While there is nothing wrong with a show foreshadowing its plot (I would argue its fairly necessary if you want any kind of cohesion), when an entire episode seems to serve no other purpose but setting up a single event and it does it in a heavy handed and fairly bland manner you have to wonder how the writers thought they were providing entertainment as well as setting up a plot point.
From the very start of this episode we get that there is a heavy Gran and Lyria focus. She’s having nightmares and he’s comforting her with the usual certainty that comes from unimaginative anime protagonists. There’s some other stuff on the beach and Lyria’s hearing a faint voice that Gran can’t hear. Later the group get split up to do odd jobs for an old friend of Rackham’s and Lyria and Gran get sent together to do odd jobs. They have a great time shopping but you just have to wonder why we don’t get to see Io healing those who got wounded fighting monsters or Katalina training soldiers. Both plot points seem more interesting than Gran and Lyria sightseeing but this episode isn’t particularly interested in the story going on with the war or anything else. All this episode is interested in is setting up the dramatic finish which of course is supposed to be shocking but given there was no other way for the episode to end was kind of eye-roll worthy.
Anyway, if there was any doubt where this story was going, just listen to the conversation when Gran buys the hair clip for Lyria and you just know there are no other options. She’s about to get kidnapped. It was pretty clear earlier that’s where we were going but that conversation just keeps hammering that point over and over and over again like no one has ever seen this development in a story before.
The only thing I’m left wondering about is if we’ll finally get to address the point of how far and how long Lyria and Gran can be separated with the whole soul sharing thing.
In the near future a virus called Gastrea that can turn humans into monsters has broken out. Highly contagious, and very feared, war breaks out but very few survive. Those who do, live in regions surrounded by massive monoliths made of a material called Varanium which repels/hurts the Gastrea. To fight the gastrea, partners made up of a promoter (human) and an initator (one of the female cursed children who contain the Gastrea virus but have a slow rate of infection) fight as civil servants to defend the growing threat to what remains of Tokyo.
Review – This one is going to be spoiler heavy:
I watched Black Bullet once, a few years ago (probably just after it finished airing or sometime around then) and I remember not having liked it very much. Recently I stumbled upon this series on Crunchyroll and tried to remember what my problem with the series was and I drew a blank. Actually, I drew a blank on more or less everything to do with this anime other than the fact that the title didn’t really make a lot of sense. Sure, main character Rentarou does use a gun occasionally, and yes, his bullets are made of varanium which is black, but as he tends to punch or kick things as often as shoot them and the gun has no significance to the story, I’m still totally lost on why the show is called Black Bullet.
What I realised while rewatching this was that sitting underneath all the things that either annoyed me or made me feel a little disconnected from the events, is actually a pretty intense story full of rich emotion and great (if slightly obvious) questions about humanity as a whole. Unfortunately, the anime seems determined to help you overlook all of its positives in exchange for the generic and the lame and the balance between the two isn’t great.
Kisara is the best character to exemplify what I mean by this. Going heavily into spoiler territory.
For most of the series I was wondering why Kisara even existed (having forgotten how the story ended her character seemed entirely superfluous and mostly I’d written her off as the character who would probably die right before the final battle – I know now why that wouldn’t have worked but possibly the story should have done a bit more with her earlier). Anyway, Kisara’s role is completely ill-defined and as a result she’s either absent for extended periods early on (to the point where you forget who se is) or she’s shifting into whichever anime trope they’d currently like her to portray.
Basically, she’s Rentarou’s boss. Though other than one scene early on where she’s telling him off and another later on where she essentially orders him to let her work underneath him (that makes sense) you almost always forget that she ‘runs’ the company. Mostly because the company makes no sense. Why do civil servants need a private company when essentially they get hired more or less directly by the leader of the city anyway? Cut out of the middle man, or lady, so to speak and nothing would have changed.
And it is this absence of any meaningful role that hurts Kisara. As the story goes on you learn that she feel indebted to Rentarou because when her parents died he was horribly injured… tragic back story, childhood promises, angsty teens, got it.
At one point the story sends an assassin after her, because why not? I’m guessing technically they did that because Rentarou was protecting the target but why not send the assassin after the actually civil servant rather than the civil servant’s boss? For a few moments, Kisara gets to show off her cool sword skills that we’ve seen her practice but never use and then somehow, right before Rentarou shows up, she gets to fall and become helpless. Then, a few moments later, she gets to ‘save’ Rentarou before collapsing into his arms all frail and helpless again. Pick a side already. Are you strong and fiery or are you the damsel?
