Black Rock Shooter OVA – Review

(Image Source: CAEEペンギン)

Uhh… yeah, about the Black Rock Shooter OVA… that’s been out for almost a week now… Well, some of us are really, really busy lately so we haven’t watched it yet. Don’t worry, though, as it is in our backlogs – what self-respecting Vocaloid fan/editor wouldn’t watch their first (vaguely) Vocaloid-related anime OVA?

Anyway, after the break, some of the editors share their reactions on the new BRS OVA. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the Gomu? Screenshots may or may not follow shortly.

redemption2

Hey all, red2 here. First off, let me apologize to all my friends and cohorts about my unannounced leave of absence. Sadly life has thrown me quite a few curveballs in the past couple of months that made frequenting the site and forums next to impossible. In the coming days I’ll be catching up and posting an article on my findings on the VocaRan. I have not abandoned you.

I just finished watching all six parts of the Black Rock Shooter OVA on Youtube, fully translated by the original creators into English (however the songs were not). Those who know me know I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, as have basically every other Vocaloid fan in the world. This was a make-or-break deal for anyone who’s had their hands in the Vocaloid cookie jar. Success means canon Vocaloid is prime for animation. Failure means a blow to a community some fear is waning. So just how did they do?

The backgrounds and the music were the highlight. The BRS Universe sections adhered perfectly to the original. Of course the music contained instrumental versions of BRS in different formats, but it wasn’t limited to just that. What surprised me was that Nagi lent her voice to the insert song, and that Gomu did the end theme. Just another nod to its roots. I loved the voice actors, all of them, even the minor characters, were easily recognizable. However I thought the script itself was rather weak, and didn’t give off a genuine feeling of a junior high friendship story. If anything, the time progression montage was the most poignant part of the film to me. Also there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered that probably should have been, considering its 50 minute timespan.

All in all, I felt it was a very mediocre, rentable film. There was some more development that was needed, but maybe the sequel will take care of that.

Highlights: Time-Progression Montage. Gomu went pro?!
Lowlights: No explanations. Script could have been better.

GreenSage

Hi everyone! I know that I have been gone for a very long time, this is due to my very long vacation to Thailand (visiting family ect.). I have sporadically had the time to touch the internet and thus have failed as an editor, my apologies. Anyways, as red2 has stated any self-respecting fan would watch the OVA and I set aside time to watch it when I knew of the release date! Luckily, I saw this article and will put in my review!

First, I would like to say that the OVA could have been better. It was not amazing but it was good enough where I did not feel as I wasted 50 minutes. I am not saying that it was just watchable, it was incredible as far as I am concerned! I liked how they executed the parallelism between Mato and BRS, then brought it together. However, I feel that they spent a bit too much time in the school world near the end and more emotion should have been given BRS. I suppose that was where the staff divided the worlds; Mato got the skirts and talking and BRS got the fighting and staring. The animation overall was superb. So much that I felt like I was watching K-On! (not K-On!! /shivers/). As expected the fight scenes were amazing and  beyond expectations. I personally would have liked to see a bit more fighting and a bit less “run and stare” in the BRS world.

Overall, BRS was pretty plain but I felt like it met my expectations. Although I would have liked the actual song to play once…you know with Miku singing it or someone.  And what was with the Mato-manager-friend thing? Especially in the BRS world where all she did was stare and jump, I smell a sequel. Oh! Perhaps they will play the song in the sequel? Yes? No? Maybe?

deztora

Fifty minutes is not enough.

This is the thought that runs through the back of my head all throughout my viewing– multiple viewings, in fact– of the Black★Rock Shooter OVA. Of all the complaints I had– the ones that I could put actual words to, not the nagging feeling of something being amiss in the back of my head– this is the chief complaint. Fifty minutes is simply not enough.

What I get out of the OVA is a story that begs to be told. They touch on it, they skim over the surface of it like a rock skips over a pond, but they never get in too deep. They could never drown in their story. I want to drown in it. I see the immense potential the story has, the characters, the possibilities, what they could do with the world they have created– if only they had more time. Fifty minutes is not enough.

I think a lot of people might/will/have complain(ed) about the ‘cute girls doing cute things’ parts taking up a majority of the film. It is a valid complaint, but I can see the direction they are trying to take it. The schoolgirl scenes are not meaningless, they’re not mindless moe fluff– it’s representative of the almost tangible bubble of happiness one gets from being around someone they care about. From messing up a name reading to 「これとか可愛い~!」, it pulls the unwitting viewer into a false lull, even as they fully know that it’s not going to last.

