It’s been so long since the original announcement that Black Rock Shooter would be a Noitanimoba title that my original displeasure of its placement here has long since receded. The fact that the premise of the show was so flimsy that they could only stretch it to 8 episodes ended up working in its favour because that meant we got the surprisingly charming Thermae Romae to fill the gap. Plus Noitamina will save anime next season with friggen Bebop director Yokko Kanno jazz band all up in this shit, so suddenly I’m in a much better mood. So hey, Black Rock Shooter, let’s see what you got.
Much like the OVA back in the day, the interesting part of the anime is the alternate world setting, looking like some sort of post-apocalyptic bathroom with girls in black string bikinis getting into beautifully choreographed fight sequences. They’ve gone for some weird meld of CGI characters with standard anime backgrounds, and I rather like the look. Because they keep the CGI to only these alternate world sequences, it doesn’t feel weird when the two sides don’t look the same. The weird disconnect between this alternate world and the real world is still as vague as ever, but I don’t mind that. I kinda like the idea that you have a subconscious that fights in a black string bikini and has no voice. I think they could be a bit more subtle with how they connect the imagery instead of having the creature quite literally throw macaroons at Black Rock Shooter’s face, but whatever.
Another thing that really struck me in this episode was how truly great the character design for Black Rock Shooter is. Considering this entire franchise spawned from a single character design in the first place, that shouldn’t be too surprising, but there’s something so inherently cool about Black Rock Shooter. My theory the reason the whole thing is popular in the first place is because it’s a Dark and Edgy interpretation of Hatsune Miku. Simple as that.
Unfortunately, much like the OVA, only 20% of the airtime focuses on the Black Rock Shooter world. The rest focuses on a bunch of girls being insufferably nice to each other. Whoop de freaking doop. To be fair, the characters here are infinitely more tolerable than those in the OVA because they appear to have a bit of life to their interactions. Plus the conflict introduced is something with a bit more weight to it. It’s a bit of a strange move to include a character that is basically autistic, and I can’t say it’s handled particularly well or with much grace, but it’s at least an interesting set up as far as interactions go.
However, being ‘better than the OVA’ by no means implies that this is good. The melodrama is forced to the point of being unintentionally funny. The way the main character breaks down after being fed too many macaroons was ridiculous. Similarly, the overly dramatic way she paired back up with her friend, complete with insert song blasting out over her good-natured genki attitude was eyeroll inducing. Then there was that stupid pretentious opening narration about the sky and clouds and colours that felt like it came out of Daily Lives of Highschool Boys, except played totally straight.
It seems like there’s a serious disconnect between what the creators want to make and what people actually care about. Anyone who gives even the remotest crap about Black Rock Shooter does so because of the aesthetic. That is quite literally all there is to it. A cool character design and some neat concept art. Trying to drag in this awfully melodramatic teenage girl story feels like we’re obligated to sit through these segments of tedium before we can get to The Good Stuff. Even as a framing device for the other worldly segments, these scenes drag on way too long. Use your BRS world segments to tell what the emotional upheaval the characters are going through. Showing the characters go through emotional upheaval in the real world eliminates the entire point of the BRS world. Well, eliminates it from a story-telling perspective that is. I like the concept, but the post-apocalyptic bathroom should be the focus on the show, not these boring teenage girls.