Reviews of yesteryear: Black Rock Shooter (OVA)

And we’re back to Black Rock Shooter, an OVA based on a song which was inspired by an illustration. Some of you will remember that I looked at the TV anime back in August. For you guys that isn’t accurate, the important take away is that there were a good nine-ten months between the reviews. It was a decent little series. So, how does the short OVA that came first compare? Let’s take a look and find out.

The story involves two inter-connected worlds. One is an emotional landscape and the other is closer to reality. The story focuses on a girl name Mato whose just starting Junior High school when she sees a tall girl named Yomi and becomes instantly enamored with her. She finds out her name from the seating assignment and strikes up a conversation with her. Which starts out pretty awkwardly but turns out pretty well leading to the two becoming… close. Meanwhile, on the emotional landscape, we see the titular Black Rock Shooter travel through a barren landscape to a dilapidated castle in a cavern where she meets up with Dead Master. Black Rock Shooter extends her hand in friendship only to be met with aggression from Dead Master. The plot mostly centers around Mato and Yomi’s developing relationship. Which is adorable. There are conflicts, but they’re pretty downplayed until the end.

One thing that the OVA does better than the TV anime is that the emotional landscape has more subtlety. In the longer anime the characters in the landscape just tried to beat each other kind of mindlessly. In this one the dynamics make a lot more sense based on what’s actually happening. The TV series also got a bit melodramatic, which this one avoids. Some of the conflicts may be small, but they’re small in a way that isn’t overblown. Some of the characters may over-react a little, but it makes sense for them. That being said, the OVA does end on a weak note and the magical realism elements aren’t really explained. Which isn’t a problem for some things since they’re pretty easy to figure out, like the connection between Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master’s conflict and Mato and Yomi’s budding relationship or the nature of the Black Rock Shooter world which is never outright stated but is obvious (for the record I watched this with someone who knew nothing of the series and she was able to make the connection the instant Dead Master showed up), but some of it doesn’t make much sense particularly those used at the end.

The characters in this are really well handled. Part of it is that it keeps its focus. The story, at its heart, is about Yomi and Mato. The two of them are incredibly complex and the connections with the other world help add layers to their dynamic. Yes, the layers would still be there if the other world segments were cut out, but it provides a creative and dynamic way of demonstrating them. Yomi and Mato don’t really act their ages but I maintain that that’s to the series’ benefit.

Now let’s look at the art. It’s actually better in this than it was in the TV series. It still uses a kind of chibified style for the real world scenes, but the characters and backgrounds all look more detailed and the art for the other world has an ethereal quality that just looks really cool. The landscapes in the emotional world are also really detailed albeit kind of barren.

The casting in this is really good. Hanazawa Kana and Sawashiro Miyuki both give strong performances and they have a lot of chemistry. Which really helps with a character-driven plot like this one. I liked the music in this quite a bit better than I did the music used in the actual series. It’s still not great, but it works pretty well.

The yuri factor is a 7/10. Yomi and Mato have a very homo-erotic relationship and it’s adorable.

You’ve probably figured out by now that I liked the OVA better than the eight episode anime. It has the same good ideas with better handling. That being said, it still has some issues, particularly the weak ending. My final rating is going to be a 7.4/10. Check it out if the premise seems interesting.

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