(Note: Because the summary on ANN for the series kind of...well, it sucks, this is my attempt at it).
The inhabitants of the continent of Cruzon have the ability to control quartz, an ability they call "magic." Rygart Arrow, a poor farmer, is one of the extremely rare people born without magic, a person known as an "un-sorcerer." When Rygart is called to the capital of Krishna by his old friend Hodr, he finds out that the country is on the brink of war, and its best hope for survival lies in an ancient golem (robot) that only Rygart can pilot.
-- John Sato
Okay, so Break Blade is probably one of the greatest animated series ever made. It's got all the right components: awesome action, a great story, compelling characters, a cool setting, and robots. Robots are always cool, right? Anyways, before I go on with the review, I'll let you know there are gonna be a few spoilers. I'll try to alert you where they are, because this is a series I actually care about spoiling for you, unlike some other shows <*cough* Aria the Scarlet Ammo *cough*>, but I just wanted to warn you ahead of time. On we go.
So, first off, I want to expand on the premise a little bit, because I tried to keep the summary short, but thought you should understand a few things about it. Oh, and I should mention now that the names in this series, while not extremely difficult to pronounce, are almost impossible to spell. Thus, if you see a translation of a name that looks weird (there are a lot of conflicting translations), just say it out loud and you'll know which character is being talked about. Anyways. The premise of Break Blade is extremely clever; it's unique, it's interesting, and it's consistent. The first and most important thing you need to know about the setting is that there are robots, called golems. Through the use of quartz ligaments, people can make them move and do stuff. Actually, through the use of magic, people can do a lot of things, like power bikes and use coffee makers. All this adds up to create a setting rarely see in anime; retro-futuristic. This is probably my favorite kind of setting ever, because it allows for some of the most believable combinations of styles possible. There are other settings that also allow this (steampunk for instance), but I feel like retro-futuristic is the best. That's just a personal opinion though, so let me talk about just how Break Blade achieves this setting.
First off, while I call it retro-futuristic, perhaps "retro-modern" would be a better term. There are a number of familiar inventions in Break Blade. As I said, there are coffee makers and dirt bikes, there are guns (although I admit they're quite different from our own) and there are seemingly modern textiles. Of course, there are some futuristic elements to it, the most obvious of which are of course the golems. Robots automatically equal futuristic, it's a rule. Also, the Delphine (Rygart's golem, the one only he can pilot) was made by "the ancients," which implies that there was some advanced civilization that rose and fell. That actually adds elements of a post-apocalyptic setting, but I'll count it as futuristic because the apocalypse is generally considered to be a future thing. So where does the retro come from? Well, almost everything, really. The soldiers wear quartz helmets and some kind of fabric coat (I assume it's like hardened leather or something), as opposed to modern ceramics and combat vests.
|Hey wait, how'd YOU get here?|
I'm going to liken them to the Redcoats, the British soldiers who fought in the American Revolution. Much like the Redcoats, the foot soldiers in Break Blade wear fabric combat uniforms of some sort, they have some sort of headgear, they use old style guns, and, incidentally, their uniforms are also red. Similarly, the clothes, while some seem modern, have designs similar to the Renaissance period, with cravats (those things they wear around the neck) and oversized folds on the sleeves. The golems themselves, while being the primary "futuristic" element of the show, also have retro elements. The oldest elements in the series, in fact. One way to look at the golems, a way that works perfectly for what I'm trying to say, is to say that they're basically just oversized suits of armor that have proportionally oversized swords, guns, lances, shields, and so on. Ignoring the guns, then, a person inside a golem is basically a medieval knight. Indeed, golem pilots are even called "knights" in the show, solidifying this view. This was very well done; after all, what could be more futuristic than robots, and what could be more retro (while still being cool) than knights?
There are a lot of other cool things about the setting, but I don't want to spend too much time on it. Right now, I want to talk about the the three big reasons why I love Break Blade so much.
