Black Bullet – 08/09 Review
Look, Rentaro’s strong and there’s a bunch of weak lolis running around town. Of course he creates a fucking loli-harem! It’s all for the sake of their protection naturally…
Maybe I was too optimistic when I reviewed the start of this series. There was potential there, sure, but potential isn’t very entertaining, is it? You don’t watch the series it could’ve been after all. At this point, therefore, I have all but given up hope for this series to ever become good. It’s not a total waste of time but it certainly lacks commitment to its story, characters and plot and instead just uses generic trope after generic trope to create something resembling a story, a fairly uninteresting one, I would say after the 9th episode.
Turns out, those Gastrea that nearly wiped out humanity aren’t the dumb fuckers everyone thought them to be. Turns out, some of them have an actual plan about how to deal with humanity – which is more than what humanity can say about their plans in regards to the Gastrea.
So, one of the pillars is going to fail and Tokyo is gonna be destroyed by cockroaches. Since it only killed 90% of the participants of the last mission, the albino-princess asks Rentaro him-fucking-self to do some pest-control. But this time… even Rentaro him-fucking-self needs help…
And help he gets. The first one is an idiot he can kick around while dreaming about his loli-harem and the second one is some guy he trained with as a kid and is (nearly) as strong as Rentaro. They also have Cursed Children – which means Rentaro’s loli-harem is increasing yet again.
But then another guy joins… and it’s NOT the guy Rentaro expected – it’s his love-interest Kisara! Well, naturally her safety is an immediate concern since she has these woman-stuff-thingies that make her go weak from time to time and for which she needs medical attention and her blood is somehow involved. No wonder Rentaro thinks she’s strong – in theory, if it weren’t for this other stuff relating to her blood and getting weak from time to time.
Rentaro’s #1 solution for everything.
There’s something inspiring in watching people who work together to overcome a challenge. The most straightforward example of a team-setup for characters happens in sports-series, of course, but from superhero-team-ups in comic-movies to adventurers going on a quest in a fantasy-world there are tons of different versions of what a team can do in a story and add to it characterization-wise. What the 8th and 9th episode did essentially was assembling a team to fight against the Gastrea.
All the Promoters with their respective Initiators are summoned to help the army defend the breach in the defense of the city while a new pillar is built. There’s a general who gives an inspiring speech and hundreds of people who cheer for the notion of them going into a battle. But after the cheering dies down, one of them asks a question. And everyone’s going silent – because Rentaro is speaking. And not only that, the general has heard of him – of course. Black Bullet is becoming a series that’s fascinated with the notion of power and who has it and also, who should have it.
In this greatest of emergencies the Tokyo-haven is facing in recent… months (well, shit does seem to happen quite regularly when you’re surrounded by monsters), the series focuses on the people who are strong enough to matter and those who are too weak to matter. There are a ton of scenes about those who are strong enough to protect or hurt others (depending on their moralistic position) and then there are also scenes about those who need to be protected and get hurt (all the Cursed Children scenes for example). But this story concerns everyone in the Tokyo-area because the fate of the whole town is on the line. Despite that, though, the story never gives a voice to the average people, creating an extreme spectrum of good and evil, with the only people that matter being those strong enough to act on their morality. Evil people will hurt those too weak to protect themselves and good people will protect the weak ones and kick the evil people’s ass. Strong people are the ones who decide the fate of the world, is what Black Bullet is saying. And even if it clearly wants Rentaro to be the one who decides that fate, it still wants to say in the end that power is the thing that allows good people to do good. Without power it doesn’t matter whether you’re a good or a bad person, you’re simply at the mercy of strong people.
With that philosophy in mind, it’s therefore no coincidence that Seitenshi, the albino-princess is coming to Rentaro to ask for help. It’s a bit disheartening to see her power being disregarded by the story in that way. More than that, the series tries to push the fact that Rentaro is the savior of the city and Seitenshi is just the one who will say ‘thank you’ after the deed’s done. This is a shounen-series, though, so one could make an argument that concentrating on the people who fight is more important since action is supposedly the series’ focus. The world-building still suffers because of it but the pacing is actually quite good all things considered in this series (relative to what it wants to do).
The assembling of the team may not be the most exciting thing to watch but expanding the cast for such a purpose is a good investment story-wise. Creating a team of characters is more about the characters than the plot that brought them together. With a team characters are forced to work together and how well they do that in high-pressure-situations and how they respond to each other in the first place is what makes teams in stories so interesting. By bringing a bunch of characters together certain dynamics can be created that give the characterization of the participants more depth and there’s an inherent potential for conflict which is the heart of every good drama-scene. Teams are a very versatile storytelling-device, all things considered.
This could’ve been a great moment if Kisara had insisted on doing her part and taking responsibility for her actions. Instead, she immediately gets flustered when after that response Rentaro insists that he will protect her (since she will need it is the implication Kisara doesn’t seem to notice).
Black Bullet’s team that’s assembled in these two episodes, though, is more of a crowd-pleaser as characters all follow distinctly different archetypes. It follows the notion that every person likes a certain type of character and by having a character of that type present that person would then cheer for that character despite the lack of depth and individuality (and maybe their dislike for other members of the team). And in a team-situation where so much of a scene depends on interaction instead of introspection such an approach to characterization is completely fine. And in that regard those two episodes do a fine job of setting up the team and what makes the individual characters tick.
