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Broken Blade Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

The fate of a nation rests in the hands of an outcast man and an ancient machine.

What They Say:
In Cruzon, children are born with the ability to control quartz. This power allows them to levitate simple objects – or control enormous and complex mobile battle suits called Golems. But when an ancient Golem is discovered during the height of a brutal war, a young king and his beautiful queen turn to Rygart Arrow. Though an “un-sorcerer,” Rygart can miraculously pilot this ancient and powerful weapon. But in war, school friends can turn into bitter enemies and allies have suspicious motives.

Contains episodes 1-6.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release has the English and Japanese tracks done up in DTS-HD MA in 5.1 lossless which helps to really drive home the mix. There’s a lot to like with this regardless of the language you choose as the music and effects track alone is very strong. While it has some good surround material to it during key moments, it really shines with the strength of it forward soundstage mix that runs across it with excellent results and some great scenes involving the change in how dialogue is presented, such as going from inside the Golem’s to outside. The action is where the show shines the most, really giving weight to the Golem’s attacks, but it also handles the subtle moments in very good fashion and delivers an engaging sound mix throughout.

Video:
Originally released in 2010 and 2011, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is six episodes long but they’re the equivalent of two episodes each so it’s a standard twelve episode show with high production values. It’s spread across two discs with four on the first and two on the second. The production really looks fantastic here with a lot of detail, great backgrounds and a really well done level of animation that just has quality oozing out of it. It’s the kind of show that really reminds me of how a top level production can go when it puts the effort into it. While there are plenty of quiet scenes, it doesn’t feel like we’re just getting a handful of action scenes where all the money went while the rest tries to cut corners. It’s simply strong throughout and knows how to look. The transfer captures all of this wonderfully with high bit rates that results in a near flawless transfer. There’s bound to be a couple of small problems here and there, but it’s so minor compared to the overall view that it’s negligible.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is a standard Blu-ray case that holds the two discs included against the interior of it, so no hinges are used. The cover art for this is pretty good though not exactly an eye grabber as it features a side shot of a serious Rygart along the left while the background has a look at the Golem he uses in it, which is kind indistinct at first glance, especially with the sunset against the mountains behind it which is also fairly indistinct until you get closer to it and look at it more seriously. The back cover sells things a bit better with more varied use of color and characters against a simple background that helps to let it all stand out. The tagline works well and the summary covers the basics in solid fashion, making it engaging without overselling it. The shots from the show work well and the artwork chosen definitely hits the right spots. With a clean set of production credits and an accurate and well laid out technical grid, it hits all the bases just right and without problems. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is simple and effective in a way that fits the show without going too big. It uses a pair of static screens, a different one for each disc, but it’s good artwork like the front cover. And when used in this form, the Golem is much clearer and more cleanly defined which helps it stand out much better. The navigation strip along the bottom, which also doubles as the pop up menu, uses a simple block method with the episode numbers in a big fashion while also included the episode title in a smaller font. The whole thing is straightforward and easy to use while setting the mood well without going over the top. Submenus load quickly and everything has a smooth feel with no problems other than defaulting to English with sign/song subtitles instead of our players’ language presets.

Extras:
The only extra included with this release is a clean version of the opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the still ongoing manga series of the same name by Yunosuke Yoshinaga, Broken Blade is a six episode OVA/min-feature series from Production IG and Xebec. The manga series saw its first three volumes released in North America from CMX before they closed up shop and that license has been in limbo ever since. Which is a shame as this release could definitely inspire people to want to check it out. Going into this show, I had known nothing about it, which I try to do with as many shows as I can so I can experience it without prejudice, and by the end of the first episode it was already angling for an “A” grade. And it just kept reinforcing it with each episode with what it did.

