Black Bullet – 04

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Rentarou reveals his Vanadium arm, leg, and eye, uses them to defeat Kagetane and Kohina once and for all, then obliterates the legendary, Sin-like Stage Five Gastrea that suddenly emerges near Tokyo with a railgun capable of firing projectiles at near-light speed—the projectile in question being his own Vanadium arm, since there’s nothing else.

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As flashy and intense as all that action sounds (and looked), none of it would have been of any consequence had I not been emotionally invested. Because Black Bullet did the necessary legwork in the previous three episodes, I cared about all the stuff that went down, the people it involved, and the life-defining challenge that faces Rentarou in the aftermath.

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In previous reviews I spoke about how Rentarou and Enju are the people they are today because of each other, and neither can function without the other. That was demonstrated when the remote firing protocols for the railgun failed, putting Rentarou in the hot seat, charged with shooting a ridiculously powerful gun at a target fifty kilometers away. He wouldn’t have been able to do it had Enju not been there to calm him down and offer him her support and optimism. Without their bond, Tokyo would have been toast.

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The sudden loss of Senju Kayo really got to me, especially with the manner in which it happened, with Rentarou being forced to kill her before she turned into a Gastrea. Her story was hastily told last week, but it was enough to make an impact. All cursed children are just a few percentage points away from becoming the demons Kisara’s dad believes them to be, and she was an example of someone who had just crossed the 50% threshold.

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Turns out Kisara’s dad may have been the one to summon the Stage Five, so he could blame Kagetane and his cursed child daughter (who’s still alive but distraught), and continue and intensify anti-cursed sentiment. But Rentarou is now on dual crusades: to rise to the ranks of civil officers so he can gain the proper clearance to learn about what’s going on and what he really is, but also to save the cursed children, Enju in particular, who is far closer to turning than he lets on to her.

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Black Bullet – 03

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Just as I’d hoped, Satomi and Enju reunite quickly, when she goes to school again, trying in vain to fit back in. But the truth is, none of the kids at that school are her friends anymore; they’re too blinded by hatred of anything to do with the Gastrea. She’d refuse to give in, but it’s no use, and and Satomi knows it, which is why he suggests they change schools; start over where the kids don’t know what she is, because frankly, it shouldn’t matter.

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Still when Satomi and Enju are helicoptered to the location of the Gastrea with the case, Enju exhibits superhuman powers that are always going to turn off or frighten “normal” humans. Little girls aren’t supposed to be able to leap out of helicopters and kick giant spiders into a fine paste. Indeed, the bitterness of having her normal school life sabotaged seems to fuel her attacks. It looks like Mission Accomplished…until Kagetane and Kohina show up.

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Satomi is roughed up badly, run through by katanas, and launched off a cliff into a river to die. Had he been a normal human like I thought, he would have died. But we learn the creepy sensei who eats terrifying-looking food did…something to Satomi years ago, and as a result, he’s…something more than human, much like Enju, which explains why they get along so well. They’re bound not just by the promoter-initiator contract, but by the fact they learned to become human together. They’re family.

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The same can’t be said of some other pairs; notably Ikuma Shougan and Senju Kayo, with the former treating the latter as nothing but a tool, and Kayo following orders, even those to murder other Civil Officers so Shougan can get to Kagetane first. When Satomi and Enju find her wounded in the woods, she admits to feeling like there’s “something wrong with her” if she’s okay with such killing, and that she envys Satomi and Enju’s bond.

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Of course, with that cushy bond comes great responsibility: it’s entirely possible they didn’t meet by accident, and despite not ranking high on the official scale, it’s hinted that the two of them are the only ones who can stop Kagetane from summoning a city-destroying Stage Five Gastrea. despite how briefly they lasted in their last battle. Also adding texture to the proceedings is the mention of zealots who consider the Gastrea God’s punishment for the sins of mankind; and the cursed children as messengers between the two; Angels, in other words.

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Black Bullet – 02

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Would so many of Tokyo’s elite promoter-initiator pairs really stand around like idiots and wait for the obviously telekinetic bag guy to fire their bullets right back at them? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely a big power move that establishes to everyone that the half-man, half-machine Hiruko Kagetane and his adorable daughter/initiator Kohina are not to be trifled with. Kagetane challenges all the other pairs to find the case before he does, or forfeit their lives, and while he may have caught them with their pants down, there’s still no reason to think he won’t follow through on that threat.