When it takes a turn for the dramatic later on in the film, I almost fully expected it to be ham-fisted and awkward. Instead, the film surprised me by handling it remarkably well. If the viewer has ever gotten into a pseudo-fight with a friend, where no angry words were exchanged but you know something’s not right, and it eats you up inside, and all you want is for things to go back to normal… the OVA hits that right on the dot. I’m actually going through something similar right now with someone I’d considered one of my best friends for years, and that part really hit close to home. So props to them for not messing up something that could easily have been done wrong.

A real complaint I have is the transitions to the B★RS fights could have been handled better. It leaves at the end of a schoolgirl scene, jumps in, handles one quick fight scene, and then jumps back, almost periodically to the point where you know when to expect it next. Very neat and perfect– but actually, that’s my chief complaint. I want it to be imperfect. I would rather it do one of two things: it could either elongate the B★RS scenes a little more (perhaps show something of a little more substance than just her walking around?), or it could be even faster than it was. Jump right in the middle of a battle. Hack up the fight scene, show clips over the course of five minutes. Then don’t show any for twenty. ‘There is beauty in imperfection,’ and perfection can be boring. Nobody wants to watch boring.

I originally thought that perhaps there was an issue with the pacing. It all seemed to move too fast, try to do too much at once. I realized then that the problem was the time. They were doing their best to play it out like a twelve-episode anime series, but they could only skim the surface with fifty minutes. As we all know, fifty minutes is not enough.

The characters are intriguing. Since we never go any deeper than a shallow understanding of the characters, I was left wanting more. I want to explore their world more, I want to understand more about them and about B★RS. This is the problem with only skimming the surface. We know Mato is a happy-go-lucky girl with a little brother, and we know their relationship is on good terms, and we know that she is drawn to Yomi (as are we, by default), and we know she likes cute things, likes basketball, wants to be taller, likes Yomi. We know these things… but we don’t ever really go past that. And what about Yomi, the girl with the strangely read name? I want to know more about her. I want to know her story. And of course, don’t get me started on B★RS and Dead Master, their world, the most intriguing mystery left of all. Fifty minutes is not enough.

Overall, I can’t say it was a waste of my time– that would be silly, considering I did view it more than once. I rather enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it on the level that I enjoy a small ice cream cone. It’s delicious and cold while I have it, but after it’s gone, I’m left wanting more. I keep hearing the word ‘sequel’ being tossed around, and it bothers me; a sequel is not what the world of B★RS needs. It needs a series.

Holocauxt

Chibi-Miuk watches BRS
Black Rock Shooter: so bad, even Chibi-Miku slept through it.

Okay, okay…! I’m just kidding! But in all honesty, I was really expecting this to be some sort of superhero/henshin/mahou-shoujo anime all thanks to the idea of Black Rock Shooter being a sort-of alter-ego of Mato. I was also expecting a lot more characters (silly me, since they inexplicably just show BRS and Dead Master in the trailer and official ‘site). All in all, it’s a visually-appealing piece of work, I’m just not sure if everybody will get the social implications… Chibi-Miku sure as hell doesn’t.

bunnychan

I’m rather cynical on what I watch, so no punches will be pulled on anything. I’m a [s]wannabe[/s] animator, so I will be hitting a lot of different points.

Story
This is not a standalone OVA. This is an extended pilot, perhaps a summary of a thirteen episode series. If I look at it as a standalone piece, the pacing was terrible. Trying to cram all that into fifty minutes just isn’t going to work. But as a first part, its okay. Either way, it needs better pacing and explanation. Basically, girls become friends, then one girl gets another friend, one gets jealous, they make up, and then the cycle begins again w/ third girl. I would like something else thrown in there for some variety.

The going back and froth between the two worlds was fine. However, who is Black★Gold Saw? In that scene, B★RS does not yet have her scars, but then she does after that battle, so there must be a person Mako knows that is B★GS that she had some more of conflict w/ that we had no introduction to (this is my assumption, since Dead Master and Strength had a relationship w/ her). We’re pretty much 99.9% sure Yuu is STR, so what is her “issue” and why does she show up while B★RS and DM are fighting (is she already that jealous as well)? Tanigawa Nagaru co-wrote the script, which might help explain some of the confusing issues. His stuff doesn’t always completely explain itself till the end, which this OVA clearly didn’t show a real “ending” yet, so maybe things would be more clearly shown if we are given more installments.

