Tl;dr: Bland crap that would have a hard time keeping a house plant interested.
Before we get started, I want to make the disclaimer that Blade and Soul is based on a MMORPG by Korean studio NCsoft. I haven't ever played the game, so it's possible that somehow the game makes the anime make sense. That being said, I seriously doubt it makes any difference as it looks like the anime tries to be self-contained. Also I did watch all of this show, despite really not liking it after the first episode (which showed some potential).
Story: Blade and Soul follows the adventures of the female assassin and sociopath Alka as she goes on a journey to avenge her mentor, who was murdered by some generically evil villains with large breasts and spooky voodoo magic. Along the way, she supposedly learns to regret all the people she killed and comes to terms with her own sense of self, primarily by either killing more people or crying about all the dead people. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what the creators intended, but I really found it hard to give a damn because everything is so dull and uninteresting. This show attempts to have a fairly violent and dark tone, but it utterly fails by delivering a setting that is bland and insubstantial. There's even a generic evil empire-type thing that gets mentioned, but we only really hear about how they're big and evil etc. The main villains, who are nominally part of the Big Darkbad Empire of Evilness don't really seem to care about any larger motivations and are primarily occupied with being as evil as possible, so it hardly matters.
Animation: It's decent, probably the highlight of the show. Characters are fluid and it has a nice range of colors. They also use some CGI effects to create e.g. heat shimmers around fire and some particle effects here and there. The animation isn't revolutionary, but it's probably the best point of the show. It tends to excel in darker scenes, whereas in brighter settings the animation quality drops a bit. The show is light on fan service, but you get the impression that the creators wanted more given the bounteous bosoms featured on most female characters.
Sound: Clear and well mixed. The accompanying soundtrack is decent, but slightly generic. Voice acting is passible. Generally, not much to comment on.
Characters: Ahh yes... the characters. Blade and Soul has them in a vague sense, but none of them are particularly interesting. As mentioned, the bad guys are your standard pantomime supervillains, in this particular instance they are dressed up like the goth kid who listened to too much Visual kei. There is a certain attempt to establish motives for the "good" guys, but they are hardly more than cliche variations of vengeance and greed. We are supposed to feel sympathetic to Alka, but she has all the personality of a potato (to their credit, via extensive character development I'd say that by the end she is upgraded to the intellectual depth of a baked potato). In fact, this is intentional... the core of the plot revolves around the fact that she has basically no personality to speak of. Feeble attempts are made to expand other characters, but again who cares? As for character design, some look fine and some look ridiculous but in the long run it just doesn't matter because the plot is so damn stale. I do feel it necessary to mention that one character only speaks in a sort of whining grunt, which makes for accidental hilarity whenever he appears. If you've ever watched the English dubs for Ghost Stories (and dear god, if you haven't, go watch it NOW), it's like a grown up version of the little brother.
Summary: Blade and Soul isn't very good. On one hand, it isn't a complete disaster and I get the impression that genuine effort was put forth beyond just wanting to cash in on a game tie-in. Unfortunately, a vague plot and uninteresting characters mean that this anime probably isn't going to be getting any newcomers into the game. I think the only people who might be interested in it are people who play the game, but speaking as someone who hasn't I don't think I have any interest.
Conclusion: Do something else with your time.
This anime has some serious flaws. Some of them worse than I've ever seen. But I still quite enjoyed this anime. So for those of you discouraged and wondering if it's worth watching, I want to pose a different view from the hate it's gotten so far and explain how I enjoyed it.
Beware: this anime will seriously test your ability to take things at face value.
In terms of ingredients, Blade of Soul is:
Somewhere that sounds promissing right? Epic battles, blood, boobs and the fantasy to tie them together. I sure thought so, so let me get to the watching tips.
How I watched it
I think this anime has a lot of things you need to take at face value. It's based on a Korean MMORPG and you should treat the fantasy setting as such.
The over the top and revealing clothing these ladies wear is supposed to pass for armour, non-sense but common for this sort of fantasy. The rampant plot holes and unexplained phenomenon, you will basically need to pretend they aren't there. Probably even you will need to add a bit of your own fantasy to fill some of the gaps. Side characters will be side characters. Episode 13, I will deny it's existance altogether.
