Blade dance is an underrated harem that has its faults but counters by overcoming common issues within its genre. I have watched a plethora of harem anime and the bad ones usually have poor pacing as well as a lack of character progression. The question every director of a harem series has to determine is how do you balance the amount of fanservice and harem humour with actual plot progression. I have seen a number of other harem anime where a whole episode is spent on harem cliches. For example an entire episode could be spent randomly going to a beach while the world is falling apart. However in Blade Dance the director smartly puts the focus on the plot when needed. Each episode has a healthy dose of fanservice and plot progression to a point where I didn’t feel dissatisfied with either. I would say Blade Dance is about average when it comes to fan service. This is surprising considering the fact that the director Tetsuya Yanagisawa is also the director of Highschool DxD which is the epitome of excessive fan service. The fan service is not too extreme where it feels out of place. The only exception is after an intense battle where the protagonist becomes unconscious, wakes up and usually finds a girl in his bed. That happens a lot, but oddly it acted as a breather for the audience after intense action so in retrospect it does seem to have worked. And if you have to put it somewhere, it’s a smart place to put it.
The characters on the show can be hit or miss, both in the characters themselves and how a viewer perceives a character. If you look at popular tv shows with many seasons like the Walking Dead there are well developed characters who grow. In a harem show it is near impossible to provide adequate character progression to all the girls as well as the protagonist while balancing plot progression and harem fanservice in only 12 episodes. Therefore sacrifices have to be made. Most of the shows character growth comes from the female lead Claire as well as the male protagonist Kamito. This makes sense because they are the first characters introduced in the show while the other girls are introduced later. The sacrifice is that while the other girls in the harem are developed in term of breast size, they are not as lucky in terms of character growth. This is fine but it bothers me when one girl in the harem, Rinslet, inexplicably is not there and randomly shows up when it is convenient. We learn nothing about her, even her personality is very similar to another girl in the harem which makes her entirely forgettable.
I would say the protagonist is above average. He is clueless like every other harem lead, but he is not a wimp and is competent even though he is emotionally scarred. He is still an enigma both to himself and to the audience, we don’t know what exactly happened to him. However it doesn’t matter because we see his faults and insecurities and can see his growth. The real x factor is the female lead Claire Rouge. Either you love her or you hate her. For a while I hated her, she was whiney and possessive, her traits made her cute at times but at other times she was annoying. However by the end of the show her character changes completely. Personally I believe that actions and decisions make a person. At one point I was thinking, “Here we go again…” but surprisingly Claire makes the right decision and changes completely. Whether this change was rightly deserved is up to the viewer, but I thought this change was refreshing. Looking back her character was a foil to the other characters on the show and even helped to galvanize their own character growth. She literally talked some sense into another character a number of times. Both Claire and Kamito are similar in that they both felt alone, the person they loved abandoned them, but the two learn to lean on each other and others for help which I thought was a well executed theme.
The show does have its faults. There are times when things just do not make logical sense or when a character seems to contradict themselves. They often seem to break the rules of the world it setup. The art and sound is average for a harem anime. The opening and ending became catchy over time but they are standard jpop tunes and are not exceptional. If this was a stand alone series I think some characters like Rinslet shouldn’t have existed. It felt like she was there simply because they needed a blonde girl in the harem. However this is based on a light novel so I think she had to be there for the sake of the franchise. Considering this fact, the ending while predictable was very satisfying. There are still more questions, the blade dance (battle) between different schools has yet to happen. Will the other girls in the harem figure out the MC’s former identity? What is this demon lord business? What happened 3 years ago to the protagonist and his partnered contract? The show exemplifies a director making the most of what he could in the 12 episodes he was given. I don’t blame him for not trying to fit everything in because it would feel rushed. It is satisfying because the central themes introduced at the start were brought full circle and resolved with characters who smartened up. It felt like the first book of a book series like Harry Potter, even though there is more plot to discover it ended on good note which made logical sense. It is unlikely a sequel will come to fruition but if it did I would want to watch it because I want to know what happens next. If you decide to watch this series you will be surprised by how fast the episodes fly by and how invested you become to the story and characters.