Black Rock Shooter (BRS) began as a Vocaloid song, where Miku’s uniform was inspired by some illustrations made by a guy named Huke. An OVA was created in 2010 based on that song/illustration combo, which received a ridiculously huge hype by all the Vocaloid fans. Not a surprise since it was after all a fan catering title. Two years later (2012) NoitanimA decided to take this title in its timeslot and to expand it further, thus creating the current version, which lasts 8 episodes. Weird number I must say since all its shows last 11 to 22 episodes. On the other hand it’s not like it deserved 11 or more; the theme is pretty simple in terms of plot and the pacing is deliberately slow just to manage filling it with something.
Both animation and directing are done by newcomers in the field. This is Studio Ordet’s first main animation project and if the girl designs remind you of K-On, this is not a surprise if you know the staff is actually ex Kyoto Animation employees.
The story of BRS is nothing much; it is just about a bunch of schoolgirls going through an emotional maelstrom, caused by jealousy. The heroine Mato is looking for friends in her new school (yeah, we can’t have schools without transfer students) and manages to befriend another girl named Yomi. This causes the other girls who were friends with to feel betrayed for loosing the full attention. It sounds silly but it makes sense if you think they are spoiled teenagers who have no control over their hormones and where the slightest event can make them angry or sad.
The above is what we see half the time, as the other half is something completely different in presentation altogether. While we watch the simple everyday lives of some normal girls, the plot will be going back and forth to an alternative reality, where we see them dressed in weird gothic clothes and fighting each other with very fantasy-themed ways. This alternative world is a hellish place which is supposed to symbolize their mentality. Chaotic, dark, depressing, violent, dangerous. And them fighting is supposed to symbolize their emotions and their friendship being challenged because of jealousy. These parts are practically non-stop action with all sorts of over-the-top weapons and it looks like a fantasy videogame. It is very eye-catchy thanks to its weird imagery and fast paced action, and makes a complete contrast to the rest of the normal scenes.
And that is basically the main attraction and lure of this show. Watching some girls having an everyday emotional conflict, made to look in their minds like it’s an all-out war in that other world. I must say this symbolic conflict is quite interesting in terms of character immersion and it hasn’t been used much in anime as of yet. There is for example Real Drive doing something similar but it was very unimpressive in terms of excitement. There are also many fantasy anime where demons turn people to monsters that represent their negative feelings; with the most famous examples being the witches’ mazes in Madoka Magica and the tv shows in the Persona 4 game/anime. So in terms of allegory it is quite fascinating to have an entire world being the projection of one’s mentality. Sorta like those weird Picasso/Van Gogh paintings that are supposed to be symbolizing something.
Despite all this artistic value though, have no illusions of what the core purpose of the franchise is all about. It is still nothing more than a fan catering work that promotes the song/illustrations and intends to sell a lot to the Vocaloid fans, or anyone else who is into fighting lolis.
"Oh my God! She has a flat chest, a big gun and blue flame comes out of her eye; this is SO COOL; I must buy everything with her face on!"
Of course I could say the same about any other anime or movie ever made (Gundam plamos anyone?) but in this case it is done in a too obvious way and aside from the fighting and the visual flavouring there is absolutely nothing complicating about it. It is just a simplistic concept presented in an extravagant way. Yes, it is art, but it caters too much on a specific type of audience instead of being the pure thoughts of its makers; thus turns sour from a point on. I really don’t care much about girls getting all emo and insane just because some other students don’t want to be friends with them. As cool as it sounds on paper, the show overdoes the whole insanity thing to crazy high levels and you are just not that attached to it after awhile.
Other than that, I was actually pleased they remade the whole thing; since the OVA hardly explained anything that is going on, such as why Yomi disappeared or how did Mato find her later on. When the explanations came though, it all felt like random nonsense and I guess it was silly for me to expect some good reasoning from a fan catering loli show.
So these alternative girls are some sort of magical mental defence. They fight the cause of their grief (usually another girl) and the one who loses makes the problem to disappear. That is, people simply forget it like it never existed. Contrived and messy but that is what they came up with. It kinda reminded me of that Fade to Black Bleach movie, which was equally stupid. The ending is also quite a cop-out, with the girls all naked and crying and saying “We must embrace the pain and keep going.” Yeah, ok, did we really need 8 episodes of this mess just for that obvious line? When did we even see the girls trying to run away from the pain and thus excusing all this mess? It was nicely presented in Neon Genesis but here it just came out of nowhere and was resolved in a dull way.