I think the story does have potential and in it's current form is not at all boring. The problem is that it's badly done. Had they done a better job at finishing the story this could well have been amongst my favourites.
Finally there are some minor issues with the sound and a considerable slip-up in the animation that I'll get to in their respective sections.
When you are able to look past all of that, what remains is actually quite enjoyable. Plot problems aside, the lines for the characters are good. The animation is good, making for sweet battle scenes and importantly giving much needed body language and manerisms to the main character who does not speak much. The sound effects and music hold their own pretty well. And the characters, while lots of them have clear archetypes as their base are well interesting and had enough surprises to keep me engaged.
Story [3/10]; This is easily the biggest issue with the series. To call it flawed is an understatement. It's unfinished. There is synergy between the characters and their lines are properly done. There are just too many plot holes. So many things missing or unexplained that I wonder if the creators didn't know themselves, or for the sake of keeping these questions open for the MMO were not allowed to or something. Either way it's a problem they should have addressed. Finally I think the antagonists did not get enough attention in terms of screen time. They do not really get the chance to develop their story. If they had gotten rid of EP 13 and used that time for bad-guy development instead that would have been nice.
Animation [7/10]; The artwork and animations are well done. Exciting battles, solid body language, it's a clear strength of this anime. However in the last few episodes there seems to have gone something wrong, several scenes had a quality drop, while most others were the usual quality. It seemed as though they ran out of time to go through the final completion steps of animating for those scenes. Had this not been the case I would have rated the animation at 8 instead.
Sound [6/10]; While not particularly memorable or amazing, it's not bad either. Nothing really sounds out of place. The music gets the job done. One thing stood out to me that made me rate it slightly lower. I recommend not reading this if you still need to watch (part of) the anime. Here goes: there is a particular sound effect of Alka's blade that is re-used time and time again, even in a single scene. Possibly it's a reference to the game (haven't played it), but it annoyed me.
Characters [7/10]; I like the characters. The main character may be a little difficult to like, because even though she hardly speaks, she still has a lot to her personality. Some things that come to mind is, sometimes she's quiet because she's stoic, sometimes she's quiet because she's awkward, her posture shows discipline and confidence, but her manerism shows a subtle feminine side. None of these traits are really in your face and the other characters I feel do slow down a bit to make sure they don't overshadow a timid main character like this. There are more things to her, but those I don't want to spoil. The other characters do all have a clear role cut out for them, but in that role I like them. The only ones that I had a problem with were Shou, the moral prince from episode 5 who was plain annoying and Ga Gante the mute brute who showed a very 1 dimensional character development.
Overall [7/10]; Let me say, I feel the studio does not deserve a 7/10 rating for their work. What they delivered really warrants all the hate it's getting. However, the 7 comes from how much I liked it in spite of that. Which leads to the conclusion.
If you are the kind of person that can look past the obvious problems and take pride in your skill evading imploding plot holes. You might still want to give this series a go.
Are you someone who expects a certain standard from anime, or who thinks an open mind is for 9 year olds. Don't be fooled by the boobs and run for your life!
This was originally a recap on the finale (containing spoilers) as well as the following final impressions. You can read the post on my website found here.
Blade & Soul title screen.
I wanted to start this final impressions with an idea I had for a blog post. I do occasionally come up with a good idea sometimes. I was going to compose this really professional, almost technically written letter to NCsoft, the developer and publisher of Blade & Soul. It was going to outline everything about this series and why it was ineffective. More than a critique however, it was to be more of a proposal. Towards the end I was going to ask for a few million dollars to create a great anime based on their license.
The entire idea never came about, as it would require me to write creatively and I did enough of that in college. Seriously, who has time for that? I’m not so silly as to think I would even get a response, but a letter to a company would have been a clever way to write a finale review. Also it would point out that at the heart of this anime, there was a very real premise.
The story is based around a female swordsman named Alka. It’s a story of revenge not unlike entire genres of fiction, such as the spaghetti western, ronin samurai movies and wuxia wandering swordsman stories. I should take a moment to confess my complete adoration for all previous style of stories. There’s something about seeing a gunslinger in the old west, or a swordsman wandering around the countryside filled with ideas of justice and revenge.
This is why the Blade & Soul original adaptation was so disheartening — they fucked up an incredibly simple premise. Here’s a rundown of some of the ingredients NCsoft & Gonzo used to cook up this puke-fest.
