The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Break Blade

Title: Break Blade aka Broken Blade
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Xebec
Format: 6 movies; 300 minutes
Dates: 29 May 2010 – 26 Mar 2011

Synopsis: The Athens Commonwealth has begun an invasion of the kingdom of Krisna. Rygart Arrow is pulled into the conflict after finding out that his friend Zess is on one side while his other friends, Hodr and Sigyn, the King and Queen of Krisna, are on the other. While visiting Krisna, Rygart discovers that he has the ability to pilot an ancient golem that nobody else in the kingdom can pilot. Soon, he gets pulled into the battle against Athens and Zess.

The Highlights:
Animation: Generally quite good, especially during the mecha battles, which are animated with convincing heft and weight behind them.
Battles: Often genuinely exciting, except for the few occasions when overpowered mecha slaughter everything in sight.
Setting: Bland.
Characters: Blander.
Story: Blandest.

Break Blade is a test of will: Through how much dullness can a man suffer to find the rare nugget of gold? The nugget Break Blade offers shines bright, but the triad of a bland setting, story and characters make it a rough going.

Where Break Blade excels is in its visual quality. Everything is clean and sharp, and the animation is generally fluid, but it’s the mecha battles where the movies are at their best. The mecha in Break Blade battle each other with tangible heft and weight similar to the famous Iso Mitsuo-animated Unit 02 battle in End of Evangelion. These aren’t the mechanized samurai of recent Gundam series; the Break Blade robots actually strain their pilots under the gravity of physical battle. Even Rygart’s mecha — which is noticeably stronger than many others on the field — is not so overpowered that it ignores physics (most of the time). When was the last time a mecha was truly bound to the laws of momentum?

It’s that relatively fresh quality that keeps the mecha in Break Blade interesting to watch. Not just the way they battle, but also the way they move. There’s a natural feel to it, which is somewhat ironic considering the mecha are powered by magic. It might sound bizarre to say that watching the Delphine — Rygart’s mecha — leap through the air is a thrilling visual treat, but it’s often the little things that make animation so fascinating to watch.

Unfortunately, the little things are the only parts of Break Blade that compelled me to watch all six movies. From the beginning — and perhaps my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt, because I admittedly dislike a lot of fantasy — everything about Break Blade screams “Generic Fantasy!” to me, just with mecha thrown in to spice things up. The setting never really grabbed me in any way, except as decent environments for mecha battles. Otherwise, every land is basically one Generic Fantasy Kingdom against another to me.

The characters do not fare much better. They’re never developed into much more than their types — the pacifist forced into battle, the reluctant king, the general who is definitely going to die at some point, etc. At most, they trudge down paths of rudimentary character development common to their archetypes. Occasionally there is some fun to be had outside the battles. It’s nice to see Sigyn throw herself so thoroughly into her work, and Hodr’s owl is awesome, for example. Mainly, though, they are a bland bunch, and it does not help whenever several new characters are thrown into the mix at the halfway point and thus receive half the development as everyone else.

Then there is Break Blade’s story, which is mostly boring and forgettable. There are some attempts at politics throughout, where leaders will growl ominously about needing to invade other lands to snap up increasingly scarce resources, but they’re dull to sit through because they feel so separated from the actual action. It never feels like the plot development contributes to the actual stakes of each battle. The kingdoms fight, friend is set against friend, war is terrible, blah, blah, blah. It’s a familiar song, and Break Blade plays all the usual notes without much flair to go along with them.

What keeps the experience bearable is that each movie is brief — none is longer than 52 minutes — and that the major battles are for the most part exciting to watch. And despite the ending leaving many plot threads unresolved, it’s still a decent conclusion given that the manga is ongoing. The movies are worth it for action-starved mecha fans, but not so much for anyone else.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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