“Myoue, I’ve been wondering, can we stay together a little longer? We’ve come all this way, and even came back to life and all. I can promise I’ll finish everything off. Let’s stay together just a little longer.”
-Koto to Myoue, Kyousougiga, Episode 10
A common thread in Rie Matsumoto’s directorial work is the inevitable destruction of whatever world she has spent the majority of the series or movie building. There is a ruined garden, structures flying everywhere, and an overall sense of disorientation in the face of the work’s respective protagonist coming to terms with what is most important to them.
As it turns out, what is most important is also wholly mundane and unquantifiable.
The finale of Matsumoto’s latest work, Blood Blockade Battlefront, finally aired this past weekend to a smattering of applause and general satisfaction with very little high praise. Having been delayed for several months, it was eagerly anticipated, but the wait did not do it any favors.
Much of the criticism of this finale, and Blood Blockade Battlefront as a whole, stems from adding two anime original characters – Black/William Macbeth and White/Mary Macbeth – and mashing it up with an episodic presentation of the original shounen manga material. The combination does neither narrative favors, and viewers are widely split on which portion or style of presentation they prefer. However, the Black and White subplot also notably injects the series with a shot of undiluted Rie Matsumoto, adding another narrative to her growing ouevre.
“Don’t so easily reject the world that you’re going to live in from now on. Then I’m sure we’ll be able to stay together forever.”
-White/Mary Macbeth to Black/William Macbeth, Blood Blockade Battlefront, Episode 12
Blood Blockade Battlefront, much like Kyousougiga before it, ends in an all-consuming destruction of the world that the lead character, Leonardo Watch, has spent the past eleven episodes inhabiting. There are a myriad of available parallels between Leonardo’s relationship with his sister Michella, and William’s relationship with his sister Mary.
When initially faced with the choice between his own eyes or his sister’s, Leonardo freezes while Michella speaks, effectively sacrificing herself for her brother. Similarly, William invites one of The Thirteen Kings – the “King of Despair” – into his body under the assumption that it will save the life of his sister, Mary. Leonardo spends the better part of the series attempting to piece together a meaning for his existence while William grapples with the fact that he didn’t wholly mind the idea of harboring the King of Despair, since a world without his sister is admittedly the end of the world for him regardless.
“The thing is, I can’t love myself the same way. I keep doubting myself. Our father entrusted the perfect world he wished for to my brother, and governing it means keeping the things in it as they are. So what’s my job? I can create life. Rebirth and devastation are in my hands. My power contradicts my role as an observer.”
-Myoue to Lady Koto, Kyousougiga, Episode 10
There’s another line to be drawn from Blood Blockade Battlefront to Rie Matsumoto’s Kyousougiga. William Macbeth resembles Kyousougiga‘s original High Priest Myoue, in that he has been born with an exorbitant amount of power and struggles daily with wielding it in addition to what it means for his everyday existence. While his sister Mary wrestles with her own inferiority complex for having no psychic powers, William grapples with what having a massive amount of power means, especially when his inability to control it can spell disaster for those he cares about.
Myoue retreats inwardly, closing himself off to the world until Lady Koto is granted human form and essentially saves him by falling in love with him. This never quite erases his own self-hatred, as he arranges things so that his adopted son – whom he forcibly brought back to life against his will – Yakushimaru, and his daughter Koto will take his place as gods, erasing his entire presence from existence. Naturally, Koto rejects this, explaining herself by a well-placed headbutt and a rudimentary description of love that lists the things they used to do as father and daughter. Regardless of how mundane these actions were – eating together, watching the sunset together – Koto’s words reiterate the idea that love, and reasons to live, are better defined through simple actions shared with other people, if love can be defined at all.
Black/William Macbeth also finds himself on the receiving end of a well-timed headbutt in Blood Blockade Battlefront, not from his sister Mary, but from Leonardo Watch, the possessor of the “all-seeing eyes of god.” As mentioned previously, both Leonardo and William possess extraordinary amounts of supernatural power, and both struggle with what that means for themselves and those around them.
Leonardo, thanks to the help of Libra, learns throughout the course of the series what his power means and, more importantly, how to accept himself in spite of it. The peanut gallery of Blood Blockade Battlefront constantly reiterates that Leonardo is completely ordinary in his actions and how he responds to supernatural situations that arise. In this ordinary way, he also is able to help Mary/White face her own fear, allowing her to eventually save her brother.
In both of these series, the destruction and salvation of the world is incredibly personal but not complex. All of the supernatural powers end up ancillary to the raw emotional narrative of human love – romantic or familial. The addition of Black and White to Blood Blockade Battlefront‘s narrative may not have been to everyone’s taste, but it makes for another strong, distinct piece in Rie Matsumoto’s portfolio.