With the arrival of its second season, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond, there's no better time to marathon this action-packed NYC-themed sci fi dramedy extravaganza! This week in anime, Nick and Jacob make their case for this strange series and share their hopes for its new season.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
You can read our weekly coverage of Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond here!
Nick are you fuckin' Pumped?
For the return
of the Monkey?
Ah yes, the good superfast mammal named Sonic
BBB Sonic > that other Sonic because BBB Sonic is old enough to drink
at least i hope so
I'm sure Klaus wouldn't give alcohol to a minor. He's too pure for that. Jeez it's nice to have Blood Blockade back. Since the first season, I'd almost forgotten how much I friggin' love this cast and world.
D i c k S u c k indeed
You know how people sometimes say they love a thing more for its imperfections? Like they think it's good, but even the things it does "wrong" give it more character to them, so they love it even more? BBB(&B!) is like the epitome for that concept for me. Hell, Zapp Renfro is like that concept all by himself. He's an irredeemable mess, but he's lovable because he's an irredeemable mess.
To quote Steven Starphase, he's incorrigible human scum, but he's the type of scum that adds spice to the world around it rather than poisons whatever touches it. He's loud and dumb and a lech, but you get the feeling everyone would miss him if he ever went away.
And I have definitely missed Blood Blockade Battlefront while it was gone. For those unfamiliar, the premise of this show is uh... it's A Lot. The premise of BBB is A Lot. One day in Manhattan, a portal to the great interdimensonal soup of hell and phantasmagoria that lays beyond our reality (now nicknamed The Beyond) just sorta opened. Just you know, a cosmic whoopsy-daisy. This meant that New York City was immediately fucked past all recognition, and the mix of aliens, monsters, eldritch horrors, and stubborn New Yorkers who refused to leave had to be renamed as its own makeshift nation: Hellsalem's Lot (after Jerusalem's Lot, a smaller-scale take on a similar premise by Steven King).
That sounds like a horror premise and all, but things turned out weirdly okay for everybody.
Turns out Hell and the NYC subway system aren't all that different.
It does seem to jive pretty well with the New York attitude. "This demon is eating my face, but you know, he said he was gonna eat my face, and we like to keep it REAL around here."
And so our hero, Leonardo Watch, drops into all this madness basically by accident after a case of mistaken identity and some otherworldly intervention.
At this point, he's basically forced to live there, despite his timid demeanor and lack of self-confidence (two things you need in HL to even CONSIDER surviving), because some bored elder god-thing gave him divine super-eyes.
So if he wants to figure out what these peepers are meant for and try to heal his sister's blindness (caused by said peeper-gift), he's gotta work with the covert operatives of HL, known as Libra cuz they keep the balance between dimensions and shit. It's a simple enough premise, but this show just throws Everything at the wall at all times, and if you so much as blink twice in an episode, you're going to miss like ten wild amazing details. Needless to say, this can be unnecessarily intimidating for an action show. But I love it for that.
Yeah, like for instance, all that backstory and setup is established in about 4 minutes of combined screen time in the first episode. Because the beauty of BBB is that it has no goddamn time for holding your hand. We've got 12 different adventures to get through on top of an anime-original story and 18 different kinds of kickass fight scenes.
The most astonishing thing about BBB, besides its success in Japan considering both its Westernized genre trappings and high audience engagement demands, is that it was chosen for adaptation at all. This is Yasuhiro Nightow (the creator of Trigun)'s baby, and he does not draw things that anyone should want to animate.
On the rare occasions that he creates something easy to draw, he will then draw it 95 times in one shot.
Fortunately, the director and lead creative voice on this project was Rie Matsumoto, who likes to cram as much complicated shit into every frame of her work as possible! So even though there are a million amazing screencaps from this show, every frame is so detailed and crowded, kind of only becoming coherent through animation and continuity editing, that most images make no sense out of context. Hell, IN context, you still need to pay close attention.
Like it's hard to tell in stills, but this is a literal monster truck, eating other trucks by chomping its way down the road, and no sane person would want to animate that on a TV anime schedule, but they sure did!
Nightow's a creator I'm only somewhat familiar with. I've seen the Trigun anime but not the manga, which I understand to be drastically different. I am VERY familiar with Rie Matsumoto though. She's one of my favorite directors in anime atm and the second she was announced to be working on this, I was sure it'd be a blast. After seeing it, I can't imagine a better choice to adapt Nightow's crazy ideas into animation. Matsumoto's got a very distinct style of editing and flow that constantly brings out the chaotic insanity of Hellsalem's Lot while keeping it all coherent and understandable.
Plus, Nobody Frames A Shot Like Rie Matsumoto
Matsumoto's aesthetic is "raucously dangerous party" and Nightow's is "overcomplicated badass monstrosities", so put those together and you have the extremely unique blend of inviting and intimidating that BBB radiates. But if the show was just a parade of stream-of-consciousness spectacle, I wouldn't like it nearly as much. Its story has a metric ton of ambition and heart, even if you REALLY gotta pay attention to appreciate the whys and hows of it. This could certainly be a detriment for some audiences, but I ate it up because it allowed the show to work on multiple layers for me.
Like not even getting into the episodic stories, just talking about the anime-original wrapper, its surface layer is a satisfying emotional story about siblings with a ton of damage trying to protect each other in a world where they have nothing else.
