Blood Blockade Battlefront, Episode 4

Unlike episode three, which I found to be quite the tough nut to crack, episode four was a little easier to figure out in terms of its visual code. It’s no less intricate or well-constructed; just a little easier to access. At this point in these write-ups, I suppose I should note that I’ve basically thrown all doubts about “over-analyzing” into the wind. I’ll talk about this somewhere in this post, but the attention to detail in Blood Blockade Battlefront, even when it’s not using super fluid animation, is astounding and has entirely convinced me that I can interpret away with enthusiasm knowing that there are people behind this show (Rie Matsumoto, most prominently) who really care about what they’re doing and are offering up a work of art worthy of our attention and analysis.

Blood Blockade Battlefront

Episode 4: “Blood Versus Blood, Red Versus Red” [1]

I suppose it was really only a matter of time before this happened: a red episode. After all, it is Blood Blockade Battlefront. What’s super compelling about it, though, is that Matsumoto saved the red overload for the perfect moment—the first Libra contact we see with the Blood Breed, vampires who are themselves manipulators of blood. In a very real sense, this is blood versus blood and so, of course, in visual terms that becomes an absolutely fascinating explosion of red.

Although there’s a lot of cool mise-en-scene stuff going on in first part of the episode (through Lucky Abrams’ arrival at the Libra headquarters), the focus on the color red doesn’t emerge until later in the episode as the real story of the episode emerges. More than anything, this is Blood Blockade Battlefront‘s vampire episode, which means there’s going to be blood everywhere. With a color-centric episode like this, the visual language ends up being much less about what the camera is doing a much more about what’s happening on-screen when you see the color red showing up. While re-watching the episode for this post (I ended up with 96 screenshots in all), it became pretty obvious to me that there were fewer of Matsumoto’s trademark “cool” shots. That means that, for a lot of the early parts of the episode (which are more comedy-focused), we’re only seeing red used as a background color, rather than an focal point of the visual composition. For example:

Blood Blockade Battlefront

Although there’s a lot of red in both of these pictures, it serves as a contextualizing element rather than a prominent visual cue. By allowing the members of Libra to go about their work background by red, the episode gives us little reminders that these are fighters who use their blood without making it a big deal.

But Libra isn’t the only group out there with red as their signal color. Our first introduction to the vampires at the beginning of the episode is through a quick flair of red during Leo’s subway ride and the subsequent re-introduction of the two particular Blood Breeds who serve as the concrete representation of the abstract threat Leo views in the alterworld also marks their entrance by using red to both visually establish the vampire’s relationship with blood and to demonstrate the similarities they share with Libra. Blood (and, by extension, red) is a symbol of power this episode vis-à-vis what we’ve seen of Libra’s efforts in the past episode and the way the red of the vampires in the alterworld pit overwhelmed Leo’s eyes.

In the first three images above, the vampire Klaus ultimately seals is introduced with a stylized hand motion that crosses her eyes, drawing attention to them, and sucks in a stream of blood that stands out in sharp contrast to the dark surroundings of the subway tunnel. In the final image, as she preaches to the defeated Steven and K.K. about her superior power, we see a bright red light of unknown source glowing behind her. Red and blood equal power and so the vampire’s association with the color marks her as powerful, more powerful even than the fighters of Libra, whose own ties to the color red are marginal in comparison.

During the build up to their duel with the vampiress and the actual fight, Steven and K.K. actually are given a few shot with red in them, but the majority of their fighting is dominated by the yellows and oranges of K.K. electric attacks and the blues of Steven’s ice. The four images below depict the few shots the two Libra members get with red in them. Compared to the vampiress’ introduction with red, Steven and K.K.’s red light in the first image (potentially from Chain’s camera) is weak, but it’s in the final three images where the power difference is really demonstrated. The two impact frames from the vampire’s attack throw the red of Steven and K.K.’s blood across the eerie silhouetted close-ups in a reversal of the prior equation where red=power. In this case, the vampire has coopted their red and made it a symbol of their weakness, a interpretation further strengthened by the fourth shot’s foregrounding of the blood stream. Although this line of red is placed on Steven and K.K.’s side of the screen, we’ve already seen them defeated and so it becomes yet again a symbol of their weakness. (If this is unclear, this comment chain is a bit more colloquial in its explanation.)

