Anime Reviews: Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond
Some Basic Information About the Series
Title: Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond a.k.a. Kekkai Sensen & Beyond
Series Length: 12 episodes
Air Dates: 10/8/2017 to 12/24/2017
Age Rating: 15+ (some strong violence, some strong language, some suggestive content)
Summary: Leonardo Watch has begun to adjust to his new life in the chaotic maelstrom that is Hellsalem's Lot, where the human world and the demon world have collided in the heart of New York City. As a member of the secret organization Libra, Leo uses his All-Seeing Eyes of the Gods to assist Klaus, Zapp, and the others with all manner of crises--up to and including dealing with brain slugs that turn into ravenous beasts when removed (courtesy of the King of Depravity and purveyor of raucously macabre entertainment, Femt), defending the headquarters from a swarm of hyper-sentient mosquitoes bent on world domination, and helping Zapp find a lost cat before a sorceress uses an explosive rune on his Johnson, all the while seeking a way to reverse his sister's blindness. Needless to say, life in the big city has never been easy, but in the chaos of Hellsalem's Lot, danger and adventure are never far away.
The Good: Expounds upon what made the first season great; improved focus and direction create a more enjoyable experience
The Bad: Skimps out on any single central narrative, making the series feel a bit disjointed; where's Lucky Abrams?!
The Ugly: The insurance premiums in Hellsalem's Lot must be a nightmare
Well well well, look who came crawling back!
I had to. The promise of more fun with the Libra gang was a siren's song of over-the-top shenanigans and wacky character interactions--I couldn't resist! The first season of Blood Blockade Battlefront might have been bogged down with incomprehensible action scenes meant to be played absolutely straight, but that perpetual atmosphere of an exciting supernatural party with billions in collateral damage made it an absolute joy to watch. I had kinda figured a second season was inevitable, but it's surprising that it took two and a half years to deliver on it. Ah well, better late than never! So how does BBB & Beyond stack up with its predecessor? Let's discuss, shall we?
What makes BBB & Beyond such a fun ride?
To give away the game a bit, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond manages to be such a good time because it improves on just about every aspect of the original series. The animation is cleaner, the characters are given more focus (especially neglected/awesome ones like K.K. and Chain), the music is outstanding, the action scenes benefit from more tongue-in-cheek direction (made possible by an entirely new director) highlighting the absurdity and utility of the characters' crazy powers, and the straying away from any central storyline means each episode is a self-contained nugget of awesome. Well, that kinda covers everything, I guess, so let's dig in and talk about some of these things in detail!
The first episode kicks things right off with the King of Depravity, Femt, dropping people into the city (including Leo) with jars on their heads containing fast-growing little demons that eat everything in sight--immediately we're reacquainted with the devil-may-care attitude of the previous season, the conflict is both legitimate and hilarious, and we get an excellent gag where Steven, K.K., Klaus, and Zed all use their abilities at once and the screen is covered with mile-long attack names while they're all shouting over each other and a huge swath of demons is gone, like, just freakin' gone, and they proceed to yell at each other for yelling over each other's attacks. And then the episode proceeds to enter a plot about Leo being forced to go on a madcap dash across the city to deliver the talking head of the President's ambassador to Federal Hall while being chased by every ne'er-do-well in existence. And that's just episode one!
Episode 3 gives us a look into a few characters' after-work activities: Leo looks to purchase a weapon for self-defense to fend off his endless stream of muggers (Chain gets involved, instant 10/10), Steven hosts a fancy party where something shady seems to be going down, and Zapp is forced to find a blood sorceress' lost cat or else the explosive rune she cast on his, uhh..."Lieutenant Freedom Magnum" will explode. Shenanigans ensue, as you'd expect. And it is glorious.
But my favorite episode has gotta be episode 10, which follows the trials and tribulations K.K. faces balancing her home life and her work, which inevitably involves her piloting drones and operating remote missile launchers while attending Parents' Day at her kid's elementary school. And calling this episode my favorite was a tough choice, since there's other heavyweight contenders such as the aforementioned episodes 1 and 3, the thrilling action set-pieces of episodes 4 through 6, the awesome two-part plot of two clashing microbial scientists in episodes 8 and 9, and the long-awaited appearance of Leo's sister, Michella, in the series' tense two-part finale. To put it bluntly, there's not a single bad episode, they're all awesome, end of story.
And as mentioned before, the changing of who sits in the director's chair helped BBB & Beyond out far more than you'd imagine. We get even more characterization for our motley crew in between the gags and the action, and the action itself is much easier to follow this time around, due to the series' newly-found self-awareness--it seems to know exactly how silly it is when Klaus shouts out a mile-long attack name just for the simple thrust of a blood spear, and the series being in on this particular joke is an improvement over season one, which executes the joke completely ignorant of the fact that it was, indeed, a joke. And I appreciate that.
And what keeps it from truly going Beyond?
While ditching the overarching narrative construction that the previous season used gives this season a much freer feel and allows for more exploration into the side characters, it does also come with the side-effect of making the series feel a bit disjointed, like someone's hitting the reset button after each episode and nothing really changes this time around. It almost feels like there's no consequences to any of these storylines, and no sense of time, either. Like they're all disconnected. Fortunately for BBB & Beyond, this is the biggest flaw I can point out about it, but a lack of cohesion is still a major bummer.
Also, where the hell is Lucky Abrams? He was my absolute favorite character from the first season, and they didn't bring him back! For those who don't remember, he was the detective-slash-vampire hunter who was cursed with extreme bad luck, but since he innately has extremely good luck, all sorts of catastrophes befall him every single day without ever actually affecting him--his introduction features his plane crashing after he departs, and he meets Leo and Zapp just before a truck nearly runs into him, collides with a demon worm from the other direction, sends shrapnel and wreckage flying in every direction (including Leo and Zapp's heads), and Abrams himself is unscathed. Every scene that featured him was a treasure and a gift. And he's not in the sequel. Come on, man! I'd better see some Lucky Abrams in season three, or I'm gonna riot!
And so, the verdict is...
Guilty! Of being awesome! BBB & Beyond surpasses its first season in basically every way, and even though the overarching plot is much thinner than before, the increased focus on character-centric storylines and a new director make for a much more enjoyable experience overall. Of course, if you haven't watched the first season, you should probably work on that before picking this up, but if you've already seen season one and somehow haven't caught this season yet, you're really missing out and you should probably find it ASAP.
Final Score: 9 out of 10. Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond improves upon everything that made the first season such an exciting ride while also featuring smarter directing and more development for much of its cast, making this a no-brainer viewing for fans of the first season.