The Blade is Broken, the Combat is Non-lethal; and Yet, Broken Blade 03 is Superb.


After three episodes/films I think Broken Blade has grown stronger. Part of this is how the background story’s flimsiness is mitigated by the sheer amount of time spent depicting the smaller robot battles – small enough to be called skirmishes. A lot of thought and detail went into the depiction and direction of the fights in Broken Blade and while it does cover its (otaku data)bases with its nudity, under-aged characters with ridiculously mature bodies (read: giant boobs), and BL slash-bait; most of its effort went into the presentation of the robot fights.

What’s interesting to me, beyond the heroics and the choreography in the fights, is the preoccupation with casualty avoidance and the preservation of life among the combatants. Whereas I find this quite common in robot shows, it’s never satisfactorily handled. Broken Blade seems to have taken this very seriously, and I’m very impressed.

panty & stocking 07 transformers parody endless battle without casualties

One of my annoying memories back in childhood is that of watching Hasbro cartoons such as G. I. Joe and Transformers. What annoyed me precisely was the sheer array of lethal weapons, the intensity of the firefights, and the abundance of explosions result in zero casualties. There were barely any injuries, and no deaths. I was neither stupid nor naïve. I know guns kill people – I grew up around soldiers and police officers too.

Also, prior to watching the castrated combat from these shows, I had enjoyed myself at a much younger age with Japanese anime: Voltes V, Daimos, SDF Macross, and Gatchaman – four examples from many that had a whole lot of casualties on a per episode basis. One may question the amount of missiles landing on friendly forces and defense installations in Voltes V and Daimos, but it made perfect sense that when missiles explode, people die.

Voltes V 05 civilian casualtiesVoltes V doesn't faff about when showing kids getting killed by evil giant robots

All this contributed to my annoyance with the American cartoons. It’s not that I hated them. It just so happened that when us kids played with our G. I. Joe action figures and vehicles, soldiers that get shot, get killed. That’s the irony I think. The more these American cartoons withheld death and dismemberment onscreen, the more us kids actively imagined them while (role)playing.

This long preamble sets the table for my appreciation of Broken Blade. It is remarkable that after three episodes, it has preoccupied itself with the prevention of casualty during combat in a wartime context. In the tradition of robot anime, often we see the pacifistic lead pilot at some point develop God-like abilities and are instantly capable of incapacitating the humanoid machines, without killing the human pilots. Two standout examples are Eurkea SeveN (it’s rather abrupt and almost magical); Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny (it’s um, Jesus-like). If memory serves, Mobile Suit Gundam 00 as well. For a little remembering of fail: Macross Frontier ep 12 wherein a few hundred GIANT ZENTRAEDI SOLDIERS couldn’t hit each other at practically point blank range in a pitched firefight (there were no casualties whatsoever).

[Otakixus] Macross FRONTIER 12 (BD 1920x1080 x264 AAC) [BD7D8D02].mkv_snapshot_13.00_[2011.02.01_17.57.35][Otakixus] Macross FRONTIER 12 (BD 1920x1080 x264 AAC) [BD7D8D02].mkv_snapshot_13.33_[2011.02.01_17.54.06][Otakixus] Macross FRONTIER 12 (BD 1920x1080 x264 AAC) [BD7D8D02].mkv_snapshot_14.15_[2011.02.01_17.55.20]

I never liked how these shows executed the insta-pacifist bit. Robot anime is superbly suited for this kind of sanitized violence because it still portrays very violent and at times brutal fights between humanoids and yet never have to show people getting bloodied and killed. Still, there’s something oppressive to me about this kind of sanitation. It’s inauthentic and deceitful. There reasons why trying not to injure an opponent who’s trying to kill you is exponentially dangerous to everyone involved, but I no longer need to publish a diatribe about it because Broken Blade is in some ways an essay on this matter, as it is portrayed in robot anime.


Rygart, much like most (real) robot anime protagonists is thrown against his will into a robot cockpit and must then seize the reins of history. He is a bit more extreme in that he is a non-soldier wholly unqualified in the ways of combat. In the fantasy universe of Broken Blade, one is required to have some facility for magic to operate the crystal-based robots (a rather fascinating contrivance, as the combat produces a lot of shattering in its violence, and gives a very “weathered” look to the mecha despite having bright colors and the anime using a bright palette overall). Rygart does not have any magic; to borrow terms from Harry Potter, he’s either a “muggle” or a “squib.” Unsurprisingly, he has an innate ability to operate the “hero mecha” of the series, and that his unwillingness plays out in his early engagements when he is quite averse to killing.


The drama in the second episode/film is how his reticence to finish off a seemingly incapacitated enemy unit resulted in the death of a comrade. I found that incident very fresh and memorable. I’m very, very pleased at how it’s explored even further in the third episode as something that resembles a major theme in the show.

The lesson to be learned by Rygart: the attempt to spare an opponent’s life can cost up to three lives among the people who fight on your side.

As soon as Rygart attempts to take this to heart, he is confronted again by having to fight his friend Zess directly. The miracle that allowed Zess to survive their rather intense and well-directed duel was an entertaining contrivance. He let go of the broken blade as it bit into the torso of Zess’ robot.


The remnants of Zess’ crack unit then mount a desperate rescue which succeeds at the cost of Cleo getting captured.

All this suggests to me a preoccupation with the sparing and rescuing of combatants. Where most other shows in the tradition engage this in a cavalier fashion, Broken Blade takes it very seriously. It pays attention to many details that goes for a commendable verisimilitude that underlies the fantasy that goes into its stylized combat between humanoid mecha.