To recap to this point, red is established early on as the visual cue for power and after the vampiress is marked as powerful by her association with the color, she appropriates Steven and K.K.’s red by using it to assert power over them. This, then, is the set up for the climactic sequence in which Klaus appears and defeats both of the vampires. Here’s the sakugabooru link if you want to see it in motion, but seeing the sequence frame-by-frame is a pretty amazing thing, so I’ll be using screenshots along the way. If you’ve watched the sequence through that link or remember the episode, you’ll know that Klaus’ short-lived battle with the two vampires is absolute dominated by the color red. Referencing the visual code already established by the episode, this is a demonstration of superior power via color.

I talked last week about how Klaus’ personal symbol is the cross, an image that makes an appearance in several frames of this week’s fight. [2]

As is evident, there is no other point in this episode where red is as dominant a color on screen than in the burst of action that is Klaus’ assault on the vampires. It’s kind of hard to tell what’s going on in motion because of how quickly everything moves, but frame-by-frame the sequence of events becomes much more clear. Klaus literally crushes the first vampire in the first two images; the third uses lines, the angle of the vampiress’ head, and lighting to create the impression that she’s being  pushed back (that is, out of control of the red); and the final three reveal that she actually did try to counter Klaus’ attack but (obviously) failed. Yes, Klaus comes by surprise, by the pervasive use of red in this sequence signifies that he is the one with the most power.

And that’s pretty much where things end in terms of my analysis, although I want to make one final note of the moment that gave me my access point into this interpretation using the color red. Maybe I should have started with this, but it’s too late now. Anyways, when Leo gazes into the pit, leading to his eyes cracking and bleeding, Vivid’s translation of the moment really helps highlight the relationship between red, blood, and power.

Blood Blockade BattlefrontBlood Blockade Battlefront

Leo’s description of the chasm as “drenched in red” highlights the importance of the color itself and the image of his blood (and a slight red filter) in the top shot helps establish the connections between red, blood, and power in a nebulous way that sets up the framework in which the rest of the episode’s use of the color can function and take more concrete form.


[1] If it hadn’t been for the prominent use of red this episode, I might have talked about the way the cinematography this episode reversed a lot of techniques used previously to show Leo’s power of sight. Beyond obvious stuff like the PoV shots of Leo at the beginning of the episode and the shot from inside of his cracking eyes, the use of the wide-angle shot on Leo as he gazes at the hand and long shots through foregrounded scenery create the feeling that Leo is the one truly being watched this episode, as he comes into contact with beings whose power outstrips his own.

[2] I love that the light of the inbound trains lets us know exactly who’s coming (later confirmed by an exact replication of that same light pattern).

[–] As promised, a note on attention to detail. Each of those four images has a really neat small detail in it—details that didn’t necessarily need to be in the shot, but are. And it’s awesome.

Blood Blockade Battlefront

9 thoughts on “Blood Blockade Battlefront, Episode 4

  1. Clarification: is the blood itself being redefined as powerless from powerful, or is the way it is spilled the indicator? Because it seems to me like blood purposefully spilled is powerful (see: Klaus + Brain Grid), but unintionally spilled blood is weakness (see: Starphase and Bratatat Mom literally pouring blood). But your interpretation works too.

    Would say more, but omw to work. I hope you appreciate me almost walking into traffic while reading this!

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    • Mmm yeah, I see what you’re saying. I guess I wouldn’t read it as being informed by intent simply because that moves away from the red-blood-power trio I was cultivating as the core of my interpretation.

      I’m always kind of fascinated by the dynamics of stuff like symbolic appropriation, so the idea of “Oh, look, Steven and K.K. are being shown with red in their shots. That should be an indication of their power, but instead the symbolic strength of the color has been stolen from them and is now being used to demonstrate the other of someone else” is really compelling as a reversal to me. Like, they aren’t just being defeated. The visual expression of their power has been modified to be an expression of their weakness. That’s some kind of defeat!

      (Also, I appreciate you reading, but please stay alive kthxbye.)