Characters
Mako is the best developed character in the OAV. Every other character though, has some holes. Is Yomi a spoiled, sheltered child? Why does she get so upset over Mako being friends with Yuu? She doesn’t really try to adjust to the new situation, so the jealously issue is mostly her own fault. Yuu also suffers from the same lack of development; the very last part where Yuu is starting to show that she has some sort of problem. Why is that? Is she now jealous that Yomi and Mako are talking again? Really? Sorry, weaksauce.

The otherworld characters don’t really have any real development, besides being the extreme personifications of the character’s emotions (Mako/B★RS is “concern/caring,” Yomi/DM is “jealousy”).

Animation
I know everyone is going on about how amazing the animation is, but color me a bit unimpressed. The most detailed scenes were all in the real world, but even then were wasn’t a lot of shading (and almost no highlights at all) and lots of little animation shortcuts were used (hands became mittens quite a lot). They definitely focused on putting all the details on the closeup shots, and putting motion before detail (which is a give-and-take option, but shows like “Gurren Lagann” pulled it off very well, while “B★RS” fell a bit short).

The action layout of the fights was okay, but the influx of animation quality kind of killed it for me. Shading completely disappeared, but I will say the lightening effects when sparks flew were nicely done. I am not saying the action scenes sucked, there were still shots that were very nicely dawn, but there were also some that were equally badly drawn. But in the rush of the action, most people won’t see this lesser quality shots, so long as the closeups remain detailed, which they did.

Style
The character designs of the humans were, of course, based on huke’s original characters. Mako and Yuu’s designs were fine by me, but Yomi’s hair never stopped bothering me. DM’s hair went back and forth between “frog-leg” (and cheap) and decent. The curls in the hair weren’t expressed 100% in the anime, though it was implied in the style and I’m guessing thats just how they wanted to portray it.

Matsuo Yuusuke did a great job converting huke’s designs into animation deigns while keeping the feel of the original illustrations. The colors of the otherworld are nice and monotone while the bright colors were great accents and where never overdone.

One thing that really bothered me was the severe overuse of overlay effects. Overlay effects have their place and its few and far between, and “B★RS” used it far too often. I think they were trying to go for the look of huke’s original artwork, but when put into motion it just ends up looking extremely cheap 90% of the time. On the architecture it looked fine, but when placed on clothing and other objects (such as DM’s skulls) it doesn’t work nearly as well. The casual viewer will probably not even notice or be bothered, but to someone who is trained to see such things it sticks out like a sore thumb. Tone down the overlay effect a bit and we’ll be gold.

Music/Sound/Voices
The “B★RS” song WAS in this!! Granted, it was only in the background as instrumentals, but it was still there. Why didn’t they use it as the ending?

Music, sound effects, and voice acting were amazing. I have nothing bad to say about them. The same goes for the ending song, “Braveheart.”

Overall
After so many negative points thrown out, you’d probably think I wouldn’t recommend it, buuuuut…. I do. Overall, it is a great OVA, and could easily have been something truly amazing if not for a few snags; but nothing’s prefect. This certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it has great potential to become something distinguished.

About: redemption2


25 thoughts on “Black Rock Shooter OVA – Review”

  1. No Miku song in the whole OVA o.0 I mean, even if it's clearly not one of Ryo's best compositions, I would have expected it to be part of the official soundtrack. Especially knowing the huge visibility the Vocaloid community gave to B★RS.

    Also is it usual in Japan to brush one's teeth *before* having breakfast ? Sounds like someone messed-up the montage no ?

    1. I've yet to watch the OVA, but…I brush my teeth before breakfast. Or am I missing something, or is it really that unusual?

      1. Well, any dentist will tell you that you brush your teeth *after* your meals, not *before*. It's a matter of minimizing bacterial proliferation feeding on food remains and causing tooth decay.

        Guess what ? it's time for a poll regarding the dental hygiene of the Vocaloid community 😀 [polldaddy 3538538 http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/3538538/ polldaddy]

        1. Lol how can you not brush you teeth before breakfast? I have to get the "sleep" taste out of my mouth before I can eat. I don't brush them again till lunch (if home, gum instead if not), or after dinner.

