Btooom! – 12 (Fin)

Alone, fearful, and suspicious, Taira finally snaps, seeing hallucinations of his wife and son. Overcome by a need to get home to them, he attacks Ryouta and Himiko with homing bombs when they return to the hideout. He manages to main Ryouta’s leg with one, but Himiko stops the next bomb, while Ryouta stops the one after that. Taira runs and falls down a cliff. Surrounded by lizards, he blows himself up with his last bomb. That night, Himiko tells Ryouta they now have enough chips for one of them to go home, so she tells him to kill her. He won’t and tells her he’s finally realized she’s the Himiko from the online game. They spend the night together, but Ryouta doesn’t make a move, respecting that Himiko is still scared. He vows they’ll get home together and officially date.

First of all, while we felt like this story could have been told in the space of a single cour, we’re not begrudging the series for continuing for a second. Whether that will come next season or further ahead, in all likelihood we’ll keep watching. This episode finally disposes of Taira. That’s right, after all those close calls and food and supplies consumed, Taira ultimately falls victim to unlucky circumstances. He was injured in such a way that would have made bringing him along impossible  and every time Ryouta and Himiko came back for him then left again, the voices in his head got stronger and stronger until he couldn’t take it anymore. Taira really was a regular guy…and when looking death and despair in the eye and thinking of his family back home, betraying those who have helped him isn’t a big leap. When Ryouta and Himiko outsmart him and he ends up in a pit of lizards, he accepts it as karma for his treachery.

With what we’d seen thus far, wrapping everything up would have been a complete mess. Also, while Ryouta only needs one chip to call the copter, that one chip is in Himiko’s hand, and Ryouta is not so intent on getting home that he’ll sacrifice who could be his first true love. We also like how the younger Oda occupies his thoughts, including telling him to sleep with Himiko while the iron’s hot, but Ryouta stops himself, mindful that while Himiko loves him too and is trying, she’s still too traumatized by recent events for lovemaking – not even of the tender moonlit variety. The real Oda is still stalking the island with Kinoshita, and there are still quite a few people still in the game, though few have as many chips as Ryouta and Himiko. And then we have a helicopter going to the island to fix a “technical problem”, and lo and behold, someone who looks like his dad senpai from school is aboard. What exactly is that about?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

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Btooom! – 11

With Ryouta apparently killed from the BIM Date put in the case, Date goes after Himiko, who is paralyzed with grief. Murasaki Shiki appears and stabs Date in the back witha scythe, but not deep enough. He disperses her with a BIM and corners Himiko again, but Ryouta appears, having found shelter before the BIM went off. With only his remote BIMs scattered around, Date is unarmed and flees, but Ryouta’s moved one of his hidden BIMs, and Date almost blows himself up. Murasaki returns to finish him, but can’t, and decides to patch him up instead.

If there’s no dead body, there’s no death. It was an absolute certainty that Ryouta wasn’t killed last week, so it was just a matter of when he’d show his slightly-scuffed face in this episode. Turns out, that’s the time when the Cracker BIMS Date tries to use on Himiko won’t work. Himiko is ecstatic he’s not dead, and Ryouta takes the near-death experience as a splash of cold water. No more trusting sketchy people who pop up out of nowhere. We thought he’d forgotten that vow immediately when he chases after Ryouta,  but he was the one to think a step ahead of Date and defeat him.

Speaking of those kinds of people, Murasaki really comes through for our lovebirds this week, keeping Date from killing them and even offering to kill him when he’s down for the count. But all it takes from Date is an “I’m sorry” and some guilty eyes to stop her from plunging the scythe into his throat. Like Ryouta, she just can’t kill someone, even someone as despicable and slimy and horrible as Date. Not when he’s lying there helpless. So add Shiki to the list of players who are decent enough at their core to renounce killing. Though we still have no clue how they’re going to hijack a helicopter.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Btooom! – 10

Ryouta fools Oda into thinking he’s closer to the booby trap than he really is, then avoids Oda’s shuriken BIM by diving into the water. Oda runs off with the supplies, but not before asking if he’s Ryouta. Ryouta then realizes his foe is Oda, a former close friend in high school who betrayed him by sleeping with the girl he said he liked. Taira’s wound isn’t healing due to the lizard venom, so Himiko suggests they return to the complex to find medicine. Himiko goes to meet with Murasaki. She races back and implores Ryouta to drop the case he’s carrying, as Date placed a BIM in it to kill him.