Another point in the series has both Kisara and Rentarou begin teaching at an open air school for the cursed children. They all fall in love for Rentarou (another issue with the show I’m going to get back to later) but Kisara mostly just stands at the front and occasionally interjects a comment. Her presence there would have been completely unmissed if they’d just not drawn her. When the school and all the students are blown up, Rentarou is the one who walks in on the police doing the clean up because Kisara slept in. Rentarou is the one who identifies the bodies and mourns at the hospital before having to deal with Enju (his partner and also a cursed child) as she discovers what has happened and mourns. All Kisara does is wait for him to come back. She taught at the school too, so why doesn’t she get any of these moments?
By the time we get to the end, there’s so many other things happening that Kisara becomes a point that you just kind of toss to the side, which is kind of a mistake given where they take her character in the final episode. If Kisara had been introduced in episode 8 or 9 (as a lot of other characters were) and had taken that character arc to episode 13, it could have been brilliant. From trained fighter but inexperienced in actual combat and starting out with a new partner under someone uncertain of his own command, heart burning with revenge for a previous wrong that was linked to the current wrong, to the character who coldly executes her revenge without another thought and clearly understands that she’s drawn a line between herself and Rentarou, it is an excellent character arc. But you don’t get to enjoy that arc because of all the other rubbish that this character has been put through prior to them using her for anything of value.
As I said before that extended ramble, it kind of exemplifies everything I loved and found problematic with this show in one character. Black Bullet has some truly heart wrenching moments and some really interesting moral conundrums to throw at the characters and the audience. It has moments of poignancy that just hit home hard. The final scene with Enju and Rentarou on the train where Rentarou finally lets everything that has happened over the past few days hit him and he breaks down weeping, head buried in Enju’s lap, is the perfect final note for these two characters after everything they’ve gone through. When the show plays the drama and emotion of the scene it gets it right and it does this enough throughout the series that you can’t just dismiss this as frivolous. Yet, it can’t commit to those moments either.
Rentarou could have been a truly interesting protagonist but he is plagued by the every single cursed child falling in love with him syndrome and self-aware harem and pervert jokes being thrown at him by all of the older women in his life (boss, patron, doctor who saved his life and now… hangs around). The relationship Rentarou is forging throughout the series with Enju is touching and heartwarming but when he plays the same big brother character to Tina and the blind girl and everyone else and they just sign up for the ‘I love Rentarou’ club it kind of buries some of the better Enju and Rentarou moments.
Enju’s insistence that Rentarou is going to marry her isn’t as irritating as it might be in other shows where an overpowered little sister character makes such a declaration. In this, it is heart breaking. You know Enju doesn’t have the time and any dreams she has of growing up are just that, dreams. They will never be fulfilled so Rentarou has no need to puncture that ideal of hers, but you can see it twists a knife into his heart every time she says it.
There’s a moment fairly early in the series where Enju has been to the doctor and they’ve checked her ‘corrosion’ level. Essentially once it hits 50% Enju is going to be killed because otherwise she’s going to turn into a Gastrea. Rentarou lies to her and tells Enju her level is somewhere in the 20’s when in fact she’s in the 40’s. Enju’s time is really close. That’s dramatic and you can see the look on Rentarou’s face as he lies and then in case you didn’t get it, he looks deliberately at the charm she gave him which was meant to break if he didn’t tell the truth and he’s removed it prior to speaking to her. It’s a great moment. That never, ever gets revisited. Enju’s corrosion level never comes up again in the entire series.
One final issue I had with this before I get on with recommending why you should watch this show anyway despite the fact that I did just spoil most of it, and that is Takuto. I get that in all of these types of stories there’s that one idiot who is out for his own agenda and has it in for the ‘hero’ to the point where he’ll do something stupid. But there’s a time and a place for stupidity. This guy takes it to a new extreme and what really bothers me about this is he doesn’t do it alone. A whole group of soldiers help him sabotage the only line of defence the city has in that final battle. What were they thinking? Even if someone successfully argued that Takuto was just mental, what about the others who contributed to this scheme? If the line falls, all of you are going to die. Did that not somehow sink in? Anyway, Takuto gets the award for an act that is just too stupid for words and that is in a series where one of the earlier antagonists ends up just joining in the final battle because, why not.
So, yes, Black Bullet has its issues (not the least of which is a title that keeps making me type Black Butler and then having to correct). There’s a ridiculous harem set up, there’s overly cutesy moments thrown in to what is otherwise a fairly grim tale, there’s boob grabs, and totally unnecessary rivalries, and there’s some obviously stupid decision making along the way. Countering all of that though are some truly touching moments, some scenes that know exactly what they are doing, a lot of moral gray areas for our characters to walk, and fight sequences that are pretty good. There’s also a lot of violence and gushy purple/blue liquid usually stained by blood.
