「覚醒ノ刻」 (Kakusei no Koku)
“Time of Awakening”
Known as “Broken Blade” in English, Yoshinaga Yunosuke’s manga saw the start of its six-part adaptation in late May of this year. What’s unique about this one is that it’s a joint production between Production I.G. and XEBEC and of the movie variety. Three of the six 50-minute movies have already been scheduled for this year, with the first two already having premiered in theaters within a month of one another. While dates for movies four to six have yet to be announced, the first has already made it to DVD/BD release and the second is on the way at the end of this month (8/27). Being a movie production with Production I.G. on board, Break Blade’s quality is top notch and has me wishing that every anime series looked as amazing as this. I gather most budgets and deadlines won’t allow for this level of quality in the near future, but feel the industry is rapidly moving towards it. The shift to high definition has paved way for a dramatic improvement in series today compared to those two years ago, and animation studios have shown that they’re more than capable, so it’ll be interesting to see where things stand two years from now. The 1080p screen captures speak for themselves as far as Break Blade is concerned, but what I really like about this series is that it has a very Escaflowne-like feel to it, crossing a fantasy series about kingdoms of knights and magic with a mecha one involving gigantic mechanical robots known as Golems. The cast is nothing to scoff at either, since there’s a plethora of big names, most of which have had their fair share of starring roles.
The story revolves around 25-year-old Rygart Arrow (Hoshi Souichirou) in a world where everyone can manipulate quartz using a magic-like ability they’re born with. However, he and his younger brother are extremely rare exceptions to that norm and are classified as “un-sorcerers” because of it. Without this fundamental ability that children at the age of two even possess, Rygart still manages to do well in military school until he’s eventually forced to drop out due to his family’s lack of money. During his time there, he forms a close relationship with the future king of the Kingdom of Krisna, Hodr (Nakamura Yuuichi), his future queen Sigyn (Saitou Chiwa), and the younger brother of the military commander of the Athens Commonwealth, Zess (Kamiya Hiroshi). In present day, Rygart is caught in the middle of a war between his friends as the powerful Athens Commonwealth attempts to invade the much weaker Kingdom of Krisna, where his inability to control quartz makes him the only one able to pilot an ancient Golem that isn’t restricted by abilities of person riding in it. Before long, Rygart reluctantly becomes a key factor in the war and tries to stop his friends from killing one another, as per his mediator type role in the past. It’s not an easy task either, as Athens has demanded the unconditional surrender of Krisna, the dissolution of all nobility, and the execution of the Krisna royal family, which includes both Hodr and Sigyn. Needless to say, Rygart isn’t very fond of the idea after he figured surrendering would be the best way of going about it.
That’s the short version of the premise, but things get much more involved than that with all the other characters added to the mix. This includes some of Zess’ subordinates, Cleo (Hanazawa Kana) and Lee (Kaida Yuuko), in addition to Hodr’s knights, General Baldr (Sugawara Masashi), Narvi (Inoue Marina), and her older brother Nile (Shiraishi Minoru), to name a handful with notable seiyuu. There’s also plenty of indication that Sigyn is actually interested in Rygart despite having married Hodr, further emphasizing that the pasts of the four main characters will be a key aspect to the story. Upon seeing the cast, I couldn’t help but think of a mecha spin on the seiyuu, as we basically have Kira Yamato from Gundam SEED, Alto Saotome from Macross Frontier, Louise Halevy from Gundam 00, and Tieria Erde also from Gundam 00. The difference is, Golems are a lot clunkier than Gundams and Valkyries, with the ancient Golem nicknamed “Break Blade” depicted as the forefront of what they’re capable of. What’s more, the agility of the Golem and the size of bullets it can fire is directly proportional to the prowess of the pilot in manipulating quartz via a control orb, as all their functions are designed solely around that inherent ability. Rygart on the other hand gets to control things old school style with throttles and pedals, letting the machine do the work for him. He still lacks any proper control over Break Blade, but once he busts out the SEED Mode in his Generation Unsubdued Nuclear Drive Assault Module (GUNDAM) there will be hell to pay from Mr. Veda and his Trans-Am! Oh wait, wrong series. Sadly, it’s actually quite the opposite here since Zess has been shown to be a pilot prodigy in the military whereas Rygart’s been living on a farm for the past while.
Incidentally, it’s this lack of overly advanced technology in light of the commonality of magic in the world that piques my interest a lot. To approach that angle, Sigyn happens to be a bookworm of sorts and a key researcher even as the kingdom’s queen. She serves as our portal for delving into the mysteries behind the Break Blade and its seemingly hasty construction, which the preview hints at being part of some bigger purpose — fighting against fate. While that sort of becomes an overarching plot to encompass the story as a whole, there’s the more pressing matter at hand with the ongoing war that keeps my interest from waning. Consequently, what I’m most interested in right now is not the war itself, but Sigyn’s past with Rygart and Hodr and her relationship with them. At times, this first movie felt a bit slow and seemed to drag out some scenes longer than needed, but the fact that it’s only the first of six leaves me eagerly looking forward to things when they pick up. In terms of theme songs, the opening “Fate” by KOKIA has a very nice and surreal sound to it much like most of her songs do (e.g. Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~‘s OP1 and ED2), whereas the ending “SERIOUS-AGE” by Faylan is a bit too upbeat but not a bad song the more I listen to it.
Anyway, I actually stumbled upon this series not too long ago when I was considering including a list of OVAs and movies in the next season preview and was totally sold by what I saw on the official site. The second movie has already premiered in theaters back on June 26th and will be available on DVD/BD at the end of this month. Unfortunately, the third one won’t be premiering until September 25th, meaning the yet to be scheduled home release is even farther away. The only consolidation is that it’s still closer than Gundam Unicorn episode two, which won’t be coming out until October 30th. In any case, this series is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already. My plan is to continue covering future movies, hence the category I created for the series.