A Review of Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond

Sequels can be risky. This is true in any medium, but to many, Anime has a particular reputation for dodgy sequels. Some shows see changes in production staff that rob the sequel of what made the first so great, such is the case with Psycho-Pass 2. Other times, we may never even get a sequel due to low Blu-ray sales and miss out on the closure that any good story needs.

Thankfully, some of my favorite shows have gotten worthwhile sequels, but often I just hope that whatever 12 episode show I watch ends conclusively enough that I won’t be heartbroken should it not get renewed. So it’s with great pleasure that I say that season two of Kekkai Sensen manages to continue the show strong, sticking closer to the source material without disregarding the Anime-original story that made me fall in love with season one.

The story of Kekkai Sensen has remained much the same. Leonardo Watch is still in Hellsalem’s Lot working for Libra to help keep the peace at the dangerous intersection of our world and the hellish Alterworld. He is still searching for answers regarding his All-seeing Eyes and how to return sight to his blind sister. However, Leo’s tale takes a back seat to some of the most delightful, fun and rewatchable standalone episodes I’ve witnessed in a long while.

Not a single member of Libra is left out, with the exception of Blitz T. Abrams, who sadly doesn’t make an appearance this season. Apart from Leo, Zapp got some of the most screentime last season. He doesn’t get as much this time around, but he still is just as crude and hilarious as always. This season’s main objective is to make you fall in love with the rest of Libra and it succeeds with only a few hiccups.

Episode two treats us to a flashback featuring Klaus and Steven during the Great Collapse that’s packed with tons of great action and a pretty cool villain. We also are introduced to Luciana Estevez, a young, vibrant doctor who very likely ignited many a war over who was the best girl: Chain or Luciana. That this show can highlight its main cast, introduce new characters AND make them feel right at home is the trademark of an excellent episodic series.

Steven, Chain and Zed all get a lot more love this time around. Steven’s abilities and his aesthetic always caught my eye, but it’s only now that he’s been able to really earn his coolness, with a subplot in episode three that hinted at a darker side to his character. The gods graced us with more of Chain in some subtle development throughout other character’s arcs and her own story in episode four which, in contrast to Steven’s development, reveals a softer side to her character.

I was happy to see Zed get his own episode as well, even if it doubled as a story about Zapp. It makes up for his rather sudden intro towards the end of season one. Additionally, the song for that episode, Gill Breathing Blues, is hands down my favorite of this season’s soundtrack. Finally, we also get an episode dedicated to Gilbert, Libra’s own combat butler, and another about K.K that solidifies her as best Anime mom.

Episodes eight and nine are the only two where I felt like the show fumbled. They introduced a new character, Riel. He’s supposed to be Leo’s friend, but the way they introduce him, it’s as if I was already supposed to know who he was. I spent a good deal of part one not really being invested or intrigued by his story. By the end of part two, however, I learned to like him and Leo a bit more. It was a low point, but hardly a detriment considering the show’s track record.

Speaking of Leo, the two-part season finale managed to cap off the season perfectly, without making us wait three months for the final episode. I’m a sucker for unconventionally strong main characters and Leo is one of the best I’ve seen. Whereas season one saw Leo come to realize that he is braver and more courageous than he lets on, season two is about him embracing that and further becoming a badass in his own way. Much the same with the first season, Leo’s development calls back to Klaus in some heartwarming ways, really hitting home the relationship the two characters share.

The stories this season were an absolute joy to watch, mostly due to a larger focus on the supporting cast and arguably more time spent adapting stories from the manga. There is a school of thought that the first season was somehow bad because director Rie Matsumoto’s story about Will and Mary McBeth took away from the time that could have been spent focusing on the other characters.

I disagree wholeheartedly with this notion and believe the Anime original story of season one to be one of the best things about the show. It’s direction, while cluttered, was perfect for roping me into the world and I can’t imagine Leo being nearly as interesting without that story. That being said, I am eternally grateful for this sequel for taking the time to give the rest of the cast the spotlight they deserved. As a unit, both seasons work wonderfully together as a story.

Somehow, composer Taisei Iwasaki managed to create a new soundtrack for this season that surpasses the original. It’s still an energetic mix of multigenre awesomeness. Judging by the PV for the OST below, particular songs were written with specific characters and stories in mind and shows by the way they are introduced in the show.

As for Openings and Endings, this is one of the rare times where the OP pales in comparison to the ED. Unison Square Garden returns, this time performing the opening of the show and it never really grabbed me. Not necessarily because it is bad, but just because the ED is so good. Performed by Daoko (ME!ME!ME!, Girl) and Yasuyuki Okamura (Space Dandy OP), ‘Step Up Love’ is a worthy successor to season one’s ‘Sugar Song and Bitter Step’. Whenever an episode came to a close and that song kicked in, I couldn’t hold back a smile.

My only other big complaint has to do with some of the show’s action scenes. In Sakuga, there is a term called ghosting, where the brightness or luminosity of a shot will be lowered when the images are too fast or bright. This is a law in Japan because of a Pokemon episode that caused epileptic seizures. It happens quite a few times and specifically during major action scenes. It will likely be fixed during the Blu-ray release, but it’s disappointing to watch such great work and not be able to really make out what’s happening on screen.

On the topic of Sakuga, this season once again had some incredible cuts by Yutaka Nakamura, such as the above clip. However, special mention has to be made for the work of Hirofumi Okita and Yuki Hayashi. The former contributing four cuts to the series and the latter presumably contributing nine. A brief aside, if you’d like to know who animated some of your favorite scenes in any of your favorite shows, check out SakugaBooru to find out the names behind your favorite cuts of animation.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond is one of the best shows of 2017. Its musically charged story arcs and wonderfully realized characters made every week of waiting for a new episode all the more worth it. I’m almost cautious of a third season because I don’t want to ruin a good thing. Yet, despite my doubts going into this season, it ended up treating me to the same magic that I fell in love with. It’s safe to say that wherever this show will go, I can’t wait to be there.

Hope you enjoyed the review. I’m still working on my review of RWBY but it would have been a disservice not to review this series. Interested in watching B3&B? Already seen it and want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment below and tell me what you’d like me to review next. Thanks for reading and as always, I’ll see you next time.

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