There’s no problem when a show tries to mix drama and comedy. Many shows manage to successfully add levity to fairly heavy plots in order to not depress the audience entirely. The issue with this show is it never finds the right balance and you are never quite sure if this was ever supposed to be a serious drama (though the ending kind of leaves no room for doubt that this situation was dark and the cost of survival is high). But that means that for a lot of the run time you are switching between cute girls doing cute things, cute girls killing things, two teenagers out for revenge/justice/money, a whole bunch of other characters with similarly ill-defined motives, and then some monster bug things thrown in just to stir things up. All and all, it is just a little bit messy.
For my second watch I had a lot of fun with this though I honestly don’t see me going for a third watch. Providing of course I remember it this time.
Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.
Well, that is apparently the end of the first volume or season or whatever they want to call it and it ended about as well as could be expected. Two truly horrible people, made so by their upbringing and the society they lived in, found each other and now the second one has definitely had a taste for killing.
The surprising choice of this chapter was that most of it was spent on a flash back of Yoon Bum in highschool and a girl who once befriended him. Turns out Yoon Bum was pretty weird even back then due to his uncle and he mistook overtures of friendship for something more to be rudely pushed aside before being fully discarded once the girl’s personal situation improved. Apparently Sangwoo was not the first person Yoon Bum had become obsessed with.
Essentially the point of the flash back, other than once again giving us plenty of reason to understand why Yoon Bum is Yoon Bum, is to draw an absolute parallel between the girl chained in the basement and the girl who cruelly used and then ditched Yoon Bum way back when. The flash back is even triggered after the girl delivers this insult:
“You dirty, perverted parasite.”
And then she tells Yoon Bum to just die. Her words echo the words of the girl from high school.
After we see the flash back it is obvious Yoon Bum has snapped. Not that he had much of a grip on his sanity prior to this, but it has definitely left the building as Yoon Bum sees the current girl as the girl from high school and he screams at her that she’s the one that should just die. And… Yoon Bum has a knife in his hand. It isn’t pretty what happens next but the one positive is at least for the girl it is over pretty quick. Unlike Sangwoo, Yoon Bum isn’t up for playing with his victim, he just wants to make the voices in his head go away.
The chapter ends with Sangwoo congratulating Yoon Bum on the kill and asking him how he feels. Not surprised at all that Yoon Bum says he can’t feel anything.
This has been an experience. At the moment this is the end so I’ll start thinking about whether I’m picking up something else to read and review or whether I’ll just stick to anime for a while. I’m still not sure if I will continue reading this once more is released, honestly, I’m kind of happy with this as an end point for the pair. It is kind of sweet in the way that they’ve drawn together against the world, even if I suddenly feel very alarmed for everyone Sangwoo knows.
I was inspired to write this list after watching My Hero Academia episode 22 on the weekend and then seeing this tweet:
It got me thinking about all the female characters in shonen anime and how usually they get sidelined or end up in support roles (healer, archer, etc). So I started thinking about my favourite female characters in these shows who defy the odds and actual get to be a front line fighter (even if only in the lead ups to final battles where the male protagonist of course steals back the show – it is shonen afterall). My other criteria for a spot on the list was I actually had to like them as a character. Just being a crazy fighter didn’t quite cut it if I couldn’t stand them whenever they were on screen.
Anyway, this is my list and I’d love for you to tell me who you would have included on yours.
Please Note – There will be spoilers below.
Honourable Mentions: Mikasa from Attack on Titan and Morgiana from Magi.
Number 5: Lenalee from D Gray Man
I really wondered about Lenalee and whether to include her or not. Mikasa was looking fairly tempting given she’s undeniably a better fighter, but Lenalee wins in terms of mostly having an actual personality other than save Eren. So what makes Lenalee awesome? During the early half of D Gray Man, she’s a very active fighter. She shows Allan the ropes of being part of the order and she holds her own in some pretty horrific fights. The first battle Lenalee and Allan have against Road Camelot takes a massive toll on both Lenalee and Allan but Lenalee is in that fight all the way. The second half of the original 103 episodes Lenalee gets a couple of exceedingly cool moments with a fight that literally destroys her innocence and ends up encasing her in crystal. She’s pretty much out of active combat at that point until we get to the final battle of that particular run of episodes where Lenalee’s innocence evolves and she gets a brand new power up just in time to help Allan win the fight. Admittedly though, you are just as often going to see Lenalee serving various characters cups of tea.