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  2. As someone who’s almost blind to cinematography but still now “meanings”, the best thing I could say is that your writing makes sense for me, more or less…

    Also, blessie, one thing that interest me is the upper picture where Leo’s eye is bleeding “That chasm is drenched in red” one, above that picture the “Oh God…” part, there’s two colours divided while we’re still in Leo’s perspective; the left part is still normal, but the right one is red. Why like that? Why must be separated in two colours? To show that one part of Leo’s eye is bleeding? But then, he seemed to close his bleeding eye with his hand, and that the other eye seems to be normal… even if it is bleeding, a perspective from someone who close one of his eye normally should be seen with one colour (either all normal, or all red).

    Idk, maybe this is just me. But what if it is a foreshadowing? The “Red” in this episode represents “power” and the “vampire”. The divided colours of Leo’s perspective there could mean that in a future time, he may has to deal with a vampire. Do remember that he seems to be in love with White, and that White’s brother is seemingly a vampire. But then again, I might over-analyse thing.

    Good review, Mr. Masochi… I mean, Bless.

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    • It makes sense! Yes!

      I’m honestly not sure about that shot. It could be that he’s only bleeding out of part of his eye or something like that, or maybe they just didn’t get the filter across the entire frame like they were supposed to. People were joking on Twitter about BONES’ use of color filters in this episode, so…you know, it’s like this this is Gohands on production. xD

      It could be foreshadowing, although I think trying to extend to future plot elements from a single, relatively short shot miiiiight be a bit overdoing it. 😉 But who am I to judge?

      I’m not a masochist!

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      • Well it’s kinda a bad habit of me trying to blow something small into something very big, but that’s based on experience! Several big things/plot elements I’ve seen across film, anime, manga are actually have been foreshadowed from a very, very small quantum-sized shots or dialogue, something that we think, “Ah, it is just something small, no importance.”

        But then again, like I said, cinematography isn’t my field, so I really just talking based on pure assumption without any base on the cinematography itself. Plus, the thing about BBB and me is, the show itself is one HEAVENLY DAMNED LOAD OF FUN, so unlike you who still able to analyse it, I lost myself to the fun of the show itself and neglect the analysis. This is actually the very first anime I’ve watch where I can positively turned off my brain and simply let the enjoyment overflows.

        “I’m not a masochist!” that’s what he said. “Chain(ed by)Sumeragi” that’s what his name. Deep, deep, in your otaku heart, you wanna play BDSM with Chain Sumeragi where she chained you, 50-shades-of-grey style. Hence “Chain(ed by)Sumeragi”.

        It’s ok, bless. I understand. It’s normal actually, when you have a thing to a cool, pretty fictional female character like Chain Sumeragi. 😛 😛 😛

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        • Eh, I’m really not much a fan (read: don’t like) the who S/M thing that goes on in otaku fandom—if I’m chained, it’s simply my heart, which I find to be a much lovelier expression for my fondness of Chain.

          And oh, I’m digging the fun of the show, too! Heck, I’ve seen all of the episodes several times and my first couple watches are invariably for fun only. Analysis comes later.

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          • I know, I know… I’m just kidding…. teehee…

            Now, now, where is episode 5? Is final really that hard to make you forget your duty to enlighten the people by your review? When will your final start/end anyway?

            And btw, I could’ve sworn that the heading picture of your blog was Shirobako earlier.

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  3. I know I said on the last BBB post that I find your visual analysis fascinating, and I do, but this time around I find myself wishing you had talked more about your impressions of the characters and the story. Especially White.

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    • I’m predicting we’ll have a watershed White episode sometime down the line. She is Matsumoto’s original character, after all, so I expect some fascinating stuff from her eventually. When that happens, I’ll probably talk about her and Leo’s story all together. It’s basically just a framing device at the beginning and ending of each episode right now and we still haven’t seen the conclusion of their story.

      But, a bit of an abbreviated version: I love all of the characters in this show, Aligura was an absolute ace for her episode, White x Leo is adorable and so canon. White is also not a ghost, although they went about explaining that in a really subtle way, which goes to show just how deeply the show imbedded us in Leo’s perspective early on and how the weirdness of everything acclimates us to taking White’s declaration at face value. Other than that, there’s not much to say about White yet other than she definitely has some kind of connection to Leo’s sister.

      As far as the story goes—as long as each episode continues to be radically entertaining and really fascinating visually, they can keep up their current episodic structure+framing story and I’ll be happy.

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