Bocchi the Rock! – 12 (Fin) – Ultra Super Bocchi-chan

It’s time to play, and BtR get’s right down to it. But while I was relieved Bocchi was on the stage, but there were still things to dread. Would her dad’s old guitar break, or Kita’s voice fail, at the worst possible time? Turns out, it’s the former.

Their first song goes off without a hitch, but early in the second, a string gives out just before Bocchi’s big solo. Before it happens, everyone (especially Kikuri, who breakes out of her drunken stupor) can tell something’s off, even though Bocchi’s playing is okay.

After it happens, Bocchi is ready to spiral into a full-on meltdown, but Kita has her back, ad-libbing a  sort of rhythm solo for just enough measures to allow Bocchi to pick up one of Kikuri’s empty glass sake bottles and pull off a pretty rad bottleneck slide guitar solo.

Bocchi may be mortified, but both the adults and the kids love it. The former are super amused Bocchi thought to go bottleneck, while a lot of the latter didn’t even know what she was doing, but thought it was freaking awesome.

With their set complete, the band takes a bow, and when some in the crowd call out bottleneck Bocchi, Kita shoves the mic in her face. Bocchi locks up, unable to speak without prepared remarks, then asks herself What Would Kikuri Do? … and leaps into the crowd.

While she almost certainly would have been caught at a club where it would have been more expected, here she hits the ground with a punishing thud. Kikuri, Seika, and Ryou think it’s hilarious and Bocchi is now a rock legend while Nijika and Kita are more concerned.

When Bocchi comes to in the nurses office, Kita is by her side. Bocchi takes the time to thank Kita and to tell her how good she’s gotten in such a short time. Kita’s response is a little somber, since she’s resigned to never being good enough to be a frontman like Bocchi, Kit-aura or no. But Bocchi will happily keep teaching her.

It’s here where Kita officially starts calling Bocchi Hitori-chan, which is incredibly sweet. Bocchi delays the after-party to a date TBD, and back home apologizes to her dad for “breaking” his guitar. He tells her no such apology is necessary, but since his guitar is so old it may be time for her to buy her own. When she says all her STARRY pay goes to quotas, her dad produces a fan of 10,000 yen bills.

At first I thought he and her mom had been saving her weekly allowance for a social life she never had until now, but these are Bocchi’s legitimate hard-won advertising earnings from the clicks her videos receive. That’s right; she’s been posting to the Gotou family account, and they all know she’s guitarhero!

Suddenly having 300,000 yen burning a hole in her pocket, Bocchi gets all psyched up about quitting her job, since the cash will cover not only a guitar but her quotas. But when it comes time to actually bring it up to Seika, Bocchi folds like a cheap suit and issues a declaration of commitment to her current job.

She also considers that Seika might let her quit if she buys her a guitar, but when Nijika asks Seika what she’d want Bocchi to get her she says nothing (while privately blushing over how nice Bocchi is). With that, Kessoku Band is off to Ochanomizu, a historically musically-oriented district, to shop for a new guitar.

Once there, Ryou is annoyed when Kita and Nijika focus on the cute accessories, then unassumingly asks if she can try out a certain bass and proceeds to slap the shit out of it, impressing the store manager (and Kita).

When Bocchi spots a sleek black Yamaha, the manager approaches her and she goes to pieces, but Kita is there to operate Ventriloquist Dummy Bocchi, Oddly, even though the point of going to a physical store was to handle a guitar before buying it, Bocchi buys it without handling it. She even flees the store without the guitar, but her friends bring it out to her.

With that, Bocchi straps into her new guitar which she bought with her own hard-earned cash, and she does indeed look awesome, though her family witnesses her promising her dad’s old guitar that she won’t neglect it. Leaving her heavily bookmarked practice books and closet studio, Bocchi puts her new guitar on her back and heads out, saying Be back later not just to her family, but to us, as that’s the end of Bocchi the Rock!

While this was a pitch-perfect ending to the season, I for one hope we get an encore soon, featuring more confidence, more comedy, and more concerts! Until then, Bocchi the Rock! is a late but deserving addition to the conversation for Anime of the Year.

Bocchi the Rock! – 11 – Calm Before the Concert

Thankfully, last week’s “Bocchi’s Gone Missing!” cliffhanger is resolved quickly; she wasn’t anxious about the concert, but embarrassed to be seen in a maid outfit by her bandmates. Thanks to Kita’s cheerfully withering analysis, they’re able to find her in the darkest, moistest place, like where you’d find a slug.

Once the band is together at the festival, Nijika takes the lead and it becomes not just a band wandering around before their next big show, but four friends hanging out and having tons of fun together. It’s Bocchi’s first school event, and the fact she’s with Nijika, Ryou and Kita makes it not just tolerable, but genuinely enjoyable.

Kita eventually realizes Bocchi is stalling so she doesn’t have to work at the maid café, so after several festival detours they head to her class, where she’s posted at the entrance to greet customers. When post-apocalyptic hooligans show up to intimidate her, her lack of reaction and the face she makes immediately cows them; they’re unaware she’s passed out on her feet.

When Bocchi serves her friends in all her maidly glory, they comment how how great she looks in frilly stuff, while Ryou, always the enterprising young woman, conceptualizes ways they can cash in on her cuteness by dressing her up various ways so their videos will get more views.

But while she looks the tops, her maid “deliciousness spell” is more like a curse that actually makes the omurice less appetizing. Kita shows Bocchi how it’s done, blending her usual patented Kit-aura with a borrowed maid outfit. Bocchi’s classmates notice, and before long all of Kessoku Band is working at the cafe (Ryou eventually adopting Boy Style, much to Kita’s glee).

Bocchi takes a break, but that allows her to enter her 3D CGI mind palace where a crude model of her slams into hundreds of cubes. She’s worried that the “reception gap” between her and her bandmaids will carry over to their concert.

Before heading to STARRY to practice, the band heads to the gym where they’ll be playing just to get a sense of the place (Nijika and Ryou having never been there). The size of the place gets them all fired up. At practice, Nijika and Ryou have the kind of mini-spat old friends have over the value of MCing.

Bocchi also notices…something about Kita that concerns her. My guess is Kita has been going full speed ahead in preparation for this concert and is exhausted. I worried that the next day she’d be ill. By the same measure, Kita tells Bocchi she’ll do fine because she’s so…but then she trails off without finishing her sentence. I wonder what she was going to say?

After drinking in the autumnal twilight, the girls part ways. I love the little snapshots of their individual home lives we get. The next morning, Bocchi is present and accounted for, and as a welcome change of pace, is not having any kind of meltdown or panic attack.

On the contrary, she actually dives into a positive daydream in which a big producer at the school discovers and signs them on the spot, culminating in subway column posters and  a vision of Mister Guitar driving a Kessoku Band-themed semi truck across America.

