Review for Blade Dance Of The Elementalers Complete Season 1 Collection
I often go on about originality in anime, relate my constant pursuit of the fresh and the exciting, and revel in the shows and movies that offer something I have never seen before. But the fact of the matter is that anime and manga tends to stick to trusted ideas, fan favourite character tropes, and storytelling styles so ingrained that you can tell how a series will develop ten episodes ahead of time. If something is a known success, make more just like it. That’s why there are harem comedies aplenty, giant robot shows by the dozen, and all the long running shonen action shows have heroes that insist on levelling up through superior willpower alone. There are trends, and fashions in anime too. A while ago, every other show was a vampire show, then that was followed by a fascination with zombies for a while, and now it seems that naval vessels keep being anthropomorphised as little girls. The thing to do with all this identikit anime is to find the show that exemplifies its particular genre best, or find a show that is quirky enough, stylish enough to stand out amongst its cloned siblings, or a show that puts enough of a twist on the usual clichés to actually feel original. But some shows don’t even try. I mean, take the premise for Blade Dance of the Elementalers. Only girls, noble girls at that can make pacts with elemental spirits to become Spirit Knights, representing their nations in the arena, all for national pride and prestige. To train the girls to make these pacts, there is the Spirit Academy, obviously a girls only institution, until a boy shows up, unique among males as being able to make a pact with spirits, and a harem ensues. It’s bloody well Infinite Stratos, isn’t it? The show’s already got its work cut out convincing me to enjoy it, and I haven’t even put the disc in the player yet!
The Areishia Spirit Academy is an exclusive institution whose sole purpose is to train young women up so that they can form Spirit Pacts, magical contracts with spirits so that they can become Spirit Knights, and battle for their nations’ prestige in the Blade Dance arena. They are all aiming to be just like the legendary Ren Ashbell, who was the best warrior ever to Blade Dance. Only women can form spirit pacts, so when a man named Kamito Kazehaya wanders onto the grounds of the Academy, he’s not exactly given a warm welcome, and especially not by the first girl he runs into, Claire Rouge, who happens to be bathing at the time. But Kamito is actually there to enrol at the Academy, and it turns out that he can make a Spirit Pact too. In fact he has to, to save Claire’s life when she tries to make a pact with the most dangerous of Spirits, the Demonslayer Sword. He makes the pact instead, and an aggrieved Claire declares that Kamito will be her Slave Spirit instead...
Twelve episodes are presented across two Blu-rays from Animatsu.
1. The Sword, The Academy, and the Firecat Girl
2. Midnight Blade Dance
3. The Holy Sword, Slayer of the Demon King
4. The Strongest Blade Dancer
5. Lost Queen
6. Successor to the Demon King
7. Fight at the Mine Town
8. Team Scarlet
9. Pledge of the Wind
11. Valentia Night
12. Ren Ashbell
Blade Dance of the Elementalers gets the usual 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these Blu-ray discs. It’s a fine transfer, clear and sharp throughout, with consistent colours, and no problems with compression or even banding. Although Blade Dance is a rather simplistic animation, not too great with the production values, and offering little complexity to strain the boundaries of even DVD, let alone Blu-ray. This is a show that puts all its effort into emphasising the fan service, and pays little attention to the rest of the animation. It works well enough for what it is, but there are better looking shows out there, even better looking fan service shows.
The images in this review were kindly supplied by Animatsu.
This is a subtitle only release, meaning DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Japanese with a player locked English subtitle track. The dialogue is clear throughout, the action comes across well enough, and the subtitles are timed accurately and free of typos. It’s amazing, if not unexpected just how much Claire’s voice actress, Ibuki Kido sounds like Rie Kugimiya. It’s as typical a tsundere role as you can get. Actually most of the female harem is tsundere in this show. The music is hardly memorable, except for the theme songs. The opening is a raucous mess, while I found the closing’s ‘Knee High Fight’ refrain to be gloriously catchy.
The discs present their contents with static menus. Each episode is followed by a silent translated English credit reel.
