Saturday 24 March 2012

Anime REVIEW: Black Rock Shooter


As the winter 2012 anime season draws to a close, it's time to have a look at the few series I've been watching for the last few months. The first of which is none other than Black Rock Shooter. Originally based on a piece of artwork by Huke (of Steins;Gate fame), the character grew further life in a Hatsune Miku/Supercell song of the same name, an OVA episode and a slew of merchandise. While the OVA boasted impressive visuals, its short length meant the story left a lot of things unexplained. This eight episode series is a retelling of the Black Rock Shooter story, but delves deeper into the mystery behind the girls from another world.

From left to right: Chariot, Dead Master, Black Rock Shooter, Strength, Black Gold Saw

Seemingly normal high-school student Mato Kuroi is drawn to new student Yomi Takanashi. Despite her attempts at friendship, Yomi doesn't seem to open up to Mato. As she tries her hardest to make a new friend, Mato also juggles life with her best friend Yuu, the basket ball club and advice from the eccentric school counsellor Saya Irino.

Finally one day Mato gets her wish when she and Yomi strike a friendship over a mutual love for the book "Li'l Bird Li'l Bird Colourful Colours". When Mato goes around to Yomi's house, she meets Kagari Izuriha -  a wheelchair bound girl who insists on keeping Yomi all to herself.

But in another world, a pale girl with jet-black hair and a burning blue eye fights an ongoing battle against other mysterious girls who look strikingly similar to the ones that inhabit ours. In the past the only thing these worlds have shared is pain and suffering, but Mato is about to be caught in the middle when the two worlds collide.

Mato Kuroi: Black Rock Shooter's real world counterpart

Despite promises of weapon-wielding girls battling it out a parallel dimension wasteland, it is not these characters that the show pays close attention to (at least not in the early stages of the show). The fight sequences run alongside the trials and tribulations of Mato and her friends, feeling more like a personification of their plights than a tangible reality. When Yomi reaches breaking point, the connection between the two worlds becomes a lot more clear. Most of this plot is crammed into the second half of the show, but the first four episodes work very well providing build-up and introducing the characters (many of which had little or no fiction behind them prior to this).

So at heart, Black Rock Shooter is about high school drama - albeit raised to almost unbelievable levels. Most of, if not all, of the main characters show signs of some sort of mental instability, which in turn creates these other world persona. Yomi is the epitome of this - her desire to feel needed taking her to disturbing levels of unstable. Kagari is equally as insane in the first few episodes, while Mato's more subdued trait of never losing herself in the midst of negative emotions ultimately takes Black Rock Shooter to a level where she may destroy everything.

Teenage angst gone crazy

While the art may be in some ways a step down from that of the OVA's, everyone and everything is a lot more distinct in the TV version. Each character has received some sort of redesign, and when it comes to the "Other World" girls with that comes a colour that helps distinguish them from each other during the more involved fight sequences. As Black Rock Shooter faces off against her various opponents, she also enters very different landscapes shaped by her foes and their personalities. For example, the psychedelic macaroon infested world of Chariot is very different to the barren, gothic landscape of Black Gold Saw. The show makes heavy use of cel-shaded CGI for these characters, which blends better than expected and provides an alternative aesthetic to be appreciated.

Things get a little...insane

At only eight episodes, Black Rock Shooter didn't really have the time to perfect itself. In this time however it manages to establish its real world characters and their traumas (some more believable than others) reasonably well at the expensive of making the "other world" characters mute figureheads. While in some respect this is indeed what they are, the level of depth between the five is varied. It is nice to see characters other than Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master take centre stage though, and it is arguably Yuu/Strength that steals the show. 

Short, but certainly sweet.

1 comment: said...

Fantastic blog! I really love how it’s easy on my eyes and also the information are well written.I am extremely happy to seen this anime and wanna a copy of this anime toys. Although I have some toys that I collected from PIJ I’m excited!