Posted by psgels on 23 March 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews

So, Black Rock Shooter. It definitely raised some eyebrows when it was first announced as a Noitamina series. Sure, by that time we were already done with Fractale and all, but considering that the OVA was a boring teenaged angst-fest it didn’t exactly have the best papers in a timeslot that set itself apart through its focus on an older audience. There were hints that the creators were willing to experiment, though: it only had 8 episodes, preventing it from dragging on and allowing Thermae Romae to fill its slot in the meantime, Mari Okada was appointed as the head writer and the action would be directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi (you know, the director of Gurren Lagann and Panty and Stocking). As an arthouse project, it could have had some serious potential with this.

Now, if you haven’t watched the OVA though, there are a few things you should know about this. Black Rock Shooter started as a software program Vocaloid which allows people to make their own songs, which spawned an illustration, which spawned a song. This song spawned an OVA, after which a TV-series followed. It’s an interesting example of virality out there. In any case though, the illustration indeed looked very stylish and a good writer could do some great things with that. For some reason however, the creators of the OVA shoehorned a bunch of teenaged girls into the story who took up most of the airtime, reducing the titular “Black Rock Shooter” to just someone who “fights stuff”. It wasn’t that good. It was up to the creators of the anime to try better. Well, they succeeded in that, but there are a lot of bumps along the way here…

Unfortunately, in the end the TV-series of Black Rock Shooter also ends up focusing on teenaged angst. Thankfully where in the OVA this was really boring, they did try a lot of things to spice up this angst. Some things worked, others tried way too hard, and at others they just didn’t try enough. Especially the first half is a chore to sit through due to all of the hugely overblown angst that passes the screen. In particular the character of Yomi gets really annoying in how incredibly emo she gets, but there are more characters in this show who force themselves way too hard to create drama, and this undermines the rest of the characterization.

Thankfully in the second half this series redeems itself, and it actually starts developing its characters and setting. Along with the revelations, the characters are much better balanced together, and it does come down to a pretty decent, albeit sappy, conclusion. Yes, it actually avoided the biggest pitfall of Noitamina series of not being able to end well. In the end it does create an interesting link between the two parallel worlds so things do come together. I personally found the first half of this show a chore to sit through, but I liked the direction it took in the second half quite a bit.

Also, the action in this series is really sweet. We definitely were in for a treat in the animation department this past winter-season: Nisemonogatari, Milky Holmes 2 and Black Rock Shooter: these three series looked past their conventional animation, and really tried to do interesting stuff with their visuals and their visual direction. The action sequences in this series are really intense and well directed. Most of it is done in 3D CG, so that takes a while to get used to (because they don’t blend in too well at times), but it’s a sacrifice that was worth it, because otherwise the creators would never have been able to put as much movement in this series as now. The soundtrack complements it all well. I’d almost say: go and watch this as a multimedia experience. This is really a show where the visuals are as important as the story and characters. The emo is a bit annoying at times, but overall, it could have done a lot worse. It’s not the disaster that Fractale or Guilty Crown were, in any case.

Storytelling: 8/10 – An interesting attempt in combining story, bisuals and music together. Actually ends well.
Characters: 7/10 – A few interesting ones, along with a few characters who try too hard at being dramatic.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Terrific action scenes, a feast for the senses when it wants to.
Setting: 7/10 – The creators could have done a ton of things with this concept. Unfortunately, the setting they went with was centered around moe teenaged angst that is under-utilized in the first half. A missed chance.


6 Responses

  1. Avatar ameryln says:

    Is it me or did I find a correlation between Black Rock Shooter and Puella Magi? I think it’s the line “Always somewhere/ someone is fighting for you/ as long as you remember her/ you are not alone”, and the fact that there is a manifestation of the girl’s emotions and that emotions play a huge par in both stories. The rainbow bird as well, when it turns black. It’s a bit like a grief seed? I might be pushing this one too hard, but yeah throughout BRS there were instances.

  2. Avatar magi.touma says:

    It’s funny how you claim this series to be better than Fractale, yet still has the same score, with the same exact individual score …

  3. Avatar Suzushina Yuriko says:

    “Black Rock Shooter started as a software program Vocaloid which allows people to make their own songs, which spawned an illustration, which spawned a song. This song spawned an OVA, after which a TV-series followed.”

    You’re wrong about that. Black Rock Shooter started out as a simple illustration drawn by huke. It has absolutely no connection to Vocaloid whatsoever besides the Supercell video. Black Rock Shooter is not a Vocaloid and the character is NOT based off of Hatsune Miku. Sorry if it sounds slightly angry, but I don’t know how many times I’ve had to explain this to people.

    I do agree on your points, though. This series of inherently cool illustrations could have had an excellent story written for it, but instead the writers decide to go for teenage schoolgirl angst. At least the animation is good.

    • Avatar Sei says:

      Really? Are you sure the dude did not take the slightless inspiration from Miku? That characteristic twintall just screamed voicaloid into my face. The internet mostly just associated her with Miku anyways. It certainly did not help that the producer chose that horrible voicaloid song to be their ending. What should we ask for? To be honest, I think the association of it with Miku is too attract fan to the fanbase. So don’t blame us here. Blame those who tried to milk the fandom.

      Well, anyways the anime is better than I thought. It is to say, I have really low expectation.

      That ending song still stabbed my ear until now.

  4. Avatar AliceAcedia says:

    Hmm, interesting. I read your blog often for advice/opinions on certain series to weed out the bad, and more efficiently find the good. And while I agree with your rating and synopsis over-all, I am surprised that you enjoyed the ending more than the beginning. Yes, Yomi was a rather over-dramatic character at times. But it does mildly make sense for her character, considering her only friend was controlling and obsessive-it’s not surprising that given to making friends again, she would feel the staple of friendship was one friend, whom you did/share everything with ONLY. But that tidbit aside, The beginning reeked of potential, amazing symbolism, well thought out character designs and art–I could practically taste the win/epic this series was possible of creating: but I feel the ending was so extraordinarily rushed (Yes, I know-8 episodes) that despite all the good info and explanation it shared with the viewers, the direction was horrid. I sat through a beautifully painted picture book, only to have the ending pages scribbled in quickly; it leaves a sour taste to the series.

    While I would recommend this series to friends, it’s possible epic levels are no longer tangible. :/
    Shame really.

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