The first thing is the golems. The way I see it, there are pretty much 2 different types of mecha; unrealistic, and varying degrees of semi-realistic. After all, mecha can never be totally realistic. They aren't real. However, mecha can be believable enough that they feel mostly real. While they'll never be totally believable, or totally real feeling, they can get pretty close. To expound upon the two types: The unrealistic kind is the kind of mecha where it comes out of the boy's body, or a girl turns into a robot, or a robot is the special, hard-to-control tool designed to fight aliens. I'm not going to name names here, but I'm sure you've seen these once or twice, or at least heard of them. The second kind, semi-realistic, are the kind you find in shows like Gundam or Innocent Venus. They're believable, at least within the reality of their shows. Gundams are made out of a special fantasy metal, but at the same time their designs make it seem like they'd actually work. Golems stand firmly in the latter group, almost reaching the mythical third kind of mecha, the totally realistic ones. I'm personally not that huge a mecha fan, but I absolutely love the golems. I'll list the reasons why:
a.) Golems are made almost entirely of quartz, which is really cool. The whole concept of a mecha made of rock and not metal is in and of itself quite different. Having the golems be made of a rock really gives them a sense of being..."imposing" is the best word I can think of, although it's not quite accurate. You feel like you're looking at a big stone giant, which you kind of are. Also, stone armor and weapons hail back to the ancient times, when people would use stone axeheads and the like. Just another retro element. Anyways, it just makes the golems have this sense of being some cool, primordial basher, as opposed to some elegantly designed ceramic/metal computerized robot.
b.) The way the golems look. Nearly all the golems look the same, but unique. Every single one looks like it was built using the same designs, but each was made by different people. Nothing about the golems looks "mass-produced." The assembly line hasn't really been invented, and you can tell. Every one looks like it was built by hand. At the same time, though, they all feel well-designed, like an engineer, rather than a toy company, made them. They aren't cool mecha because they look cool, they're cool mecha because they feel cool. They feel real, like they were made by people, craftsmen, who followed designs. Also, I love how nothing looks "new." Every golem have scratches on its surface, slight flaws in its design (what should look like a straight line is actually slightly warped, for instance), and this "robust but well-used" look.
c.) Golems don't require any power source. They're basically machines operated through mechanisms (in the way a car is steered through the mechanisms that make the wheels turn when the steering wheel is turned) and kinetic energy. This is just cool to me, because nearly every other mecha either has a power source, or its power source is a mystery. The other cool thing about this is that golems never, ever explode. I'm honestly tired of seeing mecha explode. In this series, they stop when the pilot is killed.
d.) Golems are really sturdy. This is my favorite thing about them, really. It almost feels less like a robot and more like a tank. Seriously, the mechs in this show aren't the kind that explode whenever a weapon touches them anywhere. The machines get shot, bashed, thrashed, sliced, pierced, and rammed, and they still keep on kicking. Which is not to say they're invincible, far from it. It just never feels strange that they can still move after they take the beatings they do.
No really, I swear I'm not a mecha fan. But honestly, the golems are really cool. When two of them fight it feels like everything has an impact, and I mean that literally. Every hit, every attack gives you the sense that it was accompanied by a large amount of force. The way the golems fight is extremely brutal, and while this may sound a little bad, that's what makes them awesome. They're brutal, rough, heavy, and capable, and therefore cool.
The next coolest thing about the show is its fights. I already listed most of the reasons just why fights in this are so cool, but I'll state them anyways.
a.) Fights are brutal. Not so much in a stomping-a-head-into-a-curb kind of way, but in a continually thrashing and pounding on each other until they die kind of way. There's a big difference. No really.
b.) Golems stop being able to move when, and only when the pilot dies. In other words, there are no explosions to stop the fight after an arm or two is cut off; things will go on till the bitter end. This is not to imply that fights go on too long, or that people can't just be taken out like they very well should be. In fact, most of the deaths in this are from golems being shot in the chest, resulting in the pilots body being mangled (the pilot usually dies by this point). But the fact remains that golems can also get shot a lot, not in the chest (the chest houses the cockpit), and they'll still keep on moving. In other words, you kind of need to go for the kill in order to stop them. There are alternatives (knock off the head, which holds the sensor array), but they aren't easy to accomplish.
c.) Fights are intense. Golems get literally ripped apart, crushed, destroyed (like, disintegrated), and pierced through (either by a lance or bullets).
d.) The fights are well choreographed. Be it a castle siege or a one on one duel, the fights progress in a proper and engaging fashion. The castle assaults feel like actual assaults on medieval castles (not quite like sieges, mind you, but assaults), which again adds to the retro-futuristic theme. As for the duels, the individual actions throughout the fight are pretty well done, and I like how nearly every character has their own style that we get to see throughout their fights.