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The case he seeks contains something that the wrong hands could use to bring down the barriers that protect Tokyo from the Gastrea. But as casually murderous and destructive as Kagetane is, he’s not the only evil dwelling here. In its second episode Black Bullet establishes that “cursed children” are pariahs of society, forced to the rough outskirts of the city, and even rounded up and shot in dark corners when they dare to venture in. For every citizen who actively hates, harms, and subjugates them, there seem to be three more who will do nothing to stop it.

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Even Satomi falls into the pit of inaction when faced with an injustice, though he avoids a bad situation out of fear of exposing or involving Enju through escalation. The show plays a neat trick before the incident where Satomi “proves” the bracelets Enju bought for them don’t work by declaring he loves her. At the same time, he bristles when the other promoter refers to his initiator as a mere tool or asset to exploit to optimum effect. Enju is far more than that to him, and we learn he’s gone beyond what many other promotors would have to raise and protect her. The flashback really nicely drove that point home.

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Whatever part of Kagetane is still human is much like Satomi, protecting his daughter just as fiercely—moreso, since he’s far more powerful than Satomi. But while Satomi has striven to give Enju a normal, happy human life, Kohina and her dad are the opposite. They won’t fit into the current system has provided for them. They’re a common product of sustained prejudice and injustice; they are the pot boiling over. Enju flees to her old home, perhaps afraid of being a burden or even danger to Satomi, her self-worth likely having been thoroughly eroded by the barbs of her classmates (its implied Kagetane started the rumor at her school).

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But what she must have come to realize (while hiding in the sewer while he spoke up for her) is that Satomi needs her. He’s the man he is today because of her, and no other initiator will do. I really hope she lets Satomi find her soon. The two of them must keep their footing in the narrow middle ground between the corruption and in society and the rage of the man in the mask. Tokyo may not deserve to be utterly destroyed, but nor can things remain the way they are with regard to the cursed children. But nothing can happen if Satomi and Enju are apart.

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Black Bullet – 01

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I was pleased with how polished and efficient this first episode of Black Bullet was. It offered a little bit of everything: a glimpse of the hellish past that was to the fragile peace of the present, some nice world-building, a hint of comedy, some romantic undertones, and last but not least, a decent helping of action; though not enough to break the budget in the first week. If I were to pick two words to describe it, it would be “competent” and “enticing”—two words with which I’d also describe myself.

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While I noted some exchanges of dialogue were a little transparently expository, at least the information itself was clearly and confidently laid out. One episode in and I had no trouble understanding the core conflict and the systems and weapons in place to fight the enemy, Gastrea. In this regard, I was reminded of the opening episode of Bleach, a similarly self-assured outing that quickly established its house rules and offered up an enticing mélange of action, drama, comedy, and creepy monsters (mind you, one that had no business being sustained for 366 episodes).

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Let’s talk characters: Satomi Rentarou (Kaji Yuki), orphaned by the war a decade ago and apparently adopted by the wealthy Tendo family, fights the Gastrea. Tendo Kisara (Horie Yui) is his adoptive sister not related by blood that Rentarou has feelings for (and runs the agency he works for), while his partner is the pint-sized, pink-haired Aihara Enju (Hidaka Rina), an obligatory human-Gastrea hybrid who represent humanity’s last best hope, along with Varanium, a black metal the Gastrea dislike. While Enju calls Rentarou her “fiancee” and is always messing with him, they’re more of a big-bro-lil-sis pair.

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There’s also a villain in a funny suit with a funny mask who is immune to Rentarou’s attacks and says he’ll destroy the world. That made me wonder if he was some kind of human-Gastrea hybrid before I learned the “cursed children” are only girls. Still, he’s bad news, as is the Gastrea presently at large. Between the overarching conflict with the Gastrea, Rentarou’s potential romantic ventures, his seemingly-abandoned goals to find his family, and the fate of “cursed children” like Enju toeing the line between human and monster, there’s a lot of material to work with. I like what I’ve seen, and definitely look forward to what’s in store.

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