But several layers down you have something on a much larger and quite frankly absurd level of scale
Look, how many superhero anime have you seen where the bad guy turns out to be Literally Satan? Except instead of being devious, The Devil himself is depressed, because he's been thoroughly dethroned as a threat to humanity by all the interdimensional gods hanging out in Manhattan not giving a damn about his wee legacy.
Gotta give it to Matsumoto, it takes a lot of gumption to not just make your villain The Devil, but to give him such a human motivation. And also to fit all that into like, eight sentences of material in the middle of your double-length finale.
BBB goes for broke in terms of scale very quickly, but it's never about The End of the World in a serious way. The show is mostly concerned with immortalizing the emotions of mortal men. So death is always imminent, Libra is constantly assaulted by unkillable vampires that they can never ever ever defeat, but they can push them back a few steps one at a time, for just long enough to enjoy the simple pleasures they fought to protect.
Like DANCE PARTIES!
And I think that's part of what makes the show work so well. It's juggling these huge high-concept ideas in its narrative, but it always ties them into the emotions of the characters in a way that grounds everything. And because so much of our cast are ludicrous weirdos, it always feels lighthearted even when everyone is shooting the heads off zombified trick-or-treaters in the middle of the apocalypse.
It's a show that goes from an episode about thousands of man-eating demonspawn waiting to attack our world from beneath the tree of Yggdrasil (which is now just a few stops down on the train)...
...to many people's favorite episode, where Leo befriends a little mushroom-alien with the power of Johnny Rockets.
Warning: that episode will make you weep openly into a fast food burger.
Leo I know you're making a friend but please. Your colon is crying. I hope Libra's health insurance plan can cover your impacted bowel.
Yeah, I know mushrooms normally consume natural waste and carcasses and stuff, but I've had Johnny Rockets burgers and Come On Lil' Dude. Shame they don't have In N' Out Burger in NYC.
But yeah, the series' greatest strength is just how effortlessly it can move between goofy comedy, hardcore action, and poignant sentimentalism at the drop of a hat. Every episode is a blast from start to finish, and even the relatively lesser episodes pack more fun into 20 minutes than some shows can manage in 12 episodes.
So it's a pretty big fuckin' shame that the director responsible for this impressive chemistry isn't coming back for season two. :(
Yeah. Not gonna lie, that deflated my expectations a bit. She did stop by long enough to storyboard the new ending animation at least!
And you can tell immediately XD
And the new song is AMAZING. Yasuyuki Okamura x DAOKO = <3 The band behind the first season's GOAT ending theme, Unison Square Garden, are doing the OP for season two, and it's decidedly a B-side for them, but I'll still take it!
Much like Matsumoto, they had impossible shoes to fill anyway, and what we've got is still fun as hell. That's kinda how I feel about the delightfully titled Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond so far. It was never really gonna capture the lightning of S1, but it's still super entertaining in its own right.
Yeah, thankfully most of the animation and art staff are still on board, so the action is absolutely baller.
And it hurts me to say this, but it might...kinda...be better that the action and plot are easier to follow now. Losing Matsumoto's sense of atmosphere and aesthetic is definitely a blow. But even based on just two episodes, I can tell more people will have an easier time following this season's plot. So your mileage may vary. I've already braced myself for it to be not-as-good, so hopefully all I can be now is pleasantly surprised?
I don't know that I agree on that front. Easier to follow might be a boon, but Matsumoto's style definitely made BBB unique in a way that few could replicate, and I think that was part of its appeal to some fans. Beyond's gone to great pains to keep Season 1's distinctive visual flair alive, with the big attack names on screen, the character introduction text, and so on. But there's just some things you can't emulate even if you're trying.
Like look at this shit
Yeah, I'm firmly in your camp on this one myself, I guess I'm just speaking for the people who were put off by BBB's A-Lot-Ness the first time around, of which there are many. But you know what on second thought, screw those people. I liked my BBB messy and way too ambitious and drowning in superfluous artistry. It still has about 80% of its aesthetic charm with Matsumoto gone, but that 20% is dearly missed, so I'm hoping that S2's anime-original plot (the manga is totally episodic so they always gotta come up with something to thread through a season) brings the story to new heights.
It's a promising premise that wasn't really touched on last time; the USA has finally decided to try and work with HL and come to an agreement about how to manage the weird hellhole that consumed its biggest metropolitan center with diplomacy and decorum. I'M SURE THAT'LL GO DOWN WITHOUT A HITCH.
We all know there's nothing demons and vampires like more than civil negotiations.
I'm definitely interested to see where we go from here with BBB. Hellsalem's lot is rife with adventures and shenanigans to be had, and Nightow has always been great at threading emotion and theme through otherwise disconnected stories. If the team for Beyond are gonna be leaning more into the source material's tone, I hope they can still capture that appeal as we go forward.
Yeah, Leo's sister Michaela is finally going to enter the story this time (her lack of presence in season one was my only big story gripe with it), so I'm excited to see how that plays out. She better not just be a damsel in distress or I swan to john...BBB has always gone bigger than that.
I have hope at least. And if nothing else, it'll be cool to see more of the characters that S1 mostly kept in the background. Like Chain! And KK! AND THE MONKEY!
Gotta Love That Monkey. Onward to more adventures in Hellsalem's Lot! And may the God of Chow be with you always.
YOU ATE HOW MANY JOHNNY ROCKETS BURGERS? GOOD LORD SON, YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN.