You know, the universe didn’t seem to want me to watch Kekkai Sensen. Funimation got the streaming rights, which means AnimeLab gets it in Australia, which still has to wait for Funi’s releases. For whatever reason, Funi took forever to drop this (and then finally dropped episodes 1 and together). I almost just torrented it, but the torrent didn’t work. When it finally came out on Animelab, my internet slowed to a crawl and refused to buffer the video. After that, I was too busy. When I’d finally seen it, I was struck by a sudden and severe case of Cantbeasseditis. Given how much time has passed between this episode’s original air date and now I even considered not bothering FI-ing it but since I didn’t do as many FI reviews this season I may as well.
Some time ago, New York just happened to be the exact point in space where an interdimensional void opened and a bunch of monsters waltzed in. Today, the city is covered by a strange mushroom-shaped fog and has been renamed Hellsalem’s Lot (pft), and world-renowned as the place where two worlds intersect. The monsters and humans have learned to coexist in a vaguely peaceful manner – in that ‘New York’ peaceful kind of way, anyway. However, in the shadows is an organization named Libra (pronounced Lybra for whatever reason) who aims to maintain the balance in Hellsalem’s Lot, since things are not always peaceful. A young man by the name of Leonardo Watch is searching for Libra for whatever reason, and they, for whatever reason, assume he is some other dead guy. Their introductions are cut short when, for whatever reason, some dude sends out a monster to wreck stuff up destroy buildings and generally cause mayhem. The members of Libra and Leonardo fight this monster with their weird blood-based powers they have. Leonardo’s power is in his eyes, which are usually closed – a power he seemed to have gained when a big monster appeared a while ago and did something to his sister…for whatever reason…which he now feels guilty about. Also in case that was all too straightforward, this synopsis comes across via a lot of weirdly place flashbacks and questionable writing decisions. Hurray! My favourite.
On paper, Kekkai Sensen (or Blood Blockade Battlefront) sounds like it should be something I’d enjoy – and there certainly are a whole load of pretty cool elements in this first episode. However, as a whole it ends up more like a patchwork quilt of Things I’ve Seen Before than anything that can properly stands on its own, which is a shame. I haven’t read the manga this is based on – I do know it’s written by Yasuhiro Nightow of Trigun fame – so I don’t actually know whether the confusing writing is the anime’s fault or not. Because it honestly was confusing. I kind of made a joke of overusing ‘for whatever reason’ in the synopsis because honestly – there were way too many times where I had no idea why something had happened. It’s fine to intentionally confuse your audience so long as you do it in a way that makes them want to watch more and find out what’s going on, but here it got a little annoying. It doesn’t help that there were so many flashbacks in this episode – and most were pretty pointless. For example, we first see Leonardo chasing some kind of ‘sonic monkey’ who has stolen his camera through the streets of Hellsalem – and then we get a flashback to show why he’s chasing this monkey – and then we see the first scene of him chasing the monkey again – resulting in a bunch of repeated footage, AKA time-wasting. People have been comparing this to Baccano! a lot and for a number of reasons, and it’s easy to see why. There’s a distinct American flavour to the visuals (blended with all the weird monsters, which gives it a kind of Space Dandy vibe), the upbeat jazzy sound track is similar, and it does the whole ‘intentionally confuse the viewer by only revealing a little of the plot at a time’ thing. However, Baccano! did this a lot slicker and Kekkai Sensen falls into that usual flaw of ‘I have been given almost no reason to relate to or care about these characters or understand their motivations, and I don’t really want to follow them if you aren’t going to convince me it’ll be worth it’. The character designs are hit and miss – Leonardo at first annoyed me since he never opens his eyes but I believe it has something to do with his superpower. Otherwise his design is rather forgettable – as are the other cast members that appear, with the exception of the giant, ogre-faced Klaus, who I’m still the most interested in. The loud, obnoxious villain guy is unbearably annoying and is the kind of character I generally can’t stand, but on the plus side the other characters were also annoyed, so at least it was intentional. There’s a little more imagination in the monster designs – just spotting them going about their business and interacting with their environments is fun – although they aren’t as good as Space Dandy’s alien designs. It’s also hard to tell if how tongue in cheek it is in regards to the whole superpower thing, and its impossible for me to not smirk when characters are saying lines like ‘I HAVE TO GO APPLY…MY BRAIN GRID BLOOD BATTLE TECHNIQUE’. The battle technique names themselves are also ridiculous (‘BIG DIPPER STYLE!’) and I didn’t particularly find the fight scene that exciting, but there is the potential for this to be a fun action show if it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ll give the show at least another episode before I decide if it’s worth following. At the moment it’s a mess – a decent looking mess, sure, but still a mess.