Black Bullet Review

This is review number two hundred and eighty two. This anime is part of the Spring 2014 lineup. It’s also a highly voted show in my Spring poll. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Black Bullet. It’s a thirteen episode anime about giant man eating bugs and little girls. I just describe some evil hentai or something. Anyways, this is a pretty decent show but I do have some complaints. Let’s read on.

Story

This anime follows the adventures of Rentaro Satomi, a civil officer that hunts down alien bugs for a living. In this world of turmoil, Rentaro witnesses all the ugliness in it. From outside the protected city where the bugs dwell to the inside where tension is high, Rentaro watches on. Along with his teammate, Enju Aihara, he hopes to keep the peace in one of the few cities in the whole world that holds the very last humans.

Taking the Pants Off

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Black Bullet is one busy anime. This show is a good example of a really wonderful light novel given a convoluted anime adaptation. It had a lot of things going for it in such a short amount of time. It’s pretty insane how many things happened in this show and yet all of it felt very forced. I actually like the initial premise of humans backed in a corner being hunted to extinction by giant alien bugs. It’s like Attack on Titan and the show even has some slight of hands to screw the humans from time to time. I also quite like the idea of a pair of hunters acting as special police hunting down the bugs. The addition of one of the pairs being a little girl adds a lot to the concept. I also quite like the idea of corrupt humans having shady secrets and political evilness despite being hunted to extinction. It shows us just how the humans and the bugs aren’t any different once you peel off their skin. Speaking of peeling the skin, I also love the explicit violence of the show. It’s not over the top gory but seeing a guy get his arm cut off as it spew blood makes for a fun show. Oh, I also like the whole internal conflict angle of the show regarding the main character. He possesses a very human side to him that feels out of place in the dystopian setting he is moving around in. I like them all. Individually, they all have some incredible stories to tell and some strong experience to give the audience. The thing I don’t like though is watching all of these components in one show seeing it wallow in exposition dump and useless clutter creating a rather dull and forced anime to watch. This is Black Bullet. Its four individual stories packed in a thirteen episode anime with the focus widespread and the progression quite questionable. The funny thing is that I do believe Attack on Titans actually share the same four individual components. Humans hunted to extinction, a special group to fight them, disgusting human politics and a journey for our main character is among the many convoluted stuff you can find in that particular show. It actually added more as it progresses. You can blame the short episode run for Black Bullet being a bit unsatisfying but, in all honesty, there is really just one answer. The studio, Kinema Citrus, sucks at adapting really compelling pieces. I actually have proof to this statement. Kinema Citrus also gave us the big downer called Code:Breaker. I heard the manga is amazing. The anime sucked. I can bet Black Bullet’s light novel is amazing. It’s a shame because the anime wasn’t all that good.

I’ll be fair. All the components are pretty decent on their own. In regards to the overall story though, they mostly cancel each other out mainly because the anime doesn’t know which one to focus on. As it stands though, this show has four plot points. The first one is about the attack of the Gastreas. These are giant alien bugs that attacked humans a long time ago. They fell out of the sky and everything. Time passed and humanity is now closed off in cities surrounded by giant monoliths made of stuff that repel the alien bugs. There are five types of bugs. The level five ones are the giant alien ones that originally brought hell on earth. They are massive and encountering them is pretty much death for you. From time to time, a level four or lower bug can enter the cities. They prey on human and eventually evolve into stronger bugs by doing so. Basically, they’re collecting EXP. If you are attacked by one, you will either die or the wound would eventually turn you into an alien bug as well. It’s like werewolf rules but it is much more gruesome. The first episode even had a really wonderful transformation so you have a better idea of it. Here’s a GIF:

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So basically, the bugs must be killed for humanity to survive. It goes deeper than that though. Humanity isn’t just scared of these bugs trying to pick them off the face of the Earth. They also have some kept up anger and disgust for these savage creatures. I think it was just ten years ago when the bugs invaded so some people are still alive to remember the horrors that occur back then. Some of them have even vowed to exact revenge. I guess the humans are backed in a corner for so long that they are ready to bite. Unfortunately, no ordinary bullet can kill the alien bugs. It takes a special bullet made of the stuff these bugs hate called Varanium. These Varanium bullets can only be carried by civil officers. I think they take an exam to become one or whatever. Anyways, civil officers are the only qualified people that can kill an alien bug. They are usually a pair which includes a Promoter, the ones carrying the guns, and an Initiator, their super human sidekicks.