Number 4: Rukia from Bleach
Rukia is another strong female character that suffers from having her power broken/stolen/whatever in order to allow the male character a chance to actual grow and catch up. It would be lovely if we could just a female character strong and not need to be crippled for a good chunk of the plot for narrative convenience but apparently that is asking for a little too much (back to Mikasa, she hasn’t been crippled physically but emotionally she’s pretty stunted). Anyway, Rukia doesn’t get to show us how amazing she is for pretty much the entire first three seasons given Ichigo takes her power at the end of episode 1. Still, if you make it past that point, when Rukia comes back into the show you see the very capable shinigami that she is and her sword definitely does have one of the prettiest attacks in the show, if freezing your enemies solid can be considered pretty. What I really like about Rukia is her versatility. She uses her sword but she also uses a range of other attacks and thinks through her fights.
Number 3: Uraraka from My Hero Academia
Okay, one tournament fight does not make her an awesome fighter but seriously, Uraraka has been hanging in there right from the beginning. Despite a pretty timid personality she has stepped up to every challenge so far. She’s also a nice person. We’ve recently learned how fierce her desire to be a hero is and yet she still tried to give away her spot to Midoriya after the entrance exam. That’s a pretty impressive move for someone who is desperate to succeed. However, nice or not, hanging in there through every challenge including villains attacking the school, none of that is the reason for her place on the list. That one tournament fight is enough to show us that this girl is deadly serious about becoming a hero one day. She may not be there yet but her tenacity, skill, and focus were amazing and this girl really needs more attention on her.
Number 2: Akari from Hitsugi no Chaika
This one might be a weird choice and I will admit her weird brother focus does kind of make her a weird character at times, but Akari is fantastic. As a saboteur she’s got a fair range of skills at her disposal. I know most of the focus is on Toru, but Akari is in pretty much every fight and the majority of them wouldn’t have succeeded without her presence given the two siblings plan and one acts as bait or a distraction while the other usually either sets up the trap or pulls off whatever goal they are currently working towards. Also, there are two occasions where Akari turns on Toru (once for fun and once after brain washing). Both times, Akari pushes Toru hard. If you think Akari is just there for comic relief or rival love interest, think again. She’s a cold fighter and you better not be her opponent.
Number 1: Maka from Soul Eater
Okay, this was a given from the get go. Maka is not only an awesome fighter, hard worker, and academic, she’s also one of the few girls on the list who doesn’t lose her powers midway through a series and gets to be the main character and doesn’t lose out to the main guy in the show. Admittedly, she does go a little mad during one of the story arcs, but crazy Maka is kind of fun too (and a significantly stronger fighter due to a lack of care for personal safety). Actually, Soul Eater gets a double hit here because I’d love to also add Tsuabaki (Black Star’s weapon) to the list. She doesn’t get the spot light much but when she does, she really shines (plus she deserves a medal for putting up with Black Star).
So that’s my list this week with my top 5 girls in shonen anime (okay, technically 6). I’d love to know who would have been on your list and which girls stand out to you.
It’s always a bad sign for a series when I’m googling the episode count by the end of the episode. Basically I’m wondering whether this is close enough to done that I should just see it through or whether I should let it go. The concept was always interesting enough and earlier episodes (not episode 1) kind of felt like they were moving forward. However, the last two episodes have just kind of felt like we’re traipsing through the worst clichés of the stuck in the video game/chosen hero genres and they aren’t being done particularly well.
In all seriousness, this episode is entirely pointless. The bad guys we met previously are now robbing random players, Suigin is researching Grave Buster (which seems to have a fairly complex history considering it was meant to be a new launch game), and for some reason the bad guy who is holding Riku Rei calls to introduce himself. That last part is still baffling me as to why.
I really enjoyed this episode and then I got to the end and realised that these four characters literally sat in the trees and shouted at each other for pretty much the entire run time and in the process, other than realising that Reiner really had lost his grip on reality, almost nothing was learned about what was going on or why. Then I realised pretty much all my enjoyment this episode came from either characters telling Eren what I’ve really wanted to tell Eren for some time:
Or from Ymir and Eren’s reactions to figuring that Reiner really was just a little bit off:
By the end of the episode the scouts are riding toward the forest and Ymir has decided to throw in with Reiner rather than Eren (though I’m guessing that’s only while it’s in her best interest) and we are done. I did still enjoy this episode but really pretty much nothing happens.
When I finished watching episode 22 I kind of had to take a minute just to sit and process. That doesn’t happen often as usually I get to the end of an episode and either flick to what’s next on my watch list or just start jotting notes about the episode. With the exception of ACCA and Kado which both have a similar effect due to having to try to piece things together with the plot, the last action anime that gave me an episode that had me so still at the end was Assassination Classroom after THAT episode. It took me a fair while to get over that.
