Black Rock Shooter TV – Review
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.
Author: Miguel Douglas
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