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
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
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
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
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
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.
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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.
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.