Black Bullet Episode 3 Review: The Under Appreciated Warrior and the Lonely Initiator
In Black Bullet Episode 3, "The Children of Fate," Enju Aihara tries to return to school, but her identity has been leaked. Rentarou Satomi has to race to save her from her classmates -- or, more likely, them from her should they decide to attack -- but her emotions are shattered. How will she fare when she and Rentarou are thrown right back into battle? And even if she survives, what will both of them do when Kagetane Hiruko and his Initiator/daughter Kohina Hiruko challenge them again?
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What's in This Post
3 Favorite Moments
This was an emotionally rough episode for Enju. First, her schoolmates somehow found out she was a Cursed Child (I wonder if Kagetane had anything to do with that?). Then, before she had even a minute to sort through the pain, she and Rentarou had to rush headlong into combat with an enormous spider Gastrea. Maybe driven to vent by her emotional pain, she leapt out of the helicopter before Rentarou was ready (5:55). Of course, Enju being Enju, she literally kicked the gigantic Gastrea out of the sky, landed with it, then proceeded to kick it into pieces (6:35). Kudos to the voice actors (Rina Hidaka for the sub and Luci Christian for the dub) -- you could just hear the emotional agony in her voice as she attacked. And when she stood victorious among the ruins of the Gastrea, she asked Rentarou if she had done a good job protecting the friends she didn't have (6:54). For a moment, she held her emotions in check. Then she ran sobbing into his arms. Despite society rejecting her, in spite of her friends turning on her and saying she was no different than the monster she just vanquished, she still stood between them and the Gastrea. Such a compelling combination of power and vulnerability makes Enju a profoundly sympathetic character.
According to My Anime List (MAL), I've completed about 345 anime series. In all of those shows, I think I can count on my fingers (and maybe the toes on one foot) how many non-sexual intimate relationships I've seen between a man and a woman. We've seen Rentarou interact a few times with Sumire Muroto. She's usually eating some kind of bizarre meatballs in some kind of even more bizarre sauce. In this episode, we get the sense that she had something to do with Rentarou's abilities. The scene that stood out for me was when she brought him a knapsack of ordnance. She intended for him to use it and join the search for Kagetane. He mentions that when he was unconscious, he dreamed of her operating on him -- a dream that's apparently common. She says that she wouldn't be surprised if he never forgave her (13:55), and in spite of her faint smile, I could tell she was struggling with her guilt. He's silent for a moment, then says that he's never held it against her, and he never will. She didn't seem to know how to react. That quiet emotional intimacy was so understated that it took my breath away. She seems to think she gave him a curse; he seems to think she gave him a new lease on life. Whatever happens, their choices have bound them together. Well, what do you expect from someone who thinks diving through a forest's canopy is romantic (see Thoughts, below)?
I mentioned before how Enju's had a tough emotional episode. We also got another demonstration of her combat capabilities when she destroyed the infector Gastrea and when she carried Rentarou through the forest as the Stage 4 Gastrea chased them. And yet, despite all that, there are moments when she's still just an age appropriate little girl. When Rentarou and Enju close in on an unexpected campfire in the middle of the forest, they find the Initiator Kayo Senju. Rentarou tells Enju that he'd met Kayo before. Enju immediately flips out and demands to know the details (17:28). Seeing that she was still capable of near normal human feelings felt like an amazing breath of hope. If she can still feel those emotions despite what she's been through, maybe she'll be okay.
Generally speaking, I prefer this series' sub to its dub, but I have to admit two things. First, the voice actors in both pull me into the characters, so my objection has nothing to do with the voice talent! It's just that some of the phrasing in the English script feels awkward. Second, that being said, the dub does a fantastic job with Kagetane. In the scene around 8:35, Rentarou attacks with one of his special moves and Kagetane counterattacks. In the sub, he says, "Now I'll show you one of my techniques!" In the sub, he says, "You showed me one of yours, I've got to show you one of mine!" The inflection, the timing -- everything in that moment was perfect in the dub. Jay Hickman, the dub's voice actor, seemed to be having an absolute blast.
I really admire Rentarou's dedication to Enju. Without hesitation, he grabbed a rope (not a harness; just a rope!), leapt out of a flying helicopter, and crashed through the forest's canopy -- just to get to Enju in time so he could provide combat support. Maybe I'm just a guy without emotional sensibilities, but to me, that's what love is all about!
And no, it's not a creepy kind of love.
In my review of the second episode, I focused on the painful aspects of the Cursed Children -- on how there are so many agonizing parallels between them and circumstances in our world. For this episode, I want to take my own advice and try to focus on something much more positive: Rentarou's impact on the Cursed Children.
We start the episode with Rentarou basically venting to Sumire. He's aghast at how society treats the Cursed Children, and he wants to do something about it. The good doctor tricks him into figuring out what he should do (it looks like she wants him to teach the girls!), but it's only possible because he understands that despite the Gastrea virus, despite their enormous fighting capabilities, they are first, and foremost, human.
We see it again, demonstrated more emotionally, when he hugs the sobbing Enju and comforts her by saying that no matter what, even if the world is against her, he'll be there for her. It was exactly what she wanted to hear, but in a sense, it was almost expected. We know that Rentarou and Enju have been through a lot and rely on each other. We know by this time in the series that as long as they're both alive, they'll support on another.
Then we get another glimpse of Rentarou's compassion for the Cursed Children when he and Enju meet Kayo. Rentarou had seen her in the previous episode, when she had told him through a sort of sign language that she was hungry. Between that and how her Promoter Shougen Ikuma referred to her as equipment, we got the clear message: just like society at large, Kayo's Promoter doesn't see her as human.
But when Rentarou finds her injured, he treats her. He gets passionate about how badly her Promoter treats her. He urges her to go see a doctor. He even gets upset, in part on her behalf, when he learns that her Promoter ordered her to kill another CivSec team. Despite her joking demeanor, it's obvious she's taken aback; it seems that no one has shown her compassion before. She doesn't know how to react.
It's like Rentarou leaves this trail of lightened hearts in his wake.
I am so happy to see such a strong, clear-minded male lead in a series. He's not a pervert lusting for Enju and the other Cursed Children. He's not a plaything for Sumire. He's not bumbling. He knows who he is and he knows what's important to him. It's almost like he's a young version of Zouroku Kashimura from Alice & Zouroku -- except with much enhanced fighting abilities! It's great to see such a character!
And I'm glad to see Enju has someone like Rentarou to count on.
Do you like Rentarou's character? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!
Other Posts of Interest
Other Anime Sites
- Reddit Discussion of Black Bullet Episode 3
- Little Cloud Curiosity: Black Bullet Episode 2 and 3 Review
- Anime Corps: Review: Black Bullet Ep 3 – Into the Forest
This Site (Crow's World of Anime!)
- Black Bullet Episode 1: The Last Hope
- Black Bullet Episode 2: The Mask of Madness
- Black Bullet Episode 4: Black Bullet
- Black Bullet Episode 5: The Crimson Black Assassin
- Black Bullet Episode 6: Tragic Irony
- Black Bullet Episode 7: In the Still of the Moonlit Night, the Dawn Sky
- Black Bullet Episode 8: The Monument on the Border
- Black Bullet Episode 9: The Protectors of the Barrier
- Black Bullet Episode 10: Tokyo Area Defensive Battle
- Black Bullet Episode 11: The Heart of Taurus, the Spear of Light
- Black Bullet Episode 12: Crisis Point
- Black Bullet Episode 13: The Ones Who Aspired to be Gods