Post Reply Biting the Bullet: Black Bullet
Polysyllabic Support Lead
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Posted 6/13/14
by edsamac


The time is in the not so distant future. Mankind is faced with the threat of extinction at the hands of a mysterious virus called “Gastrea” that mutates its host into animal-like creatures capable of mass destruction. Discovering that the virus is inactivated by a certain metal called “Varanium”, the last surviving bastions of human civilization are enclosed by monoliths of the said substance in an attempt to limit its spread. Still, the virus spreads sporadically amongst the populace, bringing about the need for skilled professionals called “promoters” who call on the aid of “initiators” - young girls who had been infected by the virus during gestation - to protect the city from harm. The virus grants these girls superhuman abilities at the expense of having their bodies slowly succumb to the disease throughout time. Their stigma - glowing red eyes - makes them the object of scorn for some people, as they are oftentimes viewed as harbingers of destruction and death. Black Bullet focuses on the story of a certain Satomi Rentarou and his initiator, Enju Aihara and their battles as civil workers who fight to keep the metropolis safe from the virus.

Satomi Rentarou and his Initiator, Enju Aihara, both work in one of several private institutions that specialize in fighting Gastrea.

A strange thought comes to mind: this plot sounds awfully familiar. Early on in the series, there seems to be an eerie semblance in feel and direction to Darker than Black, mixed with a little Kurokami the Animation, and dash of Aria the Scarlet Ammo. If we had “Contractors” in Darker than Black, then we have “Initiators” in Black Bullet. Hey, you can even go as shallow as saying that both titles have the word “Black” in it. Take it further and say Kurokami has “kuro” (black) in it, and that Aria the Scarlet Ammo has a “bullet” in it. But seriously, put them together and the result is probably close to what watching Black Bullet feels like: a pseudo post-apocalyptic world that has a penchant for having little girls duke it out with all but a wand and pixie dust. This isn’t to say that the show lacks originality, rather, the similarities create for it a strange familiarity that makes the show somewhat easier to take in at first appearances. For example, I had no trouble digesting the violence and blood splatter together with the puppy dog eyes and (sometimes unnecessary) fan service. If anything, the violence is polite enough to not be offensive, which grants the show a certain level of watchability deserving of attention.

Initiators are girls born from mothers who were infected by the Gastrea virus. Although rare, they are granted superhuman powers that allow them to fight the Gastrea. Unfortunately, they are ostracized by society and relegated to the slums of the outer city.

If anything, however, the show’s pacing tends to be a little haphazard. As if in a rush, the plot becomes heavily dramatized as early as the second episode when Satomi overreacts after Enju’s disappearance. Though they try to justify the excessive passion with a sprinkle of flash backs shortly thereafter, the dramatic effect practically falls on deaf ears in the absence of any meaningful character development prior. Speaking of drama, the individual spoken lines, in general, practically border obnoxious. In fact, the execution and timing of the lines are almost so generically overdone that it sounds like the lines, themselves, overshadow the very characters that speak them. Though it’s the cool lines that make a show memorable, Black Bullet seems to be studded with overly dense, dramatic dialogue, to the point that I being to lose sight of the characters behind the lines.

Action scenes are swift but enjoyable. Apparently, the characters seem to shine more when they aren't talking as much.

But for what the show lacks in showmanship, it makes up for in action. Fight scenes are energetic and generously played out. The added level of suspense and interweaving of martial arts and artillery is well executed and partners quite beautifully with the violence without being over-the-top. I particularly enjoyed Satomi and Enju’s showdown in the alley with villains Hiruko Kagetane and Hiruko Kohina. Then there’s my personal favorite of Tina Sprout with a .50 caliber BMG Anti-Materiel Rifle. Otherwise, there’s enough fight in the show to keep even a skeptical watcher interested. What was apparently disconcerting, however, was how the initially underdog portrayal of Satomi was swiftly derailed with an almost unwelcome revelation of what he truly is (I won’t spoil it here). It would have been a good compliment to the action if he were to slowly work his way up as becoming a powerful promoter rather than revealing that his power levels could actually go well over 9000. Some people may find this cool, but I personally found this rushed and lacking in character development - almost like starting an RPG at level 99.

