What They Say
The end is near, and only the pale rider has the power to stop it. Joseph Jobson races against death in a desperate attempt to halt the spread of a genetically engineered plague of doom. Victims of this devious experimentation are driven to madness by grotesque mutations and violent outbreaks of rage. Their only hope for survival lies in the mutated genes coursing through Jobson’s own tainted veins.
Though he carries the plague, Jobson must ride his GARM motorcycle into battle and sacrifice himself for the redemption of a demented gene pool. Joseph Jobson is the savior of the world. He is the Blassreiter.
Contains episodes 13-24.
Blassreiter gets a rather solid bilingual presentation as both the English and Japanese language tracks are in 5.1 encoded at 448kbps. Though they are 5.1 mixes, they really only use the forward soundstage as there’s practically nothing discernible from the rear channels overall. The forward soundstage does make out very well by this though as it’s a good strong presentation where the motorcycle action and the guns and other effects really come across very well. There’s a strong sense of placement and directionality as well as depth in numerous scenes that help to make it a lot more engaging than a standard stereo mix. We didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This half of the collection contains the first twelve episodes with six episodes on each disc. The series has a very strong visual style to it with the amount of CG in it and the transfer comes across very well. There are scenes where it’s a bit noisy and not quite as smooth as it should be, but by and large, this series really pops out overall, and most especially with the CG scenes. Colors are very vivid, darks hold up well without any serious issues and it’s free of cross coloration. The show really looks very good and is quite visually appealing.
The first collection had a very strong piece of artwork that was very eye-catching. This installment plays in a similar direction but isn’t quite as intense as the first one. Xargin gets the cover here, which is surprising as I expected Amanda to be used to add a bit more of the womanly charms to the release, but Xargin looks good with his chest bared and the cool nature of him against the indistinct black and white backgrounds. The back of the slipcover is given over to Beatrice which does provide some sexuality as she’s got the good doctor gone wild look down perfectly. The summary is kept relatively minimal since it doesn’t want to give away too much but it sets the stage fairly well. The extras are clearly listed and we get a small set – very small – of shots from the show along the bottom above the production credits. The technical grid is moved to the bottom of the slipcover where it conveys everything well in a very easy to read format with the color choices.
Inside the slipcover, we get a pair of clear thinpak cases that are really quite good, though I would have reversed the style. The front of the case has a breakdown of the six episodes on that disc with the episode name, title and a few sentences about it, which can sometimes reveal a little too much. Episode summaries are better for websites than for packaging of a show you’re about to watch. The back of the cases is where the action is with one of them featuring Hermann in his transformed mode with his transformed mode and the other has a large shot of Elea in the background while an intense version of Joseph is below her. They’re done in the same style as the front of the slipcover and have the same sense of power and intensity about them. Each of the thinpaks also has reverse side artwork to them that are full-length pieces going sideways with Sasha in one and the other featuring Mei-Fong and Shido. No show related inserts are included in this release.
Interestingly, Blassreiter’s menus use the cover art in an interesting way to separate itself from it and look just as stylish. The first menu uses the artwork of Amanda from the interior and I believe the second volume uses Gerd for it. What makes it interesting is that it zooms in heavily on it to just do a part of their face rather than a full length or even partial shot of it. This gives it a very close-up feeling that’s almost a little off-putting. The navigation strip is the standard slim style that’s common among FUNimation’s menus. Submenus load quickly and easily and the navigation is just right. And as is the norm, the menus did not read our players’ language presets as it defaulted to English with no subtitles.
The extras are all on the second disc and are fairly minimal but there’s still some good stuff to be had here. The standards in the clean opening and closing sequences is here and there’s a commentary track included for the final episode which is a nice touch. An additional piece here is the “Director’s guide to Blassreiter” which adds a bit more welcomed background on the show from Ichiro Itano.
Watching the first half of Blassreiter brought about some very different views on the show in comparison to when I watched it in weekly form during its original broadcast. The series went from being one that I felt like I was kicked when it was down, repeatedly, to one that I actually liked quite a lot. The series has a lot better flow with the smaller arcs that made up the first set as everything clicks together and connects in a more obvious fashion. The second half of the series is different in its structure though and that gives it a different feeling as well.
In my mind, there are two core stories told throughout this set, though there is a nice side story mixed in towards the end as well. The one that kicks off this set gives us two episodes that takes us back to Joseph’s past, when he was a young child living in an orphanage with the priest and the nun who took care of several children. The life of immigrant children is no less easy than that of adults and in many ways worse because of the kinds of pressures that can be applied to them. Joseph takes the role of the eldest male child seriously by suffering abuse from the local boys. They give him lots of physical abuse since they can get away with it and nobody would believe him if he told on them. And since the boys are children of those who give to the church and the well being of the other kids, Joseph truly has to suffer it.
