In the preview at the end of the first episode of BlazBlue, Tomokazu Sugita states in character that he will free BlazBlue Alter Memory from the curse of bad fighting game anime adaptations. This is now the most tragic line in all of anime for me, eclipsing the ending to ‘Grave of the Fireflies’. Okay, maybe I am being a bit dramatic, but still, BlazBlue Alter Memory is awful and I say that as a person who loves BlazBlue.
BlazBlue gets a bit of a bad reputation for its story, not undeserved as nearly every major motivation is always kept just a bit too opaque and hidden behind needless technobabble that it becomes impossible to care about why anyone is doing anything. The games occasionally got around this by having a lot of charisma and balancing out nearly every poe-faced soap opera scene with a silly scene that had the characters transform into hilarious extended manzai sequences. That, and BlazBlue was a legitimately enthralling 2D fighting game that was supremely enjoyable in every instalment.
BlazBlue Alter Memory, however, has all of the problems of BlazBlue but none of the charm or humour of the games it is based on. Instead, it feels like a rushed “cliff notes” version of the weakest story out of all the games-the second game, Continuum Shift.
What this means is that in a fictional universe known for its impressive cast of colourful characters, we cut who we see nearly every episode to a fraction of the cast, all of whom have terrible chemistry with each other. Alter Memory also brushes past the first game’s story in two episodes, leaving the second game’s story to occupy most of the series. The anime seems to already expect you to know the story of the first game as it moves so quickly to the events of the second and does not try to introduce anyone who was a cast member in Calamity Trigger, instead waiting for the Continuum Shift story to begin before introducing them, and then swiftly pushing them to the wings again as the second half of the series is nearly all Ragna and his story.
Now, this might not have been so bad. Focusing on one story out of the spaghetti junction that is all the competing threads from the game makes sense, but then that story still needs to be entreatingly written for television and this is a fighting game adaptation, with well-choreographed fight sequences. Sadly, BlazBlue Alter Memory does not manage to produce a single interesting fight throughout its entire twelve episode run, a feat of such amazing self-destruction considering that this is an adaptation of a fighting game full of larger than life characters with ridiculous weapons; making cool fight sequences should have been the easiest part.
If anything, the fun character designs turn out to be BlazBlue Alter Memory’s downfall. Far too complicated to easily animate and with moves that really make no sense when taken out of the context of a fighting game, all the action lacks everything that made the video game beautiful. Strikes and clashes have no weight to them, all movement looks cumbersome and the many fancy effects used for everyone’s special moves have been drastically toned down. Ragna’s darkness-based powers that are supposed to look like parts of a demonic beast bursting out of him now look like weaponized goth Instagram filters and Noel’s Bolverk have been changed into boring laser guns that would embarrass a Flash Gordon villain.
That is really the main problem with BlazBlue Alter Memory; it is just a pale imitation of what made the BlazBlue games so enjoyable. Just the very bare essentials of the story without any of the extra padding that appears in the games, resulting in a dry and needlessly convoluted fantasy story with emotional stakes so vague you have nothing to invest in unless you already know the story from the games. Games that had combat so beautiful watching a match was enthralling no matter what skill the participants had is reduced to a shadow puppet theatre without any weight or polish. There is nothing at all to recommend in BlazBlue Alter Memory.
This is not an anime adaptation of a game. This is an anime that has murdered a game and now wears the game's skin as it tries to sickeningly infiltrate its family reunion. No one at the reunion is buying this charade and nether should you.