Oh look, another series about an antisocial hero who is very good at videogames. Trope of the year folks; you will lose count with how many like those were made in just a few months along with it. Anyways, this is yet another show about some waste of life who does nothing but playing videogames all day and all of a sudden being thrown in a life or death situation. And we are supposed to cheer for him despite being a total jerk. Sorry but I couldn’t do that for a completely ridiculous show.
Very good, coming from the king of anime shows, studio Madhouse. Everything looks a nod more realistic than your average anime, akin to Death Note in terms of atmosphere and cinematics. Soundtrack and voice acting are ok but nothing major; the main song left me with no major impressions, while the secondary cast has some really ridiculous pitches to their voice, like they are all retards.
It’s about a videogame that is something between Counterstrike and Bomberman, getting real after the protagonist is sent to fight other players. Then it becomes Battle Royale in a Predators setting, meaning, a bunch of people that need to kill each other, sent via parachute to a remote tropical island. And yes it sounds interesting at first until you realize it’s all a bunch of nonsense.
- When a bomb explodes right next to you, something happens to you even if you do a flip. From the noise, the shrapnel, the shock wave, etc. An explosion has a radius of several meters and not just the few square centimetres the bomb stands on. So imagine nothing happening to the protagonist three times in ten minutes. And the lolz part is that he wasn’t even trying to avoid them. He was literally standing still and unprepared in an open field all the time, attacked by someone who was prepared and dead-set on killing him. What would he do if he was prepared; fly in the air and fire lasers from his eyes? And of course this applies only the main character, who constantly survives without the tiniest scratch, while everybody else just dies in one hit. Plot armour ftl; the otherwise "real" death game loses its appeal in the very pilot episode it is introduced.
- When someone gets blown up to pieces, you can take his remaining bombs that miraculously don’t blow up along with him. Sweet, extra ammo from enemy drops, this videogame is nice... Oh wait, this is not a videogame but a realistic death game… Supposed.
- When you throw a videogame controller at a wall, it is the plastic controller that breaks and not the brick wall.
- I also can’t help but facepalming at how they are trying to transfer the tactics of the game in reality. Each player has a sonar device on his hand that allows him to know where the others are. The thing is, the sonar is cancelled if someone else is using it at the same time. It is still completely stupid to have a guy getting frustrated for not being able to sense an opponent running around him in thick foliage. He doesn’t really need the sonar when he can just as easily hear or see someone a few meters next to him.
- They are even trying to transfer the technology of the videogame in real life, and the result is ridiculous at best. Each one of those bombs must have cost a fortune, not to mention the whole kidnapping, and transfer operations. There is for example a mini black hole bomb. Can someone calculate how expensive such a thing is to be used like that in a silly death game that it’s not even paying back its expenses or even has an ulterior goal? As over the top the Gantz technology was, eventually it was excused just fine to be as such. Over here, it’s just some sadistic asshole’s playground. They even included a mechanism that doesn’t allow someone to use somebody else’s bombs, or remove the integrated sonar crystals on their hands, for as long as he is still alive. Yeah, sure, make it even more expensive with DNA signature triggers that go offline when they no longer receive the brainwaves of their original owner as confirmation code.
- And on top of everything else, the show is full of continuity errors. People just disappear for no given reason, or teleport instantly to impossible places. Remember how theHunger Games had huge magical dogs towards the end? Well, over here all of a sudden giant man eating lizards appear out of nowhere. Because WHY NOT?
- As if even that wasn’t enough, the directors are constantly using flashbacks from just a few episodes ago, to waste time and to further remind us of all the stupid things in this show.
- And add to all that how the story is left incomplete, so nothing is really resolved.
Of course one could forgive all the nonsense and just enjoy the show for its characterization. It would be interesting just to see how each character would react in a life or death situation. And even that is impossible to do, since the very protagonist has character rewrites every 5 minutes. I mean really, it’s impossible to tell what his personality is, since he acts completely different in every scene. And no, I don’t mean he is cocky when he thinks he is in control but scared when cornered. He LITERALLY is a different person.
