Black Bullet Irredeemably Ruins An Otherwise Good Premise

Black Bullet Irredeemably Ruins An Otherwise Good Premise

Back at the start of the spring season, as I wrote short summaries about all the season's then upcoming anime, post-apocalyptic tale Black Bullet was one of the anime I was most looking forward to. However, less than two episodes in I could already see that it was failing to live up to its interesting premise.

Good — An Intriguing Enough Concept

Black Bullet Irredeemably Ruins An Otherwise Good Premise

The world of Black Bullet, while hardly original, makes for an excellent starting point for any number of stories. The remnants of humanity live behind a wall of monoliths — thus protected from the virus-created monsters that have taken over the world. However, as the monsters occasionally find their way into the city, agents from private companies are tasked with hunting down these creatures.

The agents come in pairs: a normal human and a superpowered young girl, exposed to the monster-creating virus in utero. But competition among the hunters is fierce; and a twisted realm of secrets and politics confront our heroes — Rentaro, his partner Anju, and their company's teenage president Kizara — at every turn.

Mixed — Tries to Be Too Many Things

Black Bullet Irredeemably Ruins An Otherwise Good Premise

Over the course of its 13-episode run, Black Bullet is a lot of things: an action show, a comedy, a teen romance, a fighting anime, a social commentary, and a post-apocalyptic adventure among other things. However, by trying to be so many different things at once, it rarely gives enough time to any one aspect for it to be truly successful. Moreover, as the type of narrative changes, so does the tone. Sometimes it is light and comedic while at other times it is dark and brooding — and it can switch from one to the other seemingly at the author's whim. This makes the anime as a whole feel completely disjointed.

That said, when taken individually, some of the scenes are quite effective — namely those scenes revolving around the darker aspects of the personal stories of the main cast. Kizara's past and drive for revenge, Anji's problems with discrimination, and Rentaro's internal struggle between good and evil all make for some engrossing viewing. Unfortunately, when placed next to "loli-harem" fluff and mindless action, much of the series' potential gravitas is dissipated into the ether.

Mixed — Loli-Harem: The Anime

Black Bullet Irredeemably Ruins An Otherwise Good Premise

From the start of the show, Anju makes no secret that she is completely in love with Rentaro — despite her being an elementary schooler and him high school age. Over the course of the series, however, Anju is far from the only superpowered little girl to fall in love with Rentaro.

At one point, a good half-a-dozen announce their intentions to marry him. The anime even goes so far as to have a character joke that Rentaro is gathering an underage girl (know in anime circles as "loli" from the word "lolita") harem. But just because the show goes out of its way to mock its own loli-harem aspects doesn't make the show any less of a loli-harem.

Bad — In the Footsteps of Giants

Black Bullet Irredeemably Ruins An Otherwise Good Premise

Another problem facing Black Bullet is how unoriginal it feels. This is mainly because it shares major plot or setting pieces with some of the most famous anime/manga in recent memory.

Tell me if you've heard this one before: The remnants of humanity live behind a towering wall that keeps them protected from the monsters outside. But when a special type of monster breaches the wall, it's up to humanity's elite to try and push the monsters back.

Or how about this one? A boy with a robotic arm and a robotic leg struggles with his own dark past as he and his physically stronger yet younger sidekick fight to save the innocent.

In other words, as I watched Black Bullet, I couldn't help but be reminded of Attack on Titan and Fullmetal Alchemist. And while somehow playing with or twisting the well-known stories could have made for an interesting watch, Black Bullet does neither. It simply retreads the path carved by these anime giants.

Bad — Unsuspendable Disbelief

Black Bullet Irredeemably Ruins An Otherwise Good Premise

The most glaring flaw about Black Bullet is that much of its plot and setting fall completely apart if thought about even a little.

Black Bullet tries to make a world where these superpowered little girls are shunned by society in general and are forced to live as orphans in the ruins near the edge of the city — except for the few that are chosen as agents in the monster-hunting companies. However, as these girls are the only effective weapon humanity has against the monsters, this shatters suspension of disbelief. It's like saying that a country decides it doesn't like guns and — despite those guns being the only thing keeping their country from being invaded — they then pile all those guns on the border of their country where literally anyone can take them. Moreover, the idea that there is not one person pragmatic enough to gather up the orphans and train an army of superpowered girls is equally laughable.

Shocking moments have their logical flaws as well. At one point, Rentaro and Anju come across a superpowered girl who blinded herself by pouring hot lead into her eyes — which, while sad, begs the question. Where did she get that much lead? How did she get the tools to melt it and how — being an uneducated orphan — did she even know how to melt lead?

