Blade Dance Of The Elementalers (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray/3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running time: 296 minutes approx.
The theme of this review is “familiarity” – familiarity of the story, the developments, the character designs, and of my comments. And it is with some irony than one of the shows Blade Dance Of The Elementalers chooses to imitate is called Familiar Of Zero!
In a world of magic, only pure young girls possess the ability to make a spirit pacts with mystical weapons, thus are trained as Elementalers at the Areishia Spirit Academy, to serve as protectors against evil spirits. However, for only the second time in 1000 years, a boy named Kamito Kazehaya has this ability and has been drafted into the female only academy by the headmistress Greyworth Ciel Mais.
On his way to the academy, Kamito happens across academy student Claire Rouge as she bathes in a stream. After saving Claire from a self-inflicted mishap, Kamito joins her on her task to make a spirit pact with a sword called Demon Slayer which runs amok. However, it is Kamito who tames the Demon Slayer and accidentally makes the pact instead. Infuriated, Claire decides that Kamito be her slave to make amends.
Not only can you see the similarities with Familiar Of Zero with the young male paired off with an unlikeable aristocratic hotheaded girl alongside a bevy of ridiculously monikered busty beauties, but the female only academy set-up is also a prime facet of the mecha-cum-harem show Infinite Stratos. Since neither show individually was little more than charmless cliché ridden fodder, can this ostensible amalgamation fare any better?
Based on the ongoing series of light novels by Yū Shimizu, Blade Dance is so bereft of original ideas that it is almost offensive – but it does have one thing going for it which the aforementioned shows don’t: a story that actually runs episodically and isn’t abandoned after the first episode, only to be remembered at the end.
Granted, there are still the extraneous harem comedy distractions but they are limited to a few scenes and not the focus of entire episodes, which is both a relief and a pleasant change. In fact, the story has many individual elements that require exploring, not of all which receive such attention, but at least they are acknowledged while lifting the character beyond their superficial value.
Kamito is hiding a secret from Claire and the other girls who enter his life, which is revealed piecemeal en route to being a prevalent plot point towards the end. It revolves around a Blade Dance champion named Ren Ashbell, a heroine to many of the girls at the academy for her trailblazing abilities and techniques. I’m sure you’ve guessed what the secret is which is just as well as this adaptation fails to explore it to its fullest potential.
After making the Spirit Pact with the Demon Slayer, the sword manifests itself in human form, that of a tacit silver haired girl named Est, whom Kamito first meets hiding naked in his bed! Naturally the haughty tsundere Claire walks in on this first meeting and goes crazy ape bonkers at Kamito integrating with another female, because harem comedy, this predictable jealousy lasting the whole series.
Claire’s elemental ability is fire, and her only trusted friend is her weapon Scarlet, which takes the regular form of a cat. Representing wind is Ellis Fahrengart, head of the Sylphid Knights, the academy’s enforcers, whose spirit is Simorgh while Rinslet Laurenfrost commands the ice spirit (the name is a giveaway) Fenrir, and is usually flanked by her maid Carol.
A young girl from Kamito’s past who knows the truth of Ren Ashbell, Fianna Ray Ordesia, joins the group a little later, hoping to enter the Blade Dance tournament to restore her family name to prominence. Her spirit is a knight in fiery armour named Georgios, although Fianna’s abilities are lacking, hence Kamito being assigned her bodyguard.
When not fighting over Kamito’s affections or comparing bra sizes, the story is driven by the girls trying to improve their abilities ahead of the Blade Dance, each with their own motivations for competing. They are forced to get along as a team and adapt to having a male presence, providing the usual problems and attendant gags of the genre whilst bonding during times of conflict.
The script unfortunately drops the ball on two counts – first, there isn’t a singular or prominent antagonist for the cast to fight against, with another face from Kamito’s past being a catalyst for trouble in the early episodes rather than a directly challenging presence. A new villain is awkwardly introduced in the penultimate episode with little fanfare or substantial background as to why she should be feared.
Second, there is little emotional growth of the characters or a satisfying resolve of major issues. This has always been a handicap when adapting light novels, so while the consistent threads in this series are welcomed, any building upon them and significance resulting from them is sadly absent, to the detriment of the narrative.
Being a fantasy show, the visual presentation can be a saving grace against the weaknesses of the story. TNK, who handled High School DxD, have created a rather safe and pedestrian looking world for the show’s setting, reminiscent of a dozen other shows but to be fair, the artwork is pleasant enough and the battle scenes are suitably energetic.
Character designs are equally unremarkable, with nary a cast member whose features won’t incur direct comparisons with countless others; for example, Claire is pretty much Aria from Aria: The Scarlet Ammo while Est could pass for the twin sister of Eu from Is This A Zombie? And aesthetically Kamito is a composite of every male anime protagonist you can think of.
It is disappointing that the few things Blade Dance Of The Elementalers offers in terms of a fairly stable story and interesting ideas, it squanders by resorting to hackneyed and clichéd ecchi/harem comedy conventions instead of exploring its adventurous fantasy potential.
A briefly diverting show at best.
Japanese 2.0 DTS HD: Master Audio
Disc 2 Only (Blu-ray):
Clean Opening Animations
Clean Ending Animations
Blade Dance Special Mini OVAs
Rating – ** ½
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