- We are told he is great in the game yet all we see him doing is throwing bombs at defenseless players who don’t even try to fight back. That is hardly a way to show how good he is at it.
- In one scene he knows how to use bombs, in another he doesn’t. He realized how a timer bomb works only five times after he tried it, even though he was playing the game for years. Top player material right there.
- In one he is anti-social and angry, in the other he is very social and polite.
- In one he acts as a leader figure, in the other like a dork who can’t even walk without tripping.
- In one he is cunning and sets a trap to his opponent, in the other he gets surprised to witness the exact same trap being used on someone else.
- And there is no bloody excuse for how a NEET like him can be so athletic. He was doing nothing but sitting in his house for years and yet can outrun or counterattack instantly people with far greater stamina and skills than him. It may have worked in a videogame by pressing buttons really fast, but in reality he wouldn’t be able to even run for 5 seconds without getting exhausted.
In a similar way, every single character in the show has a personality that can be described in two lines. And even that is presented in an extreme way. They are all way too evil, or way too stupid, to the point they are indeed like videogame caricatures and not real people taking place in a real death game.
- The deuteragonist for example is a sexy blonde school girl, which makes all people around her to wanna rape her at first site. Because WHY NOT; we need a slut in any cheesefest. She is the main source of fan service and the animators never miss the chance to go apeshit regarding her privates. As for her personality, it’s a joke like pretty much everything else in this show. She is supposed to be afraid of men but when the plot asks for it, she will trust them right away, only to have them betray her. Then she will hate them again, until the plot needs to trust them immediately once more, and so on.
- Then there is the reason of why these people were chosen and sent to this death game. Turns out you can right down the name of someone you don’t like and he is soon kidnapped and transferred to that hellish island. Jigoku Shoujo anyone? And I would understand if you were to wanna get rid a person that had been sadistically tormenting you all your life, but turns out the reason can be ridiculous as heck.
* The protagonist for example was chosen by his mother, because he was mean to her. Yeah, that is what parents do when their kids are impolite; they send them to be killed in some sadistic game instead of seeking help from any one of the thousands of humanitarian organizations out there.
* The blond chick was chosen by her best friends. There was an incident where they got raped, but she escaped, called the police, caught the rapists, and saved them from becoming prostitutes or corpses. As thanks, they believed she should have stayed and gotten the same treatment like the best friend she was supposed to be, instead of the UNFORGIVABLE life-saving support she gave them. Talk about bad friends.
It is just another stupid show ala Deadman Wonderland or Future Diary. Do not expect anything deep or elaborate or realistic about it and just eat popcorn while laughing at how bad it is.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks nice)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (lots of cheap explosion filters)
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: 2/10
Premise 1/2 (cheap Battle Royale imitation)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 0/2 (tries to be complicating in psychological issues and fails miserably)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t have one)
CHARACTER SECTION: 2/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 0/2 (cardboards and unsympathetic)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (random mood swings)
Catharsis 0/2 (incomplete story, so no catharsis)
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 0/3 (just read Battle Royale instead)
Memorability 1/4 (totally meh show)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 0/2 (sounds meh)
Story 0/3 (generic, badly written, and incomplete)
Characters 0/4 (cardboards and unsympathetic)
Btooom! is unoriginal and stupid. The plot is ridiculous, the characters unoriginal, and it is yet another incarnation of the "play or die" type show. There are the standard angsty cliches. There is everything that is aimed at the middle-school boy. But you know what?
Btooom! is plain awesome. It is fun, it is cool, it just rocks. Fast paced when it needs to be, slow paced when it doesn't. It starts with good, and then just keeps the pace. The animation is gorgeous, the sound top notch, and there is a distinct lack of pretentiousness to everything. Btooom! doesn't pretend to be a philosophical masterpiece. It is also not a self aware parody (*cough*Kill la Kill*cough*), but rather is just straight up what it seems.
