What did I just see? Did I see an episode of Blazblue Alter Memory that was actually GOOD? What is going on here? After last week, everything seems to be not only looking up, its rising to the heavens. With its fifth episode, Blazblue has completely transformed from a horrid adaption to a thoroughly enjoyable one.
Honestly I’m hard pressed to understand how this adaption started off so horribly. I’m even more curious as to what strange hiccups lead to those horrible first three episodes, because it seems like these last two episodes have been steadily getting better on every front, whether its dialogue, characterization, story, pacing or even the action and animation.
This episode’s big highlight was what I had expected this adaption to do from the start; fill in some holes from the games and throw in some good old original scenes that would make the whole fragmented story of the games flow well into a straight linear narrative.
Its obvious that the little fanservicey segment we got in the first half of the episode was definitely anime original (to my knowledge). Its possible that there’s an omake part of the games here that served as the inspiration for this part of the episode, but regardless, its context was definitely anime original.
On the idea of fanservice, I don’t know how I feel. This is an adaption that hasn’t exactly delivered the goods in terms of making me care for the characters, and yet it goes off and flaunts some of the female cast in a clear attempt to win some nods from the franchise fans. Its a sleazy tactic in some ways, but at the same time, I can’t say I found it offensive.
The whole onsen (steam bath) scene was very tongue-in-cheek and had its good share of hilarious moments. Whether it was a drunk Tao and Litchie going berserk, or Noel being embarrassed at wearing a swimsuit, it all worked. Also odd was more Ragna fanservice. And here I thought the anime staff hated Ragna XD, it certainly doesn’t seem so now, as he’s getting shirtless at every possible opportunity.
Every character was, more or less, kept in character, although I think Litchie was acting a bit too crazy and drunk. Also… Rachel in a swimsuit? I honestly didn’t know how to react to it. In the end, I felt like I was being very shamelessly pandered to, as the series was very desperately trying to say: “Its all better now, look, fanservice! You like fanservice right! Here are the most popular females of the franchise! In Bikinis! Oh and we’ve got Ragna too!”
And in the end, the whole thing felt a bit bizarre and out of place even. I’m glad Ragna wasn’t made to look like a pervert, or a letcher. If anything, Ragna’s characterization this week surprisingly spot on.
His second splitting with Noel was also very organic and well done. There’s more hints to Ragna and Noel’s relationship in this episode. Also more hints on what Nu was, and what Ragna suspects Noel to be, another Prime Feild. I’d recommend taking note of this idea, as its a pretty important aspect of the story. As a fan who knows where this all leads, I’m quite happy with how subtly this whole resolution is being developed.
Regardless, Ragna ends up parting ways with Noel, mostly because he can’t stand the sight of her. Not only that, he doesn’t trust her. His non-trusting nature, matched with his rather sharp observational skills and quick thinking are something that define Ragna’s character. That and the fact that, despite all things considered, he’s also pretty soft as well. Again, all of this was represented beautifully in this episode.
The meeting with the Platinum Trinity was something I hadn’t seen before. Its obviously taken from Continuum Shift II Extend, where Trinity got her/his/their own story. Despite having not seen that storyline though, I very easily was able to follow what was going on.
One, Trinity is one of the six heroes, two she knows Jubei, three she’s an ally to Ragna or at least looking out for him. Three, Trinity is host to three separate entities, a young boy and girl (probably siblings) and the Trinity, the one who serves as a sixth hero.
As was recounted cleverly by Tsubaki via flashback last week, each of the six heroes had an Arch Enemy. Interestingly, Noel also has an Arch Enemy, which is what serves to freak Ragna out.
Another interesting element in this episode that was the beautiful presentation of Ragna and Rachel’s relationship. Its often shown in the games that Ragna is the favorite, the apple of Rachel’s eye so to speak. While Rachel goes on and on about her duty as an observer in this episode, its quite obvious that she gives quite a bit of prferential treatment to Ragna. More so, we get a rather shocking revelation this episode.
Not only was Ragna saved by Rachel as a child, but she is the one who gave him his new left arm, and the Azure Grimoire.
In one of the bad endings of the game, the intense care and almost elderly sister love that Rachel has for Ragna (or is it actual attraction? its not made clear) is hinted at. This episode, on the other hand, just fully lays it out there plainly. Rachel clearly has been observing and pushing Ragna towards a future from the beginning, since he was a child.