So once again it is proven how NoitanimA sucks hard in sci-fi shows (Fractale, C, No.6, Guilty Crown) and does wonders with slice-of-life or light fantasy (Tatami Galaxy, Kuuchu Buranko, Usagi Drop) so they better learn from their mistakes and just give up on trying to make supernatural, action, or science fiction anime. They just can’t do it right.
And now a warning for all those of you who have watched the older OVA. Be aware that the production values in the series are worse. The girls in the normal world are drawn in a more simplistic way, while the girls in the fantasy world are now made with computers and have a hell of a lot more armour and fancy accessories on them. Makes you wonder how the hell they even move in those things. The battle scenes also lack the cool fluent fighting choreographies of the OVA and now just seem like a loose line of random special attacks using familiar monsters and trashing the sceneries. It feels far more artificial and distant. And I guess not explaining anything was better than giving this ridiculous reasoning; thus the OVA was better.
So in all it is a somewhat different watch but definitely eons away from being great. Not recommended for any other reason that watching lolis fighting in an extravagant pretentious fantasy way.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 1/2 (well-made but feels artificial and cold after awhile)
Character Figures 2/2 (generic moeblobs and cool fighting lolis)
Backgrounds 2/2 (hellish in that fantasy world)
Animation 2/2 (very good during the fights)
Visual Effects 2/2 (bizarre during the fights)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (slow)
Complexity 1/2 (seems complicating at first but it ain’t much after awhile)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 4/10
Historical Value 1/3 (meh only the Vocaloid fans care about it)
Rewatchability 0/3 (too boring to deserve a second view)
Memorability 3/4 (interesting presentation)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10
Starts in an interesting way but towards the end it becomes a pretentious pile of emo nonsense.
Spoilers ahead. Jus' sayin'.
Story: Story-wise, the anime follows two seperate worlds that each have an emotional tether to each other. The main world is about a middle schooler named Mato who is trying to be a good basketball player in her school's sports club and make new friends, especially with a girl named Yomi. Middle school drama ensues -- Yomi's other jealous friend tries to get in between Yomi and Mato, and it spirals from there. It's typical young person drama -- people want certain friends all to themselves or want attention from a friend that seems to be constantly busy.
And there is a guidance counselor that always seems to know exactly what to say...
Mato has dreams about the other world and it turns out that the tether to the other world is the person in the other world feels physically what their corresponding person feels emotionally... or rather, feels the physical pain instead of the other feeling their emotional pain.
Animation: FREAKING GORGEOUS noseriouslyit'sprobablyoneoftheprettiestanimeever.The action scenes are fantastic, and the character design itself is really awesome, especially for the other world.
Characters: The characters are pretty well-detailed and have great, realistically done emotions. It might be a bit frustrating for people who haven't been around middle-schoolers to understand the psyche of each character and why they're being "whiny" (I may have watched this with my boyfriend), but in my opinion, their emotions and relationships are pretty realistic.
Overall: It's slow moving and kind of depressing, but the action scenes are amazing, and so are the relationships between characters. I've been looking forward to this anime since the OVA, and I'm glad I finally watched it.
I am rather careful about giving an anime a "perfect 10", but this one did it for me. The story is gripping and deep. It mixes elements of the slice-of-life genre with drama, action, suspense, post-apocolyptic, seinen, shoujo, and fantasy in a perfect blend. What comes out is a rollercoaster ride that is unforgettable and yet, bitterly short. This could have easily been a 13 or 26 episode series, but, one could argue that its current presentation is devoid of filler. You're doing yourself a disservice by not watching this.
After the OVA of the same name left me unimpressed and with quite lucid an idea of where it wasted its potential, I came in watching this new, bigger installment of this franchise of uncommon origins with clear expectations of what it had to improve to meet up with its hype, although I wasn’t really hoping it’d make it. Well, I’m glad to say that not it only met my expectations, but surpassed them. What I found is a small, simple, but surprisingly impacting and emotional gem.
