Has this really been the only mecha anime from 2011? There was one or two episodes of Gundam Unicorn, but was there not a single TV anime featuring giant robots this year? Is the appeal wearing off in Japan? It’s a sad era we live in indeed, and I’m not even the worlds biggest mecha fan. Although if there’s one series that turns me into a loony mecha fanboy, it’s Break Blade.
After episode 4, I had a bit of a bitch at…well, everything, because the episode was really bad. One of those things I bitched about was the change in focus for the mecha duels. Gone were the beautifully choreography one-on-one battles where every move is detailed, to be replaced by pitched battles with lots of yelling combined with over-powered mechs destroying everything that stands in their path. Episode 5 realised what a dumb move that was and returns to the one-on-one battles that made Break Blade so great. Rygart’s duel with Borcuse was such a brilliantly animated piece. Every move was shown. Every swing of a sword took chunks out of the opponents armour. I liked how the standard practice is Break Blade mecha warfare is to abandon your weapons as soon as they take damage, because from then on they’re a liability. It would probably help if they didn’t build mecha armour out of what appears to be crystal that shatters if you so much as cough on it, but it does cause the battles to be that much prettier and visceral with sparkly debris flying everywhere.
I’ve said this 50 bazillion times before, but I love how ugly and clunky the mecha in Break Blade are. More than that, I love how visibly battered they get. While the mecha in many other anime might have nothing more than a few black lines to indicate where a bomb went off nearby, Break Blade mecha get very visibly clattered and battered and degraded in battle. I mean, just look a Rygarts mech there. The cockpit is dented and scratched. The sword has been shattered to reveal the sparkly innards. The armour on the arm has been reduced to nothing more than a bit of scaffolding and a tattered piece of cloth. I’m not quite sure what that is he’s holding in his other arm to the right of the picture, but that’s sure as hell not what it originally looked like. That is what a war torn machine should look like. One that has had to fight in a pitched battled, been defeated in a duel by a scorpion bot and now had to face off against a rebellious comrade. Ah Break Blade mecha~! You turn me into a babbling fanboy.
Which is probably just as well, because the plot of Break Blade isn’t that strong. One thing I liked from the earlier episodes was the equal treatment given to both sides in the war. One side had Zess and the other had Rygart. It was an even portrayal of both sides. Now? We have our good guys Rygart and co, fighting against people who brutally wipe out unarmed villagers. Wait, what? What happened to the even treatment of both sides? Instead of Zess, we now get psychotic little girls and brutal warmongering generals who never open their eyes. Even the supposed bad person on Rygarts side, Girge, was actually a Nice Guy After All. Well, no, he wasn’t. He was a murdering prick. But that final scene was him sacrificing himself to save Rygart suggested that he really was a Nice Guy After All. Occasional side characters keep dying but I struggle to remember who they are half the time, let alone care about them dying. Who was the general that was meant to be like a father to the black girl general, Narvi, anyway? Maybe we’re supposed to care about how it would effect Narvi, but I’m having trouble swallowing that too. She’s a haughty army general with something of a crush on Rygart ever since he invited her to suck on his balls (no really, that’s what Rygart asked her to do last episode), but that is the extent of her characterisation. There was also the troupe of people following General Baldr to whatever fate he had in mind, which again we’re apparently supposed to care about. Sorry Break Blade, but the only characters I really care about are Rygart, Zess, Hodr and Sigyn.
Although, do I really care about Hodr? They’ve just sort of abandoned his character after episode 1, to the point that I’ve forgotten why he was relevant in the first place. Wasn’t the war over the fact he wouldn’t give himself up for execution or something? I can hardly even remember. In fact, I’m not even sure if I care about Sigyn that much either. Sure, we got our complementary shot of her radiant ass, and I am very grateful for that, but segments with her now feel rather forced in. Her purpose in the episode was to tell a little story from their childhood, in what felt very much like one of those Break Blade Picture Dramas. But hey, at least that part of the plot had something to do with the characters I cared about. When you’ve got this short an air time, it’s hard to make me care about characters beyond the core group. Taking into account that Break Blade is roughly the same length as a 12/13 episode TV series, none of those I’ve seen have ever been able to get me to care about characters beyond the core group (Baccano being the possible exception, and that’s a rather unique case due to its rather lack of a core group of characters).
This all gets back to the problem of Break Blade not wanting to tell the full story. It only wants to be an advertisement for the manga. Which is as frustrating as hell, but I suppose the beautifully choreographed mecha duels make up for that somewhat.