Until I can tame the frothing beast within…
Well, TLDR, take everything I said last week about where Black Bullet was slipping, and magnify it. If your gut reaction was “Wait, how did it get worse?” Worry, not, dear reader! We have you covered.
First, let’s recap the five problems I had.
1) Too much focus on Rentaro.
2) Absence of Enju.
3) Laughable villains
4) Awful pacing (admittedly, this existed in early Black Bullet)
5) Loss of the apocalyptic atmosphere.
Well right from the starting line, we’ve just about reached zen with issue 2. Enju has been beaten into a coma by Tina. Yep, Rentaro’s going to wear the big boy pants and save the world ALL BY HIMSELF! Aren’t you excited for his special day?
For the record, it is at this point that I am done. Lack of Enju was bad enough when she was in the background cracking sex jokes and then ignored. Now we’ve just cut out the pretense. I’ll get into this at the end.
After the credits, which are still queer, Rentaro and Kisara are watching over Enju in the hospital. Rentaro collapses from exhaustion. Well, Black Bullet, you win this much: you’re equal opportunity by giving Rentaro a totally pointless shower scene. He’s complaining about how Tina’s rank is far higher than his own, and how without Enju he’s doomed.
See how easy that was to say? Well it escaped the writers on Black Bullet, because this scene drags on for almost 2 mins.
Oh, the jerkass bodyguard arrives and says that now that Rentaro lost Enju, he doesn’t need to be Seitenshi’s bodyguard. So while you might THINK the scene has changed, it’s really an extension of the last one.
We all know why this is happening, to set up low expectations so we cheer when Rentaro beats the bad guy. There is no tension anymore. Kagetane held our interest because Black Bullet could go in ANY direction! It was keeping its options open by not following any single formula. Yeah that’s not the case here.
So I’m officially adding Muroto to the harem. She doesn’t talk about how she wants to bang him or anything. But she’s more the motherly romance type. If you want to fuck your mom, Muroto is your best girl. More weight to point 1. Even more weight because we get a training montage, yes, a fucking danger room training montage, about Rentaro and how awesome he is.
About the only thing interesting happens is halfway through when we reveal Tina doesn’t work for Sogen, but for Ayn Rand, the American doctor from the New Humanity battalion.
Well Rentaro’s getting some backup from his harem. But still it’s ‘long odds’ he can stop Tina. They have a fight, it’s alright. Not exactly great beyond a few choice frames but not terrible. Dramatically, the usual back and forth occurs. I am still willing to allow that the “final words”, where Rentaro says that Tina’s life is a sad story, and the waver in her voice as she tries to gun him down still holds traces of the good character interaction Black Bullet was able to show earlier in its run.
And Rentaro beats Tina…with luck. He accidentally drops a flash grenade, and Tina being an owl type, it completely blinds her. Because nocturnal and stuff. This gives Rentaro the opening he needs and he beats seven kinds of shit out of her. With love, though.
Just in time for asshole bodyguards to arrive and shoot Tina full of bullets, wanting to torture her because motivation is for pussies.
Ah but Seitenshi arrives, promoting Rentaro ABOVE her pissy bodyguards on the spot. So he fires their jerk faces, after shooting off the leader’s finger. Yeah! …I guess. Firing a guy for being my personal enemy…hooray…fuck.
Oh, but there’s good news! Tina will be working for Kisara now! Will Number 94 be using her powers? No, no of course not. She’s going to be the maid, of course! We needed a loli maid in a security agency with two employees.
Though I AM okay with Kisara/Tina ship.
Okay, we have to talk, internet.
Often we throw up our hands and yell at entertainment, anime in particular, which is not shy about weird premises, that “Oh we know WHY you did that!”
Flimy pretense is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Let’s make that clear. And to prove it, let’s use a good example.
Madoka Magica is one of the most poorly justified series from the in-universe perspective that there is. Aliens, aliens with technology so advanced that to us it seems like magic, using the emotions of teenage girls to reverse entropy? Instead of, what with their complete mastery of dimensional travel and able to make space-time their bitch, don’t just invent cold fusion or something? They don’t try to preserve stars or anything, they just come to earth and find teenagers release enough energy through their sadness to break the laws of physics? It is so laughably ludicrous when you think about it.
There is enough GOOD in Madoka Magica that we are able to look past that tiny detail. We may know, logically, why that answer Kyube gives us exists: To give us an excuse to get to the frilly outfits and the familiar premise we are so aware of. And, structurally, it only exists as the villain’s core motive, NOT the number of dickish things they did in service to that motive, which are plenty reason to hate their guts. Because of these elements, we can swallow the flimsy pretense because they did so much good with it. The story has been built so that your eyes don’t focus on the man behind the curtain.
In the earlier Black Bullet, it was POSSIBLE to stretch past the Enju rape and deal with the premise. After all, compared to the tears of children being an energy source, Black Bullet’s premise regarding the Cursed Children is quite tame by comparison. That’s Oscar material. And I bring up the parallel because, really, that’s what Black Bullet is when you think about it. A Magical Girl series surrounding a harem protagonist.
Much like we go along with puppetry abnormally willingly. Take Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, where people will get pissed at THE PUPPET and not the man handling it. But Robert Smigel imbues the performance with so much personality that we, the audience (or the victims!), go along with it without thinking about it too hard.
But if he didn’t use props, if he didn’t throw his voice, if he didn’t even hide from the camera…would we be so willing to say “This is comedy” instead of “this is just some asshole who wants his 15 minutes”?
That is the same standard I am finding myself applying to Black Bullet more and more. There has ceased to be any effort about crafting a universe, a story, or characters here. Much like taking the paintings off your 80 year old smoker grandmother’s wall, instead of the beautiful tapestry of the lakeside to distract us, where we could admire its beauty, we are now met with a big line where the cigarette smoke stained the wallpaper, and say “Damn, that wall was fucking dirty”.
So, yes, the loli antics get more distracting, the harem bullshit is more annoying, because without the good elements to zoom in on, we are left with the bad, and it cripples an already struggling series.