I'm not gonna spend too long on this, because it really needs to be seen in order to be fully understood. Just know that the fights in this, be they large-scale or small, are pretty awesome.
And now I get to talk about my favorite aspect of Break Blade, the characters. I'm going to focus on two specific characters, starting with the series' protagonist, Rygart.
Rygart is one of those few fictional characters that feels real. He is somewhat like Kyoko Mogami in that one of the reasons he feels real is because of his emotions. Rygart shows a number of emotions across the series, mostly encompassing rage, frustration, fear, nihilism, and sometimes sadness. I guess he shows happiness a couple times too, but not often. This may just be casualness, though, because Rygart is a pretty naturally happy guy. One thing to note about a series with a main character that primarily has only these emotions; Break Blade is not a very feel good story. Of course, it's not a slit-your-wrists-depressing story, but I would hardly call it "uplifting." Back to Rygart. The great thing about this character is that he not only feels real or human, but he feels real and human, while remaining a likeable protagonist. You see, Rygart is inconsistent (in his actions and words, not his character), he changes his mind, he learns and adapts, he reacts in believable ways, and he changes as grows as a person. The tagline for the manga was something like "Which to choose, my country or my friend?" While the elements with Zess (I don't want to talk about this character to much, because I don't want to spoil too much. Just know that Zess and Rygart are close friends) gradually fade away and pretty much disappear around the 3rd movie, this tagline really highlights the inner conflict that Rygart's character is constantly going through. Rygart is a coward, yet his sense of duty and honor wants him to fight. He doesn't want to kill people, but he has to in order to accomplish his goals. He's conflicted about his place in society, his inability to stop the deaths of his comrades, and his obligations to his friends versus his own desires (again, don't want to spoil anything with that last one). Also, it's not just the range of emotions that feels real, but the emotions themselves. His fear feels real, his cowardice is understandable. In fact, Rygart's aversion to conflict is probably the best thing about him. You see, Rygart is the kind of coward we can all get behind and relate with. As he says, Rygart can't even use a normal rifle. Rather than going "Oh my gosh, this Rygart guy is such a prick. Just go out and fight already, you insufferable wimp!", the audience will have reaction more like "You know what, Rygart? You're right, you should run away. Seriously, get out of here, before you get yourself freaking slaughtered!" It's a cowardice that we can understand, and it's viable cowardice. The term "cowardice" generally has negative connotations, but the fact is, people who have a good reason to be self-saving are usually treated with sympathy by the viewers. This is the case with Rygart.
There are also some perfectly executed technical aspects that make Rygart a great protagonist. Break Blade takes place in a fictional setting, and one with fantasy elements at that. For this kind of setting, a certain kind of protagonist is wanted, if not needed. A standard protagonist should be someone the audience can relate to, someone the audience can like, someone who feels natural to the story, and someone who has some kind of control over the events that happen to them. Which is not to say every protagonist should have these elements, but they're a pretty standard, solid bet. For a weird setting, the audience also needs to have some way to relate to the events on screen, something to help explain odd elements to them. This can be done in a number of ways, narration for one, but one of the most effective ways is have a protagonist who is as unfamiliar with the setting as the audience is. That way, it feels natural when things are explained to them, and it forces the explanations to be more understandable to the audience. Rygart Arrow fulfills all these conditions. Being an un-sorcerer, he's different from everyone, and in fact lives isolated from society. This instantly puts him in a position where he doesn't know much about what's going on in the world. It also makes him fairly easy to relate to. At the same time, Rygart has lived in this world for his entire life. He pretty much understands the way things in the world work, and he really feels like an inhabitant of the world. It's not easy to make a "fish out of water" character in a fictional setting who also feels real and organic to his reality, but Break Blade pulled it off. At the same time, he's a character we can look up to, and he has the ability to change his fate. Rygart is not just different, he's special. He's the only one who can control the Delphine, and simply by virtue of that he's awesome. Overall, Rygart is a great character. He has a determination that makes him admirable, a mindset and level of cowardice and fear that makes him believable, and an emotion and reaction range that makes him feel real. He's not a superhero; he's a farmer, and you can really tell. He has all the right elements, and a great amount of detail and effort clearly went into making his character.
