Anime: Kekkai Sensen / Blood Blockade Battlefront
Original Run: Apr 5, 2015 to Oct 4, 2015
Genres: Action, Fantasy, Supernatural
A mysterious incident three years ago opened a gateway in New York City between Earth and the Beyond, causing the two worlds and its inhabitants to collide. Now, New York is known as Hellsalem’s Lot, a strange city where humans live alongside monsters in relative peace with the occasional calamity or bloodbath thrown in the mix. Libra is an organization that operates in Hellsalem’s Lot with the intention of maintaining peace amongst its eclectic citizens while also keeping the chaos from spreading to the rest of the world.
Leonardo Watch is an ordinary boy with an ordinary life who’s the victim of an extraordinary incident that gave him the ‘All-Seeing Eyes of God’ at the expense of his sister’s eyesight. Leo travels to Hellsalem’s Lot in an attempt to find some answers but ends up joining Libra, which may not make his quest all that easier.
I have mixed feelings about this anime. On one hand, I had a blast watching it but on the other, none of that stayed with me a second past closing the window on the last episode. So maybe it’s not mixed feelings so much as the initial impression diminishing over time. All the same, it’s a very fun show.
Really, ‘fun’ seems like the best descriptor for Kekkai Sensen. The characters are quirky, their antics range from amusing to hilarious, there are plenty of funny incidents and the overall atmosphere is very cheerful and uplifting. The mood constantly shifts from deadly serious to absolutely ridiculous and though it’s a thin line, this show makes it work in a way that elicits a laugh or at least a smile. The characters’ personalities help a lot with this. Most of them have only one or two defining traits and many others are just a face and a name but Kekkai Sensen shows that even that’s quite enough to make a good story. They’re all a bunch of borderline crazy individuals who play off each other in a variety of interesting ways.
Despite the summary mentioning the protagonist Leo’s search for answers, the majority of the anime is comprised of individual episodes that may or may not be interconnected. Each of these arcs are entertaining on their own and also wildly different in subject matter. There’s everything from human-monster bonding over burgers to saving the world from vampires. Towards the end, a more substantial thread develops and it’s dealt with in a satisfying manner. The finale’s highly emotional tone does seem jarring compared to the mixed tones of the previous episodes though.
The biggest problem with Kekkai Sensen is how maddeningly confusing it can get. It seems to be a deliberate decision on part of the creators but it still leaves you feeling like you just watched only one half of a Durarara arc. In other words, it leaves you blinking at the screen and questioning all existence.
I kid. It’s not that bad but it is close. For instance, the story cuts off at pivotal instances and the aftermath is not always shown or even explained later on. There’s no clarification given for a lot of the odd incidents that Libra deals with even when they’re elements central to the storyline. And the worst offender is Leo’s ‘goal’ which is mentioned in the first episode and then never touched upon again as Leo joins Libra and is pulled into their affairs. It’s pretty vexing.
Still, I would recommend giving this a go because it really is a fun watch. And with the second season coming out, maybe the storyline will get more fleshed out.
Character depth is not Kekkai Sensen’s strong suit but it does excel at presenting a number of very unique individual with some interesting relationships shared between them. As I said above, most of them are one-dimensional but that does not in any way detract from the narrative. A few of them are rather memorable.
The main character Leonardo Watch or Leo is an ordinary boy who gets royally screwed over by life for no particular reason and consequently finds himself in a slew of situations where he’s almost comically out of his depth. Of course, he rallies well because he’s the protagonist for a reason but on the whole, he’s not really anything special. He does have a certain charm though. He’s very nice but in a way that feels like a natural trait rather than something manufactured. He’s not the bravest person out there and he’s certainly not the strongest but he does what he has to do with genuine feeling and conviction.
Libra has its fair share of eccentrics but none of them are as remarkable as its leader Klaus who looks like a smaller, more humanized version of Disney’s Beast. He is exceptionally powerful and visually intimidating but his personality is very gentle, even when’s he is beating his enemies to a pulp. He’s this unusual combination of utterly badass and utterly adorable and you can’t really go wrong with that. Then there’s Zapp, the most hotheaded character in the show and the token troublemaker. He has his moments where he shines but acts as comic relief most of the time. The quiet, snarky wolf woman Chain, the lively K.K, and Klaus’ second in command Stephen complete Libra’s main circle.
Others characters of note are Black and White, a pair of twins that Leo befriends who end up playing a big part in the story. White is a cheerful but sickly girl who likes to joke about being a ghost and hang out in cemeteries while managing to not be as creepy as she should be. Black is her less outgoing, socially awkward brother. Their relationship is meant to parallel Leo’s own bonds with his younger sister.
There are others, some recurring and some not, and they all manage to be engaging while they’re onscreen.
Art and Music:
The art and animation are very good. There are plenty of bright colors and pleasing effects that add a nice touch to the characters’ powers. The designs for the human characters as well as the supernatural monsters are diverse and vibrant.
It was Kekkai Sensen’s striking opening theme that originally pushed this show on to my radar and the show proved to be wonderful in terms of music. The ending theme, Sugar Song to Bitter Step by Unison Square Garden, is not that impressive but both the OP and the OST more than make up for it. Hello, world, the opening by BUMP OF CHICKEN, is a beautiful earworm.
A very strange show that’s highly entertaining to watch but ends leaving behind far too many questions and a not wholly favorable impression.