DDA Top 10: #8: Black Rock Shooter

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Yep, it’s violent lesbian hour here at Double D.

This series is the big one where I drag out that big disclaimer from the introduction: Favorite characters. My affection is what buoys this series above many others than any hard line defense about the quality of the work.

The Black Rock Shooter franchise has a rather interesting rags-to-riches story, but I won’t be going into detail. This review is long enough.

What I will be doing is treating, in this instance, equal parts anime proper, and OVA.  Each one is a different emphasis on the story here and, whereas in other works it’s difficult for me to conflate the two, such as the Hellsing franchise, here it comes rather naturally.  I think part of this is that…Black Rock Shooter hits a very strange sweet spot between “intent” and “product”.

For example: Let’s use a huge hit: Game of Thrones.  One of the things that purists drag up (the good and bad kinds of purists) is that Tyrion Lannister, in the show, is much prettier than Tyrion in the books.  There are several reasons, but the big two are as follows: Most basic, Peter Dinklage is just a good looking guy, and a fantastic actor, and this is still Hollywood, so everything will be prettier than in the books.  Frodo is supposed to be a 70 year old man in Lord of the Rings, this just happens.

Second, and relevant to our discussion here, Tyrion’s “theme” in the book is that old stand by, don’t judge a book by its cover.  People cannot see past his looks, and arguably they are his biggest handicap, even more so than his height.  But! Because his looks are not the handicap as they are in print, this in turn twists the theme in the TV show by showing us that, no matter how normal he seems, no matter how well he performs, it will never be enough, because he is different.  These lessons are similar in tone, but still different messages.  But we can see WHY those changes exist, because thematically we can follow along. The differences in his narrative from the book to the screen make perfect sense if you look at the changes as part of this theme (if not, admittedly, a little messy).

On the other end of the scale, let’s use an infamous example (and it’s just the worst I can do).  Star Trek: Voyager once did an episode called “Tattoo”, about Native American character Chakotay, which was supposed to explore his backstory, which was a huge deal at the time! A Native American character in a major science fiction franchise! But the message came out horribly racist and condescending from rich Hollywood white people (that message being: Native Americans were backwards, soulless cave people until they were touched by white people from outer space (courtesy SFDebris)), so it got all muddied up and is so offensive, some fans have declared it’s better for the Human race as a whole to pretend the episode doesn’t exist.  And yet, you need to go to the production notes to see that they were incredibly racist as a sign of respect, that “This was our intention!”, even though it relates not at all to what was shown on screen.

Bringing these two points around to our topic today, Black Rock Shooter hits this sweet spot between “I don’t understand what the fuck you were thinking”, and “There is strong symbolism here that brings the details into focus.” It isn’t nonsensical, yet it isn’t quite clear.

It falls into this odd level where…if you look hard enough…you can see what they were going for, even if the end result did not quite measure up.

I’ve spoken often about the harem protagonist and harem love interest, having just enough personality for us to associate them to ourselves or people we know, so that we fill in the blanks of their characterization in our head.  Black Rock Shooter has something similar going on with its plot, it’s a rarity in this way.  And I think that’s why conflating the OVA and anime for Black Rock Shooter comes together so well, because the former informs the latter, like that last missing piece they couldn’t quite nail. They push you in a direction, but aren’t clear which endpoint they wanted us to land at.

So let me try to pick this one apart for you.

(For records sake, I will use “Black Rock Shooter” to refer to the TV series, and “OVA” to refer to the movie.)

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Why the Harem Plot?

So, I’m no stranger to harem series. And with few exceptions they have always drawn the universal scorn of this blog because of that “vagueness” of the characters.

So what gives Black Rock Shooter a pass on this, whereas I eviscerate the idea in places like Unbreakable Machine Doll?

Well first is that division.  Black Rock Shooter’s CHARACTERS are well developed, and very strong (I mean this from the structural angle, not any of their personalities exactly).  The story is more vague, more open ended, but the people we are meant to connect with are very defined and unique from one another.  Black Rock Shooter is not trying to draw in everyman by saying “Remember that one time you failed a math test?”, something that everyone has done (and if not they, we all associate with SOMEONE who ONCE failed a math test).

