Box Set Review:
It’s here! It’s here! The Blood Blockade Battlefront (aka Kekkai Sensen) box set has landed, and I am beyond excited about it. Being one of my favorite shows last year, I was eager to add this series to my collection, though I had some concerns about the packaging and quality of the distribution. Thankfully, Funimation seems to realize that BBB is worth a higher-quality release, and the box shows it.
Each case holds two discs, one for DVD and the other for Blu-Ray. The art on the front of the discs does a good job of introducing you to the cast as well.
Previous box set releases offered no real bonus material, but the BBB box set does offer two shorts featuring Ian Sinclair and other voice actors from the series, as well as voice acting director Mike McFarland. The recap episode 10.5 “Even These Are the Worst and the Best Days Ever” is also included in the set, which is definitely useful as you make your way into the final two episodes. Most people don’t get too excited about textless openings and endings, but in the case of BBB, it was one of the highlights of the set for me. The opening theme, “Hello, World” by Bump of Chicken, ranks among my personal top 5 OPs of all time.
Leonardo Watch, or Leo as his friends call him, is hardly the type of guy you’d find in a top-secret organization that battles monsters and terrorists on a daily basis. He’s just a regular kid who happens to have the “All-Seeing Eyes of God”, which, as its title implies, allows him to see things that the rest of the world can’t. This ability makes him the target of various evil organizations as they seek to manipulate his powers for their gain. Standing in their way, however, is the organization known as “Libra”, which operates in secret to combat these organizations and keep the city of Hellsalem’s Lot (relatively) safe.
Blood Blockade Battlefront (hereafter referred to as Kekkai Sensen, its Japanese title) takes place in Hellsalem’s Lot, which was formerly New York City. After a portal to the “Beyond” opened, monsters and other beings emerged from the portal and surprisingly, instead of instantly destroying everything, they settled in and became part of the city. Now Hellsalem’s Lot is a bustling metropolis of humans, monsters and aliens, which makes the adventures of an otherwise totally average kid very amusing to watch. Especially when this average kid is paired up with an organization of individuals who are far from average.
Bones, the studio that brought us Fullmetal Alchemist, Sword of the Stranger and Space Dandy, continues building their impressive library by heading up Kekkai Sensen. The animation does the studio justice and is some of my favorite art from the Spring season, if not the year. The design and implementation of the varied species that live in Hellsalem’s lot is executed well, as are the action and fight scenes that revolve around techniques and fighting styles as unique and varied as their users.
Kekkai Sensen is episodic in nature, but they can largely be viewed as stand-alone installments. Rather than following a continuous story through the series, the series focuses on the misadventures of Leo as he partners with Libra to save Hellsalem’s Lot from a varied assortment of threats. For me, this was a big part of the beauty of Kekkai Sensen. Rather than having to focus on necessarily keeping all of the character names and relationships in order as viewers move from episode to episode in a linear fashion, Kekkai Sensen allows you to disconnect and take in the sights and sounds of the city to the point where you almost feel like you live there too. It also allows the viewer to focus more on their investment with the characters, which progresses surprisingly fast for a 12 episode series. A major point of contention among some viewers is the fact that the story is handled this way, but I would contend that Kekkai Sensen still communicates an effective story with emotion and impact because it’s not linear. Its disjointed-ness forces viewers to engage more in the world itself; to tie themselves to the characters and go for a ride along with them, and boy what a ride it is.
Probably the biggest strength of the series was the delivery and execution of its characters. Aside from Leo, the members of Libra all possess their own archetypes that they perform very well. There’s the “Chief”, Klaus Von Reinherz, a fatherly figure who looks after Leo and his development and stands by a strict and unwavering moral code. On the other end of the spectrum is Leo’s “partner” Zapp, who is often more preoccupied with chasing women, which exposes Leo to danger and abduction. Steven is the co-founder and 2nd in command at Libra. His fighting style revolves around freezing his enemies with kicks, and he’s got a cool attitude to match. Toss in a werewolf who can phase in and out of existence, a bandaged combat butler, a merman who uses tridents made of hardened blood, a vampire hunter with luck so bad that it’s legendary and a convict with the blood of a serial killer who can materialize into gigantic living armor and you begin to get an idea of the varied “heroes” charged with protecting Hellsalem’s Lot.
Finally, there’s the music of Kekkai Sensen. I can say with confidence that the music, particularly the opening song, is probably some of the best I’ve heard in a while. The jazz-inspired background music brings back some of the exhilaration of watching Cowboy Bebop all over again. Also, the ending credits are a fun and uplifting watch, which can be a godsend following some of the heavier episodes.
Overall, Kekkai Sensen is a tremendous series. It’s smart, funny, action-packed and also builds in a surprising amount of heart and emotion. You can pick up the blu-ray set over at Funimation for about $65. Do it.