Blassreiter Complete Series Part 1 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, October 15, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Demons, secret organizations and motorcycle racers combine to form a surprisingly intriguing series.

What They Say
A blood-born plague races across Germany, giving life to mechanized monsters who are hell-bent on making a bloody mess out of anyone in their path. Known as Demoniacs, these creatures have the perverse ability to meld with technology and wield it as an extension of their uncontrollable cyber rage. Standing in their way is civilization's last hope for a savior.

Joseph Jobson - the mysterious blue rider - fuses with the unreal technology of his battle-tested motorcycle to defend man against machine. But the same tainted blood that carries his strength threatens to devour his soul, leaving him nothing more than a murderous demon. The future of death is now, and it refuses to be stopped.

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review!
Audio:
Blassreiter gets a rather solid bilingual presentation as both the English and Japanese language tracks are in 5.1 encoded at 448kbps. Though they are 5.1 mixes, they really only use the forward soundstage as there's practically nothing discernible from the rear channels overall. The forward soundstage does make out very well by this though as it's a good strong presentation where the motorcycle action and the guns and other effects really come across very well. There's a strong sense of placement and directionality as well as depth in numerous scenes that help to make it a lot more engaging than a standard stereo mix. We didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.

Video:
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This half of the collection contains the first twelve episodes with six episodes on each disc. The series has a very strong visual style to it with the amount of CG in it and the transfer comes across very well. There are scenes where it's a bit noisy and not quite as smooth as it should be, but by and large this series really pops out overall, and most especially with the CG scenes. Colors are very vivid, darks hold up well without any serious issues and it's free of cross coloration. The show really looks very good and is quite visually appealaing.

Packaging:
Blassreiter has an incredibly strong piece of cover art with Blue standing strong, pale skin and all, while his transformed mode is shadowed behind him. The character artwork is really very striking and has a sense of great masculinity and power combined with dark foreboding. Something about this piece is very powerful, especially when combined with the logo along the bottom. The back of the slipcover is given over to Malek where we get a good upper body shot of him, partially transformed, while a headshot of his full transformation mode is to the right. The summary is kept relatively minimal since it doesn't want to give away too much but it sets the stage fairly well. The extras are clearly listed and we get a small set – very small – of shots from the show along the bottom above the production credits. The technical grid is moved to the bottom of the slipcover where it conveys everything well in a very easy to read format with the color choices.

Inside the slipcover we get a pair of clear thinpak cases that are really quite good, though I would have reversed the style. The front of the case has a breakdown of the six episodes on that disc with the episode name, title and a few sentences about it, which can sometimes reveal a little too much. Episode summaries are better for websites than for packaging of a show you're about to watch. The back of the cases are where the action is with one of them featuring Wolf with his transformed mode and the other with Gerd. They're done in the same style as the front of the slipcover and have the same sense of power and intensity about them. Each of the thinpaks also have reverse side artwork to them that are full length pieces going sideeways with Amanda in one and other XAT members in the other. No show related inserts are included in this release.

Menu:
Interestingly, Blassreiter's menus use the cover art in an interesting way to separate itself from it and look just as stylish. The first menu uses the artwork of Amanda from the interior and I believe the second volume uses Gerd for it. What makes it interesting is that it zooms in heavily on it to just do a part of their face rather than a full length or even partial shot of it. This gives it a very close-up feeling that's almost a little off putting. The navigation strip is the standard slim style that's common among FUNimation's menus. Submenus load quickly and easily and the navigation is just right. And as is the norm, the menus did not read our players' language presets as it defaulted to English with no subtitles.

Extras:
The extras are all on the second disc and are fairly minimal but there's still some good stuff to be had here. The standards in the clean opening and closing sequences is here and there's a commentary track included for the twelfth episode which is a nice touch. The only other thing included her is a four minute or so promotional video that was put out before the series started and used to get people pumped for it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At twenty-four episodes long, Blassreiter was an absolute chore to watch when it became one of the first series Gonzo pushed out as a simultaneous streaming show back in 2008. It was mildly interesting at first and then went downhill quickly for me where each week it was something I absolutely didn’t look forward to, which we documented in twenty-four reviews. So when FUNimation picked up the show, I had a fair bit of dread about it and even offered it up to the other reviewers to work on instead of myself so that it could be given a fair shake by someone not prejudiced against it. I had no takers.

