Review: BlazBlue Alter Memory
Are you intrigued by the idea of a show that incorporates both time loops and parallel universes? How about one that barely explains how either of these function but still largely centres its plot around them? This is the question you should probably ask yourself before watching BlazBlue Alter Memory, as it’s an anime that is going to make you do some of the work. Better yet, ask yourself if you like BlazBlue, and if you want a show that actually ends up complimenting the games really well. It might not make a lot of sense at first, but Alter Memory ends up being the most enjoyable way to get into the BlazBlue story, and it’s a show that intrigued me enough to research and learn its components in a way the game did not.
Alter Memory covers the story of both BlazBlue Calamity Trigger and Continuum shift, although it powers through the content of the first game surprisingly quickly. This actually works quite well, as the second game introduces new characters that help broaden the scope of the story. The anime doesn’t get bogged down by Calamity Trigger’s time loop either, and whilst this concept isn’t explained as well as it could be, the show gives the story clarity by only really focusing on the stuff that actually happens, rather than the alternate endings, parallel timelines, and other mechanics that can make the games hard to follow.
The streamlined story works well, although the series’ terminology isn’t always properly explained. This is unfortunate, as for the most part Alter Memory acts as the perfect starting point for entering the BlazBlue universe.
Whilst the beginning of the show feels a little confused, after a few episodes things start to become more focused, and once you begin to understand each character’s goals and motivation everything is easier to follow. As a fighting game the story works because it’s rare for two characters to ever want the same thing; there’s always going to be conflict and this can essentially result in any character fighting any other. As an anime this can be difficult to follow at first, but as you begin to understand how things work it becomes exciting and unpredictable to watch.
It’s also worth noting that BlazBlue Alter Memory looks incredible. This is enough to keep you going through its confusing start, and you don’t even have to know who you want to win in order to enjoy the spectacular fight scenes. These never overstay their welcome either, which I personally enjoyed as watching long fights when you know the outcome can be a little tedious. It also means there’s a lot of time for character interactions, and although the likes of Carl Clover and Bang only make brief appearances, Ragna, Jin and Noel are developed extensively.
For me, the choice to omit some of the content works well, and most of the editing decisions feel appropriate. This includes an extensive and climactic ending that could have easily been rushed, but instead concludes the series on a high note. Admittedly the show’s structure isn’t perfect however, and whilst the entirety of Calamity Trigger has been reduced to under three episodes, half an episode has then been dedicated to hot spring based fanservice. You decide if that’s a good thing or not.
But what really struck me about Alter Memory was how much it made me want to go back and play the BlazBlue games, as well as how it intrigued me about the story in the way the series had failed to do before. Sure it doesn’t always explain things clearly, but it compelled me to go back to the game’s story, google the time travelling properties of the Cauldron, and begin to understand the more complicated elements of the series. And once you do understand them, the show’s one major flaw essentially goes away.
Also play: BlazBlue: Chronophantasma