Black Rock Shooter: Symbolic or try-hard?

With every season, comes at least one anime which seems as though it’s trying to become thought-provoking, with some doing so rather successfully: Puella Magi Madoka Magica, for instance, turning the Mahou Shoujo trope on its end. The blogosphere is now abuzz with discussions on Ordet’s latest 8-episode offering, Black Rock Shooter. Will BRS live up to its initial hype, or will it just burn out?

For starters, we see the same style of plot digression as the original OVA itself: fantasy world battles and undying characters duking it out with ridiculous weaponry (GIGANTIC MACAROOOOOOONS) interspersed with shots of random slice-of-life scenes, this time with 100% more drama and 200% more creepy obsession. Yet as much as it seems to be all hinting at some greater picture, like a gigantic, Sixth-Sensesque plot twist at the end, to me, it all suffers from the same problem which plagued the OVA: what exactly is going on?

Perhaps it’s just me, but the OVA and TV series seem to be hinting at the same kind of relationship between the girls and the other selves: their fights, arguably a metaphor for the  conflicts they face in real life: death, the answer. We see Yomi’s epiphany represented by the shattering of the great stone heart she was chained to, and Kagari’s beheading arguably a metaphor for her relenting. Yet as we follow this supposed train of thought, we see that it doesn’t fit: how is Saya Black Gold Saw? How does she seem to know the identities of everyone else, and how is Kohachi involved in all of this?

If I wanted to apply my Literature Student Goggles (TM) , I could saw that Saya’s legion of marionettes/homunculi are her students, taken under her wing. We see her counselling Kohachi, and feeling pain for her, like she was her own daughter. And then I realize that even this explanation wouldn’t make any sense because Mato does, what was it again? Oh right – kills her.

So Saya seems as though she has some grand scheme in mind, given her other self stopping BRS and Dead Master from ‘saving’ Chariot, but it still makes no sense to assume that they share the same thoughts. It’s as though the characters are really just their sycee and mind – but that makes even less sense than the previous theory. As such, we make plenty of theories on what goes on – because we simply don’t understand it. What is Black Gold Saw doing? Why is BRS fighting? How are the characters linked? Will we ever know? I doubt it.

The thing I have with BRS is that it seems to be a pile of grand ideas: heavy symbolism doesn’t flow into the next piece of symbolism, but rather, replaces it. It crashes incessantly upon the previous one. There isn’t a logical flow to take, to the point where all of it seems arbitrary and random. Like there is no meaning behind anything in the show. In the OVA, we see that the girls’ other selves seem to represent their sycee: they are affected in real life, the same happens to their other selves. But there isn’t much reason behind anything in the series.

For instance, why is BRS fighting? We see her exploring, going about from place to place and pretty much picking fights with everything, like a sexy drunken brawler with a huge ass gun. There are so many questions, yet we can’t really answer with certainty whether they are on purpose, like thought-provoking questions or philosophical ones, or merely gigantic plot holes made in the name of ‘art’.

depicted: art

All in all, BRS seems to try and fill itself with all sorts of drama and symbolism. The symbol of the bird and the allusion to Yomi’s name ; the idea of fighting in the other world, like conflicts in the mind – all of these couldn’t possibly have been accidental. Yet BRS still comes across as one of those shows which just tries to be full of mindfuck, just because. It reaches the point where there is little coherence or logic behind the premise itself, much less the other themes of the show. Will BRS ever fill the big shoes PMMM left behind? Will BRS even become one of the better shows of 2012? Only time will tell.

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45 Responses to Black Rock Shooter: Symbolic or try-hard?

  1. Azure says:

    I see it as though Saya is cultivating the students for her own entertainment and is ultimately an antagonist to BRS and co. Maybe the anime is channeling Nanoha’s “befriending” legacy with BRS beating the crap out of people Mato befriends? The whole “someone else taking your pain for you” thing is getting really repetitive too. Also, it seems like Kagari is transferring into school next episode and I’m not quite sure thats a good thing.

    Whatever, I found it really enjoyable so far (Yomi is cute in glasses, BRS & BGS’ hips and asses; macaroons) mainly thanks to the awesome animation that I sort of wish the whole anime was about cute color coded girls brainlessly brawling each other in the BRS verse.

    I can only wish that Strength does more than stand atop of a cliff and looking cool in the coming episodes. Oh and may there be more yuri.

  2. @fkeroge says:

    I have to say, I was really annoyed at what happened in episode 3. So much that I even considered dropping it. I mean, it throws a lot of things at you, but then leaves them behind, hoping that the audience will eventually forget the random shenanigans that the series planner decided to put into the show because the deadline for the storyboard is in 30 minutes.

    I don’t know what happens in the staff meetings in the creation of BRS’s story, but I can bet that they’re still writing the proverbial story even now. It’s different from how Madoka was handled in a sense that Shaft didn’t start production until after the story writing was finished. So yeah, I think BRS will be one of those anime that had potential, but never got to using it.

    Even though I say this, it’s not as if I didn’t enjoy the show. It’s fun and all (save the latter part of episode 3), and I would be lying if I said that I’m not interested in seeing what will come next, but I think this will end up like [C] did. Looking cool while not being cool.

    • Valence says:

      Arguably C did try to become interesting, with ramblings about the relevance of money and life yet we could see that all of this was just to make the show flashy, not deep. Could the same be here for BRS? To make a show with interesting scenes, but stopping short of intellectual deepness? Probably.

    • Jay says:

      I was somewhat confused in that episode. Like, what is that, what is this, what are they? things will clear up, for sure.

  3. Carillus says:

    When the original data you have to build a series on mostly consists of colour-coded characters set in an alternate world, one Vocaloid song and not much else, you pretty much have a tall order to try linking it to anything at all.

