The mark of a truly well done series opener is one that sets premise, introduces the hero and the general antagonist forces, incites action and sets purpose in the plot. Having watched Blade and Soul as my opener to the spring anime lineup, I can tell that this is going to be a very good season indeed.
Blade and Soul is based on a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) that incorporates elements of fantasy and martial arts in a really unique world reminiscent of both European and East Asian landscapes and styles. The game focuses mainly on becoming a martial arts hero who is striving to master the art of Qing Gong (or Lightness Skill) that allows an individual to essentially move at quick speeds pretty much floating or flying through the air. There are multiple races and classes you can choose similar to other MMORPGS.
Presented by Studio Gonzo K.K. who also gave us Leviathan~The Last Defense~ and Kimi no Iru Machi – A Town Where You Live, the art style is vibrant and stunning with some realistic elements to the animation styles. Because of the mature content of Blade the Soul the game, the anime is geared towards a seinen, dark fantasy, action crowd rather than adventure-quest fantasy lovers. Largely due to the already developed world in the game and the storyline there, the anime adaptation of blade and soul begins on a really solid plot platform.
The story opens very much like a game, you get your intense action scenes where the hero totally kicks ass and then walks away like a total badass, followed by a glimpse of the baddies who are more or less trying to track down the hero. Our main assassin girl is Aruka, of the Tsurugi Clan and really we don’t see her until we’re well settled into the world. Right after the prologue and opening song, we’re brought to a generic town where soldiers from the Param Empire have arrived at an inn to place a bounty on a woman with a swallowtail tattoo who murdered a “master.” This sets up Aruka’s character premise for us without formerly introducing Aruka with an overused internal monologue or flashback + voice over.
Aruka is approached by two guys who hire her to be the bodyguard for Moshiri Village that is of economic interest to the Param Empire. Aruka meets the village leader, a young woman named Mori who largely gives us a rundown of the political-economic circumstances of the land under Param rule. Mori reveals that Param is interested in the land for cultivating the sky spirit. It’s rumoured that the scent of the flower brings forth otherworldly things which is why Param wants to extend their control over these magics. Aruka was hired by the village as Mori’s protector during negotiations with the Param officials that arrive the next day. The guard who’s not killed recognizes the swallowtail butterfly just by Aruka’s shoulder and runs back to report her presence in the village. Being suspected by the village officials, Aruka reveals that was once used by Param. When the Param Empire receives news of Aruka, they send a man named Ganza to bring the Swallowtail Butterfly back.
That night, the village is attacked and burnt to the ground. We watch Ganza ingest a bottle of sky spirit which gives him extraordinary powers. He asks if Aruka is of the Tsurugi Clan and the fight ensues. The ordeal ends with everyone dead except Mori and Aruka. Even when Mori agrees to sell the land, Ganza claims that his sole purpose was to capture Aruka. In the end, Aruka and Mori are left standing on the cliff above the destruction. Aruka tells Mori to take revenge. Mori asks if Aruka was the one who killed the “master” Aruka replies, “It was them… I’m abiding by law.” She cuts her long hair (symbolic) and the episode draws to a close.
I’m very impressed with how the story was set up just in the first episode because many anime series tend to start slow in the opening. The trade-off for a strong world-building starter was that we really don’t get any insight on Aruka’s personality. Hopefully this changes as she opens up to her comrades throughout the series. If you’re looking with some plot heavy action this season, I would highly recommend Blade and Soul. The episodes are about the same length as usual seasonal episodes, however the amount of action and plot layered into that one episode can be a little overwhelming. Overall, I would say that this pilot is solid and we’re good to go with episode two.
What are you pondering today?