Before I launch into this post, I want to direct readers to something I wrote over on Tumblr last night, an abbreviated essay called “Blood Blockade Battlefront: Style vs Substance(?) and Cinematic Language.” This essay lays out the theoretical framework this post will be operating out of—simply, that visual language is a valid semiotic code  capable of expressing meaning, just as more traditional methods are. So, the point of today’s post is to essentially lay out an example of how this is true, breaking down the way director Rie Matsumoto and her team have constructed a cinematic code that conveys information, themes, and ideas to the audience through the images on the screen.
Episode 2: “Vision for the Blind”
The starting point for this whole discussion begins with the abstract idea that the cinematography and visual language in Blood Blockade Battlefront is very much self-aware and, indeed, announces its presence to the audience. To put it in more familiar terms, what BBB constantly does is equivalent to the cinematic breaking of the fourth wall; that is, it uses techniques that intentionally remind the viewer that they are watching a film on a screen. In the first episode, this manifested itself in a pretty brash way through the use of some big ole block letters announcing the name of Zapp’s attacks and while the second episode certainly has some of these types of techniques (the hilarious hovering descriptions around the characters was my favorite example from this episode), there’s also a ton of most sophisticated techniques that do this floating around in episode two.
Let me show you what I mean with an example from this episode:
What you see in the image above are two images captured from a single take where the camera begins towards the back of the room, then slowly zooms out until we get the shot on the right. The shot on the right uses the bone structures we see around the perimeter of the room to form a “frame with a frame.” We have, of course, the actual frame—that is, the screen on which we’re watching the episode and within which the entirety of the cinematic artifact is contained—but we also have another frame, created by the jagged black shadows of the bones the camera is now looking through. This example is particularly useful because of the picture on the left, which occurs before the picture on the right and is composed of more traditional shot framing, in which we simply see the characters within the context of the truck’s interior. But by zooming out and creating the second frame by placing the bones between the viewer and the characters, the cinematic language reminds use that we’re seeing something inherently artificial.
Or, how about this sequence of shots, where we cut from watching the episode’s villain force Leo’s eyes open to a shot LITERALLY INSIDE LEO’S EYE.
There are, of course, a bunch of other ways that BBB draws attention to the fact that it is cinema—shots with mirrors as display screens, shots using screens, shots through glass, shots through absurdly placed security cameras—all of which are essentially just ways to call the audience’s attention to the fact that there are things happening with the way the visuals are constructed. The techniques are begging for attention, for the audience to look for, recognize, and understand their meaning: “Hello! Look at what we’re doing!”
But all that is simply to justify my claim that none of this is by accident. The real meat of the episode is only visible when the themes and ideas inhabiting the visuals are pulled out and understood.  The really cool thing about this episode is that it builds on a number of plot points and visual motifs established in the first episode. The big visual metaphor this episode is circles (something we saw at least once in the first episode) and the plot points that lend texture to the visual messaging are the ones involving Leo’s acquisition of his supernatural eyes, which happen to be the focus of this episode. Given that Leo’s eyes are the prime subject of the events that transpire in the episode (from the reason Zapp is stalking his pizza deliveries to the reason he is kidnapped), the repetition of the circle image makes a lot of sense.
If I had to sum it up quickly, I’d say the meaning of the visual language Matsumoto uses is this episode centers around the idea of seeing and not seeing. Obviously, this is reflective of some of the stuff I talked about in yesterday’s post (Leo not being able to see his own courage), but the more pressing narrative element are that Leo was given the power to see almost anything. 
This kicks us into the full weight of the episode’s cinematic efforts, which are most concentrated during the scenes inside the criminals’ truck after Leo has been abducted. At this point in the episode, we’ve seen the circle motif scattered throughout the episode, but inside the truck the presence becomes almost oppressive, starting from the very first shot inside the truck—a swinging lamp formed with two concentric circles, mimicking the appearance of an eye. And from this point on, the screen is littered with circular forms everywhere. Below, you’ll find a small gallery of some of the circular imagery used.
As you can see, the circular form isn’t just limited to inside the truck where Leo is, but spreads out into the chase after him (I particularly like the image of the GPS tracker—again, seeing something that cannot be seen with ordinary eyes). But the circles are everywhere, produced by Leo, reflecting Leo, on the faces of the criminals. And the juxtaposition of all these circular images with the frequent returns to Leo’s eyes and his use of them generates an association between his eyes and the shape [4—read this one!], magnifying the sensation of seeing everything until it all veritably explodes in the faces of the criminals as Leo invokes offensive use of his power. In other words, this isn’t just the plot-based event of Leo making his escape attempt, but also a burst of imagery (note how the final image in the gallery is made up of multiple circles) that is a condensed cumulative effect of everything we’ve been seeing to this point.
