Fridge Brilliance: Gothic themes in Black Rock Shooter

Multi-dimensional chess, anyone?

I know, BRS has consistently left a bad taste in people’s mouths. I frothed at the mouth when I finished the OVA simply due to how ridiculous it was, and how they attempted to splice Mato’s real life and Black Rock Shooter’s together to form an bizarrely inconsistent timeline. In the series, despite its awesome fight scenes and high entertainment value (as you can tell I rather liked this show, much more than @fkeroge did anyway), a lot of the symbolism and plotlines just across as hamfisted and forced. I mean, really? Another being in another world changing places with you just because you wanted to? How ridiculous is th-

The series gets 100 times more awesomer when you read it as though it’s literature: you can actually pick out which parts of the shows are heavily based off the ideas of Gothic fiction. Several things in the show allude to themes and symbols often found in gothic fiction, especially the works of the Victorian era. Both contain an air of suspense and mystery. We watch the other girls duke it out in some place somewhere, and we see the girls leading their lives as per normal. Yomi’s castle-like abode lends to this effect as well – the castle or manor being commonly seen, creating a haunting effect. We see Yomi and her mother being kept in thrall to Kagari, the queen upon her throne in the lonely castle. We would later see this haunting effect put into use during Yomi’s and Kagari’s breakdowns.

The concept of death is played rather heavily here as well. If I wanted to be all artsy-fartsy about it I could talk about the death of relationships, the death of emotion. The hollow death that fills the characters inside. Kagari’s clutch-like possession of Yomi, just like how she too is paralysed and handicapped, all due to this death inside, the loss of spirit and morale, the loss of the will to live without her. But it isn’t that fancy. The concept of death here is best exemplified by the story of the bird: even Yomi’s name meant ‘little bird’ to Mato when she first read it. It’s intricately linked with the characters themselves. Death runs about in the other world as well: in this case death of the other girl would be the death of emotions, the killing of feeling and the end of the ‘problem’.

But there’s one major theme in gothic fiction which stands out the most for me. The concept of — get ready to shit your pants — mirror images.

The idea that gothic fiction is meant to evoke a sense of terror, emphasise upon the idea of excess and expose the theme of secrets, leads to the idea of the bifurcation of oneself. The idea that there are two personalities that are part of the same person – two sides of the same coin. The idea that everyone has a public side, but also a secret self that can only find an outlet in the themes of the gothic; in the Victorian era this would refer heavily to discrimination and hypocrisy in the social classes, and the secrets being those of an erotic or hateful nature. This idea is further brought upon in novels by introducing characters that mirror one another. Are your pants still clean?

The world they fight in is gothic. It is filled with desolate battlegrounds, hooded followers and legions of skeletons. There is no light, no sky, no nature, nothing but dust and technology. The Rubik’s Cube Strength fights on seems highly mechanical in nature, as is BRS’s weapon.

The characters themselves are similar to those found in gothic fiction.

Kagari seems like a nice girl but no-one knows what she had did to Yomi in the past and her treatment of Yomi after the ordeal. Yomi seemed like the class-rep type of person yet we see her slipping through the cracks after Kagari ‘breaks up’ with her. The cutting of hair, the cutting of pretty much everything in her room – perhaps symbolic of this break in their relationship? Perhaps one of the most iconic scenes in the show for me was Arata abruptly realizing that in her wristband, was Yomi’s hair, braided in- a ‘chain’?

Even Yuu wasn’t who she seemed to be- it turns out that she was Strength given emotion all along. Yuu seemed to be one who was sadisitic and full of envy, repeatedly beating up BRS to the point of submission. Even Mato, who seemed like she hardly had any problems, turned out to be the greatest one of all – the idea that she had to solve everything and be perfectly fine – like an anime protagonist.

And the mirror images? The other selves in the other world.When they share the same ideals, they can supposedly merge – back into one person. We see this as well. When they become one, they become weak – she feels all the pain ,her legs fractured and dislocated. And yet, like a fairy tale, companionship, like a light through the darkness, dispels away the heavy Gothic air, multicoloured bursts of light streaming into the darkness, giving her strength, giving her power.

Even the ending monologue seems to be from a fairy tale as well. “I want to feel it all! This world is still beautiful!” The show had been cleared of its heavy air of death and pain. Of detachment and suffering. The problems are resolved. Peace is achieved. Light bursts into the battlegrounds, turning them into scenes of fantasy and beauty. The sky – the sky- exists in that world. At first glance the whole ending may have seemed extremely cliche , but when you think about how much work must have been put into the whole show, it suddenly…


…all makes sense.


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16 Responses to Fridge Brilliance: Gothic themes in Black Rock Shooter

  1. fromCzech says:

    Hello! Sorry for offtopic post. I have not my own blog but I am addictive flag collector. Can you visit my Flag counter to give me first flag of Singapore? Thank you very much!

  2. Carillus says:

    Glad to see that not all AOIA members are hating on BRS, at least.

  3. Pingback: 11 Days to Cursemurse, Day 1: Already Diving Into the Meta like Stephan Feck | Ambivalence , or is it ambiguity?

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