Blood Blockade Battlefront just keeps finding new ways to impress me. I wouldn’t say this is a great anime season by any stretch, but I do like the fact the top tier of shows span such a wide demographic range – sports (Baby Steps), epic military fantasy (Arslan Senki), romantic buddy comedy (Ore Monogatari!!). And then there’s this series, which – like Matsumoto Rie’s previous series Kyousougiga and many a BONES show – comes as close as any to simply being “anime”. There’s something elemental in shows like this one, with their relentless imagination, sense of fun and embrace of a fantasized vision of American pop culture.
As the plot of Kekkai Sensen starts to coalesce, it puts me in mind of another terrific anime, Nazo no Kanojo X. Thematically these series are obviously different, but they’re both terrific manga that would have been difficult to adapt to anime in conventional fashion, and that succeeded because of bold changes by the director and screenwriter (in MGX‘ case the same person, Watanabe Ayumu). There’s no question that the anime-original storyline here feels distinct from the canon one, but somehow Matsumoto-sensei is totally making it work – both plots are fascinating in their own right, and we’re starting to see the once parallel lines converge.
Another trait BBB has in common with many of the strongest series is that it’s intra-episodic pacing is superb. Great anime are almost always better in the B-part than the A-part – there’s a deliberate buildup over the course of the episodes themselves, and not just the series’ as a whole, and a willingness not to deliver the payoff too early. I almost invariably find myself feeling only modestly invested at the eyecatch, only to become completely engrossed in the second half of the episode. And this week was no exception.
The A-part this week was full of teasers for the B-part, both in the Libra storyline and the Black-and-White. We’re finally introduced to Raju’s other disciple, Zed O’Brien (Midorikawa Hikaru), who makes rather a grand entrance and never really slows down till he passes out. Taking down the blood breed is a team effort, with Zed and Zapp forced to join forces to set him up for Raju to knock down, and Leo using his God Eye to learn the name so Klaus can seal him. This is all pretty much a blur, the sort of fun thrill ride BBB is rather fond of (and good at) delivering. Once the deed is done, Raju makes himself scarce – leaving Zed in Libra’s hands, which neither he or Zapp are too thrilled about.
As all this is happening, Aligura, Femt and Evil Black are watching from (fittingly) an amusement park (Coney Island?), and exchanging a lot of cryptic dialogue as Femt expresses his general boredom with the Universe. But when Raju lands the big blow against the blood breed (his name is too long to type, sorry) White seems to have a major heart episode inside the hospital. And interestingly, Leonardo seems to sense it happening. The pieces are coming together here, with the help of some flashbacks. Willian and Mary are twins, and as hinted William seems to have literally made a deal with the devil in order to save his sister’s life. An interesting parallel with Leo and Michaela here – especially when we learn that what bad Black really wants is Leo’s eyes, which he promises White he’ll accept as payment for the return of White’s body. This appears to be to setup for the finale of this season’s arc, though the exact mechanics of how it will tie in with the canon storyline are still unclear.
This is all good stuff, but it’s the atmospherics of the B-part that really make this an exceptional episode. We’re again treated to some fantastic BGM, well-suited to the rather serious and melancholy turn the story takes. And the depiction of William and Mary’s childhood home, which looks an awful lot like Ireland or Scotland, is gorgeous – deep green fields, stone fences, wildflowers, sea and a sky dotted with clouds. Everything with this show is so much more than it needs to be – there’s so much attention to detail and creativity and color. It’s pretty magnificent stuff, really – about as pure an anime experience as one is going to get, especially in this day and age. Appreciate it while we have it, and rejoice in the fact that it seems to have somehow miraculously found enough of an audience to virtually ensure a sequel.