Depending on how interesting a few outlier shows like Ninja Slayer or Yamada and the Seven Witches turn out to be, this will likely be the last initial episode post of this season. The series I haven’t mentioned are generally those I have nothing really to talk about (Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic, Houkago no Pleiades, Re-Kan!!), ones I couldn’t last an episode of (Etotama, Gunslinger Stratos) or simply the shows I refuse to touch with a ten-inch barge pole (Triage X, High School DxD, any more Nisekoi, etc). There’s also stuff like Babysteps or Gintama, that I’m still debating whether I want to want any more of.
Anyway, with that in mind, enjoy!
Blood Blockade Battlefront
Blood Blockade Battlefront (god, that’s a terrible English title) is an adaptation of a manga by Yasuhiro Nightow, the guy behind one of biggest anime hits in the west, Trigun, back in the late 90’s. At this point I must shamefully hold my hand up and admit I’ve never really watched it, other than giving an episode or two a try during my post-Evangelion phase, when I wanted every show to be a brooding tale about existential doubt, wrapped up in symbolism. All I really know is that it was much beloved, even if the writing doesn’t hold up for many newer fans; while Nightow’s original manga allegedly has incomprehensible action scenes. The directing and storyboards are largely credited Rie Matsumoto, who doesn’t have a lot credits to her name other than random episodes Precure, but really made her mark with Kyousougiga, a fantastic and generally well respected show (if sadly not a commercial success).
I decided to hold off on watching the show until the second episode aired. Sure, there seemed plenty of promise, but I’ve been burned enough times with fantastic openers that throw out all their ideas from the get-go, before fizzling out and refusing to capitalise on their original potential (oh, hi there Rolling Girls). Time might still prove me right on this, but if the first two episodes have any indication, Blood Blockade Battlefront is making one hell of a statement otherwise.
If Trigger’s upcoming net anime Ninja Slayer is a deliberate homage/parody of what casual western audiences believed anime to be during the 1990’s, then BBB (I’m not saying that name anymore) is essentially what they actually wanted it to be all along. From the jazz soundtrack, to the buzzling liveliness and lived-in feel of the city (the art-director is Shinji Kimura, responsible for Akira and the Space Adventure Cobra movie’s backgrounds), the snappy scene transitions, the sardonic, matter-of-act delivery of the dialogue and humour to the exasperated nature of cast; BBB is feels like what would happen if you were to merge X-Men, Men in Black, Cowboy Bebop and Baccano together. It’s less about presenting fanservive and well-worn tropes than it is infusing every scene with as much detail, entertainment and full-on ‘fuck you swagger’ as possible. It’s the closest I’ve seen an anime series reproduce the stylish rotoscoped opening to the Bebop movie, adding sci-fi and explosions to the mix.
Bones clearly believe they have a winner on their hands judging by the sheer amount of talent, thought and budget that’s gone into the show. I genuinely hope lives up expectations.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan
I’m traditionally a big fan of fantasy stories, so long as they don’t veer too far into the D&D, Tolkien-esque worlds, recycling the same old races acting out tired good-vs-evil scenarios. I’d much rather see a world with unique and fantastical imagery, yet focusing on the more mundane and realistic depictions on how peoples and societies work. It’s partly why I love the original Berserk anime, Game of Thrones, the Malazan series etc. So here we are with The Heroic Legend of Arslan, based on the books of Yoshiki Tanaka, most famous for Legend of the Galactic Heroes (I’m spotting a trend here), a series that clearly agreed with this train of thought, focusing on peoples and politics rather than flashy space battles.
Not that we see the same level of detail in the opening episodes of Arslan. This is after all an adaptation by Hiromu Arakawa (of Full Metal Alchemist and Silver Spoon fame), and without prior knowledge I could have easily assumed it was entirely her own creation. Not that it’s shallow; there’s actually quite a bit to chew on, but the different viewpoints surrounding religion, slavery etc are fairly upfront and simplified. We’re definitely getting more than Magi’s simplified “slavery is bad! (Now let’s head to a brothel) mantra repeated ad nauseam, but neither will we be seeing full episodes devoted to the pros and cons of the serf system. This is primarily a shounen action series; we won’t be getting the same amount of depth LoGH had (or anywhere near the number of episodes).
As for the action itself, it’s somewhat disappointing to see the show suffer under an underwhelming budget. The character models are generally fine, even if I’m still not a fan of Arakawa’s simplified, often cutesy designs in this type of setting. The cgi comprising the majority of the battle scenes is pretty horrific though, making people looks like flat-faced toy soldiers chunkily marching about. Liden Films, the studio behind the adaptation are new, only previously responsible for that shite Terra Formers anime, but Sanzigen is doing the cgi and they’re known for being the best in the business right now. Maybe the show just has a really small budget, but that would surprise me given the pedigree behind it. At the very least, the battles themselves are directed well enough with what they have.
I don’t think Arslan will ever be the nicest looking of shows, but it does seem competent enough so far that we can expect a decent shounen series, free from many of the pitfalls that plague it’s lesser competitors. If it keeps up the quality I can grudgingly ignore the lego fight scenes or the overly clean looking aesthetics.
Oh no no no no no no, I see you there Ore Monogatari; you’re trying to seduce me aren’t you? Well I’ve been here before. First you suck me in with the allure of doe eyed girls and pink sparkles, then BAM! I’m ten episodes into some drawn out love quagmire where everyone is belligerently stubborn for no reason and the simplest of issues that can be solved with brief conversations are spun out to calamitous extremes. You think I’ve forgotten Say “I love you”? My Little Monster? Blue Spring Ride? I even went back and knocked on Kimi ni Todoke’s door last year, and even the wonderfulness that is Ayane Yano can no longer hide the insipid mess I now know it to be.
I’m sorry Ore Monogatari, but I’ve grown up and moved on. Some relationships are best left in that nostalgia-filled past of youthful discretions. I’m happy with Chihayafuru being my lone bastion for all things shoujo; that least it’s secondary to the karuta. We had a good run, but it’s best for both of us to turn around with digni- wait what; your main character is male? A giant, intimidating and ugly male? Interesting Ore Monogatari, but it’s not enou- huh, you say he actually has a heart of gold? N-n-no, nice try but I’m not fallin- WOAH, but his best friend is super-hot and attracts all the girls? And is that a cute female lead I see approaching? Please stop it, I can’t… I just can’t…
WHAT, YOU MEAN TO SAY SHE LIKES THE MAIN CHARACTER AND NOT THE BISHIE? BUT THE BISHIE LIKES HER?????
…here’s my number