I love Japanese mecha anime. This was why I took a chance with director Tetsuro Animo’s “Broken Blade” aka. “Broken Blade: The Time of Awakening” - Gekijouban Bureiku bureido Daiisshou: Kakusei no koku (original title).This 6 OVA movie-episode series (each episode runs for about 50 minutes) has been adapted from the manga series written and drawn by Yunosuke Yoshinaga released on bluray by Sentai entertainment. The series is about war, its consequences, its price and how the most unlikely person and weapon can change its tide.
Note: I saw this 6 movie series in the original Japanese Language so I credited the original Japanese voice cast.
In Cruzon, everyone has the magical ability to manipulate and control Quartz, a source of mystical energy used to power everything in this planet including powering everyday things. This place has been divided between the Orlando, Krisma and Athens regions with powerful robot-like magical Golems that guard their shores. There is a lot of tension between Athens and Krisma and the regions are on the verge of war.
Rygart is a young man who was oddly born without this ability and was in turn seen as an outcast. But when an ancient Golem is discovered by Krisma, Rygart (Souichiro Hoshi) is summoned by King Hodr (Yuichi Nakamura) and his Queen Sigyn (Chiwa Saito) to see if this non-magical Golem can be piloted by such an un-sorcerer. Oddly enough, the Golem did respond to Rygart miraculously. Now Rygart must fight for Krisma’s borders that may put him at odds with an old friend named Zess (Hiroshi Kamiya). In war, old friends become bitter enemies, allies may not be who they seem and the motivations for war have suspicious motives. The final battle is about to unfold as a cruel general called Borcuse (Kazuya Nakai) takes aim to annihilate Krisma….
Japanese anime that goes into the horrific themes of war often carry an anti-war theme and “Broken Blade” is no different. The political tensions between Krisma, Orlando and Athens are mere backdrops to the series’ themes of friendship, loyalty and courage. The screenplay by Masashi Sogo concentrates on a commentary of how youths are called to fight a war, friends are put in compromising odds, and how what is taught in school is different to what really was the cause of such a war. Episodes 1-3 deals with the characterization of the main characters; as we get to know the past relationship between Hodr, Zess and Ryzart. This was a brilliant move as I thought it was necessary to have an attachment to its characters. There also some hints of hidden affection between Ryzart and Sigyn and this was obvious from their first reunion.
What I liked about the series OVA’s was the manner that the direction was able to make the stakes really high. Krisma is a region with unlimited resources while Athens may be more advanced with their Golems. It is partly a story where one seeks to dominate the other, and Tetsuro Animo was really able to make me root to one side of the struggle. Not that Zess’ was a character not sympathetic, since it was rather difficult to say which side was in the right and both sides have their reasons. It wasn’t until episode 4-6 unfolded that I really rooted for Krisma since Borcuse was just one nasty villain, and the manner with the way the Krisma forces fought against impossible odds was just awe-inspiring. I felt that they were actually fighting for each other and with characters such as Gen. Bladr (Masashi Sugawara) and the new MileNille Troop led by Narvi (Marina Inoue) to add some support to Rygart, I found myself rooting for Krisma’s cause much more than the cause Athens was fighting for.
The direction’s focus was on insanely incredible mecha battles and he does a good job in pacing the series. The battles were well placed and they served some needed emotional content in the battles. The battles were brutal, bloody and very intense. Much of the battles were staged by mechas, and the supporting infantry were visible in the struggles. Each mecha had a special quality and personality; some were built for speed and accuracy, others were built for brute force while some were unexplained such as the ancient Golem that became called as the Delphine. The mechas used swords and lances (influences of medieval knights), firearms that shoot quartz rounds, but the Delphine relied more on close combat as the ancients had once done. The mecha fights were one of the best I’ve seen since “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (ok, Evangelion was still better) and even more brutal than “Gundam” or “Blue Gender”. I loved “Robotech”, but this was a battle fought ‘in your face”, it felt more intense and personal than the high-flying battles that made that anime series a classic. The animation was successful in portraying the drama and the stakes in the battles, which made them more exciting.
The animation work was stellar and the layout were well designed. I thought this world had the look of Japan mixed in with a medieval magical timeline that used mechs for war. During the battles, the scenes of destruction and its aftermath was well thought out, as the layouts gave me the feeling of a truly horrific struggle had taken place. The soundtrack was also fitting with the series' premise as it carried words that reflected the emotions of the series. The Bluray even had subtitles for the music. The English dubbing (I checked it out) was good as it matches the subtitles when watching the series in the Japanese language (some mistakes as with "Matte" that was translated into "Look Out"). The sound effects and animation were both smooth and powerful, with the voice acting pretty much what I hoped it to be. There were no syching issues as with the English dub. However, the English dubbing was done to reflect a different mood and tone from the original language; it felt more upbeat and at times funny, while the more serious Japanese dialogue was more fitting to the film's core premise.
The characters were good and served their purpose. Alright, I have to admit that some episodes were intentionally incoherent as I saw some issues in adapting a major full-length manga series. Some characters in episodes 1-3 seemed to have been left to dry with the introduction of new characters in episode 4. Girge (Kousuke Toriumi), took the central stage in episodes 4-5 as he piloted an Artemis unit. The Krismas used the Fafnir units, and several devices didn’t make a smooth transition between episodes 3 and 4. The direction also added in some scenes to serve up titillation for the pervy teenager. The scenes with Sigyn and Cleo (Kana Hanasawa) felt oddly out of place, and was merely an attempt to expose their bare assets. I am not complaining, but I wasn’t sure how this hinted at sexual tension took precedence over the Sigyn-Rygart relationship, but perhaps another series would answer all these issues. Oh, well, it was good for a few laughs anyway.
I rather enjoyed “Broken Blade”. It was a little uneven and the transition between episodes weren’t too smooth at times, but I was really too impressed with the mecha battles to nit pick the series. I mean, these were robot battles that made Michael Bay’s “Transformers” franchise appear like a wuss, and on this alone, the 6 part series is worth watching and it gets a strong recommendation from me, especially for those who love robot fights. I have to congratulate Sentai for bringing the collection to U.S. shores with good English dubbing with excellent subtitles if you prefer the original language as I do. This is a great mecha series!
Recommended! [4- Out of 5 Stars]
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Overall it follows exactly like the manga’s story (and the fan service too!). Broken Blade Episode 1 covers from Cleo attacked Krisna, until the 2nd sortie of Dirfinge. A bit draggy for a 50 minutes episode though (thanks to some flash backs). Not gonna touch much of the storyline since many of us should have read the manga or in case you haven’t, just watch the anime and enjoy ^^. This is what I learn from previous experience, read manga/book as spoiler will only reduce the fun of the anime/movie.-Bmecha Studio: Section23 Films Release Date: 02/14/2012