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With so many anime titles to choose from, sometimes it can be hard to tell whether one will be a blast or a dud. “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is here to help. Each week we provide additional information and cultural context to help anime fans decide whether or not they'd like to take an unknown series for a test drive.
BTOOOM! is a 2012 TV anime with direction by Kotono Watanabe and animation by Madhouse. The series is based on the BTOOOM! manga by Junya Inoue, which is serialized in Shinchosha's Monthly Comic @BUNCH seinen manga magazine. Crunchyroll describes BTOOOM! as follows:
Sakamoto Ryota still has no job at age 22, and leads a rather dull life. But in the online game, BTOOOM!, he's stronger and more highly respected than anyone else. However, the game he's playing now is no longer virtual, but real. He's been sent to a deserted island with only a BIM supply and no clue why he's being coerced into fighting and killing. The players are now stuck in a real life version of BTOOOM!, not even knowing the reason why.
BTOOOM! is an example of the “deadly game” subgenre, which blends elements of action, suspense, and psychological horror by pitting a group of strangers against one another in a competition where ordinary people must commit murder in order to stay alive.
What makes BTOOOM! unique among other examples of the subgenre (such as Battle Royale) is the game's central conceit: each player is armed with a limited supply of one variety of specialized explosives, such as time bombs, proximity mines, napalm grenades, and remote-controlled homing drones.
“Deadly game” anime often features examples of human beings behaving at their absolute worst, and BTOOOM! is no exception to this rule. The series deals with graphic depictions of violence, including examples of unsettling imagery involving rape and sexual assault, so viewer discretion is strongly advised.
No More Heroes.
To say that BTOOOM! espouses a bleak, paranoid world view is a bit of an understatement. The moral ambiguity of the series isn't so much shades of gray as varying shades of black. The main characters are generally depicted as victims, villains, or both, with everyone ready to betray everyone else at a moment's notice.
Even the protagonist, Ryota Sakamoto, starts off as a NEET with serious rage issues who is verbally and physically abusive to his mother and step-father. The pressures of the game force him to grow as a character, requiring him to learn to trust other people and to value their lives as he values his own.
The most thrilling moments in BTOOOM! don't necessarily involve players simply running around lobbing bombs willy-nilly. BTOOOM! is actually at its best when it plays games of cat-and-mouse.
The series excels at ratcheting up the tension in scenarios where the players try to outwit their enemies through a combination of psychology, strategy, and an understanding of how to best apply each type of explosive weaponry in different environments. There also plenty of scenes with "Prisoner's dilemma" style conflicts, where players attempt to deceive or to root out potential betrayal without giving their true intentions away.
The Game Has Only Just Begun.
Crunchyroll currently streams BTOOOM! in 29 territories: the United States, Canada, Aruba, Greenland, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Guernsey, Iceland, Ireland, Jersey, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, American Samoa, Australia, Guam, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, the Northern Mariana Islands, the United States Minor Outlying Islands, South Africa, and Heart Island and McDonald Islands. The series is available in the Japanese language with English subtitles.
BTOOOM! is also released on Bluray and DVD in North America by Sentai Filmworks, and this version includes an English language dub. At the time of this writing, the BTOOOM! manga is still on-going in Japan, and 15 volumes of an English language version of the manga have been released so far by Yen Press.
Although the BTOOOM! TV series only adapts the first 50 chapters of the manga, it remains a dark diversion for fans that want a show that is heavy on dramatic irony and that plays to negative human emotions such as the fear of abandonment, the fear that other people are untrustworthy, and the fear of being without food or shelter in an unknown and hostile location. If these prospects make your heart go boom, consider giving BTOOOM! a try.
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