Blood Blockade Battlefront Review — Pure Unentertaining Energy

Was gonna use that subtitle for the Durarara!!x2 Ten review, but then I realized I had about ten more fitting ones for when I finally tackle that atrocity.

Sometimes, I don’t get anime fans. If you’ve paid attention to the sales charts, you’ll see that Blood Blockade Battlefront’s current sales numbers are going toe-to-toe with Shirobako aka the most acclaimed and important anime series in recent times, and that just baffles me. I mean Kyoani’s own beautiful anime with believable character motivations, depth to its story, and (most importantly of all) actual challenges the characters have to overcome came out in the same season around the same time, and yet it just sold decently – which is below the studio’s usual standards. Okay fine, maybe this anime has a swanky soundtrack. Maybe it’s being directed by one of the most dynamic TV directors in the current market. Maybe it has a character named Zapp Renfro. Maybe it had one of the most unique and eye-catching premises to come from the market in years. But BBB on the whole is just not the least bit good, and I don’t understand why anyone is trying to convince me otherwise.

The series is based on a manga written by Yasuhiro Nightow, who you may know as the writer of Trigun – a series that’s kinda sexist when you think about it. Okay, it’s not on the level of Bakuman or even Rurouni Kenshin, but Vash is still a really f*cking stupid main character. But you know, as much as he grinds my gears whilst shouting his “Love & Peace” bullshit, at least Vash had a personal story and some important flaws, mishandled as they were, in regards to some interesting discussions about how to deal with criminals. So I was kinda expecting some similar moral quandaries in this new thing under the guise of a stylish futuristic noir setting.

Unfortunately, Nightow decided for his new work that BBB would be a generic slice-of-life story combined with Baccano’s tone, and you know what that means? Let’s do absolutely fuck all whilst trying to cover up that fact with lots of energy! Honestly, I’m still racking my brains regarding who contributed more to BBB’s problems. But make no mistake: neither the production team nor the original writer helped in making this show good. The phrase “nothing interesting happens” is overused in general, let alone by me, but I can’t think of a better summary of the show’s problems aside from it being the equivalent of eating nothing but a giant bag of M&Ms for lunch. Sounds appealing at first until you become sick not even ten minutes in, and you’ve still got five-sixths of the bag to go through.

The main character is pretty bland as well. Leonardo Watch – and you can tell that someone involved with Gungrave worked on these names because they’re just as silly here as they were there – is a young boy with magical eye powers who comes to the Star Wars version of Chicago and ends up getting involved in a series of ka-razy events that leads to him getting recruited into an organization called Libra, a group of individuals much older than him that keep peace in the city through poorly stylized fight scenes against villains that are never developed beyond the concept and we’ll never see again afterwards. Whilst dealing with these episodic events involving their exploits, Leo routinely converses with an anime-original girl and boy at the beginning and end of each episode, cock-teasing a larger story involving them with his connection being incredibly arbitrary.

In fact, Leonardo’s entire existence is arbitrary. Most of his screentime is just him being strung along by other people and most of the time, he doesn’t take a proactive role or solve anything on his own other than spotting the occasional enemy weakness – which makes him about as useful as Slippy Toad, so I have to wonder why he’s even the main character. Which come to think of it, didn’t he come to Hellsalem in order to help his sister? Actually, even I don’t even remember what was up with that mcguffin anymore. Something about her being sick because of some magic bullshit? Maybe if more than five minutes (in the first episode no less) were dedicated to that plot point, I’d care enough to look it up.

BBB Writer #1: Hey, wasn’t there some plot thread regarding Leo’s personal life that we should at least address, BBB Writer #2?

BBB Writer #2: Can’t seem to recall that, BBB Writer #1. Now let’s have the characters fight a Ninja Samurai Vampire, because that’s cool right?

Every single scenario is ridiculously unimaginative and plays like some Hideo Kojima wannabe’s fanfiction come to life rather than pieces of a larger whole. And with each episode I watched, I just kept asking myself what the point of all this nonsense was. There’s one episode where Leo befriends a friendly mushroom-like fellow that’s experiencing racism because that’s just how it works in the city. And when Leo tries to help him, he ends up getting kidnapped (again) and forgetting said friend once the mushroom defends himself with some sort of pollen after getting beaten severely with a baseball bat on-screen. As much as I understand that racism is a subject that’s still relevant after all this time, this incident is never brought up again and doesn’t add to Leo’s character so I’m not really sure why you made me sit through that.

And really, that’s one of the more focused episodes of the series. A large percentage of them are incredibly gimmicky fluff that accomplishes nothing more than saying something exists before pretending it doesn’t the very next week. Where are the episodic stories where the characters’ way of life is questioned or where some cliche yet relevant personal philosophy is imparted upon us or where something game-changing happens in the future besides introducing another throwaway character? Now I know the anime makes it clear at the start that Hellsalem is a place where anything can happen and that you could argue that’s the message of the anime, but I respond to that answer with “no fucking duh”. That sort of philosophy is functional as setup, but for the basis of an entire series, it’s simplistically dull because anything can happen in real life too (as Donald Trump’s campaign should show you, let alone the real New York). What exactly is this “anything can happen in Crazy Town” philosophy in aid of, Blood Blockade Battlefront?