No, this isn’t Black Rock Shooter at all. Yomi, just as an example, speaks to a VERY specific demographic. To those who feel trapped by society’s expectations of them, not just pressure but the kind that is visibly DAMAGING to your mental health.  She speaks to those who felt an unrequited love, not because she’s being ignored, but because of that scenario where the one who got away was not because our feelings were ingenuine, but because we LISTENED to that one person who probably didn’t know what they were talking about.  Not just of having a crush spurn our romanic interest, but BELIEVING WE DESERVED IT.  She talks to people who feel an overwhelming guilt that overhsadow’s their own self worth, not in an abstract way of a princess with responsibility, but as a child who has a cousin.  Of those who feel their lives isolated them for so long they can no longer “catch up” with their peers and have the same intimacy as everyone else.

And I think this illuminates the difference, and why the “open ended” interpretation of the story is not quite the same as vague characters.  There are definitely components here which paint in broad strokes, but the demographic is specific.

And most important of all: I think the staff working on the Black Rock Shooter material had their own ideas of what the story meant.  Whatever the quality of their ideas, I don’t think it can denied that they HAD an artistic motive at the root of this franchise.  Similar things cannot be said of, say, Strike the Blood, which reads more like a cheap marketing ploy. You may think it trite, or begging for attention, but the intention is there.

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Our Story

While the OVA movie and TV series split up in their scope and conclusions, the base elements of the story are the same.

Kuroi Mato and Takanashi Yomi enter middle school together as First Years. The energetic Mato is instantly attracted to the reserved, stand-offish Yomi, but is able to pierce the girl’s defensive screen and the two become quite close.  Time passes, and the pair find themselves less capable of juggling their social lives with each other, leading to disenchantment, and separation as “friends.”

As this goes on, in the Otherworld, two girls, identical to Mato and Yomi, live in a world of constant combat.  Initially friendly, these two, Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master, end up at odds.

Being longer and more thorough, the TV version of Black Rock Shooter takes a bit of a winding path.  It adds several characters to the mix, notably Yomi’s paralyzed cousin Kagari, and the spunky “other woman” Yuu shifts and redoubles into a much more mystical role.

The Otherworld characters change, too.  Black Rock Shooter remains mostly the same, as does Dead Master.  But whereas Dead Master in the OVA is standoffish and haughty, in the TV series she is much more reserved, only adversarial to Black Rock Shooter because she is first controlled by Chariot, and then manipulated by Black Gold Saw.  Black Gold Saw’s role expands heavily, and Chariot is brand new (like her counterpart, Kagari).These are some basics to know.

Oh, right, I have to do the thing, don’t I?

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But Is It Yuri?

Yep, can’t well uphold my image if I don’t talk about this.

If you remember your Yuri Goggles, you’ll remember that lots of series are shy about “admitting” it, treating gays as an open secret. So are Mato and Yomi romantic in nature?

In the case of the OVA, I would say definitely. Undeniably, even.  Why? Because we montage a year of time passing (the actual conflict doesn’t begin until the girls enter their second year). We see the pair cuddled up at events together. Poolside, festivals, the movies.  But what’s the subliminal message? In each of these scenes, the girls are framed against a backdrop of adult, straight couples.  Now sure, you might say “Well how do you know those are straight couples?”

This person will ever after be known as “Dumbass”.  You know movie making shorthand. You KNOW what an attractive young couple linking arms and cuddling close is supposed to mean.  The fact that these pairs exist in the background of our flash forward of Mato and Yomi’s relationship is meant to equate this pair to all those other people in the world.  I think that is very clear.  The girls might be juvenile about it, but the story is definitely sending a message about what “level” these girls are operating on.

The anime is a bit more subtle. Yet the strongest bit of evidence, I think, is Mato’s obsession with colors, she catalogs the sky, for example. The first thing she notes about Yomi is her red bracelet when offered the latter’s hand, and later on remarks “white”, staring at her skin from across the room as she blushes.  I would say, AT THE LEAST, there is attraction here that you can’t dismiss out of hand. And when Yuu asks “So you want to be friends with this (Yomi) person?”, Mato blushes and dismisses it, assuming that Yuu had accused her of having a crush on Yomi, but soon realizes her mistake and says “Oh, yes, that’s it exactly!”.  And of course, we see Mato playing with the keychain with a disappearing bra.  I mean come on.

