Note: This post may contain spoilers, so please be cautious!
The Hunter’s Bullet, the sixteenth episode of BUBUKI/BURANKI: The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy, shows us the Russian Heart Maxim Arsenyevich Balakireva’s contrition betrayed by Guy Barville Abeille‘s Machiavellian treachery; the beginning of Shūsaku Matobai, Kogane Asabuki, and the rest of her team’s journey to liberate Reoko Banryū and their meeting a surprising Buranki; Azuma Kazuki‘s continued resolve to free his his sister, Karoruko Kazuki, from Guy’s clutches; and the true story of the Buranki’s origins.
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Guy gives Entei to Karoruko, who’s ecstatic, not only with having a Buranki, but with how responsive it is. He knows just what words and phrases will manipulate her. For example, he tells her that he’s relying on her use Entei to protect the world from the Buranki. Then he asks her to help kill a Bubuki user who’s going to turn against him. A little taken aback, she agrees.
Using a massive airship, Matobai picks up Azuma and his limbs for the journey to rescue Banryū. As they get underway, Azuma’s team is astonished to learn that Entei’s entire team survived the crash. Ougi in particular is happy to hear that Sōya Arabashiri survived, though she tries to hide it. They’re happily flying over an icy wilderness when they pass over small girl with an enormous amount of Rinzu. It interferes with the ships propulsion and it crashes. Matobai stays with the ship while Azuma’s team investigates the Rinzu user. A thoughtful Shizuru Taneomi slices the snow out from under them, and they fall into an enormous cavern. There, they meet a purple Oubu named Duroc, who thanks them for saving the young Rinzu user Yuk. They’re amazed that this Buranki can speak. They’re even more amazed when it relates the Buranki’s original story: how the Bubuki are actually the limbs of the Buranki (not just tools that come together to play the part of limbs), and how the Buranki who had arrived at Earth are a dying race. Those Buranki who chose to do so adopted humans as their hearts and also their brains; the others went up to Treasure Island, where their brains atrophied. That explains why so many Buranki on Treasure Island were headless. And the heart that Azuma possesses? It’s Oubu’s actual heart, and it’s a sign of the contract between the two of them. Duroc drops two more surprises on them: Azuma’s mother is still alive, and Duroc considers her a friend.
Zampaza’s limb users awaken in a bamboo forest. Maxim is waiting for them. At first, they’re concerned that he may be ill, since he greets them as individuals and even calls the leg Bubuki users by their names — something he’d not done before. Over-joyed that his change was genuine (and not driven by illness), Lyudmila Arsenyevna Balakireva thinks she sees someone, so she runs off to get directions to the nearest town. Then a sniper begins picking them off, one by one, starting with Desru Nizhny. Maxim couldn’t sense any bloodlust at all, so he couldn’t locate the attacker. Ignat Bosporus dies as he throws himself in front of Diana Arsenyevna Balakireva to protect her. Lyudmila finally joins them and is horrified as she gazes on the dead Ignat. Then, her own Bubuki shoots and kills Diana. It’s only then that Maxim understands: when Guy brainwashed his Bubuki users, he “programmed” Lyudmila and her Bubuki to conduct this attack. Despite her desparate efforts, Lyudmila’s Bubuki killed Maxim. Then it shot her in the head.
Guy tells Banryū that the traitors (the Russian team) exterminated themselves. Banryū’s reaction suggests that she’s under Guy’s sway. Apparently confident that his control over her is absolute, he whispers he real plan to her. Her gasp sounds like one of fear.
What I Liked
Guy continues to be a good villain. He’s clearly evil, he knows how to manipulate others, and he has a capable assistant. The latter alone makes him a dangerous villain! I’m really curious to know what his real plan is. I am also really looking forward to seeing him defeated. Soundly.
Kinoa Ougi felt really dejected at the thought Matobai and Banryū had been the only survivors when Entei had crashed in the last season. I loved her tsundere reaction when she learned the the others, particularly Sōya Arabashiri, survived as well. In fact they not only survived, but, according to Matobai, they were doing “damned well!”
I had to feel bad for Hiiragi Nono, though. He clearly didn’t want to see Ougi expressing feelings like that for another man. I have a sense poor Nono’s out of his league here.
When the Russian team scene began, I felt a huge sense of relief that Maxim had come to his senses to begin treating Zampaza’s four limb users as individuals. The stinging defeat at Oubu’s hands in the last episode made an impression on him! I even got a laugh out of Diana as she actually checked him for a fever! The reactions from Ignat Bosporus and Desru Nizhny at Maxim’s recognition were touching.
