「Zの一番長い日 (前編」 (Z no Ichiban Nagai Hi (Part 1))
“Z’s Longest Day (Part 1)”
The world building just never seems to end.
The more I watch Blood Blockade Battlefront the more I appreciate just how accomplished a show it is. And the more I become convinced that it represents kind of a perfect storm for Nightow Yasuhiro’s material, because in BONES and Matsumoto Rie’s hands all of Nightow’s strengths as a writer – boundless imagination, a raunchy comedic style that seems to fuse Japanese and American sensibility – are on full display. And his weaknesses – lack of focus, a tendency for plot drift – are deftly turned into strengths.
As has been noted ad nauseam, the Black-White storyline is anime-original, though penned by Rie and writer Furuya Kanuzao in consultation with Nightow. I think it’s undeniable that it feels distinct from the rest of the plot – once again this week we see it at the beginning and end of the episode, providing a bookend for the manga material in-between. Normally this sort of thing would drive me kind of nuts, but for whatever reason it works here – the effect is like we’re watching two railroad tracks slowly converging, and it’s interesting to try and guess where and when that will happen. And what it will look like when it does.
As we progress Black seems to be more and more emerging as the critical sibling (and I think it’s now clear these are indeed real siblings). He’s the one with the big secrets, not least the ones he seems to be keeping from his sister. Were these two really once known as “William” and “Mary”, are are their parents truly casters – mysterious espers of some sort that prevented an even bigger disaster in the wake of the great catastrophe that befell New York? It seems as if Black was forced into a terrible choice, and that his dual personality is quite literally so – a body-sharing arrangement between two distinct and separate personalities, if not entities. And the one who’s befriended Leonardo seems not at all pleased with the influence the one who’s pals with Femt is having on White.
Over on Track A (or B, depending on which measure you use) the focus this time is on Zapp. And he’s great, though in truth pretty much every character in the Libra cast is so cool that you can’t lose whoever is in the spotlight. We see a kind of “Groundhog Day in the Life” with Zapp – binging on fast food, way overdrinking, losing money gambling, sleeping with cheap women. The results are predictable in that he develops a beer belly that would do Homer Simpson proud, but there is another side to the cast’s butt monkey, and we see it with the arrival of his master in the Big Dipper style, Raju Jugei Shizuyoshi (Shibata Hidekatsu).
The occasion of Master Raju’s arrival is a battle between two hugely powerful entities that comes to Libra’s attention. One of them is a Blood Breed, the other is Raju – though KK and Steven have no idea who’s who at first (or indeed, that one of the parties is Raju). Raju is another extradimensional that has quite a Star Wars feel to him, especially when he starts talking in his Greedo-like voice. Zapp is the only one that can translate, which takes a hilarious turn when the master launches a blistering tirade about how useless and odiferous the student is. Raju is an arrogant SOB, but he backs it up – he manages to defeat the blood breed and force it to turn into a Zhen Tai Dan – the “True Womb Egg” that’s a kind of safety room where the blood breed can undergo rapid regeneration.
The upshot of all this is that Raju leaves it to Zapp to finish off the Zhen Tai Dan, and seals him inside a blood barrier to force him to do so. It isn’t till Chain stages a fake call from Angelica, the KFC clerk Zapp has fallen for, that Zapp gets his motivation to do the job (the infrared shows quite clearly what the source of his motivation is), which elicits grudging praise even from Raju. But Raju also declares that he’ll be bringing in his junior disciple, which Zapp doesn’t sound exactly pleased to hear. And then there’s the fact that what’s been destroyed here isn’t the true blood breed at all – just a torn-off piece of his body.
It’s an unusual formula Kekkai Sensen is using here, but it’s really working – it’s an amazingly consistent show in terms of bringing the entertainment every week. As of yet we’ve still had no confirmation of the rumored split-cour, but given that it’s on-pace to likely break into 5-figure sales and there’s a ton of source material, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be more anime at some point (perhaps Bones has crafted an anime-original storyline in order to keep the possibility of a sequel viable, as they did with Noragami). And given how intricate and detailed this fictional world is and how entertaining and varied the cast is, I sure hope that’s the case.