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.