39 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Black Rock Shooter episode 1

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.

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  1. Posted February 3, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Watching this for Black Gold Saw (and ukatO, err, noitaminA). Just take a look at her character design: http://www.zerochan.net/full/895210
    I’m perfectly fine with her.

  2. Posted February 3, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I came into this show without much interest for/against the aesthetic (also no OVAs seen). While it looks nice, it’s completely unnecessary and boring. It’s either people in cool poses a la Fate/Zero or mutilation only avoided by diamond skin. Mix in some macaroons and that’s all. When those segments were on I wished it would go back to the real world, because there are at least characters who talk and interact with each other, even if that was not the greatest stuff either. It kind of felt like a shitty version Madoka with no in-universe connection between real world and magic space.

    Also woo jazz woo awesome trailer with awesome drumming woo yaoi vibes woo scamp is totally not gay woo I am totally not trolling woo!

  3. Posted February 3, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Take heart Noitamina fan. The night is darkest just before dawn. Two favorite sons of anime will return to pull Noitamina from this Dark Age into a new Renaissance. I can only believe.

    • Scamp
      Posted February 3, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      My faith has been battered by Fractale, Ano Hana, Guilty Crown and now this. I’m not sure it can last much longer. I’m not sure if I can hold on to see that light at the end of the tunnel

  4. Moomba
    Posted February 3, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    I’m curious as to whether this series will tell us what the connection between the two worlds is. It’d be interesting to know whether it’s an actual world, or if it’s just a reflection of the emotional struggles of the characters etc

    Either is fine, but I’d kind of like to see some sort of actual connections.

    Really looking forward to Sakamichi no Apollon. Hopefully will be awesome. It helps that I’m a music guy and love jazz.

  5. Posted February 3, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    There is no way that Apol­lon will live up to the ridiculous hype it already got. APOLLON, THE SECOND COMING OF COWBOY BEBOP! APOLLON, THE RETURN OF THE OLD SCHOOL!

    • Scamp
      Posted February 3, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

      If people just calmed down and accepted that it’s a josei story rather than THE NEXT BEBOP OMG then they’ll be happy

      • Posted February 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, but likely they won’t, and then comes the hype backlash, and there will be memes about how disappointing it is.

    • Posted February 4, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

      …There’s 8 volumes worth of material and they only start an actual band around 5 or 6, I think. People will be disappointed if they were expecting Cowboy Bebop all right.

      • Scamp
        Posted February 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        Aw man, I hope we don’t get another shitty josei Noitamina ending like Kuragehime

  6. 3242
    Posted February 3, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    This show so far seems to really point out how strong teenage girl’s feelings are, and why they should be fear–..ohwait

    BRS has unlimited supply of blooood! ..and inability to be injured!

    They don’t go to an all girls school anymore!
    HOORAH! Positive change not pointed out! (I watched the ova 3 times before realizing though…… …)

    I personally, enjoyed the ova, …I spent all my time overreading things.

    ” 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. ”
    No, Scamp, BRS =/= Miku,
    common misconception amongst the masses,
    but this does not make it true. *patpat*

    • Scamp
      Posted February 3, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

      The BRS design was seen as many as a dark and edgy Miku, that’s why it was popular. Didn’t supercell specifically ask huke to make the hair longer so it looked more like Miku for their music video? Do not mistake me for some uneducated philistine in all matters BRS

      • Kiseki
        Posted February 4, 2012 at 3:07 am | Permalink

        I kinda just like it for huke’s art. ‘~’ But you have a point.

        Clarification: supercell = ryo + visual artists + guest vocalists. I have no idea whether it was ryo’s request or huke’s idea, but just saying, huke IS a member of supercell so it would be correct to say ryo instead of supercell. Yeah.

        Well, this doesn’t look like it’s worth watching.

