Bladedance is what Kanojo ga Flag wo Oreretara tried to become at the end. A fantasy harem anime about groups of powerful fighters. In this world, pure women have the ability to form contracts with elemental spirits, gaining power based off of the spirit they bond with. This is virtually always the case… history has only shown a rare handful of men with this gift, the last such led to catastrophe as this male individual became known as the Demon King and attempted to dominate and destroy the world. As our story begins, we are introduced to our main character who just happens to be a rare, ill-omened male Elementaler.
The show centres around the Areishia Spirit Academy, a school where pure maidens learn to become Elementalers – that is to say, a magic user who has contracted with an elemental spirit to grant them power – and our protagonists: the male Elementaler Kamito and the harem of young women he seems to collect, much to his chagrin.
These women seem to spend most of their time either trying to impress him, or getting mad at him for misunderstandings and contrived circumstances, which leads to a few entertaining moments but a lot of completely wasted time. If Akame ga Kill was a masterpiece of pacing, Bladedance falls on the opposite end of the spectrum as an abomination of pacing errors. You spend the first season barely able to get through a short arc that does little except introduce the primary characters, and not even that good a job of that.
The show’s primary characters are Kamito, the harem – Claire, Ellis, Rinslet, and Fianna – Kamito’s previous contracted spirit Restia who he lost under mysterious circumstances, and his new spirit Est who likes to take the form of a small girl. Aside from Kamito, Restia, and Est, these characters seem to get very little meaningful development over the course of the first arc, despite having an inordinate amount of time poured into it. Even Claire, who has entire episodes devoted to her whining at Kamito, shows little meaningful growth.
That being said, these characters have such potential. Each of these characters have some aspect of their personality, history, or design that is truly fascinating. There are even a few interesting similarities between some of the characters. Ellis and Claire, for example, both have longstanding issues involving their siblings. Fianna has an interesting duality to her personality – she acts like a stereotype, but you see moments of a true personality behind it. Even Rinslet has some depth to explore, with her desperation to make friends hidden behind the pride she feels due to her lineage… but none of this is ever really explored.
It is this that is the show’s lowpoint. There is a ton of potential here, if the show had focused more on some real development, and less on having Kamito get caught in embarrassing situations to give the girls(usually Claire) reason to be angry at him. It could have been so good.
Firecats, Flaming Whips, and Fireballs, oh my!
My favourite part of this show is the interpretation of magic and the almost strategic take they have on team fighting. The characters each have their own gifts, but they’re not terribly powerful. It is through their spirits that they become strong. Each of the characters has their own distinct spirit, and the spirits are remarkably diverse.
Claire’s spirit Scarlet, for example, is normally a small burning house cat. Being bonded augments Claire’s powers, so she can use more fire magic in general… but Scarlet can also grow to the size of a panther or a tiger and fight at Claire’s side if needed. The last form shown during the show so far, known as an Elemental Waffe, allows the spirit to transform directly into a weapon to be used by the master. In Scarlet’s case, this is a whip allowing Claire to fight with a bit more range. Each of the characters has this same sort of variety, with each of the spirits having different forms, elements, and capabilities that offset each others weaknesses in a great way.
Which hits the heart of what makes this show’s magic so interesting. First of all, the system makes sense. There don’t seem to be any elements that feel out-of-place… even the few cases you run into that feel like exceptions involve actual logic – there are reasons why these exceptions exist. Secondly, and more important, it isn’t just a straight 1 on 1 combat system. Sure, some solo combat exists, but the real charm of this show’s combat is that it is strategic and team-based. Characters have defined roles and when you get into the last arc you really begin to see this start to play out and it’s rather impressive to see. But it’s another thing that is a bit underutilized.
The show’s soundtrack is awesome, in a very unique way. They have a Scottish folk song vibe to them, and actually make use of bagpipes in a way that isn’t ear-bleeding or painful. They also feature the female cast of the series performing as the band ‘Knee-Socks’, which is something I always like to see.
As a less interesting point, the story doesn’t really go anywhere until the very end. The final sub-arc is about 3-4 episodes long and more plot and character development happens in those four episodes than in the entire rest of the series.
Despite all of its flaws, I really did enjoy Bladedance. They went too far into fanservice territory to try to overplay the harem card, and it really hurt the show’s ability to take advantage of its strengths but it does still manage to have some really fascinating elements. It’s strong magic system and a few really interesting characters hold the show on course, even if the characters don’t get the development they deserve.