Blade & Soul - Anime Review
Revenge is Pointless
Blade & Soul is an anime spun from a Korean MMO with the same name which was recently released in Japan and yet to be released for most other languages. The story of the anime follows Alka, the last surviving member of a group of assassins, who is hellbent on taking revenge upon the woman whom killed her master. With so many other series woven with similar stories, I found that I was expecting a very different experience from Blade & Soul than what was delivered. No, it wasn't bad. It was just much more thought-provoking than your typical violence-based story.
There was one huge hurdle to get past before I could enjoy it, though – the beginning. Unlike other stories, it started very serious and nearly void of emotion, meaning it was damn near impossible to connect with the main character. Although, as the story continued, I found the entire mood actually mirrored the feelings of Alka. When she was void of emotion, the story was, too. When she was depressed, the anime took a very dark turn. And when her character was flooded with conflicting emotions... I think you get the picture. Sadly, it took nearly half the series to get past that emotionless state.
While most of the series took a very serious tone, the final episode certainly did not. The main story may have ended on episode twelve, but the thirteenth was far from an unwelcome episode which was just tacked on. It felt like the creators decided to reward us viewers with a light-hearted and humorous ending to thank us for watching their predominately dark story. The massive shift in the tone also did a fantastic job at showing how the events changed all the characters for the better.
Where most other series focus purely on the characters' actions, Blade & Soul shows us something that most stories forget – their conscience. Just looking back at a few other anime I've watched, most characters leave massive swaths of corpses behind them, but they never once stop to let their actions sink in. Alka, and many of the other characters in this series, actually experience the downsides of their actions, and change because of it. Sure, a few series look at the impact of one "important" taken life, but Blade & Soul deals with the effects on a much larger scale. I would love to explain how it does this, but that would spoil the largest twists of the story.
I also loved the review segments at the end of the credits for each episode. The entire series could be enjoyed without them, but they certainly provided more knowledge into the workings of the Blade & Soul world. None of the segments changed the way I understood the major events, but they did provide a greater understanding of how certain things worked in this twisted world for those who have not had a chance to play the game. It would be great if more game-based anime would do this type of thing.
The opening and closing songs were also fantastic. "Sonyonara Usotsuki" was catchy and fun, but "RAINBOW" was definitely my favourite, especially with the unique 2D/3D dance in the credits. It was so refreshing to have a memorable experience from what are normally boring credits. (Click on the titles above to watch them to see what I mean. Don't worry, they don't really spoil... much.)
I wish I could say I loved the animation of the episode, but I didn't. Maybe I'm just spoilt from other series, but Blade & Soul's felt choppy and lifeless. This made the characters look like paper dolls, especially when one is standing perfectly still in the background during a conversation between other characters. Maybe the series wouldn't look dated if less time was spent on the breast mechanics (which seemed to be the focus on so many scenes) and more on creating a fluid animation for the rest of the characters.
When I first started watching Blade & Soul, I really thought this was going to be one of my first reviews where I would tell everyone to stay very far away from it. Sure, the animation could have used some more work, but this series surprised me with a very deep and though-provoking story that I really enjoyed.
Although, this series will certainly not be for everyone, and with the very emotionless beginning, even those who would might enjoy this story may not be able to get far enough to do so. This makes Blade & Soul really difficult to recommend, but I really want to because after watching the entire series, I really did enjoy it. If you are going to give it a try, just be prepared for a less-than-stellar first few episodes.
Even though the Blade & Soul anime is over, the world teased in the series continues with the MMO, which the English translation seems to be finally getting completed. For more information on the MMO, visit their official website.
The Blade & Soul anime, as usual, is free to watch on Crunchyroll.