I have a guilty fascination with animated blood and explosions that look like someone upended a carton of orange sherbet all over the screen. As a result, I watch more shounen anime than might be appropriate for my age. When I started watching Blassreiter, I knew exactly what to expect: computer generated fight scenes, twinkling droplets of blood and, since it's a Gonzo anime, slightly above average content.
That last specification was, perhaps, a little too optimistic.
The studio responsible for Hellsing and Chrono Crusade again produces a title packed with flashy monsters, well-endowed female leads, and stunted religious undertones. They even recycle tried and true apocalyptic leanings, and this is exactly where the problem starts. Blassreiter is set in Germany where a flock of infected humans, known as demoniacs or amalgams capable of fusing with machinery, has begun to rampage and witlessly attack humans. At first, no one but a mysterious blue demoniac and motorcycle racing star, Gerd, seem capable of controlling themselves once they have been "demonized." This unfortunate turn of events, for Malek and his friend Johan, barely grazes the tip of the missile. German nationals in their school continue to bully them for their "outsider" or foreigner status. This part of the story is definitely the most fresh and interesting; the two plots play off of each other in an excellent manner. Unfortunately, it only lasts for about a fourth of the series.
Almost at the middle of the show, the apocalypse--pun intended--sets in. Beatrice wheels into town carting nanomachines and spewing speeches about accelerated evolution and purifying the world. If you think you've heard it before, you probably have. Unlike in shows such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, however, the plot stubbornly refuses to do anything new or interesting with this tried and true theme. More intriguing sub plots from earlier in the show get dropped without explanation, and the dialogue becomes trite. What starts out as an engaging and mildly thought-provoking storyline devolves into an enormous disappointment that is often difficult to slog through. Fans of "slightly above average content" are left only with flashy and dizzying fight scenes to entertain them.
I want to give Blassreiter an exemplary score in this category for edge-of-your seat computer generated fight sequences and bright, visually catching, and sometimes even proportional, character artwork. The problem is that the integration of both of the aforementioned with the scenery is simply too poorly done to keep me focused on the plus side. While the mecha-like Blassreiter, or "pale horse," battles pleasantly remind me of an upgraded REBOOT!, and well-rendered visual references to Kubrik's A Clockwork Orange placate my inner film buff, the scenery is often stagnant and displays no signs of character interaction. There is one scene where Amanda, the lead female, rides her XAT bike down a mountainside, and it looks a bit like she's floating instead. Not only that, but placing computer generated amalgams beside brightly animated characters in the same shot a definite disconnect that is not dissimilar to finding a Dragon Ball Z DVD in a Love Hina case. So, while I can consider portions of this show well-animated, it's when these aspects are coupled together that the visuals fall apart.
This is my favorite part of Blassreiter. While none of the Japanese seiyu deliver stellar performances, and this might be the only anime where I prefer to watch the English dub, the sound effects are masterful. Motor cycle revving sounds nothing like a malfunctioning hair dryer. Mecha crashes make the action come to life and complement the animation perfectly. The most exciting thing about Blassreiter's sound, though, is the use of silence or music tracks during key plot points. At times, I almost feel like the music alone could save Blassreiter from flailing below the line of mediocrity, but only sometimes.
As for the music, some of it is above average, but for the most part, I've heard it before. None of the opening or closing themes bring to mind Hermann's line in episode 12, "It doesn't hurt that much, just enough to make me want to put a bullet in my goddamn skull," and the opening theme for the second half might even be called enjoyable by the Japanese Pop enthusiast.
The same thing that bothers me about the story bothers me about the characters. The most interesting characters disappear quickly, and some of least canned lines are actually spoken by single episode minor roles. The main leads of the show devolve slowly into typically angst-ridden badasses and Christ-like self-sacrificers who understand the morality behind the show almost instantly. Amanda, the female lead, simply fails to have a personality. That is, of course, not to say that there aren't women in the show who fall into the other character categories, which places Blassreiter up a peg in the shounen genre. That does not excuse the show from using archetypes like recyclable card stock.
While I went into this show expecting Studio Gonzo to give me the B+ anime I often crave, I ended up with something simply average. Fans of well-orchestrated and flashy action sequences will dig into this show; in this respect, I doubt Studio Gonzo will ever disappoint, but if you're looking for a little touch of freshness mixed into your violence, I suggest passing up this title.
Reading comments and reviews about this anime, one will be really confused if it’s really worth it or not. It is true that it has all the win formula in it but the experienced eye (like moi) is able to see thing clearer and thus it wasn’t that hard to figure out the problems in execution. The reasons are actually quite easy for anyone to understand as long as they don’t have Pokemon as their average anime production.
1) Gonzo. That is enough for all who know this production team to get really negative vibes from the get go. Some may consider this a negative bias but come on, Gonzo didn’t flop because it did things right. These guys are full of good ideas and fancy 3D yet possess no real talent at storytelling or likable smooth animation. Exceptions exist all right (nobody I know of dislikes Kaleido Star) but this anime is surely not one of them.
2) Bad 3D. This is usually the thing that has most arguing about the quality of the animation. It is true that each model is very well detailed and has a look that can make it look scary or cool. It is true that the backgrounds are very well made and the characters look more realistic than the average huge-eyed blob character. But you see, all that have to do with “artwork” and not “animation” which it quite baaad. Looking at those vehicles or monsters moving around just doesn’t feel realistic or likable compared to traditional animation or live action in general. So ok, it looks a lot better since the time they made Vandread but it still far worse than other works of the same era. A fine example is the remake movies of Neon Genesis where the 3D models there feel a lot more realistic in the way they move or fight.
