A couple of months ago FUNimation released the first half of Blassreiter. This was one of the latest efforts from Gonzo, but they also partnered up with Nitro+ for the production of the show. In case you missed it you should know that the first release was awesome. It was packed with action and had a very interesting premise that took it a long way. I was hooked from the very start and couldn't wait to get my hands on the second volume.
Blassreiter was originally released in Japan in 2008 and went on to receive 24 episodes. Since then the series has also become a manga and has had a light novel release, so it goes to show that the franchise is popular to some extent in Japan at least. For those of you who are just joining us though, let's fill you in on the basics to catch you up to speed.
Blassreiter takes place a decent ways into the future, though the specific time period is not disclosed. Technology has advanced to a certain degree and unfortunately that means there are better and meaner ways to kill people. Enter the Demoniacs, a cybernetic zombie that overtakes a deceased person's body and wreaks havoc on the populace. Ensuring the safety of the citizens falls into the hands of the XAT organization, but things get a whole lot messier early on in the series.
There's a group out there who is responsible with developing a method that transforms a living person into a Demoniac. These people struggle to retain their humanity, but a rare few have been able to overcome the adversity and eek out a living as a half-breed. One such person is Joseph who is the protagonist of the story and finds himself in the midst of events seemingly beyond his control. Soon enough he joins up with some members of the XAT and towards the end of the first half the big bad villain finally reared their ugly head.
The first twelve episodes of Blassreiter were broken up into mini-arcs. Each of these segmented the experience somewhat and focused on an individual other than Joseph. It was a nice way to flesh out the secondary cast members, but also spoke to the larger problem at hand and served as a way to introduce the villains. When the second half of the show picks up we receive some more arcs, extra development of the characters, and the whole thing culminates in an explosive ending. Let's just say that I was not let down.
As the volume opens we get a whole lot of flashback as Joseph's past is revealed to us. We finally get to see how he became the way he is and once you see it you'll come to realize how the events in the show have gotten to the point they are at. In addition to the development behind Joseph we get some snippets of history for the character of Xargin as well. The two storylines tie together quite nicely, but things in the series get a little jarring once we're back to the present.
It would appear that the XAT fell under the recent Demoniac attack, but another militant organization has stepped out of the shadows. Zwolf is apparently an ancient group designed to handle problems like this. Honestly I don't recall any mention of these guys in the first half, so their emergence was kind of surprising. Still, some XAT members are a part of their ranks so I suppose you just kind of roll with it.
With Xargin and the Demoniac forces escalating the battle against Zwolf, Amanda, Hermann, Joseph, and Malek all get caught in the middle. Once the show gets over the flashback hurdle and introduces Zwolf the remaining episodes turn into a mad dash to the end. The pacing is revved up, the action is over-the-top, and the show even hits some fine dramatic notes in between. All in all this was a fantastic ending for the series and it was a fitting, memorable way for the curtain to close.
Blassreiter was a show I knew absolutely nothing about prior to sitting down with the first installment back in November. However, it was one that I quickly fell in love with. The science fiction setting blended with horror elements and copious amounts of action stand out in just about every way. The pacing is break-neck and there's a great deal of continuity as well (despite the Zwolf thing). I'm giving this one a high recommendation!
Blassreiter hits DVD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. Gonzo is known for producing quality looking shows, and I must say that their latest is no exception. This one in particular is sharp as a tack and you won't find a single bit of grain or compression artifacts anywhere in this transfer. Kudos to FUNimation for pulling that one off! I do have to say that during some of the scenes that heavily use CGI there are some moments where aliasing is prevalent, but they aren't too distracting thankfully. All in all this is a great looking series that truly stands out and makes an impact.
In addition to some great looking picture quality, the audio for Blassreiter is quite solid as well. The Japanese and English language tracks are both presented with 5.1 output for that extra oomph. I found both surround tracks to be nicely immersive, and there was a decent presence on the soundstage for both. Considering this is a show with plenty of action it was a welcome, robust presentation. Even the bass gets a nice workout at times with all the explosions, guns, and Demoniac weapons all over the place.
For bonus features, the second part of Blassreiter comes with trailers, clean animations, and a "Director's Guide to Blassreiter" feature in which Director Ichiro Itano sits down to fill in some of the background on the show. There is also an audio commentary for the 24th episode here that's worth sitting through once you finish watching the set.
Blassreiter is solid action science fiction from start to finish. Sure there may be a couple of episodes here and there that don't completely gel with the frenetic pacing, but all around this is an incredibly produced piece from Gonzo. The story gives nods to other sci-fi anime, but keeps the background and story wholly its own. It's original, addicting, and all of the action sequences are pure eye-candy. Highly recommended from top to bottom!
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