    I quite like how the directorship of the show is going at the moment, to be honest. They’re definitely moving in some direction, at least. It’s rather painful to watch at times because of the characters and that’s how a good show is supposed to feel – the “agh I can’t bear to watch this” kind of pain, not the “agh I can’t stand to watch this” Guilty Crown kind. And the whole arthousy feeling to the entire affair is pretty nice.

    Meanwhile, sycee = psyche, amirite? Unless this is some newfangled term that I have no idea about.

    • Valence says:

      Whoops. Too much Chinese historical
      Drama for me.

      But I mean, as much as they try to make it arthousy, i like it better when there is an overall theme. One could argue that the show is jumbled and disconnected, or one could argue that it is steeped in mystery…

  4. ~xxx says:

    BRS was trying to make something…
    It was kinda like Yumekui Merry setting in the alternate world.

    But too much symbolism sometimes bring too much time and labor to decode it.

    The reason I didn’t finished watching the OVA was because it was too focused on the slice-of-life scenarios that rather made the show too dull to watch.

    I love slice-of-life, but it is not used well in BRS… therefore it’s a catastrophe.
    And yeah, I’ll be dropping this show for good after episode 2.

  5. Nopy says:

    “Will BRS even become one of the better shows of 2012?”
    Judging from people’s reactions, the answer seems to be a definite “no”.

    I didn’t like the first episode of BRS so I didn’t watch it, but it sounds to me like the producers are simply giving in to the wants of the customer without giving a second thought to the quality of the series. Cool battles in a weird world? check. Schoolgirls and drama? check. The suggestion of yuri? check. Symbolism and shock factor? check. Simply having all of these things doesn’t make an anime good though, which I guess the producers are finding out now with BRS.

    • Valence says:

      The thing is that even if it does sound like the show is simply giving in to the wants of the customer, it’s not entirely impossible for BRS to achieve something greater altogether. Kinda like a ‘hidden appeal’ effect that happens later on in the show, like B Gata H Kei, which many people simply dismissed as mere brainless ecchi and nothing else.

  6. Ælysium says:

    I agree with you that BRS is trying to be a very melancholic and extremely profound anime in what is, a pretty mediocre story and even more 1 dimensional characters. I think the problem with BRS is that is doesn’t seem to be trying to achieve anything. Rather, it sets out to try to intrigue the audience with a moe-cliché plot devise about friendship etc (seeing all the colours of the world) and backs this up with a fantasmical twist involving BRS to give it peppery action and cater to those fans of a “different” art style. So its basically trying to do – everything. The problem then, is that it spreads itself too thin, there seems to lack detail in any one facet of the show whilst at the same time, the width that makes it so appealing is also what makes traps it to mediocrity.

    I love the art in this show. I do kind of sympathise with the characters – or I would if their problem’s were in the least coherent or relatable as opposed to being based on idealistic visions of the world and there is some nicely direction action scenes in it. Do I think it will be one of the greats of 2012? No. Will I watch it and get some excitement? Yes.

    BRS despite all it tries to do, is for all intents and purposes, a show made to cater to the myriad of Miku fans the world round who love seeing their digital princess exposed in what is probably a long term hobby of theirs; anime. I know Miku isn’t BRS, but if it wasn’t for the Miku fans, there wouldn’t be this season, let alone the original OVA. So I don’t blame BRS for not actually amounting to much, because its foundation isn’t grounded in a whole lot either.

    • Valence says:

      I had to agree with the last part because when the song first came out with only that image of BRS, BRS could have easily been nothing more than a fictional superhero-like character, much like the character from Gumi’s Panda Hero.

      Yet even if it is made to appeal to Miku fans, certainly, some thought could have put into the show. At its current state it appears to be nothing more than tryhard, despite its initial hype.

      • Ælysium says:

        Well I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Pop culture turned pop medium is no stranger, and BRS is neither the first nor last.

        I guess one could argue that the author will try to put a lot of effort in to make the show as much a success as possible. But at the end of the day, one has to remember that BRS isn’t trying to be legendary, its trying to be memorable and impressionable. The former doesn’t latter doesn’t necessarily require the former but a crucial step in expanding an already saturated market. Miku fans have saturated the vocaloid scene, the obvious next step is anime. With so many ways to tailor the show, they could make it loved without even having a particularly in depth or coherent plot line. But again, I’m moderately enjoying it so I can’t complain too much.

        • Valence says:

          You know irks me even more? The PSP game. It’s set in an entirely different universe from both the OVA and the TV series. Make up your mind, creators…

          • Ælysium says:

            Never played it. What is the point if it is set in a completely different universe? How can it be set in a different universe? The characters, worlds and storylines are all recycled… Than again, expansion and “originality” to generate more sales is probably the reason.

            Well, at least we can agree BRS isn’t going to be the next anime legend.

            • Valence says:

              Exactly! I understand the concept of multiple universes and shit (Look at Type-Moon’s stuff, for instance. Just Carnival Phantasm alone suffices.) but giving both of them storylines without acknowledging the distinction between the two universes just confuses the watcher.

              BRS was hyped up too much IMO. I had actually gone into this show expecting to be blown off my chair, but it appears that my chair has hardly tilted.

  7. Cely_belly says:

    Don’t worry. Yuu will make it all better once she shows up in this alternate world. XD

  8. trewdys says:

    It is my principle to judge a story only after it is finished. However, the characters are just so damn AUTISTIC OH MY GOD NOBODY NEEDS ME THE WORLD WOULD BE THE SAME I MIGHT AS WELL DIE
    5/10 worse than Guilty Crown

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