Bladedance of Elementalers
Episodes 1-6

by Paul Jensen,

Anyone who's taken one too many college classes in a single semester will be familiar with the feeling of writing on autopilot. As deadlines press in from every direction, the brain shuts down all extraneous thought in an effort to get each essay and paper up to its minimum page length or word count. The result is something that technically meets all the requirements, but fails to be interesting or memorable in any way. I bring up this style of thoughtless speedwriting because the first six episodes of Bladedance of Elementalers feel like they were created entirely on autopilot. The series checks all the expected boxes for a magical action series, but never manages to distinguish itself from the crowd.

The early episodes cover our teenage hero Kazehaya's arrival at an all-girls magical academy. Supposedly, only girls are able to control summoned spirits through binding contracts, which follow the Fate/stay night pattern of creating a magic seal on the back of the master's hand. Of course, Kazehaya is the rare guy who can make a contract with a spirit, and of course he promptly gets his hands on a legendary magic sword, which of course takes the form of a white-haired girl outside of combat. However, he can't defeat the forces of evil on his own, so he gradually assembles a team of female students who wouldn't be out of place in Shakugan no Shana or The Familiar of Zero. Cue the magical duels and by-the-numbers harem comedy scenes.

There isn't anything catastrophically wrong with Bladedance of Elementalers. Sure, the rules of its spirit contract system are somewhat muddled and seem to shift whenever the plot requires them to do so. Yes, many of the fanservice scenes feel forced and awkward. The flaws are there, but for each sin the series commits, there's another show in this genre that's done far worse. The issues with Bladedance of Elementalers are disappointing, predictable, but not completely intolerable.

The good points are there for viewers with the patience to look for them. In her human form, Kazehaya's sword Est has an amusing ability to terrify other students' familiars into submission simply by glaring at them. Some of the background art is quite good, and the sweeping establishing shots do a fine job of creating a supernatural atmosphere for the series. Kazehaya's shady past constantly promises to create some worthwhile conflict, and setting up his former contracted spirit as a villain is an interesting choice. Having kept itself from crashing and burning thus far, Bladedance of Elementalers has the potential to be more compelling as the plot shifts from establishing the cast to taking on the main antagonists. Of course, this assumes that the series will be able to sort itself out before it runs out of episodes.

In a way, life would be easier if Bladedance of Elementalers were worse than it is. We could all just write it off as a lousy imitation of better works and call it a day. Instead, it's just barely adequate, much like a college paper written on autopilot. If you ever wondered how your professors felt reading all those half-hearted essays, watch this show. Otherwise, just go back and re-watch something better.

Rating: C

Bladedance of Elementalers is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Paul Jensen also covers anime and manga at SharkPuppet.com.


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