And now for the other character I want to discuss. For those of you who have watched/read this series, at least up to the 4th movie, this character's identity should be rather obvious. For those of you who haven't, I honestly recommend that you skip this part, because I don't want you know what's coming. With that said, onto the character, Girge:
|His middle name is bad-ass|
So, Girge is one of the coolest, most bad-ass characters ever made. Before I get any further into his character analysis, let me list the reasons why:
a.) Girge can kill people whenever he feels like it.
b.) Girge is absolutely remorseless about being a killer. I don't want to spoil more major parts about his character to those who haven't seen the last three movies, but just know that he can kill someone, anyone, and won't feel bad about it no matter who it was.
c.) Girge can kill people with one finger without trying.
d.) Girge can trick, deceive, and mislead other people, but is always in control of his own situation and pretty much knows his fate.
e.) Girge can kill people by walking near them.
f.) Girge looks good. Attractiveness is always a good trait in a character we're supposed to like.
g.) Girge can kill people just by thinking about their deaths.
Notice any similarities between points?
So, Girge is a cool, awesome, do-anything, beat-anyone, always in control character. Even though he's only introduced near the end of the 3rd movie, I still feel that he deserves to be called one half of a "dual-protagonist" with Rygart. While Rygart is the more human, believable character, the one we can all relate to, Girge is the more awesome, cool character, the one we all want to emulate. Which is not to say that Rygart is never cool and awesome (he is a lot of the time, in fact), or that Girge feels like a cardboard cutout character with no depth or realism, but those are the respective greatest strengths of the two characters. Girge quickly becomes a major character and a focal point of the story, enough to the point where he truly can be considered to have reached protagonist or near-protagonist importance. There's even a scene in the 4th movie where Rygart stops and gets away from the action, at which point the focus switches to Girge dominating everyone.
What's most surprising abut Girge however, is how much you like him in spite of who he is. He should be an antagonist, but because of his character, you just can't help but like him, and you'll find yourself subconsciously trying to redeem him. I'll discuss Girge's character in slightly more detail in the spoilers section, but mostly what makes him great is how cool he is. Even I am surprised by myself at how much I like him, based almost solely on how cool he is (like I said, there are other reasons too, but it's mostly the cool).
Now on to the things that I liked about the movies themselves (as opposed to the series as a whole, i.e. the movies and the manga). Well, this being a show by Production I.G., it was likely that I'd talk about the art sooner or later. The artwork in Break Blade is pretty amazing, really:
|Pretty amazing, really|
Break Blade is fairly exceptional in that the backgrounds aren't just there to establish the scenery. They're constructed in a way that cultivates a specific mood, and this construction is done quite well. Take the above picture, for instance. There are several things you immediately notice about this picture, consciously or subconsciously. The vibrant yet faded colors give a sense of bleakness, as do the cliff and dark clouds above. The image of the lonely girl standing on the hilltop as her loved ones walk away to war helps fully set the tone of the scene, and the lone castle in the distance helps strengthen the setting. Now, I'm not an art (as in, painting) critic, and I make no claims to be. I'm just using this picture as an example to help you get a feel for what the artwork is like. Most of the time, the backgrounds and landscapes are bleak, barren deserts and wastelands (the above picture is one of about 5 instances throughout the series in which we see vegetation of any kind). The whole thing goes well with the bleak, barren prospect of having to fight your friends or an invasion force several times the size of your own.