In a landscape where all anime seems to try its best to add a special twist to make itself stand out, there is a distinct lack of shows that just try things that are proven to work. Ironically, by adhering so much to tried and true tropes, Btooom! feels unique. Refreshing actually.
The problem? There was obviously another few episodes left in the tank. If this was just the first season out of two, this could have been the best "play or die" series ever. Instead, meh.
Writing (Story and Characters):
What can I say, Btoom! is just well done but ultimately nothing special in the story and characters department. That being said, it doesn't intend to do anything special, it intends to do it right. And that it does, with flying colors. There are the parts which are over the top, as can be expected. But hey, they don't pretend that it's Melville.
Childish, immature, aimed at teen men, unrealistic, ridiculous, you get it. You know what? This is also written in a way that turns of all disbelief and allows you to just enjoy the ride. Sure, like many types of anime, there is a lot of forced connection between the characters. Yes, there is an overdose of introspective monologues at times.
It needs to be mentioned: the series ends in the middle. Btoom! could, and should, have been at least three episodes longer. And yet it isn't. While on one side, it ends without wearing out its welcome, it loses out on things like resolution and you know... actual story. Of course, the advantage of it is that it remains purely battle-arena-centric, rather than going out on grand philosophical notes (a failure of everything from Battle Royale to Fate/Zero).
Art (Animation and Sound):
What can I say? Madhouse have done it again. The animation is top notch, the sound effects are wonderful, the soundtrack is very fitting and keeps with the cool vibe of the series. Btooom! is a tour-de-force in how to produce anime. It doesn't use very artsy tricks, it doesn't use heavy effects, and it doesn't need to.
There are very few parts where the lack of motion is something you will notice, and that usually ranks high in "things that annoyed the hell out of you without being able to put your finger on it". Actually, lack of movement is used very cleverly when it does happen, usually in situations where the tension is very high. It is not perfect - there are still the moments where you can see that a bigger budget (more animators) would have given us more dynamic backgrounds. But you know what? *CLOSE ENOUGH*.
There are no aspirations for higher art, despite the occasional artistic spark that's used. That would be completely wrong for something like Btoom!. Of course, there are gorgeous backgrounds, amazing character designs, and even the obligatory stock characters (fat guy with big mouth, musclehead thug, etc) aren't pushed towards extremes and are given their own distinction. The sound production is tight, the voice acting is good (if over the top occasionally, just like the series itself), and overall, Btoom! is just rocking.
So close. So close to perfection. Three to five episodes more, and this would have been the best battle arena / play or die / game to the death type series ever. Still, this is well worth it if you just want to let go and have some fun. Btooom! is earnest, clean, and most of all enjoyable to the extreme. I am just raging at the ending, as most people do.
A game of survival on an island and incorporating different styles of bombs along with the concept of trustability outlines what to expect here. There are a few ideas here that match ideas from other anime such as the reason as to why the people end up on the island, or the actual game itself has been seen in other shows. If the tags sound appealing then watch it for sure. Being a gamer, I found the theme rather relatable and many of the concepts throughout as well.
A good portion of the anime is rather dark and violent. There is no disappointment on the amount of action either. The ending is pretty nice if you are a gamer and into the online relation idea. However, it doesn't truly end either as the game hasn't ended when the anime ends which leaves frustration. There are clues that could lead to either alternative as to whether the characters have to stay or their plan to leave works. There are also a few unanswered bits regarding a few characters.
I liked the characters with some good variety, some having a dark sided story, some kind of sad. The only 2 issues I had was too much stereotype usage, especially when it came to Himiko, and also her being a bit too helpless. She is clearly smart, so many of her actions and giving up so easy isn't consistent.
Overall I found this anime very enjoyable. It had a good mix of story in the form of a game with plenty of action, a bit of a romance aspect, and some twists throughout. A properly conclusive ending would have been nice, but definitely worth a watch if the tags match your interests.
To start off, I just want to say I'm willing to excuse a lot. I intentionally went into this wanting to watch a show that wouldn't challenge me. I wanted something dumb, where I could turn off my brain and have a good time.