Following the power-is-everything-philosophy of the series, naturally the whole team revolves around Rentaro. He literally overpowers the first guy to make him join the team (or adjuvant if you want to use the bullshit-lingo of Black Bullet). It’s not the most interesting kind of team-dynamic to have and the fact that Tamaki immediately falls for Kisara for no fucking reason doesn’t help either. The team is basically one that depends on the plot to be interesting but since nothing much of interest happened in these two episodes, the whole team-thingy ends up being more of a bore to watch. Individually it’s good enough for a team-setup but it lacks the inter-personal spark to make them interesting during quiet moments.
It also doesn’t help that the story isn’t that great to begin with. Okay, one of the pillars fails, a new one needs to be built but for a few days some assholes need to play bouncer for those pesky monsters who want to eat humans or whatever the hell they do in their freetime. So, they put the army at where the defense will open up when the pillar fails and close-by is another army. And that army consists entirely of fighters who paired up with Cursed Children. I guess, nobody remembers the last time they simply sent a whole battalion of those idiots into Gastrea-land only to see one stupid kid with his unconscious Cursed Child to return. First of all, I didn’t even know there were so many of those Promoter/Initiator-people running around the town. In fact, in episode 08 I wondered whether Seitenshi had actually made Rentaro the sole person responsible for delaying the Gastrea long enough to build the new pillar. So imagine my surprise when they had a fucking market solely for those Promoter/Initiator-pairs camping while waiting for their orders. Well, let’s just ignore the fact that they apparently work for the government but seemingly are neither part of the army nor the police and that money is enough of a topic with those people to make them seem like mercenaries. And of course they’re also all fascinated with strength so they define themselves by what their power-ranking is. It’s like they’re soldiers, police(wo)men and outlaws all at the same time.
That’s all already a bit shaky but what kinda shocked me is that it seems like they’re just waiting around till the army calls for help – and then their plan seems to be to rush at the Gastrea. Granted Rentaro, the fucking hero, cautions for them to be sneakier and do Guerilla-warfare. Fucking hell, if that writer wants to glorify war that much, he should’ve at least created some consistency. Because here’s the fucking flaw in their plan, actually the whole plan: They aren’t fighting some human army. They’re fighting fucking bugs that outnumber them and are driven by some sort of leader-bug to kill them all. That is NOT the situation where you should be a smartass talking about Guerilla-warfare. First of all, the whole purpose of this battle is just to give the builders time to repair the pillar. But nobody even talks about how to defend the pillars, it’s all about “Man, I sure hope we kill a lot of Gastrea when we fight against them.”. That’s neither tactics nor strategy and this series doesn’t need to be accurate in this regard. But I certainly would appreciate some resemblance of logic and intelligence to how those people tackle this situation. Just making it about “So, on that side are the evil dudes and on the other the good dudes. Now FIGHT! Are you excited, audience? Are you FUCKING excited?!”. Hey, I know, traditional samurai-stories aren’t that much better with their talk about duels and all that romantic nonsense but by now every writer worth a damn should know that war shouldn’t be romanticized like that. Those battle-shounen-series like Naruto and Bleach are even less romanticizing because with those at least it’s clear that it has really NOTHING to do with the real thing. But here hundreds of people are running to their death because the idea of defending and surviving never even entered their minds. And if it miraculously doesn’t become a tragedy… then it looks quite stupid.
Setting up a team isn’t the most exciting plothook and episode 08 and 09 are hardly the action-filled roller-coaster-rides one would like them to be. As unsubtle as physical strength is, it’s no wonder that the show’s fascination with the same thing is just as unsubtle leading to a rather bland group-dynamic in the team. While individually the new members of the team get a good introduction the inter-personal dynamic of the team is more or less non-existent, except for some tedious bits that feel more forced than anything else.
Episode-Rating: 8th episode: 5.0/10 9th episode: 5.5/10
- My thoughts on Tina asking Rentaro to call him “Onii-san”? Well, I guess, it’s as close as Japanese TV can ever get to showing a man fuck a kid…
- Kisara was THIS close to becoming my favourite character of this show… but then she had this unnecessary “Will they/Won’t they”-scene with Rentaro and she’s obsessed with strength as everyone else. She and Tina start at rank 9200… *shock* how will they ever live with themselves with such a lousy rank?! A fucking duck has a higher ranking than they do!
- So a guy in an armor and his Initiator die and Rentaro asks his long-lost former best friend mere moments after reuniting “Hey, have you killed any people lately, you know, like those dead people I found today by chance, for example?”. Why is Shouma not immediately offended?! And why is the whole topic immediately dropped after that?!
- So, does anyone else think that Kisara’s condition is kinda weird? Mind you, except the doc-lady always sitting around in the same room and the albino-princess, every other female character is a Cursed Child. And the only non-Cursed-Child who’s strong enough to matter in a fight (which seems to be the only thing that matters in the world of Black Bulled) is Kisara… EXCEPT she can’t fight long and from time to time she just gets weak because her blood is acting up or something. There is literally NO reason why she needed to have this medical condition attached to her character. It doesn’t add anything except making her a damsel-in-distress although everything else about her character should make her the total opposite of that.