Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What I'm Watching: Blood Blockade Battlefront

It stands to reason that I'm a fan of manga artist, Yasuhiro Nightow. His Trigun manga is excellent, and his second series, Blood Blockade Battlefront, is a lot of fun as well. But where his material always shines the brightest is in the anime medium.

The Trigun anime is my all time favorite TV show, featuring high class action as well as moral and spiritual world that is surprisingly deep and powerful. The writer, Yousuke Kuroda (Gungrave, Honey & Clover, Gundam Build Fighters), and the director, Satoshi Nishimura (Hajime no Ippo, Trigun: Badland Rumble, Ushio & Tora), and their staff took Nightow's original manga, pumped up the themes and drama, and delivered the best adaption of a manga into the anime medium there ever was.

But other than the original Gungrave anime that Nightow created (and Kuroda co-wrote) which is the flipside of Trigun and quite an underrated series, and the Trigun movie (Trigun: Badlands Rumble) that Nishimura directed and co-wrote with Nightow, Nightow hasn't had much presence in the anime world despite his popularity both here and in Japan.

This changed during the spring anime season when Rei Matsumoto (Kyousogiga, Pretty Cure franchise) took the reins for an adaption of Nightow's breezy manga series of fun adventures. It ran for 12 episodes instead of the 26 his past series have run, but what Matsumoto did was absolutely stuff every episode with themes deeply tied to Nightow's own and enhancing them in the process. The anime may only be 12 episodes, but it has an extra recap episode which is quite hilarious, and the final episode is twice the length of a normal episode, and in the process of the story, she created an original storyline not in the original manga but manages to tie in deeply with Nightow's original adventures as well as themes he's been exploring since he started Trigun.

So what's it about?

Blood Blockade Battlefront is about a boy named Leonardo Watch and his adventures in the mystical city of Hellsalem's Lot (Jerusalem's Lot in the original), formerly New York City. You see, one day a portal to the "Beyond" formed over New York, swallowing it whole and attracting a melting pot of aliens, spirits, and monsters of all shapes and sizes. Oh yeah, and demons. In the city is a secret organization called "Libra" lead by a man named Klaus V. Reinhurz who keep the innocent safe from the darkness that waits to consume them all. One day the barrier that keeps Hellsalem safe from the outside world will fall, but it is up to Libra to keep it safe until then. BBB is about Leonardo's adventures after joining Libra and how he uses it to atone for his past.

On top of this story are the abilities that Libra members posses to fight the darkness in their city. Leonardo's eyes are actually All-Seeing Eyes which can see anything hidden to the normal man or monster including the real names of those that prefer to be nameless and the hidden secrets of those that those that wish to remain secret. It goes without saying that his power is very useful. But the other interesting ability is that of Klaus V. Reinhurz, the leader of Libra, and several other members. As the title of the series suggests, they can manipulate their blood in different ways to fight their enemies as a direct parallel to the inspiring words of Klaus who frequently goes on about battling for the light and never losing focus from it.

The anime has an original plot that weaves Nightow's original episodic adventures together centering on the brother and sister pair of Black (William MacBeth) and White (Mary MacBeth) who have a strange past related to the mess that almost destroyed the world from Hellsalem several years ago. And yes, their real names are parallels to exactly who you think they are, Mary's name becoming very relevant by series end as well as the villain's relationship with her. What Matsumoto does here to contrast Nightow's constant usage of red (Vash the Stampede's coat in Trigun, Klaus in general for BBB) for heroes marked by blood and villains with despairing blue (Legato Bluesummers in Trigun, and the villain in BBB) is add in the concept of black and white morality and how they can intertwine with each other and influence the very world around them which they will continue to do until the end of time.

It's a surprising weight added to an otherwise well-written adventure show about good against evil, and it's a highly welcome one. Blood Blockade Battlefront is one of the best new anime in many years and should be sought out by anyone with even a passing interest in the medium. You won't be disappointed.

I'm not really much of a reviewer because I kind of want people to experience the subject in question instead of just taking my word for it, but I know Blood Blockade Battlefront can be overwhelming for those who have never really understood anime. The best way to view it would be the dub on Funimation's website or wait for the eventual DVD/Blu-Ray release, but if you can manage a lot of subtitle descriptions as well as the dialogue at the same time, you should be fine. Believe me, the series is worth it.

Right now you can catch the subtitled anime for free on Funimation's website here or pay a subscription to watch the English dub at the same location. I don't know when a home release will be available, but you can bet that I'll be first in line when it does.

As long as you continue to step toward the light, nothing can ever truly defeat you.

You can watch the opening to the series here and the ending theme here.

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