With my mind recuperated from the beating it took from the excessive intake of sugar and caffeine substituting for much needed sleep, I felt it was time to celebrate by watching something somewhat popular that I could review. However, there were three criteria that had to be met:
- It had to be something short, about a six episode series at max.
- It had to have colorful and interesting visuals. Hey, even I occasionally need something bright and shiny to keep my attention.
- It had to be tolerable to watch. I may usually have fun tearing apart bad series, but I needed my attention kept.
Seeing as I hadn’t seen it before, I settled for Black Rock Shooter, an OAV based on a song of the same name in turn based on a song of the same name, which has been met with almost universal feelings of “Yeah, it’s pretty good. Could be better.” So were the general anime watching public right with this? Are they correct in saying that it’s worth the watch, but has too many flaws to be declared a classic? I can comfortably say, without a doubt, that they’re mostly right. You could go your life without watching Black Rock Shooter, and not feel worse off for it. All it did was give several sites a derivative, albeit somewhat interesting mascot and a strange unfulfilled feeling.
But hey, you know how things work here. This isn’t the time to go on about where it went wrong without telling what the hell it was even about.
Black Rock Shooter is a 50 minute OAV that follows two separate, yet somehow connected storylines. One follows Mato Kuroi and a new student Yomi Takanashi and their friendship as it grows, stagnates, and ultimately crumbles with Yomi’s disappearance. It starts off rather saccharine, but ends on a somber, unfinished note. It’s a well done, if predictable story that practically screams “Sequel Hook!” It could’ve stood to be fleshed out a bit more, but I guess that’s what the inevitable sequel is for.
Simultaneously, there’s a barely related subplot involving a mysterious girl who bears a striking resemblance to Mato, the eponymous Black Rock Shooter. From what I’ve seen she mostly shoots blue fireballs, but these are just semantics. It’s good eye candy, but it has little substance or bearing on the plot.
First, before I go in depth on its problems, I’ll concede that it’s gorgeous. OAV quality through and through. And if you’re in for a visual treat instead of an intellectual one, it’d be hard to do much better. With that said, Black Rock Shooter has many flaws, the biggest being that it doesn’t elaborate on what needs to be explained. Why is there a conflict going on in this other world? Is it Mato’s subconscious, fighting against her conflicting feelings over her failing friendship with Yomi? If so, why did Yomi disappear in the first place? Does the conflict in the secondary world have any impact on the world that Mato and Yomi inhabit? Maybe there’s something elsewhere that explains it, but I’ve just checked out the OAV so I wouldn’t know. Even then, you shouldn’t be forced to check out any other material to have an idea what’s going on.
There’s also the plot thread that ran throughout the episode. From what I can tell, especially from that large time skip in the first half, there was too much to cram into 45 minutes. And I can totally understand that they did as much as they could’ve to accommodate their vision. However, even just a spot of conversation at the end between Mato and her supposed Black Rock Shooter self that’d round things up with even something along the lines of “Your princess is in another castle” would’ve made it more satisfying.
On an odd note, I found a few similarities between this and a few things in Madoka Magica. This may have been done before, but I could see how this was one of the many sources of inspiration for Madoka. The fights are fluid, the stakes are apparently high, and there’s impact in the real world stemming from fights in the other. Past that the similarities aren’t numerous, but they’re there, both in some of the art styles of the environs and one of the many plots in Madoka. However, while one resolved everything on a good note, the other left a lot of questions unanswered.
So to conclude, Black Rock Shooter is a good piece of eye candy. If you’re looking for nothing else, this is what you’ve been waiting for. If you’re in the market for a compelling, well done plot that’s intrinsic enough to not require a sequel, this isn’t it.