Once Bocchi has returned to the real world, the hype and anticipation reaches its peak, as Kessoku Band waits in the darkness for their turn on stage. Bocchi is clear-eyed and determined, and even if her heartbeat is so loud Ryou mistakes it for the other band’s drumming, that’s to be expected considering the magnitude of their undertaking. Nijika brings everyone’s hands together for a final confidence and togetherness-boosting cheer.

Just like that, Kessoku Band is on stage, no surprise mishaps or setbacks. Everyone is healthy, wants to be there, and is ready to go. At first Bocchi feels a little lonely when the only cheers she hears are those from Kita’s fans. But then she hears her family, who will be watching her perform for the first time. Her fans from her street concert are there, as is a sauced Kikuri, being kept in line by Seika.

Family, friends, classmates, mentor, and a whole lot of strangers who are about to find out who she is and what she’s made of … one couldn’t ask for a better setup for a show that should prove to be the culmination of all the ups and downs and all those days, weeks and months alone in her dark cramped closet practicing away. It’s all about to pay off, I hope in the best way. No bombing up there—You all got this!

Bocchi the Rock! – 10 – Getting Psychedelic

In her classroom daydreams, Bocchi is already good to perform in a packed arena with thousands chanting her (real) name. But in reality, the idea of playing in the school festival is still too frightening. Nevertheless, its been an actual dream and goal of hers for so long, she enters a semi-fugue state where she fills out the form and is about to slip it into the box.

Unsure how she got to this point and shocked by what her unconscious self was about to do, she collapses in the hall, and wakes up in the nurse’s with Kita beside her bed (and quotes Shinji). At this point I thought the form had already been submitted, but it’s there on a nearby table, and after being intimidated by videos of school concerts and worried about the “fervor gap” between her and the other band members, Bocchi tosses the form in the trash.

At STARRY, she puts herself in a trash can, but when she talks with Seika and PA-san, they tell her to err on the side of striking while the high school iron is hot (even though Seika didn’t care about high school and PA dropped out). Nijika and Ryou, who performed separately in middle school also think she should go for it, even though Ryou knows that the big crowd will be a challenge.

Despite some encouraging words in favor of doing the festival, Bocchi sleeps on it (or doesn’t sleep on it) and decides she just can’t do it. Unfortunately for her, Kita informs her the next day that she found the form in the trash, thought it was an accident, and turned it in. Bocchi goes full Picasso, and back at STARRY eschews the trash can for a coffin.

The one who ends up causing her to rise again is Kikuri, who has come to give both Bocchi and the rest of the band free tix for her gig that night. Once it comes to light to Seika that both Kikuri and Ryou still owe Bocchi money, and makes them pay her back, the four girls and Kikuri head to Shinjuku FOLT, Kikuri’s “home base”.

While the crowds at the train station and some of the folks in the club initially scare Bocchi into turning tail, she’s also comforted by the atmosphere of the club—not STARRY, but still dark and a little cramped in a good way—and when she meets Kikuri’s bandmates in SICK HACK, she learns they’re three very different people who somehow strike a kind of balance.

That balance becomes even more apparent once SICK HACK starts playing. Bocchi forgets she’s in a packed house with over two hundred strangers and simply gets lost in the precise, inviting psychedelic rock. In addition to the bassist Kikuri is also lead vocals, and Bocchi is pulled in by her charisma.

It might be the first time she’s watched a “grown-up” pro band live, and it’s a seminal experience. It also cements her belief that being a rocker is the finest profession a human can have. It, quite simply, rules. I only wish we had gotten to watch the full show, and the monochrome crowd looks a little muddy, but this isn’t Kikuri the Rock!, so I get it.

At the end of the show, Bocchi chats with Kikuri some more in the green room, and Kikuri, who we know by now is a lot more emotionally intelligent than she looks, knows something’s off. Bocchi loved the show, but it discouraged her a bit, because she lacks Kikuri’s effortless charisma.

That’s when Kikuri tells Bocchi that she used to be just like her in high school—a gloomy, nervous misfit in the corner. She used to daydream about her future, thought it was lame, and joined a band to “pull a 180” in her life, but before her first show she was so anxious she had to drink—a perhaps unwise habit she’s kept at ever since.

It’s important that Bocchi hear this from Kikuri—particularly that doing anything the first time is scary for everyone. But Kikuri has now watched her perform in public twice and did fine without booze. Bocchi is cheered up and encouraged enough that she invites Kikuri to the festival, indirectly endorsing the fact that Kessoku Band will indeed be performing.

Kita, Nijika and Ryou are excited, but there’s a lot to do: their fifteen minute slot means they’ll have to practice for three songs, and they’re ditching the usual seishun theme of school concerts by going with three originals, including a Bocchi solo in the middle so she can shine.

After dinner, Kita confesses to Bocchi that she knew she tossed the form out on purpose, but submitted it anyway, because she wanted the school to see how awesome Bocchi was. She feels terrible about what she did and apologizes profusely, but Bocchi thanks her. She was stuck on the fence, but Kita and Kikuri were there to give her the little push she needed, and now she’s looking forward to the festival.

I’m not going to pay any mind to the last-second cliffhanger where we fast-forward to the festival and Bocchi has freakin’ gone missing, because I simply cannot believe that their festival concert won’t happen! But it was great to see Kikuri shine, demonstrate what a good person she is, and yes, punch a wall in excitement! Rock and Roll!

Bocchi the Rock! – 09 – TROPICALLOVE FOREVER

Kessoku Band’s first concert is behind them, but it’s only August 15—there’s plenty of Summer Break left. Bocchi ends up spending it like she usually did before joining a band: staying inside and either playing guitar or doing nothing. She wants to hang out with her bandmates, but is too scared to call, even saying it’s too late and turning in even though it’s only dinner time.

This carries on until there’s only one day of Summer Break left, and Bocchi is acting weird, even for her, making cicada graves outside STARRY. Kita* thinks it’s because school is coming up so soon, but then Seika tells the three about a series of scathing crayon drawings with captions Futari made that simply cut Bocchi to the bone:

August 30th
another day
lying around

I feel bad that Bocchi legit lost sleep over the drawings, but goddamn that’s good shit, especially since it’s coming from a kid with nothing but love for her big sister.

*I’ve been calling her Ikuyo but now I realize everyone calls her Kita.

Eventually Kita, Nijika, and Ryou all realize at once that none of them actually hung out with Bocchi once, all summer! It’s not that they didn’t want to, but they were all in their own little worlds and all made enough assumptions that it just…didn’t happen. I know I’d feel awful if something like that happened, even it if wasn’t intentional.

They decide there’s no time like the present to make some summer memories, so they approach Bocchi and propose an impromptu trip to the beach. This sets off a fantasy in which Bocchi is on a beach painted in Van Gogh-like colors and strokes, and watches Mr. Guitar and his girlfriend/wife(?) running on the beach. The little vignette causes her to pass right out, but her friends see that as a perfect opportunity to move her, “while she’s docile.”

