Kekkai Sensen – 10

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So all this years when anime fans have been saying “GOC”, is this who they meant?

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.

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  1. l

    "So all this years when anime fans have been saying "GOC", is this who they meant?"

    What does GOC mean?

    I tend to think of Blood Blockade Battlefront as a comedic slice-of-work look at a superhero defense team with a little serious garnish on the side for flavoring. It reminds me of the TV show Barney Miller in tone for some reason.

  2. In this case, God of Chow.

  3. B

    The Italian restaurant they tried to eat at seems to be a reference to The Sopranos. Even the chef have the same name, Artie. Of course, that wonderful meal turns into nightmare…

  4. Sorry, Gerard – deleted the actual comment in addition to the empty one by mistake.

    Had to repost bad spelling I am not the best need glasses .

    I am probally one of the few that does not think this as the anime of the season ! I dont hate it but it doesnt even make my top 16!

    It has great animation . zany enesmble. I dont think the stand alone episodes explain the story of Hellam let alone Black and White! It's like they took parts od FLCL , Kill La Kill and Space Dandy and used it as a platform! BTW Space Dandy gets away with the differeent settings because it is Space and different bounties come up!

    I hold shows like Baby Steps / Aslan / Asassian Classroom as better executed! Shows like Hello Mosasic and Re-Kan have been great surprises!

    Substance and does it entertain me go a long way in the value of a show! And in this case doesnt come together!

    Like I said I like it dont hate it but not that impressed ! Sorry I feel that way!

  5. R

    I think 'superhero slice of life' is pretty much spot on for what this show seems to be doing. And being superheroes, the slice of life part is off the walls bonkers and action packed but it definitely fits that 'meandering' feel that a lot of slice of life shows have it.

    And while most slice of life shows bore me to tears, I'd watch this one for the next ten years and probably still love it. The Black and White B-story is interesting too, definitely, but it certainly almost feels like a genre shift when paired with one of the more whacky episodes, like this one.

    On the other hand, when paired with on of the more action packed and serious episodes, like last week, it fits into place quite nicely.

  6. R

    Also because it has been BUGGING me to no end, does anyone recognize the tune Black is whistling throughout the episode? I SWEAR I've heard it somewhere (maybe even during an earlier episode?) but I can't place it for the life of me and it's driving me up the wall.

  7. S

    So true! I've recently watched the 4th dubbed episode and, lo and behold, Black had been whistling the same tune before Leonardo met him for the first time on the train.

  8. R

    THANK YOU. I can now sleep at night XD Ok that might be over exaggerating but it was bugging me quite a bit

  9. E

    The Black subplot did intersect a bit, I think Black was shown to be a member of the PSI stuff during the exposition.

  10. K

    I know you will not be covering the recap episode. Just a couple of quick comments.

    It is one of the few recap episodes that I enjoy. In a radio show format, DJ Fango (Noriaki Sugiyama) chatted with "The Tragedy of L" over his 'concerns'.

    I like the way they summarized Leonardo's adventures and pieced the White and Black story together. It is presented stylishly, beautiful background music and insert songs, giving proper introduction to the OP and ED songs.

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