What also makes it work is that in most other cases, pilots do get killed when their robot gets mowed down by gunfire, or blasted apart by one of the greatest tackles in the history of mecha anime. It makes me look back and have a laugh at how those amazing C. O. B. R. A. “Rattler” pilots who automatically parachute out when their fighter craft gets shot up (G. I. Joe). I suppose both shows take pains to show how the pilot doesn’t die due to violence, but it’s Broken Blade that comes from a more authentic place.


Do I think this is a compelling enough reason for casual viewers to take to Broken Blade? Probably not. It does however, show me that it does something interesting and nuanced with its spectacularly animated robot battles. If you’re into robot fights (and you must be if you’re a fan of robot anime), Broken Blade will not disappoint (unless you actually prefer more flash in the form of contemporary AU Gundam shows).

Further Reading

I obviously think highly of robots fighting in anime, as it is the primary draw for me to this medium.

We think highly of the combat in Broken Blade, and count two examples from the previous episodes/films as one of the best of its kind in 2010.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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14 Responses to The Blade is Broken, the Combat is Non-lethal; and Yet, Broken Blade 03 is Superb.

  1. schneider says:

    I’ll have to add that Rygart’s line in the next movie preview (“I have to become a murderer!”) is chilling. He’s learning, but up to what cost?

  2. Aeriole Winters says:

    lol…. I’d think that the AU Gundam fans, especially the ones who like SEED would love this because the main character is actually Kira Yamato; His mannerisms, even his dilemma in this series is reminiscent of SEED Kira (Destiny Kira IDK)

    • Yeah, I’ve heard it often enough that this show is SEED done right. I don’t really like statements like this, even though I dislike SEED a fair bit. I do think that fans of SEED who enjoyed that aspect of it, will find something to interest them here.

  3. Panther says:

    Break Blade has continued to impress with its mecha fights indeed, despite its generic plot. I think the presentation is just so well done compared to series you would normally think of in this genre.

    It does look like Rygart will be fighting that crazy dude that is on his side and currently locked up next episode, so the line where he says he has to be a murderer may be referring to that. I am also interested to see if Cleo will actually switch over once she learns the truth about her nation’s invasion, or gets won over by Sigyn, or stays for a chance to kill Rygart.

    • Cleo changing sides? That’d be interesting indeed. She’s seen enough from the people to establish their affection for Zechs. It’s really just Lee’s death that she’s hung up about apart from any abstract loyalty she has for her nation.

  4. i found broken blade’s plot to be similar to gundam seed, boy falls into cockpit of unknown/new robot, meets friend on battlefield, reluctant to kill, but fights to protect, etc.
    i loved how the armored delphine is owning enemies by ramming into them(reference to z gundam?) and 12 years old cleo with adult-like body(wtf did those people do to her? they gave her growth syrup?)

    • The first similarity you notice is typical, or archetypal to robot anime since the first Gundam. Even Macross had a similar beginning in that the lead pilot found himself in the cockpit of a robot he wasn’t supposed to be in.

      The ramming stuff is pretty cool, given it actually made sense in that situation: The Delphine/Difringe was much, much faster than its targets and it packed on so much weight (as well as swords to expand its lethal range) such that the impact would be weapon-like. The Z Gundam’s watermelon popsicle attack — not so much, it’s really the function of the Newtype Barrier magic power that allowed a pointy spacecraft not to crumple upon impact with a solid mass.

      The more plausible comparison is with “Classic” Battletech and the early incarnation of the Mechwarrior collectible miniatures game, where charging (an impact attack) by giant mecha is a legitimate tactic.

      As for Cleo’s character design… I’d say WTF, but I actually know someone like her from back in school come to think of it.

  5. Stormshrug says:

    You mentioned the use of crystal as a building material/pseudo-fuel leading to the machines shattering, but I’m surprised you didn’t touch upon the fact that nothing ever explodes in Broken Blade. This leads to a very interesting visual aesthetic for the battlefield, since, when destroyed, Golems just sort of sag and collapse. Things aren’t constantly going up in technicolor explosions (not that I don’t love technicolor explosions- see Gundam Unicorn). Though they may sort of be easy to overlook simple because they’re so prevalent, these explosions are a large part of the composition of a battlefield in most mecha series, and so it really stands out that they are absent from Broken Blade.

    I think that this phenomenon (collapsing instead of exploding) is interestingly true of relationships in the series, too, though we’ll have to see how that does or doesn’t play out in later episodes.

    • Excellent. I should’ve noticed this indeed. There’s an absence of smoke, which actually compels the production to animate more damage in a more detailed way. It’s a great treat!

      As for a possible metaphor for relationships (both interpersonal and interstate) it’s a bit of a stretch but interesting nonetheless.

      • Stormshrug says:

        As I said, I’ll be interested to see how it plays out over time, because part of me thinks things are going to need to start blowing up eventually. But so far, we’ve seen very little of anything I would term “explosive” conflict between characters, just gradual slides. Rygart left the academy due to financial reasons, not because he was expelled or came into conflict with anyone else (in fact, he had long remained in the face of conflict). In more current events, Broken Blade goes out of its way to show us that there is something fundamentally unstable with Hodr and Sigyn’s relationship, but subtlety reigns over open conflict of any sort.

        My theory may well fall apart like a shot-up Golem in the next few episodes (or perhaps explode like a Zaku), though, since the new pilot Kharn McBackstab is a spark in a powder keg if I’ve ever seen one.

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