Black Bullet: Episode 1

If I were a cynic…

nesatomikun

Late adolescent hero and his loli companion, with female entourage comprising the staff of his company? Has all the warning lights right?  How could a show with these qualities possibly rise above pointless fanservice and obnoxious harem bullshit?

We open on the year 2021, the outskirts of Tokyo…

Science fiction is going to have an identity crisis in a few years when 2020 is no longer “the far off future”.

We’re in a sort of refugee camp, and the residents are watching fighter jets overhead.  One explodes and from the clouds emerges a giant red eyed bug.  The refugees panic, calling it a “Gastrea”.  And it’s definitely desperate, the military doesn’t even check its fire as the fighter jets fire down onto the Gastrea when its above the refugees, probably catching a few in the crossfire.

There’s a small boy here, though, Rentaro, and he hears…a memory? To survive no matter what.

Pretty good scene, but you can’t fool me show of lolicon and lame humor!

The OP is nice…it’s kind of…kind of my impression what J-Pop would sound like if the world was much more depressing.

Ten years later, Rentaro is entering a building. He’s something called a “civil officer”  The police, or, security or something, have deduced that there’s a Gastrea in the building complex, and it’s apparently policy to not engage without these civil officers. Buuuut it seems the grunts wanted to be heroes, and two of them haven’t been heard from since they screamed from the room.

Rentaro is met by a man in a smiling mask, who says he was also after the Gastrea, but he’s also the one who killed the officers, who have been reduced to blood-splattered corpses on the wall. After a brief skirmish where he kills the remaining officers, Rentaro manages to snap the guy’s neck…but like all good Batman villains, he just snaps it back into place. He praises Rentaro, whom he refers to as “Satomi-kun” after asking for his name.  He’s still using the family name, almost like a teacher.  It’s just a speech quirk that adds some depth to his character by breaking out expectations that he’d just call him “Rentaro”.

This guy’s interesting. But I see where you’re going show, gonna focus on the loli butt grabbing and pantyshots too much to bring this guy back before the finale. Lame. Such a promising villain, too.

Speaking of, we see our loli running through the streets, whining about her fiance Rentaro.

Oh yeah, bring on the shit show. I’m ready.

Black-Bullet-episode-1-Enju

She’s stopped by a guy with blood coming out of his…um…everywhere.  She observes that he doesn’t understand what’s happened to him already, and that it’s too late. She asks if he has final words.  He just twitches and rips apart, transforming into a big yellow spider.  It knocks the loli through the wall, but not before covering her in white webbing…yeah you know what this is supposed to be.

Rentaro arrives with the inspector, who fires shots blindly. Rentaro has to shove him aside, telling him he’s only making it angry.  He shows off the titular Black Bullets, Varanium metal. It’s apparently a metal that halts Gastrea regeneration.  Not exactly original for an achilles heel, but at least we get it.

Cue the loli jumping up, eyes turning red, and literally tearing the monster apart with a few melee hits.

That…that I did not predict.

She introduces herself as Aiharu Enju.  There’s actually a lot of good conversation.

You may be surprised I draw this parallel, but Enju most reminds me of a character from Avatar.  She has a serious side, but beyond her attempts to get into Rentaro’s pants, she doesn’t feel like a “forced” child, either too young or too old.  She’s not a tiny adult, nor is she Flanderized to the point of whiny toddler.  She feels like a legitimate fourth grader, and that’s something a lot of shows fail to hit.  She’s more concerned about her outfit being ruined than expositing about her regenerative powers, she likes to brag in a slightly-passive-aggressive way that combat is something she excels out, kind of fishing for compliments from her elders as validation.  Now, she does make a few comments that fall under the “obnoxious loli love interest”, but these are…relatively restrained.  And in light of what we learn about her later, actually…kind of…not entirely beyond expectation.

The inspector calls her “an Initiator”, and his lackey arrives to stand right next to him, but in a moment of bad editing, his face goes green with shock as he sees the remains of the Gastrea….then the camera pulls back to show us they are both standing in the MIDDLE of the gore.  Meaning this guy just casually walked through it without seeing where he is going.  That is some well-trained ballerina vision.

So we learn about this system of civil officers.  Initiators, the “cursed children” like Enju, and “Promoters”, adult handlers like Rentaro who keep them in check.

