Black Bullet – 01-03 Review
There are SO many animes that start out with poor characters who make this kind of joke. But seriously what’s supposed to be so funny about someone being so poor that he goes hungry throughout the day…?
I guess guns do solve some problems, monster-problems for example. But in this case it takes a special bullet because you always want to use the special bullet for such special occasions like shooting a monster, right? And those Gastrea-Kaiju-wannabes are really something damn special. Because they are also a plague! Like a nasty cold your co-worker has that makes him bark like a dog the whole day because so repetitive his sneezes and coughing has gotten that his metabolism gets reduced to making these pathetic animal-like sounds… and there’s snot, it’s just everywhere, he apologizes, out of breath from all the sneezing and he wipes the snot hurriedly away but you KNOW… you KNOW it’s there, you can see the stains in the light left from the wiping, you KNOW but you look at the clock and you know that you can’t leave for another four hours and after that it won’t matter what you KNOW because now you have the same cold your co-worker has…. And that’s basically what the Gastrea-plague was like, I imagine. Only with less snot and more monsters.
*ahem* Humanity sleeps the sleep of the just mass-murderers who don’t like trees and puppies but their sleep gets rudely interrupted by the Gastrea. More than simply being a bunch of the meanest kind of monsters one could imagine (having seen all the Godzilla-movies) they infect humanity and turn them into more Gastrea. Humanity is on the brink of extinction when they find Vibranium, the stuff dreams are made of… or nightmares when it comes to the Gastrea. Anyway, having found the Gastrea’s Kryptonite humanity basically creates various havens around the world where they can live happily ever after (except if a Cthulhu-wannabe-class Gastrea turns up). But there’s still some Gastrea-related problems making the rounds from time to time so humanity uses pairs of a fighter-person and a Cursed Child, one being the Promoter and the other, the Initiator to kick Gastrea-ass.
Also, nobody really likes the Cursed Children because little girls are now only moe if they are 2D-characters in a mahou-shoujo-anime.
Humour is definitely not Black Bullet’s strong suite… Basically all its attempts at jokes are rather tiresomely boring and stereotypical.
Any story that needs any amount of exposition is likely to fall prey to pacing problems. It’s easy to see the audience lose interest, be confused or left with unanswered questions only because the story didn’t sufficiently talk about the world it is set in. And it’s actually fans who are the ones most in love with a certain story that foster this thinking because if anyone it’s fans who translate their beloved admiration into minute analysis of everything that’s happening in a story. It’s an intimidating sight to see the amount of knowledge fans of Star Trek or Star Wars gather just by watching the respective movies/TV shows produced and seeing that one naturally gets this idea that every new setting needs to check out under the same kind of scrutiny as these popular franchises receive. Ideally a character would only offer as much exposition as is needed in the plot and only the audience would treat it like exposition while the character in the story would treat it like something he already knows. Sadly that seldom happens. You get information-dumps where’s too much exposition and then there are the infamous dialogues where characters talk about a crucial element of the setting as if they’ve never heard of it before (although they obviously should have). And does Black Bullet get the world-building completely right? No. But it is one of those series that show that you don’t have to get it perfectly right.
Black Bullet is an action series and it makes the good decision to just throw any attempts to sit around and ponder over the events. Instead it concentrates on keeping up a fast pacing. Pacing is always hard to get right as it’s really like keeping a rhythm is in music. You don’t get a fast pacing simply by each scene being an action-set-piece; the story still has to have moments where the tension can be released so that it can be built up again. But what constitutes the fast pacing is that there’s really a lot happening over a short span of time and more than the meaning or dramatic weight of these events it’s more about plottwists and keeping the audience on its toes. I guess, the best example would be 24, that American TV-show with Kiefer Sutherland where within one day the most improbable, insane stuff happened. But the audience can more easily accept it because in its best moments it would constantly throw plot-twists and dangerous situations at Kiefer Sutherland’s character. Black Bullet doesn’t dwell too much on logic or a simpler cause-effect-approach in its plot. Indeed the main-character seems quite passive once you realize that the story really just throws trouble at him instead of him creating it or seeking it out. There’s a scene in the third scene where he deals with some problems Enju has at school and mere moments after meeting her at school his boss calls him informing him that a helicopter would pick him up to get him to a nearby forest where a monster has been sighted. On one hand this fast pacing certainly keeps Black Bullet from actually exploring its themes in a meaningful manner but on the other hand it keeps your attention by never really having any real message-times. In some ways the implications of its scenes even work better than some longwinded speech could do.
That isn’t to say that this series does a shoddy job of setting a tone for the world the action happens in. The first episode starts with a flashback to when the monsters (the Gastreas as they are called) are about to destroy Tokyo and Rentarou the main-character is in this giant ocean of tents while one of those monsters crashes into the tent-town and people run panicked away from it. See, that kind of scene is all I need to buy into the sort-of post-apocalypse-scenario (I’m looking at you M3 with your incessant infodumps in the first episode). Anyway, one of the greatest strengths of this series and a big reason why I also bought into the action is its good soundtrack composed by Shiro Sagisu (one of THE big anime composers, he did the soundtrack for Neon Genesis Evangelion for example). Music is a very integral part of the mood and atmosphere of a show and this soundtrack does a really good job. I’m very curious to see how the soundtrack will fare on its own.
