Title: Blood Blockade Battlefront
Production: Studio BONES
Distributor: Anime Limited
Platform(s): Blu-ray Collector’s Edition / DVD
Version Reviewed: DVD
Released: Out Now!
I’m a big fan of anime adapted or created by Studio BONES and Blood Blockade Battlefront is no exception to this rule. I first watched the series shortly after it aired in 2015 and while I enjoyed it, I can’t say I was as excited by it as I am Fullmetal Alchemist or Noragami, two other series that BONES have adapted. When the opportunity to review this title came however, I decided that I wanted to give the series a second chance to win me over – and I’m so glad I did.
Blood Blockade Battlefront tells the story of Leonardo Watch, who is in possession of the all-seeing eyes of the gods and lives in Hellsalem’s Lot (which was formerly known as New York City). The series is mostly made up episodic stories that follow Leo and the mysterious group known as Libra, who he ends up working for as they protect Hellsalem’s Lot from a range of weird and wacky creatures.
Usually I’m not a big fan of episodic stories because it can be hard to get to know the characters properly, but Studio BONES have done a good job here. Instead of strictly following the original manga, they’ve also introduced two anime-only characters (Black and White) who aren’t in the manga series. Because of these two characters, the final few episodes feature anime original content (and they turn up early on to foreshadow the later plot), which works in the series’ favour quite a lot, because having something to string the plot together made it just that bit easier to engage with.
One of the best things about Blood Blockade Battlefront is its setting and characters. Being set in a fictional version of New York City and with a host of supernatural ability welding characters, you never truly know what to expect. Most of the members of Libra are human but their leader, Klaus Von Reinherz, looks more like a bear than a human considering the size of him… There is also a werewolf with the ability to turn invisible among the team, so at the very least, Leo and his All Seeing Eyes of the Gods doesn’t seem out of place. You’d have thought that the members of Libra would stand out in what was New York, but considering there are century old vampires running about, they certainly don’t seem to have anything to worry about!
I think one of the compelling reasons I enjoy Blood Blockade Battlefront so much is the fact it’s a show that anyone can drop into. It’s perhaps not ideal to be showing young kids due to the swearing (both in the dub and the original Japanese), but otherwise there isn’t really isn’t anything to put anyone off. There isn’t any fan service to speak of and it’s not steeped in mysterious Japanese themes that you might not be able to understand. When all’s said and done, it feels very much like a western style comic book rather than your typical shonen anime, so I think it’s a good series in which to introduce newcomers to anime itself. I find a lot of Studio BONES works are good for that (like Fullmetal Alchemist), but Blood Blockade Battlefront definitely deserves to stand among BONES’ other work for introducing new fans to anime while also entertaining those of us who have watched anime for many years.
I so far haven’t touched too much on the plot and that’s because, while there is an underlying thread tying things together, the series is so episodic and crazy episode-to-episode that it’s very difficult to actually talk about it. It has a similar problem in that a lot of characters aren’t in every episode and just pop up now and again. That’s not to say the cast is bad or underdeveloped though, as in reality they’re rather interesting and each have strong personalities. Leo is a bit of a wimp and not really built for the world he’s fallen into, but the other members of Libra have stronger powers which are more suitable for battle and in which they can help protect Leo and allow him to get the best use out of his eyes while not needing to worry about being harmed.
The animation for Blood Blockade Battlefront has been handled (as I may have mentioned a few times already) by Studio BONES who also worked on Fullmetal Alchemist, Noragami and more recently My Hero Academia. I truly believe that the animation they’ve provided here is some of their very best. It looks and screams of being a series adapted by BONES from the small things, like the comedic reactions the characters have and the overall designs of the anime original characters. It’s wonderful, vibrant and full of life in a way that not many anime studios provide a series these days. It’s also worth noting that episode 12, the final of the series, is 40-45 minutes long and shows off some jaw dropping fight scenes that I didn’t think could be pulled off in the animation style BONES go for. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of this studio.
Where music is concerned the soundtrack has been handled by Taisei Iwasaki, who appears to have only ever worked on this one series (so far anyway). The soundtrack, like the anime in general, has a very western approach and a lot of the background tracks include English vocals. There are a lot of violin and piano focused scores but also a lot that are a bit more produced. It’s a wonderful soundtrack and stands on its own quite well away from the series.
For this watch of Blood Blockade Battlefront, I decided to watch the series dubbed instead of with its original Japanese audio. Now I have nothing against an anime being dubbed into English, but it’s fairly rare that I actually enjoy those dubs. Surprisingly I came away from this series with the opinion that it’s actually better when dubbed, because the voice actors all fit their characters well. My personal highlight is Aaron Dismuke (Alphonse Elric in the 2003 series of Fullmetal Alchemist, Lucifer in The Devil is a Part-Timer) who plays Leo, due to how well he can slip from Leo being depressed and subdued, to when our hero is in trouble and about to come to some degree of harm. I’m also a fan of Phil Parson (Kugaha in Noragami, Renji Yomo in Tokyo Ghoul) who plays Klaus because like with Arron and Leo, Phil knows how to pull off Klaus’ many different quirks really well. The Japanese dub for the series is really strong as well, but even if you prefer to watch it that way I’d still recommend checking out an episode dubbed.
This release comes to the UK thanks to Anime Limited who have released it on DVD and as a collector’s edition on Blu-ray. Both sets have the English and Japanese audio and include the 10.5 episode as well as clean opening and ending videos. The collector’s edition also comes packaged with a 120 page artbook.
Overall I think Blood Blockade Battlefront is something everyone should check out. It’s an example of Studio BONES at their best but also a good example of an anime that doesn’t feel quite like, well, anime. A good show to get newcomers into anime but even that aside it’s just a really fun series to watch.
Disclosure: A copy of “Blood Blockade Battlefront” was supplied by Anime Limited, the distributor, for the purposes of this review.