Rentaro, in his haste, seems to have forgotten to get paid by the police.  So his boss, who basically looks like Isayama Yomi, is furious with him.  Uh…was the first thing to get destroyed in the apocalypse invoices or something?  This is such a stupid plot point.  We aren’t in Claymore, you know, we have telephones and paper billing.

They work through their argument, but she rubs salt in an old wound, asking him what his goals are.  She reminds him that he always wanted to find his parents, but he slams his fist down, saying they’re dead and that’s the end of it.  He’s carrying this wound.

He enters the morgue, meeting…the most awesome doctor since Ducky on NCIS.

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We get a lot of exposition, but because she’s so weird it actually feels pretty natural, even though this is a huge info-dump.  She’s stroking the dead bodies, all while delivering her little lecture like an eccentric professor.  It fits.

That night, we see Rentaro give Enju a shot.  They have some cute back and forth.  The next day Rentaro is taking Enju to school, it’s apaprently a secret she’s a cursed child.  We then have flashback lecture, our doctor explaining that while the Gastrea virus usually propogates like a zombie plague, occaisionally, a pregnant woman will ingest the virus, and it gets passed onto the child.  All these children are female, and can fight the Gastrea.

Rentaro concludes that Humanity has hidden itself behind huge blocks of Varanium, the black metal, in a sort of barrier, as it repels Gastrea.

It could be argued this is responsible for Enju’s attachment to Rentaro.  I’d say maybe even imprinting but next episode we’ll see that probably isn’t the case.  Far more likely, it’ll be the way we learn that cursed children are basically regarded as less than third class citizens, and Enju’s just kind of latched onto Rentaro as someone who treats her like a normal person.

Or coming at it more science-fictiony, perhaps as part-bug, Enju’s reproductive instincts are abnormally driven.  No evidence for or against this as of now, just throwing darts at the board.

Or we could be jaded, and admit this is just anime being anime.

Still, Enju-attempted-rape aside, this was an okay start.  Can’t help but notice that Rentaro’s adoptive father is Kisara’s family name.  Ah, adopted incest is safe, right?

However these are minor backdrops so far.  It’s like someone had the realization “Oh…there’s an audience out there that doesn’t give a shit about the fanservice” so we get this.   The plot is not particularly original. But a series you can’t help but draw comparison to is Claymore, and that didn’t start out original either.  Because the menace is not where the emphasis is, it’s on these people.  Rentaro, Enju, the masked man, they’re all players in this chess game.  It is, in that sense, the opposite of Knights of Sidona. There, characters are sidelined for the universe. Here, the universe has some pretty standard elements, but it’s the faces of the characters that give it depth.

But this was just the pilot. I know how it is. You’ll get our hopes up and suddenly, BAMF, rug pulled out from under us. I saw Machine Doll, I know what’s up.

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2 thoughts on “Black Bullet: Episode 1

  1. I wonder when anime (and other media) finally will start moving the years forward a bit? 2020 isn’t far off at all now – although I suppose the 2021’s setting for Black Bullet’s semi-dystopian future is still more realistic than 2019’s Blade Runner (no flying cars in the former, at least).

    I confess I wasn’t a fan of Black Bullet’s doctor – I often tend to like eccentric characters, but hers was portrayed a bit too obviously for my tastes. She doesn’t make an appearance in the second episode though, which funnily enough I ended up liking quite a bit more than the first. The characters felt more generally likable and more emotionally realistic. In particular, I was ready to get annoyed really quickly by Enju, but episode two made me feel surprisingly sympathetic. (Still liking Rentaro way more though.)

    • Hehe, I think I like the doctor because she reminds me way too much of my girlfriend ^_~ Just that extra umph…and as an amateur troll, I like any character who is very clearly trying to get a rise out of people.

      I imagine once we DO hit 2020 we’ll just move everything forward to 2050 and 2100. Like, in the 60s lost in space was 1997. Eugenics wars in star trek was 1996, and all of the sci-fi that was “the year 2000!” Those years came, went unremarked. And everyone started pushing into the 2010s and 2020s (ghost in the shell, this show). It’s the trope of “just around the corner” sci-fi…it’s always 20-50 years ahead to be “relatable”.

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