Superhumans, paranormal creatures, magic portals, and…. Vampires?! Just another ordinary day for the residents of Hellsalem’s Lot and the members of the crime-fighting organization, Libra. There is never a dull moment in 2015’s Blood Blockade Battlefront (Kekkai Sensen). So, with the start of Season 2 on the horizon, let’s revisit the misadventures of Leonardo Watch and the rest of the Libra crew as they duke it out against supernatural threats in the city!
Three years ago a portal connecting Earth with another dimension opened in the center of what used to be New York City. Now creatures from the other side and humans coexist within the newly-dubbed Hellsalem’s Lot, a place where the mundane and the abnormal are one and the same. When trouble strikes, it’s up to Leonardo Watch and the members of Libra, a group of crime-fighting superhumans, to protect the citizens of Hellsalem’s Lot and keep the supernatural shenanigans from spreading to the rest of the world.
Plot & Story
Where to begin… Well, for starters I couldn’t help but draw parallels between this series and Bones’s 2007 supernatural series Darker Than Black (which you should totally watch, it’s fantastic). They both have a similar premise: a mysterious barrier forms over an unsuspecting city, causing all sorts of supernatural shenanigans that threaten the lives of the human populous. Enter a secret group of superhumans that work in the shadows, protecting the ickle humans from the big bad monsters that go bump in the night. They are practically the same shows, but where Darker Than Black has a more serious tone, Blood Blockade Battlefront has a more lighthearted tone, which I found rather refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I live for dark and edgy anime, but every now and again it’s nice to watch something that knows how to have fun.
For the most part, the series is episodic, with each episode featuring standalone encounters between the various Libra members and the residents of Hellsalem’s Lot. Towards the end of the series, there’s an anime-only storyline added to tie together the story a bit, but honestly, I wasn’t really a fan of the addition favoring the more easygoing style of the earlier episodes. Rather than beating us over the head with heavy exposition dumps or complex world-building, the series uses the ‘show, don’t tell’ storytelling technique. The emphasis isn’t so much on the bizarre goings on of the city, but more on how commonplace everything that happens is within the context of the series. One minute the characters are sitting in a cafe eating lunch, the next minute they are caught up in a street brawl with a rogue mutant, but it’s just a regular day for the residents of Hellsalem’s Lot.
We get to see the characters interacting with one another in a very natural way. If you removed the supernatural elements, the story wouldn’t be all that different from your run-of-the-mill slice-of-life comedy series, and it works. The characters themselves are what make this show work. There isn’t a bad apple in the bunch and I literally fell in love with all of them! Each and every one of the members of Libra have their own personalities and quirks; Zapp is a hot-blooded ladies man; Klaus is the gentlemanly leader of the team and a formidable fighter; Chains is a werewolf with superhuman speed and a penchant for sadism, especially where Zapp is concerned. But, Leo is my boy! I know, I know, He’s the protagonist, we’re supposed to like him, but hear me out. Leo is the kind of hapless hero that audiences can’t help but fall for. He’s not especially smart nor he is a fighter. More times than not, he’s the one who winds up in the hospital due to all the dangerous situations he unwittingly stumbles into. He’s just an ordinary guy surrounded by the unexplainable and I will admit that it is his normality and not his special eye powers that make him the standout character for me. His special eye powers are pretty OP, but when compared with all the crazy stuff that goes down in the city, it’s just a drop in the bucket.
Art & Music
It’s Bones… Oh, you need more than that? Fine.
I’ve seen quite a few anime from Bones and I am always impressed with how gorgeous their backgrounds are. I talk about scenery porn, it’s a feast for the eyes! Every locale is filled to the brim with rich detail. The show takes place in the middle of a concrete jungle, so there are some great shots of some of New York’s iconic buildings, all of which look just as good as their real-life counterparts. The character designs are fun, especially the non-human characters. Typically, when shows feature otherworldly characters, they have a tendency to go to extremes. You either get characters that look too alien to which viewers have a hard time relating (read: nightmare fuel) or the artists decide to play it safe and the non-human characters are indistinguishable from the human characters. Thankfully, the artists manage to create some truly unique characters without veering into the nightmare fuel territory, all while making their otherworldly aesthetics fit in with the everyday settings around the city. The human characters are also very well done, while more tame than their non-human counterparts, they still manage to stand out in their own way.
