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!