Beginning with this review, Crow's World of Anime is going to bring you one "older" seasonal anime series review and one current season! There are just too many good series to let languish in anonymity, so I'm going to do my part to shine a light on some of those past gems. Please look forward to one episode a week!
First up? Black Bullet!
In Black Bullet Episode 1, "The Last Hope," Rentarou Satomi, a CivSec officer employed by the Tendou Civilian Security company, gets called in to an infection scene that the police have tried -- and terribly failed -- to contain. Together with his partner Enju Aihara (his Initiator), they face off against a Gastrea that has taken the shape of a giant spider. Can they stop it before it spreads its virus to the survivors in Tokyo? What's the terrible price that humanity has paid to survive so far -- and what does Enju have to do with it?
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What's in This Post
3 Favorite Moments
Want an effective way to show your audience what the protagonists are up against? Show a modern day fighter-yet easily swatted out of the sky -- in flames (0:48). Want to drive the point home? Show the offending monster crash into a crowd of refugees and show their reactions of terror (0:56). By the end of the first scene, I knew that humanity had been push right to the edge of extinction by a horrifying threat -- and that though they were still fighting back, the effort wasn't going well. Talk about a sobering note! That alone would have been an emotionally resonate opening, but the show wasn't content with that. We get to see the young hero, Rentarou, literally come face to face with the downed beast (1:53) -- and he didn't run! Not only do we get an idea of the threat; we get an idea of the protagonist's resolve. Pretty cool, if you ask me!
When we first meet Enju (7:20), she's furious that Rentarou kept heading for the scene after she had fallen off the bicycle. We get the impression that she's a normal little girl miffed at someone she (maybe not jokingly) calls her fiancée. But then she encounters the man infected with the Gastrea virus, and she's immediately all business (7:42). Seeing someone who looks so innocent at first glance switch to an almost military acceptance of death and killing really captured my sympathy. She even tells him that there's nothing she can do, and then came the clincher: She asks him if he has any last words. If the opening scene hadn't convinced me, this scene did: this is a brutal world.
After Rentarou drops Enju off at school -- being sure to first double-check that none of her classmates had found out that she was one of the Cursed Children -- we get to see exactly why being one of those Cursed Children is such a tragic thing. As Doctor Sumire Muroto's voice-over describes how the Cursed Children are partially infected by the Gastrea virus, we see Rentarou pedaling toward a broken bridge. He stops to gaze across, and we see why he looks so somber (22:55). There are dozens of little girls, all around Enju's age or younger, sitting amid the rocks on the far shore. They're dressed in rags. Some clutch decrepit dolls or teddy bears. Their eyes glow red. Though these girls are necessary to keep the Gastrea at bay, the population at large is terrified of them. They're forced to live apart, in the ruins of the old civilization, unless they can be paired with a Promoter like Rentarou. This is the cost this civilization forces the Cursed Children to pay.
I absolutely love the OP! fripSide sang it, and it was (unimaginatively) called "black bullet." You can buy it from CDJapan if you're interested (and if you've never purchased from them before and you live outside of Japan, here's a handy guide).
I also love the audio effects in this series. Rentarou's varanium bullets being fired were particularly effective.
You might be wondering, of all of the anime series that have come before, why would I choose Black Bullet to be the first older series to review? If you've been reading my site for awhile, you can probably guess, based on what I've named to the Caw of Fame. Does that hint help?
Let me give you another hint. The fist series I named to the Caw of Fame was Shikabane Hime (Corpse Princess). It presented the idea that the world was threatened by the reanimated corpses of those who died with strong regrets -- the shikabane. The only defense against them were young women who also died with strong regrets, but who after being subjected to certain rites, worked with a Contracted Monk of a certain Japanese religious order. They were called the Shikabane Hime. The main character, Makina Hoshimura, was one of them. The thing was, most of the order, including the Contracted Monks and most of the leadership, treated the Shikabane Hime as unclean burdens. Only a handful of Monks like one of the protagonists, Keisei Tagami, treated them with respect and warmth.
Sound familiar? Does it sound like the relationship between Rentarou and Enju is a lot like the relationship between Keisei and Makina?
There's something about that theme that really hits me. There's something admirable about Rentarou and Enju fighting to save the very people who would kill her if they had their way. I don't think they're doing out of pure altruism. On one hand, Rentarou seems the sort who'd protect people if he could anyway. On the other hand, he knows that if Enju's going to enjoy any kind of normal life, she needs to be an Initiator. So if they fight, she at least gets a chance to experience some parts of a normal life. When she's not fighting, that is.
This series appealed to me first and foremost because it's the story of Rentarou and Enju as they protect an ungrateful humanity from an absolutely terrifying threat. Their chemistry together is endearing (even if I'd prefer Enju be a little -- or a lot -- less forward with Rentarou!), and I really want to see how they prevail against the obstacles in front of them.
I'd also like to see humanity taught a lesson in compassion, but I'm not sure how that would play out without the Gastrea winning!
Did you enjoy this series when it first came out? What were your favorite moments in this episode? Let me know in the comments!