iSugio

Black Rock Shooter TV – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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It isn’t the world you know. There wanders a girl with jet-black hair, ebony clothes, and a strikingly blue, glowing eye. Her name is Black Rock Shooter. With a huge cannon in hand, she throws herself into a fierce battle. Meanwhile, in another world, middle-school student Mato Kuroi is drawn to Yomi Takanashi, her classmate with an unusual family name. Mato does her best to talk to Yomi, who just won’t open up. Yu Koutari mocks her best friend Mato’s efforts but at the same time, supports her. Mato also finds herself surrounded by other colorful characters at school, like the eccentric school counselor, Saya Irino, and the hot-blooded captain of her club club, Arata Kohata. Then, one day, the window of opportunity opens. After Mato sees that Yomi has her favorite picture book, “Li’l Birds At Play”, they strike up a conversation and Mato is invited to come over to Yomi’s house. There, they gradually break the ice, until a girl in a wheelchair appears. This is Yomi’s best friend, Kagari Izuriha. Two worlds. Mato and Black Rock Shooter. This is the story of their “pain”.

When one begins to look at Black Rock Shooter TV, one should more closely consider its origins—which is interesting to say the least. With the series being inspired by a song and subsequent animated music video from the Japanese pop group Supercell, its fruition from humble and creative beginnings within the music industry to that of its present status as a full-length anime series is certainly surprising. When you take into account that the premise of the series is based on a music video, one has to wonder if it was a good choice to expand a roughly five minute video into a complete series eight episodes in length. Sure, one could to some extent see this as a viable way to weave a tale from the ground up, elaborating upon its simple premise to construct a considerably worthy series. But such an approach could also lead to a series that isn’t exactly complementing its original source material in any reasonable fashion, rather hurting its chances to succeed as a stand-alone series. Black Rock Shooter TV unfortunately subscribes to the latter, adhering to a narrative that is awash with numerous character and structural issues.

It’s not that Black Rock Shooter TV is an awful show not worthy of appreciating to some degree, it’s just that the series doesn’t exactly expound upon its intriguing premise as one would hope. While the premise may appear notable on paper, the series becomes increasingly infatuated with the overly melodramatic nature of its characters and their relationships, never really bringing about a true notion of friendship that the series superficially expresses as a key element of its story. With characters showcasing leaps in logic that weaken the narrative down considerably, their choices appear superfluous and drastically immature at best. Granted, while these characters are middle-school students, the series relies heavily on the viewer to understand their personal dilemmas—so why does it hastily offer resolutions to these dilemmas just as they are about to get interesting? We want to better understand these characters, but the series never really allows it due to it suddenly resolving character arcs without much effort as a character simply changing their outlook, in turn offering neither considerable depth nor emotional weight to their decision. There is really no feasible explanation as to why they felt the need to change their mind, it just instantaneously happens. The deficient editing within the series doesn’t help in this aspect of the show as well, where viewers will be left wondering what is truly going on because the narrative decides to neither show nor explain what is actually transpiring for a majority of its episodes. Events occur that offer little to no insight into the actions of the characters, with seemingly two coinciding stories competing for dominance within the show.

This is rather regrettable for a series that on the surface initially promotes itself as a psychological character study, which it does adhere to in some capacity. The series develops itself around the plight of its young female cast, utilizing an allegorical approach towards their problems in the form of fiercely violent battles that commence within an alternate dimension. This visual representation of the psyche of the primary characters within the series provides Black Rock Shooter TV with some tangibility, bringing about a sense of escapism that is also believable considering how young these girls are and strenuous nature of their lives. This is a key element concerning the relationship between Mato Kuroi and Yomi Takanashi, which is established as one that sounds reasonable, but is executed in a rather confusing manner. The series even goes as far as to suggest that lesbian tendencies exist between the two, but it’s never explained how our why these characters like each other from the perspective of their personalities, instead simply focusing on their outward attraction towards one another. Should this approach allow us to care more about these characters when even they don’t elicit that much of an emotional response to each other? The series never really addresses this important facet regarding these two crucial characters.