The characters are incredibly worthless, inane and really don’t make any sense whatsoever. The main character is incapable of expressing herself or feeling any emotion — by design! Ok, I’ve seen such characters before, but the creators doubled-down on the worthlessness creating a cast of supporting characters who contribute nothing to the story.
From the gun-toting Hasuki to Dan Roana, the leader of a gang of misfits, there’s no reason for these characters to even exist. They are less than one-dimensional, have no real stories of their own and as supporting characters — do not make the main character more interesting in any possible way.
Listen to me for a second. Don’t just read these words, but listen…when I say these characters are worthless, I really really mean it. They do absolutely nothing. They take up fictional air in a vapid animated landscape in a strikingly stupid 8th rate Japanese adaptation of a Korean massive multiplayer online game.
There are a few characters on the show that are actually interesting, but Blade & Soul murders them. So yeah, if you watch this, please don’t get attached to the few actual characters who seem like they have stuff going on. Wait, I did say there was a story here, right? So what happens on this show?
Well, without spoilers, the main character navigates the one square mile of the B&S world, looking for extract revenge on Jin Varrel, the villain in black. On her way, the protagonist meets several supporting characters and deals with the consequences of her shadowy past. That’s it.
The production of this series was as inconsistent in scope and volume, as the story was consistently boring and mind-rotting. Take the action scenes for example. They were quick, sharp, fluid and one of the best things about the show. Unfortunately, there’s very little action. I’ve seen more action in high school romance shows.
The 1980′s Saturday-morning cartoon animation and design — outside of the action — did nothing to lift this out it’s creative cesspool. The main characters, almost all female, are all drawn with gigantic breasts for no reason. However, as I mentioned in one of my weekly recaps, this was the un-sexiest show I’ve ever seen. It’s not just sex appeal or actual titillation, but there’s no flash on Blade & Soul. It has no pizzazz, panache, or je ne sais quoi if you will. It’s literally a long bland going through the motions empty robotic run on sentence of a series.
There’s nothing remarkably good or bad about the sound or audio contents. I’m fairly sure they spent a giant portion of their budget on the opening and ending sequences, which are pretty good. Too good if you know what I mean. The voice acting, is completely average and I felt somewhat bad for the seiyus having to read the shitty dialogue week in and week out. They get paid though, so don’t feel so bad.
Overall, Blade & Soul was among the worst things I have ever seen. It blatantly strived for sub-mediocrity and was successful on every level imaginable. I have way more respect for shows that strive to be something completely epic, only to have them wind up being a complete pieces of crap, than I do for this literal third of an effort.
I’m giving this series a poultry 1 out of 5 on my Kistune Scale, which is pretty generous. I have all the shows I’ve seen on Anime-Planet, if you want to get a sense of my ratings.
I should repeat this one final time. At the core of Blade & Soul was an old-time story, that the creators didn’t utilize effectively. It’s a shame, because the age old story of revenge and the thematic consequences of a lifetime of revenge can be gripping stuff. Unfortunately, it’s mentally-decapitating instead of captivating.
Thanks go out to the readers of my Blade & Soul reviews and I hope you enjoy the rest of your Spring season!
I first saw this anime posted on Facebook. I looked at the picture of the main character, read the title, and thought "Why Not, It looks interesting. I know the old saying "Don't judge a book by its cover." But sometimes you have little else to go on when looking for new anime to watch.
Blade and Soul is based on the Korean MMORPG of the same name and is supposed to be released in the US in the near future
Blade and Soul is the story of Alka, a female sword fighter. She is accused by the Palam Empire of killing her master. She wonders the land looking for the person she believes is responsible for the death of her master while avoid attacks from colorful bounty hunters and Palam's super powered warriors.
Story – The story line is pretty straight forward. No real plot twists or turns so far (I have only seen the first 3 episodes). One thing you will notice is that the storyline is very action/event oriented. The story may follow the main character, Alka, around but there is little in the way of character development.
One Confusing thing is that after the credits they show a informational short on the world. The writers, directors, ect thought the information was important enough for the viewers to see but not important enough to be explained in the story.
Note: as of Episode 7, not much has changed. See the Update at the bottom.
Characters – Even though the story is not character-centric at this point. There are a few characters that are proving to be important to the story.
