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Blassreiter PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 31 August 2010 00:00
BlassreiterYou could say that Blassreiter was the start of a new era in anime - it was one of a pair of shows from GONZO that were made available for legal download & streaming with English subtitles on the same day that they were broadcast in Japan, in doing so kicking off the simulcast business that Crunchyroll and others are now exploiting to varying levels of success. I can safely say, though, that the rise of simulcasting doesn't owe much thanks to the quality of this series...

Read on to the following pages for full episode summaries and screenshots. Meet Gerd Frentzen, the invincible motorcycle-racing champ - whose career is cut short when a rage-filled Demoniac interrupts a race, causing utter destruction. Gerd ends up in a wheelchair never to ride again, but he's one of the lucky ones - most of the race participants were killed, and a significant number of them went on to become the walking dead, under the influence of some sort of infection they picked up in the attack. XAT, a paramilitary group led by Gerd's former racing buddy Hermann, is investigating the attack and subsequent incidents, but they're not having much luck. Meanwhile, while Gerd wallows in despair at the life he's lost, he's approached by a mysterious woman who claims that she has the means to restore his physical abilities...

I went into Blassreiter wanting to like it - I'm quite partial to GONZO's usual style-over-substance format, and the last series by co-producer Nitro+, Demonbane, was so far into so-bad-it's-good territory that I couldn't help but love it. Unfortunately, Blassreiter ended up simply being bad, but without being so bad that it generated the Demonbane effect, and to this day I'm still not sure why I bothered to watch all 24 episodes. Call me a glutton for punishment.

The problems are clear to see right from the first episode. It's non-sensical, for starters, and makes very little effort as the series goes on to explain itself. Demoniacs? No idea what they are, as no-one bothers to tell you - although no-one at the race seemed overly surprised to see one. XAT's origins and place in the military? No idea. The person who gave Gerd his miracle cure? No idea. Some of this gets explained as the series goes on but equally a lot of it isn't, and the series quickly begins to feel as though it's just a string of scenes thrown together. Initially only Gerd gets any sort of real screentime, while they try to get you to feel some sort of empathy or sympathy for his situation. That doesn't entirely work, as it's like watching the video of an old country music song where everyone's walking out on the singer, leaving him alone to feel sorry for himself. Awww. That's okay, though (I guess we're meant to feel), as he's quickly discarded in favour of a shift in focus to Hermann and his partner Amanda - who in turn get sidelined in favour of other characters as the focus keeps shifting from one group to another with barely any continuity of story to hold the series together.

The further you get into the series, the bigger the underlying conspiracy becomes, with the mystery of the 'demoniacs' moving from occasional outbreaks to world-ending proportions through a series of unlikely twists and turns in the plot. By the time I got to the introduction of the Knights Templar (yes, the old Crusading organisation from medieval times, kept alive in case they should ever be required), suspension of disbelief had taken a serious knock and I just didn't care any more, and attempts to create sympathy for certain characters by adding backstory of love and betrayal to the mix came too late - I was simply past caring.

Apparently, so were the writers, as come the end of the series there were still some unresolved issues and mysteries left that I wasn't really happy about - and there would probably have been time in the closing episodes to deal with them, were it not for the focus of he show being so heavily on the fighting at that point. Blassreiter was hardly the poster child for internal consistency, so I wasn't particularly surprised - just disappointed. The writers were also unable to resist the urge to hit the Big Red Reset Button at the end of the series, and so after all they've been through and all the (allegedly heart-rending deaths that you have to sit through on the way to the finale, you find in the epilogue that all the show's characters are still around, after a fashion. That's cheating, to me, and earns the show another big black mark to top out an already huge collection of 'em. The dead should damn well stay dead.

On the good side, though, while this isn't exactly intelligent viewing, there's usually enough going on that outright boredom is unlikely, and the action sequences can actually be quite enjoyable in places, if you can turn a blind eye to the poor CG and battle physics.

That's nowhere near enough to outweigh all the bad, though. As a series, Blassreiter is a complete train wreck, with it never seeming to know what it's trying to do or what message it's trying to convey. When it bothers to focus on its characters, it works well and can be a decently-enjoyable watch - but the rest of it is just an unwatchable mess, and the improvements that the final episodes make come far too late to save it - and given all the c**p you have to wade through to get there in the first place, there's really little to recommend about it. It may be free to stream, but I'd still say pass, unless you've really got some free time to waste.

Rating - **