Anime is complicated
[Ricky Namara attempts to explain the overarching story of BlazBlue. Set aside some time, get your reading glasses, and rev up those Drive buttons. It’s a long and sordid story about the Azure. ~Marcel]
Ah, BlazBlue. Or “BraveBlue” if you’re from Japan.
Or if you’re one of those annoying people who needed to be super accurate about everything, “boo-ray-boo-roo.”
When it first broke into the scene in 2008 as a spiritual successor to the then-defunct Guilty Gear series, BlazBlue carries the grand tradition of its predecessor by rebelling against all of the stereotypes that are fighting games of its ilk.
From the mechanics to the pacing of the matches to the tunes that played during said matches, everything about BlazBlue was a middle finger aimed solely to the tried and true Street Fighter and King of Fighters formula. This also includes a (gasp!) compelling story, something that continues to elude fighting games outside of the usual “Well, we’re already here, so let’s fight because what else are we gonna do!” kind of deal.
“YOUR NAKEDNESS OFFENDS ME! LET’S FIGHT!!”
Unfortunately, said story also happened to be completely indecipherable unless you are willing to delve into the extra materials that were equally divided between the manga, animation, novels, radio show (no, really), and spin-off visual novel titles (no, really). In fact, in some circles it became a mark of the elite to be able to recite and address some of the core concepts that is prevalent in the BlazBlue universe to explain what was going on in the story. A red badge of courage, so to speak, reserved for those who braved the blue-themed walls of kanji and furigana texts that contained technical jargons, allusions to Japanese mythology, and information that requires baseline knowledge in quantum physics and the Schrodinger Cat theory to make sense.
That last part was not a joke.
inb4 “That’s a lot of pussy(cats)” joke
It’s quite a shame, really, because there were a lot of interesting world-building and ideas that not only helped explain some of the more ambiguous aspects of the story but also provided a satisfying answer to one of the biggest question in the entire franchise: “What the hell is even going on?!” This piece will serve as a Cliffnotes version for some of the more important bits of the entire lore, so you too can stand on the pantheon of uber nerds who prided themselves in being able to read and understand Japanese and sneered down on the filthy common plebs who scratched their head in confusion trying to figure out why everytime a character mentioned a ‘Phenomenon Intervention’ everybody else on screen would freak the fuck out.
Strap yourselves in, boys and girls, because I’m gonna take you for a ride!
Here, have an earworm.
The first thing we need to understand in deciphering BlazBlue is the concept of the Seithr, an invisible substance that existed in the BlazBlue world. All things are composed of Seithr and can be broken down into Seithr, so you can think of them like quarks and neutrons in that they are essential to create anything under the sun with one small difference: Seithr do funky stuff when a large amount of them are gathered. They can distort time and corrode living beings into husks of their former selves, which is an important note to remember when we started talking about The Boundary.
The Boundary is a space that existed outside of any timelines that consisted of massive concentrations of Seithr. Even a tiny bit of concentrated Seithr is dangerous for any living being, so entering the friggin’ Fort Knox of Seithr reserve would not exactly do wonders for your tan. A great cautionary tale of this would be Arakune, who only managed to reach the very ‘edge’ of the Boundary and came back less of a ‘man’ and more of a ‘freaky Halloween decoration’. Oh, and bonus points, he lost his sanity in the process as well.
Of course he gained spider-summoning powers as well. Of. Fucking. COURSE! WHY THE HELL NOT?!
Now remember how I said “timelines” when mentioning the Boundary? Remember how the Seithr has the ability to distort time when large concentrations of them are gathered? Well, that’s because it can be argued that Seithr flows to and from the Boundary, and the Boundary itself is connected to every single timelines and alternate universes that existed in the BlazBlue universe.
The “XBlaze” visual novel series (where ES hails from), the “Bloodedge Experience” novel (where Naoto Kurogane hails from), as well as the upcoming BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, all of them can be seen as separate timelines that all connects to the Boundary. These are universes that becomes ‘possible’ due to some differences that took place to splinter them from the main BlazBlue universe where the four mainline titles takes place.
Equally fascinating is HOW these universes came about, but I won’t go into the details right now because we have a lot to cover and I can see you already nodding off. Especially you, Kevin! Yes, YOU! Don’t think I can’t see you nodding off back there! Sit up straight and pay attention!
Better pay attention, kids, or teacher’s gonna have to get medieval on your asses!
