The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Bokurano

Title: Bokurano
Genre: Drama
Company: Gonzo
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 8 Apr 2007 – 25 Sep 2007

Synopsis: During summer camp, a group of fifteen children meet a mysterious man who asks if they wish to play a game. Not knowing the conditions of the game, the children accept. Now, these fifteen individuals must fight against fifteen aliens using a giant fighting robot. Losing even one round could mean the end of their world.

The Highlights
Animation: The background animation is good, but overall, below average.
Characters: Exceptionally well developed.
Story: Beautifully handled and exquisitely sadistic.
Music: Ranges from decent to extraordinary.

Chances say you won’t like this anime. It requires a taste for depressing stories, understated melodrama, and a dash of sadism. Apologies to those who believe this to be a spoiler, but practically all the main characters are destined to fight and die for their world. Since the giant robot in the show is fueled by life energy, the cost of piloting it is one’s life. Moral ramifications of having children die for others aside, Bokurano is a critical look at what children… no, what people do when they are faced with inevitable death.

Bokurano takes advantage of the fact that everyone has a past and a story to tell. Reflecting on the past is one of the few things a person with no future can do, so a good deal of the show is spent in the past. Whether ordinary or extraordinary, these children have some of the most interesting stories to tell. The “monster of the week” theme is merely a catalyst to bring these characters to life and flesh them out as human beings. In an open letter to fans, the director of this show openly states that he dislikes the original manga that this series is based on. This should come as no surprise since anyone who puts significant emotional investment in these characters will hate the source material for putting such a rich cast of individuals under such duress.

Despite the bleak premise, the show does not merely fatten up the characters with development before the slaughter. If this were the case, the show would have ended at fifteen episodes instead of twenty four. Bokurano indirectly brings up numerous questions about greed, sordid politics and the costs of survival. A lot of time is spent developing the politics of the battles as the government tries to supress information about the giant robot through misdirection, coercion and murder. However, all the extraneous wrangling aside, the fifteen children are the real stars of the series. As the show handles the children’s pasts, it touches on numerous taboo topics such as pedophilia from the child’s perspective, suicide, child abuse and attempted rape.

The aesthetics of the show is sharply divided between the animation and music. The music is absolutely beautiful with Ishikawa Chiaki lending her talents in both the introduction and the two ending songs. The animation, however, is far below par to a point that Gonzo should feel ashamed. Beyond the animation, the greatest weakness to show is the sheer impersonal nature of the presentation. Part of me believes that the show is impersonal so that tragedy isn’t shoved down the audiences’ throat, but another part of me wonders if the director really does not care about the characters. Regardless of intent, the final product is shocking and powerful, but no single story manages to truly rip my heart out.

I typically rate an anime based on how much I enjoyed it and how much I remember from it. This show does not have the same neurotic spurts like those from Evangelion and Higurashi that sears into a persons mind, but it has some of the most subtle yet powerful moments that dig deeper and deeper into one’s conscience over time. Ultimately, Bokurano is a celebration of life. It shows humanity at its worst, but more importantly, it shows the children: humanity at its best.

The Rating: 9
9/10

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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