This leads us to the second plot point. Usually, a human attacked by an alien bug becomes an alien bug. If pregnant ladies are attacked though, their child takes some of the poison. The result is a half human half alien bug monstrosity in the guise of a very cute loli. All of these half human half bug child become little girls and their distinctive marks are the red eyes of theirs that glows ever so creepy. They are called Cursed Children and these kids are considered both good and bad. It’s good because their super human abilities can fight off a bug so pairing them with a Promoter seems like an obvious choice. These children are considered bad though simply because most people identify them as alien bugs rather than human. The Cursed Children actually has the alien bug inside them and it eats at them slowly consuming them until they become full raging alien bugs. Some humans does not like the idea that the alien bugs inside these loli girls can attack them anytime so the poor girls are treated like garbage or street dogs with even little rights than a bug. The second plot point is mostly about our main character, Rentaro Satomi, recognizing the Cursed Children as actual humans rather than the popular idea that they are bugs. He identifies with a lot of them and shows his compassion whenever he can. Unfortunately, the world is a cruel place though. Throughout the anime, you will see little girls being abused. In the first half, one was shot and beaten several times but her alien bug regeneration ability helped her survive. Some are blatantly abused, poked fun of in a very cruel way and most Initiators are denied the right to even eat. There was one cursed children that poured lead into her eyes because her mother hated seeing them and now only has the ability to smile as she begs for money on the street. It’s powerful stuff. Seeing one die and seeing Rentaro respect them like any human is a bitter sweet experience I actually liked about the show.

All hope is not lost for the Cursed Children though. The Tokyo City area president is actually marching a new law that gives the little girls basic human rights. As you can imagine, this doesn’t go well with some people and some might even do something drastic about it. This leads us to the third plot point. It’s the one about the humans being evil and stuff like that. This was a lightly touched upon plot point because it has a very vague presentation. The anime mostly just wanted to setup the political aspects of the show through this plot point. Basically, there is one leader but there are also people running the city in the darkness. There is also this familiar last named scattered all over the show. The Tendo family seems to have a strong influence on the Tokyo City Area but, again, it’s never really focused on. They are powerful, they are feared and they are shady. Politics would be a huge component of the anime though even if the third plot point doesn’t really have a strong story to present. I guess our main characters connection to the Tendo family and a lot of other things is among the elements that make up the third plot point. Bottom line though, despite the world being run over my bugs, people still find way to be evil and greedy.

The last plot point is about our main character, Rentaro Satomi, and mostly about his internal struggle and personal growth. This show has a really gruesome setup that involves a lot of people being ripped apart but for some reason, the focus is on Rentaro’s adventures. Rentaro is a complicated individual. He desires strength because he is an overly heroic guy that wants to protect the weak and save people in any way he can. The problem is that he is really weak and he admits that he is weak. In the show, he’ll be impaled and crushed because he is simply weak. This doesn’t stop his heroic spirit though so, even with broken bones, this guy would stand up and continue to fight. One way for him to achieve his goal is to actually gain some footing in the political state of Tokyo City. He mostly achieves this by gaining a higher Civil Officer rank. I think he starts out in the bottom 10,000th and important people are ranked in the 1000th so he aims to go that far only to prove to himself that he has the power to save the people he love and everyone else that needs it. His journey to achieving his goal is actually spread out all over the series and separated in three individual arcs.

This is where things become convoluted. The anime has four plot points but it also has three arcs in it. If you’re confused now then be prepared. Actually, the anime does become overwhelming but the arcs actually give the show structure. The dialogue heavy plot points are balanced by the action driven arcs so it’s all good. Even though you are absolutely lost because the show lacks direction, the arcs provides focus so you can slowly get a gist of the overall story as the anime progresses. To be perfectly honest though, I have a hard time following the show as well. My initial motivation to keep watching is the potential brutality the show promised. More importantly, the show delivers on one thing I honestly enjoyed:

Loli.

With guns.

Being abused.

And dying!

So many little girls in this show, it’s like an unapologetic bait for fools like me. Sadly, it works. The story is so ham fisted that I was mostly drawn in by the loli. The sweet sweet loli. Anyways, this show has three arcs. All of them focus on the adventures and exploits of Rentaro. The first one is about chasing down a level four alien bug that has infiltrated the city. If left to run loose, the city will experience an alien epidemic and a lot of people dying. Things become a bit complicated when it is revealed that this level four bug has taken a special item that can summon forth a level five creature. So a lot of civil officers are assembled by the president asking them to hunt the bug down. Things become four times more complicated when a dubious criminal appeared wanting the special item as well. This evil guy is so strong that he out powers a lot of civil officers. He wants the level five monster to visit Tokyo and possibly watch the city burn down. It’s now a race to find the level four monster first while also making sure that this insanely strong criminal pays for all the bad things he has done. So is Rentaro strong enough to succeed with this complicated mission?