Despite of how insanely dangerous the Boundary was, many people have tried to devise means to explore it with varying results. Why? Because at the very center of the Boundary lies The Azure, the power of absolute creation and destruction that can ‘program’ Seithr to either create everything from the smallest of insects to whole entire universes (including their alternate versions) and, of course, destroy them as well. Now it’s important to understand the Azure is just non-sentient power at its raw and purest form, just like how a powerful computer system is neither good nor evil and it all comes down to the user who uses it that determines what wonderful or terrible things coming out of the other end.
In this case, it comes down to the Souls who have enough strength or willpower to ‘attract’ the Azure to lend its power. Souls in this universe are defined as the basic form of a living being, and this is the form that a living person will be reduced into if they tried to enter the Seithr-infested Boundary. In fact the Azure itself is composed of the collective Souls of every single departed living creature ever, because when a living being dies their Soul will then return to the Azure along with the memories and information they have obtained in their lifetime, forming a giant knowledge database and an apt metaphor for knowledge as power.
And before you ask: yes, that includes your porn fetishes.
And now we know why the bounty was REALLY that high.
Now you might be wondering “Say Ricky, this almost makes it sound like The Azure is up for grabs for anybody who wants it and smart enough to find a way to get through the Boundary and return alive,” and I would say, “You’re about halfway correct, Strawman-I-Just-Invented-To-Further-My-Narrative!” After all, particularly strong Souls can attract the power of the Azure as well as develop a “Drive”, superhuman powers that were presented in the game as anything from Wolverine-esque healing factor to the ability to manipulate time and space. It is up for debate whether or not Drives are directly related to that particular Soul receiving the blessings of the Azure, but it was no doubt that for the case of several key players of BlazBlue their Drive powers helped them get closer and closer to harnessing the full might of The Azure.
However, even if some loaded god-complex, number-one-with-a-bullet type of character managed to devise a way to circumvent the Boundary with their Drive powers to land their grubby mitts on that sweet, sweet, Azure, they would then have to deal with the three Original Units, godlike omnipotent entities with immeasurably powerful Drives, that inhabit the very center of the Azure itself.
These consisted of Amaterasu, the administrator of the Azure that governs all of the timelines and alternate realities connected to the Boundary, Tsukuyomi that acts as the unbreakable shield to protect Amaterasu from any harm, and Susano’o, one really mean dude with even meaner claws that can ‘cleave any of Amaterasu’s creations’ should one of them decided to go after the Azure.
“You came to the wrong neighborhood, muthafucka.’
Though it’s not as if Amaterasu, a.k.a. the Master Unit Amaterasu, really needed the extra protection anyways since as the highest ranked of the three Original Units it can cast an incredibly powerful Phenomenon Intervention. A Phenomenon is a thing/person/being that existed in the world despite the logic and reason of that world dictating that such a thing should not have existed, like a gun with infinite ammo, or a person who was dead for centuries coming back to life, or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. A Phenomenon Intervention then is the ability to ‘rewind’ time to a point where the one who cast the Intervention can set a certain factor in place to ensure or at least increase the chances of a Phenomenon to exist, such as giving humanity blackhole engine techs for the infinite ammo guns, or granting revival magics to bring back a dead person, or arranging for George Lucas to have an ‘accident’ on the way home.
This action would then, in turn, would lead to a new series of events in the timeline that is favorable, or at the very least, deemed to be favorably by the one who cast the Phenomenon Intervention.
Because there is not enough whiskey in this world to blot this garbage out of our memories.
Now it’s important to know that Phenomenon Intervention is not exclusive to Amaterasu, since there are beings (mostly humans or humanoids) who can also carry out Phenomenon Interventions outside of the Boundary. These beings are called Observers, and their powers of Phenomenon Intervention comes with a special price: they must ‘observe’ and ‘acknowledge’ that they existed or they will vanish without a trace in the timeline. If an Observer also happens to acknowledge a thing that allowed a Phenomenon to exist, he or she needs to continue observing that thing or else it will cease to exist.
Still the powers of an Observer is nothing compared to an Onlooker, another special existence outside of the Boundary. An Onlooker is an omniscient being that can see what was happening in the world at any one time, and is completely unaffected by Phenomenon Interventions as well as possessing the ability to retain all of his or her memories if a time loop were to happen. They also have a lot of other powers not clearly detailed that painted them as nigh invulnerable, yet they do have at least two weaknesses: they can still die, and they can lose their powers if they try to interfere with events taking place in the world, including when a Phenomenon Intervention has taken place.
Unlike Observers, there are only one Onlooker at any given timeline in BlazBlue. The title of Onlooker in the world of where the main games takes place up until the events of Centralfiction is held by Rachel Alucard. How do I know that? Because the title of the vocal version of her theme song, “Scarlet Onlooker”, gave it away.
It’s also a great song to get your smug on.