          1. Yeah exactly! Food just tastes weird if I don't brush it (especially if you wear retainers).

            My dentists says twice a day, but when I had braces it was recommended to stick another brushing after lunch or the middle of the day.

  2. Like a lot your report deztora. I'm sharing most of your opinion especially the part about the incompleteness feeling. I have no idea about the business model of OVA's like this one but I was expecting this to be an appeal product to launch a manga or anime series where the story could have received more depth.

    And I do like the "cute girls doing cute things", that's where you learn more about the japanese culture. Heck, without B★RS I would not know that in Japan the school year start in April ^_^

    1. If your main source of learning about japanese culture comes from anime/OVA/manga, then I feel very sorry for you.

      1. Now now. While I of course wouldn't recommend it be your main source, there's nothing wrong with taking something useful from anime/etc. Art does imitate life. Are you saying the Japanese school year does NOT, in fact, start in April?

      2. It doubt he said its his main or only source, but unless Samuel is planning to move there tomorrow what is wrong with learning some of the many cultural, behavioral, and language cues that an anime or manga can teach you. As with everything you see on TV you simply need to remain skeptical and understand it not the whole story. And yes Otaku culture =/= Japanese culture, but not everything in anime is otaku pandering.

    2. This OVA is made to advertise figures I suspect. Especially since it's free with subtitles in many languages and heavily sponsored by Good Smile Company.

      1. It's an insightful suggestion. I would be amazed that they could cover the cost of a 50mn OVA with just the merchandising, but why not. Do we have any figures regarding the sales of Good Smile ?

    1. Vocaloid anime is my dream too or movie but think about how decisive it would be.

      Some of the magic of vocaloid personification is how much of it exists in our/artists imagination. Everyone draws, imagines, fantasizes (PG ofc) about Vocaloids differently as can be seen from the millions of iterations of drawings, songs, and stories that exist. Given such a unique but amazing situation I feel that trying to inject "true cannon" (outside of "official items") could: 1. Cause a massive nuclear meltdown/war in the fanbase and 2. Take some of the charm and open-endedness out of Vocaloids that could make people lose interest.

      I ascribe to the opinion stated in the title of a series of Vocaloid Albums: "Miku in My Brain is Prettiest"

  3. I think that deztora's review really hit the nail on the head. I agreed with everything (s)he says! Beautiful review!!

  4. …my ultra-long comment obviously was too long.
    Which I’m sorry about. (embarrassed)
    Um, I’ll just say I agree a lot with dez. In most parts.
    I don’t like how a lot of people are talking about how much they hated it, though.

  5. I liked it to be honest, although many interesting characters were left out in the OVA or just shown (For example, Black Gold Saw and Strength).
    And we have to take into account that the series were based on a 5 minute song, so the story line could go anywhere from that point. It met my expectations.

  6. My personal thoughts about the BRS World is this: Our world is the world of creation. Her world is the world of destruction. If something is destroyed in our world, it appears in that world, to be eroded and eventually broken down (hence all the ruins). Those that quietly forsake the world are drawn in by the Dark Master, as Master Slaves. The Dark Master's goal is to make their world thrive through these Master Slaves, and, in turn, destroy our world, because anything built there will destroy something in our world.

  7. Nitpicking in the sub: 中学校 is translated has "junior high school" wouldn't it had been better to sub it has "middle school" ? Not only 中 is "middle", but also the Japanese school system if more similar to middle schools than junior high schools.

  8. I watched it. ^_^ The design was fantastic, and I felt like even Tim Burton could smile at the design of this film… but only for the BRS part. I also enjoyed the school scenery and design, but it was just kinda average. Like what most people have said, we needed more BRS, not Mato. Don't get me wrong, I loved the almost K-on/Lucky Star feel of the school and it's students, but we've all "been there, done that." BRS's world needed more of a spotlight. That's what this movie was supposed to be about, right?

    I also agree with Deztora – this would be an amazing series, and I consider this OVA to be a prologue.

  9. The plot sucks. Very typical. Not even a single scene stood out.
    I'm disappointed.

    BRS looks cool but they destroyed it.
    ):

    Consider yourself lucky if you haven't watched it yet.

    ~breisa

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