Black Bullet – 13

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It looked like Satomi-leader had a steep hill to climb in order to defeat Aldebaran and end the Gastrea threat, but we were surprised to find that the final Gastrea battle only occupied the first half of the episode; the rest was for character stuff of a very specific and also surprising nature. That said, the first half battle didn’t feel rushed at all; it felt focused and efficient, yet epic and cinematic. The lanterns were a nice touch, too.

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The battle could have been even quicker still, but for a little hiccup with the Miori-supplied bomb that fails to detonate, a nice little “uh-oh” moment that even had us questioning whether Miori meant for it to not go off. Rentaro decides to knock out Enju and detonate the bomb at point-blank range, which he knows will kill him but he goes anyway, because giving his life to protect others is the very thing he’s lived for.

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Destiny wasn’t ready to let Rentaro bow out of the mortal coil just yet though, as Aldebaran hits him Varanium-corroding fog that destroys his leg. The necessary sacrifice falls to his mentor Shouma, whom he’d just reunited with, but who also wants to bury the dark powers he’s learned along with Aldebaran. As he sees it, his life is a small price to pay to eliminate both evils. So, who will be Asaka’s promoter now? Yeah…the show forgot about her.

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That’s okay though, because for much of the balance of the episode casts a laser focus on Tendo Kisara, Rentaro’s boss would-be girlfriend. Specifically, she wastes no time taking her brother Kazumitsu to task for building Monolith 32 with substandard materials and pocketing the savings. By “taking to task” we mean “challenging him to a duel he has no business accepting. She takes one of his legs, and he gives her information about whom to target next.

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Everyone thinks Kisara is sparing his life, but her second strike was on a delay, and he literally explodes in a gory, horrific mess. Kisara giddily embraces Rentaro afterwards, pleased with what she’s done. When he recoils at the crazy, she admits he’ll never be able to truly “touch evil”, and that his justice was never any match for the evil he’s up against. No, to her, only a greater evil can defeat evil, and if that means she has to cast away her soul and happiness—and that Rentaro becomes her enemy—so be it.

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I’ll be honest; Kisara’s fall is quite extreme and a lot to take in, especially so close to the end of the show, but I liked the shocking suddenness of it, especially since we’ve seen how much suffering and death was caused by the people who Kisara wants to kill. This darkness was always growing in her, and she finally let it out. Still, since there’s no time to explore it further, it’s more like a preface to an arc that never was, ending in an ellipsis.

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The final scene of the show has Rentaro and Enju alone on a train, headed to a ceremony where they’ll be patted on the back for their service. With the city safe from Gastrea—once more, thanks to Enju’s kind—things seem to be looking up, but Kisara’s new path is certainly unsettling. And even though Enju pledges they’ll be together forever, both Rentaro and we know she’s already on borrowed time. Neither entirely happy or sad, this ending was…cautiously optimistic.

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Final Cumulative Score: 7.85
MAL Score: 7.77

Stray Observations:

  • Kagetane’s role in this episode is limited to a couple one-liners. Shame.
  • Yasuwaki does not reappear. GOOD. Fuck that guy.
  • Building 300m (984 feet) of monolith in two days? Yeah, I’m no engineer, but even with slave labor, that’s just not happening.
  • Kisara walking barefoot through her brother’s blood…yikes!
  • Well, if there’s ever a Black Bullet 2, you can expect Kisara to be an enemy and for Enju to either turn into a Gastrea, die, or be saved but lose her powers, which is probably the most preferable choice for her well-being.
  • This is the final RABUJOI review of Spring 2014. Thanks for watching and reading, everybody.

 

 

Black Bullet – 08

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What with the intensity of last week’s battle between Rintaro and Tina, I had a pretty good feeling we were in store for a cooldown episode, and so it came to pass. But Bullet made the most of it, allowing two former enemies to do some bonding, but never letting us forget that the peace won’t last long.