Because it sure isn’t about anything resembling a coherent whole, I’ll tell you that. Literally the only connecting thread are these twins that only meet with Leo at the beginning and end of each episode and pretty much disappear altogether until their story appears in that long-delayed finale where said delay either killed your interest or made you want to rewatch the show prior to its arrival because it’s been a season since you last watched the anime and your memory is that atrocious. But why you’d need to do that is a question that you’re going to have to answer to me in a really understandable way, because the hints to this finale were both barely there and don’t even involve Leo or the rest of the cast all that much, if at all. And the same is true for the finale itself, which without spoiling anything, is so anticlimactic and non-consequential to anything in the show, let alone the characters, that it makes you question the entire arc’s importance for all the good it did.

Speaking of the characters, I might have tolerated the lackluster story and Leo’s non-existent importance if they had been the least bit interesting. But if you’re one of those people who think it’s not utterly dumb for every character to be a badass, then you can just disregard this review right now, because I honestly don’t see the appeal in a cast that doesn’t have any sort of pathos whatsoever. I don’t have a problem starting your story with fully developed characters since origin stories are overrated anyways, but there’s a difference between someone who got the way they are through hard struggles in their life and someone who’s the product of Mary Sue fanfiction. Especially when their attempts to be funny consist of jokes that have as much punch as a one-year old who hasn’t eaten in days and is chained to the ground.

And worst of all, they don’t do anymore than Leo. There’s this woman in a suit named Chain Sumeragi who is supposed to be a werewolf, but she never transforms or even fights or does really much of anything aside from jumping around and making snide remarks to Zapp – who I only remember for his name and little else. Which is something I guess, since I didn’t bother to retain anyone else’s names in this series apart from Klaus. Maybe if you actually made them do anything important or memorable or anything not boring, I’d have a reason to do so.

But no, they do jack throughout the entire show. Even in the finale, they do jack, mostly existing to serve as Leo’s cheerleaders and little else. And just like most fictional cheerleaders, it’s incredibly hard to distinguish between them if you ignore the obvious fact that they have different designs, sexes, and voices. Literally anything said by one character could easily be said by another character without coming across as unnatural, and that’s not a good thing in my book unless you just don’t care about character variety. And if you don’t, sorry to say this, but you have real low standards man.

Blood Blockade Battlefront does not live up to any of the hype surrounding its pre or post-release, but I’ll be fair and admit that not even Cowboy Bebop would have been able to live up to the amount of jizz that covered it before its airing alone. All of the show’s good traits from Matsumoto’s dynamic direction to the ending credits are outnumbered by shit ones, namely the fact that there’s so much about these characters and this setting that’s ripe for good storytelling, and yet it’s wasted on predictable humor, shallow characterization, and pointless world-building that will become as relevant as school shootings in a decade (seriously, how the fuck can there be so many in this year alone?). Also, dear god does the action suck a big fat one. It’s completely one-sided and keeps favoring stylization over interesting choreography – the finale in particular avoiding to scratch that “action-loving” itch of mine when it had the team take down a bunch of faceless mooks that stood perfectly still and took it from the top in-between all the horrendously boring and overly long philosophical dialogue.

And it didn’t even last half a minute. That’s like dating a cute girl for five years without having sex and when you finally decide to do it on your honeymoon night…well let’s just say that unlike this show, you have more to look forward to in the future, including getting better. But it’s best not to tell your kids about the time you cried during what you claim to be the greatest period of your life.

PS: Not quite sure why Euphonium’s MAL score/ranking has been falling lately. Maybe hype backlash is starting to settle in now that it’s gotten so popular.

6 responses to “Blood Blockade Battlefront Review — Pure Unentertaining Energy

  1. I had such high hopes for this. I was actually sad at how disappointing it was. I don’t usually care too much if an anime ends up sucking but this seemed to have everything to be something great, but it was just a mess.
    At least Bones is doing well from this. They haven’t had a big hit in several years.
    It’s a great shame that Manglobe went bankrupt – they’ve made some of my favourites: Champloo and Flamenco.

  2. Count me in to those who are baffled as to why this one sold a heck of sales when two moe baits (OreGairu Season 2 and Euphonium) are actually better in terms of plot, characters and in case of Euphonium, visuals and animation. I yawned too many times with this show. It just… cannot get my attention with all its visual flairs. It is as if they pulled a Baccano! without tying the plot keys and it went totally haphazard. Yeah, that episode with the burger lover did not make me feel anything because it did not add anything with the bigger story of BBB, if it has any.

    Anyway, interesting animation is still interesting animation, I guess (?).

  3. I disagree with many of your opinions and conclusions in regards to this show. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Thing is, even though I enjoyed it, I think that I agree with you in that it is missing things. In my case, the good still outweighs the bad, and perhaps the potential of the thing blinds me to the flawed reality. I think many of the problems can be contained in the overall category of “over rushed”. I think the series world have benefited from taking more time to do everything, and even though I haven’t read the manga, I would have preferred that they had followed it more closely and not put in the anime only characters and plot. I like the premise and setting. I like the art style and music. I like the characters and wish they had fleshed them out more thoroughly. My hope is that we get more of this show and it finally lives up to its potential, and sticks to the manga.

    • and perhaps the potential of the thing blinds me to the flawed reality

      I think many of the problems can be contained in the overall category of “over rushed”

      I like the characters and wish they had fleshed them out more thoroughly

      Couldn’t disagree with you more.

      My problem with the show is how it thinks that just because it has cool elements like the Star Wars version of New York and werewolf women and vampire ninjas that means it can give us the same shallow story and characters that make up the majority of anime. And the majority of anime is crap.