What this means is, I’m not touching this episode in 100 words. So let’s get into it.
A few spoilers below if you haven’t watched the episode.
Episode 22 is very creatively titled Bakugo vs Uraraka. Then again, My Hero Academia isn’t exactly known for imaginative episode titles, nor does it need to be, and at the very least it can’t be accused of false advertising. What we got this episode was Bakugo vs Uraraka. This shouldn’t have been an exciting episode. The victor was almost absolutely guaranteed because of character arcs and plot necessity if not just common sense about which one had the more combat ready quirk. And yet, I think a lot of us went into the episode expecting some sort of showing from Uraraka which meant we couldn’t just dismiss the very smallest chance that she might actually win (or at the very least land a hit). Yeah, people who read the manga probably missed out on some of that pre-episode anticipation which would definitely change how they related to the pacing and delivery of this fight but that’s true of any anime or movie where you’ve read the source material compared to someone watching it blind.
I’m going to be honest, the fact that Bakugo even remembered Uraraka’s quirk kind of surprised me. Given he’s been shown to be totally negligent in paying any attention to his classmates I was thrown for a moment and then I realised why he would know her quirk. She’s spent the entire first season and most of this one hanging around Midoriya. Given after the fight, Bakugo confronts Midoriya about him being the one planning Uraraka’s strategy (something Midoriya is quick to correct) it seems like that is the reason Bakugo knows anything about her. I like that character consistency for Bakugo. If he’d just suddenly pulled some random information about a classmate out of thin air when he doesn’t even remember most of their names it would have really broken the plausibility of his personality. I also liked that even though he remembers what she looks like and her quirk, he doesn’t remember her name, or at least he doesn’t acknowledge it at the start of the fight.
And then Uraraka pulled off a nice opening move. It didn’t land her a blow but it was an impressive feint against an overwhelmingly strong opponent and part of me kind of thought, ‘oh, she tried but now it’s over’. I expected the fight to end fairly abruptly after this point, Uraraka to feel sad and Iida and Midoriya to cheer her up before we moved in to the next round of the tournament. This is where this episode when from being interesting enough with a good character moment for Bakugo to highly impressive. It’s no secret I do not like tournament arcs and battles that seem to have no point given there is no real consequence of losing. Yet both of these characters have so much desire to win for reasons beyond just wanting to be the very best. My Hero Academia does a very good job this week of making you want both these characters to not lose this fight and yet you don’t really want either to win either.
What that means is you are an emotional mess as you watch what is a fairly visually interesting fight play out. The combat itself isn’t spectacular. There are better fight sequences out there. Its the combination of decent enough visuals and pacing with those very complicated emotions of wanting to cheer for a character and just enough clever twists to keep things from getting too predictable even while they aren’t exactly pulling the rug out from under you and turning this into a case of ‘look what secret move I was hiding’.
At this moment I kind of despised this section of the audience. Even though I didn’t know what the actual twist was, it was obvious that Bakugo wasn’t playing with Uraraka. He was genuinely trying to beat her within the limitations of the tournament because he couldn’t just blow her away without risking seriously harming her which would get him removed from the tournament. The blasts he was using were intended to knock her out of bounds and she was just really persistent. I felt that the audience were devaluing Uraraka’s fairly heroic efforts. Describing her as a poor girl was so belittling to how hard she’d been fighting. As an added bonus, it belittled Bakugo as well for assuming he wasn’t giving his all to the fight. Fortunately, Eraserhead put them in their place really quickly and then I realised how well this episode had manipulated me. I was supposed to despise them and it was supposed to make me feel that both students were getting the raw end of this. Emotional manipulation like this usually makes me roll my eyes but in this case I just got swept away with it. And, this idea came back after the fight giving Bakugo yet another very cool moment in this episode when another character mentioned they couldn’t have gone all out against a frail girl.
I couldn’t believe it. Actual character development for Bakugo. He actually acknowledged another student in the class besides Midoriya. I’d love for this tournament to be over right now because I would love to see if in future classes if Bakugo actually does start paying more attention to some of his class mates. That would be an amazing outcome for him and might even lead to the development of a personality besides explosively angry all the time.
Right, so I just smashed the thousand words on a single episode of a shonen tournament fight so I’m going to wrap this up by pointing out that Todoroki’s father, Endeavor, is definitely a new candidate for the anime father of the year awards. This guy deserves his own post, and an on call therapist, but I’m wrapping up my episode review there by saying this episode was awesome, go watch it if you haven’t.