#1 Cheapest fanservice available
In the first few minutes of Bladedance, the main character walks in on a girl bathing in a spring and within seconds finds himself falling on top of her and groping one of her breasts. This encounter sets the stage for the fan-service heavy harem that is to follow and places the bar so low it is practically below sea level.
While the show does feature a fair number of magical battles between teenagers with superpowers, the bulk of its content is fan-service so simplistic I struggle to even really register it. Half the superpowers seem to involve tentacles, the camera randomly pans across the features of the mostly female cast, and the show is so cheap that it feels the need to flat-out repeat its utterly predictable setups. Case in point: so many episodes have the character of Est waking up next to the main character completely naked, with all the other girls throwing a fit over it, that at one point I wasn’t even entirely sure if I was watching a new episode.
I am not some crusader against gratuitous fan-service. Whether you watch it for the hilarity or genuinely enjoy it for other reasons, it has its place in anime and I have been known to find it entertaining myself. It’s just that Bladedance goes for the lowest hanging fruit so often that I couldn’t even enjoy it on some basic level.
#2 Academy of fragile snowflakes
After the encounter in the spring, main character Kamito is taken to a girls-only school for Elementalers, which are people that can tame elemental spirits to fight alongside with. I kind of missed the part where they explain why the school is girls only, but let’s be honest here… it’s so the writer could go crazy on the harem.
Kamito meets a variety of girls, all of which are immediately hostile towards him, but decide to hang around with him all the time anyway. While they are quick to scold him for being lustful and inappropriate, all of them eventually fall in love with him until at one point everybody is just unapologetically fighting over the guy. I don’t mind harems nor do I specifically seek them out, but what I find frustrating in a lot of them, and definitely in Bladedance, is how utterly sexless it all is. All the girls are at each other’s throats for Kamito’s attention while at the same time slamming the brakes the moment Kamito does anything himself.
The only character I enjoyed in the story was Est, simply because she is a deadpan loli that doesn’t react to everything like it’s a competition she is determined to win. By contrast, the knight girl Ellis seems to exist for the sole purpose of walking in on Kamito doing something she can misinterpret and get violently upset over. Almost every moment of her screen time is wasted on her fits of rage, which is a fate she shares with main girls Claire and Rinslet. A quarter of this show is fantasy battles, a small percentage is actual character development, and the rest is just the girls getting upset because it looks like Kamito might have done something pervy.
After the dozenth time a scene like this played out you’d think the girls would start giving him an ounce of credit, but it just never stops. I wish harems would do the same thing as Sword Art Online and eventually just commit to a girl already because the aftermath of that is infinitely more interesting than endless misunderstandings leading to the cast fighting each other again.
#3 Needlessly complex Pokémon
When the romantic comedy is trash, it’s up to the magic battles to pick up the slack, and being an Elementaler in this show is kind of like being a Pokémon trainer with a stupid outfit. Elementalers seek out various spirits that they can tame, which can then be used to participate in battles. The titular Bladedance is a tournament where the best Elementalers compete and most of the story revolves around Kamito and his girl squad preparing to do just that.
While everybody loves Pokémon, the idea of the Elementalers just doesn’t click with me, and a large factor in that is how broad its interpretation seems to be. Sometimes people use the spirits as physical weapons and sometimes they are familiars, which for most of the harem-members are animal companions like the adorable fire-cat Scarlet. Then there is Est, who is pretty much just a normal person that can turn into a sword, with no real elemental benefit of any kind. Kamito just uses her to stab people in entirely non-lethal ways, but at a stretch I could maybe see how see how she can be defined as the same kind of spirit as Scarlet. Then somebody showed up whose spirit was just a giant mech with a ton of cannons all over it. Explosions are rad and all, but I am pretty darn sure they don’t qualify as an elemental type.
Not even the characters seem entirely sure of how their own world works, as the anime seemingly kills off Scarlet, reducing Claire to tears, only for Scarlet to just come back to life because she is a spirit. Two episodes later they do the exact same thing, pretending Scarlet dies, and Claire is reduced to tears again. The point is that the fantasy world of Bladedance just feels thrown together and its rules don’t seem at all consistent. This results in the world not feeling believable at all, and when you can’t buy into the fantasy of a show like this, then enjoyment is certain to suffer.
#4 Villains everywhere and nowhere
With shows that only get 12 episodes, you kind of want to keep the story concise, even if that means rearranging bits of source material to make sure you are actually going to be able to tell a good story within the show. Whether Bladedance meddled with the story of the light novel it was based on, I do not know. I just know that the order of events make little sense, which is best shown in how the series handles it villains.
Bladedance introduces a lot of villain characters that make one or two appearances, only to never give these characters a proper conclusion to their story. There is a really powerful guy with multiple spirits, a mysterious winged figure that sounds like she has a past with Kamito, a girl in a cloak handing out dark powers, all of which make brief appearances and then disappear again. At the end of its run only one of these bad guys has their story concluded and the others are shoved to the side for a fourth character introduced late in the story to serve as yet another rival to the good guys.
I didn’t care much for the characters in Bladedance, good guys, bad guys, they were all just kind of dull. It just irks me that the story is pretty much unfinished and forced to rush out an unsatisfying ending. Sure, there are specials, but just like with Blood-C I am not exactly jumping at the opportunity to watch more a show that already disappointed me once.
#5 Kamito is a potato
While his fanclub caught the most flak throughout this piece, Kamito himself is not much better and has all the appeal of a discarded, old sock. He is the most powerful elementaler around by virtue of being the main character and everybody is attracted to him despite of his uninspired personality.
Kamito is just such a pointless character who is apathetic towards most anything. He neither embraces the harem forming around him nor can he be bothered to resolve it. He is the most powerful person in the plot and yet we never learn how he feels about that. He doesn’t seem proud about it nor particularly humble, he doesn’t seem to consider other people inferior nor does he seem at all motivated to engage with anybody. I have been watching this guy for twelve episodes and have no clue what he likes to do, how he feels about everything going on around him, or if he feels anything for any of the girls in particular.
Kamito is a main character in a modern-day fantasy anime, plain and simple. He does protagonist stuff because that’s what main characters do and he makes absolutely certain that nothing happens to compromise his image as a textbook example of a light novel MC. He is utterly generic and that makes him a great fit for a mediocre show like this.