In a land without oil, they’ve had to turn to other resources to base their technology on: in this case quartz, which thanks to the innate ability of the people there to control it by thought (magic!) is proving very versatile indeed. But like all resources, it’s in short supply – and where resources run low, war is never far away…
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.
Audio for this release comes in Japanese and English 5.1 surround versions – I listened to the Japanese track for this review. While it’s not the most outstanding piece of audio work I’ve ever heard, it does the job well, with decent use of the soundstage for placement of effects, and dialogue that’s clear and easy to pick out. There were no apparent issues.
Video comes in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect. The series was created for the big screen, so you’d expect it to look pretty damned good. In terms of fluidity of the animation – especially for the battle scenes – it does, but the largely desert setting and backgrounds and some comparatively bland character designs let the side down a bit. No apparent encoding issues, though.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
The main menu features images of two different models of golem (one on each disc), with the city of Bintonen in the distance behind it, while the opening theme plays as accompaniment. Options for Play, Episodes, and Setup are provided. Extras is an added option on disc 2. There are no transition animations, so it’s all quick and easy to use.
A creditless version of the opening sequence is all you get.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In the continent of Cruzon, the people have the ability to use magic to manipulate quartz, an ability that’s come to form the basis of technology there. Rygart Arrow is a rarity: an Un-sorcerer, unable to use magic. He’s just been invited to Binonten, capital city of Krisna, by his old classmates from Assam Military Academy, Hodr and Sigyn (who also happen to be King and Queen of the nation) – and when he gets there, he finds that Assam has been conquered by the Athens Commonwealth – who now have their sights set on Krisna. Rygart may just be the key to their salvation: a mysterious Golem was recently found, one built by the Ancients that doesn’t respond to magic users. But where magic users have failed, it seems that an Un-sorceror can succeed…
The ‘ancient’ Golem seems to use what you and I would consider ‘modern’ technology – there are computer screens there, an (unspecified) power source, and other tricks that quartz-controlled Golems just can’t match. Which is handy: with Athens set on the path of war to secure future resources for itself (and having a government that seems to like making unreasonable surrender demands), war is unavoidable, and the ancient Golem may be Krisna’s one real advantage against its would-be invaders. With Rygart being the only person who can pilot it, guess where that leaves him.
Broken Blade is a series of 6 feature-length episodes – an unusual release format, but one that gives each episode plenty of time to tell its story. On the one hand, we’ve got a story about war between the nations of Krisna and Athens, featuring a selection of powerful mecha and a cast of warriors who, particularly on the Athens side, all seem deranged to a certain degree. If you like mecha combat (and I do), this side of Broken Blade should be right up your alley – there’s a good mix of straight-up combat, and more tactical thinking; and little details like the inherent brittleness of quartz play a part in how the Golems fight and where their weaknesses are. It’s the sort of small touches that I like. There’s perhaps a tendency for opposing characters to spend too long talking to each other, but by now that’s an anime tradition.
On the other hand of the show, we get a strong focus on relationships. Sigyn may have married Hodr, but it’s fairly clear right from their first meeting that she’d rather have been with Rygart – something that seems to have been noticed by pretty much everyone but Hodr. The three of them were once at military academy with another man, Zess – an inseparable group of four – but Zess now returns as the leader of the initial Athens invasion force, which causes Rygart quite a bit of anguish. Young girl Cleo – just 12, but already an elite Golem pilot – has been raised by Athenian propaganda to see Krisna as a land of cruel savages, but after being captured gets to spend time in Sigyn’s care, where she learns that the truth is somewhat different. There are others, but you get the general picture. On this aspect of the series, I’m on the fence a little: I enjoy the interplay of personalities, but there’s an abrupt change of focus mid-way through the series, as Zess and Hodr are sidelined in favour of other characters, that really wasn’t explained as well as it could have been.
There’s also a strange focus on Sigyn: definitely the female lead, she fills a role as Krisna’s tech genius – but also as the show’s primary source of fanservice. While for the most part this is a straight action series with nothing in the way of titillation, every so often you get thrown into a scene with Sigyn posing in her underwear – not the most unpleasant of sights, I’ll grant, but very out-of-keeping with the rest of the show and a little jarring as a result. There are also a few young (or young-looking) female pilots – looking at at Cleo and twintail-sporting nutjob Nike here – that also seem to be there mostly to tick a few “that’ll appeal to a certain crowd” boxes. Colour me uncertain.
Put it all together and, while the resulting package makes up for an enjoyable few hours, it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as I expected it to be. Partly that’s down to the rather strange way the female characters are handled – it just didn’t feel quite right – but also it’s a flaw with the format. 50-minute episodes also prove a bit of a failing, with the extra time being used more for added combat posturing than for actually story or character work.
While Broken Blade has its flaws, though, there’s still a lot to like about it. Not as good as it should have been, perhaps, but still easily good enough to be worth checking out.
Japanese Language 5.1, English Language 5.1, English Subtitles, Textless Opening
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Release Date: June 4th, 2012
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37” widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-22 5.1 speaker system.