I’m used to violence in this series. How many times have we seen Bubuki users fight? Or Buranki battle? What I’m not used to are deaths. I mean, Entei’s entire team survived a crash from orbit! I figured if we haven’t seen deaths by now, they weren’t coming! But seeing first Desru, then the others gunned down was a shock. Amba, Desru’s Bubuki, went into a panic that was emotionally tough to watch — kudos to the animators for evoking such emotion from a non-human entity.
Duroc’s explanation of the Buranki’s origins was a little less than amazing, but at least it was consistent with what we’ve seen so far. It was also an indictment, clumsy though it was, of humanity’s stewardship of our planet. Given people like Guy, I can’t really argue with Duroc’s assessment that humans are always killing each other or mucking up the environment, though maybe Azuma’s team can provide a better representation of humanity to her.
The division between the Buranki who adopted humans and those who didn’t was very interesting. Azuma’s mother stopped the hearts of all the Buranki on Earth — who had adopted humans. Since Duroc had never had a heart user, that’s how she was still mobile.
Taneomi’s sense of smell is truly amazing. She was able to sense hot springs while they were still in Matobai’s airship! She warned the women to wear swimsuits under their clothes. The only question I had is why she didn’t tell Azuma and Nono. I’m sure they would have appreciated getting into the warm water as much as the women did.
I think Lyudmila’s hysterical, distraught screams as she tried to restrain her Bubuki from killing Maxim will haunt me for weeks. Almost as much as her Bubuki shooting her in the head.
At the extreme opposite side of the emotional spectrum, I thought it was touching how Duroc addressed Azuma as “Gentle child who cares for his mother…” Duroc seems to have her priorities in order.
To Nono’s direct question about the nature of the Buranki, Duroc responded that they are servants of the Great One of the beginning. No one really knew how to respond to that.
All through this episode (and the series in general), the animators have given us vivid and expressive characters. Their expressions in this episode, especially during the Russians’ scenes, really drove the narrative home, which is exactly what the art’s supposed to do. I’ve always been a fan of this style of anime, and this season’s giving me even more reasons to like it.
The voice actors really kept up their end of the bargain, too.
What I Liked Less
Matobai’s airship, a product of modern technology and design, doesn’t have any seat belts? What, was it designed by a forerunning to Star Fleet Command’s engineering division — the one who didn’t put seat belts on the bridge of the original Enterprise?*
At the end, I have to say that I didn’t think it was funny with the women and Matobai laughed at Azuma and Nono, who were shivering and trying to recover from the cold. The women folks had worn swimsuits into the cavern; why not at least let Azuma and Nono close enough to the water to warm up? Maybe if I hadn’t just seen so many good character die, I’d be more inclined to laugh…
* Though surprisingly, there turns out to be a pretty good reason they didn’t, though I’m not convinced I buy it.
Azuma and Nono both try to convince Duroc that humans can change for the better. That perhaps they will be learn to treat themselves and the planet in a less destructive way. Maybe it’s just how cynical I’ve become, but I almost felt sorry for them as they tried to argue the point. Sure, Yuk and Kogane Asabuki’s Bubuki were getting along well despite having just met, but we just saw the Russian team murdered, and we see Guy’s continued cold-blooded plotting. It’s hard to be optimistic against that backdrop!
I thought this episode had a strong emotional punch. I wasn’t kidding when I said that I think Lyudmila’s screams are going to be with me for awhile. Maybe that’s also why I had such a strong negative reaction to the attempted humor at the end. I was in no mood to laugh. It was hard enough Desru and Ignat look so uplifted that Maxim was treating them better. It was really painful to see Diana’s delight turn to despair, and it was agonizing to watch Lyudmila’s struggle.
In the end, provoking some kind of reaction (the stronger the better) in your viewer is the goal of any medium, including anime. I’ve reacted to plot developments in this show before, but never this strongly. For me, this is the best episode in the series. And unless the show fumbles at the end, they have a perfect opportunity to top it: a spectacular end to Guy and his plans.
Yeah, I’m looking forward to that, now more than ever.
Other Posts of Interest
- Preview of Fall 2016, which includes BUBUKI/BURANKI
- Review of episode 13, Black Oubu, and episode 14, The False Heart
- Review of episode 15, The Right Hand’s Scar
- Review of episode 17: The Island Fortress
- Review of episode 18: The Butterfly and the Gallows
- Review of episode 19: Older Brother and Younger Sister
- Review of episode 20: The Rebellious Limb
- Review of episode 21: Swan Song
- Review of episode 22: The Comet Opens Its Eyes
- Review of episode 23: The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy