The whole Hellsalem’s Lot gang is back for more mayhem and chaos in this second helping of the supernatural action series, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond (Kekkai Sensen & BEYOND). Of course, in the usual Kekkai Sensen fashion, Season 2 turns everything up to eleven, with more high octane anime battles, more characters, and even more plot holes than a piece of swiss cheese! Despite many of the series’s shortcomings, there were some definite improvements this time around, so sit back and relax as we dive into the second season of Kekkai Sensen!
Right, so for those of you just joining the party, I highly recommend giving our season 1 review of Blood Blockade Battlefront a read to avoid any ickle spoilers… But, if like me you just like watching the world burn, here’s a brief overview of the series proper:
Three years prior, a portal connecting the Earth with another dimension opened in the center of what used to be New York City. The city becomes a veritable melting pot of supernatural goings-on and normal everyday city life, but when the fragile peace between the supernatural and mundane is threatened, it’s up to the members of Libra to set things right. Can this eclectic group of superhumans and hitmen maintain the peace in the strangest city in the world? Or will they cause more problems than they solve? (It’s both…seriously)
Plot & Story
Season 2 takes place a few months after the first, with life much the same for Leo and the rest of the Libra crew. Honestly, this whole season could be viewed as a standalone series, since there really isn’t much in the way of an overarching storyline: supernatural shit happens, Libra shows up to put a stop to it, and everyone goes back to minding their business until the next threat arises. It’s the same episodic format we got in Season 1, but where it focused primarily on Leo and an anime-only storyline (that I absolutely could have done without), Season 2 takes the time to flesh out the rest of the cast with individual character-specific episode arcs. I’ve said this time and time again, Kekkai Sensen has a very diverse cast that was noticeably underutilized in the first season, so it was about damn time the series gave them their time in the spotlight! Hell, the character specific episodes were arguably the best thing to come out of this season! Each arc was better than the last, giving viewers an intimate look at the characters that up until last season were little more than background dancers, there to look pretty but ultimately easily overlooked. The biggest standouts this season were invisa-wolf Chain, gun-toting badass KK, and oddly enough, combat butler Gilbert. Let’s face it, all of them were little more than elevated extras in the previous season. But, trust me, everyone (except Zapp, whose ass gets more than enough screen time, thank you very much) gets a chance to strut their stuff.
So, the elephant in the room, the plot. Let’s be completely honest with ourselves for a sec, there is no plot! Underline it, highlight it, circle it if you have to, because it’s an element of the series that carried over from Season 1. So, if you aren’t a fan of wildly shifting narratives and inconsistent storylines, then you should stop reading now and go check out one of the other Fall 2017 offerings because Kekkai Sensen (in general) will just piss you off with the sheer level of plot divergences. But, Season 2 takes it to the next level by teasing us with the prospect of exposition only to pull the rug from under our feet at every turn and laugh at us for even daring to hope for any semblance of a proper resolution. Don’t get me wrong, there are some pretty big reveals in this season, namely about the events surrounding the Great Collapse and Leo’s All-Seeing Eyes of God, but contrary to what the promotional material for the season will have you believe, these reveals weren’t game changers. But, despite that, the series has some very genuine moments, which are usually immediately followed by something comedic or violent, it varies from episode to episode.
Art & Music
More scenery porn courtesy of anime studio Bones! There is this one scene that takes place beside a beautiful lake surrounded by lush foliage, and it is pristine! I mean the cityscapes are top notch, but the nature shots are beyond breathtaking! I mean, shit you not, it looked like one of those paintings you’d find hanging in your grandmother’s living room, rather than a scene in an action anime.
The character designs are much the same as they were in the first season, but with a bit of a wardrobe upgrade for some folks. Rather than seeing them in their battle gear 24/7, we get to see much more believable casual outfits. On the flip side, Season 2 decided to dabble into the ol’ nightmare fuel territory and it was absolutely terrifying… But, thankfully, those characters were few and far between, with the majority of the otherworldly characters falling more within a safe middle ground; just outlandish enough to be exciting, but relatable enough to not alienate audiences.
This season contained the same musical fluidity apparent in the first season, heavy on the jazzy instrumentals and upbeat high energy pop beats. The opening, ‘fake town baby’ by Unison Square Garden, couldn’t have been more perfect, the lyrics perfectly encompassing the spirit of what the series is all about. It’s confusing, it’s energetic, and it’s oddly captivating. The ending theme, ‘Step Up Love’ by DAOKO x Yasuyuki Okamura, didn’t wow me like last season’s ending theme (that song is currently my wake up alarm), but it was still a rather upbeat song that again was very fitting with the overall tone of the series.
Themes & Trivia
Darker and Edgier: While the overall appeal of Kekkai Sensen is the lighthearted supernatural hijinks and over the top action, this season was noticeably darker than the previous one. Our always optimistic protagonist Leonardo Watch has more than one crisis of confidence, usually brought on by his guilt over what happened to his sister. It gets so bad that at one point that he questions if there is any point to even trying anymore. Then there’s the whole situation with the final arc villain who makes all of the series’s other antagonists look like pushovers… that guy, legit gives no fucks.
A Day in the Life: There were quite a few departures from the plot so that the story could focus on fleshing out some of the supporting members of Libra. Characters that were once relegated to background noise, were given full-blown backstories, and in some cases, families. It really humanized some of the more one-dimensional characters from the first season (ie. KK and Zedd).
Life Goes On: Despite all the events that occur throughout the series, nothing really changes for the members of Libra and the residents of Hellsalem’s Lot. Supernatural hijinks will continue to plague the city and Libra will continue to work to keep shit in line.
Watching Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond is like getting Rickrolled over and over again. You know it’s coming, but you still keep hoping that Rick Astley won’t start crooning in his soulful voice when you click the play button. He always does.
However, the plot (or lack thereof) doesn’t seem to have been all that important this time around. Like I mentioned earlier, this season was all about the characters rather than providing a resolution to any of the mysteries the series set up. But, that’s the point. The story isn’t important, it’s all about the journey, those little moments that come together to tell the story of Hellsalem’s lot and all the crazy things that happen there. Is it a linear narrative? No. Is there one clear-cut antagonist? Nope. So, why expect the story to progress that way? Sometimes there just isn’t any rhyme or reason, sometimes shit just happens.
The Strangest City in the World
- Character development for supporting cast
- Phenomenal soundtrack, special nods to the opening theme
- The scenery porn. God, the backgrounds are gorgeous
- Plot? What plot?!
- Traded plot for character development (not really a negative unless you were expecting some grand reveal in the finale)
The final verdict: Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond is a clusterfuck of an anime series with phenomenal characters and an interesting premise. But, the lack of a clear-cut story and a noticeably absent resolution will piss off most audiences. This is one of those anime that you can’t take too seriously, otherwise you lose sight of the story it’s really trying to tell. Kekkai Sensen isn’t trying to tell a story with a well-defined beginning, middle, and end. Instead, it’s merely a snapshot of a moment in time in the lives of a group of characters living in the strangest city in the world! So, if you can put up with all the messy bits, this is a really fun series and definitely worth a viewing!
Blood Blockade Battlefront and Beyond
Fall 2017 | Anime Info