「慟哭ノ砦」 (Doukoku no Toride)
“Fortress of Lament”
After rewatching the final movie of the Break Blade series almost two months later, I still can’t shake the feeling that it lacks a sense of closure. It wasn’t all that unexpected given that the manga doesn’t conclude where the movies did, but it does leave something to be desired when Rygart, Zess, Hodr, and Sigyn’s backstory is left completely open-ended. To me, their friendship is the core of the story and the war between Athens and Krisna is merely a setting for it, so things should ultimately come down to an ending that resolves things between them. Not exactly the easiest thing to do when Zess isn’t even around for the last three movies, except for the very end when it revealed he has a wife and a daughter.
That isn’t a knock on the movie series though, since it was fairly faithful to the original source material (as far as I’m aware) and did wrap up the first major arc. Borcuse served as the ultimate antagonist and Rygart faced him head-on in a climactic battle to defend Krisna. Emotions were high-strung after Girge was killed last time and the stage was set for Zess’ return after Sigyn let Cleo escape. They also introduced a bit of a rivalry between Nile and Io, after it was revealed that the former was spared, so there was hardly anything to be disappointed about. The only thing Break Blade can be faulted for is the way it left me wanting to see more with no promise of a sequel being produced, which is hardly a bad thing from a production standpoint. There’s clearly a lot more story to tell, going back to the unresolved situation between our main characters, even in light of how the Empire of Orlando’s involvement was taken out to narrow the focus in this adaptation.
Looking solely at this last movie, it was pretty close to a full hour of nonstop fighting. There was some initial preamble to tie in the events of the fifth movie and provide a small setup to this one, but after that it played out like the final hour of a six-hour-long movie. All the main players were front and center squaring off with one another, and the balance of power shifted to a more neutral position with the timely arrival of Baldr and his select knights, turning it into a back and forth struggle that didn’t disappoint the least bit. Surprisingly, Krisna’s captains and commanders could fight on even footing against Athens’ overwhelming numbers. They were losing ground, but it was still nothing like the one-sided slaughter that it looked like it would be. I was pretty convinced that Sakura (Katsuragi Nanaho) was going to be killed by Borcuse, but she managed to hold her own pretty well — long enough for Rygart to step in anyway. In hindsight, the only thing that I would’ve liked to see is a showdown between Narvi and Leto, which I figured would’ve been a pretty good rivalry alongside Nile and Io.
As for Rygart and Borcuse, an unsuspecting viewer probably would’ve dubbed Rygart the antagonist in the final showdown. Rygart was consumed by the flames of war after his village was massacred and looked like he was struggling to keep it bottled up. Borcuse on the other hand looked like he was just spending another day on the battlefield, unfazed by Rygart’s reckless attacks and disinterested in fighting an unarmed Golem. There was a powerful contrast between the two of them, given how Borcuse had embraced war and reveled in it whereas Rygart almost lost himself after getting caught up in it. If I hadn’t known about the heinous war crimes Borcuse committed, I probably would’ve felt remorseful over his death — especially with the way he resigned to being killed and thought about his daughter Leda in his final moments. It was a very solemn and twisted conclusion to the invasion, which Rygart’s hysterical sense of relief and uncontrollable tears echoed just before the credits scroll. The ending was abrupt but very powerful for that reason, and gave me goosebumps with KOKIA’s “Sound of Sorrow” playing in the background. I watched the video below a few times while writing this post and heck, it gives me chills even now.
ED2: 「嘆きの音」 (Nageki no Oto) by KOKIA
Watch the 2nd ED!: Streaming ▼
Despite the lack of any resolution between Rygart/Zess, Rygart/Sigyn, or Hodr/Zess — or the inclusion of an epilogue for that matter — I still enjoyed this movie series a lot more than I’m probably letting on. I mentioned back in the first movie (around this time last year) that the clunky Golems and lack of overly advanced technology in light of the existence of “magic” piqued my interest a lot. That remains true even now, especially after learning that Delphine was supposedly created for some greater purpose — to fight against fate. Together, they provided a unique mix of realism and fantasy, which always left me as curious about Delphine’s origins as it did the outcome of the war.
At the center of it all was a complex cast of characters, who made it hard to choose a side even when Rygart was clearly on one of them. The seemingly straightforward plot was centered around deeply rooted pasts and was supported by a plethora of characters who all made their mark on the story. Girge is an excellent example, being one of the most intriguing antiheroes I’ve seen in a while, as is Borcuse for being a complex and rational super villain. If there’s one aspect of Break Blade that stood out as much as Production I.G and XEBEC’s impressive visuals, it was definitely the characters. They’re believable and most of all relatable, making it really easy to get absorbed in what’s going on. It’s easy to recommend this movie series based on production values alone, but it’s an absolute shoo-in knowing there’s so much more to it than that. Six movies later, I feel there’s still so much story to be told and so much untapped potential leaving off where they did.
At this point, I’m just hoping that we’ll see a continuation one day. I’m tempted to pick up on the manga, but I absolutely love the immersive surreal-like feel that the movies deliver and can’t see it being as awesome of an experience. For the being, I’m actually leaning towards rewatching all the movies simply because it’s been a full year since the first one was released on Blu-ray and DVD. I figure that if it’s as memorable as it is over a one-year span, it must be even better in a single sitting. As per the above, I definitely recommend this movie series to anyone looking for an anime that sets itself apart from the norm. I wouldn’t quite label it as a masterpiece, but I can’t imagine anyone who’s seen Break Blade feel that it isn’t worth watching. Just remember: it’s not just about robots, so don’t let that hold you back.