The first one to move wins. Stay on the defensive, and you’ll lose your chance.

So says Ryouta’s high school chum Oda, while Ryouta is hesitating to ask out a girl he likes, Aiko. Oda excels at everything: grades, sports, music, th’ladies. Everything seems to come painfully easily for him. That can invite quite a bit of admiration, and Ryouta certainly admired him and trusted him enough to open up to him. But it also invited scorn and envy from those who didn’t like him, so Oda eventually ended up getting voted onto the island where he reunites with Ryouta, his former friend. What’s interesting is that once Oda realizes this guy is Ryouta, he’s in no greater hurry to finish him off.

He said he felt bad about sleeping with Aiko, and he probably still does, to the extent he wouldn’t blame Ryouta for hating him forevermore. But he did warn Ryouta that passively waiting around for things to happen will get him nowhere in life, and believing what anyone says is just as dangerous. Trust is nice and all, but on the island, trusting someone you know as little about as Date could be lethal. Date finally moves first, sick and tired of the admittedly pretty good niceguy act he’s put on. We’d be surprised if his trap actually did Ryouta in, so assuming he’s alive, here’s hoping the experience teaches Ryouta a lesson everyone else on the island has already learned.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. The naked evilness of the Tyrannos staff watching the game unfold with relish is rather chilling. Why the hell are these people so evil? We know, because the plot requires it, but we wish there was a more satisfying reason.

Btooom! – 09

Ryouta and Himiko return to Taira to find he’s been fixed up by Date, who agrees to side with them but plans to kill them all when the time comes. A plane makes a food drop, and players race to it. Ryouta hopes to scare the others off with his intent, but one player, Oda, matches him step for step. Meanwhile Himiko is attacked by Kinoshita, Oda’s ally. Himeko gets trapped in her hold but manages to escape, and Date throws a bomb to break up the fight. After jumping from a cliff into the sea, Ryouta watches Oda take out another player with a booby trap. Ryouta falls for another trap, but manages to survive.

Everyone has their own way of playing the game. Date smiles and pretends to be everyone’s friend, but then uses them before destroying them. Himiko knows he’s not to be trusted, and for once she’s not being overly cautious. Oda seems to utilize direct confrontation and attacks, but everyone he’s killed so far has fallen for his booby traps. Kinoshita pretends to be vulnerable and womanly, but is a skilled, vicious fighter who’s sided with Oda, perhaps the strongest player still alive – and when she can’t safely use BIMs against Himiko, she relies not just on martial arts, but devastating verbal attacks. Lil’ Kira is standing back and waiting for the adults to kill each other.

But while everyone else is busy trying to kill them, the core of Ryouta, Himiko and Taira remain committed to escape by spilling a minimum of blood. Their adversaries aren’t making it easy, however. The “crimes” that got them voted on the island aren’t as severe as other players’, what with Ryouta’s mom simply snapping, Himiko’s friend blaming her for not getting raped, and Taira just being a jackass at work. As for Date? The son of a bitch is on the island for the second time; he’s clearly scum. Kira can’t help what he is, but he can’t function in society. Oda and Kinoshita are the main threat to Ryouta & Co, but learning about them will have to wait until at least next week.


Rating: 6 (Good)

 

Btooom! – 08

Sakamoto and Himiko spend the night in an abandoned building, and Himiko is suddenly woken up by a mysterious figure with disheveled hair and a flashlight. Sakamoto sees a lit room in the distance, and is attacked by the figure, who turns out to be a woman, Shiki. He knocks her out, and when she comes to, Himiko manages to calm her down. She was a player in the Btooom! game that preceded theirs, and her arm was blown off, so she has no chip. She was betrayed by a man, Date, who she’d worked with until they got six chips. She warns Himiko no be careful around men. Back where Taira is resting, Date has returned.

Sakamoto’s constant niceness and saving of her life is starting to have an effect on Himiko, especially now that she knows he was the Sakamoto she married in the virtual Btooom!. They both used the game as escapes from real lives that they didn’t like. Because we’re a party to both Sakamoto and Himiko’s thoughts, we know neither of them have designs on stabbing the other in the back. In fact, with the new information from Shiki – that the winner is airlifted out via helicopter, Sakamoto is even optimistic about the possibility of hijacking that ride with BIMs and getting out alive together (even with Taira, still clinging to life).