And for Yomi’s part, we see her staring (a little creepily) at Mato soon after they meet, muttering “beautiful”, even though we’re given the impression Mato is no great beauty by a traditional standard. And the way she paints her, is preoccupied with being “closest”…yeah.

So, I’m putting this series in the “win” column.

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An Explosion at a Rainbow Factory

Before we dig deeper, I want to draw attention to the art in Black Rock Shooter.  Yeah. Right? Usually I save those points for a general “technical” section at the tail end of the review. Well not today, chumps.

I said in my introduction post that part of the way I weighed my Top 10 was how “incorporated” the series imagery had found its way into my life. Desktops, wallpapers, facebook icons, hentai. Stop judging.

By this metric, Black Rock Shooter outdoes everything in the Top 10.  The art is gorgeous and loud.  Someone just cranked the saturation up on a sentai show and left it on.  It’s very easy to tell the OVA from anime in this way, rather than just the style it’s drawn in.  The TV series is bright, and the fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed.  It’s one my favorite AMV series just for the wild way its Otherworld scenes are depicted.

And goddess help me if I just want to take a specific screenshot for some purpose.  Delving into an episode for one screenshot and I come out with a fifty page folder.

I’m bad at art, truly and awfully. I tried for a decade to train an artists eye and failed miserably. And I had a damn fine teacher, I might add.  So I can’t exactly articulate the way this series uses color and the like to express its intents.  The best I can do is use those little moments in this review and show you, and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

Mostly, this is probably because the Otherworld is a realm of visual storytelling.  There are very, very few lines of dialogue in the Otherworld (and 90% of these only occur after Mato has entered it and is interacting with its denizens).  Because most of the Otherworld characters are silent protagonists, Black Rock Shooter must tell its stories by posture, movement, and facial expressions.  And in this it succeeds brilliantly, perhaps better than any anime ever has.

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Consistent Messages

Several themes and motiffs appear in both incarnations, which compounds how it’s easy to think of them as a single entity.

One that sticks out? “Humans always react too late.”

In the OVA this came in the form of Yomi’s disappearance.  Mato only then realizes how she took Yomi’s presence for granted.  She sends a slew of texts at her after (we are led to believe) ignoring her for some time. But those happy little messages are too little, too late. Mato reacts too late, and that is the tragedy of the story. Her friend is gone, and she didn’t realize how much she truly NEEDED her until that moment.

In the TV version, we get this in arguably a darker version. Yes, darker than child disappearance. Mato is meeting with her teacher, who is the Human world counterpart to Black Gold Saw, ostensibly “villain” of the Otherworld.   She tries to teach Mato to tap into the Otherworld, to make a difference there! A difference that can reflect back on the real world.  She struggles to connect with Black Rock Shooter, to perform the eleventh hour hail mary that will save her friend!

…Just in time to witness herself killing Yomi’s counterpart, Dead Master, with her own hands.

Talk about a bitter end to this journey of self discovery. This act actually drives the Black Rock Shooter character herself insane with grief.

Black Rock Shooter just barely stops itself from reaching “overkill” with its sorrowful imagery. Probably the step that could be constituted “too far” is the children’s book that ends in the titular Bird of Colors DYING. That’s…why guys? Why for you do that?

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Where Things Break Down

Now comes one of the issues when you expand a movie into a TV show, and not vice-versa.  Some series are able to do it rather smoothly with a couple retcons (Stargate being the most successful and probably best quality example of this).  Others…are less certain.

Black Rock Shooter carries some of these problems.

In the OVA, the relationship between the real world and the Otherworld was rather vague and open to interpretation.  It seemed LIKELY that it was more than just an artistic representation of the girls’ real lives, though the door wasn’t shut on that entirely.  But if that weren’t the case, how were they related? Yomi and Dead Master are clearly connected, in more than just looks.  Was this a parallel reality? The same story playing out with the same actors who grew up with different rules of physics?  Were they somehow linked to the girls, like higher selves on a heavenly plane?  Were the entities independent who looked like our heroes for some other reason, like guardian angels taking their masters’ conflict personally?