While Bocchi in her fugue state mutters about black holes, Kita learns through idle chitchat that despite going to a fancy prep school, her beloved crush Ryou-senpai is something of a dummy who only crams for tests at the last minute and forgets everything she learned afterward, because too much studying makes her forget how to play bass.

Upon alighting from the train Ryou almost goes off on her own immediately—a clear indicator of her aloof loner personality—but Nijika keeps the band together. Bocchi comes too, but when a group of beach bros show up and start asking about them, she inflates and pops like a balloon. The girls flee the boys and partake in takosen, which Bocchi eats with gratitude, gradually returning to her senses.

Kita, who is documenting the whole trip on Insta, breaks out the selfie stick, and after she snaps it, Bocchi takes a moment, feels the sun on her face and the sea breeze in her lungs, and starts to cry while thanking the others for doing this for her. She assumes their summer memories end here, but Kita’s just getting started!

She wants everyone to climb the many steps of the Enoshima Shrine. In this, she is alone, but ups the level of her “Kit-aura” to basically compel them to climb with her. The three soon fall behind, just as they knew they would.

Kita relents and they all take the escalator instead. Once at the top, Ryou and Bocchi are instantly invigorated, just as Kita thought they’d be. There are clashes of opinion and preference in friendships sometimes, but it’s how we experience new things. They take some selfies with Nijika, but when they spot a lovey-dovey couple behind them they am-scray to the observation tower, where Ryou imperiously monologues about Babel.

The four park themselves at a bench to enjoy some soft serve (the best serve, IMO), and Bocchi notices the sound of the kites gliding overhead. That’s when the raptors, sensing her weakness and being annoyed by it, gang up and attack her. As Ryou points out, it’s another summer memory achieved.

The others indulge Kita one more time by attending the shrine to the goddess of music and performing arts, Myo-on Benzaiten, where she’d wanted them to go together for some time to thank her for the successful concert and pray for continued good fortune. Nijika smiles when she sees Bocchi praying extra hard, but Bocchi is too embarassed to say she was praying for summer break to reset. This isn’t Haruhi, Bocchi!

On the cozy train ride home, Nijika and Ryou are all tuckered out and soon drift off. Kita tells Bocchi she can too, but Bocchi is wide awake after being unconscious on the train ride there. We get a rare look at Bocchi’s face when she’s content and not worried about anything. Kita sees that face too, and no doubt wants to protect it with the others so they can see it more.

Bocchi thanks Kita for all the summer memories they made, which make her feel like she can face school after all. Ironically, despite not having any mental trouble, in the morning she’s face with unexpected physical trouble: whole-body muscle soreness from all the uncharacteristic running around yesterday! Bocchi: epsom salt is your friend!

As the follow up to the best BtR! to date and one of the best anime episodes of the year, I appreciated the lighter, more laid back approach, and the opportunity to see the four bandmates hanging out in a non-band, non-work scenario, as friends—warts, microaggressions, differences and all.

Maybe it will inspire Bocchi to reach out to the others next time, without getting bogged down in all the responsibilities and consequences that come with taking the initiative. It it can mean more days like this, it will be worth it!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bocchi the Rock! – 08 – Everything Is In Reach

The sky is dark, the rain falls hard, and the lone and level sands of the empty STARRY stretch far away. P.A. hopes Kessoku Band aren’t too heartbroken by the small crowd. Seika says “real” bands get “screwed over by life” all the time, so it’s a teachable moment. But form the way Seika is hiding her face, P.A. can tell she’s hiding tears, and offers a hanky.

Seika’s little sister Nijika, whom she wanted to shine so badly tonight, tells her bandmates they just need to take this in stride. Her cheerful exhortations inspire Bocchi to be her best self for this concert. In turn, Bocchi’s goofiness with her star sunglasses and fake mustache lighten the otherwise somber, almost funereal mood.

Then we hear the door to the club open, and what do you know, the first person to arrive is our favorite bass chaos gremlin, Hiroi Kikuri, who as it turns out was Seika’s kohai at college, and at least to her has somehow become an even larger pain in the ass. But when Kikuri showed up, my spirits soared; she’s so awesome, it would be fine if it was just her, Seika and P.A.

But the door to the club opens again, and my dopamine levels rose still higher as the two yukata girls kept their promise to watch Bocchi play again. Of the twenty tickets Kessoku Band sold, the only three who show are the ones who heard Bocchi play. The other seven who show for a total crowd compliment of ten came for the band that plays after them. They’ve never heard of Kessoku Band, and dismiss it as “a waste of time.”

Sadly, Kessoku Band plays down to those expectations in their first song. It’s an unmitigated disaster, and Bocchi points out all of the ways they utterly fail, from Nijika being a beat too slow with the drums, and her and Ryou oddly being out of synch, to Ikuyo playing far worse than she did in practice.

It’s as clear as the day is dark that the band is letting the typhoon and the mostly disinterested crowd get to them, shifting them out of the good vibes and camaraderie they’d built up to that point. After their first song, they look and sound lost and defeated, and not a single person claps when the song mercifully comes to an end.

It’s at this point in the concert, with the first song over and the second yet to begin, where for once Bocchi doesn’t fear and expect the worst case scenario and descends into a pit of despair with the others. Instead, she recalls how amazing it felt to play in front of people on the street with Kikuri and watch their faces become laced with joy.

She decides, on her own, that she won’t let this concert stay the way it’s been so far, and opens up a defiantly wicked string of riffs that zap her bandmates back into coherence. At first Ikuyo, Nijika, and even Ryou simply watch their guitarist shred epically, but then they see the wave she’s built up and jump on and ride it.

Bocchi’s abject refusal to let their concert bomb lifts the rest of the band, and their second song lifts every face in the audience from their phones. The most introverted and neurotic member of the band is the one who forces these ten people to pay attention, because there is fucking rocking going on.

The ensuing progression of the song to its completion comprises some of the very best minutes of anime I have ever seen in terms of pure emotional resonance and intensity. Bocchi rages against the dying of the light, drags the others with her, and they pull out their best performance ever. Polite and thoroughly surprised applause ensues.

While I would have been fine hearing their third song, we really didn’t need to; the second song, in which Bocchi got everyone back on track, was the crucial one, and it ruled, hard. Instead the episode skips to the afterparty at an izakaya, where Hiroi Kikuri’s name is finally uttered on camera as she introduces herself as a genius bassist and unparalleled bass lover.

Not surprisngly, fellow bassist Ryou has been to some of Kikuri’s shows, which tend to be what she calls “blind-drunk concerts” where at one point Kikuri stepped on Ryou’s face. What’s more cot-damn rock-and-roll than that?! Seika asks Ikuyo why she Instagrams so much, and Ikuyo actually gives a very apt reason: “it’s like giving people a piece of the fun” she’s having.