There are problems, of course. Sakamoto mentions how a “limiter” within him turns off when shit hits the fan, and he becomes calmer and gains the will to do whatever is necessary, whether it’s defeating an opponent or rescuing whom he regarded as his game wife. Who’s to say another limiter won’t turn off when he’s only one chip away from victory, and the seventh is in Himiko’s hand? Also, Tyrannos is watching and listening in on everything, so there’s no way to get the jump on them or game their system unless they find a place where there are no cameras or mics, and they’re not even aware they’re being observed. So even if the lovebirds collect fourteen chips without killing one another, they’re not in control of their fate.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Btooom! – 07

Sakamoto runs into Miyamoto and Natsume, narrowly escaping with his life (and without his BIMs), only to lead them back to where he, Himiko and Taira are hiding out. Miyamoto chops Taira’s fingers off, tosses Sakamoto off a ledge, and takes Himiko away, but Sakamoto lands in a tree and goes after him, believing Himiko is actually his vitual wife from Btooom. Sakamoto is able to take out Natsume, but Miyamoto grabs Himiko, who later activates a gas bomb hanging from Miyamoto’s shirt. Sakamoto finishes him off with a timer BIM, and he and Himiko are safe for the time being.

Even if Miyamoto Masashi wasn’t the best ex-mercenary, Sakamoto proved his valor, making up for leading Miyamoto to their hideout by rescuing Himiko and taking him and his crazy lawyer ally out. While Sakamoto insisted before he wouldn’t play the game, in this case, it was kill or be killed, in a rousing episode packed with violence, including chopped-off digits (poor Taira!), threats of flaying (poor Himiko!) and gross, melty faces (served him right). It was also packed with mistakes by Miyamoto, who decided it’d be a good idea to hang bombs from his shirt for anyone to trigger.

He also took his sweet ol’ time killing Himiko and Sakamoto, giving them ample opportunities to foil him, which of course they did. We suppose that’s overconfidence and a low opinion of his enemy. And then there’s the prospect we’d thought all along of Himiko being “the” Himiko Sakamoto “married” in Btooom. She denies it, but then why does she look and sound just like her? Like SAO, there’s not enough differentiation between real life characters and their online personas for us to suspend belief they’d recognize each other. Regardless, here’s hoping Himiko is finally coming around to trusting Sakamoto, who by now has saved her life many times (and she his).


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Btooom! – 06

Sakamoto, Taira, and an unconscious Himiko are surrounded by Komodo dragons, and Sakamoto learns he can’t use the BIMs of a player he hasn’t killed. They get away, but not before Taira is badly bitten in the leg. The lizards keep pursuing them until they reach a compound near the sea. Unable to climb the rusty ladder while carrying Himiko, Sakamoto uses her hand to activate her gas bomb and heaves it into the forest, dispersing the lizards. After disinfecting Taira’s wound, Sakamoto asks Himiko to explain how she ended up with so many supplies and BIMs. But she’s spotted by another player’s sonar. Sakamoto acts as a decoy, but he is jumped by a dagger-wielding Masashi Miyamoto.

The unlikely triad of Sakamoto, Taira and Himiko is off to a rough start. Komodos very rarely launch unprovoked attacks on humans; most retreat at the sight of them, and use several defensive measures to further avoid contact. They just happened to get cornered by bad-tempered Komodos with no fear of man. It’s only a problem if you’re unprepared, and Sakamoto is, reaching for a BIM that isn’t his and learning it won’t work at the worst possible moment. We’re also a little fuzzy on how throwing a BIM right at Taira and Himiko kills the dragons right next to them without harming them at all. Also, we noticed both Sakamoto and Taira have sleeved shirts. Why they didn’t immediately wash Taira’s venom-filled bite and dress it with the cloth, we have no idea.

Those practical hiccups aside, both Sakamoto and Taira have episodes where they suspect the other has betrayed them, and immediately start to lose their shit and curse their names. When Himiko finally (and conveniently) wakes up, she has nothing but contempt and distrust for her saviors because they’re men, and she’s done with men. Sakamoto turns things around on her and wonders if she’s killed players, and how many. All the while, back in Japan at Tyrannos HQ, techies are monitoring them on camera, to collect data. Sending them away to the island wasn’t just to satisfy the family, friends, or associates who voted for them, but perhaps to make a better game. And they may not be the first batch…this just keeps getting more messed up.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Btooom! – 05

Sakamoto and Taira enjoy their first meal in a while, and Taira praises Sakamoto as a hero. The corpse of fat man who tried to rape Himiko falls down a waterfall, and when Sakamoto scouts, he sees Himiko at the top of a cliff. She drops a gas bomb, which draws him out to a clearing where she’s ready with four players’ worth of BIMs. He manages to talk her down, but when he steps forward, she throws a BIM at him, but has bad aim.

