Blood Blockade Battlefront is a pretty fun show—not only because it’s wacky and energetic and unpredictable, but because each episode kind of feels like a puzzle to me. I’ll admit, I was pretty stumped on this one (although that’s not really the reason it took me so long to get around to writing this post. This episode, in particular, especially coming out of episode two’s hugely concentrated dose of imagery, felt disconnected and weird and not really quite right to me the first few times through—and then I realized this was an episode of contrasts and it all made sense. Well, as much as it can.
Episode 3: “The Intersection of Man and Monster”
Turns out, there were actually quite a few clues pointing to what this episode was trying to say, but other than the really obvious one currently serving as the header image for this post the rest of them were a bit more subtle . A lot of what Blood Blockade Battlefront did this episode had to do with the relationships between shots, which is a bit different than what episode two was doing. You have to have (at least) two things to create a meaningful contrast and so the use of complementary and oppositional shots was really what ended up defining this episode.
As it should have for an episode about Klaus Von Reinherz, a man who dwells at the intersection between humanity and monstrosity, a man whose dominant visual motif is that of the cross and who stands both symbolically and literally between man and monster for the sake of his way of life. In one sense, it’s a noble way to live his life. In another, it feels fantastically doomed—and, indeed, crosses also carry a close association with death (but, also, salvation). It is no coincidence that we see crosses both entering and exiting the alterworld (2 & 6 in the gallery below); Klaus has ventured into a dangerous place to play a game with humanity as the bet, risking his own life deep within the territory of fearful alien creatures.
But, ultimately, it is the contrast between the human and the monster, between the suddenly comforting chaos of the city and the disorienting abstractness of the alterworld, that rules the episode. And it’s not confined solely to Klaus’ adventure, but starts from the very beginning of the episode with the freaky cut from White (who, despite being a ghost, seems quite human) to a weird bird alien thing attacking Leo’s face, cleverly tied together by similar lighting. There is the human and there is the alien, but they truly do exist near to each other—as near as a monstrous vacuum to a hapless tenant’s belongings.
Although he aligns himself with humanity, Klaus bridges the apparent gap between the world in numerous ways throughout the episode and the visuals of the show resonate with his actions. Klaus has always been characterized as something of a beat of a man, with his teeth jutting out over his lips and K.K. even describing his incredible hardiness as “beastly.” And yet, this is the same man who happily devotes himself to playing the most mentally demanding of games, a game that sucks “one of humanity’s greatest minds” dry. In Vivid’s translation, Ulchenko’s arrogant speech before going into Don Arlelelle Eruca Fulgrouche’s game makes explicit that the former Russian is only the best human player…and the juxtaposition of his words with a shot of Klaus’ face—Klaus, who will later surpass the greatest of the humans, but fail to defeat the monstrous—demonstrate that Klaus is indeed in a category of his own. The man who uses the Brain Grid Blood Battle Style balances between the two worlds using the strength of both his body and mind. 
Prosfair, then, become the symbol of the crossing, the intersection between the two worlds.  On one side stands Ulchenko, on the other stands Don Arlelelle—each represents his own race, human and monster, respectively. They clash, and humanity falls back, only for Klaus to step in for the sake of its (undeserving) salvation. However, even as humanity’s new representative, Klaus’ association with the alterworld is still powerful and his distance from Ulchenko is as vast as the separation between he and Don Arlelelle. There are a couple ways Blood Blockade Battlefront frames the differences between Klaus and Ulchenko, expressed by the way they are depicted in visually similar shots.
The two pairs of shot exemplify this contrast through similarity. Although these shot of Klaus and Ulchenko share many of the same formal qualities (a way of expressing the humanity they share in common), the differences in composition and mise-en-scene separate the two men and establish Klaus as the “superior” of the two. In the top set, both Ulchenko and Klaus are shot from a low angle, but Ulchenko is small within the frame’s middle ground, while Klaus dominates the foreground of his shot. One of these two men will be swallowed up by the monstrosity of the place. In the second set, Ulchenko and Klaus both face the monumental task of the game before them, their respective wishes hanging in the balance. Although both are crowded by the game itself, the pieces obscure Ulchenko from our vision, while Klaus establishes his own visual space within the game. Furthermore, in both of Klaus’ shots, he is accompanied by the image of the cross, representative of his role as intersectional savior. 
For Don Arlelelle, the distinction between he and Klaus is obviously dominated by the difference in their physical appearance. Arlelelle is an alien; Klaus a human. But, looking past the obvious, there is a disparity in their collective inhumanness. Said another way, their respective inhumanity is expressed through entirely different mode. Once again, Don Arelelle’s is obvious—he’s not human at all, despite his eloquence and affinity for challenging humans at the game he loves. But Klaus? Perhaps the best way to say it is that he is inhuman in his humanity. He is so very human that he is really not human at all.
