Black Rock Shooter – 02

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It took me a little while to decide BRS isn’t for me, but BRS isn’t for me.

I think we’ve seen an interesting evolution in the way anime’s obsession with teenaged girls (and even preteens) has manifested over the last few years.  While for quite a while it was simply enough to show them being cute doing everyday things – and we still have our fair share of shows that do that – there’s been a growing trend to almost literally elevate them to messianic status.  In short, anime is fixated on the noble suffering of adolescent females.  In a  funny way it both glorifies and exploits girls in the process, but there seems to be an endless appetite for this of late.  The central tenet of most of these series seems to be that these adolescent girls (middle-school is the ideal age, though high school is acceptable) have a nobility and depth of feeling that no one else in the universe has, so it makes great entertainment to torture them, preferably in fantasy or sci-fi situations.

I’m not saying this trend is better or worse than any other anime trend, simply that it exists – and anime is a medium that’s compulsively driven by trends.  And as is the case with any trend, some shows execute this far better than others.  Puella Magi Madoka Magica is an obvious example of a show that takes this idea very seriously and for the most part excels at executing it (mostly thanks to the subtlety of Urobuchi Gen’s writing).  The colossal success of “Madoka” didn’t create this wave but it certainly intensified it, and not all of the shows trying to ride it have the skilled creative team to pull it off.  Of the current crop, a show like Rinne no Lagrange succeeds because it doesn’t obsess over the suffering, but takes an optimistic worldview and presents it in a pleasing, uncomplicated way. Senki Zesshou Symphogear succeeds because the honesty of the emotion comes through, and while the execution is clumsy it’s utterly unpretentious.

For me, Black Rock Shooter is trying to create this same quasi-religious glorification of female suffering, but doesn’t have the chops to pull it off.  In watching it I can’t shake the feeling that it’s something very calculated and commercial trying to pass itself off as profound – as if certain variables were plugged into a sophisticated computer program with the intent of spitting out a franchise.  The melodrama is turned up too high, the symbolism is too obvious, and the emotions of the characters just don’t ring true – at least for me.  I don’t like being pushed and prodded this hard to feel what I’m supposed to feel, when I’m supposed to feel it.  I think the interplay of the two worlds is supposed to feel subtle, but it comes off as forced and artificial.  It doesn’t help either that the production values feel very average, and the character designs don’t really pop.  I felt after the premiere that I might prefer this to the OVA, mostly thanks to Imaishi’s influence on the art, but I think I’ve changed my mind – the OVA had an appealing simplicity to the look than I prefer to anything I’ve seen here so far.

I know this show is going to be popular, and that’s fine – anime is a business, and there’s nothing offensive about it.  I don’t see a meaningful contribution to the genre here myself, because I think this has been done better on several occasions.  I’m not going to rip on BRS for being exploitative, because it’s no more so than any of the other shows that blazed a trail for it.  I’m not sure how I feel about the genre itself and what it says about anime.  Is idealizing and deifying little girls any better than the treatment they used to get in most anime – or just different?  Rather than sexualizing or worshiping the Platonic ideal of the teenaged girl, I wish there were more series than simply portrayed them realistically – just as I wish there were more series that did that for boys, rather than painting them as either meek and witless plain yogurts or oversexed morons.  Perhaps those shows will always be the exception rather than the rule, but it can’t hurt to hope things will get better.

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[WhyNot] Black Rock Shooter - 02 [003F1B39].mkv_snapshot_16.57_[2012.02.09_17.36.49] [WhyNot] Black Rock Shooter - 02 [003F1B39].mkv_snapshot_17.26_[2012.02.09_18.10.03] [WhyNot] Black Rock Shooter - 02 [003F1B39].mkv_snapshot_20.48_[2012.02.09_18.10.28]


  1. F

    On the other hand, its definitely my kind of show.

    Its certainly got its issues, and I would place it behind Symphogear, Mouretsu and Lagrange, but what it lacks in elegance it makes up for in sheer batshit insanity.

    Kitamura Eri ate every single bit of scenery in this episode, chewed it up, and spit it back out.

  2. A

    Hmm … that's an interesting take on it Enzo. To be honest I would not have thought of it (and honestly still do not think of it) quite like that, but I can see a it the angle where you are coming from. Hmm.

    For me this is a fantasy take based on the idea of 2 parallel universes interacting – the outright interaction only comes to be shown at the end of the OVA – and the tv series is the same, just with different subject material in the tv series even though there are similar characters in both. Ultimately the story seems to be about how people who are emotionally and sometimes even a little mentally scarred, begin to confront the damage and/or hurting begin to heal and mature. The conflict in the parallel universe mirrors the pain and struggle working up to and involved in the confrontation of and (ideally) acts of resolve to begin the process of healing.