All of the extras are on disc 2 and you’ll find the usual textless credits, 5:19 of Japanese promos, and more significantly the Blade Dance Special Mini OVAs. There are six in total running to around 3 minutes apiece, offering a little more in the way of comedy, although I kept thinking that they ended before they got to the actual punchline.
Finally there are trailers for Samurai Jam – Bakumatsu Rock, Invaders of the Rokujyoma, Shirobako, and Momokyun Sword.
I wish Blade Dance of the Elementalers was rubbish. It’s a harem comedy full of clichés and tropes, with not a lot of story to it, and a little too much emphasis on the fan service to the detriment of its production values in other areas, which is a fair description of most harem comedies that get streamed but rarely make it to UK release. If it was rubbish, I could get creative, even enthusiastic about slating it, ripping into its deficiencies with ardour, passionately attacking its very existence. I love writing reviews for good quality stuff, but I love writing reviews for tripe even more; it can be tremendously cathartic, and perhaps the only fun that I can derive from watching a truly bad show. But Blade Dance of the Elementalers is routinely average. It’s like every other harem show out there, following the same tried and trusted route through its story, wheeling out the same character stereotypes yet again, it’s the epitome of mediocrity, the acme of mundane, quintessentially humdrum. If anyone ever comes to you, wanting to watch an average show, Blade Dance of the Elementalers should be the first title that you pick up.
It is Infinite Stratos but naff, not that Infinite Stratos was an exemplar of the genre. It at least had the production values in its animation to appeal. When the fan service is switched off in this show, Blade Dance’s animation can often just grind to a halt, the dreaded pan across a static image with voiceover, or the completely frozen characters except for lip-flaps. Hapless teen male Kamito is the sole male (apparently) that can form a pact with a spirit and take part in the Blade Dance. The spirit that he bonds with is Est, the quiet grey-haired girl stereotype, who’s often found naked in Kamito’s bed (they have a pact after all), naked except for her long nudity covering hair, and a pair of high socks. She won’t remove the socks because that would be perverted.
And Kamito never gets laid, ever, despite all of the girls that throw themselves at him in this show, firecat tsundere Claire, princess tsundere Rinslet, warrior tsundere Ellis, or slutty princess Fianna (you have to vary these characters eventually). The minute that he might actually show an interest in a girl, he’ll get pummelled by the others, usually Claire who thinks that she’s Louise from Familiar of Zero. Because she couldn’t make the pact with Est, she takes Kamito on as her slave spirit. Have you ever realised that a poor genre show winds up making you critique the genre as a whole, not just that particular show? After watching Blade Dance of the Elementalers, you might need to watch a decent harem show to remember why you liked them in the first place.
Now I’m having difficulty remembering what actually happened in Blade Dance of the Elementalers, aside from the harem mayhem, and the odd moment of action. There is a whole lot of plot and exposition in the show. There’s Kamito’s gender-bending past (although why exactly he did that, we don’t really know). Claire has a tragic family past, Ellis has trouble with her family, which to be fair is actually explored in the final few episodes, Fianna’s past is complex, although Rinslet’s history isn’t really touched on. There’s are hints to a back-story for Est, while Kamito’s old sword-spirit, Restia keeps popping in and out of the narrative, but doesn’t do much aside from comment, or look ominous. The thing is despite the action, the build up to the Blade Dance, and all the exposition, the story doesn’t really occur at all in this show. We don’t even get to see the Blade Dance that they eventually qualify for. This is one of those ‘Please can we have a Season 2’ shows that never get a season 2, and are quite rightly forgotten. Within two weeks you’ll be thinking of this show as “Bald Dunce of the Elementalists”, in three weeks it will be “the one with the socks” and in four it will be “Infinite Stratos, right?”
This is the sort of show that anime distributors get as part of a two-fer deal. They shell out for the show that they really want to release, but have to take a lemon as part of the package deal, and wind up releasing it to try and claw some money back on the arrangement. You should treat it accordingly. Blade Dance is fine if you’re in the mood for fan service, and you have money to burn.