It should come as no surprise that the most evocative visual representation of this comes at the end of Klaus’ Prosfair mactch, as he delivers what is essentially a personal thesis on the way he wants to conduct himself in the world. Klaus’ declaration is simultaneously fiercely individualistic and somewhat isolating from the “people who are weak”—once again a split between him and the weaker form of humanity. But back to Arlelelle, who struggles to understand Klaus’ motivations and continued attempts to insert himself into the junctures between the muddled affairs of the alterworld and the human world, two worlds become one. In the parallel shots below, we see Arlelelle and Klaus shot in (again) ways that are formally similar, but the differences in color in the first set and the sunburst that seems as if it’s generated by Klaus himself and shines upon Arlelelle distinguish them as different. It as if the visual are telling us it is not wrong to compare the two, but to remember that Klaus’ intense passion for living fiercely for humanity marks him as more exceptional than his opponent. Klaus may lose the game of Prosfair, but no one will defeat him entirely.
So, what does this episode leave us with besides an encompassing characterization of Klaus demonstrated through both his own words and the clever use of parallel imagery to illustrate the differences between Klaus and humanity/monstrosity? If I may conclude with a somewhat lazy answer: I don’t think it needs to do anything more. This was Klaus’ episode and the illumination of his character her gracefully (If bombastically) informed us of exactly the type of character with whom we are dealing. The tag scenes with Leo and White at the beginning and ending of the episode were fascinating in their own right, but the implications of that relationship aren’t really ready to be examined.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that we ought to enjoy this episode of Blood Blockade Battlefront for what is was—a triumph of humanity over humanity’s weaknesses and monstrosity’s strengths. This was a visual and thematic articulation of the line Klaus gives to Leo in the first episode: “As long as one tries to take even one step towards the light, the human spirit can never truly be defeated!”
 How about the episode being bisected by the closing of the door that marks the true entrance into the weirdness of the alterworld?
 Offhand, this reminds me of the whole “body and soul composite” conception of humanity that is so integral to Catholicism, which is pretty cool (if somewhat out of place in this show). It’s not even a proper comparison, just something that made me think about it (particularly in contrast to the brain-only humanity of Ulchenko).
 I couldn’t really work this into the main body of the piece, but one thing I really like about the huge clock in Arlelelle’s Prosfair room is that the two hands frequently make a cross as they rotate in opposite directions. I found that to be a rather compelling expression of the instability of the connection between the two worlds.
 I am aware that “intersectional savior” sounds incredibly legit, but I really just made up the phrase as I was writing this.
4 thoughts on “Blood Blockade Battlefront, Episode 3”
I love your analysis! It’s so interesting to hear it from your perspective with your insight into the visual medium used. You spot things I never would have noticed. And I love the term intersectional savior!
This episode solidified Klaus as my favorite character of the show. (I’m not into the moe types as you seem to be. 😉 ) His statement of his philosophy, with the accompanying imagery of the sunrise over the desert, totally gave me chills. A lot of people didn’t seem to like this episode as much since it had less action, but I found its battles of will and intellect really intense. Loved it.
Can’t wait for your analysis of episode 4 though. It was, surprisingly, even better.
It actually took me a few watches to warm up to this episode, but it’s always a good sign when diving deeper into how an episode is working make me like it more. The next time I watch it will probably be my favorite watch of it yet.
I haven’t quite figured out who my favorite character in the show is yet…I like Klaus’ philosophy a lot, but he’s a bit…intense? for me. I’m repping Chain on Twitter right now, but White is probably the character who has the bulk of my attention—partly because yes, she’s very cute, but also because of the intrigue surrounding her character (after all, she’s Matsumoto’s OC! Good things have to be coming from her!).
I’m not familiar with Matsumoto’s work before this. (Though, looking her? up I noticed Kyousougiga? is hers and that’s been on my crunchy queue. I’ll have to move it up my priority list.) I am interested in White though. I can’t figure out what she is. But then I’m sure I’m not supposed to yet.
Question: you mention the Vivid translation. I assume then you’re not watching this on Funimation. Is the Vivid translation better? And where can I watch it?
Kyousougiga is her only other work as a series director, although she worked as an episode director for various shows at Toei before that. Kyousougiga is excellent; very highly recommended.
I actually watch the episode on Funimation, but Vivid is a fan subbing group that I typically rewatch the episode with, for a number of reasons. Their actual video looks better, the translation is often better, and you can turn the subs off! If you search Vivid Subs, you’ll find their website and can grab the torrent from there.