Anime Review - Black★Rock Shooter

Black★Rock Shooter has one of the strangest origin stories in anime history. Back in December 2007, artist Ryohei "Huke" Fuke posted an image of the eponymous character to his blog and art community Pixiv. This character in turn was the inspiration for a song of the same name by J-Pop group Supercell, who used the Hatsune Miku Vocaloid synthesiser to supply all of the vocals. From their, Supercell and "Huke" collaborated to release a film clip for the song on video sharing site Nico Nico Douga. From this point, BRS found itself portrayed in a single episode OVA, a number of manga releases, as an iPhone game and finally an 8 episode anime series.

With such a convoluted origin, it is downright surprising that BRS works as well as it does. 
"Mato Kuroi just got into junior high school, and on the first day, someone catches her eye; her classmate Yomi Takanashi. The two meet...

The innocent and naive Mato. The mature Yomi. Seemingly opposites, but the time they spend together only strengthens a growing friendship. As they go into their second year at the school, they get placed in separate classes they begin to grow apart.

Somewhere simultaneously... In another world, a young fire residing in her eyes.

Black Rock Shooter faces another young girl; this one holding a jet-black scythe, Dead Master, and a battle to the death begins to unfold."

Upon entering the world of Black★Rock Shooter it is impossible to avoid comparison to last years smash hit series Puella Magi Madoka Magica although with a few twists. Both are stories about young schoolgirls who enter a strange, visually rich realm to battle dark forces but this is where the comparisons end. BRS is a tale in two halves. The first half takes place in the real world, a world that is instantly recognisable as school time Japan. Those who have been to Japan or at very least those who are anime fans will get a kick out of the backgrounds and locations used. Overall, the animation quality throughout is well above average. 

All of the "real world" scenes were animated by Ordet and, unlike Madoka Magica, these scenes manage to be vibrant and lively even in the face of the crazy frenzy that is the fantasy realm. These action sequences in the fantasy realm are animated by Studio Sanzigen and are, without a doubt, the highlight of the entire series. Using a specialised tool, Sanzigen have managed to perfect the art of creating CG animation that looks like it is hand drawn. These action sequences are fast, frenetic, vibrant and extremely exciting. Sadly, however, the animation is about as good as this series gets.

The storyline starts off promising, a tale of a girl who seemingly exists in the real world and a fantasy realm where she battles the inner demons of those around her. Eventually, the series draws ever closer to the eighth and final episode with no real in-depth exploration of the overall theme and not a great deal of character progression. Overall, BRS feels as though it is a glorified music video, a series that never truly progressed past its origins as just that, a music video. 

Thankfully, the music itself is a winner. Ryo, songwriter for Supercell takes the helm on music duties and provides another highlight of the series. Considering that Supercell started off as a dojin group, Ryo has shown that he is capable of being a fantastic modern day anime soundtrack composer. 

Black★Rock Shooter is a pretty series, to be sure, although it never quite achieves the level of greatness that it teases in each and every episode. Although somewhat unremarkable, BRS is an astoundingly pretty series with a cracking soundtrack, just don't expect a memorable story.

Black★Rock Shooter is available on DVD from Siren Visual now!


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