Kekkai Sensen (2015)

Kekkai Sensen, also known as Blood Blockade Battlefront, is a manga series that began serialization way back in 2009. It just recently got an adaptation heralded by the studio Bones right when the manga came to an end in the same year of 2015. The mangaka of Kekkai Sensen is Yasuhiro Nightow – the mind and ink behind the apocalyptic ‘Trigun’. Yes. Motherfratotooing TRIGUN!

Now you’d be expecting this to a perfect anime. Or a close 9. Or just very bad. I don’t know. Did you like Trigun? I loved it. Most people I know and the internet adore it too. Certainly Kekkai Sensen should be in the same league, no? WellIt depends on you.

Kekkai Sensen is a vastly different (but somewhat similar at the ending) show than Trigun. If I were to liken it to another anime, I’d say it would be in the same category as ‘Baccano!’ and ‘Durarara!!’ Then the question rises: is it just as marvelously bloody wonderful as Baccano?

It’s certainly bloodier but not as wonderful.

Synopsis from MyAnimeList: Supersonic monkeys, vampires, talking fishmen, and all sorts of different supernatural monsters living alongside humans—this has been part of daily life in Hellsalem’s Lot, formerly known as New York City, for some time now. When a gateway between Earth and the Beyond opened three years ago, New Yorkers and creatures from the other dimension alike were trapped in an impenetrable bubble and were forced to live together. Libra is a secret organization composed of eccentrics and superhumans, tasked with keeping order in the city and making sure that chaos doesn’t spread to the rest of the world.

Pursuing photography as a hobby, Leonardo Watch is living a normal life with his parents and sister. But when he obtains the “All-seeing Eyes of the Gods” at the expense of his sister’s eyesight, he goes to Hellsalem’s Lot in order to help her by finding answers about the mysterious powers he received. He soon runs into Libra, and when Leo unexpectedly joins their ranks, he gets more than what he bargained for. Kekkai Sensen follows Leo’s misadventures in the strangest place on Earth with his equally strange comrades—as the ordinary boy unwittingly sees his life take a turn for the extraordinary.

You see, Baccano! excels at throwing out seemingly random acts and masterfully strings them together for a phenomenal conclusion where almost all ends are tied (what doesn’t get knot is done so in the OVA) and everything is explained. Kekkai Sensen goes the same route but it just leaves a lot of very important questions unaddressed, let alone unexplained, and also tacks on a forced emotional over-arching plot getting act upon in the last 3 episodes, which is apparent from around the 3rd episode, that just raises the number of queries instead of answering what’s happened before leading up to it.

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What Kekkai Sensen was going for.

Now I don’t whether the manga tries to go for the same over-arching plot or not. Apparently the anime has only adapted 12 chapters of 33 of the manga and went with an anime-original ending. That isn’t really much of an excuse. There are issues elsewhere as well.

The world of Kekkai Sensen which is a unique supernatural New York City is just wonderful and is a great foundation for many extremely interesting events. Even thought the world had me intrigued and made me hunger for more stuff happening in it, the actual world-building is less than satisfactory. How it was made it only addressed a paltry few times and never given exposition. The creatures that crossed over from the ‘Beyond’ to New York City are just… creatures. They are very different than the traditional monsters we see in other stories and are not given any background information.
Take for example, vampires. They suck blood and hate sunlight. In Kekkai Sensen they can not only go walk a for lovely dawn-time walk but can also destroy the world if just a few of them gather together to do so. But, they don’t. They are viciously evil and the MC even yells in one episode that they will fuck shit up if nothing is done. A brief battle between the MC’s boss and two vampires later the THOUSANDS of vampires hiding just to attack is merely dismissed as an afterthought. What?

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Me when I ask myself how the MC, who’s an ordinary dude with special eyes, get into Hellsalem’s Lot (New York City)?

That’s not the only problem. Pretty much all of the characters have no background. Other than the MC and the two ‘main’ plot characters (Black and White) only Zeff, the comic relief, is somewhat fleshed out – in the most ‘just throw it out there’ manner possible. And how the characters (mainly the Libra members – MC’s organization)

Up till now, I’ve dissed Kekkai Sensen. That must mean it’s a bad show, right? NOPE. Despite all the major flaws, Kekkai Sensen is still a high quality show.

The show is mainly episodic with a few minutes of over-arching plot advancement in each episode. Where do the other 15+ minutes go? Well, they go into the hilarious everyday hijinks and battle tendencies of the diverse cast. I laughed out loudly at Kekkai Sensen’s ingenious comedy. The combat is just as clever too. It’s not high-power Fate-ish fighting but it certainly has quality visual flair akin to that of ‘Kill la Kill’.

The Baccano! approach really works well for Kekkai Sensen. If it just had focused more on the world and characters’ interactions with it and each other than the badly handled and poorly written ‘main’ plot, then Kekkai Sensen would have been a top-notch anime. I suspect that the many things left unanswered are for a second season but I also don’t think that that is likely as Bones rarely does 2nd seasons. It’s also a pain that the anime has an original plotline (and new characters) so you can’t continue from the manga either. Such a shame.

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The animation is a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s great and sometimes you’re left wondering if some episodes had budget cuts. This only goes for non-backgrounds; the backgrounds are actually superb with great color contrast and heavy detailing. The character designs are more or less good, I guess. The direction is where the magic happens. Sharp and curious camera angles, surprising scene transitioning, and fluid movement ensures that the fluctuation animation is at least kept interesting.

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There’s always something going on in the background. In this case, the Boss just played a game of pseudo-chess.

The music of Kekkai Sensen is on point. The rock-ish Opening grows on you and when it’s a healthy adult, you’ll be chanting “Hello doumo boku wa kokooooooooooooooooooooooooo” (Hello world, here I am) along with it. The Ending song is a downright marvelous kind of jazzy tune you won’t be able to get enough of (I hope). Plus, the show’s cast dances in it! The background music is just as great as these and ranges from smooth jazz to blues and then to a diner’s jukebox selection of old songs to finally classical music when the finale nears.

In terms of enjoyment, Kekkai Sensen is a 9 out of 10 for me. But as a show where I have to judge all of it’s flaws and decide fairly for the sake of those reading this review the score will be a 7 out 10 with me saying that shit’s highly recommended, yo.

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