What They Say:
To enroll at Areisha Spirit Academy, where young priestesses learn how to form contracts with Spirits, the ideal prospective student has always been pure, chaste, and of a superior lineage. And female, of course, since only one man has ever made a Spirit contract and HE was the Demon King.
So when Kamito Kazehaya arrives at the Headmistress’ request, the entire Academy is understandably thrown into chaos and confusion. Because not only is Kamito very obviously a guy, but he also managed to form a Spirit contract in the short time it took him to walk through the woods surrounding the Academy! How is this even possible?
And what other secrets might the new enrollee have hidden? The unexpected intrusion of something male is certain to work the female student body into a tizzy as the answers are revealed in Blade Dance of the Elementalers!
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track only which is encoded in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is a pretty active one and makes good use of the forward soundstage to do what it wants to with a lot of action throughout and some big and fun dialogue moments with how the cast interacts. The action works across the soundstage with both channels well as there’s some good flow to how it moves which is captured well and definitely has some decent impact. When aided by the swell of the music it comes across even better. Dialogue is mostly straightforward but with some of the bigger ways the cast interacts with its humor and reactions it has a bit more placement than usual and that helps to make it even more fun. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, 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 nine on the first and three on the second along with the OVAs. Animated by TNK, the show has a better look than I thought it would with its animation and designs as there’s a good bit of pop and vibrancy throughout and the movements are quite good with some very fluid sequences. The backgrounds may not be in-depth overall but they have some good detail as well and the color design lets it hold up well and without any problems. The solid production work essentially translates well here with the transfer as it’s clean and problem free while having plenty of space to work with as a monolingual release.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover works with a familiar piece of promotional artwork that highlights the copious amount of women in the show while Kamito himself is mostly in the middle with just a little more than a headshot visible. It’s a very colorful and active cover with eight characters across it with all their designs, color, and detail associated with them so it’s busy but still mostly looks good. Since it works with white uniforms for a lot of it that lets the color pop more, especially against the deep blue/purple background. The back cover brings us a bit more color with more vibrant purples and pinks used as well as some soft ones to help lighten it up. The center block has a decent summary of the premise while being ringed with some larger than normal images highlighting some strong fanservice, making it clear what it is the show is about. The extras are clearly listed and we get a good selection of shots overall. The rest is the usual rounding out of production credits and the technical grid that breaks it all down cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release stands out a bit as it goes in a slightly different feeling and direction than most Sentai menus do. With the navigation along the bottom, the episodes by number and title are separated out into their own little pods. They’re bright and colorful with the pink shade used mixed with the blue for the number section and white for the text. It has a lot of pop and looks great both as the pop-up menu and as the main navigation strip during playback. The static image also works well as the first disc just has mid-range shots of several of the kids so we basically see their skits, a little leg, and that’s about it. The show is mostly a fanservice-fest so it’s not a surprise and it definitely makes it clear what it is from the moment the menu loads up.
The extras for this release has a couple of standard fare pieces in the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a selection of the original Japanese promos. The bigger extra are the small mini OVA bonus episodes that were included with the Japanese releases. As you can guess, they’re essentially fun little fanservice pieces that got a bit further than the TV side does in general, offering what the fans would want for their purchase of the original Japanese discs. They run about 3 ½ minutes each and while some do play the fanservice angle, about half of them are surprisingly restrained but still rather fun.
Known as Seirei Tsukai no Bureidodansu in Japan, Blade Dance of the Elementalers is a twelve episode anime series animated by TNK which landed in the summer 2014 season. The show comes from the light novel series by Yu Shimizu that began in 2010 and has amassed fourteen volumes already through the MF Bunko J line. The books tend to do fairly well overall with each release and got a natural spike when the anime hit, which surely will keep it running a bit longer. I didn’t catch this show during its simulcast run so I got to go into this complete run over the course of a day without any baggage or preconceptions about it beyond what little the front cover really offers up. Which is to say not much. That tends to be an advantage in the long run.
The show takes place in a kind of fantasy-era world where we’re introduced to the Areisha Spirit Academy, an academy focused on teaching pure young maidens how to engage in contracts with spirits that will allow them to utilize various weapons and other types of magics. Each of these is pretty different, though mostly running along familiar elements as one can imagine by the title of the series, and there’s an overall focus on the Blade Dance itself, which is a yearly event or so that involves combat where the winner at the end gets their wish granted. It’s shown from a previous event some of how it plays out at the start and it works towards the next one by the end here, essentially allowing us to go on that journey without really and truly understanding the mechanics of it. The show wants to do only so much of that kind of world building as it’s more interested in a convoluted series of connections between the characters and various ruling families and power players.
