Black Rock Shooter OVA

February 1st, 2011

Okay, before I start this review, I think it’s important to have a disclaimer. This is a review of the OVA for Black Rock Shooter ( ブラックロックシューター ) as a standalone. I know very little about the history or the proposed game – if you play it and would like to write up a review for Okazu, I’d love to host it! Send me an email. If you’ve never reviewed here before, include a paragraph or so of who you and are and a synopsis of the game. If you’ve  guested here, then no need, I’m glad to have you back. ^_^

Black Rock Shooter starts with a girl entering high school that finds herself taken with another new student. Mato introduces herself to Yomi and they quickly become good friends, then best friends.

Interspersed between scenes of their growing friendship are scenes of battle between what are apparently Mato’s and Yomi’s alter egos in the game world. The battle is somewhat non-linear, but it’s not really relevant to the narrative.

In our world, Mato and Yomi are as close as friends can be, until they move into their second year of high school. No longer in the same class, Yomi watches helplessly as Mato appears to be moving away from her. Cluelessly, Mato invites her new “Lunch friend” to join Yomi and herself during their together time. (“Lunch friend” is a designation I use to describe the kind of person you hang with in class, at lunch, at work, at club but don’t really make any attempt to see outside that space.)

Yomi grieves for the private world she shared with Mato and then one day… she disappears. Mato has no idea what has happened to her. We see Mato’s avatar in the game world being rejected by Yomi’s avatar, and their fight renews.

When Mato makes the trip to a private place she had shared with Yomi, she finds the charm she had given the other girl. The charm begins to glow, and one of the two fighters appear. She says that her name is Black Rock Shooter, and she and Mato merge. Meanwhile, in the game world, Black Rock Shooter defeats Yomi’s avatar and manages to free her. (I later learned that Yomi had been absorbed by Dead Master, but that name is never used in the OVA.)

The end of the OVA is ambiguous, as you might expect. Yomi is gone, Mato is absorbed into Black Rock Shooter, ostensibly to look for Yomi.

Yuu, the third character in the triangle, is simply left behind, but it’s pretty obvious that she’ll be part of the story again – there is a third game character that we see during the long, lingering shots of perspective splashed throughout. The cover art also shows two other characters that are not obvious in the OVA.

Extras included are trailers, including the stop-motion version made in Hollywood and a making of the stop motion trailer. Another special shows the making of the cover art – a process I find absolutely fascinating. The set includes a DVD and a Blu-Ray disk. This review is based only on the DVD, I haven’t yet watched it on Blu-Ray.

There are several physical extras, a booklet about the anime and a much thicker book which somewhat oddly contains the entire storyboard for the anime. And lastly there was a box of nendroids of Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master.

Yuri? Well…not really. Mato and Yomi are best friends. In so many ways, relationships with our closest friends mimic romantic relationships. Feeling a best friend has betrayed you by having another friend isn’t exactly uncommon. It’s not surprising that some people see this as Yuri, but to me, it’s friendship, not love.

The biggest problem I had with the OVA was that it was filled with a sense of “meaning” that it didn’t actually have. My overall impression is that it’s a pilot without a TV series. (So far. I vaguely remember news of a BRS TV series already. If I hallucinated that, I still expect it to be made any day.)

The animation was very game-y in the fight sequences, with the vertiginous movement and textured CGI backgrounds of so many video games. Surprisingly, the 2-D animation was kind of meh. I expected 2-D to match the quality of the CGI, but I guess you gotta save your money somehow.

So, did it hold up as a standalone? Yes, in terms of having a beginning and a middle and enough of an end that I was able to follow the thing. There were a few things I felt I had to go look up, which was kind of inevitable, considering its origin as a “thing.” As a OVA, I felt that Black Rock Shooter was pretty good.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 6
Characters – 6
Yuri – 1
Service – 3 Mostly for the game costumes and the overall setup

Overall – 6

It wasn’t world-shaking but it definitely was not awful. It held together pretty well. I’d like to see a conclusion to the story released one day.

It is my very great pleasure to thank Okazu Superhero Laurel K for her sponsorship of today’s review from the Amazon JP Yuri Wishlist!

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4 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Enjoyed the review. I like “lunch friends” as a term.

    My understanding is that Black Rock Shooter is not based on a game.

    Rather, the genesis was:
    (a) original illustration
    (b) enigmatic music video
    (c) release of models/figures
    (d) OAV

    A game is under development, but has not been released.

    I believe the OAV was deliberately vague, as by the time it came out fans had already invested their own story lines and imaginations into what might be happening in the music video (where the battle sequences come from).

  2. Thank you Anonymous for clarifying that. I’ll adapt the review.

  3. Eric P. says:

    Lunch Friend–never heard that before, but I definitely like it! It describes a lot of people I know in my life.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Also worth mentioning:

    The music video has a big overlap with the Vocaloid fanbase, since the songwriters are well-known in that scene, and I think they used the Vocaloid software to create the video. I’m not an expert, but it seemed to me like the BRS video was pushing the edge of what is possible with that software, hence a lot of the excitement.

    Also, when I saw the OAV, I got the impression that the “end” where Matou merges with BRS is actually the chronological middle of the story. All the fight scenes in the other world happen after that. At least that’s how I saw it.

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