That being said, Btooom is awful. I used to think being boring was the worst crime entertainment could commit, but I know better now. A show can be so bad that it can have a negative effect on you. It goes beyond being boring, and is painful to watch.
I can handwave that somehow the bags are intact after their wearer has been killed. I can ignore how close the characters get to the explosions and somehow manage to get away unscathed, without so much as a ringing in their ears. I can suspend my disbelief and accept that they have the technology to build bombs that just vaporize a certain area, and that the company could afford all of this stuff. I don't even need an explanation about the organization or the spectators. We all know why they're watching, they're watching for the same reason we are. They want to see some bad ass fights. They want to see the innocent become corrupt. The Man of Tai Chi was a pretty terrible movie, but its message dealt with our desire to see such things, and it did it pretty well.
In fact, I wouldn't even mind no explanation at all as to why it's happening, that there was just a chain letter, and people are sent off to this island and nobody knows why. It's not necessary.
I can even overlook the fact that none of these bombs work the way they would in the real world, and that the damage they do at different ranges is completely inconsistent.
But I can only overlook these things if there are some other merits to the show that make it worth it. As it is, they only make all of the failings of this show just that much worse. Honestly I didn't care about any of those problems, because they're rather nitpicky for a setting like this which is already ridiculous, just as long as I got what I came for.
However, Btooom! didn't give me what I came for. You'd expect out of a dumb action anime that there would be some sweet action, right? Especially for this setting. A shut-in who does nothing but play one game all day is tossed into a real life version of the game. Here, he would be a god amongst the rest of the "players". Yeah, cliched and uninspired, but it works. Except it doesn't work if you don't do that.
Somehow, after the protagonist Sakamoto instinctively throws away a box that is counting down and it explodes, he fails to realize that his bombs explode after he activates them and they count down to zero. SERIOUSLY? Are you kidding me?! Anyone who is literate enough to understand that it's counting down should have instantly understood what was going on after that first experience. I honestly can't comprehend why they had to have him figure out what was going on at a later point. Was it because they didn't think the audience would understand? If so, they're insulting the intelligence of their audience to an extreme degree. And if not, they're saying that Sakamoto is an idiot. This may be a small grievance, but it will set the pace for the rest of the series.
There is only one time in the whole series that Sakamoto does something truly clever, with Oda and the trap bombs. And there is only one time he does something in utilizing the game mechanics in the fight between him and Kira with the sonar, however, how he actually did it wasn't even properly explained. I can guess at how, but it would only be a guess.
You'd think every fight would be a showcase of Sakamoto, "The Strongest Player", outsmarting his opponent with some grand scheme that might not even make that much sense, but everyone would be shocked at how his knowledge of the game's mechanics and tactics had allowed him to create an incredible masterplan. Not exactly the most original kind of storytelling, but still fun regardless. I wanted to see how the tactics of the game worked or how they did or didn't translate to real life, and how someone could use bombs in more interesting ways than just throwing them at each other.
Instead, Sakamoto beats almost everyone by just tossing a bomb at them. His methods of survival are mostly running away and barely dodging explosions that should have killed him. However, most of the show ignores the action to focus on the characters and their interactions. This might have been really interesting, to see people break down as they face life or death situations. Or, it would have been, if the characters or their interactions had been done with any finesse or done well at all. This leads me to the worst element of the entire show:
What is unforgivable is how the show treats the main female character, Himiko. It's god awful. SAO had the problem where they had to nerf the supposedly badass lead female because the protagonist had to be the greatest ever, but even they managed to make her able to do something. Here, because the "best Btooom! player in Japan" is hardly able to do anything, in order for him to seem cool in comparison they have to make sure that she is completely helpless in every scene she's in.
She's a Btooom! player as well, she should be able to use these tactics to her advantage. She should be better than most everyone on the island. The worst part is that the show, in part, agrees. She's shown to have killed around 4 people before meeting up with Sakamoto. She uses a game tactic to draw him right to her. She should be fully capable to take on just about anyone on the island except for Sakamoto. Yet she is completely paralyzed any time it comes where she should be able to work something out herself, and always waits for someone to bail her out.
