

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