Tag Archives: Black Rock Shooter

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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Reviews of yesteryear: Black Rock Shooter

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.