This is Bocchi’s very first time in an izakaya. She’s surprised to find they’re quite fun, and when she wonders if they’ll be more fun when she’s old enough to drink, she notices a pair of salarymen at the bar (in a very different and more severe art style), one of whom suspects his wife is cheating because he works such long hours. In an episode full of great lines, Bocchi’s reaction to this scene—“Is life just an unrelenting hell?” might just take the karaage.

She then slips into Bocchi Time, complete with a stop-motion Game of Life analog and another peek into a bad future where she lives in her dark closet and chugs shochu. This busts Bocchi, but her friends are able to pull her back to reality. Ikuyo’s name is also finally uttered—by Ryou of all people—exposing her complex about her name sounding like a pun: “I’m here! Let’s go!” The afterparty is a brilliant collection of character moments and interactions.

Kikuri actually heard Bocchi’s ramblings about supporting herself with a guitar and becoming a NEET, and encourages her to simply chill out and enjoy herself. P.A. and Seika add their voices to this approach, as keeping the “weight of success” on one’s shoulders constantly will only cause misery. It’s important to enjoy the process; the ride.

When Bocchi notices Nijika isn’t around, she steps outside and finds her standing alone, getting some fresh air. This felt like another big step forward for Bocchi, who is able to take enough of a break from all the shit going on in her head to notice that someone might be up with one of her friends.

When Bocchi started righteously shredding earlier, Nijika says she realized Bocchi was “guitarhero” from YouTube. Cornered, Bocchi admits she is, even if she considers herself far from a hero, and wanted to wait to tell Nijika and the others until she “fixed” herself.

Nijika then opens up to Bocchi like she never has before, saying how her mom died when she was little and her dad was never around, so her sister was her family. Her love of music sprouted form attending Seika’s concerts out of necessity, and she believes she inspired Seika to quit her band and opened the club in part for her sake.

Nijika then tells Bocchi her dream isn’t just to play at the Budokan, but to create a band popular enough to make STARRY famous. And since she’s started that venture, every time things seem like they’re at their worst, Bocchi is the one who “breaks through it” for them. Nijika tells Bocchi that she was unassailably a hero to her today.

This sharing leads to Bocchi sharing back: her dream is to make Kessoku Band the best band it can be…and become successful enough that she can quit school. Nijika appreciates Bocchi’s honestly, giving her a sun-bright smile as she heads back to the party, telling her she hopes Bocchi will keep showing them more of “Bocchi’s Rock”—or “Bocchi the Rock!”

Following that titular line is a cut to black and a vertical crawl of credits over a new ending theme. And honestly? This could have been a fitting end to the series. But I’m glad it’s not. I want to see more of Bocchi’s Rock too! I don’t know if what follows will ever be as good as this, but I sure am looking forward to finding out!


Bocchi the Rock! – 07 – Meet the Gotous

Summer has hit its stride as Nijika and Ikuyo make their way to Bocchi’s with the ostensible mission of designing a band t-shirt. Ryou isn’t with them; she said her gran took a turn for the worse, but Nijika knows that’s a lie, and we see that Ryou is just vibeing on her own.

I like how the show acknowledges that the four bandmates don’t do everything together, and that’s okay. It’s also that much less stressful for Bocchi to have her first two guests instead of her first three. She may know and interact with Nijika and Ikuyo all the time, but not in her home. Every new scenario comes with a new set of anxieties.

Bocchi is terrified and excited at the same time to be hosting her bandmates, and her inexperience with the practice clearly shows, from the giant banner outside the house and the elaborate welcoming getup and ceremony, to her maximalist disco bedroom decor.

Nijika and Ikuyo are exceedingly nice people who are excited to see Bocchi in a new setting, but find she’s the same ol’ Bocchi at home. From the giant stack of copies of their ProPho, to the seals and talismans put up by their parents from when she was “possessed”, it’s quite a trip.

It’s even more whiplash-inducing to meet Bocchi’s extremely well-adjusted little sister Futari, who introduces herself and the family dog. By the time Bocchi returns to the room with barley tea (worrying it’s not trendy enough while en route), she sees everyone having so much fun she worries there’s no place for her.

After shooing Futari away with an ice pop bribe, the three bandmates get to work on t-shirt designs. Ikuyo’s first attempt looks like the kind of shirts worn at sports festivals, but hearing those two words sends Bocchi careening headlong into “Bocchi Time”, complete with frikkin’ stop motion.

To Bocchi, sports festivals are accurséd rituals designed to condemn ostracize the uncoordinated and introverted. She imagines being hunted down and burned at the stake for the crime of nonconformity by a post-apocalyptic horde of sports festival participants.

Her reverie is interrupted when her parents peek their heads in to confirm that Bocchi’s friends are indeed real and not imaginary (or rentals). While I don’t doubt they adore their daughter, there are times in this episode when I feel like they’re being a bit harsh on her. Call it overcompensation for the shock of her actually bringing people over, I suppose.

Everyone gathers in the living room to partake of the feast Bocchi’s parents prepared. Bocchi heads to the bathroom, probably both because she had to go and because she needed a breather. While she’s gone, her folks describe how she put up and took down the decorations multiple times, and even practices Twister just in case.

When Bocchi comes back, there’s a repeat of the sinking feeling she got when she saw her bandmates interacting with Futari and Jimihen. They then watch the seishun movie Ikuyo brought, play a little Twister and Tycoon, and finally get back to designing T-shirts.

Ryou sending texts of t-shirts with different photos of food because she wanted them to decide for her is extremely Ryou. Bocchi’s valiant attempt at a edgy design, festooned as it is with indecipherable grundgy fonts and ample zippers, sparks conversation regarding Bocchi’s wardrobe,

She was doomed the minute she mentioned her mom buys her clothes she never wears. Nijika and Ikuyo insist she try some of them on, and they discover, as they had suspected, that Bocchi is indeed a certified cutie. Ikuyo makes sure to take some pics, and considering the running gag of the ProPho, I imagine they’ll turn up again someday!

Nijika then gets a little too into glowing up Bocchi, and when she attempts to pull back Bocchi’s bangs, she inadvertently causes her to turn to ash and blow away. This marks at least the third time Bocchi has died in just seven episodes, and this time it’s accompanied by Nausicaa-style singing child music. Bocchi-dust motes dispersed throughout the room, and Nijika and Ikuyo eventually breathe them in and collapse.

Nijika only barely able to text Ryou that she’ll have to play the concert on her own, because everyone else is dead. This heightened reality knocks on the fourth wall, though considering it was busted through when Nijika mentioned a commercial break, I’m fine with such occasional liberties.