In many ways though, Black Rock Shooter TV is very similar to that of director Akiyuki Shinbo’s Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011), a title that also featured young female leads. While that series was considerably darker, they both share a focus on damaged characters attempting to rectify their emotional bondages, with Black Rock Shooter TV never quite reaching the sentimental heights as conveyed in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. With characters such as the ones in Black Rock Shooter TV seen confronting their inner most fears and failures, the series’ juvenile approach towards their issues is unsatisfactory in various ways. For one, the exceedingly dramatic problems that emerge from these characters aren’t exactly showcased in a way that gives us, as viewers, much reason to care about them. Within the span of just eight episodes, the series goes through a plethora of characters, with the narrative never truly allotting much time towards any of them. This aspect of Black Rock Shooter TV makes the entirety of its narrative seem rushed and confusingly simplistic for a show whose prime focus is on its emotionally conflicted characters. There was so much that the series could’ve worked with in regards to establishing characters with authentic psychological problems, but sadly refuses do to so. Whether this was due to time constraints or simply inadequate writing—or perhaps both—the series flounders about from episode to episode in an attempt to find some meaningful direction. In some strangely fitting way though, issues such as jealously and friendship are brought up within the show, which offer some sentimental bearing on its story, but the series never seems to want to push it beyond its own triteness.

One strong element of the series can be found in its animation, which somewhat redeems the quality of the show to an extent. Studio Ordet takes the helm here, with Black Rock Shooter TV being its first solo production as an animation company. With unique character designs and otherworldly environments, Ordet does a fantastic job at animating the series, considering that this is their first time behind an entire production. The series is essentially broken up into two halves in regards to its animation—that of the real world where the likes of Mato and Yomi live and that of the other dimension in which the character of Black Rock Shooter resides. Black Rock Shooter TV could almost be considered two entirely different shows within this context, with a heavy reliance of CGI utilized in animating the otherworldly dimension. Here we see Black Rock Shooter battle in ferocious duels to the absolute brim of destruction, with the series intricately elaborating upon the dark and brooding environments found here—a physical representation of the series’ characters inner most feelings—in a matter that complements the series overall focus on issues faced by its characters. Some viewers may not appreciate these rather stark contrasts in style, but it does provide some alternative towards appreciating the show—at least from an aesthetic perspective.

Overall, Black Rock Shooter TV seems more experimental than anything—and not in a good way. It’s not necessarily that the series is only eight episodes that makes it rather mediocre—even though this is one aspect that contributes towards that mediocrity—but the series just seems all over the place for numerous reasons. Perhaps this is due to its rather modest beginnings as a music video, with Ordet erroneously attempting to expand upon that rather superficial premise. But even if we do factor that in as a plausible reason for its ineptness as a series, we are still left with the issues of substandard characterization and hackneyed writing, detrimental elements that aren’t visible within some of the other finer anime series out there. One can see that the series had a lot going for it terms of creativity and characterization from an initial viewpoint, but the series just doesn’t execute in a successful fashion. Considering that this is Ordet’s first solo offering, perhaps we will see series writer Mari Okada and director Shinobu Yoshioka improve with further productions—with Black Rock Shooter TV appearing more as a missed opportunity than anything.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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Comments

  • hav

    Ahh BRS, where did you go wrong? I wanted to like this series, I really did. Instead I struggled through eight incredibly slow episodes. I wondered to myself, “Why?” Where did they go wrong?

