Black Rock Shooter is a disappointing franchise. It’s always had great potential, and considering the rather liberal approach they seem to have taken with the title, maybe there’s still hope for something good in the future. Unfortunately, this show wasn’t it.
Then again, a lot of my issues with the TV anime also apply to some degree to the OVA, so maybe not.
If you watched the OVA, you might have been disappointed with its focus being on the real world, schoolgirl versions of the characters rather than their fantasy counterparts. This show continues that trend. However, the show deviates from the OVA in a few ways. There’s a few plot points they changed around, but more importantly the fantasy world is portrayed totally differently. Whereas in the OVA it seemed like a separate universe that existed parallel to the “real” one, the TV anime makes it out to be more of an abstraction, at least at first. It takes awhile for the worlds to be connected, and once the connection is explained… I kind of wish it hadn’t been.
Now, there are some pretty cheesy things in this show: there’s a mech spider that shoots macaroons, Yomi paints some deviantart quality emo art, the BRS technique that comes at the show’s climax (I’ll get more into that later)… However, the explanation for the fantasy world takes the cake.
And eats it.
Are you ready for this? The sadness of schoolgirls SOMEHOW created an alternate universe where emotionless versions of themselves fight in order to ease their pain.
Now the idea of a universe where emotional troubles manifest as awesomely gory battles is actually pretty cool, and if done right I could probably get into it. What I dislike about the show’s implementation is the implication that the troubles of Japanese schoolgirls are so much worse than any other demographic’s that an entire other universe needed to be created so that… something… wouldn’t happen. I’m sorry, but that’s just plain ridiculous. I mean, I’m not saying they have it easy, but really? Out of all the people on the earth, THEY’RE the group with the level of emotional turmoil required to generate an entire parallel universe? Them specifically? Them exclusively? Not buying it.
Let’s say you did, though. Terrible Mcguffin aside, how does this show’s plot stack up? Despite the over simplicity of the OVA, I actually think it was more interesting than this. While it didn’t have a whole lot going on, what was happening was given focus. The OVA was about the friendship issues between Mato and Yomi, and the way it was presented actually made you curious as to what was going on. While that subplot resurfaces in this show, it’s only as a subplot. I really don’t get what the main plot was supposed to be.
They spend a lot of time characterizing their guidance counselor, Saya (Black Gold Saw) as a villain, only to reveal she has good intentions later on. This would have been fine if they’d made a twist out of it, but what followed had no connection. They just kind of went “nope, not the villain” and moved on.
The ending was such a mess, which is to be expected considering the show is basically a collection of subplots. The biggest problem with it, though, is once again the way the portray the fantasy world. Up until that point, the fantasy world seemed more symbolic than real, but at least it was consistent. At this point, it starts to lose coherence; it really just seems like anything can happen there as long as the plot moves forward. For instance, when Mato first “enters” black rock shooter, she’s like inside of her subconscious or something. Then they reveal that Strength and Yuu switched places. So why didn’t Mato switch places with BRS? Then Strength seems to “enter” Yuu, right after they made a big deal about Mato being trapped inside BRS. Is she stuck too? Why did Mato get stuck?
I will give them that what happened next made a little sense. Strength sacrificing herself so that Yuu would stop attacking BRS was totally plausible, and a pretty good twist. Unfortunately, they have to ruin it with this illogical battle scene between BRS and Mato. I don’t understand why this had to happen. Considering Mato isn’t made for fighting the way the fantasy characters are, I don’t think anyone wanted to see her fight. If anything, watching her get her ass stomped is unreasonably painful. While I do get that she’s supposed to be learning something about giving and receiving emotional pain, it does a bad job of getting the point across. It’s not like it’s something that needed to happen to resolve the plot, and it makes no sense. How can characters who are supposed to represent their souls have such widely varying viewpoints? Where are they when they are fighting? Why was it only possible to switch places before, but now they can coexist on the same plane?
I THINK what they were trying to get across was that the worlds combined? Except that would presume that both worlds are together now, meaning that all the other girls should be meeting up too, which they clearly show is not the case. So they created a third, bridge world or something? Except that Yuu, Strength, and the other fantasy characters show up a few minutes later, which means they’re still in the fantasy world or something… I don’t know. They wanted a big climax scene, but it doesn’t work if there’s no main plot to resolve.
I have a few other issues with the show. The art is generally good, but it suffers in a few places, and due to budget constraints they resorted to CGI animation for the fight scenes. It’s ok animation for what it is, but the CGI is pretty obvious, and I suspect it encouraged them to make decisions they wouldn’t have made otherwise, mainly the stupid rainbow gun in the BRS/Mato fight. Did I mention the rainbow gun?
That’s right. The big, game ending technique that comes at the climax is that the black rock cannon gets bigger and the “energy” becomes rainbow colored instead of blue. Considering this is supposed to be the climax, it would have been nice if they could have at least made a new gun design or something, but it’s easier to just switch out a few textures and change the scale of the model.
The only other complaint I can really make about this show is it’s pretty consistently sentimental. The characters all act completely psychotic over pretty small things, like when Kagari throws herself down the stairs over Yomi becoming friends with Mato. Some of this is explained, and it IS consistent with the show’s theme of ~*emotions*~ but it could probably have been written better.
On the plus side, the fight scenes are brutal. If this show had been plotted and written better, it could have been pretty great, and if you’re willing to overlook it’s issues you will be entertained. If you can’t, you will be disappointed.