In the end, Nijika designs a simple but fun design for their t-shirts, and Bocchi is over the moon when she slips one on, constantly looking down at it and smiling. All they need now is for the weather to cooperate for their concert. Reports indicate a typhoon will miss the Kanto region, but Bocchi, ever prepared for the worst, insists they make a bunch of teru teru bouzu … just in case.

They don’t work, and Bocchi exits her house on the day of the concert to find herself in the middle of a frikking typhoon. The once bright and cheerful summer sky is now as dark and brooding as the inside of her closet. But the closet is where Bocchi learned how to play a kickass guitar, and where she’s done some of her best work and earned her thousands of subscribers. If anyone can make lemonade out of this, it’s her.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bocchi the Rock! – 06 – No Enemies Here

Bocchi is always starting over from zero. Just when she had a wee epiphany on that audition state, took a step towards her bandmates, and showed a little bit of what she’s got, the ticket quota thing comes down on her like a ton of bricks. Being presented with more tickets than people you know is bad enough; to then have to be reminded that neither dogs nor your five-year old sister who is always roasting your won’t be allowed in a club is another.

Just like that, the number of tickets she has left to sell triples, and her anxiety intensifies accordingly. After Bocchi’s ghost escaping from her sigh knocks a recapping Mr. Guitar into the drink, she sits there not knowing what to do. She lied to her family about having friends to sell to. And then all of a sudden she catches a break, though it doesn’t seem like one at first: an extremely hungover woman with mauve taupe hair, a side braid, and glossy black nails.

Bocchi isn’t sure what to make of this person, but buys her some water, meds, and revitalizing clam-flavored miso. The woman—let’s call her Kikuri, since that’s her name according to MAL—then gets rightback to drinking, lining up boxed sake like dominoes and taking a generous swig from a bottle. When Bocchi tries to slip away from this weirdo, she trips and almost falls, but Kikuri catches her by the guitar.

When Kikuri says she plays bass, Bocchi gets worried she’ll be angry with a kid like her who knows nothing about rock. With the speed and precision of an auctioneer she crafts a lie about buying it a day ago but not really feeling it so he’s going to pawn it. That’s when Kikuri takes Bocchi by the wrist gently but firmly and says, in her most normal voice yet, that one day isn’t enough for that kind of thing.

Bocchi is separate from the rest of the band this week, and Nijika continues to prove she has the highest emotional intelligence of the four, as she’s concerned about overwhelming Bocchi for the second straight episode. But Bocchi is fine, having met someone who can relate to her struggles, and serves as a possible model for a “dark future” Bocchi who drowns her sorrows in Suntory Strong Zero from her closet.

Booze fuels a “Happiness Spiral” that allows Kikuri to keep living day in, day out. Bocchi thinks this sounds like a sad kind of happiness. but just as BtR! doesn’t judge its central pink ball of nerves, it doesn’t condemn Kikuri either. She’s a bit of a mess, but she also feels like a human being, and as we learn throughout the episode, a damn fine one at that.

But if booze is the Kikuri’s yang, the bass is her yin. So she decides that the two of them are going to put on a little street performance for the Kanazawa-Hakkei festival goers. She puts in a call to a friend, tells her she’s still alive, and asks them to bring some amps. They both plug in, and she tells Bocchi she’s “not in combat” with the people gathering in front of her—“Don’t get it twisted who your enemies are.”

That said, her recommendation that Bocchi simply close her eyes while she plays also comes in handy. Kikuri lays down a smooth and inviting base line that Bocchi can simply dive into and have fun with. All the anxieties and concerns of the outside world can melt away as she and Kikuri simply jam. One of the girls listening offers words of encouragement, sensing not incorrectly that “the guitar girl seemed nervous”

The vibes simply keep improving for Bocchi until she opens her eyes, sees the people listening to her, and it dawns on her that there are no enemies among them. That’s when she really starts to put some licks down, and Kikuri is astonished by how quickly her playmate is able to overcome her nervousness. The performance is another opportunity for BtR! to flex its animation and direction muscles, with lots of cool camera angles and such.

When they bring their jam to a close, Bocchi and Kikuri are met with enthusiastic applause. It’s only when it’s all over that Bocchi reveals she only opened one eye, and going back it’s true we never saw both of her eyes open at once! She manages to sell two of her three tickets to the yukata girls, and Kikuri buys the third, no doubt as eager as Nijika to see this girl unlock her considerable potential to rock.

I love how Kikuri has to borrow the cash she just gave to Bocchi to catch the train home. I love Kikuri, period, and hope we get more of her soon. I love how Bocchi LINEs her concerned bandmates to report she’s sold all her tickets. I love that they don’t believe her, and all agree to be extra-nice to her at the next practice. And I love the tiny fireworks in the distance at the end, celebrating another Bocchi win.

This was yet another beautiful episode of BtR!, brimming with comedy, empathy, and creativity. To borrow and slightly alter a well-known phrase, the tens will continue until quality declines.

Bocchi the Rock! – 05 – Not Just for Me

Seika distributes the girls’ pay, and for a moment Bocchi dreams of all the nice things she can spend it on. Unfortunately, she forgot that every one of the 10,000 yen she received goes into the band’s quota fund.

When Nijika lists all of the bands other expenses down the road that will necessitate second jobs in the summer, Bocchi retreats to the nearest trash can, then looks for a sketchy online website that buys livers from minors.

But in addition to receiving their first pay, Ryou has big news: she’s finished their song. Once she read Bocchi’s lyrics, the music just poured out of her. As thanks, Ryou gives Bocchi a chin scratch that makes Ikuyo green with envy. All that’s left is for Nijika to ask her sister for a slot for them to play.

But what she thought was a mere formality turns out to be a firm obstacle: Seika won’t book them. She only made an exception the last time so Nijika could make a memory, but doesn’t sugarcoat things at all when she says she can’t have a repeat of “that awful May performance”, and tells Nijika to stick with it “as a hobby.”

Nijika storms out of the club, and Ikuyo insists that she and Ryou run after her. Bocchi starts to follow, but is held back by Seika. When she rejoins her bandmates, she tells them what Seika told her: if they want to perform on stage, they’ll have to audition in a week. That means Bocchi has to get better at playing in a band and Ikuyo has to get better at playing period.

Nijika and Ryou believe they’ll be fine as long as they show her sister that they’re “bank-like”, which for the whimsical Ryou means dressing up in suits and mop-top wigs. But as the week of practice proceeds, Bocchi thinks long and hard about what she’s trying to accomplish now that she’s in a band, and what “growth” means beyond simply exerting a lot of effort.

Nijika misreads Bocchi’s distraction with these big questions, and after their last practice before the audition, catches up with her at the vending machines, buys her a cola, and apologizes for roping her into a band without asking her what kind of band she wanted.

