So, Black Rock Shooter. It definitely raised some eyebrows when it
was first announced as a Noitamina series. Sure, by that time we were
already done with Fractale and all, but considering that the OVA was a
boring teenaged angst-fest it didn’t exactly have the best papers in a
timeslot that set itself apart through its focus on an older audience.
There were hints that the creators were willing to experiment, though:
it only had 8 episodes, preventing it from dragging on and allowing
Thermae Romae to fill its slot in the meantime, Mari Okada was appointed
as the head writer and the action would be directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi
(you know, the director of Gurren Lagann and Panty and Stocking). As an
arthouse project, it could have had some serious potential with this.
Now, if you haven’t watched the OVA though, there are a few things
you should know about this. Black Rock Shooter started as a software
program Vocaloid which allows people to make their own songs, which
spawned an illustration, which spawned a song. This song spawned an OVA,
after which a TV-series followed. It’s an interesting example of
virality out there. In any case though, the illustration indeed looked
very stylish and a good writer could do some great things with that. For
some reason however, the creators of the OVA shoehorned a bunch of
teenaged girls into the story who took up most of the airtime, reducing
the titular “Black Rock Shooter” to just someone who “fights stuff”. It
wasn’t that good. It was up to the creators of the anime to try better.
Well, they succeeded in that, but there are a lot of bumps along the way
Unfortunately, in the end the TV-series of Black Rock Shooter also
ends up focusing on teenaged angst. Thankfully where in the OVA this was
really boring, they did try a lot of things to spice up this angst.
Some things worked, others tried way too hard, and at others they just
didn’t try enough. Especially the first half is a chore to sit through
due to all of the hugely overblown angst that passes the screen. In
particular the character of Yomi gets really annoying in how incredibly
emo she gets, but there are more characters in this show who force
themselves way too hard to create drama, and this undermines the rest of
Thankfully in the second half this series redeems itself, and it
actually starts developing its characters and setting. Along with the
revelations, the characters are much better balanced together, and it
does come down to a pretty decent, albeit sappy, conclusion. Yes, it
actually avoided the biggest pitfall of Noitamina series of not being
able to end well. In the end it does create an interesting link between
the two parallel worlds so things do come together. I personally found
the first half of this show a chore to sit through, but I liked the
direction it took in the second half quite a bit.
Also, the action in this series is really sweet. We definitely were
in for a treat in the animation department this past winter-season:
Nisemonogatari, Milky Holmes 2 and Black Rock Shooter: these three
series looked past their conventional animation, and really tried to do
interesting stuff with their visuals and their visual direction. The
action sequences in this series are really intense and well directed.
Most of it is done in 3D CG, so that takes a while to get used to
(because they don’t blend in too well at times), but it’s a sacrifice
that was worth it, because otherwise the creators would never have been
able to put as much movement in this series as now. The soundtrack
complements it all well. I’d almost say: go and watch this as a
multimedia experience. This is really a show where the visuals are as
important as the story and characters. The emo is a bit annoying at
times, but overall, it could have done a lot worse. It’s not the
disaster that Fractale or Guilty Crown were, in any case.