The world can be a scary place. Nothing new there, nothing wrong there either. For one person to find their way in a society of others trying to find their way, it is an inherently shared and unique experience. Oxymoronic, but true. Of course, that isn’t taking into account external factors, such as if the world were to be suddenly and intrinsically linked to another dimension chock full of beings beyond human imagination…well, not really, because a human did imagine them, but you know what I mean. Add on top of that the simple fact that every dimension and species holds its own heroes and villains and you’ve got yourself a recipe for chaos in a cookbook of insanity. But then, you have to ask yourself, is that the kind of book you would willingly read?
New York City, a bustling mecca of countless people who have gathered from across the globe…is gone. The whole thing exploded into another dimension or somesuch. Sad…and also catastrophic. However, in its place now stands Hellsalem’s Lot, the one city on the planet which caters to humanity and the plethora of beings from the Alterworld who are now known to our world. From mushroom-esque beings lacking a skeletal structure, to something that looks legitimately like a devil, to a bunch of brains that wear a stylish cloak, the world as it once stood has fallen and in its place stands a much more complex one. Yet one thing remains the same; wherever there is good, there is bad and wherever there is bad, there is good. Thus, a select few exceptionally skilled beings have taken charge and decided to keep the world safe from threats that the police just cannot handle…even though they have police mecha. They are Libra and their newest member is our protagonist, a feeble fella by the name of Leonardo Watch who just so happens to possess the All Seeing Eyes of the Gods…which don’t sound plot important at all. Spoiler: They are.
Long story short, Blood Blockade Battlefront (B3 for so-much-shorter) is a fish out of water story that thought a boy in New York was nowhere near intense enough and so destroyed New York, threw in more creatures than you could shake a handful of sticks at and gave him magical powers to boot. After accidentally joining Libra, Leo is confronted with danger and shenanigans on an episodic basis that serves to paint an abstract picture of this new world and develop those who dwell within it. Though he maintains his humorous, fearful outbursts, we slowly see Leo develop into the kind of person he never thought he was. From a backstory of self-declared cowardice, he spends damn near every episode trying to help someone. Sure he gets captured just as often, but, as we and Leo learn, it is his trying that sets him apart. In a world of all new forms of segregation and fear, what Leo considers to make him a normal guy are actually what set him apart. The simple fact that he is willing to help is enough to warrant his existence in the world. Of course it helps that his allies are able to fight the threats that oppose them, but Leo’s place in the world, and in the story, is that of an emotional beacon that can pierce through the fog of the world. Also his magic eyes can literally pierce through the literal fog of the world, but that isn’t the most heartwarming portion of his story…though it is really cool. That being said, Leo is only able to survive this journey of self-discovery thanks to the friends around him, namely Zapp, Klaus, Black and White. There are certainly other, but they don’t receive nearly as much screentime as the others so, whilst their contribution is appreciated, it is not as visible. The mentioned also fill the rather specific roles of friend, mentor, possibly misguided friend and love interest, respectively. A veritable bounty of archetypes whose very existence is important without even going into detail, since their presence in Leo’s life is enough to have changed it.
Now don’t go thinking Leo is the only character who matters in this series, it is simply that, as the protagonist, he is the one most explored. There are however episodes that focus on the bulk of the main cast, wherein we learn the folly of Zapp’s life, the intensity with which Klaus makes every one of his decisions and the emotional complexity which makes White and Black who they are. This is all, of course, interspersed with truly insane creatures committing often horrid and ridiculous crimes, with which Libra has to deal. From tracking the distribution routes of illegal drugs, to hunting down incomprehensibly powerful vampires (dubbed Blood Breeds), B3 provides a wide range of classic villainy tropes all modified to be, you guessed it, crazier than normal. This allows the series to reveal a large deal about the world whilst at the same time populating it with characters and stories. This wide swath also clearly denote the tone of Hellsalem’s Lot as mismatched, bearing both humour and intensity, with both infallible good and unspeakable evil bubbling beneath the surface. However, as a direct side effect of this, B3 can be a little hard to read. The complexity which is born from under-explanation leaves the audience to build a lot of the story themselves and fill in the numerous gaps of plot. A technique which inspires interest assuredly, but given the “Anything can happen” concept of this world, sometimes necessary story beats become clouded and confusing, creating a snowball effect that may leave some not wanting to continue…or wanting to rewatch and understand. Six of one I suppose.
Visually speaking, B3 is an amazing and eclectic experience. Combining the multitude of fictional creatures and architecture with the previously established New York that once stood, the series creates an enthralling environment that seems as impossible as it does probable. Standard cars line the streets, waiting at red lights with road demons who appear as if they could tear though everything in their path and yet don’t. Star faced announcers read the news, humanoid dolphins sit at diners drinking coffee and all manner of creatures line the streets to sell their various wares. Top that off with the more sinister side of society, such as brain monster mafia dons and skeletal human traffickers, and you’ve run the gamut forward and back. Even the powers of this world are strange in appearance. Leo’s eyes are intricate sigils that spin and expand when in use, Zapp forges ornate swords out of his own blood and Klaus tops them all by forming immensely detailed crucifixes both out of his own blood and the souls of his enemies (when he confines them). The non-visually complex powers aren’t much better when it comes to simplicity, such as Chain’s ability to add and remove herself from existence at will. Which sounds equal parts cool and terrifying.
B3 also shines in its score. I’m not one to usually focus on a soundtrack outside of watching a series, but B3’s is just so appealing. Generally resting on a perch of jazz, the series creates interesting melodies that not only support climactic sequences, but also build character in the world itself. The simple fact that, during a chess game between Klaus and Steven, a radio was playing a song lyrics and all was amazing. It added a sense of realism to the entire brief sequence that you don’t see too often. One episode even played what was reported to be an Alterworld cover of an old Earth tune, using yet another element to build the story of the world. The soundtrack is honestly one of the strongest factors for me believing B3 feels more complete than a lot of other series. Not necessarily infallible or perfect, but simply the truest offering that the studio and people behind it wanted to convey.
Blood Blockade Battlefront is a complicated weave of story, visuals and sounds that culminates in a near overwhelming experience. Often points there is so much occurring on screen that a human being could not possibly observe it all and the world itself can appear so spontaneous and haphazard that it is difficult to even tread metaphorical water. Hell, there’s even a chess-like game that never has its rules explained and causes its players to bleed internally after playing for 99 hours straight, which doesn’t even appear to be a truly long game. And there, in this chaotic mess of negative points, lies the beauty of this series. We aren’t meant to understand every nook and cranny of this world because, despite our own personal belief, we are just simple humans. We don’t have magical eyes, we can’t turn our blood into weaponry and we sure as heck can’t truly comprehend a world where an entire city almost collapsed into another dimension. We are supposed to be overwhelmed, supposed to be confused and supposed to struggle to grasp this reality. Yes it can go a touch to far sometimes and bleed that confusion into plot, but it is not a fractured experience for those mistakes. It is a simple story that is layered with the maniacal. It is a story about a boy who wants to find his place in a world he doesn’t understand, trying, failing and making friends along the way. And once you remember that, this particular world seems a whole lot less scary. Except for that restaurant where the clam chowder eats people, that will never not be terrifying.
The tale of a sane man who thinks he’s living in a mad world and a Madman who thinks he’s living in a sane world…and they’re both right