The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Black Rock Shooter

Title: Black Rock Shooter aka Black★Rock Shooter
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Ordet
Format: 1 OVA
Date: 24 July 2010

Synopsis: Black★Rock Shooter, a girl with fiery blue eyes and a mystical cannon on her left arm, approaches a scythe-wielding adversary, Dead Master, in a cryptic parallel world and begins to battle furiously. Meanwhile, in another alternate world, it is the first day of junior high school for Kuroi Mato. On her way to school, she meets a girl with a surname she read wrongly at first. Her name is Takanashi Yomi, and the two immediately become good friends. Unfortunately, the two are assigned to different classes the following year and one morning, Yomi mysteriously goes missing…

The Highlights
Story: Parallel stories with no concrete connection; no proper closure to either of them.
Animation: Sluggish and uninspiring; pulls down the action sequences.
Artwork: Above average but occasionally flat, particularly the parallel world.
Mato and Yumi: Their friendship feels genuine, but that’s about it.

I had no idea who or what Black★Rock Shooter was until my friend, a huge Vocaloid fan, gave a crash course on the character’s origins. Apparently, she is the conceptual visual creation of a fan-made song of the same name. A character derived from the digital deity Hatsune Miku, B★RS gathered so much attention from Vocaloid fans that soon enough, Ordet has made a solo production for the revered character. As someone indifferent to the popular music software and its digital representatives, I have to say that the anime adaptation of B★RS is nothing more than a spurred product instigated by fanboys and produced to simply quench their thirst at whatever the media can provide. Hardly engaging, bold or entertaining, there isn’t anything creative about the show, and even its production values seem lacking for an immensely anticipated title.

There are two stories running parallel with each other, revealed two minutes into B★RS. This form of storytelling can work and it isn’t always pedestrian, but eventually there must be at least some form of unambiguous link between the stories in order to make things coherent. There are bits and pieces of how the two stories are correlated, but even halfway into the show, there doesn’t seem to be a proper explanation for the existence of two worlds. One world witnesses the battle between our heroine and an unknown formidable enemy for an unexplained reason, and the other sees a slice-of-life experience of a junior high school freshman enduring the joy and pain of friendship. Throughout the OVA one has to wonder “Where is the connection for all this?” There is a strong indication that the main characters in both worlds are alter-egos of each other, but why make the viewers rely on hints when the story could’ve just said so? The story stirs even more curiosity when the show features two more antagonists – well, I think they are – for no reason.

The story has a number of problems but unfortunately even the visuals aren’t that special, especially for an OVA. From the opening and subsequent fights, B★RS does seem to look stylish, yet it doesn’t feel stylish. The action sequences are disappointingly underwhelming and the animation isn’t as fluid as viewers would expect. The sluggish and shabby animation gets noticeable when there are scenes featuring moving objects. Furthermore, the flat artwork results in characters looking lifeless, particularly B★RS herself. As a person who thinks B★RS had the potential to have exhilarating and awesome action scenes, I can’t help but wonder how different things could have been if Madhouse or Production IG were to produce it and not a relatively new studio such as Ordet.

For a show that barely reaches the hour mark, B★RS would have worked if it knew how to strike an impact on the viewers quickly, one way or another. I will give credit for how genuine the friendship between Mato and Yomi feels, but it isn’t enough to save the show at all. B★RS ultimately fails with its lazy writing and below-average animation, resulting in a cynical product that feels more like a mere promotional video rather than an actual OVA. It’s a boring and wasteful anime that I personally feel even Vocaloid fans wouldn’t appreciate, and would have spent time better playing with the music software instead.

The Rating: 4

Reviewed by: AC

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