    Overall the story (or lack thereof) did a number of what could’ve been something great. There’s no back story whatsoever, and their present day activities are all we’re given to go on. Everything seems forced and the character development is pretty poor overall. It’s hard to feel compelled, or any real emotion towards any of the characters. The series lacks to define or answer any questions fans may have about the characters. The drama is very much first world problems which then appear as an epic struggle in the second world of BRS, sadly the connection between the two falls flat in a lot of places. Characters have near complete 180 degree emotional turn-arounds in the story which is supposed to be facilitated by what’s going on, but the fact is the lack of explanation really doesn’t do much to bring the story together in a cohesive manner. You might be saying to yourself, “the whole point is for the story to not tell you whats going on/make sense”, but the bottom line is the connection you’re supposed to come up with on your own is not well thought out, and besides a very basic A is happening because of B. Though they’re young, their problems come off as remarkably insignificant, and make you wonder what characters who have series problems in their lives would have been like. The pacing of the series is undeniably slow, as I’m sure they could’ve packed the entire contents of the story in nearly half of the episodes that were produced. The animation was top notch during the fighting scenes (though not as good as the OVA or the original video), but aside from this the series struggles to stand on its own two feet. What we’re left with is each episode filled to the brim with boring interactions and about two minutes of decent action. The result makes you wonder why the former was even introduced in the first place. The music isn’t bad, but on a scale of 1 to awesome is probably close to a 6, unless you’re a Miku fanatic. The ambient tracks also don’t do much to add to the emotion of each scene, but YMMV.

    If you’re interested still and want to enjoy the series I implore you to watch the original video instead of the series. Truly, no story is better than wasting +/-4 hours of what feels like filler to see the same thing. From a rating perspective I’d give it a solid 4. There’s so much more they could’ve done to really make this extraordinary but what we’re left with is simply this.

  • Miguel Douglas

    Thanks for the comments and suggestions hav. I was really disappointed with BRS, as my review indicates, so I’m glad to see that other people feel the same way!

    I think BRS is simply one of those series that people either love or hate. I’ve actually been in discussions with people who will defend it (not so well, I might add).

  • Max Rockwell

    I’m actually in strong disagreement with what appears to be a sentiment of the majority and I shall take some time here to explain how and why. I will start by listing off the most common and forthright complaints I’ve read and seen on this anime.

    1. “Real world” bits are superficial at best, deemed as being both not fleshed out enough and the characters seen as not relate-able or acting un-according to what logic might dictate, thus protruding on your immersion or absorption of the material in a serious way. Constant switching between worlds can create an unhealthy contrast for some viewers, distracting at times.
    2. Plot holes and unexplained story bits, a sense of confusion that lingers throughout the entire series.
    3. It’s too short.

    A lot of these criticisms have also been applied accordingly to the OVA, so in a sense this piece is meant to address both the OVA and the series instead of just the latter.

    1. I actually find their pacing to be an artistic choice. A movie that comes to mind almost immediately when watching the OVA was Memento. Without spoiling Memento (you should see this movie), the direction they chose when it came to story boarding is very much a part of the magic of the franchise (both the OVA/series). It creates a sense of paralleled that is hard to paint if you go too long in one world without showing the other. Constant reminders, frequent back and forthing meant to keep your head just *slightly* spinning trying to keep up with two story lines that, although different in context, are similar in meaning. I see no reason why the “other world” bits should receive any complaints as they are nothing short of breath taking to watch in both the movie and the series across the board. The school bits can be hard to relate to, but to be honest I attribute this mostly to the age of the cast. Most viewers are likely over the age of the characters, and quite possible have been through or even conquered a lot of the issues (maybe even multiple times or have even mastered the art of it) that spawn a lot of the main story arcs within the series, so there is going to be a sense of “What’s the big deal? Why so serious?”. These are just little girls so it’s easy to forget at that age some things can be a really big deal. Understanding this doesn’t remedy the disconnect created between the viewer and the main characters, but I think the age bracket of the characters is what it is for a reason. I theorize that we aren’t meant to actually sympathize or get all teary-eyed, but instead just simply be enthralled in the fantasy of how their emotions translate in to the other world. I mean, this anime would be boring period without the other world, and there are animes out there that are comparable content-wise to BRS WITHOUT the BRS bits, yet people watch them. Let’s try not to overlook the obvious point that the BRS bits are what MAKE this anime. Essentially, I disagree with your *assumption* that this anime is meant to be focused on being a psychological rollar-coaster of emotions. While emotions are ripe and plentiful in this anime (as they are in all anime’s that even remotely qualify for attaching “drama” to its tags), I never once felt that this anime, at its core, was about making you weep. There are other animes clearly designed for that (Anohana).