Additionally, there are not a lot of solid color background that are so common in animated works. You know the kind, where a door to a dark place is opened, and everything outside is just solid white (to signify brightness), or backgrounds of focus lines that try to illustrate motion. Break Blade has a few of these, especially the latter, but they're always expanded upon with shots that show the scenery, perhaps from a different angle, so that you still know where everything is in relation to everything else.
The other thing about Break Blade that stands out is the animation. Again, considering who made this, not a huge surprise. The animation is overall above average, which is nice, because rock machines bashing each other looks best when nicely animated. There were a few problems with the visuals, however, especially in the editing. There are shots that lengthen time and shorten distance, which I'm going to equate to the time-expanding editing in an adventure movie. You know the kind, where there's, say, the danger of a character getting sucked into a jet propeller. He's probably fighting with someone, and they're slowly being sucked in. If you count the time in many of these kinds of scenes, the characters probably take far too long to reach the jet engine. Time was expanded through the use of editing. Break Blade does this, but not very elegantly. It's use in Break Blade is more akin to the style of time-expansion when they show the same thing happening 3 times, from 3 different angles. I personally really hate it when that kind of thing is done, with a few rare exceptions. It's like, when something should be moving to react to something happening, it's staying still. Now, for movies where usually around 20-30 of the 50 minutes are spent on action scenes, this kind of thing is forgivable, because most of the time, things do react in the proper fashion. They just don't always react in the proper fashion, and it looks weird when they don't. As for the distance increasing editing, that's pulled off a little more nicely. Things move, and then that movement is shown from the beginning again, but from a different perspective, or things move a distance or speed that should have gotten them to their destination in about half the time it did. However, I'm willing to forgive this as well, because the times it's shown repeating is usually when it might have been hard to see what was happening otherwise. As for the other offense, it has the same use has time-expanding editing (the use is generally to increase tension), and it's done well enough. Not admirable or necessarily good, but not bad.
Now I'm going to talk about the three things specific to the movies that I didn't really like. The first is the music. The music in Break Blade is kind of risky, and I appreciate that. It consists mainly of classical music, with
The next thing I didn't like about the movies is that, starting around the 4th movie, events start "skipping around" very suddenly (and very jarringly). For example, in one scene, there are these two characters talking. It's nighttime. When the scene ends, the very next shot involves one of the characters from the conversation fighting with some guy in the daytime. It happens so suddenly that it knocks you right out of the movie. You'll be sitting there, and all of a sudden this fights comes out of nowhere and you'll go "Wow, wait, what?" It's just very strange to see. Additionally, the fights feel kind of... "cut down," at least to me, an ailment that is in small part due to skipped and cut material. This trend continues throughout the next two movies as well, reaching its worst in the 5th movie. This really interrupted the flow of the movie, and that's never good.
The last thing I didn't really like about the movies was the last movie's ending. Feelings and emotions are all over the place, and it's hard to connect or latch on with any of them. The weirdest thing was Rygart at the end. I've seen the movie twice, and I still have no idea whether he's happy at the end, or actually sad, or if he's in denial, or what. I just don't know, and I would have liked the movie to make it a little clearer for me. I don't need it to straight out tell me ("Hey everybody, right now I'm sad."), but some clarification would have been nice. This is a minor point, which I'm willing to accept, if not forgive. It just annoyed me.
Okay, here we go. I'm gonna make it clear right now that I have read the manga, and I love it. I'm not a super avid comic reader, but the Break Blade comic is a masterpiece, so if you like manga, you should check it out. Also...I watched the first couple movies before I read anything, so I did watch the movies first...but I prefer the manga. I think it's better. I should also let you know that most of the following stuff is going to be complaints/observations about how different the movies were from the comics, so...yeah. Oh, and the following section is where the spoilers are, so be aware of that. Actually, you probably won't understand a lot of what I'm saying if you haven't already watched most of the series anyways, so...By the way, if you're not interested in reading the manga (although you should be), or if you don't want anything from the manga spoiled, or if you don't care about how the two were different, just skip to the end. This is all that's left before the overview.
Now then, I'll start with the things that I merely observed or was curious about.
