I played with Blanka for a little while and he feels like a very versatile character.
Why isn’t he top tier? I’m no pro so I can’t tell when it comes to minute matters of frame advantages and etc, but from a simple overview, the mobility, mixups, the shock, the HP slide, the good normals all of it comes together quite well.
From a normal perspective he is around B area. So it’s hard for him to get in vs anyone who has A level normals. Also his damage output is pretty bad and his mixup game from an oki perspective is quite tame.
The top tier characters all have very strong normals or easy ways of getting in. Some have incredible oki games. Blanka is really weak in that department. His strength is normals for the most part. The big thing that sets him apart from others is his slide. Most strong normal defensive chars have issues vs fireballs. Blanka doesn’t. While he can still get zoned out, his slide allows him to do well vs guile, shoto, and sim while other charge defensive characters like balrog/honda have difficulties. He has a strange set of chars that he’s strong against, unfortunately 3 of the top 5 chars in the game he is basicaly a 3-7 against. He is a solid mid and potentially mid/high character. the reason we don’t have a top blanka in the usa is there are few players who want to play a charge low damage output lame character. He is potentially one of the most boring characters to play optimally. Players here enjoy him BECAUSE they like that style. Most players don’t, including top players.
I think his oki game is good with his hop which is something like a ground cross up, his lows, kara throw, overhead/fake overhead etc… but like you said, the true issue is his damage output which is very poor.
Blanka doesn’t have a good position after landing a combo with a special move to end it, after elec, his opponent is so far that the pressure is dead, after ball, unless you burn 3 bars which is not gainful, you don’t have a good position here too, sometimes worse : you’re at negative, and one other thing : no hardknockdown unless 3 bars too…
So i think, his damage and his positioning after his special moves are both bad unless on the corner for the last point.
His normals are of course great overall but has some issues : no 3 frames close/crouch, no chain, a cr.lp 3 frames chainable should be good! Little blockstun, and his focus is like his normals : good hitbox and range, but his frame advantage sucks which is very bad for his offense.
But i think he’s overall a good character, he do a good job against some (Akuma, Viper, Adon, Rufus, Ryu etc…), has a hard time against others (Cammy, Seth, Fei etc…), so it will be very hard to win a tournament for him, unless you’re lucky and very strong.
Blanka’s hop is unsafe lol… If you play good players with reactions your hop isn’t gonna do you justice at all. That’s why it works online and Blanka looks good, you do jab jab hop and people think it’s a mixup, it’s not lol… his hop is good for mixups only on opponent’s wakeup. The reason he’s decent is strictly because of his pokes, and his vast array of anti-airs, thus making most high level blanka matches look like stalemates. His damage is meh…
I did not direct that towards you, I was in a rush and just responding to the OP’s post regarding frame data etc and i thought the hop would be appropriate since i swear every online blanka thinks its safe. And the fact that so many of his normals are absolutely negative on block.
He loses to the two best characters in the game 3-7, and while I think he does fine against Fei now(THANKS 2012 CHANGES), he’s not particularly advantageous against anyone in the top 10~ characters other than Sakura. He has too many awful matchups, and his good ones are against characters that tend to be underplayed or bad. Beating Deejay 7-3 doesn’t counteract losing to Cammy 3-7.
a longer answer would include his inability to sustain offensive momentum and skewed risk:reward but I’m lazy.
He can’t extend a combo or chain into a good damaging one. Horizontal roll is almost as bad as rainbow for offense when outside a combo. Having a move that is punishable on hit is the stupidest thing ever in fighting games.
Honestly though, I think his weakness is his combos aren’t very threatening. You know how when you get hit once you know you are screwed? Blanka isn’t like that. Blanka is more of a oki master with his hop, ball, electricity, and movement. He can also get out of sticky situations. I honestly don’t like the whole “tier” discussions/ideas but it is what it is. I think blanka is alot better then what he gets credited for.