I think it was around Episode 02 when this series won me over. This was a serious “Holy shit…”-moment that clearly showed that this series means business… well, not enough to make me love the series but I definitely didn’t expect this series to go that far.
Another thing that this series has been using a lot until now to make a point is violence, surprisingly brutal violence. There’s this scene in the second episode when Rentaro and Enju come face to face with the unjustly harsh persecution of a cursed child that had stolen something. Rentaro is just standing by as the policemen drag the kid away while basically being racist against this half-breed Gastrea girl. Finally he decides to follow her and he finds out that the policemen have dragged that girl to an empty house where they just shot her and continue shooting her half-dead body because she isn’t killed so easily by normal bullets. Finally they leave and for a moment Rentaro just stares at this bloody shot up body of a little girl. That’s dark, really dark. Sure, she survived for some improbable reason that is somehow always there in the show’s darkest moments that keep Black Bullet from becoming REALLY dark and grim. I have to admit it’s a bit disconcerting how in retrospect this show actually had quite a lot of violent images underlining its thematic moments. But until now this brutality hasn’t become gratuitous yet. Although if that’s the only way this show knows how to make a point, I’m a bit worried for its future.
I guess, I should talk now about the actual themes of the show because that’s another thing I quite like about this show. Instead of making it a simple matter of defeating the Gastreas the series introduces a lot of elements that come with its own set of issues leading to nice arsenal of possible plothooks for future arcs (which makes it easy to believe that this series has already produced seven Light Novels). The Gastrea are the most obvious thing and apparently they are a mix between Kaiju-Godzilla-type-monsters and plague-like infection killing humans who then turn into these Gastreas. Apparently they’ve also got stages but except that one is the standard edition and five is the limited edition of which there are only a few in existence I didn’t really get a whole lot out of it. But these Gastrea are attached to this notion of the Lost Generation, those are the guys who got fucked by the Gastrea-plague because not only got they fucked big-time, no, the humanity of the Lost Generation were apparently real assholes who created sci-fi mass-destruction-weapons. Who knows whether this show will go all environmentalist and proclaim the Gastreas the saviors of the earth for culling humanity. Another product of the Gastrea-plague are the Cursed Children who are the kids of infected parents. I hope it’s only the timeline and this will later change but at this point apparently all Cursed Children are little girls (okay, I buy them all being female for some reason… but do they really all have to be little girls?) and apparently everybody hates them because racism. Well, they are superhuman in many regards and have red eyes so the fear is somewhat understandable (but as described above the racism in that town is a bit excessive). So what did the rest of humanity do against those pesky Kaiju-wannabes? Well, they let some martially-inclined people team up with those Cursed Children with the normal person called Promoter and the little girl called Initiator (which I only remember because I looked it up… no way in hell I can keep track of all these rather shallow bullshit-terms in all the animes I watch). And those pairs deal with all Gastrea-related incidents.
Well and that’s where the main-character Rentaro and his initiator Enju come into play. As mentioned they are thrown rather accidentally into the centre of the action and I certainly don’t like how after three episodes it seems less and less accidental and more like the role these guys were fated to play. They started out as average poor team but the more the series reveals about their background the less they look like the average schmucks I thought they were. At least it makes it easier for the plot to push them into the direction where the action’s happening, I guess. And Enju is also unique in that she started out going to school as a normal girl (who knows whether she will ever go back after the events in the second episode). And even though her true identity was revealed to the school in the second Episode, I actually think that her cover would’ve been blown at some point anyway. Going around town kicking giant monsters certainly didn’t help her cover, I think. Every time she was on a mission she could’ve been seen by someone who recognized her. That cover was a really shoddy one and it’s a miracle it hadn’t been blown until that point. The rest of the cast is fine, there are no overly obnoxious characters in the cast. It will depend on what roles those side-characters in future episodes and whether the story will focus on giving those more depth.
Using its fast pacing Black Bullet’s first three episodes deliver a solid entertaining start for this series. Due to its willingness to explore relatively dark themes this series is able to infuse its action with the kind of drama and seriousness not many series of its kind share. Sadly as much as it wants to be a dark tale about humanity’s survival in the face of its own flaws and the monstrous Gastrea-plague, it doesn’t commit to it enough to deliver on all the possibilities its story offers. What’s left is mostly a very good action-series but with less depth than it could have.
Episode-Rating: 1st Episode 6.5/10 2nd Episode: 7.5/10 3rd Episode: 7/10
- Weird that when the evil mask-guy offered a tid-bit from his origin-story nobody started calling him a cyborg. He replaced parts of his body with machines! He’s like Robocop but with the personality of the Joker.
- Okay, I’m sorry if I turn out to be right and spoil the story in some way but here’s a speculation: The cyborg threatened Enju’s cover in Episode because he had heard of how she pretended to be a normal little girl. Now, the series treated this whole cover-thing as if it was solid so the only ones who could’ve told the cyborg about it already knew that Enju is actually a Cursed Child and also that she goes to that school. And the only character who has connections to the main-character and wasn’t introduced as a good guy is the old guy who’s the grandfather of Kisara, Rentaro’s boss. Also the cyborg-guy is a former soldier… So I assume that this grandfather-dude will turn out to be a traitor at some point and has some sort of nefarious plan.