    The thing that brings an element of uncertainty to it all is the occasional outright, surreal interaction between the parallel worlds – such as that which happens at the end of the OVA and which MAY have happened at the end of ep 2. And the fact that they use young women as the subject material seems to me to be no different that most anime these days; but I agree that the sexualized or Platonic friendship thing can get old and would also like more "human" depictions – but this goes for men or women.

    But to be honest I am kinda glad it is only 8 eps. I don't know if I could "take" the premise and even story for even a full 12/13 eps.

    – Flower

  3. A

    So would you be blogging this till its end?

  4. No, I'm done with it unless something radically changes I'm afraid. First NoitaminA series I haven't blogged since I started LiA.

  5. I

    I dropped it at this episode as well. I just find the show boring, because there seems to be some sort of normal teenage girl angst being set up like the a random battle in some parallel universe and that seemed quite stupid.

    If the characters did become there alter egos and find it would be interesting, but teenage girl angst is something that has been done to dead and then buried in the center of the earth and drawing symbolic references from some random battle is not really an interesting hook.

    I agree with Enzo that shows like Thermae Romae are what make Noitamina unique, not BRS, so slight prejudice there. But if there exists a niche it must be exploited huh.

  6. L

    Well Enzo, the pendulum's been swinging towards both extremes – cute girls doing cute things, then cute girls suffering – and it'll eventually settle in the middle. Maybe you'll get your wish of realistic portrayals of boys and girls, or maybe it's just too hard to manifest realism in characters when the genre is fantasy and action.

    But it seems the more outrageous a series is, the harder it is to create compelling, realistic characters. Are you saying you want to see more realism injected into fantasy or more realistic people in realistic situations? The former could be something infinitely exciting, but the latter would be your typical drama.

  7. Lux, I see no problem writing realistic characters in fantasy or sci-fi situations – that's been my favorite kind of fiction since I was about six years old. I'd love more realistic characters period – whatever the premise.

  8. F

    While thats a perfectly reasonable point of view (and I don't, in theory, disagree with it), anime has always been about exaggeration and larger than life. Sure there are plenty of exceptions (and quite a few of those exceptions have been in the noitaminA block), but they are just that, exceptions.

    Also, Yomi and Kagari's situation is, sadly, not nearly as "exaggerated" as we might want to believe. People, even kids, can and do treat each other this way. The nature of this series, and the presence of the Other World, amps things up a bit, but the core situation isn't particularly out there.

    And, quite frankly, "realism" doesn't sell. And thats what matters, no?

  9. The characters were a helluva lot more realistic in Madoka, and that sold pretty well.

  10. F

    I don't believe I ever said that BRS was anywhere near as well written as Madoka.

    And there is still a whole heck of a lot of daylight in the realism continuum between Madoka and, oh lets say Hourou Musuko.

  11. d

    OOP: who is this Caldiatech?

  12. LOL, long story and not very interesting…

  13. S

    The OVA didn't do much for me and I'm not even a fan of vocaloids. But wow, I'm really like what I'm seeing over here. It's sadistically awesome and man, Kagari is such a psycho! It's too bad you won't be blogging BRS anymore but hey, don't waste precious time on a show that you're not enjoying. The horror known as Blood-C taught me that 😉

  14. t

    Wonder what would happen if Tatsuyuki Nagai were directing.Okada's writing can get seriously melodramatic and can be a sort of ticking timebomb that needs to be handled with care or else everything will blow up.I'm not sure the staff handling the real world scenes are up to the task.

    Will keep watching for the action scenes which I enjoy though,as well as Kagari who I find entertaining.And the melodrama is enjoyable for all the wrong reasons.

  15. S

    Like Enzo, I had some problems with this episode.
    First of all, the story feels too rushed. We are only at the 2nd episode and the conflict between Mato and Kagari seems already resolved, with Yomi finally standing up to the blonde b*tch.
    It can't be this easy, right? What exactly happened to Kagari in the end? Did she snap or did she come back to her senses?
    One last question, who is Black God Saw in the real world? The only named character without a correspondent in the magic world is the school councelor, but she seems such a nice lady… meh.

  16. F

    She's such a nice lately who blithely brushed off being told that a student had a heart shaped scar carved into her chest, indicating that she's either being abused, or cutting herself, either of which is something that she should have reacted a lot stronger to.

    As for Yomi and Kagari, something happened in that room, and whatever it was, it is associated with what Saw did in the Other World. Afterwards both Kagari and Yomi demonstrated vastly altered personalities.

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