Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond
Episode 7

by Gabriella Ekens,

How would you rate episode 7 of
Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond (TV 2) ?

When it comes to Blood Blockade Battlefront's ensemble storylines, Zed's episodes seem to be where the show likes to dish out the feelings. Maybe it's because of his personality – he's easily the least madcap Libra member and spends most of his screentime serving as the straight man to Zapp's antics. (Leo also plays this role, it's just that Zapp is such an enormous trash hurricane that the show frequently needs two—three if you count Chain as his bully. It's a hard-knock life for Zapp-Zapp, and he deserves it fully.) In his appearances so far, Zed has come off as a responsible, sensitive, and somewhat reserved young man who also happens to be a superpowered fish-person. This week, we learn that there's a good reason for all that.

But first, it's party time. New Year's is coming up, and Leo has scored Hellsalem's Lot's hottest bar as the site of Libra's annual party. This'll be a big event for Zed in particular, since he's still pretty new to Libra and will be introduced to everyone at this event. (This is one of those details where you can really tell that manga chapters are being adapted out-of-order. I guess that means Leo's debut was that party in the first season's fourth episode, which means he's been part of Libra for little over a year?) In his own reserved way, Zed is excited – especially since he's been having some trouble adjusting to life in the city. It's hard to find work as an undocumented fishman, and Zapp is being a jerk about how much Libra spends to accommodate for the unique needs of Zed's body. It costs big bucks to keep his head above water, so Zed is starting to feel like a burden to the group.

After an unsuccessful side gig search, Zed relatably gets drunk to escape his troubles. Unfortunately, while he's walking home in a drunken stupor, the world's biggest multibillionaire audio freak happens to pass him on the street. She mistakes his breathing device for the world's rarest, greatest, and most powerful set of headphones and decides that She Must Have Them. So she sends her cyborg goons to mug him, and they succeed thanks to Zed's compromised state. They leave him asphyxiating on the sidewalk, where he would have died had Leo and friends not stumbled upon him in time. They save him, but there's another tragic complication – it'll take a month to make Zed a replacement breather, meaning that he'll have to miss the New Year's party. Leo is heartbroken for his friend, who'd been anticipating the event so much.

This gets us to Zed's backstory. Apparently he isn't a Beyondian, despite his appearance. He's actually a human-fish hybrid created on Earth by a European count who, judging by his portrait, appears to be Castlevania's Dracula. In typical Marvel comics universe fashion, (Why do people love Spiderman when they hate X-Men's mutants? How can they tell that he isn't one?) this makes Zed subject to discrimination from all quarters, Beyondian and Human. He was also raised in near-isolation, which has left him pretty socially awkward. The only reason he ever left his birth tank was because Zapp's master found him, presumably after exterminating his daddy/creator. Master Shizuyoshi gives Zed a chance at life if he can manage a certain technique from the Big Dipper Blood Battle Style, and the fishman proves proficient. As he steps into the realm of nature for the first time, Shizuyoshi warns Zed about the loneliness he'll face out there, but our boy remains committed to life on the outside. And now, to his melancholy, Zed is facing exactly what his master predicted.

Of course, he's also made some friends since then. Leo makes it his mission to retrieve Zed's breathing device and forces Zapp along as an apology for his ableism. Zapp gets into it eventually, leading the charge on the billionaire's private skyscraper, which is guarded by a private army of cyborgs. Chain even tags along to bypass the CEO's security system. They make it out easily, but in their victory, our heroes are nearly ambushed by one last cyborg supersoldier. Fortunately, Zed arrives on the scene just in time to save them. So he can breathe outside of water using his own powers – it's just that he has to look really silly to do it. Chain, Leo, and Zapp collapse from laughing at Zed's stupid fishbowl head, but it's okay because the day has been saved.

Some time later, the party goes great. Afterwards, Leo discovers that Zed has found himself a gig – he's a street performer now, using his blood powers to put on shows for passerby. Since he's great at it, he even makes a good amount of extra cash. It's a heartwarming ending for him, since we witnessed his first exposure to the outside world's beauty earlier in the episode. Now he's progressed to the point where he's bringing his own beauty into the world.

The only knock I can give this episode is that the plot could have been a bit tighter on paper. It was sheer coincidence that Zed's breathing device happened to look like some legendary piece of audio equipment. I'd also like to have learned more about the Walhalla lady. She had an interesting design (reminiscent of Femt and Aligula) that differs from Nightow's other “hapless outsider who underestimates Hellsalem's Lot” characters. Thematically, this lady does tie into Blood Blockade Battlefront's general theme of “the value of combating evil with human decency, no matter how impossible it seems in a world of overwhelming decadence.” She's a CEO/arms dealer who profits from the spread of violent chaos. And while she seems to dislike dirtying her hands personally, she's made the choice to willfully ignore the suffering that supports her lifestyle. Our heroes give her comeuppance by forcing her to face her violence directly. It also looks like using advanced HL technology to become a big shot on the outside doesn't translate to much power within the city itself – Walhalla was instantly taken down by some of Libra's most basic tricks. Once again, this follows the Nightow tradition of emphasizing just how small human efforts, good or evil, compare to the sheer scope of the supernatural.

I'd also have preferred some clarification on why Zed doesn't use his fishbowl ability to get around in general. I presume that it's a pain in the ass to maintain constantly (on top of looking silly) so Libra funds his accommodations. Also, Libra should pay their workers better. It looks like they all need to have day jobs, even though they're all on call to risk their lives saving the world at every hour of the day. Y'all got money, guys. Like of course Zapp would waste it immediately, but I'd say Leo thoroughly deserves that Xbox at this point.

Next week it looks like we're starting a two-parter. This might be a tradition for Blood Blockade Battlefront now, as the first season's eighth and ninth episodes were also a two-parter. I'll admit that I've read what's coming up in the manga, and our favorite super speed monkey may be stealing the spotlight in the future.

Grade: A

Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.

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