In their struggle and she ends up shocking herself unconscious with her stun gun. After fighting off temptation, Sakamoto takes her to the stream with Taira, where she tells them how they ended up on the island. Taira insists they still try to get off the island to work things out back home. They’re then surrounded by a pack of giant monitor lizards.

We knew Sakamoto would have his work cut out for him if he ever crossed paths with Himiko, which he was sure to do as the two of them are together in the OP. We weren’t wrong, as he relies on her bad aim and clumsiness with a stun gun. When she wakes up in his arms, she’s still ready to take herself out along with him. Her dealings with men thus far have her convinced that no matter how nice Sakamoto seems, he will end up raping and killing her. Sakamoto even has a moment of weakness when he realizes he could take her panties without consequence, justifying her suspicion.

Thankfully, he deduces why the fat man was pantsless and stops himself. She only ceases her resistance because the stun gun made her numb, but Taira and Sakamoto assure her they’re not her enemy, and just want to go home. Himiko doesn’t,  believing there’s nothing left for her back home. Sakamoto, meanwhile realizes it was probably his mother who voted him away for running down her husband when he was hiding being laid off. Sakamoto was a haughty little shit, and whether his plight is just or not, had he been a nicer son, he wouldn’t be on this island.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Btooom! – 04

Kira Kousuke, who murdered then raped three women, is deposited on the island with his lawyer Soichi and his father. When his father goes into an abusive range, Kousuke snaps and plants an implosion bomb on him, killing him. Soichi runs off, but Sakamoto and Taira bump into Kousuke, still standing over the corpse. They run too, but Taira sprains his ankle. Sakamoto draws him away and learns that Kousuke is an experienced Btooom! player, but not as good as him. When a bomb blast makes him concuss his head against a rock, Sakamoto forgets he’s in the real world, and nearly kills Kousuke before snapping out of it. Instead he ties him up and leaves him a candy bar, taking his bombs and supplies.

We consider ourselves lucky and blessed that we had good parents who not only taught us about right and wrong, but were also loving and caring, and didn’t use us as mini punching bags. Kira Kousuke wasn’t so lucky: his dad is human garbage. Well, was. While it isn’t solely his dad’s fault his son ended up a homicidal psychopath – genetics and neuroscience also played important roles – Pop certainly didn’t help matters with his parenting style of “when in doubt, crush your kid’s junk”. Some people back home were clearly so disgusted with him, his rotten son, and the snivelling lawyer, they voted to send the lot of them to the island to kill each other. This drives home the point that everyone on the island were extremely loathed by some of all of their peers.

Voting for someone to die is a lot different from pulling the trigger, especially if you assume the voting is just a game.  Himiko’s crime was abandoning her friends to a gang of rapists – which isn’t technically a crime, but definitely earned her loathing; while Kousuke did terrible awful things, but did them because he is quite literally a psychopath. Who knows why Taira was chosen, but the reasons are as diverse as the people, so for all we know one of his coworkers didn’t like how he finished the coffee without making more. Maybe that video game company got sick of Sakamoto’s applications and had him shipped off. Lastly, we’re curious about Sakamoto’s “trance” in which he acted like everything was a game, much like Kousuke. Was this incident unique to his head injury? Will it happen again, causing him to kill?


Rating: 6 (Good)

Car Cameo: In the cold open we see Japan’s favorite squad car, the Toyota Crown GRS180.

Btooom! – 03

Himiko runs from Sakamoto, who thinks he’s found her with his radar. However, the one he tracks is an older man named Taira Kiyoshi, who recalls what happened on the plane that sent them there; Sakamoto was tased in the head and lost the memory. They tentatively agree to team up and try to avoid playing the game if possible, but they have to find food. A plane parachutes briefcases probably filled with provisions, but someone beats them to it, only to get blown up by a bomb planted by another player. They run to another parachute, but a young boy is there to meet them, covered in blood and standing over a dead body.

