First Impressions – Black Bullet

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I know it’s “Fool me one shame on you, feel me twice shame on me” – but what is it for “Fool me a hundred times”?

There are many times when I find myself asking, “Why exactly do we need another Dengeki LN adaptation?”  And I always go into the next one thinking I might find the answer, and almost always end up asking the same question I was at the beginning.  For every Hataraku Maou-sama there are seeming endless, well…  Others.  Black Bullet is actually better than most of them, but that really isn’t saying a whole lot.

In spite of my better instincts I had some hopes that Black Bullet would be the exception.  It isn’t just that the source is a Dengeki LN that should have warned me off but the synopsis too, but there was also the fact that Black Bullet is a BONES series – via their sister studio Kinema Citrus – and that it shares a writer and director with Monster.  Kojima Masayuki has done other fine directorial work too, but the last couple of years haven’t been his best.  The signals were conflicted, that’s for sure – but Black Bullet ended up being just about what you would have expected just from the description.

To be sure, this is a nicely produced series.  There’s way more CGI than you usually get from BONES, but it’s nicely integrated.  The character designs and backgrounds are pretty and distinctive.  But it’s yet another post-apocalypse story where the children with superpowers are conveniently all moeblob little girls, and even features a loli character who isn’t technically a brocon imouto but may as well be.  It’s not as if this is a niche that needs filling, so you damn well better be exceptional if you’re going to try and carve yourself a place – and I didn’t find anything exceptional about this premiere.

The setting is something around 2030, when Earth has been decimated by a viral parasite called the Gastrea which seems to turn its host into a giant bug.  The hero is Satomi Rentarou (Kaji Yuuki), a survivor/orphan who’s now a civil office known as a “Promoter” who works with an “Initiator”, one of the Cursed Children who was born with the Gastrea virus but can control it and thus has, you know, superpowers.  Satomi’s initiator is Aihara Enju (Hidaka Rina) a grade-schooler (I assume they all are) who constantly tries to get into the 18-ish Rentarou’s pants because it’s a light novel.  She’s currently in the running (I would say leading) for most annoying character of the year, and every moment she’s on-screen is torture.  Much better are the scenes with Rentarou’s boss Tendo Kisara (Horie Yui), the daughter of his adoptive family and the one Rentarou has feelings for.  There’s also a sexy professor (Kaida Yuko) and a masked supervillain intent on destroying humanity played by Koyama Rikiya (surely, the fabric of the universe screams when he and Kaji do a scene together).

Black Bullet is certainly watchable when Enju isn’t on-screen, but – in addition to the fact that she and her fellow loli squad figure to be dominant figures – even when she’s absent it’s still fairly mediocre.  The exposition is clumsy and forced and while the dialogue is trying to be snappy and smart, it mostly ends up just sounding pretentious the way LN dialogue often does when it tries to sound snappy and smart.  It’s a pretty show, and Kisara and Rentarou have a certain chemistry together, but beyond that I can’t really find much to recommend in Black Bullet.  Considering the studio and talent involved, that’s a real disappointment.

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  1. M

    Is the answer to the question… "You'll never get out of the infinite loop."

  2. D

    I can't believe I had expectations for this show. Hell, even Mahouka was better.

  3. M

    "it shares a writer and director with Monster."

    Monster was a pitch perfect adaptation of a pitch perfect manga (as widely claimed), so I don't see how that information is useful in recommending this BB adaptation anyway…unless you already love the LN.

    Monster was done immaculately, to the director's credit, but it seems he's only as great as the material he has on hand to work with. A travesty then that it wasn't more of Urasawa's stuff. Maybe he got sick of doing it?

    Anyone here who hasn't seen Monster really should give it a go. It's more real than real.

  4. m

    Hm. Is it really so bad?

    You know… what's happening here feels a little bit like watching a James Bond movie and then chastising the show for being really unrealistic and sexist. I can understand and respect if someone REALLY REALLY HATES a character like Enju, but hey: That's what stories of this kind often are.

    For what it's worth, I found Enju's antics fairly amusing, I really like Kisara and I have no problem to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy what's being shown. Since I know a bit of the show, I have no problem cutting Enju a bit of slack, because what the story is going to unleash on her is going to be _really_ cruel.

    So, as a slightly dissenting feedback, I don't think that this is a masterpiece in the making, but people with acquired niche taste may still quite enjoy it.

  5. I'm pretty comfortable with my original assessment – when Enju isn't on screen it's tolerably decent, if wholly unexceptional. I find her unwatchable; others may feel differently.

  6. m

    I agree she's pretty tough to deal with. Just the concept of an elementary school kid knowing that stuff is super creepy, especially since enju is the same age as my oldest niece, and I can assure anyone who didn't actually realize it, that kids that age don't know about those things or talk like that. When you ask a 5th grade girl about a boy, she blushes and yells at you to shut up. Unless you're referring to inner city middle school kids who have sex with 24 year olds (this happened at the school my sister is a guidance counselor at) and I can assure you that is also not remotely close to cute like anime might make you think. That whole idea is just foul on like every level imaginable. When Enju kissed the MC that was when they lost me. I can live with a lolli or young kid being IN a show as a main char, but not when you try to sexualize them bc that takes a special level of closing off reality to not be bothered by that. If you even think of what a 10yr old really is when you watch it your gonna get sick to your stomach, and I guess I just can't shut out reality enough to get into this kind of stuff.
    Outside of her, yeah, the story is pretty typical and doesn't seem to bring anything new to the table. But I don't think it necessarily needs to. It's like action movies, 99.99% are nothing new or special, but they're almost always fun to watch.

  7. h

    that one didnt fool me from the the get to go :p

  8. B

    "If you do not want to die, survive". That's some great dialogue right there…

  9. m

    Hahahaha I forgot about that. Brilliant life advice.

  10. G

    I don't consider Kinema Citrus to be Bones. They pretty much went their separate ways after Tokyo Magnitude 0.8. There is simply no Bones pedigree involved here and it shows. The fact of the matter is Kinema Citrus hasn't produced anything worth mentioning after 0.8. Enzo's optimism is very misguided I'm afraid.

  11. G

    oops..I meant 8.0 (Don't know why in my mind it's always

  12. Actually they've "officially" worked together as recently as Noragami, and there's still a lot of crossover with individual staff.

  13. G

    Hmm…they've done in-between works for Bones (only Noragami actually), but so has other studios. On that point, P.A Works has a closer relationship with Bones than Kinema Citrus. They've literally worked on every Bones' show (not too surprising, they are also closely associated with I.G).
    As for individual staff, I checked Black Bullet, definitely no Bones input there (at least the core staff).
    Most anime staff freelance so crossover is pretty much a given, but if we are talk about associations, Kinema Citrus has strayed pretty far from Bones in recent years. It's a shame really because they started with such good footing.

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