Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond
Episode 9

by Gabriella Ekens,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond (TV 2) ?

In the second half of Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond's jumbo-sized two-parter, Leo's little friend has turned into a major problem for Hellsalem's Lot. So last week, Leo's good pal Riel (who we had strangely never heard of before) was turned into a monstrous musclebeast by a microbial mad scientist. The tiny terrorist, Gemnemo, preyed on Riel's insecurities over his wimpiness to morph him into a towering figure of destruction. Now Gemnemo is trying to convince Riel to act on resentment and destroy the city. Fortunately, it doesn't look like our little buddy has that sort of anger in him. Inspired by Leo's example, he sees that there's nothing to be gained from violence that isn't committed to protect someone, so he dedicates all his strength to keeping his towering frame immobile. Gemnemo doesn't like this one bit and – realizing that he won't be able to psychologically manipulate his chosen stooge – decides that it's time to control his actions directly by hacking his nervous system. So despite Riel's best efforts, Leo, Sonic, and the good microbe doctor are now on a race against time to save the city.

This is where the Special Sonic Mission comes in. Since Chain is indisposed (totally blasted at werewolf ladies' night), our beloved monkey has to take over infiltration duties for the evening. Equipped with the doctor's anti-Gemnemo gun and guided by Leo's god eyes, Sonic navigates Riel's interior physiology to find and shoot his brainstem. He succeeds at the last moment (Gemnemo was about to take over, while Leo's eyes were about to give out from overheating), causing Riel's failing kaiju body to careen into the abyss. Sonic makes it out okay and the day is saved, but Leo is far from happy, since his innocent friend has been lost to the whole ordeal.

Several weeks later, however, Riel reappears under the sole of Leo's shoe! So he's alive, just shrunken down as an aftereffect of the de-muscle-ization procedure. A relieved Leo immediately starts working on plans to restore Riel to his previous height, but his little(r) buddy reassures him that he doesn't mind being like this. Our boy has come to terms with his body as it is, and he's just happy that he didn't end up wrecking (too much of) the city. All things considered, it's a happy ending,

This episode was mostly a bunch of heartfelt scenes of Leo and Riel's friendship alongside one pretty good action spectacle. For a stranger who's being introduced as being Leo's Good Friend This Entire Time Guys, those flashbacks did a lot to naturalize their friendship and endear us to the guy. It's easy to see why they get along – Riel is like a version of Leo who hasn't discovered his courage yet and beats himself up over it. Meanwhile, the action this week was really cool. I liked that they gave Sonic – who's felt a bit overlooked this season – his own standout moment to save the day.

Otherwise, this episode was chock-a-block with the ancillary worldbuilding details that make me love Blood Blockade Battlefront. I love how HSL citizens seem to hold tailgating parties for kaiju attacks and how Gigagigafutmassif, The World's Largest Individual, shows up to kick ass for a moment only to back off when Tetsuo-Riel takes his title. Poor Chain also beats herself up over being unavailable during such a dire situation, but I'm not sure what could have been done about that? The world is almost destroyed often enough around here that it was eventually going to happen while she was wasted off her ass. Zapp in particular has no right to guilt-trip her. At least Sonic gets to live like a king (of the jungle) for a little while.

There are only three episodes left, and I'm already starting to feel how much I'll miss this show when it's gone. Blood Blockade Battlefront has maybe the most fun ensemble cast in anime right now, and every second spent with them feels like a tiny glimpse into a much larger world. Overall, I'll give this episode high marks for its touching account of Riel and Leo's friendship, as well as that final action scene. My biggest disappointment is that Dog and Deldro didn't end up factoring into things at all, despite how much the show seemed to be setting them up last week. It looks like they won't get a dedicated episode at this rate, which is a shame. I guess they get to join the club alongside Klaus, whose backstory remains unexplained. (I imagine that whatever storyline they invent to wrap up the season could last a single episode rather than two, although that seems like a bad idea to me. I'm betting on two in keeping with the first season.) Next week, we're at least getting a look into one of the first season's least explored characters, the bratatat mom K.K., and maybe a little about Stephen's day job.

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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