Each of these interpretations (and more) has a perfectly valid ground of reasoning because the story was purposefully open ended. In the end, the story of BRS trying to befriend a fearful and apprehensive Dead Master could be construed as…well, the possibilities were endless.

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But, Black Rock Shooter had a problem.  Even a very short series, at eight episodes, would need to at least UNDERSTAND what this world was, even if it never made a big deal of it on screen.

Sadly, the series never manages to present itself like it knows what it’s talking about.  It’s like a politician bullshitting you because they know you won’t like their real answer, and one bullshitting you because he thinks “net neutrality” is a Swiss cable company that wants to take over Verizon and export jobs overseas.  You can tell the difference, even if the answers are identical.  And Black Rock Shooter didn’t KNOW what its Otherworld was, not really.

Perhaps more accurately, they DID know, but did not think that explanation through.  When Black Rock Shooter was announced, and the leaks began showing the anime’s teasing of events, fans were pleased.  There was a serious fear that they would be going in a totally different direction with the story that people had been drawn to in the OVA. But BRS and Dead Master seemed to be integral, still, with a more complicated relationship that wasn’t easy to pin down, so that was good.

After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

However, the EXPLANATION of the Otherworld flies in the face of this subtle symbolism.  In the anime, the Otherworld is explained as a parallel world where every girl has a counterpart who is sort of an “emotional dump” for the real world.  The girls there don’t experience feelings, their lives are defined by combat, and when the girls there died, their real world counterparts would be “freed” of their emotional baggage.

Keeping the imagery and trying to retcon as little as possible had a head on collision with this interpretation of events, culminating in a rather silly bit where Mato tries to learn how she can PERSONALLY take control of the Otherworld counterpart.

Another serious mistake was the shift in the final few episodes to focus on the new characters, rather than following through on the Mato/Yomi relationship.  This led to a break down of message.

See until this point, Saya had been spinning the battles in Otherworld as GOOD things.  Chariot and Dead Master dead? No problem! It will make their real world selves stronger!  But Black Rock Shooter cannot be allowed to conquer this world because…because that would be too much of a good thing, I guess. Okay, so it’s actually a BAD thing, but then why was Saya so sure of herself for doing this for…20 some odd years?

In my humble opinion, it was a mistake to make the real world and Otherworld connected in such an exacting way.   At the very least…don’t tell us? Let us PRETEND that there’s a subtle, symbolic relationship between the two worlds. Not this literal “your pain is fuel” quotient.

The story even goes through a fit of mental gymnastics to convince us the OPPOSITE of what we’ve seen on screen.  Mato falls into despondency that she has run from pain all of her life.  Yet we see in Episode 2 with the hospital room that SHE is the one convincing Yomi and Kagari to face their fears and move past their former injuries.  It is to set up a conflict now that the rules of the Otherworld have been established and Mato is trapped there.  It is, in this sense, a thing that happens because the script required it to happen, not an organic growth of the story so far.  This can leave the final couple episode of Black Rock Shooter leaving a bad taste in viewers’ mouths.

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The real world is a bit of a mess, as well. Not the play by play of it, but the melodrama.

Some melodrama is a great thing. Necessary, even, to dramatic storytelling. As John Oliver said, you can’t make it “Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Of course we’d rather not go into this breach at this time…”  You NEED melodrama to deliver a satisfying dramatic story, them’s the facts.

But too much and you spoil the grounded nature of the story. The real world aspects of Black Rock Shooter could have been very gripping, but the gravity they tried to inject into every situation was overblown.  Like the moment where Saya is counseling Yomi, and she’s revealed to be a bad guy, by the way the camera’s angled the subtle inflections to her voice.  We are SUPPOSED to feel at this point that Saya is our enemy. The show clearly wants this.  But because of the screaming and the crying and the batshit insane way every other crisis has been handled to this point, the artistry of this otherwise great scene is lost.  This was supposed to be the subtle tipping point. A seemingly harmless word (or several) from Saya and Yomi’s house of cards collapses. We lose that because of what precedes and follows it.

