Black Rock Shooter is a series I’m only passingly familiar with. Basically, an illustrator named Fuke Ryohei did an illustration that inspired a song that resulted in an OVA that resulted in a game that resulted in several manga, an anime and a whole lot more. That must have been one awesome illustration. In any case, let’s take a look at the anime adaptation.
The story is pretty simple, there are two worlds, one is our ordinary world, the other is a world where our other selves live and shoulder our pain for us… by beating the crap out of each other. Because talking through it would just be silly. The series surrounds a middle school student named Mato, her interactions with others and how this affects the other world. The concept is interesting, but they really only get in depth with it for half of the series, which amounts to four episodes. The series uses a lot of completely unsubtle colour symbolism, which gets a little annoying. I liked the way they brought the disparate elements together at the end, but it almost felt like they tried to do too much with an eight episode series. This means that some of the plot points aren’t very well explained or expanded upon.
The characters in this are very well done. A lot of the reason for that is the premise. Since the characters emotions are tied to what their other selves are doing, the series has to go in-depth into the characters in order for the other world to make sense. Which, thankfully, they do with skillful illustration rather than forced exposition. To put it in a simpler, albeit somewhat cliche, way they show you instead of telling you. And this leads to some really compelling and sympathetic characters. Even though most of them are middle school girls. I suppose that this could be considered an issue, a lot of what makes the characters interesting is that they don’t act like middle school girls except in a few minor ways. Although, as someone who still remembers middle school pretty vividly, I’m glad that they took the route that they did.
Now, let’s talk about the art. I’m a little torn with this one. The “real world” scenes use a bright and cheerful art style similar to Manabi Straight. That’s right, the art style that annoys me. They use the same basic style for the features in the other world, but they also do some really spectacular things with the art. The other world has this bizarre, ethereal quality and it looks great. The action scenes also have a unique and interesting look. So, I didn’t particularly like the real world art but I did like the other world art.
The cast does a good job, particularly Hanazawa Kana, it feels like she keeps popping up in the stuff I watch, and Sawashiro Miyuki, there’s another familiar name. The music, I did not care for. It’s difficult to put exactly what I didn’t like about it into words. I suppose that it’s the very artificial Vocaloid style a bunch of it uses. I’m not saying that Vocaloid music is inherently bad, in fact I rather like some of it, but given the importance that emotions to the story it feels like a really bizarre and inexplicable choice to use a synthetic, emotionless musical style for the series.
The yuri factor is a 6/10. Kagari clearly has a thing for Yomi and Mato and Yomi’s relationship gets really homo-erotic at several points.
My final rating for Black Rock Shooter is a 6/10. It’s a decent series with interesting ideas even if they could have been handled better. If the premise sounds interesting to you, give it a try. It’s only eight episodes so it is a pretty quick watch.