Animation – The animation is the best part of this anime. It is obvious to me that the animators truly care about drawing the female form. It is far better than the typical fanservice seen in other anime. Now if they could keep the level of visuals and give some solid characters I'll be happy (and so would others I bet)
Sound – Not much to say here. Good quality sound with maybe one complaint. The main character's sword sound is a bit overused. ie you don't have to play the sword sound every time (well almost every time) the sword is shown.
Overall – Up to episode 3, so far it is a decent anime but nothing ground shaking. I feel that there is some potential to make it a better anime. IF, Alka joins up with a group of various character types. IF, that group helps Alka to break that Ice Cold Shell and show her that there is more to life than revenge. IF there is some decent character development instead of none interesting toons reacting to a situation.
I still have hope that "Blade and Soul" will develop into a well rounded anime
UPDATE: I have watched up to episode 7 now and not much has changed. I have noticed something about the story. As I mentioned it is based off of a Korean MMORPG so as a result it has the storyline of a videogame. Some of you my say that it is obvious. But let me tell you how this effects this story. When your playing a videogame everything revovles around you and as a result character development is not as important. The story is around the viewer/player. In this anime, the story is revolving around the central characters which you as the viewer has little or no attachment to. It simply boils down to you, as the viewer, are watching someone else playing a videogame, which is kind of boring.
And for some reason I am still watching. Call me stuborn, a martyr, or maybe someone with nothing better to do on Thursdays. I've gone this far and I need to see if this gets better or where my tolerence is.
How hard can it be to find an assassin who seems to have sold her soul to the chocolate man and ought to be in a strip club?
Oh god, what am I doing? Did I just start by criticizing Blade & Soul for it's fanservice? My mind must already be turning into kool-aid.... Oh right, the story. Perhaps a thing of note is that Blade and Soul does not look nor feel like a video game (as one might have expected), just your standard fantasy fare with the magics, totally not loli/shota/furries and stuffs. Blade and Soul is essentially another Queen's Blade... You know, as in, lots of sword wielding bimbos and... stuffs. Though, it's nowhere near as sexually rampant as Queen's Blade. Instead, in it's place, Blade and Soul can manage to be more retarded. Whatever semblance of an actual story there may have been has surely been bastardized; but to what extent has it been butchered I wouldn't know. And it seems like I will never know for certain either since NCsoft will never make an English release of the damn game. In any case, what we have here are heavy handed conflict and resolutions, and a plethora of awkward brief as well as irrelevant flashbacks (except perhaps the flashbacks we see between Alka and her master) that happen for something the show is entirely alien to. A thing called "emotion".
But that's not to say that Blade and Soul is particularly painful to watch. No, you'll be able to marathon this with relative ease. You will at least not feel like your mind is being relentlessly cut to tiny pieces by an utterly shat-upon pacing and heaps and mountains of contrivances. It still pretty much has every other problem that typically plagues a video-game anime-adaption, though.
Which now brings us to the characters. One loli, three or four shotas, a wannabee cutesy stubborn drunk girl who suddenly turns to psycho bitch and back, a lady bar owner whose not afraid to get her hands dirty and is supposed to play the wise old hag yet is nothing of the sort.... Ugh, why am I even trying? One of the bad guys is a muscle bound oaf that does nothing but grunt! Everyone here changes whatever semblance of a personality they have as the plot demands it, particularly in the case of the obnoxious drunk girl and bar owner to jarring effect. And especially in the case with our dear lead Alka, she plays the role of the done-to-death assassin. One whose apparently supposed to be cool precisely because she's humorless and cold to the point where she might as well be holding a giant poster sign saying, "Please ask me the following question: 'are you even human?', thanks!". Only in her case, someone else would clearly have to write even THAT for her. She may be likable only in the sense that she might one day stop injecting herself with fifteen-hundred different tranquilizers on a daily basis.
The only real positive thing that came out of this mess was the ending theme. Which, curiously enough, is in stark contrast to the content of the show. That is to say, it has a lot of flow and emotion to it. Whatever the story was aiming for at the end of each episode, "RAINBOW" by LEGO BIG MORL took that trash and turned it into something that might make you think you're actually getting emotionally invested in.
Not recommended. Unless you're in the mood to see nothing more than some boobs along with some silly sword action. - 1/24/15