Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond has expanded its focus on Leonardo from the first season to give more love to the rest of its eccentric cast. This week in anime, Nick and Steve explore how this ensemble approach is working out so far.
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.
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Well Nick, I know this isn't really the place to discuss it, but I am so excited to finally see The Shape of Water.
I actually just noticed that Zed wears pants in his water tank, and that cannot be comfortable. Zed what are you doing?
He knows not everyone is a fan of fish sticks and wants to be polite, okay?
TELL THAT TO GUILLERMO. Anyway, sexy fish men aside, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond sure has been a wild ride this season.
You might even say it's gone beyond our expectations. Okay I actually need to apologize for that.
To be totally honest, I'd say BBB&B has been a bit of a disappointment for me.
Yeahhhh, I've definitely felt the loss of the original series director Rie Matsumoto
. Her manic directorial style is one-of-a-kind, and nothing can replace it even if the show can be a convincing facsimile at times.
That's definitely the first thing that sticks out in my mind. Matsumoto for sure wasn't the only reason BBB season 1 was so good, but her touch definitely worked in tandem with the material to deliver something special. To be fair, Beyond is obviously trying to be its own beast, and I've tried my best to take it as it comes and not compare it to one of my all-time favorite modern anime series. Because that's just not a fair comparison to make.
It's still very good! She's just a tough act to follow. Her involvement also gave us the anime-original Black & White storyline, which provided some much-needed connective tissue across the wild and crazy stories BBB likes to throw at the audience. By contrast, this season has felt almost entirely episodic, and I still don't know what kind of finale it's building toward, if anything.
Yep, and honestly I think that's to the show's benefit. The more it focuses on being distinct from S1 by just leaning into Nightow's over-the-top action and comedy, the more I find myself enjoying it. And it helps that most of this season has been focused on characters who didn't get much chance to shine in the first series.
For instance: Chain
And this is the part where I spend the rest of the column yelling about Chain.
Chain is very good.
and I think she feels the same about you too
look, all i'm saying is this looks SUSPICIOUSLY
like my apartment
Chain's easily S2's Most Improved Character. Matsumoto's story was great, but it cut out any material not thematically relevant to Leo's development, which meant a lot of the most interesting ensemble cast members got little to do.
Chain's an invisible werewolf who was sorely underutilized in the first season, so it's been wonderful to get more episodes and side-plots about this high-jumping suit-wearing booze-guzzling trash-loving disaster
also her team of fellow espionage werewolves are pretty great too
Her episode is my second favorite of the season so far, just behind Gilbert's. AKA the dude who just existed to drive the car last season.
Honestly who could've expected a Gilbert episode? Let alone a Gilbert episode starring the Batmobile.
That's the best part! Last season he was there to drive the car. And now he's here to drive the car.
One of BBB's greatest strengths is its cast of lovable weirdos, so I'm glad we're learning more about pretty much all of them. Whether it's Chain's love of booze, Stephen's surprisingly dark depths, or Zapp's cursed dick.
To be fair, I'm pretty sure Zapp's dick was cursed well before this.
He is the most cursed character in the show.
which is another reason why I love Chain, since she's driven solely by her desire to torment Zapp
Believe it or not, Zapp was my favorite in the first season. He's a raging dumbass with juuuuuuuuuuuust enough deeply-buried vulnerability to feel sympathetic when he isn't being a pile of garbage.
Well I mean, you know how I feel about trash...
And it was especially nice to see a bit of that in Zed's episode, when Zapp of all people takes the initiative to get back his reverse respirator. Zed is Zapp's opposite in basically every way. He's polite, quiet, helpful, and does whatever he feels he should in order to support others. And that kindness even affects Zapp, who's so used to every other person on the planet hating his guts that he doesn't even know how to react.
Zed is also revealed to be very #relatable in his episode.
HE'S A GOOD FISH BOY. Like he hears the others talk about how expensive his big fish tank is to keep up and his first reaction is to go job hunting to help foot the bill! That kind of understated sentiment was what really endeared me to BBB and helped ground it among the chaos and high-concept shenanigans every episode.
He's literally a fish out of water, as we learn from his backstory, so the fact that he found a family in Libra is touching. At the end of the day, Libra is a bunch of misfits who love each other, and that's the emotional core of the show.
even if they're not always great at showing it
It's good stuff, and when it's focusing on that aspect, I can really get into it. But when it starts treading ground that S1 already established, it starts to feel a little like diet soda, I guess. ESPECIALLY when it tries to recreate Matsumoto's visuals. The show overall looks good and has some fantastic action animation—arguably better than the first season—but just compare the two flashbacks we get to Leo's backstory.
Season 1 has this tight close-up that shifts the focus between foreground and background to put us in Leo's POV as he takes in the whole situation.
In season 2 it's just...there. It's not a technically bad drawing, but it's flat and nowhere near as memorable.
Again, there's no touching Matsumoto's sense of composition and direction. This season is also MUCH less frenetically paced, which could be good or bad depending on the viewer. I'll admit to feeling short-circuited sometimes by the barrage of information that came in Matsumoto's episodes, but that became one of the show's charms by the end of the season. BBB & Beyond operates at a pace that normal humans can keep up with, but at the cost of that feeling of urban congestion that fit right in with Hellsalem's Lot.
Yeah, Beyond has episodes that are more or less just setting up short vignettes and don't build to some wild blink-and-you'll-miss-it climax, which is about as far as you can get from S1's pacing. Sometimes this works well, like with the two-parter about the bacterium-sized terrorist who turns Leo's friend Riel into a giant kaiju. And other times it works less well, like with the episode where Libra get locked out of their HQ by a swarm of demon wasps and spend ten minutes discussing how they should pick the lock.
I liked the Riel two-parter too, but even then I thought Matsumoto probably could've squeezed all that into one totally wild episode.
But who knows, we could've lost some Sonic faces on the cutting room floor, and that would've been terrible.
Sonic steals the show whenever he's on screen and bless him for it.
Continuing with the season's theme of highlighting more of Libra, it looks like this week we're getting a K.K. episode, and I can't wait.
After 20 episodes, we'll finally get to find out what the hell "Bratatat Mom" means!
FINALLY. And I'm hoping we learn more about Klaus in the future, by which I mean I'm hoping we learn anything about Klaus.
YES. PLEASE. Like my most petty disappointment has been the lack of Klaus this season. I want to see more of my burly boy and his indomitable belief in the human spirit dammit!
The public demands more screentime for Libra's big hot dad.
As we head into BBB&B's final act, I'm mostly hoping that it can continue to forge its own identity. It might never live up to what came before, but it's been a fun ride on its own.
Even without one of my favorite working directors at the helm, BBB has a strong foundation, and as long as it keeps building on that, I don't see how it can go wrong. It's still a blast to keep up with each week.
Plus I'm always down to see what bizarre monster designs Nightow has up his sleeve.
So we've gotten a Chain episode, a Steven episode, a Zed episode, a Gilbert episode, a KK episode... if we get that Klaus episode in the eleventh hour, there's only one possibility left for the finale:
HAIL TO THE KING