- Why did they feel the need to make all of Sigyn's guards female, as opposed to male (like they were in the manga)? It's just baffling to me. Did they think that they needed to cultivate this idea of only women for women? Like, was this some kind of thing where they were like “Well, she's a woman, and these guards might be mistaken for personal attendants or something, so it'd be weird if they weren't women, right?” I mean, I always just assumed they were like royal guards who saw that the queen was there so they kept close to her, or something. I never really got the impression that they were her personal bodyguards or anything. I thought that them being male actually helped the setting a little, because we never see any women in the foot soldier ranks when they're actually fighting. I thought this fit with the whole quasi-oldentimes feel of things. It's like, women are still kind of considered subservient, but those with great ability (Lee, Cleo, Captain Euris, Captain Sakura) were still able to advance because of they're ability. They weren't recruited into the general soldier ranks, but those who had proven themselves able could be golem pilots. It could have even been a part of the futuristic elements, where they've determined that most women don't have the average muscle growth to make it in the army (or whatever). I don't know, it just felt oddly strained to me that those guards and only those guards were female. Mainly though, more than bothered, I'm just baffled by why they thought they needed to do this.
- It seems every time Sigyn tries to do anything, one of her guards tells her to "please wait" for no reason. She can be doing anything and it won't matter, they'll still tell her to wait.- The mild eroticism in the manga was quite overplayed the the movies. The scenes lasted longer and had more nudity. Not enough to be offensive, but enough to stand out. I understand why this was done (to try to draw the adolescent boy crowd - as if robots didn't already do that), but it bugs me, considering that the time they spent on lengthening those scenes could have been used to help other scenes flow better (and helpd avoid the "skipping" problems).
- On a semi-related note, they also changed Sigyn's boyshorts into bikinis (for the same reason, I assume).
- I would hardly call Break Blade non-violent, or say it has an aversion to blood. I'm not sure I'd call it gory, but it certainly isn't wimpy about stuff like blood. What's interesting the peculiar censorship in the movies. They kept all the blood, but they took out the bodies (normally it's the other way around). An example of this; when Lee has taken out all the guards at the top of the mine Delphine was in (you know, when Hodr runs to the top), that shot is basically a picture taken from the manga, but without the bodies. I'm just curious why they did this. I mean, the most objectionable content (the blood) is still there, but the bodies aren't. It just stood out to me.
- Parts of the dialogue in the third movie were changed, not significantly but enough to be noticed. Again, I'm just wondering why they felt they had to do this? The one part that did make sense was cutting out General True's line about how Cleo should be heavily interrogated. Since they didn't want to create too much confusion between True being a good guy and a militant scoundrel, I can understand this. Honestly, I understand the need to change things around for a movie adaption. The pacing needs to be changed a little, as well as the tense moments, so that people want to see the next movie, and so that not too much introduced in the movies is left unresolved. However, I don't feel that the dialogue changes really did this. Not a problem, just weird.
- Why did they decide to make Nico some sort of barbarian who likes to do the “hands in the air while yelling” thing all the time?
- I find it kind of strange that they had the Narvi and Rygart scene by the orphanage twice, once in the first episode around the time he leaves (it's silent), and once later, when it actually happens. I mean, it seems to be the same scene, judging from the way the two characters act, so, I dunno...
Next are a few things that I didn't like, included here to avoid spoilers.
- In the 4th movie, they really cut down the content to make the time fit, and it ended up hurting the overall story. The two biggest problems:
1.) Rygart's little “training arc” (and subsequently Captain Sakura's character) was cut down considerably. I'm not that attached to training arcs, but it was where Captain Sakura's character was introduced in the manga, and it introduced the concepts of the eastern blade.
2.) Girge's battle with Bartis, Borcuse, and that other dope with the axe who gets slaughtered, was also changed considerably. Normally, that guy with the giant axe thing (his name is Elas or something) attacks Girge, but at the same time that Bartis does. Cutting out parts of the fight just made Girge a little less awesome. In the manga, this fight took place over the course of 3 chapters, while in the movie was condensed to about 2 minutes. A slight infringement on Girge's coolness, which of course annoys me, but even from an objective point of view the scene was a little too short.
The reason for both these changes was time constraints, which I can understand and sympathize with.