Like having an Oreo, and then trying to eat a peanut butter sandwich.  Normally, the sandwich might have that gentle tang of the peanuts and be a little sweet (especially if you use American bread).  But with the crumbs of Oreo still in your mouth, it just feels bland. Just like the REAL drama that happened in Black Rock Shooter’s real world.

It worked well in the OVA, because that was 50 minutes long. But again, and again, and again, it broke the narrative.

The really strong moments are the downplayed ones.  Like the festival.  Just the image of Mato standing in one spot as the day passes her by is incredibly heart breaking. And her quiet reflection that “I got three messages from Takanashi…all three said ‘I’m sorry'” is a real tear-jerker.

I do understand the temptation. Really I do. Inter-splicing conversational drama with the over the top fight scenes might feel like whiplash. Maybe we’ll just call it lose-lose.

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What We Do Get

So while the mechanical interpretation of Otherworld and the extremely forced way the narrative wanted it to be “resolved”, instead of just letting it go on, we did get a bit of a narrative about its denizens.

From the very first where we meet Black Rock Shooter, she is trying to rescue her friend, Dead Master, tracking the trails of green.  The way she reacts, for a supposedly emotionless being, with panic at the sight of Dead Master being controlled by Chariot would indicate the pair have a pre-existing relationship.

And above all this is Black Gold Saw, who seems to have a keen interest in Dead Master for whatever reason.  Much of what we see is geared around this. She watches the fight with Chariot like the King watching pawns, and the same is said of the later fight with Dead Master.

And this really can go either way.  We see Black Gold Saw “creating” Otherworld girls, giving them form and quite attached to them, like a mother.  But perhaps Dead Master, being so easily manipulated for whatever reason, is the perfect test subject for, I dunno, mind control or something in this universe.  Or perhaps BRS and Dead Master have such a close relationship, she sees Dead Master as just another pawn to compel BRS to action.

And we know that BRS takes it hard. She invades Black Gold Saw’s realm and demolishes it. Even the newly created girls, precious to Black Gold Saw, are all destroyed. She literally rips the planet apart looking for her friend.

Even WITHOUT the whole “emotions transfer from our world to theirs” thing, there’s plenty visual storytelling for us to feel the tragedy when Dead Master is turned against Black Rock Shooter.

And, Yuri Goggles! if we look at Dead Master’s bridal veil, maybe we have a hint of what relationship it was.

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The Dead Will Yield To Me

I adore this…pair.  Yomi and Dead Master are insanely cute and identifiable to me. You’ve probably noticed this pattern in all these screencaps.  And yes, for me the series basically ends at Episode 5. The rest is a jumbled mess of characters who are totally disconnected from the first half of the series.

So let’s start with Dead Master, as she’s way easier to talk about.

First is the juxtaposition. Dead Master: Queen of the Dead. Visually she evokes the most ironic of gothic lolita stereotypes.  She is the soft and elegant, what with her frilled dress and bridal veil, with the aspects of death and horror, her armor plate, scythe, and skulls motif.  The delicate Dead Master emphasizes that aspect of “dignity” with death. Restraint, propriety, and calm.

And, as I shared in the Ars Nova review, tragedy is a wonderful thing, and she embodies it with her counterpart Yomi.

Oh, and if my “favorite Kongou scene” from that review wasn’t a give away, I love the chain motif.

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We don’t really get to see a lot of Dead Master as her own character, so much as a character whom things happen to, and must discern what little we can from that.

We can guess fairly accurately at the depth of her powers.  They’re immense.  This is evidenced by Saya’s unnatural interest in her (and by extension Black Gold Saw).  Further, with the color schemes as a narrative aid, almost as soon as Dead Master is freed from Chariot’s control (and subsequently captured by Black Gold Saw) the battlefield turns green, Dead Master’s color.  This color swap persists long after she’s pulled away when you might have assumed all color to have disappeared as with the other “bases”.