Bocchi assures her she’s not doing this against her will, but still won’t tell her that she wanted to join for fame and adoration. By the same measure, Bocchi knows Nijika wants to play at the Budokan, but Nijika has a dream beyond that, which she’s keeping secret for now.

I really liked this scene both artistically (the light of the vending machines is both dramatic and warm) and as a sign that Nijika and Bocchi are still relatively new friends, and still have a lot to learn about each other. That will happen in time as they share more experiences.

The day of the audition arrives, and I felt a pit in my stomach for the girls as they took the stage. It’s the first full song we get to watch the band play, and after four episodes and change, it feels momentous. The performance animation looks great, and more importantly the band sounds great … but crucially not too perfect. There’s plenty of room for polish.

As they play, Bocchi asserts that she’s grown from someone who wanted to become famous for herself, but now that she’s in a band and has friends, she wants to help them achieve their dreams too. Beyond personal motivation, she doesn’t want to let them down or be a weak link.

Infused with that passion to lift herself and the others, her stage play takes a noticeable step up in quality. She’s able to enter a zone where she’s comfortable enough to play almost as well as she plays when she’s recording covers in her closet. A previously private Bocchi, now performing in public and turning heads, just like she dreamed.

Granted, the heads she turns are those of Seika, P.A., and her bandmates, but you gotta start somewhere! When the song ends and everyone is catching their breath, Seika starts with criticism—the drums are too tight, the bass is too distant, etc.—before noting that she now knows what kind of band they are. That means they pass!

The ordeal is so taxing on Bocchi that the show has to cut to live-action video of various Japanese dams while she boots next to the stage. Turns out Seika is a big ol’ softie who had an open slot for her sister’s band all along, but didn’t want to make it too easy for Nijika. She challenged them to work hard and play their butts off, and they did.

Seika also wants to try to encourage Bocchi and further unlock talents being held back by lack of confidence. But in what’s looking like a penchant, Seika’s attempt is worded so that Bocchi misinterprets her “I see you, okay?” as a threat, not a supportive acknowledgement.

While Bocchi panics over having one family member short of the five-ticket quota (two, if you don’t count her dog) the bottom line is shit is starting to get real for Kessoku Band. They have a song, and another on the way, and they have a venue and slot for their first concert as a unit. It’s not “all over” at all!

Bocchi the Rock! – 04 – Queen of Woot

Ikuyo is practicing hard at guitar with Bocchi, but it’s still pretty rough. She considers whether she could simply sing on stage, but then worries about what she’d do during interludes. She concludes it would be best if she just try her best and get better at the guitar.

Her “Kit-aura” once again blinds Bocchi, but for a minute there, she was experiencing someone else’s frustrations instead of focusing on her own. Yes, even a normie like Ikuya has those!

Nijika calls a band meeting, with the purpose of coming up with things to make Kessoku Band more band-like. She acquired colored zip-ties as merch, which Ryou immediately tries to monetize. Ikuya suggests they start a band Insta and is appointed social media minister. When Ikuya asks if Bocchi has any ideas, Bocchi searches the boxes in her head furiously to no avail.

But Nijika says Bocchi doesn’t have to come up with anything so she can instead focus on writing the lyrics to their first song with vocals—something Bocchi forgot she was assigned to do. She talks a big game about being the lyricmaster, one week passes and all she’s managed to do is perfect her Bocchi autograph style.

After doing some closet video editing and finding her middle school lyrics notebook that’s more like a book of curses, Bocchi does some intense roleplaying in her bedroom, first emulating the coolest, most extroverted chick ever, then straight up channeling Ikuya.

It’s here where I once again simply had to bow down in appreciation for the absolutely bonkers voice performance Aoyama Yoshino has been pulling off with the many shades of Bocchi. It’s also a display that her entire family peeks in on, and her parents worry she’s possessed.

The next day Bocchi is summoned for another band meeting, and comes with a handmade sign declaring she has not yet written any lyrics. But that’s okay, Nijika didn’t call everyone out to Shimo-Kita for that, but so they could take some “pro-phos”, or promotional photos.

The ensuing sequence of shots of the four girls, both posed and candid, in a variety of different locations, really ups the energy and realism of the setting. There’s also a lot of comedic mileage to be had in capturing the four girls’ different personalities through still imagery. A particular highlight is when Ikuya and Nijika copy Ryou’s stare.

One thing everyone agrees on is that Ikuya looks great in every photo, which she chalks up to having an established Insta account. But at one point in this extended photo shoot, Bocchi overloads. She’d never had a non-family, non-school picture of herself taken before, and now all of a sudden she’s in dozens of them.

When Ikuya suggests she start her own Insta, things get even worse, as Bocchi starts writhing on the ground and enters a fugue state in which she imagines herself as an attention whore kaiju that levels a city with her desire to be seen. Bocchi’s unhinged, almost cubist transformation in the real world contrasts with the stark, richly-textured style of her fantasy.

Bocchi’s bandmates manage to bring her back into their plane of existence and they do a jump shot, which they all agree is great, so they call it a wrap for the day. But Bocchi’s lyric block remains firmly in place. She decides she needs input from someone, and deems Ryou is the best person to give it (since she won’t humor her).

As a reminder Bocchi’s social anxiety is going precisely nowhere, she struggles to even enter the trendy cafe where Ryou told her to meet her. She decides to say “Are ya winning, diners?” when she enters, drawing blank stares (Bocchi’s overly formal texts are also a hoot). Her next challenge is striking up a conversation with Ryou, resulting in a long stretch of silence until Ryou simply asks to read the lyrics. I’d say don’t overthink things, Bocchi, but that’s impossible.

Ryou reads the lyrics, which are packed with seishun clichés, but rather than just shit on them, Ryou tells Bocchi why she quit her first band (the music just started getting too commercial and shallow) and offers helpful feedback. We get an adorable origin story to how Kessoku Band was founded (Nijika said she loved how Ryou played), and Ryou states her philosophy that abandoning uniqueness and honesty is akin to dying.

Bocchi says that if she avoids generic lyrics she’ll write bitter, social-outcast lyrics. But to Ryou that’s perfect: think how hilarious it will sound if a normie like Ikuya sings those lyrics? Ryou is spot-on in wanting to embrace the band’s contradictions. That way lies uniqueness and freshness.

Bocchi was ready to peg Ryou as a deeply considerate person … until it’s time to pay her check and she asks Bocchi to spot her as she’s still broke (she’s apparently still eating weeds and wanted a break from that, and also to try out the new café). But the fact remains, she was considerate in her criticism, and Bocchi now has a direction.

She comes back with a notebook full of lyrics that are genuinely hers and not trying to put on a front or prove anything. The other girls note that the lyrics are kind of a downer, but Ryou says they’re “very Bocchi,” adding that they may not connect with everyone, but will hit deeply for those they do. Kind of like this show!

