ANIME VIDEO REVIEW: “Blood Blockade Battlefront” – Animation Scoop

ANIME VIDEO REVIEW: “Blood Blockade Battlefront”

Based on 2009 manga by Yasuhiro Nightow, the creator of the 90’s hit Trigun, Blood Blockade Battlefront (2015) is a supernatural adventure that takes place in what used to be New York City. A few years before the series begins, the city was engulfed in an impenetrable fog that was somehow linked to a fissure between dimensions. New York became Hellsalem’s Lot, a metropolis linked to the AlterWorld and inhabited by humans and bizarre creatures of every stripe. Many of these creatures are no more difficult to deal with than the surviving Manhattanites as they go about their business on the sidewalks and in the subways. But others—vampires, demons and monster-mobsters–pose grave threats to the other inhabitants.

Leonardo Watch (Aaron Dismuke) is an aspiring photo journalist, struggling to make his way in the big city when he attracts the attention of Libra, an organization that fights evil. Leo has an exceptional power, albeit one that came at a great price: the All-Seeing Eyes of God. As the name suggests, he can see things other mortals can’t, from the movements of the SuperSonic Monkey, which tries to steal his camera but becomes his pet, to the scarlet aura that identifies vampires.

Libra recruits Leonardo: They need his visual powers. Photojournalism falls by the wayside as Leo combats foes he never imagined existed, from vampires to two-bit grifters to a crime boss who plays a deadly version of Prosfair a three dimensional game similar to chess but infinitely more complicated. (Some computer artists are trying to create a playable version of the game.) Even when he’s left on his own, Leonardo attracts trouble: He tries to help a hungry, mushroom-like creature, only to find himself fighting a crime wave linked to artificially induced amnesia.

Leonardo’s boss is Libra honcho Klaus Von Reinhartz (Ian Sinclair). With his prognathous jaw, fangs and mutton chop sideburns, Klaus looks like a 19th century demon played by Ron Perlman. He’s enormously powerful and very kind to the well-intended but befuddled Leo. The hyperactive Zapp Renfro (Phil Parsons) is assigned to be Leonardo’s partner–against both their wills. Zapp spends more effort trying—unsuccessfully–to get the drop on Klaus than dealing with the cases they’re assigned.

Klaus, Zapp and their cohorts form a redoubtable corps of warriors who rely on speed, strength and weapons forged from blood to take out their foes. The sanguine weapons range from swords to a seemingly endless network of crimson threads Zapp crafts to trace down a malefactor. (After being injured, he uses the blood from multiple transfusions to form the web.)

The storyline often rambles, and the individual episodes sometimes feel more like short stories than an ongoing narrative. Although none of the characters can match Vash’s outré charm, the entire cast is appealing. Leo will remind some viewers of the modest, hard-working Simon in Gurren Lagann. Naïve and kind-hearted in the face of circumstances he doesn’t understand and feels inadequate to tackle, Leonardo won viewers’ hearts on both sides of the Pacific. Although Zapp’s frenetic hyperactivity can become grating at times, the supporting cast proves engaging. Despite his enormous powers Klaus emerges as a surprisingly gentle figure. At times, he feels almost like a substitute father for the bewildered Leo.

The character designs, by Koji Suguira, Toshihiro Kawamoto and their colleagues at the Bones studio, reflect the continuing trend toward a more angular look, which they achieve without sacrificing appeal, although many of the monsters might have walked in from the cantina on Mos Eisely. Some of the backgrounds are quite striking, including the elaborate clocks that appear behind Klaus while he battles the mob boss at Prosfair.

Despite the unfocussed storyline, Blood Blockade Battlefront is clearly a winner. The enthusiastic response from Japanese audiences has already led to a sequel TV series and OAV spinoff. Its release in America and Europe should increase its popularity.

Blood Blockade Battlefront: Complete Collection
Funimation: $64.98: 4 discs, DVD and Blu-ray

Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Internationally known animation historian and critic, Charles Solomon has written over 15 books books including Enchanted Drawings: The History Of Animation, The Art of Disney's Frozen,The Making of Peanuts Animation, and Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Disney Beauty and the Beast .
Charles Solomon
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