She could have been an awesome character, on par with Sakamoto's skill, but they chose to make her weak despite it. Not that being on par with Sakamoto would mean much with the way the show portrays him anyway.
This is ignoring all of the nasty stuff relating to how she thinks about herself, and how her only motivation to stay alive is Sakamoto. I've got no problem with rape in stories, as long as there's a good payoff. Btooom! didn't earn it. They even used it for the purpose of fanservice, which is pretty disgusting. In the end, its inclusion was just obscene.
The one time she actually works towards her potential, she makes a fairly obvious observation about the homing BIMs, but somehow doesn't realize that the person using them would just select her as the target next. There were plenty of opportunities where she could have used her knowledge of the game to do something awesome, especially when Date had cornered her, and she thought Sakamoto was dead. At that point you'd imagine that she'd want revenge and utilize some tactic from the game to pull off a crazy move and win the fight.
Speaking of characters, about 3/4ths of the way through the series when Sakamoto has teamed up with his group and is starting to meet other strong and more interesting players, things appear to get interesting. Finally I thought I might get to see some interesting fights. Unfortunately that doesn't happen. The most interesting characters in the show, who weren't that interesting to begin with, get only one moment to shine each and they don't even complete their character arc within that time. For the most part, these characters are alive by the end of the show, and a lot of mystery surrounds them, what they're going to do, and where they're going to end up. I'd expect a satisfying conclusion to each of these enemy paths, but that never happens even though there's 12 whole episodes and about 3 of these important characters. It doesn't help that things really start coming to a head in the last stretch of the show with no real climax or progression between any of them. This means that the first three quarters of the show are unreasonably slow.
The characterization of Taira bothered me, if only for the inclusion of one scene at the end where Sakamoto grieves for him. He mentioned how he would miss his little quirks of eating not quite cooked instant ramen and telling stupid jokes. I liked the fact that he didn't wait until the ramen was fully cooked. It was a quick, unobtrusive, and subtle way to flesh out his character and make him seem like a real person. However, he never said any of those jokes that Sakamoto mentioned during the show. Something like that would have made his character more unique and would have made his death and the subsequent scene more powerful.
My last problem with the show is whatever grotesque version of what they consider to be moralizing.
I'm sorry, if someone has killed people before, and is trying to kill you unprovoked, they have lost their right to live. This is ignoring the blatant truth that leaving them alive is incredibly dangerous in the long run, which the show acknowledges. Showing mercy to the kid was understandable, since they didn't understand what a monster he really was, but Sakamoto acting like he was taking a moral high ground by not killing people who had killed others, were going to kill more people, and were trying to kill him, was infuriating. Killing the innocent and killing the guilty are obviously different.
A quick note about the technical aspects. The animation wasn't anything special, but for some bizarre reason that I see happen now and then in shows, when the show cuts to someone's feet walking the framerate drops to a nauseatingly low level. The sound wasn't particularly bad, and the opening theme was pretty kickass, probably one of the best parts of the show.
Despite all of these grievances I've listed, even the unbelievably poor treatment of the female lead, I would have had a great time with this show if it had smarter action scenes. That's literally all I asked for, and they didn't even give me that.
It squandered what little potential it had. I couldn't like it even though I wanted to. It's offensively bad. Honestly, it's one of the worst shows I've ever watched. So it doesn't work as an action show, it doesn't work as power fantasy, it doesn't work as a drama, it doesn't work as a romance. So what does it have going for it? Nothing.
This anime was awesome. But as a warning, there is no second season of it, yet anyway. I love the use of tactical bomb warfare as well as the "battle royale" scenario. (Yes, that scenario has been played out and done many times. But in its defence, that is because it is a fun scenario.) As more and more literature and anime are made, there will be reused tropes, but this one still manages to be original in its execution.
This anime is much better than most of the reviews I see about it. If you don't immediately just write it off as a ripoff and give it a chance, this anime won't dissapoint.