      • 3242
        Posted February 4, 2012 at 4:23 am | Permalink

        Sorry, bit of a habit, as I can not stand even the possibillity of somebody in front of me getting their facts wrong and such ><;
        From what I know, BRS's hair was shorter before the song, like, realword counterpart sort of, but I only saw that on one site so I am not sure +_+

      • Chipp12
        Posted February 4, 2012 at 4:55 am | Permalink

        It was huke’s idea first and then ryo’s song second… oh well, just read all here:

  7. Posted February 3, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    As you write, this episode suffered from the exact same issues that the OVA did, yet I enjoyed it a lot more (I had been quite harsh on the OVA when it had come out). I think it’s the difference in expectations between a standalone OVA and the 1st episode of a series. The cute girls doing cute things segments were indeed pretty bad, but at least they have 7 more episodes to make SOMETHING out of it. Maybe actually make a coherent connection between the 2 worlds? What can I say, I’m an optimist.

    And the combat looked much better in this. Like you, I’m liking what they’re doing with the mixing of CG and traditional for those scenes. I don’t know if it’s the future of anime, but it’s something new and it looks pretty, and we need companies to try out-there stuff like this.

    • Scamp
      Posted February 3, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      BRS is probably the first time I’ve seen full on CG characters actually look good, outside of probably the Precure dance sequences, and they hardly count. On that sense, it’s quite the achievement. TBH, I’ll probably keep watching it just for that, maybe start fast-forwarding the s’life segments

  8. diz1776
    Posted February 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Is it really that hard to distinguish what’s a metaphor these days?

  9. gw_kimmy
    Posted February 3, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    holy shit, that trailer looks glorious.

    • Scamp
      Posted February 3, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

      DRUM SOLO!!!

  10. Posted February 4, 2012 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    I doubt they could devote any more time to the alternate reality due to budgetary reasons.

    Herein lies the main difference btw the mediums of anime and manga: only one limits creative decisions for monetary reasons.

    That said BRS rocks — as long u fastforward the boring shit.

    • Scamp
      Posted February 4, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      I’d be cool with BRS just walking around a lot, ala Casshern Sins

  11. luffyluffy
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    Ahh BRS

    I was supposed to watch you today but I got bogged down with liveblogging and sudden story requests.

    I have relatively low standards (I enjoyed Blood-C and Dantalian) so this should be fine.

  12. Someone Else
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    The subconscious thingy reminded me of the Suckerpunch film but that movie is totally mindfuck and I didn’t bother trying to figure out what was going on

    But in BRS somehow it’s kind of obvious (I may be wrong though) which I kind of like it since it lets you understand what is going on much easily and not end up into metaphor wtf like Penguindrum

    • Posted February 4, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

      The metaphor-fights in BRS are obvious because they’re just repeating the real life scenes we see. There’s no point to them other than to try and sucker the audience back into caring with a bunch of flash. There’s no substance to the fights because the preceding scenes already robbed them of it.

      Although Penguindrum certainly got self-indulgent, at least ts surreal scenes gave us new information and almost always served some purpose.

      • Someone Else
        Posted February 4, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

        I guess you’re right about the metaphor fights being obvious, well I prefer it that way because I’m trying to recover from Penguindrum after thinking so hard what’s going on then just blasted the ending with more metaphors and no actual solid explanation

  13. Paola
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I just find this page and so I decided to read everything in here. Honestly, I am agree with everybody. BUT, we have to accept the true that the popularity of BRS series gather is because of vocaloid’s fame. Note: I do not like vocaloid (they sing as robots, and personally I dont really like it, but I respect other people points of view.

    Anyway, I have to say that personally I liked more the fights of the original ova, more than this ones on the series of 8 charapters. Why? Because I see the re-design of the characters (the ones who fight) and they are totally different. The first design was really more discreet, more “silent”, more minimalistic without missing the point: you’re a demon, you’re a soilder, you’re a devil paladin like. Now is more like: we have re-designed all the characters, but now making them more “loli”, with large dresses, and making black rock shooter with a strange uniform with a lot of white lines. Its like: the original design of BRS were more significant: black coat + star = You’re a soilder of this apocalyptic world. Now: you’re captain america form this apocalypthic loli-world.

