Sep 17, 2022
“Burning Blood” is an aesthetically pleasing, well-produced 3-episode OVA about a high school delinquent training to be a boxer to defeat his rival. After a rocky first episode, the story becomes solid and intriguing, although overdramatic and unrealistic at times. Unfortunately, it ends on an inconclusive note, and seems to have been made to advertise the manga (which had just ended around the time this came out).
The OVA’s story centers on a high school delinquent named Ryo, whose nickname is “B.B.” or “Burning Blood,” a nickname given to him by American servicemembers who got in a fight with him a few years prior to the
events in the series. It’s set in Yokosuka, a port city with a large American navy base. Ryo plays the trumpet in a band, and they’ve entered a national music competition. Meanwhile, Ryo’s friends get caught up in some local gang violence, and one of the main members of the gang is a guy named Jin Moriyama. Ryo fights him, but gets beat badly. When he finds out that Moriyama is a boxer, he decides to go into boxing himself to defeat him.
The first episode is difficult to get through, mainly because there’s an implied scene of gang rape at the end, and the somber aftermath of that is shown. Also, there is no boxing in the first episode, so the lyrics and the visuals of the opening and ending themes don’t fit this episode at all. The mood is also a mismatch — it ends with a rape and a guy lying on the ground having been beaten to a pulp, only for the peppy “you can do it!” music to kick in immediately afterwards. The juxtaposition is jarring.
The second and third episodes are much better. Once the plot gets started and the characters work to advance that plot, the story gets interesting and I grew invested in knowing the outcome. However, unfortunately, to find out the eventual outcome, you have to read the manga, as the OVA ends part of the way through. Also, there are a number of issues with this series that hindered my suspension of disbelief. For one, Ryo exhibits the superhuman traits that are often seen in main characters of delinquent anime: he gets beat up to the point where any normal person would have died, but his doctor says that he miraculously sustained no lasting damage, and what's more, Ryo recovers to 100% remarkably quickly. At one point, he even swims the 2km stretch from an island to the mainland and back — in a typhoon, no less. In addition, despite all of the violence occurring in public places, we never see any police or security guards anywhere, which seems a little unrealistic.
The characters besides Ryo are memorable, but not necessarily likable. The teacher, Otobe, is your typical “tough love” coach. He beats up Ryo frequently, sometimes to the point where he knocks him out, and one time he even tells Ryo’s friends to take him to a hospital after he's done. Koyuki is Ryo’s love interest whose father conveniently owns the clinic that treats Ryo when he almost dies. Ryo peeks under her skirt and tries to convince her to sleep with him, but she coyly refuses. Kato (who goes by the nickname “Sorry”) is Ryo’s happy-go-lucky friend who often skips class to smoke cigarettes on the school rooftop with him. He’s dating Su, the naive, loopy manager of the school’s basketball team who is also somewhat involved with the local gangs. Rounding out the main characters are Waka, a former gang member who is now playing in a band with Ryo, and Moriyama, a boxer from an elite high school, who seems fated to be Ryo’s rival.
The technical aspects of “Burning Blood” are all quite good, especially the direction, art and animation. The unique and visually pleasing character designs were done by legendary character designer Akio Sugino. They look a bit glitchy in the first episode, but the designs are smoothed out in the next two episodes, where they look great. The detailed, realistic background art is similarly nice to look at. The variety of visually interesting locations in the city of Yokosuka are diligently reflected here. The animation is great — easily some of the best I’ve seen in an OVA. It’s fluid and the movement is natural. There are a few moments where lip flaps don’t match the voices, but most of the time everything is synched up properly. One unusual technique employed in this anime is the use of still images during action scenes. Normally I would chalk this up to a budget issue, but this seems to be the director’s style and therefore an intentional choice, and it’s executed well.
The voice acting is great, and the dramatic background music, which often features trumpets, leaves a deep impression. I didn’t like the opening and ending themes at first, due to the odd English in the lyrics and the fact that they didn’t match the tone of the first episode. However, the songs grew on me after a while, and now I think they’re pretty good.
The whole 3-episode series is filled with dramatic imagery and speech, mostly relating to “summer” and “the sea,” and also the tattoo of a hawk, trumpets, and red and blue glowing eyes. The dramatic elements and figurative imagery combine with the Akio Sugino character designs to give this OVA a decidedly shoujo feel, despite the content being far removed from that demographic.
As for potentially objectionable content, most of it is contained within the first episode. There’s some nudity and underwear shots, implied scenes of sex and rape, and lots of graphic violence. The second and third episodes also have a fair amount of violence (this anime is about fighting, after all).
Overall, “Burning Blood” is a good-looking and good-sounding OVA, but it ends before its promising plot can fully develop. The first episode is difficult to get through, but the second and third episodes are interesting to watch, although unrealistic at times. I would recommend watching this for the art, animation and music, as well as the dramatic imagery of the series, rather than for the plot.
Reviewer’s Rating: 6
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