Blade & Soul is an action-adventure series based on the popular video game of the same name. The show is set in a world of swords, sorcery, and high-powered assault rifles. Yes, assault rifles. Logic be damned, this world has firearms.
Anyway, the series focuses on Alka, an assassin for the Clan of the Sword. The Clan of the Sword is a gifted and feared guild, whose skills with the blade are talked about in hushed whispers. Those who encounter their ranks rarely live to tell the tale, while those who do make it out alive are too afraid to speak of their experiences.
The series opens with Alka on the run from masked pursuers, all of whom wield heavy artillery. It seems as if her life’s end is near, when she lands before a fountain in the courtyard of a ruined structure and those chasing her box Alka in. As they open fire, though, Alka retaliates, and tears each in a bloody dance that leaves nary a survivor. Bit by bit, the story begins to unfold in the world: Alka is a murderer. She’s wanted for the killing of her master, and her capture will yield great rewards, dead or alive.
Nary a day later, Alka finds herself in the remote Moshiri Village, tasked with the protection of village leader Morii. The kingdom of Palam has been making offers to buy the village, though Morii will have none of it. Rumor has it that Palam uses supernatural powers to fuel their empire, though Morii’s not convinced. Mostly, she fears that they will resort to force to get what want in the next meeting.
The deal goes south, as two Palam soldiers are left dead, and one survivor returns to relay the message. That night, fire rains down upon the village. The news that Alka was in the village drew out the most vicious of the Palam forces, who would massacre every man, woman and child save Morii and Alka. By the time the fires went out, there was nothing left. The happy homes and green fields were little more than cinders. Morii, grief-stricken, knows not what to do. Alka tells her story, of a Palam soldier that killed her master, and burdened her with false charges. Together, Alka and Morii have one real choice: to take down the ones who wronged them, and to find their own peace in this vicious world.
Blade & Soul’s first episode mostly serves to set the tone for the rest of the show. The basic premise and core characters are established, while attempts are made to build up the world through cut-away events. Alka is established as the badass warrior with a haunted past, Morii is the spunky sidekick, and so on.
While this first episode shows promise for a greater adventure, there is much to be done before the Blade & Soul can be considered “passable.” The plot, at this point, is paper-thin. The grand trappings and pseudo-political backdrop do little to hide the fact that the show’s core premise is “Palam is bad, Alka is good.” The pacing is uneven, as it swings wildly from adrenaline-pumping action, to painfully dull expository scenes that feel like they have little place in the current context. The dialogue is poorly written, and the several attempts of levity and humor fall utterly fall flat.
Frankly speaking, the show feels like it’s just a poor attempt to bring a video game to an animated format.
Wait a minute…
Joking aside, the series is simply inconsistent in both its delivery and its presentation.
The show’s backgrounds, while generally attractive, tend to be marred by bits of obvious, obtrusive bits of computer-generated animation. Waving flags and the like are presented as CG, which clashes greatly against the otherwise lush backdrops. Similarly, the quality of the character designs seems to split along gender lines. Female characters are presented as shapely, attractive ladies whose very existence is to look good for the camera. Their eyes tend to be locked in a vacant, dead stare, though, that’s present even when they speak. The result is a creepy “doll-like” appearance that’s incredibly unnatural to behold. The male characters are the exact inverse. Their designs are generally nondescript, to the point that they blend into the background. However, their overall appearances are generally more lively than their female counterparts. The mixing of the clashing character designs creates an incoherent overall style that really seems to pull the viewer out of the world.
If there were one consistently strong aspect of the show, it would probably be the battle scenes. The show’s fights are gorgeously animated, well-choreographed sequences that are genuinely fun to watch. Each encounter feels like a visceral dance, as Alka squares off against the various forces that stand in her way. Attacks are punctuated with satisfying blood sprays that paint the landscapes crimson.
After this first episode, I’m finding it hard to recommend Blade & Soul as a show. While the plot has some potential, it’s currently little more than a dressed-up revenge plot. The character designs are inconsistent, and the dialogue is stupid at best. Unless the show makes sharp improvements in the near future, it’s likely that the Blade & Soul will struggle to reach mediocrity, let alone greatness.