Anime Review: Blassreiter (Part 1)

In a fictional modern day Germany, a new terror has emerged as bio-mechanical zombies called “Demoniacs” reek havoc on the unsuspecting masses. The XAT, Xenogenesis Assault Team, fight the Demoniacs in an attempt to keep the people safe and to figure out where these monsters are coming from.

Enter Gerd Frentzen, a prized motorcycle racer who’s suffered an accident that will paralyze him and end his career for sure. Left with no other option, he takes an experimental drug to regain feeling in his legs. It works, but the side effect is that it turns him into a Demoniac himself.

Unlike the other Demoniacs, Gerd is not dead, he’s still alive. So he becomes of interest to the XAT as a test subject and a weapon against other monsters. But as Gerd’s personal life falls apart in front of him, will he be able to stay a hero to the human race, or will he succumb to the bio-mechanical beast he’s turning into?

Over a year ago, Blassreiter made anime history for being one of the first titles to be simulcasted around the world via legal internet distribution. Many folks doubted if the simulcast idea would work out or if it could possibly hurt the chances of the show seeing a proper American release.

Well, twenty months later, the simulcast trend is still going incredibly well, and Blassreiter has finally seen an R1 release with the first 13 episodes in this two disc box set. So how does this landmark series stand up?

Studio Gonzo made a name for itself when it debuted in 1998 with the Blue Sub no. 6 OVA series. Blue Sub featured a spectacular blend of photo-realistic 3D CGI mixed with traditional 2D animation. They manage to recapture that same amazing look five years later in the 2003 TV series Last Exile.

Gonzo attempts to do it again with the 3D/2D blend of Blassreiter, but it doesn’t quite work so well at it did in the previous series.

Some of the CGI looks fantastic. The 3D rendering of the bio-mechanical monsters looks pretty sweet, and the fast paced fighting sequences between them comes off with all the action and flair of an epic Dragonball Z battle. Also, the CGI of the motorcycles at the beginning of the series are incredibly detailed and shine in all their polygonal glory.

But for for every awesome looking computer generated image in this series, there are many eyesores that look like some 3D Playstation game from the 90′s. This is probably the most obvious with the way they render cars and and other four-wheel vehicles. These blocky plastic toy cars just completely take you out of the hyper-real experience that the 2D/3D fusion is supposed to create. I probably created better models in my “Intro to 3D Animation 101″ class back in the day.

On top of the visual eyesores is the mediocre storyline that goes with it. There’s nothing particularly spectacular with this plot, it’s horror-action-monster fluff. The characters aren’t particularly that good or interesting, so you don’t really care who lives or dies with all the blood shed going on. And even the little bits of fan service and nudity doesn’t seem to have any appeal either.

I also suspect that the voice actors knew that this script was not worth their time and effort either, because the English acting is horrible. The Japanese cast is actually able to put a little personality into each character, but for some reason, the English cast sucks all life and heart out with their dead pan delivery. I bet the only direction the ADR director gave to the actors was, “just say the damn line so we can get this over with and move on to something better.”

Bad acting, bad script, bad CGI… this is a really bad series!

… and yet I actually enjoyed watching it.

Blassreiter is bad like a B-rate Hollywood monster flick is bad. It’s cheesy, it’s pointless, and it’s got lots of blood, gore, and the occasional explosion. But there’s a certain campy charm to that, and I genuinely found these 13 episodes to be entertaining and worth watching for those reasons.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that this is not going to be an award winning series by any stretch of the imagination. But if you want a mind-numbing way to waste a few hours watching monsters and machines duking it out, Blassreiter is not a bad way to go.

* * * * *

The Good: Some amazing looking CGI rendering and action sequences.

The Bad: Some awful looking CGI rendering. Crappy English acting. Crappy story.

Final Verdict: Blassreiter has the class and cheese of a B-rate Hollywood monster flick, but it’s somehow charming and genuinely entertaining that way. Watch it.

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