By Roxy Simons.
A new century approaches, and the whole world waits in anticipation to see what the New Year will bring. Having suffered through not one but two magical wars, the god-like governing group the Novus Orbis Librarium (NOL) want to maintain their power, but the existence of the powerful warrior Ragna the Bloodedge, aptly nicknamed the Grim Reaper, puts everything at risk with his powerful “Azure Grimoire” ability. To stop him from getting in the way of their plans they put the largest bounty they’ve ever had on his head, and soon a ragtag group of fighters all line up to take a shot at him.
Starting its life as a 2D arcade fighting game by Arc System Works, the Blazblue franchise has been a consistent hit since it was first released in 2008. Blazblue: Alter Memory is the game’s only adaptation on the small screen and is a compact retelling of its first two outings: Calamity Trigger and Continuum Shift. Following Ragna the Bloodedge on his quest through the town of Kagutsuchi, it quickly becomes apparent that he’s plagued by his traumatic past and the dark presence of the NOL and trickster Terumi. Desperate to find out what happened to him, and why his brother betrayed him and let his sister be taken away, he’ll go to any lengths to find out the truth, no matter who he has to fight.
Trying to fit the storylines of two games into a 12-part series was never going to be easy, and by its climax it feels like we only got to see the tip of the iceberg. The characters he interacts may be familiar to those that played the games, but for others it’s harder to grasp their relationship to the lead, or –really– their relevance to the plot. Perhaps it’s because there are so many points to reach in the story that it ends up feeling disjointed overall.
Of course, if the plot isn’t something that concerns you then you’re in luck because the anime is at its best when two characters go head-to-head. In its original medium every character had four attacks, each varying in strength, and these moves are recreated in the anime to great effect. Attacks like Ragna’s BlazBlue combo assault and his brother Jin Kisaragi’s sword-fighting skills and ice magic are particularly well illustrated.
It’s in the anime’s final episodes that the series turns the fighting up a notch and forces Ragna to engage in a ‘boss battle’ like no other. It’s exhilarating to watch as characters rise and fall, their fights hitting hard on both sides as Ragna tries to come to terms with his past and joins forces to stop the end of the world. For an anime about a fighting game BlazBlue: Alter Memory is a decent action thriller, the story may get confusing at times, but this seems to mainly be because of its target audience, who, surely, will enjoy this fast-paced adaptation.
BlazBlue: Alter Memory is released on Blu-ray.
This is a Funimation title being distributed by Anime Ltd / All The Anime in the U.K.