- The 5th movie is where the movies starting taking large, noticeable departures from the manga, and where the skipping reached its worst. The big change was that all the inhabitants of Peggs (Rygart's village) were killed, instead of Rygart rescuing them. Also, the fight with Borcuse progressed a little differently, as did Narvi's fight with Nico (actually, a lot. It really downplayed Narvi's character, since she was just sort of quickly forced into submission and lost, as opposed to her basically winning against the odds in the manga). *super spoiler* The big fight between Rygart and Girge is also changed. In the manga, Girge, while waiting for Delphine to recharge, goes around the battlefield and kills all the enemies, and also disables Loggin's mech to provoke Rygart into attacking him. Also, Rygart admits his feelings for Sigyn, rather than denying them. In the movies, Girge and Rygart just start fighting in the middle of enemy occupied territory. Additionally, the fight cuts off far too suddenly with the attack of Colonel Io. Also, weapons have a really bad habit of just appearing throughout the episode. This was done so that the fights could stay essentially the same, despite there being slight differences in how things progressed. Because the fights in this are almost always quite awesome, I'm willing to give that a pass. However, I really don't like that they did yet another thing that stepped on Girge's character.- Again in the 5th movie, they did something to mess with Girge's character. This is probably my biggest problem with the movies. In the movies, after Rygart wins the battle with Girge, they are immediately attacked by Colonel Io. In the manga however, they are attacked after a little while by Bartis and a bunch of custom golems. In the following scene, Girge proceeds to take down 5 elite golems, 3 of them with only one arm and one leg. What's best is that this isn't a scene that is unbelievable or based on luck. It's purely through Girge's skill that this happens, and that makes him awesome. And as we all know, making a bad-ass more bad-ass is almost always a good thing.
- *Super spoiler* Girge's death scene was much better in the manga. In the manga, he dies to protect Rygart and the other squad members. You see, Girge has a little character arc, and this is the end of it. Girge comes to terms with some of his father issues, as well as his career and personality issues. He grows as a character, and you care about his death much more. In the movies, he just kind of...dies. Admittedly, he sort of protects Rygart, but in a much less meaningful, if not less tangible way.
Last, there are just some random comments.
-I love Rygart's first few fights. He's basically just stumbling around on the battlefield, and he makes it out solely through a combination of desperation, luck, and Delphine's abilities. He's not some natural prodigy; he's just some dude who happens to be the only one who can use this thing. The reason I put this here is because it's something that both the movies and the manga did really well, and because it's not large enough to be made into a full point.
- This should have been a 7, maybe 8 movie series, rather than a 6 movie one. Why? Well, it's because the manga is nearly perfect, and if they'd had a little more time, they could have adapted it a little more faithfully/closely. I understand the need to make movies try to be their own, at least semi-contained stories, and I also understand the need to try to end the movie on a “high” note, one that will bring viewers in for more. The reason this isn't that big a problem, though, is because Break Blade flows really, really well. The story elements seamlessly blend together, and you are instantly swept up in it. This is a story that has you fixated on the events that are happening right at that moment, not the events that happened earlier in the movie or even before it. What's important is to keep the audience fixated throughout. This is still possible with more drawn out 7-8 movie format. And I understand that not everything that was in the manga should be in the movie. I agree with the decision to take out the Orlando stuff. None of their characters or arcs are resolved within the “Borcuse arc” (as I'll call it), and the mini Rygatts (Rygart's younger brother) arc could still be worked in without cutting him from the Peggs part. He could be put in some situation where it's unlikely he survived, but he did. The same story elements apply. He could be endangered by Borcuse crushing a wall or something, and Rygart's could get angry and stuff. Additionally, I agree with the decision to leave the Wild troops out, since they weren't part of their original story with Girge anyways (they were the 5 golems he destroyed). My point is, they cut out a lot of stuff from the manga that wasn't necessarily required, but if included would have increased the series' strength (and length, which is why they were cut in the first place). Honestly, if they had made this a 7 movie series and included more stuff, especially Girge's stuff, I would have had no choice but to give this show a 10/10.