Then there are the monoliths surrounding the city. Made of a special metal, they repel the monsters.

[Skip to the next section to avoid spoilers.]

However, at one point in the story, the lower part of one of these is covered in acid and collapses — so the monsters flood in. But let me ask you, what's the difference between the metal being made into a tall tower or nearly the same amount of metal (minus that which was corroded away) simply being a pile on the ground? The repelling power of the metal wouldn't change (though perhaps the flying monsters could now go over it). Yet the anime would have us believe that falling over seems to rob the metal of all its power completely.

But for me, the biggest problem of the anime revolved around the climax of its first arc. Summoned to the city, one of the seven giant, city-destroying monsters that are highly resistant to the monolith's metal invades the city. To kill it, Rentaro shoots his special metal arm out of a giant rail gun built outside the city (though why they build their superweapon out where it's impossible to properly guard it is a looming inconstancy all on its own). After this, Rentaro unilaterally destroys the rail gun.

Let me state this again: He destroys the only known weapon capable of killing the seven supermonsters. While his concern is a valid one — i.e., how will the weapon be used after the monsters are gone — he is still putting the cart before the horse and committing treason against all of humanity. Basically, every death from one of the seven supermonsters from that point on — and the acid-making monster that took down the aforementioned monolith — is simply Rentaro's fault. His punishment? None. He may have well doomed all of humanity and the most he gets is a verbal scolding. Hell, his next job is playing bodyguard to the president.

Final Thoughts

Black Bullet Irredeemably Ruins An Otherwise Good Premise

When it comes down to it, Black Bullet is a pretty terrible anime on any level except for perhaps the most superficial. While it started off with some potentially good ideas, the series is so inconsistent in setting, tone, themes, and plot that it feels schizophrenic at best — and the rare scenes that truly do work are not worth slogging through all of the rest of the anime to get to. In the end, I simply would not recommend Black Bullet to anyone. It's a mess of an anime.

Black Bullet aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be watched for free and with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.


Comments

    The trick with anime is not to think about it to much. I quite enjoyed it, but I'm truly sick of not getting full closure on a story.

    "In the end, I simply would not recommend Black Bullet to anyone. It’s a mess of an anime."

    A bit like this review? I honestly love this series, it's a good no brainer and has a few tear jerker moments that are separated by enough to not make it a super depressing anime, the characters (albeit names are not memorable) have nice designs and pretty decent personalities.

    This review drew on the whole leg/arm similarity with FMA. Sorry but they did a pretty good job explaining why he, and a few others, have said characteristics involving the Veranium materials.

    If you want a short seasoned anime that's got a good chunk of action, some tear moments and even some funnies in it then give it a go. Don't listen to reviews that (although mostly informed) fall under the personal opinion category (no offence to the reviewer, but quoting again, "In the end, I simply would not recommend Black Bullet to anyone. It’s a mess of an anime." is not a review, that's an opinion. Review would be "This is good, this is bad, you decide in the end")

      I enjoyed the series a fair bit as well. It's not without its flaws, but the issues he points out are minor things really, plus it's not like the show is inconsistent with its own rules or anything. And anime that falls apart if you start questioning core parts of the premise is nothing new, there are heaps of examples of very well-regarded shows that will unravel themselves if you pick at the stitching a bit.

      I felt like the review was fair. Good ideas, terrible writing, plot all over the place. If anything its more of a dissapointment than many totally shit anime, because it could have been good.

      It's like someone had a great idea, but didnt spend enough time working out how it should all pan out. This is often the place with anime though, esp if based on a manga with the artist/writer being the same person.

      Will be forgotten soon enough.

      Last edited 30/07/14 10:07 pm

      I don't think I've ever read a good review that didn't express an opinion.

      It may not always have been an opinion that I agreed with, but as long as it told me *why* the reviewer thought something was good or bad with reasonable clarity, I saw it as a "good" review.

      If you want to see what genuinely objective reviews are and how profoundly useless they tend to be, have a look at http://www.objectivegamereviews.com. A review that refuses to express an opinion is a copout, if for no other reason than that it leaves me unaware of how the reviewer's opinion might have affected their evaluation of the subject's component parts.

      I have bought things on the strength of unfavourable reviews, because the writer of the review has expressed the basis of their opinion well enough that I know I probably disagree with them.

      I read this as mostly a good review because while I don't agree with all the author's points, there's enough detail there to tell me whether I might find it interesting. Some of the things he's down on I don't really care about. (Attack on Titan was not the first anime based around a walled refuge - heck, the Final Fantasy Spirits Within movie did that - and FMA was not the first anime with a cyborg protagonist. So his attack on originality is a bit silly.)

