Blassreiter Season 1 Review

Blassreiter will always have a certain amount of notoriety in the American anime community for being one of the first batch of series to be legally simulcast as streaming video on Crunchyroll back during the spring of 2008. It also represents yet another entry in Gonzo's oft-criticized ongoing effort to produce a mature series which appeals to mature audiences and still tells a decent story. In this light, the first half of the series falls somewhere between Basilisk and Speed Grapher: it looks good, certainly will not be found wanting for action or graphic content, and does deliver some genuinely heavy and mature content which generally focuses on adult characters, but most of its positive aspects are swallowed up by its tendency to thematically and structurally ape many other anime series. This is not, in any sense, innovative storytelling.

That does not mean the storytelling is necessarily bad. The key subplot about the bullying Malek and his friend Johann endure because of their vaguely-defined ethnicity (Slavs in a predominately German setting, perhaps?), and the dire consequences it leads to, is suitably harsh and unsettlingly affecting; in case it was too subtlety handled for viewers, the trio of teen bullies bear suspicious resemblances to Alex and two of his main droogs from Stanley Kubrick's version of A Clockwork Orange. The circumstances involved in Gerd's downfall also progress relatively smoothly, if again somewhat heavy-handedly, as they show a man who, in desperation to get his life back together after a bad accident, risks becoming a Jeckyll-and-Hyde-type monster and ultimately finds himself fighting a losing battle against his Hyde-side urges. These two arcs dominate the first several episodes, often relegating nominal main character Joseph to a secondary role; in fact, no character in this first half has enough prominence and screen time to be convincingly called the star, although the waning moments of episode 12 make it clear who the main characters are going to be for the second half of the series.

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