Bocchi has done good; the band has lyrics, and no doubt soon Ryou will feel inspired and write music to go with them. The two have also hit it off in a way that pisses off Ikuya, who obviously wants Ryou-senpai all to herself. As for that pro-pho, Bocchi once again goes the extra mile, printing out dozens of copies and plastering her walls and ceiling with them. Damn Bocchi, I know you want to change … but please never change!

Each episode of Bocchi the Rock! I watch reinforces my belief that I was missing out big time these past eight weeks. Bocchi is fast approaching Kaguya-Sama – Love is War levels of AOTY excellence, and I haven’t even seen the full band play yet! The vibes are very good, and the sky’s the limit.

P.S. The new Bocchi-centric ED theme is so sweet, wistful, and pretty-sounding it made my heart hurt a little…not a bad thing!

Bocchi the Rock! – 03 – Extroversion Abounds

Bocchi recovers from her self-inflicted fever after a couple days, and while brushing her ahoge tells her little sister it’s important for “people like her” to attend class lest her classmates forget she exists. Her little sister says her sister is “a pain in her own ass” and she’s not wrong! That said, Bocchi is still feeling confident now that she’s made two friends, joined a band, and gotten a part-time job.

That confidence evaporates when yet again no one approaches her in class, and when she hears two girls engaging in band talk, she loudly yelps to get their attention. Not only do they know her name, but they seem open to hearing her out, but poor Bocchi can’t get any words out. She didn’t prepare adequately! So she retreats to a dark corner of the school to eat lunch in tears.

When she encounters Kita Ikuyo, a red-haired girl that everyone says is great at karaoke, Bocchi observes her from afar, but is too intimidated by how much of an extrovert the girl is to get any closer. When the girl notices her anyway and also knows her name, Bocchi once again can’t say any words—she can only beatbox!

When Ikuyo beatboxes back, Bocchi shouts an apology, bolts, then returns to her hiding spot to serenade us with a ballad of melancholy. However only we hear the lyrics; Ikuyo followed Bocchi there, heard her playing, and thinks she’s awesome!

Bocchi, unaccustomed to praise, laps it up like honey and instantly deems Ikuyo a good person. Bocchi finally manages to blurt out the reason she’s been wanting to approach Ikuyo, and Ikuyo tells her she’s sorry, but she can’t join her band. Bocchi assumes she’s the reason and makes up all kinds of things to make her bandmates sound cool as hell (and they look kinda like Panty & Stocking in her mental image!) … to no avail.

Ikuyo says she can’t join a band for the same reason she flaked out on the band she joined to be closer to her senpai: she can’t actually play the guitar. Hearing her say she thought the neck was “for decoration” astonishes Bocchi, but despite her inner voice telling her “say no girl!”, she agrees to teach Ikuyo how to play in between school, band, and work.

After texting Nijika and Ryou to bring lots of energy drinks and blast EDM when they next meet, Bocchi takes Ikuyo to Shimo-Kita, and ends up having Ikuyo lead the way, using her as a shield to avoid the stares of others (while actually attracting more staring in the process).

When Bocchi mentions STARRY, Nijika and Ryou, Ikuyo tries to back out, saying she can’t go back there, but Nijika and Ryou arrive, arms bursting with energy drinks, and she can no longer run away. Once inside, Bocchi can tell how uncomfortable Ikuyo seems and wants to say something nice, but Ryou beats her to it.

Ikuyo wants to make it up to Nijika and Ryou for ditching them, and Nijika’s sister suggests she work a shift with the others. No doubt recognizing her talent for public relations, Seika dresses Ikuyo up in a maid outfit and has her handle admissions and drink tickets.

Bocchi immediately starts feeling inadequate and redundant, “losing her identity” and turning into a mist that rises up the club stairs as Ryou looks on. A “Thanks for Watching!” card flashes as if to herald yet another premature end to the series, but she snaps out of it when she’s asked to show Ikuyo how to serve drinks.

Unfortunately, being watched makes Bocchi so nervous she burns herself with coffee. Ikuyo wraps her hand in a handkerchief, and Bocchi notices something about Ikuyo’s hand. When Ikuyo asks why Bocchi joined a band, Bocchi lies and says “world peace” because she’s self-conscious about having “impure” motives like wanting fame and popularity.

But then Ikuyo turns around and admits her motives are impure (too): she joined to be closer to her senpai, Ryou, whom she once watched performing on the streets and fell head-over-heels in love. Honestly, I can’t blame her; of the four leads, three are extremely high-strung, while Ryou’s never not an island of cool tranquility.

When the music’s over and the house lights are back up, Ikuyo prepares to depart from her first and only shift at STARRY. But even earlier, Bocchi had been building up the determination to say something to Ikuyo to make her stay. Unfortunately, her body moves before her mind can get all its ducks in a row, and she ends up tripping, ripping down a black curtain, and smacking her noggin on the wall.

While it’s not how she wanted to do it, it does keep Ikuyo there, if only because she’s concerned about Bocchi. She even gleans that Bocchi was going to try to say something to convince her it was okay to stay, but says she can’t join a band she already flaked out on once, especially when she can’t really play the guitar.

Bocchi tells Ikuyo that she ran away before the concert too, and threw herself in a trash can. But she also felt Ikuyo’s hands when she was treating her burn, and she felt the calluses one only gets by working their butt off practicing. That is all Bocchi needs to know that Ikuyo is committed enough to join, or rather re-join Kessoku Band.

Nijika and Ryou agree with Bocchi: Ikuyo should join them. They’re not even mad that she flaked out the first time, because if she hadn’t they wouldn’t have meet Bocchi! But the fact remains, Ikuyo’s guitar ignorance is such that she’d been practicing on a six-string bass all this time without knowing it, attributing the bomm-bomm sound it made to her being terrible.

Ryou buys her bass (and ending up broke and eating weeds) and lends her an actual guitar to practice with as Bocchi teaches her in STARRY’s back room. Ikuyo’s progress is slow and she’s easily frustrated and whines a lot, but Bocchi recognizes all of the ways she gets frustrated because that was her three years ago. Now she has the skills to not only play, but teach.

Bocchi was right about Ikuyo, she’s a very nice person. She’s so nice, she almost deprived herself of her dream of playing with her beloved senpai because she thought her misdeeds were too serious to be forgiven. But Bocchi, Nijika, and Ryou are also good kids, and knew the band would be better with her than without.

That Bocchi worked so hard in recruiting Ikuyo speaks to how she continues to make progress interacting with people. Her anxiety and myriad neuroses were likely remain a part of her for a good long time (if not forever) but she’s gradually learning that she, like everyone else, deserves a happy life and friends to rock out with.

Bocchi the Rock! – 02 – Welcome to the Workforce

The stinger consists of Bocchi filling up the tub with ice and slipping in, which I initially took to mean she had just gone through some intense physical exertion. Rewind a few days to the band’s first meeting, and Bocchi is too scared to go inside alone. Nijika and Ryou eventually arrive, and they use a giant thrown die to pick conversation topics.

