Funimation // 2008 // 288 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // December 11th, 2009
All I see is a man suffering in the depths of pain.
A plague has ravaged Germany, but the victims aren't staying dead. Instead, they are reborn as mechanized zombies with incredible powers who rampage through the streets and spread the disease. A team of soldiers known as the XAT (Xenogenesis Assault Team) fight to protect the citizens. But when the infection spreads to them, the people's lives fall into the hands of the only monster trying desperately to maintain his humanity and make the world safe once again.
Get ready for a wild ride of undead mechanized action, because the first half of Gonzo Studio's Blassreiter anime series is heavy on violence and short on plot. A combination of traditional 2D animation and 3D computer graphics, the action in the series is nicely animated, but its hyper-kinetic style leaves the quiet parts static and lacking interest.
We enter the opening story arc in the middle of a motorcycle race in which Gerd, the lead racer, is attacked by one of these monsters. While Gerd escapes with his life, he loses the use of his legs and, thus, his illustrious race career must come to an end. As we watch Gerd sink into depression, it quickly devolves into sappy histrionics until, finally, it's time for another fight scene. This progression is emblematic of the entirety of the series, where extended fight scenes are punctuated by overblown melodrama. It's the same with each character and story arc, and it hurts the series greatly.
It's not all bad, however. The monsters, which the writers (never able to keep it straight) alternately call "demoniacs" or "amalgams," are very cool. Thankfully, these guys, which I'll call amalgams since that's not already the name of a Jean Rollin film, are the main focus of the series; keeping the character development, lame as it is, at a minimum. The amalgams are part organic, part mech, and all mean. They can fuse themselves with other machines (mostly motorcycles, a fixture in the show) to increase their power, they move super fast, are nearly bulletproof, and some even have crazy energy-based melee weapons. They are varied enough in look and function to keep the series going and, because of the quality of the storylines involving the humans, I wish for much more of the amalgams.
The main plot revolves around the members of the XAT as they kill the bad guys and try to locate the one amalgam, codenamed Blue, who attacks his own kind. Not undead, Blue is of the new breed of these creatures. Transformed while still alive, they are part of a grand conspiracy to use nanotechnology to take over the world. This version can switch back and forth between amalgam and human forms and retain their cognitive functions, which makes them considerably more powerful than their zombie counterparts. Some of them, however, retain their conscious, as well, which is where Blue comes in. Through him and the XAT forces, Blassreiter hinges on the idea of justice and who has the right to mete that out, regardless of how much it may be deserved. That's all well and good, but the dialog is so over the top, yet simultaneously so boring, that anything valuable they may have said on the subject is completely lost.
The characters are dull and the vocal talent, both Japanese and English, is all over the map, which certainly doesn't help to add life. Some the acting is really quite good but, often, it's some of the worst you're going to find. The inconsistencies in the performances and the story bring the whole series down, but the action is well done and is buoyed by some high quality animation. The mixture of 2D and 3D graphics is jarring at first, but becomes very smooth as the series progresses. It looks like a video game cinematic at times, but the style allows the amalgams to move in ways not possible in traditional animation.
While Blassreiter originally appeared online for free, it is worth it for fans of the series to pick it up on Funimation's DVD. It looks great all around, with strong colors and good detail throughout. The sound is strong on both language tracks, though the Japanese is definitely the superior of the two. The extras are slightly more than the usual Funimation offering, with a commentary on the final episode and two promotional videos. We also get trailers and textless opening and closing songs, which are the traditional supplements on these discs.
I withhold judgment until I see how the series progresses. Until then,
Blassreiter is free to go with time served.
Review content copyright © 2009 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 288 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentary
* Textless Songs