So the most common definition of “anime” is animation which is made by a Japanese entertainment studio, for a Japanese audience. However, that doesn’t mean that the medium that is portrayed is solely from the Japanese context. In fact, more often than not, anime has borrowed many elements from cultures beyond Japan’s island borders.
This is nothing new to Japanese animation; and it is prevalent even now, with an animation that was inspired by a Korean online game.
Blade and Soul the animation is based on the world of Blade and Soul the video game. And before you ask, I have yet to hear any news about the game’s North American release. Here we enter a world of warriors, assassins, and magic, where more often than not, people live in poverty; and the highest source of income is bounty hunting.
It is very clear which audience the anime is targeting, since it’s got guns, swords, blood, and lots of women with huge knockers. And because it’s based on a video game, this can’t be that good, right? Say what you will, but you might be surprised in some areas.
The story line is dramatic. Really dramatic! Some people have nicknamed this show “Blade and Death Flags.” Do not get attached to too many characters in this series, because if your name is not Alka, Hazuki, Karen, Loana, Jin Varrel, Pia, Gil, or Doru, chances are you will die before the episode is over! Meanwhile, Lon the true neutral merchant, is also laughing all the way to the bank!
In this world, Alka is our “player character,” the protagonist we are actually supposed to care about, because she is most like a character we would play in the video game. Alka is an assassin of the Sword Clan, who has spent all of her life (at least from the first episode) looking for revenge on the one who has killed her master. And, as you might have guessed because she’s the player character, she has zero personality.
I suppose that’s actually a good thing, considering we can put whatever emotions we have into her character. She’s also an assassin, so it totally makes sense that she shows no emotion.
For example, the scene shown above is a moment when Alka faces an old friend, Mori, who has allegedly been “saved” by some strange cult. When Mori’s insanity reaches a peak after Lon (yes, that little bastard) destroys her new family’s compound, she turns on Alka in order to rid her of her deadly sin (if you’re confused by who I’m referring to in this sentence, so am I). Alka, as usual, is stone-faced in this event, and almost nothing can scare her. Alka is definitely prepared for the worst, and will never show fear of her own death.
However, I personally like to interpret this scene in a much different way. Mori is a friend of hers; and as a friend, Alka subconsciously wants to protect that bond. It’s not that her cold eyes aren’t afraid of death; on the contrary, I believe that Alka’s expression is that of a person who is willing to sacrifice herself to protect her friendship. “If killing me will satisfy you, go right ahead.” That’s the kind of expression Alka has for Mori.
Alka is one very emotionless protagonist; but thankfully, that won’t be the case in the duration of the series. As the story progresses, the transformation Alka goes through makes it clear to us that she is more than just the player character, but the character who will truly be full of life.
And… then the TV series is followed by a filler episode which clearly makes no sense to anything else in the timeline. And while “Blade and Death Flags” continues to rule the dreaded last episode, it is clearly not in the same tone as the rest of the series in general.
The story of Blade and Soul may not be very spectacular, but like anything else in this kind of show, you watch it for the visuals and sounds. And as much as I have a lesser preference to action-type anime in general, I will say that the visual effects and sound editing for this series will not disappoint. Every fight scene is animated quite beautifully in that battle-esque style; and the score and sounds are edited relatively in sync with the motions and cuts.
So if you’re looking for a decent action anime about swords and assassins, or simply need something to tide you over the fact that its video game still hasn’t made a North American debut, watch Blade and Soul. Honestly though, if you really are looking for the video game, look somewhere else. It’s probably not going to happen officially.