I’m running out of superlatives for the stylistic accomplishments of Blood Blockade Battlefront. I guess it’s not shocking that a pastiche of BONES, Gainax, Nightow, Baccano! and Matsumoto Rie would be off the charts, but it could just as easily have been a disaster mixing those elements. Instead, though, it’s fabulously fun to watch – the visuals are gorgeous and there’s always something going on (I have to pause this show as much as any since Evangelion just to keep up), the music is God-tier, and the cast is as well. Seriously – it can’t possibly be safe to add Ishizuka Unshou and Ootsuka Akio in one episode, can it? Won’t someone please think of the children!
It seems as if we took a major step closer to giving the plot some much-needed cohesion this week – it felt very much like a canon episode rather than a one-off – but we’ll see. Once again, though, irrespective of the content the experience of consuming it was fantastic. We start out on a subway ride with Leo conversing with someone apparently only he can see – a ride on which he also sees a creature with a beautiful red aura, like crimson wings (take the time to read the ads on the subway car and the signs and billboards in general – a lot of wit and care has gone into them).
Then it’s on to a party at Libra where Unshou’s Patrick is introduced, a larger-than-life weapons specialist with a personality (and voice) to match. Again, don’t blow through this – watch what’s happening in the background. Sonic is getting slowly hammered, revellers are drinking “Blur Moon” (re-branded Coors masquerading as craft beer), Zapp is being his usual butt-monkey self as K.K. is apparently trying to seduce him, and the attention of the background characters is subtly drawn to Leo when he starts talking about what he saw on the subway. That’s pretty damn important, it seems – for amidst all the other monstrosities in this mythology, it seems vampires are here too – and they’re not remotely benign. They’re referred to as the “13 Elders” and it seems they’re invisible to normal human vision (as long as they want to be, anyway). That makes Leo a game-changer.
The highlight of the ep for me is the introduction of Ootsuka’s Blitz “Lucky” Abrams – a great actor, a great name, a great premise and a great character. The collective groan at the party when Klaus says it’s time for the “Specialist” is the first major clue something is up, but Steven only tells Leo that the man they call “Lucky” is one of the greatest monster hunters ever, Klaus’ mentor – and that he’ll likely be showing up soon on his own.
The first real clue at to the brilliant joke about to play out comes when we see Lucky walking towards us in true action-hero style across an airport runway, he sneezes (because he’s being talked about, you know) and a plane crashes and bursts into flame. The reason Libra knew Blitz was coming, as it happens, is a crash landing at Newark – it seems that because of his long battle with the vamps, he’s under a curse which brings disaster to everyone around him but leaves him unscathed. “Lucky” is the ultimate double-edged sword – hell, a double-edged sword with no hilt – and a succession of hilarious catastrophes like a meteor striking a “ultra-sorcerous whatsit” ensues, as Zapp provides a running bitch-track.
The decision is made to use Leo’s eyes to best advantage, starting with a piece of paper clutched by a severed Elder hand which “47 top agents” died to procure (whether at the hands of vamps or being too close to Lucky, who knows), supposedly containing the names of the 13 Elders. Then, a trip (by train) to the heart of darkness – the “hole” beneath Hellsalem’s Lot where Blitz intends to use Leo’s eyes to search for the Elders. Interestingly, Blitz is much more cavalier to the risk and pain to Leo in all this than Klaus – but Leo indeed does see much. There are a lot more than 13 Elders down there, “thousands” Leo thinks, until he collapses bleeding from his eyes.
Meanwhile, K.K. and Steven are battling a couple of Elders who’ve revealed themselves and slaughtered a battalion of police. It seems for these two at least, their very blood is a weapon of great power against the Elders – but no so much so that the pair of them aren’t stomped and seemingly on the verge of being wiped out before Klaus shows up and saves the day in his usual GAR fashion – using the female vamp’s name to seal her. The implication here is that this is the real purpose for which Libra exists, why it was created, and that the rest of the story up to now has been preamble (that would certainly explain the English title). I’m not ready to go quite that far yet, but this plotline certainly has the markers of being a significant one.
The other angle explored here is that mysterious stranger with whom Leo speaks on the subway. There’s an obvious connection with White even before we see them together late in the episode, and while this newcomer appears to be a boy if I’m not mistaken he’s also being played by Kugimiya Rie. There could and probably is some vampire connection too, especially as it seems neither of them is visible to humans without the God Eyes (and that White’s “brother” has red eyes himself). Happily, the manga readers will be just as much in the dark about this as the rest of us until the anime chooses to explain it.
Don’t blow past the preview – Kekkai Sensen has so much cool it spills out over the edges of the episode itself and infects the OP/ED and preview. Ishizuka and Uchida Yuuma (Sonic) are hilarious and obviously having a great time.