    2. I disagree whole-heartedly on this point. I enjoy watching shows that give me the benefit of the doubt occasionally. Shows that don’t go through the trouble of dedicating a good chunk of 10 minutes shoving dialogue down my throat, explaining to me the details of why this is happening, and why this is related to this and how the intricate map of events all correlate in to a seamless, plot hole-less weave. The unexplained parts, in my opinion, are left to your imagination. This is a problematic solution sometimes as it can be interpreted as laziness especially if ever the creators should utter such things, but it is actually intended occasionally, and it works wonders where its interpreted as such properly. I’ve come to absolutely *loathe* shows that are littered with what I’ve come to call the “Brock effect”. Where every single action, whether minute or major, is given detailed vocal notice or adhered to in a way meant to help the viewer understand everything that is going on. It’s frustrating watching Brock talk about how Pikachu just used Thundershock on a water Pokemon because it was beneficial for the type match up. It’s annoying hearing about how dude with sword A has slightly increased his speed and is therefore able to attack more quickly, but low and behold his defenses are lower! So on and so forth. It’s unnecessary fluff information that I would rather like to observe and conclude myself just by actually watching. That stuff is annoying at an extremely high level in my opinion to viewers who actually have *taste* in their anime dialogue. It kills immersion for me and many others. BRS gets a bit heavy on the explanations in the final episode, and this is one point I’ll agree on in your write-up, this seems a contrary point to make comparative to your dislike of being left out of a detailed explanation of all the inner-workings of the world they created for us in this anime.

    3. Couldn’t really disagree. However, I want it to be longer because I *love* it. The universe created under this story is really cool, and the only missed opportunity in my opinion is that they should have made more.

    Anyways…that’s just a few of my thoughts, take it how you will. I found this anime pleasing on a variety of different levels, but “drama” or “sympathetic emotional value” was not really one of them, and I can’t say my enjoyment of the show was any lessened by that fact. It’s all in how you interpret, I suppose.

  • Miguel Douglas

    Hi Max,

    I just wanted to say thanks for your thorough response. It is nice to hear from people who can defend a series with some thoughtful insight, even if I find myself disagreeing to a certain extent.

    If I may, I would like to address your comment on BRS TV’s plot and its unexplained bits. I should first state that I’m a fan of anime titles such as Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain, and Boogiepop Phantom, just to name a few, so I am pretty understanding when it comes to series that leave a lot up to the viewer to interpret. With BRS TV, I simply didn’t feel that the level of interpretation was that deep, and in many cases, simply stemmed from a strong sense of superficiality that the series elicited. Many other series detail important plot elements without entering the suggested Brock effect, so I really don’t see how BRS TV couldn’t do the same, choosing instead to oddly leaving out important details and haphazardly rushing through its story.

    As stated in my review, I personally felt the series was a missed opportunity more than anything, with the premise oozing with potential but lacking in its execution.

  • Max Rockwell

    The depth of interpretation in my opinion is not really what was important for this series to be enjoyable.

    As I somewhat glossed over in my #1, these characters are young and most likely difficult to relate to (not *incredibly* difficult, but it’s understandable we may not feel as strongly as they depict their feelings in the show) for a large majority of the most likely viewers. I think that, in essence, the real fun behind the show is just seeing the stark contrast between happy-go-lucky middle school girl drama, and violent, head spin-worthy fighting action. Watching a 5 minute segment of childish drama would make me think to myself “How is THIS going to play it in that *other* world?”. I think eventually if we discuss it too in-depth we’re simply over analyzing and thus dampening the entire experience as a whole because maybe the enjoyment is meant to be pure and simple. It’s like jumping in to the hot tub after being in the pool, there’s this “aaaaaaaaah” sense when the other world scenes come on, and you just gaze in awe until it goes back to the school scenes, and in turn it creates an anxiousness to see what happens the next time it comes around. The kiddie drama happening in the real world is simply an outline, something to keep us rooted in the basic premise of why there is fighting going on at all.

