Three Reasons Why Blood Blockade Battlefront is the Best Show of the Springby Jacob Chapman,
My name is Hope Chapman, and I am a Blood Blockade Battlefront addict. You may have seen this site enabling my addiction every week and wondered just why I'm so excited about this show. It's pretty simple, really.
Whether you're an old-time casual fan pining for the days of Cowboy Bebop and FLCL or a hardcore otaku seeking out fluid sakuga and the biggest trending shows in Japan, there's something special waiting for you in the world of Blood Blockade Battlefront. It's the coolest, cutest, and cleverest anime I've seen in a long time, easily the best new show of the Spring 2015 season. Why don't I break those superlatives down in detail so you can just get to watching the show already?
Why it's Cool
Do you like Pacific Rim? Well, so does Blood Blockade Battlefront!
Newt and Hermann here pop up in this show for good reason. It has a very similar plot to Pacific Rim, except instead of kaiju, it's Cthulhu that humanity has to worry about. One day, a portal to "The Alterworld" sprouted in downtown Manhattan, and now New York City is crawling with aliens, monsters, and all manner of eldritch fauna. How will mankind survive?!
Oh, well that was easy.
Yes, we may be used to apocalyptic calamity where only gifted teenagers can keep the world safe from monstrous invasion in anime, but Blood Blockade Battlefront has a different attitude toward those unholy terrors from Beyond. Most of them just want to enjoy a human burger, discover human music, and share their otherworldly gifts with Earth. The human-alien neutral zone that was once NYC becomes known as "Hellsalem's Lot," (get it?) and if you're crazy enough to live there, you will find your life enriched with madness and miracles.
Still, without a few bad apples in the alien melting pot, we wouldn't have a story, and that's where Libra steps in. This covert organization, united under the scales of justice and balance, keep ill-intentioned aliens (and sometimes humans!) from disturbing the peace. They're a motley crew, but their members all have one thing in common: they are neither human or alien, but somewhere in-between. Most often, they sport blood-related superpowers like freezing blood, brawling blood, or wire-thin slicing blood, but there are other weirdos in the mix like Chain Sumeragi, a werewolf with super-speed and invisibility, or Leonardo Watch, a sensitive boy with divine and all-seeing eyeballs. They're an elite team of heroes prepared to handle any perp, no matter how unfathomable.
They are also the dweebiest party animals alive. (Check out this credits theme. I defy you to find whiter or drunker dancing in an anime.)
So that's the short version, but this pregnant premise isn't just puffery in print. Blood Blockade Battlefront is the real deal, delivering on all its crazy what-if scenarios with gorgeous animation, kick-ass music, and heartwarming character development. Somewhat like Space Dandy, each episode is wholly unique, but unlike Space Dandy, all these "standalone" episodes form the pieces to a cohesive journey. In episode one, our shrimpy protagonist races the clock to prove his mettle while Libra's resident badass fights an immortal dual-wielding bifurcated demon. In episode five, he gets relationship advice from a Frankenstein's monster truck hell-bent on gobbling up the city. It's not all about one character, though. In episode three, Libra's leader, Klaus von Reinherz, must save America and the Ukraine all at the same time by playing chess for 99 hours straight!
Alien chess, that is.
The series is more than just a pretty face. Its soundtrack is sublime, drawing inspiration from swing and jazz ditties of the 50s to blues and soul standards of the 60s and 70s, all wrapped up in a burrito of modern multicultural mayhem. (The most recent episode featured Indian and aboriginal Australian-inspired scoring, right alongside its usual rhythm and rock.)
Adding to the sonorous sundae is the show's already excellent English dub, courtesy of Funimation. It's still in its natal stages at the time of this writing. (Three "broadcast dub" episodes have been released for site subscribers that may be tweaked before a TV airing or home release.) Still, it recalls the cool and cartoony balance of Cowboy Bebop in its clarity and engagement, making the hectic insanity of BBB much easier to follow, (this is one of the most fast-paced action anime in recent memory,) while retaining all its character-driven warm-fuzzies.
Speaking of those characters...
Why it's Cute
This is Sonic. No, not that Sonic. Does he look like a hedgehog to you? This is a "sonic speed monkey," which means he's a primate that can move at mach speed and that's about it.
Okay, and he's old enough to drink apparently. (I think SEGA's Sonic is still a minor, but who can say?) Anyway, Sonic the Sonic Speed Monkey is Libra's helpful mascot and our protagonist Leo's adorable pet, but he's not the only adorable part of Blood Blockade Battlefront. Behind all the blood and battling, this is a show about human relationships and how important it is to love and support the people in your life, even when you don't understand them or get along most of the time. Most of Libra's members could generously be called "frenemies" who can't even dance together without squabbling, much less fight together.
However, thanks to a combination of writer Yasuhiro Nightow's bleeding-heart humanism (Trigun) and director Rie Matsumoto's love of dysfunctional family values (Kyousogiga), the team always comes together to take down the enemy and sometimes even save the bad guys from themselves. The show spends minimal time on pathos, but its relationships are extremely meaningful. Leonardo joins Libra to help his sister, but also blames himself for her tragic affliction. Klaus tries his best as a guardian of humanity, but being inhuman himself, has trouble relating to some of his more emotional underlings. There's even a Venom/Carnage tribute character who's in love with "himself," as human and alien in one symbiotic blood-bag. It's bizarre and cute all at once!
Of course, nobody's cuter than Sonic.
Most important of all are Leo's friend (and more-than-friend), the twins Black and White. Their secrets smash a family tragedy, love story, and the fate of the world into one big wad of emotions for the oncoming climax, and I can't wait to see how it all goes down. Speaking of Twins...
Yes, that is exactly the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny de Vito movie you think it is. On that note...
Why it's Clever
This show is a real treat for American anime fans to see how Japanese fanatics play hot potato with our popular media. (Nightow is an avowed cinephile and Matsumoto's work suggests she's in the same boat.) The number of visual and contextual references to Western pop culture in this show is staggering. In episode 1, Leonardo eats at NYC's historic Katz's Deli while listening to an Alanis Morissette soundalike song. (Not being an NYC native, I can't say how much of Hellsalem's Lot is exact to real-life Manhattan, but it looks exhaustively researched and recreated.) Episode 3 combines references to The Tempest and The Seventh Seal with a novel use of Beethoven's Ode to Joy. An odd couple of buddy baddies in episode 6 are named Martin and Roger.
But in the end, BBB's impressive shout-out salad can be summed up by one image.
This is the official logo for Blood Blockade's most important fast food joint: Jack & Rocket's Burger Plant. That's a combination of Johnny Rocket's, Jack in the Box, and Doughnut Plant NYC. The chain's superhero mascot seems to be related to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson if the slogan is any indication, but stated to be a "Ron Jomita Jr." creation. Truly, it's the little things. Finally, as primarily an action comedy, BBB has a wicked and wholly irreverent sense of humor, combining commercials for Heinz ketchup with descriptions of horrific human experiments, or taking down a vampire with the power of a throbbing boner. I dare not describe more jokes for fear of ruining them, but if you like your humor just slightly to the left of tasteful, you've come to the right show.
There hasn't been an anime as wildly creative yet painstakingly cohesive as Blood Blockade Battlefront in a long time, and it's a crying shame that it's only slated for 12 episodes right now. Its world and characters are so wonderful that I want to spend much more time with them. I can't recommend it enough. You can check it out streaming at Funimation.com or Hulu right now and hopefully with enough support from both hemispheres, we'll see a season two sometime in the future. It's more fun than a barrel of...!
Oh my god, I need one.
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