Japanese anime review: “Blame!” (ブラム)

By | January 4, 2021

The other day I was going through Netflix and having a tough time finding a series or movie that I could really get into. After some searching I discovered the anime movie “Blame!” (supposedly pronounced “Blam!”, though the Japanese title is ブラム), and after a few minutes I was hooked, finishing off a roughly two hour movie in only two sittings (which is rare for me). This movie was released in 2017 by Polygon pictures.

“Blame!” begins in a dark, underground city, with a team of armored people searching for something. Pretty soon it becomes apparent this is a typical post-apocalyptic setting, which I used to enjoy but after seeing it done so many times the magic is starting to wear off.

As usual, I’m not going to talk about plot too much and will instead focus more on what I liked and disliked about this movie. By far, the best thing was the background visuals, which frankly blew me away in terms of the CG quality, the art design, and the overall visual direction. I felt like I was looking at a painting several times, and frequently wished I was watching “Blame!” on a larger monitor (or, even better, in a movie theater). The character design was also pretty good, though the characters were rendered much more simply than the rest of the art. Having said that, I felt the incongruence between the characters and the background was less of a problem here than in other works (with one exception that I’ll mention in a moment).

The action scenes were also pretty well produced, and there was a nice sense of suspense in a few areas, reminiscent of “Aliens”.

The story itself was pretty good, though it started feeling more like a video game the more the movie progressed, and I feel it could have done without a handful of tropes you’ve probably seen in other anime. In the end, there was also a good mix of resolved and unresolved points.

There was only really one problem I had with this work, though it was a pretty big one. For some reason the movement of the characters felt laggy, and I think the frame rate was actually much lower than normal. Perhaps they did this to save money, or maybe for dramatic effect. But for me it stuck out like a sore thumb and reduced the effectiveness of the action scenes. It also had me wondering which characters were robots and which were humans, since they all seemed to be moving like robots.

My only other complaint is that in some of the key action scenes, the backgrounds seemed to change from painting-like scenes of beauty to over-processed digital images. But I guess this might have been a purposeful choice to emphasize the action and not the backgrounds in these scenes.

Language-wise, there is a good bit of technical-speak, so I wouldn’t consider this movie very suitable for beginner (or maybe even intermediate) Japanese learners. It wasn’t as bad as something like Evangelion, but that gives you an idea what to expect in terms of the difficulty. While I usually recommend watching Japanese movies without subtitles the first time around, for a movie like this I think it’s fine to just turn on subtitles and enjoy yourself, picking up a few new words along the way.

All in all, I would say the movie itself was average, but the background quality and design (as well as the world building) definitely makes this movie worth watching, especially for SF/cyberpunk fans.

It turns out that this movie (like many anime movies) is based on a manga series, which you can see more info about here. But the fact that series ran from 1998 to 2003 actually gave me more respect for the story and world as a whole.

Check out this post if you want to see a review of another Netflix anime that I enjoyed this year.

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