Of all Spring 2015 TV anime, if I had to pick one most likely to be remembered in five years, Blood Blockade Battlefront is it [because Ninja Slayer is a web series]. The anime adaptation of the latest manga from Yasuhiro Nightow (Trigun) is reminiscent of 2007’s Baccano!, minus the time-disjointed narrative and insane gore that kept that off of American television. BBB’s got action, comedy, drama, and is skillfully crafted enough to elicit pathos from the acts of eating hamburgers and watching Twins.
Three years ago, a portal opened in New York City that intersects our existence with the “Alterworld.” Largely cut off from Earth, the transformed urban fantasyscape now known as “Hellsalem’s Lot” is home to people as well as magic and monsters alike. Backgrounds are a dying craft in anime, but the animators took special care to make everything recognizable as a transformed NYC.
Life goes on, albeit with catastrophic destruction occurring on a regular basis, thanks to Libra: a secret organization dedicated to maintaining the balance whose members have magical abilities powered by their blood. One turns their blood into swords that explode into flame. Others have blood-powered kicks that freeze enemies, blood-powered lightning bullets, and so on. It sounds slightly morbid, but Libra is in fact a menagerie of lovable dorks. And, for all their heinous deeds the same is true of the villains.
The most notable member of Libra is its leader, Klaus V Reinhertz, who despite his refined interests and manner resembles a Shadowrun troll thanks to his stature and teeth. Then there’s Zapp Renfro, the goofiest of the bunch who’s often at odds with Klaus. Characters are introduced by way of large text captions detailing their key traits, so while we frequently see Zapp dressing himself after a night with the ladies, his on-screen trait said “Dick Suck.” I’M JUST SAYING.
The newest member is Leonardo Watch, who has no fighting capability but does possess the All-Seeing Eyes of God, which are true to their name. We’ve had a lot of “wimp boy with magic eyes” characters these past few years, haven’t we? Oh, and there’s also a monkey named Sonic who’s more entertaining than the blue hedgehog (but not as much as the ninja in One-Punch Man). Also an invisible werewolf girl, whom you rarely see do anything … because she’s usually invisible. Plus a combat butler. They’re just from the first few episodes; my favorite characters show up later!
In addition to being simulcast, Blood Blockade Battlefront was one of FUNimation’s Broadcast Dubs, meaning the English audio versions are available mere weeks after the episode airs in Japan. With any luck it’ll end up on Adult Swim so a wider audience can get that infectiously fun ending credits sequence stuck in their head. It does evokes the true death of kayfabe, aka the end of The Bugs Bunny Show where it’s revealed all the characters are on stage having a good time, but that’s what it’s all about.
Nightow’s ongoing manga is available in English from Dark Horse Comics, but as with Trigun the anime diverges from its source material. Like the manga, most episodes are stand-alone and focus on a few characters rather than delve into the overarching story. These episodes are a ton of fun to watch thanks to the consistently high-quality animation from BONES and soundtrack by Taisei Iwasaki. The character designs by Toshihiro Kawamoto of Cowboy Bebop are great as one would expect, but it’s the myriad creatures designed by veteran animator Koji Sugiura that continually impress me.
Unfortunately, with only 12 episodes total (recap excluded) there isn’t nearly enough time to spotlight the entire cast and explore the world to the degree I would like. A second season needs to be made pronto, and that season must extensively feature “Lucky” Blitz T Abrams, the Hiroshi Abe lookalike whose mere presence causes utter bedlam to unfold in his vicinity that manages to leave him unscathed at the peril of everyone else! Recommended.