Check out our Battlefront pilot review for more info!
Battlefront stood out from the crowd within its first few episodes, diving into an interesting world with a diverse set of characters. We correctly tagged the series as having a lot of potential during its first few episodes. The world of interdimensional monsters living alongside humans feels natural, the story makes a surprising amount of sense given its randomness, and it’s probably the most beautiful eye-candy of the season.
The story follows Leo Watch, a young man with the “eyes of the gods,” as he tries to help a secret society called Libra defend the former New York City from supernatural and otherworldly criminals. We’re thrown directly into the action by lazy narration. The series likes to dump a screen of text on us to explain what’s going on rather than showing us and letting the story unfold naturally. While this is fantastically efficient at getting things rolling, it’s not exactly immersive or necessary. It does save a lot of filler time (minus a drudging quest-for-lunch episode), but it also prevents the story from becoming as deep as it should.
Battlefront is an exercise in give-and-take in many ways. As fast as the story goes, it gets derailed in the fourth episode to be about a dark vampire cabal instead of crime-fighting. Though the background art is beautiful, some of the character animation is downright hokey. The anime constantly makes bad compromises in a very random way. Just as you’re being wowed by a character’s special move, the animation team clocks out and substitutes a few slow frames and on-screen kanji for actual animation, leaving the anime’s pounding music trying to make up for the loss of intensity.
The perpetual deflation of excitement is the largest problem with Battlefront. This is generally the result of its episodic nature. When you get done watching the series and take a step back, it’s easy to see that there’s barely a plot. The animation also suffers from cowardice symptomatic of shows geared at a young audience: it likes to pose heavy questions and then never, ever address them. Instead, we get a vampire lord asking about the meaning of life and one’s impact or non-impact to the world around him, then trailing off saying that in order for “something” to happen he’ll have to do “something else.” The writers probably hoped it would sound mysterious rather than nodding to the fact they had no clue where they were going.
The staggered pacing of the show isn’t restricted to single episodes. Even within each episode, certain things just don’t seem to fit. Random 1.2 second visual gags are inserted during scenes where the atmosphere and music are telling you things should be serious. You can’t even register the jokes because they’re over before you could laugh even if they were funny (which they usually aren’t). There’s also a pseudo-romance tangent the series refuses to properly develop, which is probably the most frustratingly standard way for an animation to willingly cripple itself.
While the vampire plotline does give Battlefront a much-needed theme, it’s hardly enough mortar to hold the series together. The show constantly introduces new characters while completely failing to utilize the ones already present. For being New York, the horrible Engrish is also pretty unforgivable. The soundtrack remains diverse and driven, but lacks any catchiness. It tends to be more New Orleans than New York, nodding to the probability that the staff in charge of the tunes thinks of “American music” as one entity. Still, the use of real icons of NYC is a nice touch that provides a subtle way to remind us of the setting’s ties to the real world without having to bludgeon us with exposition.
The opening theme is at first forgettable, generic pop. After a while, it starts to seep into your brain and plant roots. However, it’s foiled by a mundane credit roll featuring the characters dancing around in suits on a stage. The next episode previews are all useless. To give an idea of how pointless these are, the most recent one was narrated by Sonic, the team’s pet monkey whose power was lauded as being formidable before he ceased to appear in any episodes after the third. The “preview” often not only tells us nothing of value, but might also be comprised of nothing but past footage. There’s no point.
The indecision of Battlefront doesn’t limit itself to minor characters. The self-proclaimed King of Depravity who starts the series as the arch-villain is quickly demoted to an underling after disappearing and being completely unmentioned for several episodes. While the series isn’t totally lackluster, it also wanders too aimlessly to really shine. The characters are all static with Leo himself being quite droll. It plays almost as though it wanted to be a comedy in action form, but forgot the comedy and couldn’t commit to the action. It’s not bad, but it’s not something that really makes you excited to watch the next episode, either. Battlefront falls into the tier of show you watch because it airs just before the series you actually wanted to watch. While it has a great deal going on for it visually, it’s just not enough to make up for the lack of direction incessantly gnawing at the series.
Title: Blood Blockade Battlefront (Kekkai Sensen)
Original Source: Manga
Source Writer: Yasuhiro Nightow
Source Publisher: Shueisha
Director: Rie Matsumoto
Writer: Kazunao Furuya
Music: Taisei Iwasaki
Run Start: 04/2015
Review Date: 04/2015
Episodes Reviewed: 01-10