Anime Review: Broken Blade Episode 2

(Originally published on Livejournal on 9/30/10)

Anime Review in a Minute:
Broken Blade Episode 2

About the Series: In a world without petroleum, people have developed an ability to control objects by manipulating quartz crystals. But Rygart Arrow is unique, as the only person who lacks this ability, an “un-sorcerer” who is limited to toiling away at his family farm with his own two hands. Until one day, when he receives a letter from an old friend, Hodr, who has become the king of the country. Arriving at the capital, Rygart learns they have unearthed an ancient Golem, a giant mechanical fighting mecha that pre-dates the use of quartz; Queen Sigyn has a hunch that as an un-sorcerer, Rygart may be the only person who can control it — and he has his chance to find out when the kingdom is suddenly attacked.

tl;dr review: Rygart takes the Mystery Machine for a wild ride; The realities of war clash with Rygart’s pacifist ideals.

Episode 2 Synopsis: The capital of Krisna is under attack by a squad of five powerful golems under the command of Zess. Even though the Athenian raid is massively outnumbered by dozens of golems defending the capital, superior tactics by Zess and their heavily armored machines turn it into shooting gallery bloodbath. To stop the slaughter, Rygart heads out under a flag of truce is his ancient mystery golem to confront Zess, who at one time was a close friend at the academy. Zess passionately explains his reasons, while Rygart pleads for peace, but ultimately movements by the Krisna troops while they were negotiating forces Zess to act, causing Rygart to run away. Lee, a subordinate of Zess, chases after Rygart in her golem. After seeing Rygart’s machine’s awesome abilities, Lee becomes hell-bent on destroying it, and the two of them are forced to face off against Rygart’s wishes. Lee’s craft is disabled, and a Krisnan soldier is about to finish her off when Rygart stops him; but this ultimately leads to Lee killing the soldier with a well-placed shot. In a fit of anger, Rygart completely destroys Lee’s golem, but rather than surrender Lee turns her own gun on herself. Zess’s forces withdraw as the Krisnans lick their wounds, Rygart, wracked with guilt, withdraws into himself to reflect upon what his actions have caused. A pacifist at heart, he decides to wash his hands of it all and leave, even though everyone wants him to stay and fight. Hodr decides that the only course of action left to him is to surrender, even though he knows that will mean the death of himself and his family. At the very end when he is walking away, Rygart decides to set aside his naive ideals and it’s time for him to fight.

My Thoughts: Production-wise, the show is quite impressive. There’s some awesome landscapes and backgrounds, and a sweeping symphonic cinematic score. However, perhaps because those production values are so high, the relatively clunky average frame rate of the primary animation is noticeable. Also, a new fifty-minute episode every three months means a very long wait between episodes, so you end up spending the first few minutes trying to remember everything that happened previously.

The show also runs hot and cold — the uneven pacing annoys me. The first half of this episode is all action and fighting and go-go-go — it mostly involves Rygart running around in his Magical Mystery Machine as everyone marvels at what it can do. Yeah, yeah, we get it already — after the tenth time they same something along the lines of “how can it *do* that?”, we get the idea that this is something gosh-wow special. Pointing that out constantly gets tiring after a while. And then the second half the episode Rygart is just moping around, staring at his own navel with nothing really going on. I know it’s all to sharply outline the internal conflict that Rygart faces when his personal ideas about peace conflict with what is really happening around him and how it has already cost lives, and could cost more, but still…it’s very boring to watch someone go through their own internal conflicts.

One more thing to keep in mind: Broken Blade is ultimately a show that centers around giant robots, perhaps one of the most frustratingly idiotic recurring themes in Japanese anime and culture. The very concept of giant fighting mechanical machines (a la Gundam) is so patently stupid on its face that it’s hard to take *any* show that involves these childish man-toys seriously. Then again, I have to remind myself that I am watching a show where their main power source is the ability to generate power “magically” through quartz, of all things. If I’m willing to accept that ridiculousness, why not suspend my belief to accept that mecha are viable military machines?

Now let’s switch over to the psychopathic Lee who gets her hate-on and fixates on Rygart’s destruction. As one of the five golem pilots chosen for the surprise military raid on Krisna she is only 15 years old. Fifteen. Find that hard to swallow? Then you’ll find out that another of Zess’s raiders, Cleo is a very mature TWELVE YEARS OLD, and by “very mature” I mean that she is a “well-rounded” character. Seriously? What, Saaya Irie isn’t enough for all the pedos out there already? Maybe I’m just being an old fart (considering I’m about two decades older than the target audience), but is it really necessary to make them so young? And stacked? What purpose does it serve? It’s all so icky.

Okay — I know that I just spent a few paragraphs basically ragging on this show — I guess I’m better at trying to point out flaws rather than uncover strengths. Despite all my complaints, this is still an enjoyable and engaging fantasy. Giant robots and underage boobies aside, the primary focus of Broken Blade is the relationship between Rygart, Zess, Hodr and Sigyn: four friends from their academy days who are forced by the world around them to confront their ideals, beliefs and abilities. As long as they stick to that and don’t get bogged down in the military minutiae, it remains worth watching. But considering the slow release schedule, I could still be watching this show a full year from now.

The Verdict:

Up Next: Kaichou wa Maid-sama, Senkou no Night Raid (finale), Ookami-san, Highschool of the Dead, Occult Academy, Shiki, Legend of Legendary Heroes

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