This is fantastically well-crafted filmmaking, as Matsumoto and her team have essentially produced an visual climax to parallel the climax of the plot events. But, of course, that would be merely superficial (if stylishly so) if there weren’t another layer of meaning lurking beneath the actual visual execution. The deeper layer here has to do with the importance of Leo’s eyes and making the audience viscerally aware of their power—the effects of which we see at the very end of the episode.
But, at this point, the substance—the “what” being communicated by the circle/eye motif mediated by the self-aware cinema—is that seeing is power. And Leo, because he can see, has power. We see this both literally played out in the way he hijacks the vision of the criminals to aid his escape and cinematically in the way visual symbols linked to his eyes pervade the episode. This point is further emphasized by the helplessness of Zapp before the illusionry of the criminal on the street and by the blind fury of Klaus’ revenge, which Stephen later calls a success despite the fact that everything was left in little pieces and Leo seriously injured.
It’s almost entertainingly appropriate that the enemy technique Leo foils is called “illusionry,” a term that invokes associations with falsity, specifically of vision (“optical illusions,” i.e. illusions that fool the eyes). This isn’t so much a matter of perspective (as it is with shows like Monogatari) as it is of simply seeing the truth of things. If seeing the truth of things is power, the Leo, as the one who sees, is put in the strong position of being able to communicate truth to his friends and to the audience. In the serious elements of the plot, this shows up as Leo’s eyes cut through a powerful new type of supernatural activity; in comedic terms, BBB gives us the hilarious conclusion to Leo and Zapp’s pizza adventures.
Here, the seeing is much less of a literal kind and more of a metaphorical kind, but I found it pretty clever how BBB essentially plays the trick twice—first transforming Zapp’s persecution of Leo into a thankful remembrance, until the glass cracks and Leo internally decries his “asshat” bodyguard. It’s like Matsumoto and Nightow just needed one more laugh at the audience’s expense—and once again it’s Leo who sees into the truth of the matter. It’s a clever comedic expression of the theme of seeing that’s been present throughout the episode, but it’s also just great comedy.
But I promised you guys that we’d see the effects of this episode’s visual musing on the power of Leo’s eyes and on the thematic idea of seeing. And so I will. The circles are gone (they aren’t needed, now that the point has been made) as Leo steps into the ethereally peaceful green of the hospital graveyard. In the top image, you see end of the first long zoom out from Leo’s initial entrance—a shot that runs several seconds, allowing the audience to see there’s no one there. Except, there actually is: White, winning grin and all. At this point, Matsumoto doesn’t need to make a big deal out of it, but we get the telltale shot of Leo just barely opening his eyes to see her as he queries, “Who are you?”
Yup, this is the practical, in-universe result of all the cinematic prowess employed throughout the episode—we’ve been made explicitly aware of the qualities of Leo’s eyes (in exciting fashion) so that when we see a ghost who, it should be noted, seems to have some sort of connection with his sister, we understand that it’s through the properties of Leo’s supernatural eyesight that she is revealed.The trick is further emphasized by not showing us White in the first show, but then using the exact same shot later to show her talking to Leo. In other words, the “seeing is power” substance of the episode has returned here to actually impact the events of the plot and facilitate the transition of the story from part of the narrative to the next.
Alright, that’s all I’ve got. Hopefully, after some 1800+ words, I’ve made my theoretical point about Blood Blockade Battlefront‘s style serving as substance well enough. I hope you enjoyed the post and I hope I’ve convinced you, even if just a little bit, that there’s style for miles in this show—and just as much substance.
 Yeah, I know that’s a pretty freaking esoteric phrase. Basically it just means a system of conventions used to communicate meaning. I just couldn’t find a better way to phrase it here.
 Both the OP and the ED animation contain some interesting pieces that add a lot of texture to the interpretation I’m about to embark upon, but both of them are so incredibly dense that they’d require their own posts to fully explicate.
 This is where the OP/ED would come into my interpretation. There are already connections being made between Leo’s enhanced sight and his sister’s blindness, but that particular relationship hasn’t really been expanded upon enough to make substantial interpretive claims about its thematic significance. For now, I think it’s enough to just allow the hints to add a richness to the sight theme.
 In case you aren’t convinced, check out this image (#2 in the gallery). See all those green lines on the floor of the truck? They’re ostensibly some form of life support for the humans being taken for consumption, but do they remind you of anything in the context of this specific image? Like the veins of an eye? Or how about the bright spot of light that very well could function like a pupil?