Post Reply Review: BBK/BRNK
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Posted 2/4/16 , edited 2/13/16
Written by: edsamac

Azuma Kazuki once lived together with his twin sister on a floating island populated by sleeping, golem-like giants called “Buranki”. The Buranki remained dormant up until his sister awakened Oubu, a powerful Buranki that once belonged to their mother. With no choice but to leave the island paradise, Kazuki and his sister are sent down to earth while their mother stayed behind to keep the Buranki from falling to earth. Ten years later, Kazuki returns to a post-apocalyptic Tokyo ruled by a certain Reoko Banryuu who has branded Kazuki’s mother as a witch. Determined to return to his mother, Kazuki joins a ragtag group of rebels who fight against Reoko using fragments of a Buranki called “Bubuki”.

There is something compelling about a show that is obviously trying to be ambitious. Whether or not this is a good thing has much to do with intent, and in the case of Sanzigen’s 10th anniversary original animation production entitled “BBK/BRNK” (pronounced “Bubuki Buranki”), such attempts are definitely a good thing. Likewise, the world of BBK/BRNK is just as ambitious, combining colorful fantasy and post-apocalyptic modernity in flush CG animation.



Of course, the choice of full CG animation will catch the ire of many people out there. This has been a recurring point of discussion for many, and whether or not it’s your cup of tea really boils down to a matter of tolerance. I won’t delve into the specifics of the debate, but remember: this is a Sanzigen production, a studio known specifically for it’s 3D CG works (Arpeggio of Blue Steel, 009 Re:Cyborg), so it is more than justified in attempting something like this. Together with first-time director Daizen Komatsuda (Key animation, Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, Tale of Princess Kaguya; Episode director, Kill la Kill) and an impressive production line-up, “ambitious” is a fitting word for BBK/BRNK.

But I won’t deny it. The technology is definitely getting better, and BBK/BRNK’s character rendering is indeed a step up from Arpeggio of Blue Steel. However, the character models still feel like they lack considerable weight. As early as the first few scenes, the visual aesthetics of the characters feel detached — almost lifeless — owing to the stark contrast between the marionette-like movements and the expressive voice acting. Limbs bend in awkward ways during simple sequences, but in fast action can be visually impressive. Facial expressions also feel empty, and the resulting psychological tone in dramatic sequences is undermined. Despite this, the characters are still very well designed. The color palettes for each individual character is unique and (almost obnoxiously) distinct. The use of florescent highlights on different parts of their clothing during Bubuki activation sequences is also a very flavorful visual flourish that I personally liked. The “organic” mech designs are also striking, with an inkling of Kill la kill elements to it. Even the show’s unofficial 'storm troopers' have goofily, well designed helmets complete with “facial expressions”, which I found quite amusing. Overall, everything in the character design department is actually pretty solid. It’s only when they start moving that things start to feel a little awkward and off.



The 2D backgrounds are also stunning — almost mesmerizing. The first episode is a delightful showcase of the artistic flexibility of the production, starting off with idyllic forest paradise before shifting to corroded, post-apocalyptic cyberpunk. Wisps of smoke and brush details add to the depth and expanse of the world of BBK/BRNK. Even in action sequences, brisk brush strokes and minute details in debris, light, and shadow offer a very palpable sense of substance. All of this is put to good use with excellent framing and dynamic cinematography. There are a few compositional hiccups that make the flaws of the CG characters a little more noticeable, but I personally find such occurrences forgivable.

BBK/BRNK initially comes off as plot heavy, attempting to juggle several plot devices as early as the first episode whilst struggling with exposition regarding the nature of the Bubuki. It’s not overwhelming so much as it is busy, owing to a 10-year gap in events and the progressive introduction of new “rules” governing the Bubuki and those that wield them. Essentially a coming-of-age story of teenagers with superpowers, each of the protagonists easily (and almost painfully) fit within predictable character archetypes. That isn’t to say that the characters themselves are boring, but character development in the first few episodes is strangely lopsided. Much of it focuses on Kogane Asabuki and her over-the-top obsession for revenge for the murder of her father. Kazuki is particularly dull as a main protagonist and comes off as naive and ignorant. Regardless, the character interactions are well presented as their overall dysfunctional relationship as a team is exemplified in their miraculous failure against Entei using the revived Oubu.



All-in-all, BBK/BRNK is a compelling show that has much potential in terms of the ideas and the worldview it presents. Unfortunately, this is watered down by the full CG rendering of characters, making it difficult to take seriously without first requiring a huge amount of tolerance. Your milage will definitely vary when watching this show, but the same goes for pretty much every show that has attempted to and still continues to use CG cell-shaded characters as the primary animation method. Regardless, GRAND AMBITIONS are what they are, and no amount of criticism can slow the train of imagination from running its course. Where that takes us is something yet to be seen, but I’ll be sticking around for the ride.
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Posted 2/5/16
THIS SOUNDS FLIPPIN AWESOME! Gotta go tell my squad, ciaossu! (I do not own that ending!)
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