Blade Dance of the Elementalers makes its intentions clear from the outset – the first scenes see Kazehaya Kimito stumble across a girl bathing in a lake, and fate has it that she’s a princess maiden from Areishia Spirit Academy. Though Claire Rouge dubs him a pervert of the highest grade from the off, Kamito is still invited to enrol at the all-girl academy, whose student body mainly consists of varying shades of tsundere. They make the exception for him, of all people, even giving him ‘special’ accommodations that resemble Willie’s shack from The Simpsons, because he’s a raw talent who has the best chance of beating the strongest of all the Blade Dancers, the returning legend Ren Ashbell.
The Blade Dance itself is a military festival performed in honour of the five great spirits. The dancers make pacts with spirits who become their weapons, and the winning team has the spirits’ blessing bestowed upon them for several years. So the cycle continues, and the status quo has remained that only pure maidens can enter contracts with the spirits. Again, enter Kamito, who rescues Claire from a contract gone awry by making his own pact with the loli-wisp blade she had her eye on. Furious and embarrassed, Claire disregards his heroic act, and demands that he atone for his theft by becoming her slave spirit in turn.
If this is all sounding a little familiar, chances are there’s a good reason for it. Kamito and Claire’s relationship takes a lot of pointers from Familiar of Zero, as they eventually find common ground, even though she’s oh-so tsundere, in their 18th century quasi-Franco realm with twin moons adorning the sky. Although he’s sworn never again to perform the Blade Dance, Kamito finds himself bonding with the girls of the academy, and winds up pulling off yet more daring rescues with his swordplay skills against various demons.
Considering that the Blade Dance is the thrust of the narrative, the fight sequences are sub-par, with too much repetition and static-frame stuffing for the illusion of substance. The evocation of spells in florid olde-worlde lingo, attractively stylised characters and some interesting allusions to gender-swapping just don’t do enough to wax over the flat story and animation quality. Kamito and the Raven Classroom’s “collection of talented misfits” fall short of enticing the heart or the mind, even though the basic idea had potential as an intelligent piece on spiritual bonds, identity and different selves.
Extras: All 6 Blade Dance Special Mini OVAs; clean opening & closing animation; Japanese promos; also available from Sentai Filmworks