Baldr Force EXE
In Norse mythology Baldr is a god associated with light and beauty, who’s death is a great tragedy to Æsir and a harbringer of Ragnarok. The very story of Baldr in mythology is that of grief and death and is argued to be the beginning of the chain of events that will ultimately lead to the destruction of the gods at Ragnarock. When Baldr passes, he will be reborn anew according to Völuspá the seeress. So it’s a fitting title for an anime that has exploding heads just minutes into the first episode.
Baldr Force EXE is set in a futuristic world where the Internet has become so over developed that rather than connecting to the Wired through a computer, it’s directly connected into the brain. This means that people are able to live out fantasy lives in real time, actually feeling and eating whilst in the Wired. However, this connectivity to the Wired means that when things go wrong in the Wired, they go wrong for the body.
Within minutes of watching the opening show the consequences of being in the Wired when things start to falter becomes apparent. A server has been compromised and an unknown virus has wiped out the entire population of the server. A futuristic anti-terrorist squad block the server from access and try to assess the situation. Within minutes the officers are dead, this is due to the virus actually attacking them and their bodies each react in a different way. Some may go into cardiac arrest, some may just shutdown from the inside and others, well, their heads explode sending blood and scattered pieces of skull across the room. Unfortunately, the user has to opt to logout from the Wired, as a forced disconnect will kill the user as well.
Of course, like any cyber-punk anime, the real world is always raining, is gloomy and is just a place people want to be away from. Whereas the Wired is an entirely adaptable place, where people with knowledge can create their own worlds, and where normal people are able to escape the realities of life for a limited period of time per day. Unfortunately the virus that killed the anti-terrorist squad keeps on spreading and rumours of a Wired Ghost scare those in the know.
As the premise for Baldr Force EXE is derived from a Dreamcast game, some of the elements are a little tired now. Fortunately most of this is recovered by the dramatic irony throughout, as the first episode itself is riddled with spoilers for the keen eyed viewer. This foreshadowing is an effective method of drawing the viewer in and creating the tension required to make this show effective. The lead protagonist’s personal quest for revenge against a fallen comrade of an old hacking group is an effective subplot that is entwined with the main plot of the show brilliantly.
Without Souma’s grief of his dead friend the rest of the show would not have been possible, and the climax to the show certainly would have been impossible without the amount of personal sacrifice and grief he has gone through. He’s very much the anti-hero, with just enough attitude and hate to want to see him in danger, but with enough human compassion and backstory to want to find out more about his character and history.
The character design is fairly well done. They are certainly not breathtaking, but neither are they completely average and uninteresting. The characters are all clear and distinct, with some great CG work when the battles are occurring. This is let down by the standard 2D work of when the characters are visiting institutions and are outside of the Wired as the world is dull. Fortunately the fan-service doesn’t last longer than a few seconds and does not detract from the actual quality of the show.
The voice acting is average in both the Japanese and the English soundtracks. No one character stands out as bad, but in contrast no character stands out as great either. This is first noticeable in the Japanese cast, and then in the English cast as well. This would indicate the casting process was spot on to the original. The opening and ending credits are catchy and these are textless as part of the meagre bonus features on the DVD.
The most endearing part of Baldr Force EXE is that it’s fast. This four episode series is lightening fast and this keeps the viewer interested. This show would easily fail if it were a 13 part series as there’s simply not enough life in it to draw it out that far. Fortunately the speed of the show leaves a few questions left to be answered, and that’s what will keep viewers coming back to the show. Especially fans of the game.
Following the mecha standard - girls, internet and violence, Baldr Force EXE attempts to differentiate itself by a storyline of attempted merit. Forgettable but at least it tries.