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Dual threats appear this week: not only have the Gastrea returned to the picture, but they’re up to some unprecedented shit, attacking one of the monoliths that protect Tokyo. The government will have a new one built in nine days (how, I have no idea…those things are HUGE), but the old one will only last six. The three day gap is all the Gastrea need to convert or kill Tokyo’s entire population, if they aren’t opposed.

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That means it’s time for an Entmoot Adjuvant, where Civil officers join forces with the military to fight the bugs off, thereby saving the city. But the other threat appears from within, and again brings up the question of whether the city even deserves to be saved. When a leader of the movement to expel the cursed children is murdered and a cursed child named as a possible suspect, anti-cursed sentiment balloons.

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Frankly, it would make more sense to me to expel the anti-cursed mob: if they don’t want to afford gratitude, rights, or even the slightest decency to girls who save their skins day in day out, they can piss off out of Tokyo and fend for themselves. Fortunately for them, cooler heads like Rentaro seem committed to saving the city despite all the ingratitude. When some punks toss a soda tab at a blind cursed-child beggar who mistakes it as a coin, we mused about how good they’d look in the bottom of a Gastrea’s stomach.

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The girls Rentaro and Kisara teach in the beginning don’t even get a classroom with a roof. And the Katagiri siblings are proof that not all civil agencies are as prosperous as Tendo. Still, nice to see how well Tina is taking to normal life as a regular girl, even with war on the horizon that could cut it short. There’s a kind of gloom in the fact that even if she and many other girls fight and give their lives for the city in the coming days, they’d still be hated and ostracized.

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Black Bullet – 07

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While Preston continues to bask in the warm, fuzzy glow of Nagi no Asukara’s finale, let’s talk Black Bullet, shall we? Last week’s episode ended with the implication that Enju had just gotten her ass handed to her (or worse) off-camera, by 98th ranked Tina Sprout. We later learn that Satomi’s power level is 2200% and Enju’s 8600%, but Tina’s is estimated to be 12900%. Not sure what that means, but it sounds impressive; you don’t see percents going into the tens of thousands often enough, if you ask me.

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But even if Tina’s power level were One Million percent, the chances of Enju kicking the bucket in the seventh episode were precisely zero. Instead, she’s hospitalized. The third meeting between Seitenshi and Saitake will happen before she’s expected to wake up, so he’ll have to defeat Tina without her. But that doesn’t mean he’s on his own. And he also gets the feeling she’s not killing people on purpose, as if, unlike the general consensus about the Top 100, she still has a soul, and is trying not to fully lose it.

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Even though Enju sits this one out, Satomi isn’t alone. Muroto-sensei tells him about the small, nifty “Shenfield” drones Tina uses in concert with remote machine guns to keep her foes at a distance. He makes full use of the Shiba training facilities. And when he finds Tina and goes after her, Miori has his digital back. But even with all this support, Tina is a 12900% handful. She’s also been warned by her master (named Ayn Rand, a very loaded real-world name) that if she keeps not killing people and having emotions or whatever, she can just kill herself.

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She’s committed enough that no amount of appealing to her humanity is enough to stop Tina from trying to kill him…but he is able to slow her down and get her to come close enough to stun her with a flash grenade. After that, he rains a proper Vanadium-plated beatdown upon her; that’s what stops her. As thanks for not killing Enju (even if that was actually just a mistake on her part), he spares her. And then she’s shot through the heart…not by Rand—whom we hear no more of the rest of the episode—but by Yasuwaki, the most over-the-top, insufferable, Worst Character Ever.

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Of course he’s the one to shoot her, right? Fortunately, Yasuwaki just fires a regular bullet that doesn’t kill her, and Seitenshi stands up Saitake in order to stop him.  She then promotes Satomi, and his first act as Yasuwaki’s superior is to shoot one of his fingers off, which is fine with us! It’s a little tidy that Kisara ends up hiring Tina, but as she says, Tina has nowhere else to go, and Tina is frikkin’ adorable. Ultimately, I like her more as an ally and a friend than as a mortal enemy, and look forward to her future contributions. Sounds like we’ll be getting back to the Gastrea. Yeah…remember those?