Too much criticism, Enju? Yes, feel the drama.

In the end, the show promises an interesting story that is, unfortunately, overcooked on the edges and a little raw on the inside. It’s palatable, yes, but unless you like something a little more filling, you’re better off watching older works like Darker than Black and Kurokami.
tacrow 
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Posted 6/16/14
I really can't take serious issue with any of the points you raised. Instead, I'd like to plead the case for why Black Bullet is one of my favorite shows this season -- in spite of those things.

I've always been drawn to themes of injustice, and society's reaction to the "Cursed Children" falls into that category. I really enjoy how Rentarō takes on their cause. For me, showing how far Enju has progressed by working with him, compared to where so many of those girls still are, reinforces that theme.

His dogged dedication to them in spite of his cynicism and ample reason to question the social order appeals to me. It reminds me a lot -- on a much smaller scale, thankfully! -- of the decisions I have to make in my job.

Sometimes the show (at least in my opinion) draws too near melodrama. What happens to Rentarō's class is an example. I could see it coming a mile away! But I still dreaded it, and I felt for Enju. And yet, in spite of everything she's been through, he still fights with Rentarō.

I even like the music.

I have to agree with you -- Tina and her rifle are really a high point of the show!

Anyway, I wanted to share another perspective of Black Bullet.
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Posted 6/16/14
There are a lot of themes in the show that I could actually resonate with: namely the sense of justice that fuels Rentarou in the face of a paradoxical society that oppressess the very people that protect their order. What I was particularly critical about in this review was the execution of these themes. It was rushed - the character development being overly familiar at an early stage, earning for it a generically unpolished feel for me - and the dialogue sounds too overly dramatized to take seriously.

Now at the 8th to 9th episode, Rentarou is messing around with Tina, and I feel that their dynamics are more balanced, albeit now conflicting with what I thought was something a little more exclusive between him and Enju. It makes me feel like its fan service taking over, but You have to admit that Tina is pretty bad ass.

Either way, the show feels like it's a lot of fluff. It has a lot of potential in terms of story, I don't deny that, but the current choice of execution isn't particularly the best.
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Posted 6/17/14
I agree fully with the pace! That has been my main concern with the series. It really could be a 20+ episode series but I imagine the series is pretty expensive to produce because of the high quality of the art and all of the fight scenes. Black Bullet is without a doubt one of the best series of the season despite its sometimes overly serious tone. Nonetheless there hasn't been an episode I haven't enjoyed. I also agree with the Aria reference. That's all I could think of when I saw the poster for the show but Enju is much cooler than Aria. I'm not a huge action fan but id say this series is much more than palatable. Lastly...his level is over 9000!! Lmao
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Posted 6/17/14
I agree, I enjoyed this show at first but they rushed the plot to the extreme. I wonder if the light novels do a better job...
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Posted 6/18/14
I haven't read the novels so most of the events that occur feel random and meaningless.
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Posted 6/18/14

MostUnholy wrote:

I haven't read the novels so most of the events that occur feel random and meaningless.


Yeah, i agree with that. That was the very reason why I mentioned that the development of Rentaro and how he bekame OMAGERD level 9000 was a little off setting. kagitane makes a good villain; sinister, intelligent, but insane. Maybe the treatment in the novels gives his role some heavier meaning; otherwise, his presence was undermined by the overly dramatic pace of the show.

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Posted 6/29/14 , edited 6/29/14
I think this show would have been much better served if they had allowed it a second cour instead of just one. There have been moments that left me feeling a bit empty, like there was supposed to be something more but it was skipped over because of time constraints. It's a shame really, I do like Black Bullet a lot but it could be much better if it were given the time it deserves.
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