The plot develops throughout its 8 episodes into a slightly psychological drama with some action scenes within the frame of a slice-of-life. While the OVA had shown the slice-of-life section and the “Black★Rock Shooter” section without making their connection clear and without explaining what was going on, the series throws some clues about how the two parallel series of events are related from the very beginning, creating both suspense and expectation, which then pay off when it is all revealed later on. In this same very effective manner are also crafted many other “mysteries” and situations, creating a surprisingly involving and intriguing plot leading to some nice twists and interesting revelations. The theme of being hurt/hurting others/avoiding or embracing one’s pain is pretty basic, and it was treated quite simplistically, but the characters, the storytelling and the “supernatural” element handle it well enough to make it work. In the emotional department, too: also thanks to an incredible voice acting and an intense direction, the anime is full of really powerful moments, in both comedy and drama, especially the finale, that kind of bittersweet, nostalgic-but-hopeful endings that I personally love. And this is where “BRS” really shines: the plot isn’t that complex, heck I don’t even know how much of it is never seen before, but if it works so well that after it ends I have to get up, go to the bathroom and wash my face… well, darn it, I can’t call it but good.
The girls of the cast are, on a first approach, pretty typical, but each is given a development process and/or a backstory which manage to give all of them an interesting twist. Mato is a typical lead, positive and pure and with overly ramatic reactions to everything; the exploration she is given in an almost Evangelion-like sequence felt a bit forced to me personally, but the effort to give her more depth is certainly there, and being consistent and likeable she works well as a protagonist. Yomi is a lonely transfer student with a “dark secret” of sorts, whose intense development provides some of the best scenes in the anime. Yū and Saya are the kind of characters you wouldn’t pay much attention to, initially, and to avoid spoilers let’s just keep it at that, they’re called plot twists for a reason. Kohata is the strong, leader type with a popular personality who’ll be torn between being made fun of for doing something “out-of-character” or hiding herself behind that character to run away from the pain. The mysterious, creepy Kagari, finally, is the one left a bit more underdeveloped, but still interesting, given that what happens to her is crucial to the plot. Their relationships are also very well crafted (that between Yomi and Mato being particularly touching), certainly one of the anime’s highlights.
Every character gets her own space of exploration and analysis, strafing around the various possibilities of the theme; they’re all three-dimensional, very likeable, even relatable to some extent, and well-written enough to have an easy impact on the viewer. The reactions that felt a bit forced or over-the-top aren’t to me (as they could easily be to others) that much of a big deal to hinder the enjoyment; besides, we’re talking about middle school teenage girls here, being overdramatic and overjealous is what they do (/sexist joke). I don’t really see why all the characters had to be female with no male in sight, either, if not to have people like me have fun pointing out the homosexual undertones with a stupid smile (I need a girlfriend, I know…), but still…
Since his art spawned an entire franchise, it’s no surprise that huke’s design of Black★Rock Shooter and company (especially Chariot and Dead Master) and most importantly the dimension in which they reside is something so stunningly awesome and original; and since Studio Ordet is comprised of many ex-KyōtoAnimation, it’s no surprise that the character design of the girls could remind you of works like K-on!. Just about anything in this department is pretty much flawless: the art is clean, the landscapes are stunning, the lightning is beautiful, even the direction is pretty clever (the parallelisms and symbolisms between the real world and the other world, for example). My only complaint is on the CG battles: the battles themselves are awesome, but I found the CGI a bit overused, and in the first few episodes also a bit too wooden and stiff.
The soundtrack is pretty good and varied, and even without really standing out it does well the job a soundtrack should do. From the second episode onwards the OP song is, of course, “Black★Rock Shooter”, and it would have been just wrong otherwise. The new arrangement gives the song new life, and the fact that it’s still sung by Hatsune Miku does justice to the series. Predictably, the ED song is penned and performed by Supercell, too, and despite it being the obligatory sappy-melancholic ballad with even the freaking Pachelbel’s Canon’s chord progression on the chorus I found it intense and fit to the anime.