    The usual inclination (for most who intake a lot of movies/shows these days) to want to understand everything and why it all works the way it did in my opinion is sort of what bogs the show down. The viewers just want more, but there are many viewers out there who feel completely satisfied by the end credits of the final episode. In a sense this is why I think the movie was actually *better* than the series because they really didn’t tell you ANYTHING in the OVA. When it came down to it, none of it really mattered per se, what counted was that it was cool as hell to watch them fight, and watching Mato’s struggle (on both sides). Simple, non-indepth premise, but in my opinion that’s what made it enjoyable. Things don’t have to be deep to be enjoyable.

  • Miguel Douglas

    While I can see where your coming from, I stand by my review. It would be foolish for me to to argue that individuals are viewing the series “wrongly,” mainly because it is subjective and dependent on each individual viewer. What I’m suggesting is that the series, despite certain viewers enjoying it for whatever reasons, is inherently flawed from the standpoint of its narrative and character development. I make my case for why this is in my review.

    Now, if you enjoyed it, that’s perfectly fine and understandable. For me though, in my position as an individual reviewing a series, I have to look at that series from a variety of aspects. With this in mind, I could not simply avoid acknowledging things that personally stood out to me as significant issues concerning plot and character development expressed within the series.

    Again, I make my case for why I felt this way in my review. I think this is simply one of those situations where we will just have to agree to disagree.

  • Max Rockwell

    I’m not seeking to change your opinion what-so-ever, don’t worry in the slightest :). I’m just having friendly conversation. Please don’t misinterpret the direction of my posts. I like a good wrassle every now and then with those on a different frequency than I.

    I respect your view of the franchise and your according review of the anime series, just thought I’d spice up your comment section :)

  • Miguel Douglas

    No harm done, as I really found your comments on the series interesting and informative. Would you consider yourself an avid anime fan or just a casual viewer? Perhaps somewhere in the middle?

  • Max Rockwell

    Avid would be an appropriate word choice I think. I don’t simply watch anime to have an opinion on it however, I’m pretty choosy on which series I end up following and finishing and which I choose to ignore. Generally I detest on-going series anime types (Naruto, One Piece, Fairy Tale, Bleach, etc). I can’t watch those types of shows with any investment because I know deep down that at the end of every episode the main character is going to power up and whoop everyone’s butt which is all encompassing-ly boring.

    I’m a big follower of animes that you can take something away from, anime’s that can tear jerk (I did mention Anohana, right?), anime’s set under a unique fantasy/sci-fantasy premise, or “awkward-humor” type high school animes. Great animators are always a plus, as I have a very picky preference on animation style. I’m a character show type of person. It’s not about the action to me. Anime’s I’ve grown very fond of or loved in the past and/or have loved very recently for example of the breadth of my current playlist is Anohana, Sword Art Online, Fullmetal Alchemist (the FIRST anime that didn’t follow the manga), SoraNoWoTo, Azumanga Diaoh, K-On, The World God Only Knows, My Little Monster, Sasameki Koto, Black Rock Shooter, Kokori Connect, Hanasuka Iroha, Shin Sekai Yori…few others in the backlog I’ve yet to watch but you can see how my viewing history is a bit diverse, but each of those animes I enjoy/enjoyed.

    Haha…well didn’t mean to make this long :)

  • Miguel Douglas

    Cool, I’m also very selective in what series I choose to watch as well (which is probably why I review more Japanese films than anime, even though I should start doing more anime reviews, lol). I’m actually a little too picky at times, mainly stemming from me watching so many series in the past. Now I think to myself: do I really need to watch an entire series if I dislike, say, the first several episodes? I think not.

    There is a lot of older titles I’ve still been meaning to watch though, mostly because they had generally better storylines–not all, but a lot of them seem focused more on establishing a great story instead of simply fanservice or other minor things.

    Have you seen Monster? One of the better, character-driven anime series I’ve seen in awhile.