A couple dozen innocent people are kidnapped, put on a plane, given chips that can only be removed if they die, told they’re being dumped on a remote island, and told they can only leave that island if they have eight of those chips, including their own. That means killing seven other people. And everyone will be fighting over limited supplies of food and water- the airdrops of which will inevitably draw them together. This is Battle Royale or the Hunger Games, only with some adults in the mix. The plane trip Taira recounts is thoroughly unpleasant and chilling in the same way.

How could people be so callous about the lives of their fellow men? While some of the players are tougher and less moral than others and look forward to the bloodbath, most are probably like Taira and Sakamoto: they really don’t want to kill anyone. Sakamoto actually did kill one person, and he hated it. Mass murder just isn’t in him. But hunger, thirst, and desperation will eventually give way. Deprive humans of comfort and necessities, and they turn nasty, just as sure as any “lesser” creature. It’s kill or be killed. Forcing people in such a situation is tyranny. But we won’t get our hopes up that those responsible will ever be punished for it.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Btooom! – 02

Himeko was an ordinary school girl until she made a mistake: she invited her friends to join her at an apartment where a popular band is hanging out, but she’s late arriving, to find the band beating and raping the other girls, and she’s next. She flees them, and the case makes the news, and her friends move away after abjuring her. She is then parachuted to the island, where she meets three other players: a teacher who is promptly killed by the soldier, and an otaku who pretends to be nice then tries to rape her. She uses a bomb to scare him off, then goes to a pond where she washes herself, when she meets Sakamoto.

We kinda feel bad for Sakamoto: his introductory episode wasn’t nearly as good as Himeko’s. Her past is woven nicely with the present, as we follow her right up to the moment Sakamoto bumps into her in the first episode. We really how this was executed: in both times, she goes through hell and is gradually hardened against any interaction with men, since men have been so horrible to her of late. She may hate herself for running for it when her friends were in danger, but there was no way she’d be able to hold off four men. She did what she had to to avoid getting raped or worse. It sucks, but that’s how it goes.

This episode also gives us a possible reason people are being sent to this island: a chain letter is being passed around asking people to vote for someone they want to disappear from their lives, and they’ll get paid. The episode indicates Himiko’s friend Miho did just that with her, and it’s not unrealistic to think the other three players and even Sakamoto had enemies who could’ve voted for their…relocation. But most interesting is how Himeko has already met Sakamoto within the digital version of Btooom! – they just aren’t aware how closely they both resemble their avatars. Also, Himeko really really hates men.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Car Cameos: As the girls cross the street, there are three cars:
A Honda Fit, an Audi A4 (B5), and a Honda CR-V.

Btooom! – 01

22-year-old NEET Sakamoto Ryouta spends all his days playing BTOOOM!, an online-fighting game using bombs. He’s ace of the #10 ranked team in the world. One day he wakes up hanging from a parachute, and finds himself on a deserted jungle island. He has been given a set of bombs that run on 10-second timers, and when a second castaway attacks him with his own bombs, Sakamoto realizes he’s been thrust into a real game of BTOOOM! He kills his rival, is shaken up about it, and the next time he wakes up he encounters a beautiful high school girl bathing in a jungle pool.

BTOOOM! didn’t make the most explosive impact compared to a couple other Fall series we’ve started on. Part of that may be our post-Accel World fatigue – after just finishing a battle game series in which there’s lots of not-always compelling inner dialogue, we’re understandably weary of starting another one right back up. Part of it may also be that shows with similar nonsensical titles like Gantz and Durarara! were more impactful right off the bat.

BTOOOM! stumbles in a couple places: Sakamoto’s would-be killer either has horrible aim or his bombs’ bark are far worse than their bite; and it takes too long for Sakamoto to figure out something that should have been immediately apparent: that the numbers on his bombs were a countdown. In fact, he did notice that when he threw his first away…only to forget in the heat of battle. But BTOOOM! is also straightforward and accessible, it doesn’t try to do too much too soon, and it’s by Madhouse. Hotshot video game kid thrust into a real life game of life and death is always intriguing if pulled off right, and despite some minor missteps, BTOOOM! isn’t altogether unintriguing.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Car Cameo: There’s a conservative sedan of  indeterminate make and model in the cold open, within the game. Has both Toyota Crown and Nissan Cedric characteristics.