3) Bad aesthetics. Another thing most newcomers to anime can’t figure out is if something looks nice or it’s just laughable. Those who are into videogames or like Power Rangers a lot will most likely find the way machines and monsters look to be awesome; but for those more inclined towards more heavy hardcore sci-fi are bound to laugh at all that. I mean how hard is it for the mutated freaks and the flying motorcycles to be seen as ridiculous, especially when you are annoyed by the bad 3D above? They feel like plastic toys or some shooter videogame and not really a world in the brink of destruction. Would Resident Evil be a good game if the zombies and the characters moved like stiffed robots? It’s the same thing here; instead of being shown something that makes you feel anxiety about the state of the world or the characters, you are presented with nicely made Playmobil figures that completely ruin the mood. And no matter how cool they try to make it look, it still feels fake. I mean the characters transform in seconds to bio-booster-something suits of armor and even transform their motorbikes … which then fly in the air. It may sound cool but we are supposed to be in the real world and about a serious story. All that makes it feel stupid rather than awesome.
4) Bad directing. Most of the duration has a pace which is almost impossible for a casual viewer to follow without being confused or fed up with. It is slow, changes scenes and main characters at random intervals, it isn’t clear about the character motives, it treats mutated humans like cannon fodder, it resurrects many dead people like a superficial shounen show and finally ends in a way that has little to no relation to the rest of the story so far. The villains have imbalanced power levels, their plans are simplistic, most get defeated too soon to really care, most heroes come and go before you manage to like them. Having Itano Ichirou as the director doesn’t help either, since the guy has made several action anime and none of them were above average at best. Watching this show is like watching election polls. Everything is confusing and you end up forgetting most of it in a few days.
5) Bad start. If first impressions mean a lot than the first episode is just dreadful. You can spot all of what I said so far in just the first half of the episode, as if they are telling us what to expect instead of trying to hide their mistakes for a few hours. Most series make their initial episodes really great before showing their true colors, and that is a great way to hook the viewer in watching further instead of giving up immediately. Not this show; it did its best to make us see all its weaknesses right away. I mean check out the pilot episode; it begins in a racing track were several motorcycles are … well, racing. I am no racing fan but I am definitely sure this race was terrible-looking with its fake motions and almost apathetic viewers. Then we see an ambulance where the patient transforms to a 3D monster, like we are watching Power Rangers. Then it kills the 2D medics in such a way you think they were mannequins. Then the special unit comes to kill it with their plamo machines and a fight scene follows like you are playing a videogame.
All the above may seem like peanuts for all those who care about the mythos of a show rather than its implementation. I mean, ok, the story is actually very deep at moments and changes perspectives of characters all the time in order to flesh them all out. That is actually a very good element but it is simply done wrong. The characters remain so apathetic and distant most of the time that it becomes really hard to like them and then the story moves to somebody else before you manage to get used to it. And the setting is supposed to be a virus epidemic that can destroy the world (which sounds like a very serious matter) yet it plays out like a videogame (which isn’t). It’s just completely off in terms of building an atmosphere. I mean if this was a virtual reality world or some alien planet, then ok, I would buy the premise. But it ain’t; it’s supposed to be our world and thus I couldn’t get into liking it.
About the music part, I have no problems. The soundtrack is very good and the voice actors are doing a fine job, while the dialogues don’t feel too retarded based on what is going on in the story. It is actually the best part in the whole series.
And now for some excused scorings.
General Artwork 2/2: Very good
Character Figures 2/2: Well drawn
Backgrounds 1/2: Very detailed but semi-good blend between 2D – 3D.
Animation 0/2: Very fake-looking.
Visual Effects 1/2: Good but they look like playing a videogame rather than believing you are in the real world.
TOTAL FOR ART: 6/10
Voice Acting 2/3: Good but not exceptional in any way; plus some occasional silly looking screams may ruin it.
Music Themes 3/4: Great intro song but nothing memorable beyond that.
Sound Effects 2/3: Very good if you are playing a videogame but this is supposed to be our world.
TOTAL FOR SOUND: 7/10
Premise 2/2: It ain’t complicating in its concept but the way it is meant to be told makes it feel good.
Pacing 0/2: Slow and chaotic to the point you lose interest.
Complexity 2/2: Lots of those as the story focuses to lots of different people.
Plausibility 0/2: Stupid Playmobil in the real world kills it completely.
Conclusion 1/2: Lukewarm and almost anti-climactic with what the heck was going on before.
TOTAL FOR STORY: 5/10
Presence 0/2: Distant and apathetic to the point you don’t care about them.
Personality 2/2: Overall a great variety of mannerisms.
Backdrop 2/2: Everybody seems to be there for and by a reason.
Development 1/2: Most develop but it happens in a very erratic way that confuses you.
Catharsis 2/2: Ok, I guess nothing major was left hanging for a sequel.
TOTAL FOR CHARACTERS: 7/10
Historical Value 0/3: None; left nothing worth remembering.
Rewatchability 1/3: Very low; bad use of its elements.
Memorability 2/4: It sure was a fun ride but definitely not a great one.
TOTAL FOR VALUE: 3/10
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10
Bellow average, as the 3D and the slow pacing really kill the otherwise interesting concept and character immersion.
Bottom line, it is a good idea with a bad implementation and as long as you don’t expect too much, you may like it.
Blame my negative take of the anime on the Uncanny Valley effect. I like my shows believable to the eye.
Interesting premise. At the start it intrigues you. You very quickly become disappointed as the storyline is very poor.
All characters look good, and there is some good use of CGI in places. Thats if everything stayed still. When it comes to the actual moving of the characters the animation is horrible.
The music used for the opening theme is good, and the soundtrack throughout is solid. The voices throughout are surprisingly good considering the poor standard of the rest of the anime.
The characters are O.K. They all kinda make sense and fit in. They all lack approachability and you don't care about what happens to them
Watch other things first. I would not recommend this to anyone