A great part of the credit for the impact many of the scenes had goes to a simply stunning voice acting by the two protagonists, Hanazawa Kana (Nadeko in Bakemonogatari and also Ayase in Guilty Crown) as Mato (don’t you ever dare bring me so much on the verge of tears again, girl! I’ve got testicles!) and Sawashiro Miyuki (Kanbaru in Bakemonogatari) as Yomi. Also deserve special mention the stellar performances of Kitamura Eri (Ueno in C³ and Karen in Bakem… the hell is this, a Bakemonogatari reunion party?) as Kagari (you imagine the effort it takes to make a wheelchair-bound middle school girl sound intimidating?) and Asumi Kana as Yū.
In the end, here we got ourselves an anime which, unlike the OVA, managed to combine beautifully Black★Rock Shooter (the action and creative visuals of huke’s work) and Kuroi Mato (the struggles in friendship of a bunch of schoolgirls) into something unique, suspenseful and intense. I believe that, in an age where anime is under the rule of visual novels and long shōnen, Black★Rock Shooter has the potential to leave a lasting impact in the future to come, and despite the mixed opinions I hear on it I like to hope that it will. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that everyone will like it, but I’d definitely suggest to at least give it a chance. It’s very short, so it never drags on and won’t make you lose much time, and in my opinion a small, unexpected masterpiece that needs no flashed panties or endless “to be continued” to draw in.
Black Rock Shooter (TV) is supposed to be a melodramatic slice of life with some rather strange action elements tossed in, but those (interesting) action elements really mutilated this already broken mess of an anime.
Black Rock Shooter is about an average middle school-girl named Mato Kuroi, (What is it with the main character being average) who meets a less average middle school-girl named Yomi Takanashi, and they eventually become friends... Then I guess a bunch of other stuff happens, and confusing stuff happens along the way, too.
The story of Black Rock Shooter is really confusing, and generally uninteresting. You get a bunch of characters that get little screentime, then never get shown/mentioned again.
Oh, and don't get me started on the action scenes, while the action scenes are really cool and are supposed to have a part in the story, the series would have been better if they, didn't exist. About 1/3 of the series is this action scene in this desolate world, and all that time could be used to develop the characters. Also, it keeps clipping the actual story by throwing the action scenes in, so every single time the action scenes pop up, your all like "No! Go back to the average slice of life stuff!" Then once it goes back you're more like "I don't even care anymore.
This is 1/3 of Black Rock Shooter, I wonder what is with the whole Ao no Excorsist eye.
Overall, the story is rather dull and forgettable, (I had to look at a wiki to remember what happened) and the action scenes give a lot more trouble than bliss.
This is where Black Rock Shooter stands out, easily. The animation is actually really good for a mini-series, and quite possibly some of the best CG in an anime for a long time. The shadows and lighting are very good, although they really only use it for "super dramatic scenes." The backgrounds are also very well drawn too.
As you can see here, the lighting and background is very superb.
It mildly falls back because (some) character models are strange, I would say that the weird fighting world has good character models, but the real-world characters look kind of uninteresting. The animation is still very solid and picture-esque.
Well, there isn't much to say about sound, the sound isn't that great in general, but it's not horrible. About half the action-sequences are either ambient, or have no sound at all.
And... that's it. Nothing more or less to say about sound.
While at first it seems these characters have great potential, it falls flat about halfway through. Like I said about story earlier, they place a small drop of emphasis among a few characters, then drop that character entirely and you never see that character again.
Yomi doesn't seem too excited about this show's characters either.
Back to the action scenes, these characters are supposedly connected to the other characters (mildly hinted by their appearance) but they have no similar qualities. While in one world, the character is nice and all, the other could be violently hanging a girl, (There is only one boy character in the entire series, Mato's brother) which is really subtle, don't you think? While some characters get no attention, a select few get too much attention, they're small characters that aren't supposed to contribute much to the story, but are given much more screentime than they need, not even for expansion, just, being the same. The characters are generally about as uninteresting as the story.
Black Rock Shooter is an attempt to revive a rather mediocre OVA, but actually does even worse in the process. This show is trying to do so many things in so little time, when it is absolutely impossible to flesh out everything at least hinted at in the mere 8 episodes it is given. While some of it's ideas are rather cool (like the other world) and the animation is spectacular, everything else dims the light of this anime
Black Rock Shooter gets a 4.8/10