Before anything else, lets get the criticisms out of the way for both those who have already seen Broken Blade or have read the manga and are eager to point them out, and for those interested in this 6 episode OVA and want a full picture. This is a show that puts the bulk of its attention behind the action elements. The characters are not unlikeable by any means, however they are not given enough camera time nor plot progression to fully develop. Relationships and back stories are stated but not explored. Many future character growths are hinted at, but fall short of the scope of the show. In that sense, the cast of Broken Blade leaves much to be desired. That said, Broken Blade is absolutely brilliant in another light. It succeeds in disproving the rule of cool that explosions enhance a combat experience, replacing it with something better.
Set in what the show suggests is a far future post apocalypse world, the setting of Broken Blade is devoid of oil or seemingly any other form of combustible energy sources. Instead, humanity as a whole have gained an unexplained power simply dubbed "magic" that allows them to control and manipulate a ubiquitous material called quartz through touch. This allows for the creations of hand tools, automobiles, ships, pressure guns, all through the usage of quartz technology. Of course, it bleeds over into military technology as well in the form of golems. Through the manipulation of quartz ligaments, these giant bipedal mechs do combat through both melee weaponry as well as pressure guns.
The genius of Broken Blade's combat is derived through this setting. Golems are designed in such a way that, because of their lack of any combustible components, nor anything outside melee or projectile weapons, there are no explosions. Things do not spark and smoke. Instead, a broken golem chips, cracks, and crumbles in extremely satisfying ways as the quartz they are composed of break apart like rocks do in real life. The action as a whole is given, quite literally, a very clear and visible form because of this design choice.
Further, the lack of smoke and explosions lets something else be seen unhindered: pilot deaths. Most mech shows have shots to the cockpit be either obscured by exploding control panels or, in the cause of wanting to emphasize a permanent death (and sometimes not even delivering that), engulf the scene with white light. Such techniques are not possible in Broken Blade, and the show is better for it. Character deaths of some significance are given more visual focus. There is no gore mind you, but when a pilot is killed during an *inside the cockpit* shot, there is no attempt at hiding the fact.
Lastly, there are the weapons. The lead mech of the show, like many other real robot anime series, is a super powered prototype far superior to the rest of the cast. However, not even the Delphine's far stronger physical capabilities is able to escape the limited weapons catalogue of the setting it is placed in. The world has swords, lances, and pressure guns as weaponry for the golems. While the Delphine is a super robot in everything but name, its lack of any internal weapons systems means it is stuck using those said weaponry as well. In other words, the combat is crude in a way that ups the tension, and makes full use of the mech design to give us good battle damage. A pressure gun will fire multiple rounds before downing a golem, each round creating a crack on the golem's frame. Physical weapons crushes and dents, at the same time finding themselves splintering under the force of the attacks. It is actually hard to kill someone, and that not only makes fights more exciting, it makes the few aces capable of dispatching a foe quickly all the more impressive.
Perhaps not for those looking for a depth in character and story, but Broken Blade set its eyes on a goal, and achieved it quite well.