  • Derek Chow

    Hello. I was feeling quite melancholic over the end of New Years since there is a drought between the Fall and Winter season shows to air, so I decided to read some random reviews on the internet on past shows I have watched. I frequent an anime forum and we had a “Most Disappointing Shows of 2012” thread that was underway. Reading through the thread a couple of people suggested that BRS deserved a recommendation as there was a divisive divide over the direction of the show during its airing period.

    Anyway, I read your review of the TV series and shared most of your disappointments with the show as well. I came in expecting to see a continuation of the OVA, which I quite enjoyed, but felt quite discouraged when I found out that much of the show’s character designs had changed. It got even worse and I became utterly disappointed with how Studio Odet handled the direction of the story and characters. On the flip side, however, I was extremely pleased with the choreography of the action scenes with BRS, Dead Master, Chariot, BGS, and Chariot. However, I do not feel that the limited action scenes with the other universe could warrant a blind eye to the writing and characterization that plagued the series.

    I think a problem with the real world is how hard it is for me to suspend my disbelief of the situation at times. Kagari and Yomi’s relationship in the beginning was hard to swallow, but the hardest thing to accept was knowing that Yomi’s parents actually allowed this abusive relationship to continue despite their knowledge of it. This is compounded by the amount of melodrama that literally oozed out of both Yomi and Kagami, culminating with the scenes at staircase and hospital. Just to reinforce the setup the studio even went as far to draw in some Higurashi-esque faces to show how deranged the character’s were.

    Another problem I had with the show was the motivation for Saya’s actions. The show leads the audience to believe that she was the main antagonist of the show, but near the end it didn’t turn out to be the case. However, her actions as school counselor and towards Black Rock Shooter seemed to contradict heavily as the mechanics of the other universe and the real world were revealed. There were so many assumptions, conjectures, and speculations running rampant that it was hard to piece together Saya’s motivation and reasons for her actions.

    For instance, Saya slapped Strength Yuu and scolded her for awakening Insane Black Rock Shooter. We know by this point that if their hosts experience enough stress, their persona in the other universe will awaken. Yet, we have seen scenes where Saya tried to strangle Mato in the counseling room not too long ago. We also had Yomi showing signs of mental instability as she painted a disturbing picture of Mato and began making bracelets out of her own hair. Yomi’s instability near the end was because of Saya’s direction to awaken Dead Master. All these factors that agitate Mato, seems to be at odds in Saya’s goal to prevent Insane Black Rock Shooter from awakening.

    I could go on into more detail, but I think it is enough to show why I was really disappointed with this show as well.

    I really liked the OVA’s characterization and designs a lot better than the TV series. Yomi was a stronger and likable character to empathize with when she started to become jealous, it wasn’t as apparent as Yomi in the TV series, nor did it need to be. I also preferred the original Dead Master design compared to Studio Odet’s as well. The story was easier to understand and the interpretation of the other world was less muddy to speculate about as well.

  • Max Rockwell

    I fully agree with a few points on the post above.

    Mainly, Saya. I am *still* confused as to what Saya/BGS’s intentions truly were leading up to the big reveal that she’s actually trying to “protect” everyone. In the end we’re lead to ultimately believe that she’s trying to prevent the awakening of the “Purple” Black Rock Shooter, but up until we are given a full taste that sort of information, her actions lead us to believe a whole lot otherwise. They had a thing going with all the coffee (I figured at first that it was to keep the children awake as much as possible because they participate with their other worldly beings while dreaming), and then there’s the little bit where they show her with the evil smile every now and then, and then the part with the circling of their names in the yearbook. By the end of the series she had assaulted 2 middle school aged children, and proved herself to be a very poor counselor (Kohachi, Yomi) in the process, so how honest-to-god good was she really? What was the purpose of those poor counseling sessions? My interpretation of it (The Yomi situation) was that she was trying to have The Dead Master born of Yomi’s dark emotions in order to *defeat* BRS…but that doesn’t explain why and what her objective was with Kohachi, as Kohachi’s other wordly being seemed to be little, nothing more than some kind of bobble-head puppet. *Sigh…there is definitely a lot that is still blurry and hard to understand even after the final credits roll.