- The one thing never explained in either the movies or the manga is how Rygart can speak through speakers in his mecha all of a sudden (happens around the end of the 4th movie). There are a few points where it's heavily implied he speaks, and there are even a couple times in the manga where he holds a direct conversation (though it's possible he left the cockpit momentarily). He even does it in the 6th movie. He never speaks in battles though, at least that we can hear from outside the mecha. So what's the deal?- The last thing to talk about is that last aspect of Girge's character I mentioned. This aspect is his interactions with Rygart. Break Blade also has strong character interactions between the two main characters. It's a little different in Rygart and Girge's case, however. Much like Kyoko and Mouko, Rygart and Girge start out as less-than-allies. In fact, the first time they meet face to face is while fighting each other. What so good about them, however, is that they never really become true "friends," strictly speaking. They gain some sort of mutual respect for each other's abilities, but they're pretty much at each others throats, almost until Girge's death (and all the way to it in the movies). What makes their interactions, or rather their relations, with each other so great is the way they change. The changes in the two's opinions of each other are extremely subtle, yet instantly understood. The slight change in facial expressions, the way the two talk, everything is barely even noticeable to the conscious self, yet the subconscious self notices almost instantly. Once again, while the core of this is kept intact by the movies, it is done better in the manga.
Overall, Break Blade is really a pretty good adaption of the manga. I'd say it's about 80%-90% accurate, and despite the changes, the overall purpose and feel of scenes was kept. The above complaints are almost all less "problems" and more "annoyances."
Overall: Break Blade is an excellent series. It has awesome action, cool mecha, believable characters, a cool setting, and a mostly good story. While it suffered a bit from time constraints that forced it to drop some elements present in the manga, it still retains its qualities well.
Plot/Story: 8/10 A good story. The manga was slightly better, but of course you knew I'd say that. The ending felt a little disjointed, and a few sections where it skipped around made things confusing. Overall, though, a good story, and one detailed enough that people who like watching shows for their stories will enjoy it.
Characters: 9/10 Great characters, especially the protagonists. I especially liked the way that not only most of the "good guys" (Rygart and the people from the country he fights for), but also most of the "bad guys" (their opponents) were developed.
Music: 6/10 The music in Break Blade had its heart in the right place, but didn't quite deliver. The excellent classical music was overshadowed by choir music that didn't quite work, and in many instances the music didn't fit quite right. I feel like a different music composer would have solved a lot of the problems.
Sound Effects: 10/10 It feels a little weird for "Sound Effects" to get a 10/10 - after all, they are just sound effects - but I can honestly give this rating to Break Blade. Everything sounds great, and even better, appropriate. The sound effects really enhance the golems; whenever one of them steps, it not only looks like a very heavy, stone object landed on the ground, it sounds like it. Whenever an air gun shoots, a sword is deflected by a shield, or a golem falls to the ground, the sound really makes you aware of it. Very, very well done.
Voice Acting: 9/10 The voice acting is this was quite good. I personally felt like Souichirou Hoshi did an excellent job with Rygart, and Girge's VA (Kousuke Toriumi) also performed admirably. Whenever I see a character from Break Blade, I think of their VA's voice as their voice, which is always a good sign. Nearly every voice feels like it matches the character, and the line delivery was good too.
Art: 10/10 The artwork in Break Blade is superb. The backgrounds and landscapes look like they were painted, the characters are all drawn well and are kept very consistent, there are a lot of little great visual details (the wear on golems or the tattered parts of Girge's coat, for instance), and the mecha look great. Everything is overall pretty awesome art-wise. A very nice looking series indeed.
Animation: 8.5/10 The animation in this is quite good. Although it happens a few times, having static objects in the background is pretty much avoided. Not much else to say, really. The kind of quality you'd expect from Production I.G.
Rewatchability: 7/10 It's good for a few multiple viewings, spread out over time. The action, art, and mecha are all great, and the story isn't bad, even if it's not perfect.
Anime Rating: 9/10 I'd recommend Break Blade to anyone who likes good action, cool mecha, well made characters, or an interesting premise. The story is also good enough to draw people in. If you like any of the above things and don't mind the 50 minute runtime, I highly suggest you go out and watch the series.
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