Within this setting, we’re introduced to Kamito Kazehaya, the only known male spirit user, as he’s gotten an invitation from the director of the academy. Director Greyworth is a peripheral character throughout this but she has a really interesting couple of teasing moments that speaks to the larger story from the novels that’s not explored here. With her knowing Kamito from a past event, she’s brought him in for him to learn here while also serving as a bodyguard for Claire Rouge, the daughter of a duke. Claire’s your standard flat chested fiery type with, you guessed it, fire based elemental powers that she has a contract with that gives her a cute Firecat to work with. Claire and Kamito naturally encounter each other before all of this with a far too predictable sequence involving him seeing her naked in a lake and her getting angry at him. Of course, before that can happen we’re treated to her talking to herself about how unhappy she is that she’s so small of breast. I mean, I get it and that it’s a part of growing up, but at the same time I can watch half a dozen shows in a row and it’ll be something covered in two-thirds of them if not more.
Kamito ends up accepting all of this because he has a larger mission that he’s working on, one tied to the previous Blade Dance as well as demon kings, ancient swords, and a whole lot more. In fact, there’s more than enough meaty material here that it really does give a far better impression than a lot of novel to anime adaptations do in feeling like something bigger than it is. We get a small taste of it throughout this show with a lot of plot threads dangled in front of us and enough closure for the initial storyline to feel good about it. But even though there’s an awful, awful, lot familiar going on here, it’s done in an engaging enough way that it left me wanting to see more of it. Mostly because it does feel like it has a larger goal and more things planned and plotted out (which it does, coming from multiple novels). It’s just that so many are so basic in their setup that this one feels a little refreshing even amid all the familiar.
With a lot of ground to cover in exploring the dynamics of the world and giving us another male character named Geo that lurks in the background, believing himself to be the chosen Demon King, what we really get for most of this is a harem series. Kamito does acquire a lot of female friends along the way and it’s at least justified since it’s an all-girls academy. Claire is obviously smitten without realizing it and fighting against and that makes for its fun, especially since he’s tied to her by the job. Claire’s friend Rinslet gives us the rich girl character as she tries to buy everyone’s friendship in her own way while also trying to make sure that Kamito as a conquest himself. Kamito certainly has appeal as a unique person by being the only male spirit user so at least there’s some realism there.
The fighter-type is provided by Ellis, a very stern and forceful type that leads the Sylphid Knights that protect the academy and also enforce discipline. It takes a bit to warm up to her yet you know under the hard exterior there’s a heart of gold. It warms across the show about as you’d expect and she adds some decent material overall. Where the show kind of weirded me out a bit is with the spirit of Est, who is actually a powerful sword that Kamito ends up acquiring. Est, in her human form, is your typical tiny white-haired lolita type that is generally naked outside of wearing knee-high socks – which if removed is when she feels naked. Being an ancient sword in human form you can understand her not being normal, but it’s such an easy and obvious trope that it just bugged me a lot as something unnecessary. Sadly, it manages to mostly work as it provides a way for Kamito to end up in trouble through no fault of his own so that everyone else beats the snot out of him for it.
Blade Dance of Elementalers in this season (and likely only season) is a series that really introduces a whole lot of material as we get some decent backstory for most of the cast with various levels of political intrigue, connections, and rivalries. The show spends its time fleshing out those connections through the kids as they deal with Kamito learning the ropes of the academy and fending off attacks that are essentially a ruse of events down the line in the novels. That would normally be more frustrating than I found it to be here because I actually enjoyed the cast here for the most part and liked that they made the characters as interesting as they are. Yeah, I’m a bit weary of the small breast jokes and the camera constantly providing upskirt shots of fifteen-year-old girls, but I also understand that that’s the actual target audience that they want to go buy the books. When you get past that, I think there’s a lot to enjoy here and I did enjoy it to the point of wanting more of it. It even has me hoping that the light novels get their due someday though I’m still wary of how novels translate. All in all, I found this to be a fun show that delighted me and left me wanting more all while enjoying a solid presentation from Sentai Filmworks.
Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD MA Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Blade Dance Special Mini OVA’s, Clean Opening & Closing Animations
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.