    I suppose it’s all meant to be a big yet subtle twist, that Black Rock Shooter becomes enemy #1 near the end (or was from the beginning), because off the bat we’re obviously led to believe we’re rooting for her. At the same time though, the Kagari situation would have continued without Black Rock Shooters intervention, so how can BRS’s agenda really have been such a bad thing in that case? There was a mountain of belief suspension, I agree, when it came to the Yomi/Kagari thing. The mom acts in such a neglectful and pathetically pitiful way that just screams arbitrary plot device, but everyone is different you know? There are moms out there who strangle and murder their children unfortunately in this world today…

    Even with all of this…I’m able to take a big step back and not let these things bury my enjoyment of the series as a whole. If you can believe that. Lol.

  • Derek Chow

    The assumption that BRS is an enemy from the very beginning with was hard for me to believe until the writers decided to arbitrarily say otherwise. From all previous scenes that included BRS, all the way from episode one, BRS was only reacting to attacks against her. We never actually see BRS initiate hostilities until she gets brutally attacked by either Kagari’s Chariot, or Saya’s Black Gold Saw. It wasn’t until the middle of the season do we see a drastic change in tone as she decapitates Kohachi from the basketball club. It seemed to arbitrary to have such a change in four episodes, especially when we saw how persistent BRS was when she kept constantly reaching out her hand to save Dead Master, something that carried from the OVA.

    One member of my forums theorized that Saya fully utilizes the daily drama that unfolds in the middle school to bring out potential personas to awaken. Kohachi had problems with her love life and Yomi was apparently disturbed enough to be Saya’s best bet to beat BRS. One interesting thing to note about what makes BRS so special is related to Mato’s problem. Specifically, from what her peers say, is that she tries too hard to be socially accepted by everyone around her. How this specifically translates into BRS’s strength is anyone’s guess, as I never really got the sense that was actually happening.

    We know that Saya’s underlying goal to destroy BRS is so that BRS will not destroy Yuu in the otherworld. This implies that all personas eventually will meet and attack each other given enough time, since in the early stages they are more mechanical killing machines than anything else. Yet, we see that Strength was self-aware of her own situation to actually avoid fighting. When Yuu switched with Strength, the reasoning…. becomes muddy as well. Yuu herself was aware of the brutal nature of the other world and was more than willing enough to force a transfer. Of course this was not before she tells Saya to protect her using Black Gold Saw. Does this mean that Yuu was going to fight the other world? Is that why she requested Saya’s protection, because of BRS? I have always assumed that personas only deal with their host’s personal problems and acquaintances. Wouldn’t it be wiser to actually have Yuu/Strength keep her distance away from Mato then?

    Yomi/Kagari’s relationship is hard to suspend because I rarely hear such stories, whether in real life or in anime. Most similar situation’s occur without the knowledge of the parents as the victim usually suffers in silence, but in this specific case the parents are fully aware of the abuse that Kagari forces onto Yomi and is *cough* powerless to stop. Maybe this is why, compared Yuu’s household situation, the disparity is even greater because abusive parents are more common than abusive ….. that kind of relationship.

    The ending also was kind of anti-climatic as well. Having Mato possess BRS in a fight against IBRS was …. painful to watch. The entire battle was so one sided that it didn’t evoke any sense of determination that Mato espoused early on. I was cringing so much during that fight that I had to actually get up from my seat and take a break from watching it. The ending message about living and learning to accept pain in their lives seems to distantly related to the issue as well. There was value in the moral of the story as none of the characters themselves were fixated by that problem. The only reason that the meaning was there was simply because of the other world, where it held zero significance to their hosts wishes. Once their persona was killed their grief is forgotten whether it was desired or not. So the entire plot device did not resonate very well with me.

    I think the only enjoyment I could derive from the show was only related to the other world, because how Studio Odet handled those specific battles should be a shining example on how CG battles should be animated. I’ve never been quite engrossed in the CG combat until I watched BRS.

