Title: Black Bullet
Genre: Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Summary: A near future, where humans have been defeated by the viral parasites named Gastrea. They have been exiled into a small territory and live in despair, side-by-side in terror. In this world trapped in darkness— Rentaro, a boy living near Tokyo and member of the “Civil Security”—an organization specializing in fighting against the Gastrea—is used to accomplishing dangerous tasks. His partner is Enju, a precocious young girl. They fight thanks to their peculiar powers until one day, when they receive a special assignment from the government. This top secret mission is to prevent the destruction of Tokyo.
Review: Generally speaking the idea of mindless, alien monsters threating humanity is kind of overdone for me. However, I decided to give Black Bullet a try because it had one of the better first episodes of the season. As each week passed I started to get more and more into it. The characters seemed to be something new, and the story wasn’t half bad considering the premise. I was happy with the fact it tried to push more to the political side of the issue than a mindless post-apocalyptic society. However, my enjoyment didn’t last too long as things started to get convoluted with random bad guys appearing left and right. It seemed like everyone was out to get Rentaro except for his band of girls in his harem. Black Bullet suffered from what a lot of light novel adaptations contract, too much plot and not enough time.
The best thing about the series was the animation. The number of gifs I saw formed from Black Bullet didn’t do the action scenes justice. Whether it be human vs. Gastrea, Cursed Children vs. Gastrea, or human vs. human the action scenes were something that kept your heart pumping. The quick angle switches and flying dust made you feel the wind blowing past your face after Enju’s powerful kicks. The detail facial expressions when a character was in pain or enraged were spot on. The first time I watched an infected human transforming into a Gastrea my eyes glued to the TV screen. Fluid body movements and various character designs made each character unique. Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the art work, and one of the biggest reasons I continued to watch the series.
The story, on the other hand, had an identity crisis chalk full of unanswered subplots and poor character development. Let’s begin by breaking down the general idea of character development posed by Black Bullet. The series starts off with an overhanging shadow that humanity is on the brink of extinction and the only things protecting one of the final beacons of hope are these tall, black pillars; pillars with the power to create an invisible force-field that can hold off these devastating monsters. As it continues you meet the eccentric Unju, emotional cannon Rentaro, and questionable love interest Kisara. Sprinkled between the main characters are the various cursed children, corrupt civil security employees, unknown bad guy, and racist citizens. While the series tries to instill upon the viewers that these cursed children are in fact victims who should be protected and cared for, it does so in one of the worst ways. Whether they are being manipulated, ridiculed, or beaten all of them seemed to follow the same path of the broken puppy. The things that make character develop are the nearly infinite paths each character can take in the same situation. Instead every character was set down one path and stuck with it till the bitter end. Why was it none of the cursed children turned their back to society? Why would all of them heed the call to protect the ones that cast them aside? It could have made a much stronger impact had each character been given their own unique take on life. To make up for this fact the series decided to force emotional scenes and try to pull the audience into a state of despair. At first I’m sure many people thought, “Oh how tragic” or “dark” the series had become between the comedic banter and sexual tension. However, given time you began to realize that you never truly cared about anyone because they were all cookie cutter character models. Black Bullet decided to force the audience to think in one way and show only one view point creating a clear cut hero and villain. Then again, with the number of subplots it might have been a good idea to push one agenda or else the entire series might have been a hot mess.
Subplots are things that should be dabbled upon lightly to enhance the main story or explain the motivation behind characters’ actions. Black Bullet decided to take them, throw them in the air, and only complete the ones they landed in their hands. Of course the series was based off a light novel which more than likely took the time to explain each point in detail (don’t quote me on that since I have never touched the light novels, it’s an assumption), so you can understand where they were coming from. Instead of picking apart the books and focusing on the issues at hand it tried to do all of it in short bursts. The plans would be laid out for one plot and half way through a new one would appear before the first one ended. Instead of mixing the two together the series simply let one fall to the back burner. Even the ending left something to be desired after the initial shock factor of all the events that went down. It begs the question, should there be a second season if the series couldn’t even complete the first? Personally I feel like Black Bullet is a series that could get better given more time if they are finished laying the foundation for all future plot points.
The soundtrack of Black Bullet was probably one of my favorites of the season. The opening song was performed by the talented fripSide, whom many people are a fan of. To me, however, it was the ending, “Tokohana” by Nagi Yanagi that really brought this anime home for me. The lyrics didn’t seem to make much sense at the beginning, but the final moments really tied everything together. It was a perfect match the describe the relationship between Rentaro and Enju. A couple of the songs were centered around hyping up the audience for the next battle, but I felt many of them were meant for a more melancholy situation. One that stood out among them was “Dream Alterna” by Sagisu Shirou. I’ve caught myself a couple times settings it on a loop and just laying back to listen. The other’s weren’t bad, but nothing I’d personally listen to in my spare time.
Final statements: Many of you may be wondering why I’m giving Black Bullet a low priority watch despite all the negative things I said about the story and characters. It came down to when I finally broke up each subplot into its many pieces and realized that the series really does have a chance of becoming something great. It was also the final episode that gave me a spark of hope as you watch one person consumed by revenge and another finally breaking down, falling to their knees from the weight of the world on their shoulders. I honestly think that Black Bullet has something within itself, even if the anime was only a motivation for people to pick up the light novel or manga.