Let’s begin to catch up with Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond with a couple of episodes that allow a chance under the spotlight to some characters who didn’t get much focus in the first season. If you liked the cast and wished to learn more about them, the show’s finally delivering the adventures you wanted!
Storyboard, Episode Direction: Miwa Sasaki
Chief Animation Direction: Tsunenori Saito
Animation Direction: Noriko Morishima
Effects Animation Direction: Takashi Hashimoto
Key Animation (Animation) Direction Assistant: Hatsune Hoshino
Key Animation: Shinya Yamada, Kaori Saito, Saki Tanaka, Eri Kojima, Keiko Takano, Akie Morimoto, Misato Seki, Yuki Sato, Yui Kinoshita, Taichi Nakaguma, Hiroshi Kawashima, Kumiko Kawahara, Tomoko Sato, Daisuke Agata, Ikko Inaguma, Erina Kojima, Mitsuyo Tsuno, Takuya Uehara
─ A brilliant episode as far as I’m concerned. It successfully followed three self-contained stories set in the same day and made them converge wonderfully in the last moment, all while maintaining a somewhat laid-back atmosphere all the way through ─ as laid-back as it can be within a setting as hectic as Hellsalem’s Lot anyway. Very pleasant on its own right, and it achieved some minor goals as well: we learned a couple of things about Steven’s life and how Leo deals with the events happening around him, Chain received some spotlight before her own episode, and most importantly, Zapp got owned as usual.
─ The storyboard artist and episode director this time around was Miwa Sasaki, whose interesting career deserves a side note, especially since she doesn’t quite belong to this creative space. Right after graduating from Yoyogi Animation Academy she was accepted as an animator in Isao Takahata’s very own Hata Jimusho by recommendation of legendary Yasuo Otsuka, and since then started working directly under Takahata rather than Studio Ghibli per se. She was raised animating exclusively for movie productions like The Cat Returns (2002), Tokyo Godfathers (2003), the first three Naruto movies (2004-2006), and the cult gem Doraemon: Nobita’s dinosaur (2006). Her first major TV work was on Bokurano (2008), which was not coincidentally directed by The Cat Returns’ director Hiroyuki Morita. In 2013, she appeared on Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, where she animated the very beginning of the film. Since then she has left the theatrical sphere (likely because of Ghibli’s decay and the changing landscape) and started accepting jobs on TV anime. She worked as regular animation director on Snow White with the Red Hair (2015-2016), and recently appeared to show interest in directing with The Great Passage‘s episode 3. And so this episode of Beyond was only her second storyboard/episode direction effort, but we should definitely keep an eye on her future output.
─ The episode was polished as you’d expect, and quite visually appealing. Miwa’s supervision enabled many interesting and simply amusing layouts, again proving itself to be a worthy successor to Rie Matsumoto’s first season. And did I mention Hellsalem’s Lot looks striking at night? The animation focus was mainly on subtle (though not so much in Zapp’s case) character acting moments, especially in Leo’s portion of the episode. Tsunenori Saito replaced Toshihiro Kawamoto for this episode as the chief animation director, and his corrections on Chain and Steven displayed the pointy art style that he’s known for. Noriko Morishima ─ who recently played an important role on The Eccentric Family 2 ─ handled the animation direction otherwise. The show’s official website also lists Sasaki as co-animation director, so she received some uncredited assistance too.
─ Nightow cat appears again!
Storyboard: Shinji Ishihira
Episode Direction: Satoshi Takafuji
Episode Direction Assistance: Masahiro Mukai, Katsuya Shigehara
Chief Animation Direction: Toshihiro Kawamoto
Animation Direction: Megumi Tomita
Animation Direction Assistant: Miho Kato
Effects Animation Direction: Takashi Hashimoto
Key Animation: Tomoyuki Oshita, Tomomi Ishii, Keiko Takano, Ayu Tanaka, Yuki Ito, Saori Hosoda, Hiroshi Konno, Fujiko Aoyagi, Haruka Saito, Taichi Nakaguma, Miyako Kamiya, Akie Morimoto, Kenichi Otomo, Yoko Kadokami, Takuya Yoshihara, Hideaki Abe, Yuko Dangi, Haruna Hashimoto, Miho Kato, Megumi Tomita
─ The long-awaited episode solely focusing on Chain! While her segment in episode 3 was nice and fun, this was the actual chance to learn more about her character and abilities. In retrospect, this episode might also explain why her presence in the first season was so minor. That said, episode’s narrative was really simple and not all that engaging, though the payoff in the form of the last two minutes was worth it.
─ You might recognize the names behind the storyboard and episode direction if you’ve followed my episodic coverage of My Hero Academia (which I’ll wrap up one day, I swear) as they both regularly worked on the show. I can’t call their work on this episode particularly inventive, but it was functional overall. Takafuji needed assistance from two other directors for a reason we will likely never know, but considering how the project as a whole is faring I doubt it was a general schedule collapse. Unless directly disclosed, some things simply stay behind the curtains forever!
─ Now about those above-mentioned final two minutes: I smiled like a little child. Signs of Chain’s existence like Nej’s diary, Zapp’s wound, and the new flower vase in Libra’ office disappearing together alongside her and then reappearing when she was brought back to the existence by her crush’s unbidden visit to her dirty apartment was such a nice closure. It was swiftly directed, and the lovely new insert song added to the charm.
─ Animation was yet again very polished, although this time it felt more reserved than usual. It’s now clear that the next episode took the priority with its demanding action extravaganza. Toshihiro Kawamoto returned to the role of the chief animation director, and by the looks of it, he will be in charge of the even-numbered episodes from now on. The animation staff leans a bit towards female, so it’s not a big surprise that for a third week in a row we had a woman as the standard animation director, also aided by female animator Miho Kato. Twitter user @Jas___be ─ presumed to be the animator Hideaki Abe ─ animated the wolf squad’s infiltration scene. You can find some neat digital key frames and layouts from the scene on their timeline.
─ The post-credits scene was adorable! Nice contrast to the previous episode’s.