If anything, Blood Blockade Battlefront seems to be getting weirder. I would have to say that on balance, this was one of the most befuddling episodes to date in terms of plot, but at the same time one of the most entertaining. That’s the paradox of this series that isn’t really a paradox at all, because it’s actually a pretty tried and true anime formula. It just happens to be one that hasn’t been used much in the last decade or so.
There’s a sort of disconnect between the characters and the plot in Kekkai Sensen, like it’s something that just happens to be going on as they’re doing weird and wonderfully funny stuff. If there’s one thing that keeps this show from quite rising to the level of Matsumoto Rie’s previous series, Kyousougiga, it’s that this one hasn’t quite closed the deal in forming an emotional bond with the characters. I think the characters themselves are fine – in comic terms spectacular, in fact. But the detachment in terms of the story is what’s keeping what’s happening to them from being fully emotionally engaging.
I think that’s why Matsumoto and Furuya Kazunao added the Black and White subplot, and it does help bridge the gap – but it itself is so disconnected from the main story that it doesn’t quite get things over the hump. This week’s ep was perhaps the most dramatic example of this – we didn’t even get a sniff of that storyline until about five minutes remained in the episode, and it really never intersected at all with the episode’s A-plot (if you can even call it that) apart from the thin string of Leonardo’s reason for being at the hospital (for a change he wasn’t the one being treated).
So, then, about 80% of this episode amounted to time-wasting – but such inspired, brilliant and hilarious time-wasting it was. Nightow and Matsumoto collide head-on with another thermonuclear explosion of imagination, the premise this time being Leo, Zapp and Zed’s quest for lunch. Everything is funny here, right down to the dialogue among the trio as Zapp generally acts like a douchebag and Zed passive-aggressively plays the wounded party. The first option is a sushi place – obviously chosen by Zapp as a way to haze Zedd, who turns out to be perfectly fine with “cannibalism”. As it turns out it’s Zapp who doesn’t especially want to eat sushi, which will prove ironic later on.
There is a bit of story going on apart from this – Steven, Klaus and Blitz T. Abrams are roped into helping out the cops in fighting an underground group made up of 1000 brothers (really) who’ve just bought 1000 cheap Chinese mobile suits. In this effort they join up with the L.H.O.S. (League of High Order Spirituals) the caster group that formed in the wake of the big bang. There’s some exposition here along with a bit of action, and it’s this battle which eventually causes the heroes to leave their next-to-last lunch stop, but it’s pretty clear this is kind of a throwaway premise to connect the dots with what the episode is really concerned with.
And that’s the aforementioned quest, which takes the holy trinity to a succession of bizarre restaurants, like a place where the chef regurgitates the food, a place where the chowder eats the customers as the other customers cheer, and a dive where the chef serves his enemies – literally. Eventually this all drives Leo completely bonkers, and he has a psychedelic meeting with the “God of Chow” (Yamada Hiroki) and starts speaking in tongues (including Engrish). Eventually they take him to Diane’s to try and calm him down, and it seems to be working until that battle in the C-plot intervenes rather forcefully. But whatever else this episode did, I would forever love it for the “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army” sign on Diane’s menu – something I can honestly say I never expected to see in an anime. That was a famous campaign by the legendary Katz’ Deli on the Lower East Side of Manhattan during World War II (later immortalized in song by Jerry Lewis), a fantastic American pop culture reference that earns Matsumoto (unless it was in the manga too, of course) tremendous cred and affection from me.
In the end, everyone ends up back at the sushi place – and ironically (and perhaps justly) Zapp gets sick from the tuna (it was his unlucky number that day, you know). And the episode finally takes its usual last act serious turn, as White finally shows her cards to Leo, demanding his eyes. In truth, you know, you could edit out everything that didn’t happen in the last 90 seconds of this ep and I honestly don’t think the overall narrative would be remotely different – but it’s the peculiar nature of Kekkai Sensei that it was the first 1230 seconds that makes this show the marvel that it is.