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BlazBlue: Alter Memory Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

BlazBlue alter Memory DVD BD CoverFive hours that I won’t be getting back.

What They Say:
Long ago, an insidious black beast sought to obliterate the human race, but the monster was defeated by a valiant Band of Heroes wielding the power of Ars Magus: a potent combo of magic and technology. Now, a roguish outlaw known as Ragna the Bloodedge seeks to wreak havoc upon the Librarium, a clandestine organization that governs Ars Magus. Armed with the mighty Azure Grimoire, Ragna quickly becomes the target of vigilantes, scientists, vampires, and Librarium foot soldiers. As he spirals toward a violent showdown with the maniacal Hazama, Ragna will discover just how closely his fate is tied to the future of our world!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is rather straightforward as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the English language mix, one that doesn’t get the 5.1 bump. That’s a surprise considering the amount of action in it and the name recognition value. Both mixes are done with the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec and represent the show well with a solid forward soundstage presentation where it moves effortlessly across it and with some good depth in a number of scenes as well with the way the action plays out. The overall design of the show is a standard action-oriented piece and those areas use the whole stage well with plenty of directionality throughout and a good approach to make it feel like there’s some impact with some of the sequences. Dialog works in a similar manner when it comes to the action, but elsewhere it’s your fairly standard mix without any bells or whistles for the most part to allow it to stand out. Dialog is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second. Animated by teamKG and Hoods Entertainment, the series has a very good look about it overall. Colors are strong with some good range to it and there’s a lot of variety due to the number of outfits and locales that the series takes place in. The detail in the backgrounds is well kept with little in the way of noise or breakup there, and the more solid areas of the character animation or the movement pieces are problem free for the most part. There’s a little noise in some of the darker sequences, but it’s minimal overall and negligible for most viewers I’d suspect. The series is one that definitely looks like it put its budget on the screen in a good way.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case with an o-card over it that replicates the case artwork, just in a brighter and cleaner look due to the materials. The front cover is your standard group shot with the main cast in varying sizes that are ringing out from the logo along the bottom, which is a busy and colorful piece overall. The character artwork looks good here and there’s a nice color mix to it, but it also blends a bit with the shadowed background so some of it doesn’t stand out as well as it could. The back cover goes with the same darkened background with some different character images along the right to provide some color and quality. The left breaks down the premise as well as the discs extras while underneath we get the standard selection of shots from the show. The technical grid breaks things down cleanly and clearly for both formats in an easy to read format with the white on dark blue/black. The reverse side of the cover features the episode breakdown on the left by number and title as well as the extras while underneath is a further breakdown of what format/discs has what. The opposite panel provides a good image of Ragna in full-length form set against a white background that lets him stand out. No show related inserts are included.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works the familiar design that FUNimation uses with the majority of it given over to clips from the show playing out with some good color design choices picked and a good flow of motion to keep it moving and interesting to watch. The center top has the logo across it, which certainly does break up the animation itself awkwardly at times while the navigation strip is a bit above the bottom. That’s done with basic blues for the background of it while we get white text with a red selection tab. It’s a smooth looking menu and it gets the job done, but it doesn’t excite too much or set the mood and atmosphere of the show as well as it could.

Extras:
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the games BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, BlazBlue: Alter Memory is a twelve episode series that aired in the fall of 2013. FUNimation simulcast the series at the time, but I didn’t see it, making this my first experience. With animation by teamKG and Hoods Entertainment, and retaining the dub cast from the games themselves, the series is one that’s definitely done up right for fans of the franchise as it gives them what they want in seeing their characters continue and do all sorts of things. I’ve watched a lot of game to anime conversions over the years, some that adapt faithfully within context, others that adapt poorly and then those that expands on the overall universe and adds something new, even if it is a lead-in or an epilogue to a particular set of games.

With BlazBlue: Alter Memory, I have no idea what just happened.

Seriously.

After watching the five hours that the series runs, give or take on the exact minutes, I’m no more aware of what’s going on here than I was before I watched it. And I knew nothing going into it other than the game itself. I kept coming away from the episodes flummoxed by it and not sure what it was trying to do. The BlazBlue games have a pretty detailed world that they exist in, much like many of the games out there in recent memory that have to do some serious world building, and even more so for the JRPG side, and you can see those big, bold, strokes here as the series progresses and we see the various areas and the cast that moves through it. There’s a lot of different sides at play and some seemingly ancient stories at work here with people that have designs on altering the world and replacing the old god with the new god – something that only becomes relevant (or even mentioned) in the last couple of episodes as the two main characters battle it out.

The fight between Ragna and Yuki is one that’s set up early, but it’s given little in the way of context. Even worse in a way is that after throwing a lot of big moments at us in the first episode, Ragna ends up spending most of the first half of the series either wounded and recovering or just wandering around a bit while dealing with the array of women that keep inserting themselves in his life. Some of which have reason to do so, to be sure, but others that just feel like add ons – such as the obligatory catgirl character whose face we never see. None of this makes Ragna an accessible character and we know more of him by his reputation from others than we do from the character himself. And as it progresses on, it doesn’t really add much of anything to it since he seems to be in a state of confusion most of the time as to why events are playing out, why things aren’t what he thinks they should be, and then dealing with trying to save people that we’ve not been given anywhere near enough to really register their importance over.

A lot of this series as it got going began to feel like a lot of technobabble than anything else, and particularly during the end fight between Ragna and Yuki. I swear I was just waiting for someone to start talking about Tachyon’s so I could tie it all into Star Trek: The Next Generation and win at my technobabble bingo card.I can easily believe that the majority of what’s dealt with here makes a lot of sense in-context to the game, but the problem I had is that the series never did a good job in making it accessible to people new to it. It threw a lot of concepts at the start to establish things, but in a poor way that kept it from connecting because it was like a mini flood and you weren’t sure what was relevant. And then as it progressed and characters were kept barely one-dimensional, it all collapses under its own way.

In Summary:
This is the kind of series where after I watch it I realize that it’s meant for the fans and that’s it. Which is fine. Some shows can pull that risk off to great reward and still be accessible to non-fans with a little bit of effort. BlazBlue: Alter Memory provides no context for the bulk of the events, the world setting or the characters, and that just left me watching events play out on the screen. It’s pretty good looking throughout with some good animation, action layout and choreography and the general world design that comes from what the games themselves established. I ended up coming away from this show pretty dispirited because of the way it played out as I kept hoping that things would click at some point. But with the various fumbles and flaws and the cascading effect of it all, the series just lost me the further it went and delved into itself. Fans of the game are likely to enjoy the show a lot, and FUNimation put together a good release here especially in bringing back the same cast, but for me it just fell apart hard and was an extremely frustrating experience.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: D
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 21st, 2015
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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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