Bubuki Buranki is the 10th anniversary series for SANZIGEN, which isn’t necessarily a studio most of us immediately think of as elite. But there was something in the promo material for this original sci-fi series that caught my eye. We knew next to nothing about the premise and there’s nothing remarkable about the staff – you’d have to call it a gut feeling more than a considered opinion, but I was quite looking forward to this show.
The premiere was, as most are, a mixed bag. But I liked Bubuku Buranki on the whole. There’s a lot of CGI here, but on balance it’s some of the better you’ll see in TV anime – especially when it comes to character animation, which is normally a disaster. It’s not here – you notice when the switch to 3D takes place, but it’s not jarring and the body and facial movements aren’t wooden or artificial. The backgrounds are really lovely (that shone through in the promos) and the music soars and dips in an old-school anime sort of way. It’s a nice mix, and in terms of tone and mood it really works.
Story-wise, it’s a bit of a confuzzlment. The first ep is a bit of a mess, and one which we’re dropped right into the middle of. It starts out with a pair of six-year old twins, the classic timid boy and annoyingly brash girl combo, living in a fairy-tale setting with their loving parents (the dad is played by Koyama Rikiya). There was a bit of an Iron Giant/Nausicaa vibe here, and indeed there are giant mecha (or giant somethings) involved. They’re called Buranki, and the twins’ mother is seemingly a Buranki whisperer, controlling them without “waking them up”, but doing so seems to be killing her. Eventually the girl twin does something stupid and the parents are forced to send the children away while she stays behind the try and fix things.
Cut to Earth – Shinjuku to be precise – ten years later. There’s no indication of what’s happened to either parent or the sister, but the boy Azuma (Kobayashi Yuusuke) is now a 16 year-old who’s just returned to Earth, only to be arrested by the “Bubunki police” who are after the “heart” he supposedly carries. He’s rescued by a girl with a mini-Bubunki, who seems to be part of a Bubunki-wielding menagerie of freedom-fighting kids, and chased down by the supporters of the woman who seems to be running the show, and blaming Azuma’s mother for a tragedy on Earth on the day we last saw Azuma’s family.
There’s not a lot of sense to be made of all this yet, and whether there ever is will I suppose tell the tale of whether Bubunki Buranki can make the leap from a pretty throwaway to something genuinely compelling. I like the world-building and the visuals (and music) but it’s too early to say if the characters and plot are up to the challenge of a 24-episode run. But this premiere was certainly more interesting than most, and I’m interested enough by a comfortable margin to give it a while to prove it’s worth sticking with.