If the goal is to learn more about Bocchi, then mission accomplished, as each question offers her bandmates new insights into the depths of her social anxiety, from the tragic story of her school life to this point to avoiding music with lyrics that refer to happier school lives.

When the discussion shifts to the business side of things, Nijika concisely explains ticket quotas, and how they’ll have to pay Starry if they can’t meet said quotas. That’ll require cash, which means jobs. And people, Bocchi is not into a job. Not beause she’s lazy, but because it would just be too much.

Unfortunately, her anxiety is such that she’s unable to refuse (we also learn she considers Ryou a loner who likes being lonely while she’s lonely, and doesn’t) which brings us to the ice bath. She’s not icing her worn muscles, but intentionally trying to catch a cold.

Alas, her good health prevails so she heads to Starry after school. Again she’s paralyzed by the prospect of entering alone, but that’s how she meets Seika, the manager, whom she quickly labels as someone “scary” that she can’t deal with. She also forgot that Seika is Nijika’s big sister.

Nijika gives her a tour and quick overview of the process of serving drinks, and Bocchi, who has never had a job before, is quickly overwhelmed and whips out her Gibson to play a song with lyrics to remember everything. Seika notes that Bocchi is playing is much better than when she was in a box on stage, and it reminds her of someone (probably guitarhero).

Before Bocchi knows it, the doors are open and the customers start to flow in. She initially does not fare well, hiding under the counter and slapping drinks on it for customers to take without looking at her. This is obviously not optimal customer service!

But they get through the initial drink run, and when the band that’s playing takes the stage and starts their patter, Ryou takes a break from the ticket desk and joins Bocchi and Nijika to watch the band play … and learn from the experience.

When Bocchi sees how much both the band and the concertgoers are enjoying themselves once the music starts, and compares it to her first show, she resolves to put on a better performance, to honor both the venue and the people who paid money to see her.

When a girl orders an orange juice, Bocchi decides to start now, giving the customer eye contact and smiling (after a fashion). It’s a creepy smile, and Bocchi nearly passes out, but it’s undoubtedly progress, and Nijika gives her the praise she deserves.

She takes another important step forward when she says “see you tomorrow” to Nijika and Ryou when heading home, which she does at full speed and with a big smile on her face. Starry, a place that she was too scared to even enter on her own a few hours earlier, is now a place she can’t wait to get back to so she can continue with her progress in both working and performing.

So it’s legit heartbreaking that it’s only then that she comes down with a bad fever and has to skip her second day of work. But hey, that’s what comes of soaking in icy water for too long then sitting in front of fans. She’ll get better and go back to work, so that’s one hurdle out of the band’s way. The next one is finding a fourth member and vocalist, and the one we cut to doing karaoke looks to be the one.

Bocchi the Rock!’s magic formula so far is Bocchi’s inner turmoil, outer face game, and her friends’ reactions to it. My middle school life wasn’t as tragic but it was close, while it took me a while to find my people in high school. The show strikes the perfect balance of mining comedy from this scenario while giving us room to sympathize and empathize with Bocchi. It helps that it’s a great-looking show, too! Forget the 3-episode rule—I’m in now!

Bocchi the Rock! – 01 (First Impressions) – Guitar Heroine

I never did replace Renai Flops after dropping it, and I’ve heard and read good things about Bocchi the Rock!, so I thought better to check it out late than never! Reviews to come as I find time to watch back episodes.—Zane

First-year middle schooler Gotou Hitori describes herself as an “archetypal introvert”, but when she learns from TV that even introverts can become cool and popular if they join bands, she borrows her dad’s guitar and starts practicing, with the plan to create a band and perform at the cultural festival.

Those plans would prove … optimistic. Three years pass, and while she never puts the guitar down, gets quite good at it, and posts covers on YouTube and gets good feedback, she never made a band, never performed, and never even made a friend. She aims to change all that in her first year of high school.

But despite psyching herself up and decking herself out in Rocker Chick garb and accessories, no one approaches Hitori in the first month of the school year. Granted, she’s just passively waiting for people to approach her. She has social anxiety, stammers, and has trouble making eye contact.

But even if Hitori can’t communicate externally, her colorful, dynamic inner voice is a genuine delight. Props to Aoyama Yoshino for nailing both sides of Hitori, which make her an instantly likeable protagonist you want to see succeed.

Sure enough, when hanging out on a swing a girl with red boots and a blonde sidetail approaches her while yelling “Guitar!” Ijichi Nijika is her name, and a guitarist is what she needs for a show … today.

After a quick train to the stylish Shimo-Kitagawa district, Nijika leads Hitori to the basement club called Starry. Immediately Hitori is encouraged by the darkness and stuffiness, reminding her of the closet where she spent most of the last three years. She also meets Yamada Ryou, a cool beauty and bassist.

A quick scan of the sheet music for the set reveals nothing Hitori can’t handle musically, but after her first-ever practice with other human beings, they’re unable to hold back the hard honest truth: she sucks. Or, rather, she sucks staying in synch in a band. But that’s what you’d you expect … she’s never been in one!

After curling up into the fetal position, the “sub-water flea” Hitori jumps into a garbage can, and even considers committing guitar hara-kiri on stage. But Nijika and Ryou insist she’s being too hard on herself, and everything will be fine. When she mentions she uploads covers, she learns that not only to both girls know about her (through her YT handle “guitarhero”), but think she’s awesome.

While this revitalizes her, Hitori still has legitimate concerns about being able to stand on a stage and play (this is someone who only recently became capable of speaking to Nijika) so her bandmates produce a big mango box she can play inside. They immediately notice the change in her personality once she feels safe and secure.

Nijika and Ryou tell Hitori that their band is called Kessoku Band (as in zip-tie band), and then give her an appropriate nickname: “Bocchi”, as in hitoribocchi (“all alone”).

With that, it is time to rock, and while we don’t get to hear most of the set, all we need to know is that it wasn’t that great, at least by the standards the band is trying to meet. That’s not just on Hitori, mind you: Nijika and Ryou know they have flaws too. They’re grateful Bocchi was able to play with them, and look forward to playing with her again.

Nijika wants to take Bocchi out to celebrate her first ever set in her first ever band, but all this social interaction has exhausted Hitori to the point she simply has to head home for the night, so she takes a rain check (Ryou also falls asleep on her feet).

Honestly, I would have been disappointed if Bocchi and Kessoku Band kicked ass right out of the gate. Rather, it will be fun to watch Bocchi grow more comfortable talking to her new bandmates, meeting the fourth member who appears in both OP and ED, and watching the band learn from and get better together. It’s a very solid, fun start to a show I wish I’d picked up eight weeks ago!

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