Looking at this as an overly long movie or a two part movie if you prefer when you remove the credits and the like, Broken Blade tells a thoroughly engaging story while in a lot of ways dealing with just the surface and not digging all that deep. The fantasy series, which could also be a science fiction series depending on how the history of it works out, deals with a number of of small countries along an extended island where there’s been a lot of back and forth over the centuries. While there is a mild fantasy element to it in its designs with the feudal nations and so forth, it also has a level of technology to it that isn’t exactly a gimmick but isn’t dealt with in too much detail. People of this world are able to manipulate machinery that’s infused with quartz, a sort of telekinesis that lets them power coffee makes by touch as well as vehicles and even some powerful mecha that are used to defend individual lands.

Into this setting we get to focus on the land of Krisna wherein we meet Rygart, a man in his twenties who has been called to the capital to meet with the king. Years earlier, he and King Hodr went to school before where students came from all the lands and they became friends, as well as with Zess from the land of Athens and Sigyn, a young woman who ended up becoming Hodr’s wife while focusing heavily on advancing the quartz technology. While Rygart has been on the outside for years, there’s still a good friendship. It’s not a wedge between him and Hodr and Sigyn, but what has held Rygart back all these years is that he’s unable to manipulate the quartz technology, which has kept him from being able to function in a lot of ways with devices and machinery.

With an interesting backdrop such as this, we learn that things are more unstable than they first appear as Krisna is being caught in the middle of an attack orchestrated by Athens against the other neighboring country of Orlando, which appears to have gone through Krisna and Athens believes that they’re involved in it rather than unaware. And Athens intends to conquer Krisna because of it, as we see some things relating to the state of Athens itself and more. It’s an interesting setup for the series as it puts Rygart into the position of having to use one of the Golem’s to help defend the nation. But the Golem he gets to use is one that was discovered recently deep underground that doesn’t use quartz like the others. It’s in it but those who manipulate the quartz can’t use it, so it ends up under the rough and tumble style of Rygart as he copes with being asked to do all of this.

While it’s basic when you get down to it, it’s the execution that really lets this work well. By dealing with characters that are older rather than the usual teenage gang, it has a more mature feeling as it doesn’t delve into the whole relationship quagmire. By dealing with established relationships and showing us some of where they were in school, we see how they’ve largely dealt with it and moved on, though not without some fond memories and thoughts of what if in a very restrained way. The show deals with a lot of characters beyond this group and again, it focuses on the here and now, and there are definitely sacrifices along the way that feels natural and not gratuitous which is important as well. With Rygart as the lead, more is shouldered on him, but even his arc doesn’t feel like it’s bad as he copes with what he’s been asked to do and what he has to deal with. It hits familiar notes to be sure, but it all has the right theatrical note to it that it manages to work and work well.

What also sells this series so well as the animation itself. It has such a great look about it even as it deals largely with barren landscapes and the like that it really drew me in thoroughly and kept me engaged. The Golem’s are well done though familiar in their overall design, but it’s the way they move and the detail to them as they fight. There’s a real sense of weight and power behind them, especially Rygart’s model, that it feels like a natural part of the world and not a tacked on piece. The show starts big and does this in each episode with action and the overall designs that it doesn’t feel like it’s skimping at all. And the character designs are just as strong as they have a good sense of movement and detail about them. The outfits work great, there is a rather consistent military feel that’s often glossed over in series like this and with the few female characters that are out of uniform, it has a great sense of sexuality that’s mixed with an obliviousness to it that lets it play the fanservice level without being blatant in a way that can turn you off from it.

In Summary:
Sometimes a show comes along that just fires on all cylinders and hits it out of the park on a number of different levels. Broken Blade just did everything right for me, feeling a little bit like Escaflowne with its world design and how the characters are set up, but working with them in their mid twenties instead which gives it a very different feeling. It’s superficial in a way as it doesn’t get into the guts of the characters, but it shows a very engaging snapshot of this period in time, the world they live in and what they have to do to try and survive and protect their country. It’s given enough context to work but it also does a lot without words, just letting looks and understood feelings come to the surface to be scratched. With a great looking release with a strong audio presentation, Broken Blade comes to life beautifully here and doesn’t hold back. Very highly recommended.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening

Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 21st, 2012
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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