    I dont know what you think?

    About the “real word” both in ova and series, I honestly didn’t put attention to that. I saw BRS ova because of the apocalypthic world, no the “real word”. Also I have to say that in the series “the real world” Mato Kuroi seems to be “fall in love” with her friend. Honestly, I respect every people’s feelings but, damn. That wasnt the idea in the original ova. Now appers to be something like: fan service item for men. And us the girls what? Why always a cool character has to end to be like that?, again, I respect all the people’s orientation, but it seems to be a rule that: You’re a girl, You’re cool, Now lets make this anime yuri icon like. And, I do not like it.

    My veredict: I prefer the ova’s original fights, character design (of the fightning world) and the normal friendship relationship between Mato Kuroi and Yomi Takanishi. The new series: lets see it for fun, but it never be as good as the original ova.

    Thats my opinion. Thanks a lot for reading me :)
    Have a nice day everyone :)

    • Someone Else
      Posted February 4, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      I laugh at yuri, hell strawberry panic was a fun ride yet was too boring to finish. Honestly I don’t understand how girls friend group interact at all, all I know is that girls does not need to be conservative of their emotions and that’s why they seem to be a yuri couple. Men are stucked to “I am manly” culture and “real men do not cry”, remove those two mentioned and we get something similar to yuri (yaoi)

      But yeah in the end, the characters here are mere stereotypes so you shouldn’t read too much to how they interact, this is the most common mistake of authors, they try to make characters too perfect or attracting for the audience that they become too fictional or something of fantasy

      Also I don’t see anything wrong with the character designs >.> I guess it’s a matter of preference. But I like the fight scenes of either OVA or the new one

      And hey! I like Miku, well not all of her songs but a select few are really good! I could recommend you some and I’m sure you’ll have a change of heart lol and well, I didn’t really get hyped up with BRS, just happens that it’s mentioned everywhere that it’s hard not to be curious

  14. cifer16
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Is it just me or did parts of this episode of BRS seem more scary than the 4 episodes of Another. There was some really disturbing and spooky scenes in there.

    Or am I the only one? =P

    • Adrian
      Posted February 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      I would say that anything is scarier than being assassinated by an umbrella. It would be actually quite funny if I saw a person dying in this pathetic way on the street.

    • Someone Else
      Posted February 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Spooky? Well I guess my opinion is similar to this guy

  15. Erif
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, didn’t have any high hopes for this crap.

  16. Posted February 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree, the scenes taking place in BRS’ world is far more interesting than anything else going on in the ‘real’ world. It would’ve been more interesting to see that world take up those 23 minutes (provided the characters actually talk).

  17. sams
    Posted February 5, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I just watched and it seems to me like this Anime is ”Sucker Punch” done by a Japanese dude :/

    The High School chitchat is boring and the BRS/Twilight have no bearing on the story … so cool graphics FTW ?

  18. Goresome
    Posted February 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Look, Scamp knows when to stop search for deepest ever possible meanings in the anime…
    Wait, wut?

    • Scamp
      Posted February 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      Anime is serious business

      • sams
        Posted February 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think light hearted fun is excluded from anime, or otherwise it become too restricted :/

  19. Posted February 5, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Black Rock Shooter isn’t about a cool girl swinging guns around killing giant robot scorpion dolls with added highschool melodrama! It’s about highschool melodrama with an added cool girl swinging guns around killing giant robot scorpion dolls!

    Maybe that’s why you don’t like it? :P

    • sams
      Posted February 6, 2012 at 12:19 am | Permalink

      Somebody ought to be fired … so you can take his job. :P

      People were bitching about Sucker Punch being a ”borefest action movie”, but at least there the action was more frequent and solid, BRS give you more drama and people are still unhappy. :lol:

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