The music in this series is phenomenal! While watching I was reminded a bit of the musical fluidity of Cowboy Bebop. Rather than sticking with one musical genre throughout, each episode features a soundtrack that sets the tone for that particular story. From funky jazz numbers to classical instrumental, Blood Blockade Battlefront blends a wide range of musical pieces to help set the mood for this quirky supernatural adventure. The opening for the series is ‘Hello, World!’ by Bump of Chicken and the ending theme is ‘Sugar Song to Bitter Step’ by Unison Square Garden, both of which are fantastic. I usually skip over OPs and ED, but not with this show!
Themes & Trivia
I volunteer as tribute: Both Leo and Black are faced with a difficult choice when otherworldly beings give them a choice between power and the lives of their siblings. In Black’s case, he gladly sacrifices himself in exchange for his sister, Leo on the other hand… let’s just say his sister is seeing things a little differently now.
Meaningful Name: After the portal incident, New York was renamed Hellsalem’s Lot, which might be a reference to the 1975 Steven King novel Salem’s Lot. The novel is about a writer who moves back to his childhood hometown only to discover that all of the residents are now bloodsucking vampires. Which may in turn be a throwback to Yasuhiro Nightow’s 2008 one-shot of the series Kekkai Sensō which focused more on vampire hunting as opposed to the more general supernatural elements of the final version of the series.
All life is precious: Leo respects all life and he shows both humans and non-humans the same level of respect, most notably to Nej, a small mushroom creature he befriends during Episode 6 of the series (hands down my favorite episode). Also, while it isn’t outright stated in the series, Leo is a pacifist, usually avoiding violence at all costs, a fact that often gets him into trouble…
Bittersweet Ending: Sometimes, saving the day isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… Leo beats the odds and saves the day but after everything’s said and done he had to sacrifice something important in the process…
EPIC ANIME BATTLES: It’s all in the title with this one, it’s called Blood Blockade Battlefront for crying out loud, of course, there are epic and over the top anime battles. I’d be disappointed if there weren’t any. Ah, the property damage….
Full disclosure, I am a self-proclaimed hater of shounen anime like Blood Blockade Battlefront, but somehow, I found myself falling in love with this quirky twelve-episode series. Was it the best anime I’d ever seen? No, not by a long shot. That final anime-only climax came completely out of left field, and I for one could have lived without it. But, despite it’s shortcomings, there is something special about this show that you just can’t help but take notice of. With it’s dynamic cast of characters, fun premise, and gorgeous visuals, Blood Blockade Battlefront series is definitely worth a watch. Which should be sooner rather than later given that Season 2, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond, is about to start airing!
The World Isn’t Such A Bad Place
- Relaxed episodic series, with equal parts humor and charm
- Likable cast of characters, each with their own unique personalities and quirks
- From the slow everyday moments to the fast paced action sequences, the art is always on point
- The music was outstanding!! (I still have the ending theme stuck in my head)
- While the anime-only characters were alright, the additional storyline was unnecessary
- A lot of character info from the manga was left out in favor of the anime-only characters and climax
- It’s so short… only 12 episodes
The final verdict: If you are looking for something fun and lighthearted to watch, Blood Blockade Battlefront is the anime for you! It has a little bit of everything and strangely enough it all kind of works (except that climax, that was kind of a letdown). I’ll be covering the second season here on MANGA.TOKYO and I can’t wait to see what it has in store for us!
Blood Blockade Battlefront (Season 1) Series Review
Official Site: http://kekkaisensen.com/1st/index.html