Watching the latest episode of BlazBlue was like seeing a person act completely normal and likable after weeks of throwing a huge crazy fit. Episode 4 finally brings the series to how it should’ve started; competent, understandable and making the story from the games more interesting in a summarized, linear manner.
Its scary to see how much better BlazBlue Alter Memory has gotten in the span of one episode. The story makes a lot of sense, gives you all the key information (in clever ways) and the story is actually getting me excited. I’m genuinely excited about a series that I had dismissed as a complete failure since its first episode.
This almost 180 in terms of quality has me wondering about the troubles behind this production. The first big thing that changed this week was the OP. It was a proper OP! One with good animation, featuring all the characters. Mostly all the animation was new animation, instead of recycled stuff from the first episode.And I refuse to believe that this was done for story concerns, because a lot of the characters shown in the OP have yet to to be introduced formally in the series. Yet, I won’t deny that it looked great. If only this OP had been featured in the first episode, this series would’ve been far better for it. The most important part, it highlights not only Ragna, but every one of the major players.
I still behind my assessment that, at the end of the day, Ragna is the main character of the story, but nearly all the other big players are pretty important in developing the central conflict of the series. Again, this episode proves some of my earlier theories about what this project’s staff are good at, interpersonal drama and dialogue. There was literally no action to speak of, in this episode, and the episode and story at large was all the better for it.
See, whenever BlazBlue Alter Memory attempts action, the series starts to stumble and fall flat on its face. The pacing gets thrown off, the characters stop making cohesive sense, the animation looks darn ugly e.t.c.When its developing story though? When its tackling inter-character dynamics, it manages to be pretty darn good. I can kind of see the logic of why this certain brand of staff was chosen for the adaption, since they “get” how to deal with characters and motivations as complex (and convoluted) as those seen in the Blazblue franchise.Unfortunately, that a big part of Blazblue is also the action.
Leaving the lack of action aside, every scene I saw in this episode was good, if not spot on perfect. The first scene, showed a younger Noel interacting with Jin Kisaragi (the then student council president) for the first time. It was a pretty sweet scene, and not exactly how it happens in the games. It was adapted to be shorter, and more interesting, a bit funnier too, and it worked. It worked and it was subtle without leaving out hints. Jin was clearly shocked to see Noel, and he felt a tinge of discomfort that he hid as best as he could.The series tackled the rather delicate relationship between Noel and Jin quite well.
Later on in the episode, it did wonders with the whole Makoto, Noel, Tsubaki and Jin high school days too. It took a scene, and the past relationship between Tsubaki, Noel, Makoto and Jin was shown beautifully. The trio friendship between Tsubaki, Noel and Makoto was shown, as well as Tsubaki’s obvious crush on Jin. Jin’s avoidance of Noel (which has grown at this point) is highlighted as well.
Beyond that, this scene also serves to give some good exposition on the series mythology. It explains what Takemikazuchi is. Takemikazuchi is an Arc-enemy, a weapon of sorts that a group of heroes from the past (the Six Great Heroes) used to defeat the “Great Beast”. Now remember, Ragna and Nu were about to become the “new” Great beast an episode ago. This scene spells out what that satellite monster was, how those weapons are significant and drops a big piece about the franchise’s core mythology, and does it in a creative and interesting way.
This scene is not at all present in the games, but it makes complete sense that Noel and co would learn about it if they were training in a military school. Subtly and creativity? These are things that I honestly didn’t expect this series to be able to accomplish. In fact, there were subtleties thrown in throughout this episode.
There were some series clues as to what Hakuman’s deal is with this whole thing. It went on to throw in some foreshadowing for Kokone’s eventual goal.
Then we went further, and saw that Jin isn’t exactly a villain character, and that at some point, he’s going to play a big role in future events. If Rachel and Ragna’s old master Jubei are any indication anyway.
Speaking of Rachel, the girl did a fair bit of hoping around this episode. Again, despite how confusing a lot of the Rachel scenes might have been to people, I’ll say honestly, that its okay. This is exactly how its shown in the games, and there’s always an air of mystery about Rachel and her history that gets slowly revealed as the games progress.