The playful relationship that the two have is really unique, and one where Ragna gets away with calling Rachel “Usagi” and she continues to save him and bail him out when she can. Less obvious is the fact that Ragna continues to exceed Rachel’s expectations at each turn in the story, and something that the anime butchered in its first few episodes. Yet, It has plenty of opportunities left to show that Ragna was definitely worth Rachel’s attention and care. If this episode is any indication, then it’s very possible to pull off.
Rachel is also shown off as a pretty major player in the story, much more powerful and pro-active than I myself realized. See the part about Rachel giving Ragna his new arm is never shown in the games, and again, to my knowledge, its an anime original scene that fills a small gap in the game series story.
Again, the series is all the better for when Ragna’s characterization and story are given extra care and attention, as nearly every character is linked or dependent on him.
Beyond characterization, I have to say that the pacing for this episode was also a lot better. It did feel a bit rushed, but given that this is a 12 episode series and we’re nearly at the half way point, its hard to not see some rushed-ness from this series. The longest single scene in this episode was definitely the bath scene, and while the rest of the episode felt a bit faster, it wasn’t all bad.
Tager’s introduction, was a pretty good one. Its pretty in-line with how it was in the games, and while newcomers might be shrugging at the lack of information for the character, its again, pretty solid at this point. I mention at this point, but I really am curious to see how much Tager’s character is expanded upon, alongside of course, Kokone and her own agenda.
Its Kokone that brings us to the cliffhanger ending in this episode, where we get Ragna facing off against… Nu again! I have to say, this was a smart place to end the episode. I’m excited to see if the anime expands on Kokone’s story in this series, as it has done for Rachel.
And don’t get me wrong, there’s still tons of awesome stuff to be had from Rachel, Kokone and the rest. So far, the anime has gotten to the point where its kind of developed its primary characters a bit, and nicely introduced some of the characters in a context that makes sense. That said, this episode is one where everything just goes off well. Ragna meets up with Platinum and her/his/their (XD!) introduction is short, sweet but important. Tager’s introduction is much the same.
At the end of the day, this series has a big challenge at this point. There’s tons of interesting and complex characters, each with their own storylines, motivations and plotlines that run in parallel and each has enough clout to become a main character in their own story. Juggling all these characters together, is no easy feat, and while the build up so far is quite well done, it remains to be seen how long the anime can keep this up.
One of the most impressive things about the blazblue franchise is how all these individual plotlines combine to make a cohesive whole. While the anime has got to the point where it’s doing well to at least introduce all these characters, it remains to be seen if that anime can deliver on the inevitable confrontations that will result from all this build up.
In terms of battles, there’s also the issue of the animation, which faired a bit better this week. This is still a low budget show, which is a real shame, but the animation wasn’t cringe worthy this time, which is a plus. The part where Noel unleashed her guns was actually cool, and even Ragna using his Azure Grimoire powers looked a lot better than it did in the premier. I still don’t understand why Ragna doesn’t have the Black/Red aura for his attacks, and is instead stuck with an off color purple, but at least it keeps more in spirit with the source material.
The artwork in each frame was better too, and I didn’t notice any big scenes where some character was shoddily drawn. There’s some obvious recycled/repeated frames throughout the episode, but while there’s there, its less noticeable. Either that, or maybe I’m getting desensitized to it all. Either way, its starting to at least not bring me out of the experience, so I’ll gave the anime credit there.
All in all, this was a very good episode, one that I’d say had minor hiccups here and there, but was generally a very good experience. As a fan of the series, I got something truly to enjoy, and if newcomers have been able to follow the series to this point, then I’d wager that this wasn’t a bad episode for them either.
The real tragedy for this series will be its early episodes, that may have signed this series death warrant and chance for commercial and mainstream success. Still, I;’m genuinely curious if the remaining 7 episodes can indeed save this series. After watching the previous week’s episode and this latest one, I’m actually of the opinion that its possible. Dare I hope that things remain on the current track? XD
Note: I know this episode was late, its been an extremely streneous week at college for me, with midterms, assignments and what not. With midterms dealt with by next week, I hope to review this series on time, the day it comes out. Its gotten good enough to the point where I’m really excited for it too!
The next episode is titled False World, and it seems Rachel and Kokone will be featured prominently again. Here’s to next week!
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