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Blazblue: Alter Memory - The Complete Series

FUNimation // Unrated // June 30, 2015
List Price: $64.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kyle Mills | posted July 30, 2015 | E-mail the Author
If history has taught anime fans anything, it's that video game to anime adaptions are extremely hard to successfully pull off. Devil May Cry was just ok, Sengoku Basara was solid for the most part, but it didn't fully live up to its potential. The Final Fantasy and Star Ocean anime are just best not talked about.Blazblue: Alter Memory, based off of the 2 entries of the franchise, Calamity Trigger and Continuum Shift, somehow falls into every category above. At times it's ok, even good, other times, it's nothing more than an incoherent mess and a waste of time.

Prior to the start of the series, during the battle known as the Dark War, Humanity was on the brink of destruction due to a mysterious black beast that sought to annihilate the entire human race. The monster was defeated by a group of six warriors wielding the power of Ars Magus: a potent combo of magic and technology. Now, a roguish outlaw known as Ragna the Bloodedge seeks to wreak havoc upon the Librarium, an organization that governs Ars Magus, headed by the nefarious Hazama (whose overall motivations are never really focused on), who betrayed the group of warriors who united with mankind to fight against the Black Beast.

The story of Blazblue: Alter Memory starts off in December of 2199, when the streets are full of people eagerly awaiting the end of the year celebration as well as the start of the New Year. Throughout the joyous celebrations, word begins to spread that Ragna the Bloodedge (voiced by Patrick Seitz), an notorious SS-class rebel with the largest bounty ever on his head, has appeared in the 13th Hierarchical City of Kagutsuchi.

While you'd think that with the bounty hunters trying to take Ragna's head, there would be quite a bit of fighting, there isn't, at least not in the first half anyway. I can honestly only recall 2 fight sequences, the first being the opening moments of the show and the other in episode 3 or 4 where Jin runs into Ragna. For the first half of the show, Ragna actually just ends up spending most of the running time either wounded from the events of the first episode or just wandering around confused as much as the viewer is, and even in one episode having to deal with an harem of women in the obligatory hot spring episode (which has no place in a show like this!)

Also important to the story is that of Jin Kisiragi (voiced by David Vincent) and Noel Vermillion (voiced by Christina Vee), the brother of Ragna and Jin's trusted right hand, respectively. Jin's primary storyline isn't focused on much, but it essentially revolves around his uncontrollable and insatiable hate for Ragna. When Jin hears about Ragna appearing in Kagutsuchi, his calm demeanor slips and he falls completely off of the grid. Noel, who also has a mysterious connection to Ragna, is ordered by Hazama to take off after him to bring him back to post before he becomes a liability to the organization.

Armed with the mighty Azure Grimoire, Ragna quickly becomes the target of various factions looking to capitalize on the prestigious bounty. Most importantly, Ragna must deal with Hazama, to put an end to the bounty and his suffering, while also trying to dodge the never ending bloodlust of his brother!

While there are some positives to the show, I do feel like BlazBlue features strong lead characters and fantastic production values, it's plagued by the fact that it's an incoherent mess of a series. You would think that a series that is based off of a video game franchise would typically give the viewer some kind of backstory before dropping us hadfirst into the story and immersing ourselves into the world of BlazBlue, right? Wrong. BlazBlue doesn't explain jack shit. Why does Jin hate Ragna so much? I had to look it up. Why is he crazy for 3 episodes then is the polar opposite the next? What the fck is Hakumen? Unlike something like Sengoku Basara, where the anime gave us introductions to the characters and the world they inhabited, BlazBlue instead panders to their built in fan base and expects us to know who these characters are and what drives them, and in my opinion, is simply lazy storytelling, though by the end of the series, I found out BlazBlue is synonymous with lazy storytelling.

- Positives:

+ Blazblue: Alter Memory features an excellent dub cast with the standouts being David Vincent's Jin Kisiragi and Patrick Seitz' Ragna. It was a welcome surprise that nearly every single actor from the video game franchise reprised their roles.

+ I was invested into relationship between the 2 lead characters, Ragna and Jin.

+ The action sequences are wonderfully animated and exciting to watch.

+ An enjoyable villain in Hazama.

- Negatives:

- Not much in terms of story.

- Expects the viewers to know the history of the BlazBlue franchise, providing no context for new viewers.

- Unfocused storytelling.

- Outside of Jin, Ragna, and the villain, the characters weren't too interesting.

Video and Audio:
Presented with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio in a 1080p transfer, Hands down the best aspect of BlazBlue: Alter Memory is the animation, it's absolutely striking. While the character designs aren't anything to write home about, they all still stand out thanks to the beautiful animation. The color palette is varied and vivid, with every bright color popping out of the screen. An overall beautiful presentation.

As per usual with FUNimation's releases, BlazBlue: Alter Memory comes with both Japanese and English audio options, both of which are presented in a 5.1 TrueHD lossless audio track. Like I usually do, I watched the series in the newly created English dub while sampling a few episodes of the original Japanese. The sound mix is fantastic throughout with a dynamic range, the dialogue is crisp and clean throughout with no obvious signs of distortions or dropouts.

Extras: A little less here in terms of extras. While 99 percent of FUNimation titles include typically 2 commentary tracks on select episodes, Blazblue includes none with the reason likely being that the show was outsourced to the video game cast in Los Angeles, and FUNi being located in Texas.

- Textless opening and closing themes.

- US trailer.

- Trailers for various FUNimation properties.

Yet another video game to anime adaption that didn't really turn out too well or lived up to its potential. What makes Blazblue even harder to fully enjoy was the fact that you HAVE to follow the games to fully understand the story of the anime. The series has an excellent dub cast (the actors from the video games reprised their roles) and some terrific action sequences, outside of that, there's not much in terms of substance. Blazblue: Alter Memory is pretty cut and dry in terms of story, and for that, at most it's worth a rental unless you're a fan of the franchise. Rent it.

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