  • Max Rockwell

    There’s also a slight sense of “What’s the point” by the end as well…since even when the persona is killed, they regenerate eventually a’la Saya’s words with the whole healing and not being hurt again thing. We are shown very clearly at the end that all the other world personalities have come back, yet Yomi’s feelings for Mato and Kagari’s feelings for Yomi have returned…so in the end it’s like…well what was really the point? They come back and their feelings come back…and it’s like…well what was the point of fighting in the first place.

  • Tan Tze Jinn

    Replying by paragraph:
    1) In the start of the anime, BRS is Matou’s coping mechanism of hurting her friends (she doesnt do that irl) until they forget about their problem. Towards the end, BRS is seen as hostile because Matou doesn’t want that anymore. It’s seen as less of a coping mechanism and more of a thing she doesn’t want to do to her friends anymore.

    2) Matou doesn’t try to be socially accepted by everyone around her… But she tries to make everyone acceptable by her, in a sense. In her ideal world, there are no problems and no fighting between friends. She is subliminally (through BRS) changing her friends to not be problematic by pushing them past the point of stress into denial. This is something Saya does not want. Saya has another motive to help the girls get emotionally stronger by making them experience and face the difficulties. BRS strength comes from the fact that Matou is rejecting the most compared to them. Between Yuu who rejects society and the horrible things that happened to her, Matou rejects the problems of her friends and doesn’t want to hurt them (or rather, does not want them to get hurt by their problems).

    3) Saya also wants to protect Yuu because they know each other from childhood. Since Yuu and Strength switched places, Saya is trying protecting Yuu, not Strength, by removing BRS. It makes sense now that Yuu would ask Saya to protect her from BRS. Because BRS is going to destroy Yuu eventually. HOWEVER, Strength in the real world does not distance herself from Matou as she came to like Matou as a friend. It’s not Yuu that made friends with Matou irl. From episode 7, i think Strength is afraid of BRS, but isn’t afraid of Matou.

    In any case, Strength made the problem worse (hence Saya slapping her) by bringing Matou to the other world because now a twisted IBRS (purple) comes to life… Maybe because Matou who just witnessed BRS killing Dead Master, realized what she is doing to Yomi and goes into a coma of rejecting everything. If BRS comes from Matou’s rejection of everything around her, IBRS is when she rejects even more. In the end sequence of BRS vs IBRS, it is Matou being BRS, eventually accepting that she must hurt her friends (and not let BRS/IBRS do it for her) to hurt herself (aka take the friends sadness for them). You could say she internalized BRS (BRS representing hurting of your friends)? Since BRS is her, anyway.

    5) It is not that anti-climatic, imo. they clearly showed her friends crying and remembering matou. The merging of worlds in the end symbolizes that the suffering of one friend is shared by the rest. They will help each other to hear each other’s problems, in this case to fight IBRS. It’s one-sided because Matou is having a psychological fight and self-realization, rather than actually fighting. She was willingly accepting hits from IBRS. Did you want them to fight more elaborately after the friends came? The friends coming to her side was the part that was elaborated, not the fighting.

    The characters were literally having those problems… And it held so much significance to the host’s wishes… For example, when Dead Master is killed, Yomi stopped wanting to take care/be friends with matou or kagari… In fact, she stopped wanting to be friends with anyone… but in actual fact, she does. she wants to be Matou’s friend, but because Dead Master died, she cut her ties with the source of stress. She wanted to forget about Matou.

    But in reality, after the police came, all of Matou’s friends remember Matou and feel the emotional pain… And their persona is no longer there to absorb the pain because they have totally rejected/denied their emotional problems. That’s why they can feel such pain at that moment. So you can take back what you said about ‘zero significance’, because this show is trying to tell you that total escapism (death of their persona) will hurt you a lot more.

    At the end of the show, they decide to stop using these escapist means by sharing and absorbing their problems among their group of friends. But their personas remain because now they don’t totally reject/deny their problems.

    Thanks for reading.