She also has a feature unique to her: grief.  Chariot and Black Rock Shooter (and “Strength” for that matter) manifest their role as “pain batteries” in pretty much the same way: they hulk up.  BRS gains spikes and a suit of armor and weapons.  Chariot gets new toys to play with comparable to Kagari, and Strength (used to refer to actual-Yuu, but for sake of brevity) unlocks new abilities with her power gloves.  But Dead Master is different, she goes berserk in a unique way: surrounded by chains. The prison that we see her swallowed into is made up of chains. She does it to herself.  We know Black Gold Saw is pulling the strings, but whatever she did it sets Dead Master basically on self-pity autopilot. Why?

I think the answer lies with Black Rock Shooter’s very panicked mannerisms when Dead Master was being held captive by Chariot.  While the show will later emphasize how these girls DON’T feel things, at least from what we see in Yuu that’s bullshit, and the other girls do have more going on than “I am a computer program designed to kung fu fight.”

In the OVA we see what may or may not be the start of the relationship between Dead Master and Black Rock Shooter (since the circumstances clearly could not overlap, but the basic scene may be canon pre-TV series).  Dead Master there is no less dear to my heart. Her attitude is much more combative, striking at BRS when the latter comes to befriend her.  And her final scene, as BRS advances on Dead Master, demanding that she accepts her feelings, is one of the truly great moments in anime for the decade.  And the way we see it is in her anger.  This isn’t idle combat because “that’s what they do”.  The Otherworld is a more complex place than that (and shame on the TV series for not understanding that).  Black Rock Shooter fights, but only to defend herself, only to make Dead Master listen to her.

The rage and fear that we see on Dead Master’s face is so poignant, so perfectly done, that it’s actually a good thing they didn’t try to emulate it exactly in the TV series. After everything we watch all movie, the look says it all, “Why won’t you hate me?”  “Why won’t you make this easy?” That context, teased by the moment they first meet, brings it into focus. She lashes out at Black Rock Shooter not because they are enemies here, but because they are friends. And not in the “you only know someone when you fight them” way, I mean the “intimacy terrifies me and I would rather scare someone off than be vulnerable” way.

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Yomi is a little easier to dissect because she’s right up close.

Her primary conflict is that of someone who is, in a word, jealous.  Ohhhh, I get it, that’s why her color’s green…I just got that.

But going deeper, and being more fair, I think it’s that bit I mentioned way at the beginning: Yomi is someone who feels cheated by life, and will never attain the intimacy that her peers have achieved.  Resent and hopelessness build up as each day is more time she’s falling behind, never able to catch up to the level of understanding that Mato and Yuu have, for example.  The sad part about that is, Mato’s affection for Yuu is supernaturally induced, she doesn’t even KNOW this girl and she’s spending all her time with her like they’ve been chummy for eons.

“I want to be someone other people can depend on!” is a good mantra.  But when “people” keep giving you the finger, that eats away at a normal human being. Let alone a 12 or 13 year old girl.

Whether or not true from an objective view, Black Rock Shooter captures the image of someone who feels cast out by society perfectly.  They fucking nail that sensation, in both versions.

Now, being harsh, you could say Yomi’s just pitiful, downright pathetic.

This person will be known as “dipshit”.  If you have never known the sensation of the most important person in your world shrugging you off as just another meatbag, you must fall under one of three categories.  One, you live in Leave it to Beaver, where families are always gooey, smiling Stepford cults that one heart to heart resolves everyone’s insecurity, and everyone has more friends than they know how to manage.  Two, you discard people who don’t feed your narcissism far too easily.  Or three, you lack the emotional depth to see others past the end of your nose, with a serious inability to bond with others that doesn’t involve some Ayn Rand “what have you done for ME?” bullshit.

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This past summer, I shared with you guys that I’d had a family emergency.  The part I didn’t share was that the collection of my family decided that my…let’s call them “life choices” for the purpose of this illustration, might be an undue stress on my father (who was recovering from surgery), and I was told, rather politely it should be noted, that I wouldn’t be seeing him.  When I reacted negatively to this and didn’t thank them all for wasting my time, any and all assets tied to my family were cut off (primarily, cell phone, but other things like access to legal documents). Now I didn’t swear at the elderly in my family or anything, I just turned off my phone for a couple weeks because I didn’t want to deal with them at that moment.