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Black Bullet – 06

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The title of this episode was “Tragic Irony”, and I can’t really argue with its aptness. Not only is the sleepy Tina the would-be assassin of Seitenshi and Kisara, but she’s also an initiator and mechanized soldier. Her promoter (or master as she calls him) appears to keep her at arm’s length, letting her take care of business, and so far she seems quite up to the task.

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But yeah, even Tina and Satomi themselves seem to be saddened by the fact that they’re actually mortal enemies. She wasn’t putting on a pesona when they hung out; she genuinely liked him and was grateful to know someone kind, a kind of person she’s interacted with too infrequently. But regardless, both of them are professionals with jobs to do, and neither is backing down from the other.

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The blow might’ve have been heavier had there been more than a superficial connection between the two, such as one saving the other’s life, or learning more about each other’s pasts. Instead, their friendship only lasted a total of a few hours, tops. But I’m glad the show didn’t string out their mutual ignorance longer than it did, as it allows things to keep moving along. And the tragic irony still stings.

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What also stings, or rather itches and irritates, is the show’s penchant for unimaginatively-staged infodumps. Satomi’s sensei (who also apparently “built” him) is this week’s Font of Exposition, with an assist by Seitenshi, who dug up info Tina way too quickly, even for someone with her resources. Between that and the tedious competition among Kisara, Enju, and Miori for Satomi’s attention, well…let’s just say these aren’t the show’s strengths.

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Rather, Bullet is at its best when it casts aside the catfights and lengthy explaining and gets serious. Whether it’s the seriousness of Satomi and Enju’s bond, or the seriousness of the mortal peril they end up in, good things happen (for us) when the characters and the show get down to business. Take the final moments of the episode: Satomi calling Enju and becoming relieved when she picks up. I was waiting for her voicemail message to crush him, but it’s something worse: Tina picks up for Enju, saying…nothing at all.

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Black Bullet – 05

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We were expecting a bit of a slowdown after the big climax last week in which Satomi and Enju took out the biggest Gastrea with the biggest gun. But like the episodes that preceded it, this one built slowly and steadily, growing more interesting as the pair starts a very special job that makes them responsible for the most important person in Tokyo, Seitenshi.

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She’s just one of the many cute young ladies Satomi crosses paths with this week. His classmate Miori and Kisara duel in his apartment, after all, while he and Enju calmly get the dinner table out of the way. Both are beautiful rich girls, and much of their animosity towards one another is their mutual affection for our half-metal protagonist.

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But Miori and Kisara were mainly around for comedy and to show that Satomi is a sought-after fella. More important to this next arc is Tina Sprout, a tiny “nocturnal” girl in dirty PJ’s he happens to run into. He gives her his number, but having his own tiny ward, leaves her to her own devices, not seeming to be in any particular distress. And he’s right: Tina can take care of herself. She’s a cursed child, and her master would have her take care of Seitenshi.

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Apparently Seitenshi’s existing personal guard was insufficient for her pending meeting with a very dangerous rival area president, Saitake, who wants to unite Japan by force. He’s confident the war with the Gastrea is already won, is already planning the next one; a war between humans. Seitenshi also wants to unite Japan, but peacefully, which means she’s in Saitake’s way. She means to stay there, which means she needs all her organs intact.

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I’m thinking Seitenshi could have been a little more tactful in essentially demoting her previous number one bodyguard, but then again the guy didn’t seem like reliable material, as he’s easily overpowered by Satomi when he ambushes him, leading to him vowing to kill Satomi…someday. It’s a bit of a clunky conflict.

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But that guy’s not Satomi’s problem; keeping Seitenshi alive is. Enju not only wakes up in the limo just in time to tell Seitenshi how Satomi only likes big-boobed women; she also senses danger. There’s a tiny flash from the background, then all hell breaks loose, but Seitenshi gets away. Little does the sniper (Tina) and Satomi know, they already met and are on different sides. I wonder if that will always be the case?

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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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