Blood Blockade Battlefront is a fascinating anime from the creator of the classic series Trigun. If you’re up for it, it’s a wild ride from beginning to end. The anime’s is a crazy blend of slice of life, action, comedy, drama, and tragedy that ends up making it truly special. Not only that, this anime combines several different art styles to great effect. One caution though – Blood Blockade Battlefront has an extremely fast pace and covers lots of material. If you aren’t paying attention, close attention even, you’re bound to get left behind very, very fast. Pay close attention – the devil’s in the details.
Purpose: Masterpiece. What’s brilliant about the purpose is that it is both exceptionally simple and exceptionally complex at the same time. The basic theme is what’s simple – it’s a slice of life in a crazy world. However, the approach to accomplishing that theme is where the power of the purpose becomes clear. I’ve never seen an anime seamlessly blend this many genres in a way that actually worked. The most astonishing thing is that they never go below three genres in an episode. What this ends up doing is creating a really fascinating tone for the anime that feels like the ups and downs of everyday life in this crazy place. A single episode can convey everything from laughs to tears without it ever feeling unnatural or forced. That’s what makes the purpose so special – transitions between the ups and downs are so smooth and organic, they can’t help but feel like everyday life.
Characters: Very Good. Character development is done almost entirely through showing you what they’re like instead of chatting about them. You get to learn about the various contours of the characters’ personalities by watching them act and react to different situations. Because of this, you feel like you get a pretty good handle on who the characters are pretty early, even though you’re never really close to them. Amusingly, your perspective is pretty much exactly aligned with the main character’s – that of a “normal” outsider. The characters are all eccentric, even crazy, although it’s not over the top… well maybe they are over the top, sometimes. However, they don’t feel out of place given the setting. That’s not to say the the characters can’t be serious – much of the anime is really serious. This shows the breadth and depth of the characters – they can act appropriately with respect to anything thrown their way.
What’s really fascinating about the characters here is that there’s a surprising absence of angst or self-doubt, especially when things get tough. Characters make difficult decisions on how to proceed and live with the consequences of those actions. While they may be sad or sorry at the result, they still stand by their choice, no matter how hard is is. A final note – for the characters most explored, there’s not a happy backstory among them.
World: Masterpiece. On the most basic level, the setting is fantasy Manhattan. The most amazing thing is that it’s perfectly easy to swallow – all the crazy and weird things seem in character. What’s even more amazing is that they seemed to preserve the feel of New York perfectly, seamlessly and organically incorporating the supernatural and the other into it. The atmosphere created was that of an extremely fast-paced place where everything is happening at once. Dangerous things, fun things, boring things, all of it. That makes the setting come alive and take on its own character both in the unique happenings and the feel of it.
The magical elements aren’t particularly explained, but they don’t need to be. The reason they don’t need to be is the viewer’s perspective – the outsider. We see all these crazy and unimaginable things going on and they’re something to gawk at. Even the “good guy” group (and all the other groups out there) are doing really fascinating, incomprehensible things. The world is always at arm’s length and that preserves the aura of mystery and intrigue. But that’s just it, these things feel like you could understand them if given long enough in the particular setting. Actually, now that I think about it, the world in Blood Blockade Battlefront is the feeling you have when you visit a new city – the excitement, the wonder, the apprehension, the fear of the unknown, the potential.
Plot: Excellent. Blood Blockade Battlefront could easily have been a 24 episode anime for how much happens in it. What was presented was the minimum essential plot points to tell a coherent story. That sounds like it’s a bad thing, but the execution was spectacular. Instead of getting bogged down in unnecessary plot points, it’s like leaping from highlight to highlight, but still following a distinct story path. For the most part, the anime is fairly episodic, so the plots are generally limited to the episode. That’s the thing, though, everything builds on each other so that, at the end, you see how far you’ve come. Looking back, everything served its place as a very even, well-thought out step to the ultimate conclusion. With all that said, as the anime goes on, plot points start to span several episodes. By the end, one plotline takes up the entirety of the story, built on what came before.
Storytelling: Masterpiece. The skill by which they managed to tie everything together is truly spectacular. It’s the storytelling that made it possible to leap from plot point to plot point without being jarring. But it’s more than that. They managed to have the appropriate setup in all cases – sad scenes were sad, funny scenes were funny, and everything in between. But not many anime can have these different kinds of scenes next to each other, let alone with a lightning fast pace. It’s a testament to the skill in the storytelling that they could make those transitions at all, let alone with the appropriate impact. Sometimes, it’s where they transition from happy to sad, sometimes silly to serious – it was truly seamless. Not only did the scenes have powerful impact when needed, they also built a strong affection for the characters and goings-on. In may ways, you become attached to the main cast and even the city itself. And that’s how the storytelling truly shines – it feels like you’re being told a small part, one person’s part, in a much larger story. But you don’t really feel left out or that something is missing, merely that there are many, many other stories to tell here. And that’s just it. Blood Blockade Battlefront is a wild ride, with ups and downs that it feels like it’s a slice of everyday life in a crazy place.
Pace: Masterpiece. Don’t blink or you’re going to miss something. It’s so jam-packed with things happening that the pace can only be described as lightning fast. However, it’s never really too much… unless you aren’t paying close attention. However, the managing of the pace is really interesting. They dwell just long enough where they need to, but not a moment longer. Actually, the pace is the best example of Jo-Ha-Kyu, the Japanese storytelling pacing style. Each episode follows it quite well, dividing into “acts” that have a prelude, climax, and quick resolution. The pace is built so well, that they then alter the pace to play with the mood, which is how they can manage to turn the story on a dime. As you head into the end, the pace slows quite a bit, hitting home the seriousness and importance of the events.