Mecha fans are always looking for the next great show. Whenever a new property comes out they rush to check it out and give their opinion on the matter. So when Narutaki and I realized that there were six planned movies based on the Broken Blade manga series we were mildly shocked that no one is talking about it. I vaguely remember Dave Cabrera talking about how unusual it was that CMX was releasing the manga but I did not know about the movies until I heard about them on the Decoration Disorder Disconnection Podcast. After watching the first two movies and discovering they were quite good we knew we had to get the word out about this series.
Break Blade, Broken Blade, whatever you call it, I only had a foggy recollection of CMX releasing the manga when Hisui mentioned the series to me. This is unique in itself as there are few mecha manga that don’t originate from an anime. So while I still haven’t picked up this oddity in print form, I dove headfirst into the movies. As there aren’t a ton of robot series coming out each year, the fact that Break Blade seems to have slipped under the radar is rather astonishing. And believe me, it isn’t because these movies aren’t any good. Quite the contrary.
The world of Broken Blade is a medieval world with a major difference. In broken Blade quartz has supernatural properties that have led the creation of a wide variety of magical technology including mecha. A small percentage of people called un-sorcerers cannot manipulate quartz making them handicapped in society. Therefore when the un-sorcerer, Rygart Arrow is summoned by his old friend the king to pilot an ancient robot he is somewhat perplexed. But his homeland is being invaded and he is the only person capable of piloting the suit that may be the tide of the war. Unbeknownst to him the head of the task force sent to kidnap the royal family is also an old friend putting him between a rock and hard place.
As far as we know, even the lowliest people in the society are able to use magic and Rygart is the only one we’ve encountered thus far that can’t. So he is not only handicapped, people fear him for this abnormality and treat him with everything from pity to malice. Though the few friendships he’s made are solid and trusting. Rygart while seemingly aloof, understandably carries a lot of sorrow much of it stemming from his relationship with his father and his own guilt about not having power. Though we don’t yet know all about Rygart’s past, we do know he hasn’t had a solid life and when he returns to the kingdom things are strained between him and the royal family despite him being summoned specifically and the eagerness with which they greet him.
The major theme of the characters in Broken Blade seems to be people who would be much happier anywhere but where life has placed them. Rygart Arrow is a laid back and kind-hearted man who avoids conflict at all cost. But when he learns that Hodr and Sigyn will be executed if they are captured he is forced to fight to protect the people he loves. Hodr hates being king and would have surrendered to avoid this war but cannot do so because it would result in Sigyn’s death. Sigyn seems to be much happier working as a scientist than doing anything as a queen. There also seems to be a good deal of unresolved sexual tension her and Rygart implying she might also not want to be in her marriage. Zess is a brilliant commander and warrior but is forced to fight his oldest and dearest friends. But they are forced into conflict despite their feelings for each other or ideals they may have. I do have to comment that I find it interesting that they play up Sigyn’s role as a scientist. The damsel, warrior, and healer are common roles for women when they are royalty but I can’t think of any scientist queens. It gives Sigyn a very unique feel to her.
The main cast is rather an expected bunch as far as temperaments go, but it is done solidly and each character has their own quirks. Zess who is a childhood friend turned enemy, is very serious and contemplative and of course his side-switching motivation is unclear. As a commander he seems to take an easy hand with his troops the likes of which aren’t very likable. The females on his team made me cringe at every turn; Lee is blood-thirsty sadistic and Cleo is a useless idiot with a large chest that bounces around. I found myself liking King Hodr who takes his duties in stride despite not really wanting the power to do so. And then Queen Sigyn kind of warbles between making moon eyes at Rygart then turning around and being a powerful researcher and scientist, but at least this combination gives her a unique insight in the battles. The romantic relationships are complicated but rather expected. King Hodr and Queen Sigyn compliment each other, they were part of the group of friends that attended the academy together, but it becomes fairly clear that Hodr’s romantic feelings for Sigyn aren’t returned. Rygart undoubtedly has feelings for Sigyn though is loath to act upon them, but it seems obvious where all this is headed. I would love to be surprised by the outcome but am not holding my breath.
The first thing that came to my mind is Escaflowne. While Broken Blade might not have the dragons and elves that make Escaflowne a fantasy world is does have the same distinctly medieval mecha. The mecha themselves are very industrial and real robot looking despite what the setting might normally make you think. Even the protagonists’ Delphine looks similar to a grunt suit just with a little more flair. Also all the weapons are low tech items like crossbows and swords. The ability to jump very high is actually a big deal. The Athens mecha are clearly more advanced than mecha from Krisna and the Delphine uses the power of ancient technology is always superior. Rygart is not a pilot but has Amuro Ray syndrome where he is an inexperienced but his suit is the best. They might introduce flashier weapons and abilities as the series goes on but so far it has all been down to earth.
As one might expect from a movie, the production quality of Broken Blade is very good. The setting allows for plenty of terrain and environments, plus mix medieval and robots is just fun. The robots themselves fall into a more realistic/military category but aren’t without some cool designs, especially Rygart’s ancient mecha. The same can be said for the fights. I am rather curious why they decided to make it a movie series rather than go for a TV serial but I’m not complaining.
It is always nice to find an appreciated gem to share with others especially in a genre like mecha. The series obviously has enough of an appeal to warrant a movie series in Japan so it would be easy to assume that American mecha fans would be talking about this as much. It does make me wonder why this has gone under the radar for as long as it has. While I cannot say that Broken Blade is super original or the best mecha series I have ever seen but it is solid with all the things you would want out of a mecha show. Broken Blade has politics, character drama, adult characters, and movie quality robot battles. This movie seems to be off to a good start for anyone who likes giant robots.
Broken Blade is a nice package with mecha, magic, political strife, and a little romance all executed with beautiful visuals. I have no answer as to why no one is talking about these movies. Sure they won’t blow you away with their originality but it was a solid first movie that made me eager for the second.