His story progresses over the years until he’s in his teenage years and an event occurs that causes the town to have significant problems and outsiders come in to help with the medical disaster. It’s here that Joseph meets a promising young doctor named Xargin, who as it turns out is at the same university as the sister that Joseph never knew that he had, a young woman named Sasha. It’s like a period of bliss for Joseph as he discovers he has a blood family for the first time and an extended family, both with Xargin as he feels very close to him as well as those from the church. Unfortunately, Sasha’s brilliance in biochemistry has her working on something that gets corrupted by another medical disaster and the origins of Xargin as a cruel and cold man occurs, as does Sasha’s death and Joseph’s own transformation into Blue.
This takes us back to the present where Germany has now visibly changed in its story from the previous set. Before it all felt very small and controlled when it came to the Demoniacs, but now that XAT has been ended through quite a lot of violence it’s like the scope has been pulled back to something larger. Somewhat out of the blue, we’re introduced to an ages-old organization known as Zwolf, which is commanded by the former commander of XAT who was essentially on loan there along with his granddaughter Mei-Fong. Zwolf has been building towards this day for a long time and has been working towards being able to defeat the Demoiniacs and Xargin. And within their power is the Blassreiter, the tools that can help Joseph become even more powerful than he is now and potentially give him what he needs to deal with Xargin. Interestingly, Zwolf takes on a very strong religious role in its appearance and setup because of the age in which they were created, enough so that their citadel in the lake is quite imposing from a very religious point of view.
It’s in this arc that two main stories are told, but neither of them really dominates in a way that defines it as theirs in my mind. Amanda has decided to throw her lot in with Zwolf over all of this, partially because they do have Malek in their possession for research purposes. Amanda also finds that she owes it to her former XAT teammates to deal with Wolf who is organizing to attack Zwolf for Xargin, though she doesn’t fit in well with the Zwolf military types that inhabit the warrior side of the organization. And into her attempts at figuring out what’s going on enters Hermann, a man she thought dead but who has managed to hold onto some of his humanity since becoming an Amalgam, even if Wolf is using him to cause trouble within the Zwolf headquarters. For Hermann, this is a difficult period because he’s now going through what Gerd did in trying to understand himself and the motivations that his body seems to be giving him. His battle is more internal at first as he tries to regain who he is, something that becomes easier to do after he sees Amanda, though he’s shocked when he finds out that she’s working with Zwolf in any capacity.
All of this is a preamble to the bulk of what these episodes are about and that’s Xargin making his play to come in and destroy the critical Isis information. Xargin’s intent on doing this and has decided to be less than subtle by bringing in over thirty thousand Demoniacs to ensure his victory, though it’s a victory that he’ll try to achieve by himself first. There’s a whole lot of fighting throughout these episodes, with the Apocalypse Knights of Zwolf taking to the ground and air as well as Hermann and Blue making the rounds – though sometimes against each other as well since Hermann distrusts him completely. There are some really beautiful and fast-paced fight scenes to be had here and an amazing amount of CG interaction going on that’s highly detailed with the machines, the Amalgams, and the Demoniacs, but sometimes it’s a bit too clean and a bit too fast. There is a lot to like as the action gets to an epic level as America decides to perform another Hiroshima in order to avoid having the Demoniacs break out into the world at large, giving it all an interesting scale at the end.
While I disliked Blassreiter when it was originally airing, I found the first half of the series to be a lot more engaging in watching twelve episodes in a row. The arcs held together better and some hindsight certainly helped. The second half of the series does not hold up as well, primarily because of two things. The first is that after the first few episodes it’s largely all about the action with a side story to explain Beatrice’s past and give her some actual definition when she gets into the fight herself. The second is the introduction of Zwolf didn’t really click that well for me, especially in that it practically had its own city in the midst of all of this. When it comes to the core cast and the grudges that must be dealt with, Blassreiter does well here and it gives it a big action ending with a fair amount of heart because of the problems they’ve all gone through. This show is still really awkward in some ways but it’s one that reminds me that how you watch a show sometimes will definitely influence how you feel about it. I can give it a lot better recommendation now than I would have a year ago when I was dreading each episode and the possibility of it even being licensed.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Episode 24 Commentary, Director’s Guide to Blassreiter, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 29th, 2009
Running Time: 288 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
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.