For those couple weeks, my dad mattered more to me than any individual person in my life.  I put everything on hold just for the chance to go see him as a show of support.  But because of a component of my identity, I was told by others “you don’t matter”. My dad didn’t even get to make that decision himself. That would have at least been tolerable. Pissed me the hell off, but I could at least have fathomed WHY. I know I’m not the most integral person in my family unit, but I wanted the chance.  And then everyone else went and asked what was wrong with ME.

I know this character. I know her very well. And if you’ve been in similar situations you know her very well, too.

And I will admit that I also know the feeling of pining for someone who sees me as a mediocre friend.  That long term infatuation that makes you yearn to spend time with someone, not because “I’m a teenager and don’t know better” but because that person might later go on to be your best friend because you just have that much in common, they just didn’t seem to recognize it at the time.  I know that loneliness (which was recently proposed to be reclassified as an ILLNESS) that makes the world seem bleak and cruel.  Yomi embodies these in one of the most realistic depictions I’ve ever seen.

Now if only we could have reeled in the melodrama of her tearing at her curtains like a wildcat…

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The Verdict

Black Rock Shooter runs on its color motif, and indeed paints a world with some very dark colors. Stunning, haunting visuals, solid pace, and dark themes are its highlights.  Even enough to overshadow its weaknesses at times.

But so far as Double D is concerned, it is Yomi that buoys this show.  She is the thing that trumps all other elements in this series, and on her own gives me far more fascination and enjoyment than half the shows we’ve covered on this blog.

If you want the core experience of this series, check out the OVA. Decide from there if you want to explore these themes deeper.

Well, that was Number 8.  I promise the next won’t be quite so disjointed a mess (seriously I have shuffled and cut and paste so much trying to edit this together to be near-comprehensible).  But what could Number 7 possibly be?

I’ll give you an answer…but first, I want to take this potato chip. And eat it.

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3 thoughts on “DDA Top 10: #8: Black Rock Shooter

    • I can see all your points, but I personally think you were a tad too harsh.
      Especially the ending. The point (as far as I can tell) is that everyone is trying to run away from the difficulties in life, but the difficulties are what make life worth living!
      There was a moment, when dead master was killed, our girl let go of the angst because of that, I was sad, I was shocked to find that I wanted her to keep suffering, I wanted her to continue struggling for love, because otherwise “what would be the point?” The suffering is what creates meaning in the world, that’s why its literal “fuel” (One of my favorite metaphors ever)
      When you read about great people, amazing people who did amazing things, you find that they were driven to do great things because of yawning empty painful holes in their hearts.
      In a way, (if you value accomplishment and growth over happiness) we should celebrate our sufferings as much as we celebrate our joys and that’s one of the most bad ass lessons any piece or art or person has ever given me. Before BRS, I saw my problems as just something to get away from, with some kind of assumption that total freedom from conflict s the ideal state of life. After BRS, I had an epiphany where I realized that If I could let go of all my pain and suffering, that I wouldn’t want to, my struggles became precious to me, because BRS made me realize that the struggle is what drives me forward, it made me face my issues with a “come at me bro!” attitude.
      A lot of “inspirational” art drives its inspiration from basically ignoring or distracting you from problems so you can stare at some shiny pretty nice thing in the world. Makes you feel better in the moment, but doesn’t really solve anything in the long run.
      BRS tells you “YOU, yea you, your awesome, you might feel like crap right now, but thats okay, because thats a huge part of what makes you awesome, and as long as you dont give in (to apathy) then you will come out stronger and more awesome than you already are and those huge fucking issues in your life? your going to face them, overcome the shit out of them, and then come back for more, you will seek out even more emotional issues to resolve because you are a fucking bad ass who lives for conflict, and that’s okay, its going to hurt sometimes, its going to suck, its going to be hard, but that’s okay, life wouldn’t be worth it otherwise”
      Basically, I feel permanently more satisfied with life, and I think that’s pretty cool.

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