Kekkai Sensen: Episode 1 — Too Much Energy

Not that I want anime to be Rainbow or Breaking Bad, but I wish the medium would quit overusing levity like it does. If American dramas take themselves too seriously, Japanese anime have the problem of not taking themselves seriously enough. Being completely comedic in tone is not as fun in practice as it is in your head, especially when you’re not using it for anything interesting. Or in case you didn’t quite get it, I’m currently undergoing cancer treatment after exposure to both Rolling Girls and Yatterman Night, and Kekkai Sensen aka Blood Blockade Battlefront isn’t helping matters.

Like Rolling Girls, this show takes place in a world where the crazy is the norm and thus it’s not at all unusual for explosions to happen out of nowhere and aliens to drink in a bar with normal humans. The difference is that this anime is self-aware of that fact and tries very hard to make it one of its main appeals, if not the main appeal. It kind of reminds me of a Star Wars setting except set in New York and with the wackiness turned way up. I’d be all over that if the show wouldn’t stop depending on the wackiness in order to cover up the fact that so far, it has no story or character.

I understand the purpose of this episode is to get Leonardo acquainted with the rest of the cast, but it’s the fact that the show treats him and his situation as a joke (and an unfunny one at that) that’s making me unable to connect with it. Whilst most people are probably going to compare this episode to Trigun or Kyousogiga given the team behind it, I’m reminded more of Kill la Kill personally. This may have something to do with my recent rewatch of the show, but here me out. In Kill la Kill, the entire world was wacky as shit, but I could get into it in the very first episode because Ryuko was the main protagonist. Not only did she take everything seriously, thus allowing for some good contrast with the rest of the characters. but she was saddled with a story that was serious to her: father died and she wants to find his killer so she sets out on a mission to do so whilst fighting like a hooker.

Leonardo is obviously no Ryuko, but I don’t see what differentiates him from anybody else in the show enough to make him the focus character other than being younger and weaker. He has a story regarding his sister, but it’s not explained very well and he acts way too aloof even during said explanation let alone during the episodic conflict this week, and thus I can’t buy into him seriously. I have problems with Arslan’s character from Arslan Senki, but at least his naive nature combined with the harsh truth of the world was something I could buy into. He’s freaking Ike from Fire Emblem compared to Leonardo.

This might have been tolerable if the rest of the cast was interesting, but they’re not. They’re a bunch of shonen stereotypes who I don’t know anything about, and even the way they fight is really shonen. There’s not much action and it’s always accompanied by those lousy kanji signs that are supposed to emphasize the badassness of the finishing moves, but just makes them look stupid instead. There’s not much of a plot either beyond “trouble goes down due to one crazy guy and these super-powered people need to stop it”, which isn’t enough for me because the show isn’t as stylish or energetic as it needs to survive on that. In addition to the fights not being good, the tone being too light, and the characters being kinda lame, too much time is spent on talking about cool stuff rather than doing it and not one single joke made me laugh. So really, there’s not a lot to like. Yeah the setting is cool and the visuals are nice, but there’s only so long that can keep me in by itself before it loses me ala James Cameron’s Avatar.

What I’m saying is, from the first episode alone, Blood Blockade Battlefront is another junk food show. It has a lot of energy, but there’s nothing underneath it for me to digest on so far, and all I can do is watch with an indifferent face. Hopefully that changes later on.

6 responses to “Kekkai Sensen: Episode 1 — Too Much Energy

  1. “If American dramas take themselves too seriously, Japanese anime have the problem of not taking themselves seriously enough. Being completely comedic in tone is not as fun in practice as it is in your head, especially when you’re not using it for anything interesting. Or in case you didn’t quite get it, I’m currently undergoing cancer treatment after exposure to both Rolling Girls and Yatterman Night”

    Spot on. I’m not a comedy person and while I love anime it’s frustrating at times to watch even the ones I love because of this. If the cast wont take their situation seriously WHY SHOULD I? How am I supposed to connect if it’s played off as a joke.
    Kill la kill was too much for me but ryuko, her sister and other characters were serious enough to get me through.

    The narration was killing me man, I could barely handle it and the whole thing just felt a little disjointed. If the event that gave him “the eyes of god” was supposed to be mysterious, then they sure as hell didn’t achieve that.

    “There’s not much action and it’s always accompanied by those lousy kanji signs that are supposed to emphasize the badassness of the finishing moves, but just makes them look stupid instead” Ugghh why would they do this? Man worse thing ever. I never liked trigon enough to finish it but I hope this turn out good, I can’t bear to watch another Bones show flop like Captain Earth. Won’t be watching their cute girl show. Really disappointed they had to resort to that again.

    • Won’t be watching their cute girl show. Really disappointed they had to resort to that again.

      It’s pretty much a law that every studio needs to do at least one cute girl show in their life.

      I never liked trigon enough to finish it but I hope this turn out good

      I’m not expecting it to be more than a way to pass the time, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if it just turns out to be average. ‘Course, it’s going to need to get to that level first.

      • Never realized how many things I spelled wrong. ” ‘Course, it’s going to need to get to that level first.” It has the potential I think, but one can only wait and see.

  2. Say whaaat? Would you rather anime be dour shows about androids that we’re not even given any desire to care for, like Unlimited Blade Works? At least this owned all of its flaws, unlike the other shows with “energy” that you listed. Rolling Girls was just a pointless dopey mess, and Yatterman was too caught up in nostalgia to remember to entertain a modern audience. But this has, in one episode, restored energy to this otherwise lifeless season while being more entertaining than any other episode I’ve watched yet by far.

    • Would you rather anime be dour shows about androids that we’re not even given any desire to care for, like Unlimited Blade Works?

      Way to strawman.

      At least this owned all of its flaws, unlike the other shows with “energy” that you listed.

      I never said BBB was on the same level as those two shows. Hell, I’d rather watch it over them anyday of the week. But good by comparison isn’t good enough.

      But this has, in one episode, restored energy to this otherwise lifeless season while being more entertaining than any other episode I’ve watched yet by far.

      It has energy, but it has no story so far. I generally don’t like those kind of shows (don’t care much for Baccano these days either).

      • Well, I asked a question, didn’t mean it as a full-out strawman/attack… but sure I can take the hint that I was going overboard.

        I won’t even bother arguing about whether this “has no story” because it most certainly had plenty even in episode 1 – but I understand that you meant it didn’t have the kind of depth you were after.

        At any rate I hope episode 2 will find you more pleased with this. If not, well, I hope something this season does, because even Plastic Memories is painfully shallow so far, as of episode 2. But I’m not watching it for depth, just drama. Much like I’m watching this for creative energy.