So why do I make you all suffer through all of that jargon and their explanations? Because without prior knowledge of them you’ll be lost in a sea of jargon despite the core concept of BlazBlue being very, very simple: everything that happened in the main games is all Susano’o’s fault.
You see, for the longest of time Susano’o guarded Amaterasu alongside of Tsukuyomi, until one day apparently he ate a bad pizza and grew a consciousness. A ‘will’ of his own, so to speak, that made him resent the fact that he was forever tethered to the Master Unit. He then devised a way to ‘detach’ himself from his bonds with Amaterasu by splitting himself into two parts: a body and a Soul, before escaping the Boundary and out into the world where the story of the games takes place. This very act apparently created a kind of ‘bridge’ between the Boundary and the human world, causing the very first instance of Seithr flowing out into the human world.
The Soul of Susano’o, however, could give less than two shakes of a damn of what kind of troubles that would bring in the future, enjoying for the very first time being free from his bounds with Amaterasu. Now calling himself Yuuki Terumi, he didn’t get to enjoy his freedom for long before he realized a tiny teensy wrinkle: he’s now a Phenomenon without an Observer. Afterall, nobody knew about the existence of the Original Units up until then, so how could anyone possibly ‘observe’ him now that he has no physical form? Faced with the idea of disappearing without a trace, or worse, having Amaterasu cast a Phenomenon Intervention to bring him back to the Boundary, Terumi raced for an answer before arriving at a solution that would not only ensure he was observed, but also tethering himself to the human world and forever kept him away from Amaterasu’s reach:
“If everybody hates and fear me, they would know that I exist.”
Presumably before saying, “Wanna know how I got these scars?”
Embracing the idea like a true sociopath, Terumi began making his move to wreak havoc by first creating Azure Grimoires, a kind of ‘spell’ that allows direct ‘access’ to harness the power of The Azure. At the same time, humanity discovered the method he uses to break out of the Boundary: the Cauldron (translated as “Gate” sometimes), a direct entrance to the Boundary that made humanity aware of the existence of the Master Unit and the Azure. Terumi then whispered stories regarding the Azure and the Azure Grimoires, causing discord between people who coveted the power of the Azure and allowing himself to harness enough of their fear and hate of each other to manifest the power to possess living vessels.
Now having a firm footing in the world, Terumi continues to shake things up by letting humanity come up with the idea for constructing Prime Field Devices, artificial humans to explore the Boundary to try and make contact with the Azure and the Master Unit. Oh, and he also contacted Relius Clover, a genius alchemist to prepare a new body to host his Soul in exchange for Terumi providing Relius with knowledge regarding the Azure. Oh, but then he had to contend with Clavis Alucard, father of Rachel Alucard and Onlooker of the world at the moment; but then there’s the appearance of the Black Beast that caused Relius to fall into the Boundary and time travel to-oh but before that there’s the Prime Field Device War that was caused by the Origin who-oh, the Origin is one of the Prime Field Device that made contact with Amaterasu and-wait there’s also the Wadatsumi Mass Vanish Incident which caused the Takamagahara System and the Embryo and the Vampire Incident and the Mages Guild and no wait I forgot to mention ES and World of the Tsukuyomi and Naoto Kurogane being the younger version of Ragna except here is Ragna though he was part of the Black Beast and he was smelted with Nu12 and oh damn I forgot to mention Nu and the Kusanagi unit and the principle of smelting and-
“Don’t die…You can’t die until you explain what the hell is a ‘Nemesis Horizon’!”
…I’m, I’m so sorry, you guys. I really thought I could do it. I thought I could help sum up the really basic parts of a story that spanned four fighting games, two visual novels, five actual novels, one world-building compendium, two radio show seasons, and one live-action show into one 1500 words article, and yet 1100 additional words later I still couldn’t deliver anything outside of the really baseline core of the story, let alone the personal motivations and relationships between the 35 playable characters (36 if you count Jubei) in the final game. It was naive of me to think that I could, and I deeply, deeply apologize for wasting your time.
I will say that the story of these games is truly one of the most fascinating one I’ve ever read, be it in a fighting game or a full on RPG. If you are very much interested in it, this website will explain the story in a timeline format that is both easy to understand and provided a better explanation of the entire series much, much better than I ever could (but beware of spoilers). And as for the faking it part?
Let’s just say that the plot of BlazBlue is “Every Anime Plot Ever, Including The Girly Ones”, and that the cast of characters are fighting against each other over the sizes of their breasts.
Yes, including the male ones.
“YOUR BOOBS SIZE OFFENDS ME!! LET’S FIGHT!!”