Monday, November 9, 2009

DVD Review: Blassreiter, the Complete Series, Part 1

A Gonzo/Nitro anime, you say? Cybernetic zombies, you say? Where do I sign up!?

I gotta admit that I'm a sucker for Gonzo animation. I love their stuff, generally speaking. Sure they pump out a fair amount of blah, but when they're on the ball you couldn't ask for a better production company. Direction, story, design, and animation are their strongest attributes when all cylinders are firing, and their shows generally stand out due to these merits. Blassreiter is pretty much all that and a bag of chips.

Set a decent click into the future, Blassreiter takes place in a world where racing is pretty darned popular, technology has grown slightly beyond where it is now, and cybernetic zombies are turned deceased loved ones into horrific killing machines. At the start of the show a dead woman comes to life during a bike race and causes quite the ruckus. She/it kills some people and sends one of the world's best racers, a guy named Gerd, into the hospital paralyzed from the waist down. Before he blacked out Gerd saw another monster arrive on the scene, but this one seemed to be fighting off the other.

Soon after this introduction we see Gerd bedridden and miserable. A buddy of his tries to give him a pep-talk, but it doesn't really do any good. Gerd's world crumbles down around him and after one thing leads to another he accepts a mysterious pill from some lady with green hair. Overnight he's transformed from a paralytic patient into a being with great power. That night he becomes an Amalgam.

Amalgams, or Demoniacs, are the names given to the undead that rise and kill people indiscriminately. An organization known as the XAT combats these creatures with human weapons, but in all fairness it's kind of an uphill battle. The monsters have the ability to combine with other pieces of technology and elements, so killing one is extremely hard. Just think of shooting the legs off of your prey only to watch them combine forms with a car and drive off. It's frustrating I'm sure!

Historically in this setting only the dead can actually come back to life in the form of an Amalgam. Gerd becomes a rare breed though, since he remains alive and retains his humanity. He's a bridge between the Demoniacs and humanity, and could be considered part of an evolutionary jump. Unfortunately things don't really go so well for him at this point. Let's just say the stress of being something other than human gets to him and the public isn't very interested in having a Demoniac run around town.

Despite what happens to Gerd, there is another similar person cruising around Germany as well. Joseph is a loner with a bike who transforms into one of the most badass Demoniacs out there. He seems to have a mission here, and winds up on the opposite end of XAT's stick (except in this case the "stick" is a sniper rifle). It's clear from the beginning that while there are other major characters that stand out, Joseph is arguably the main focal point. Almost all events happen around him, and he's in the thick of things more often than not. His cool demeanor and bitching Demoniac design definitely makes him an interesting character to watch, and there's an air of mystery around him that only magnifies as we learn more about the people that surround him.

I don't want to give away too much of what happens in this first part of Blassreiter, but let's just say the show kicks all kinds of ass. This set contains 12 episodes and the show contains a massive amount of continuity. There isn't an episodic bit in the bunch and as each story unfolds layers of depth are revealed that simply weren't there before. With that being said this show isn't exactly a masterpiece. There are some holes and some things kind of feel forced, or corny. However, if you're looking for a show with all kinds of action and a rich, mysterious plot this is definitely a fresh hot ticket.Blassreiter hits DVD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. This one is sharp as a tack and you won't find a single bit of grain or compression artifacts anywhere in this transfer. I do have to say that during some of the scenes that heavily use CGI there are some moments where aliasing is prevalent, but they aren't too distracting thankfully. In addition to some great looking picture quality, the audio for Blassreiter is quite solid. The Japanese and English language tracks come with 5.1 output for that extra something. Both dubs are really good, especially the English one. For bonus features, this first part of Blassreiter comes with trailers, clean animations, and some promotional videos. There is also an audio commentary for the 12th episode here.

If you're looking for something new to watch and the thought of cybernetic zombies titillates you, then your ship has come in! Blassreiter is a fun series and this first part offers a lot that's worth celebrating. Come expecting to be entertained as you watch explosions, monsters being impaled, and badass character designs and you won't be disappointed. It's not high art, but good, entertaining anime doesn't need to be.

Maki Rating:

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