Taking in the series for a second time, but in a very different way as it was on a big screen TV, much better visual and audio presentation and with twelve episodes at once, my opinion has changed rather significantly. The flow of the show is far more apparent here and it plays out in a way that’s much smoother and well connected, but it also helps in that the expectations were diminished some as well from the initial viewing. Characters that I thought were going to be central but instead turned out to be players in an arc are more apparent now and that changes the dynamic fairly well. This is a show that makes out better by being viewed in this format, both with the number of episodes and having seen it already.

Blassreiter, which literally means pale rider, is a twenty-four episode series from Gonzo that does play heavily as if it was being funded by a motorcycle racing organization. The series is set in Germany where we’re following a loosely defined group known at XAT, the Xenogensis Assault Team. XAT deals with outbreaks of creatures known as Demoniacs which are strange creatures that can fuse with machinery that are then called Amalgams. It’s not stated how long this has been going on just yet, but the populace in general is aware of it though it doesn’t seem to dominate the discourse. XAT’s a small group, at least here in this neck of the woods, with a half dozen or so primary members who flit around on motorcycles with heavy sniper rifles to take down any that appear in a fairly timely fashion.

The series kicks off with a dramatic change to the status quo when a premier motorcycle racer named Gerd ends up in an accident during a Demoniac attack. His legs are crushed and his career is over, but when a mysterious woman named Beatrice gives him a pill, he finds that he has use of his legs again and can transform into a Demoniac of some sort, but one that retains his humanity. Gerd takes to this new life completely and dishes out destruction upon Amalgams that appear, but XAT is really cautious about him even as the population loves him even more. Unfortunately, his new abilities are not all that they seem and everything that could go wrong does go wrong for Gerd. Even worse is that he has friends in XAT that know him well and watching the spiral is beyond painful.

And that pain transcends elsewhere. Gerd used to ride with a man named Hermann who is in XAT. And Hermann’s usual partner, Amanda, has an adopted teenage son named Malek who is getting bullied at school. Malek looks up to Gerd even when public opinion goes against him, and he invariably ends up as the next one to fall to Beatrice’s mysterious plan to find the Chosen One for some mysterious man named Xargin who has great plans for the Demoniacs in this world. The larger back story is given a few nods here and there with mentions of apocalypse and Demoniacs running amuck in the world, but by and large it’s focused on the smaller arcs, such as Gerd dealing with loss twice and Malek’s being bullied and getting revenge.

When I watched this show the first time around, it seemed like Gerd was going to be the main character. Then as time went on, it became more apparent that it was something of an ensemble piece but with no real stand out characters as people get shuffled off stage at various times. When Malek came on, it was even less interesting. But when taken as a whole, and with the whole series having already been seen, it’s more apparent that the lead character is Blue and arguably Amanda from the XAT team. There are a lot of connections spread throughout the characters, too many coincidences really, but as it moves forward things do become clearer when viewed in this format. The mysterious Blue that shows up rarely in the first few episodes takes on a much greater role as this set goes on and you can see how Amanda has a stronger role because of her connections to just about everyone, even if it is playing the six degrees game at times. This change of dynamic when viewed in this form is really intriguing and did change my view of the series significantly for the better.

Visually, I’m still really unsure of the show in some ways. There’s a lot of CG here and some of it looks really good, but it stands out too much from the rest of the animation. At times, this makes sense because you can give in to the idea that the Demoniacs and Amalgams are otherworldly and so they shouldn’t follow the same visual rules. The motorcycle sequences, at least for the human rides, doesn’t work as well though in that regard, even if I really like the look of it all. The character designs in general are good and I liked that most of the cast is at least in their twenties if not older for some, so it’s not all teenage punks running around doing their thing. There’s a good bit of variety here and they have no qualms about offing characters when the need arises.

In Summary:
Blassreiter was a show I absolutely detested when I saw it streaming and really had no desire to ever see again. But like many other shows that I’ve rewatched, seeing it in a different format really can change your opinion of it. What helped as well was having some of the knowledge of how the structure of the series is with its different arcs and where the real lead characters are, something that is not apparent when watching it on a weekly basis. There are things to dislike about it, from the way some key things are kept from being talked about such as the world makeup to the lack of clarity on who is really the lead here. Blassreiter really surprised me and changed my opinion from a show I had a very low opinion about to one that’s more mediocre. That may not be saying a lot, but to me, it’s a significant change and the series is far more worth checking out than I thought it would be before.

Features
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Episode 12 Commentary, Promotional Videos, Textless Songs

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 59.98
Running time: 288
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Blassreiter