Here we had Rachel talk with three chair-like shadows. There’s some hints about Teruimi (Hazama) and his backstory, and its just the appropriate amount of hints at this time. As to what those chair shadows were? Well, the explanations they give themselves are pretty much what we get in the games. There’s a sense that these beings/creations of man are manipulating the strings in the background, but that’s not exactly true either. They are just another player in the background, trying to manipulate events to suit their own motivations. The fact that Rachel was once with them though? That’s an interesting tidbit, that the series might explore (the games haven’t yet).
The other thing I really liked, was the organic way in which everyone kind of crowded to where Ragna was.
First, there was the meeting between Makoto and Noel. Noel actually was clued in to Tsubaki’s orders at this meeting. Its important to note that in the games this meeting never happens, since Makoto was actually introduced as a DLC character after the second game released. Still, it makes sense, and given how little time this series has to tell its story, a premature meeting between Tsubaki and Noel not happening makes sense (That’s how Noel learns of Tsubaki’s orders in the games, first hand).
What’s interesting is that the series is positioning Makoto as a direct adversary to Tsubaki. As Tsubaki copes with the orders she’s been given, its apparently Makoto that intends to stop her and protect all her friends.
I also liked how Noel went to see Ragna because it made sense! Noel has questions about him sure, but what’s more important now is to figure out why Jin is acting so weird ever since he heard about Ragna. I was disappointed that Litchi and Noel didn’t fight in this episode, as I could totally see a battle happening here.
If this were a fighting game (oh the irony) this is where we’d get a fight before both parties calmed down. In the anime, the series just skips the whole battle part. Its an odd choice in a fighting game adaption, but I won’t argue with it.
The series is at its worst when action is thrown into the mix, and so if it decided to avoid it to deliver a good, competent episode, all the more power to it. And for once, Ragna’s characterization was a lot better than its been. Its still not perfect, but it shows just how he is in the games. Whenever Jin is mentioned, or something about his quest, he doesn’t tend to want to involve others. He especially doesn’t want to involve Noel, for obvious reasons. I’m sure its frustrating for Noel, and the audience that Ragna refuses to spill the beans on everything just yet, but I’ll say that it makes sense in the long run.
While Ragna is done much better this time, Noel is still a bit too delicate and weak-willed in her characterization. I guess that’s just how the series is going to show her. The nuanced confident yet delicate character that we saw in the games is just not being shown here, so I guess I have to deal with the fact that we’ve got a different character in the same circumstances. I will say though, I’m glad that the series is keeping Noel’s behavior consistent.
Now… while it may seem from this review that this series is great and peachy and perfect… Its definitely not. Its just gotten a lot better, remarkably better. After the depressing low expectations I had as a result of the first three episodes, I’m actually really impressed and pleasantly surprised with how much things have been turned around for the better with this episode.
There are still some glaring issues. For one thing, as I said earlier, the action is just not present. Since BlazBlue is as much about the fighting, special attacks and battles as it is about the rather complex story, its sad that this episode abandoned half of what makes the franchise so special in order to be a competent show.
That’s a pretty problematic issue for this series, as it can’t keep avoiding the action for long. Battles need to happen in order for the plot to progress further, and while build up and backstory is great and all, it only serves to inform and provide context to the conflicts these characters have. Up till this point, the series failed miserably to provide any context to anything, and made no sense whatsoever. If you’re still here, even now, then a lot of things should be getting clearer, even if there’s still a hell of a lot of fog around everything.
The other problem is how unwelcoming this series continues to be to newcomers. The series has gotten better, but to hell with actually taking its time and making sure viewers are caught on. I keep having to lean on my knowledge of the games story to really enjoy this episode. People who have at least played the first game, should be in the clear. If you’ve played the second game, then you’re the seemingly okay. The thing is though, if you are a fan, then you know the story bits and the lack of action will really bother you.
I will say this, this is the first episode of this series that I have truly enjoyed as an anime episode. I was consistently excited to see what was going to be shown next. Its by far the best episode of the series so far, but honestly that’s not saying much.I’m curious to see if the series will just continue with the character moments, and limit action to a minimum like it did this episode, or if it’ll fall into the pattern that the last few episodes have had.
Its really sad, but after the first three episodes, even if this series does continue to improve, I doubt anyone besides myself and a few diehard and/or curious fans are watching. All in all though, not bad Blazblue Alter Memory, not bad. You have me genuinely interested in you again.
Seems like next episode is about Valkenhein? I’m down with that. Hopefully this positive trend continues!
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