    For me, black bullet combines the following anime of both sides of the pacific ocean (japan & usa): fullmetal alchemist, attack on titan, controversially generator rex (Va trarengbe erk, nggnpx ba gvgna & ZNTVPN ZNQBXN, gur zbafgref jrer bevtvanyyl uhzna ohg nygrerq va fbzrjnl gb orpbzr zbafgref, fhccbfrq jneevbef gb svtug fnvq zbafgref gura orpbzr gurz, guhf gur yvsrplpyr bs zbafgre uhagre orpbzvat gur zbafgre uhagrq ortvaf) & why the f not, magica madoka & claymore, as they will become the thing in my spoiler brackets above, thanks eisenbeis, thanks for the 2nd time in a row that you reviewed an anime that has comparisons to magica madoka, I mean its almost as if, before I continue my rant, you must drink from the n00b cup for NOT mentioning the influence of magica madoka & claymore, continuing rant, its almost as if the makers of this anime had a lucking dip on what influenced this anime, I mean the discrimination of these girls is becauseif these girls can't handle the power, they tranform into monsters, which is the plot of both magica madoka & frikking claymore, *hangs head in shame for having to BRING UP ANOTHER FUCKING INFLUENCE* & subject to unknown amount of post metroid fusion fanfics about samus' Tenqhny genafsbezngvba vagb n uhznabvq zrgebvq, you know what, when is there going to be an influence free anime, as again I recall another influence for this anime, the anodites from ben 10, whom reproduce via std, much like how these girls gain their powers, both of whom are very powerful, ie anodites COULD POTENIALLY USE A SPIRIT BOMB LIKE ATTACK, because they are made of mana, again this anime is influenced by a lot of media, please makers of black bullet do another season free of other media influences, plz

    For some reason I feel relieved. I didn't like this anime as well, even though my friends did. Personally I am getting tired of this harem business.

      There's only one anime I've seen manage to skillfully subvert that harem trope and it was Boku Ha Tomodachi Ga Sukunai. And even then, only for one brief, outstanding moment in one episode, where...
      legit spoilers: the protagonist acknowledges that no-one in the world could be that dense, that he is fully aware of the feelings of all the girls, and that he's playing dumb because he's afraid that making a decision about one of them would ruin things with all of them and he just wants to enjoy their friendship, and could people please just stop pushing him on the matter for a little bit.

      Despite it being common as muck these days, very few anime ever actually do harem well at all. Generally they go nowhere and most of the interactions are by the numbers cliches with no real thought or purpose behind them. Mostly it seems like the choice to go for a harem style story is because the writer wants to pander to as many people as possible and can't actually write characters very well so they fill their story with shallow characters with no real depth beyond the archetype cliches they adhere to. It makes for some pretty frustrating viewing because sometimes you see can see genuinely cool ideas under all the boring cliches,

        Please it means each cheap stereotype gets their own 'background' episode. Yay filler!

    I honestly don't agree very much with this review.
    I think that the 3 mini-arcs work well, with so many other series not doing much with their plots in the same length of time (*cough*CoffinPrincess*cough*).
    Plus I think the loli harem was pretty much disgusting.
    My full review, as always, here: http://andthegeekshall.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/its-the-lolis-of-the-apocalypse-anime-critique-black-bullet/

    i have to admit most of you points are right but i still enjoyed it. also you got a part wrong, the part with the cursed child who had lead over her eyes, it was her mother who did it to her, you not noticing this large and see-able detail which has about 1 minute of memorable footage is strange and leads me to think you had already been told that it was not a good anime so you paid less attention to detail. which you must not do if you wish to write good reviews i also wonder why you believed it yourself as it wouldn't make a difference if she covered her eyes or not, they still would have worked it it was a cursed child, also melting lead is very easy as you could melt the right amount of lead to cover the eyes within 10-20 minutes on a hob at its highest setting. you also say that by using that cannon that has pretty much doomed the human race, one he had a good reason to, if he had not the whole of Tokyo would have been destroyed, you also missed the bit about some was going to use the cannon to threaten other countries, it also mentions the more cannons like it can be built. but i also agree that many of your other point were valid, but there were also some unnecessarily nit picky points, which i believe were not needed.
    lol
    a review of a review of black bullet.
    ladies and gentlemen.
    thank you.
    *tips top hat, adjusts mask, strides away with purple jacket fluttering in the wind behind him.*

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