The second arc is about Rentaro being hired as a body guard for the city area president. He was specifically requested to guard her. Apparently, she has taken some massive heat from her bill and her actions in regards to what the other city area president thinks. She believes her life is in danger and that suspicion is confirmed when Rentaro encountered a highly skilled sniper trying to kill the president. It’s a hired to kill assassin so Rentaro and the team is out to find out who hired the assassin. Rentaro is mostly concerned about the impossibly skilled sniper though and decided to deal with the problem. He wants to know who the skilled sniper is. The funny thing is that it’s someone he casually befriended and greatly adores. The second plot point is mostly a character driven story about Rentaro trying to be heroic and strong. It’s about his doubts and weaknesses surfacing while he craves power to stop the assassin. The other side of the coin is presented as well when we get to see the assassin being bound by her tragic fate and the weakness she also carries. For the assassin, it’s kill or be killed so her hands are forced. She’ll follow her orders even if she doesn’t like it and just suppress everything that is tearing her apart.

The last arc is about one of the monoliths that protect the Tokyo city area being destroyed by a level four bug alien. This opened a hole where the bugs can enter the city and wreak havoc. Another monolith is being built as fast as possible but there is a three day time frame where the humans are completely exposed. Rentaro is now asked to join the frontline and fight back the bugs. He’ll form a group that will join an army that will fight the enemy back. This is basically a death mission as the hurriedly formed army goes up against impossible odds. The main focus of this plot point is about the inevitability of death meeting our characters. There is a lot of talking between the characters and it’s mostly about them swallowing their fear as they charge head on. This is the longest arc and the days are counted down before the attack begins. This is actually a nicely paced part of the show because it features the impending danger of the battlefield but also the growing anarchy inside the city as well. Tensions are high and tragedy is bound to occur. This last arc was able to incorporate all the plot points of the anime that gives us a pretty decent show. It’s not perfect though because the show still focused on the characters when it was begging for some awesome action. With all the bugs, little girls abused, a man literally split in half and Rentaro crying over one dimensional characters, I think this is actually the most enjoyable part of the show. Yes, the last f*cking episodes somehow delivered a slither of the potential the story had.

This show is convoluted but, you know what, it’s not really that big of a deal. The one thing that I did not like about this anime is the overly heavy character driven story being prioritized instead of the action. It has bugs, guns, loli, and stupid sword technique names, it was screaming for a more action driven story. This show chose to be character driven. The problem is that the story is so convoluted that focusing on characters having internal struggle seems like a bad choice. There was a lot of boring moments in this anime because it’s just all talk. Characters would just talk in a serious manner as if the audience cared. Rentaro is not an interesting character. All of his heroic talks and ideals to be strong is all clutter. Who the hell is he anyways? He was just a guy with a loli in one episode. You really expect people to go along with all the stupid self-reflections this guy is doing. I respect the fact that he cries like a baby when someone dies but most of his personal moments are forced. At worst, they’re hollow. You have a freaking sniper trying to kill you. The most awesome thing to do is to pit this overly goody two shoes against that monster, right? It doesn’t make sense for Rentaro to go all emo about how weak he is. I’ll ignore the overwhelming information dumping the anime is shoving down our throats per episode but giving up an action packed show for boring dialogue just kills it for me. I do understand the importance of the dialogue. Some of the climactic moments of the show are built up by all the talking and internal struggles. I’ll have to say though that they are forced as well. Nothing sucks more than watching something forced especially if it’s dramatic. Ultimately, it doesn’t really feel all that strong of a moment because the anime didn’t give us enough reasons to give a proper damn about it.

Characters are all one dimensional. This also greatly hurt the show. With the pace of the convoluted story, a one dimensional character just makes it worse. Characters are bound by their role and anything beyond that is forced. Rentaro looks cool but he just doesn’t feel like an impressive character. He was all over the place. He would have some flirty moments with some loli, contemplate about his existence and also attract a harem of normal size girls. To be fair, he fits the role of a cool guy who speaks his mind in a dystopian setting where you can be killed doing so. It was just badly executed. The story was ambitious and Rentaro had to do a lot of roles to satisfy the widespread story. This resulted in a one dimensional character that just do cool stuff at some point and go emo from time to time. The rest of the cast is just as bland as Rentaro. They had a specific role in the show that makes them look cool but they do nothing beyond that. From the tsundere class president that Rentaro works with to the scary doctor that eats gawd knows what, they all are interesting characters at first glance but the overwhelming story swallowed them up turning them mediocre. With the show lacking direction, it’s really no surprise. The pathetic thing though about this anime is how it creates a dramatic moment with one shot characters. There were characters introduced at the start of the arc. Let’s say that they are cool soldiers and they died in the line of duty. The show would force the audience to somehow feel sorry for the characters. I’m sorry but a loli dying doesn’t make me sad. It’s actually awesome and I encourage more loli killings in anime. They’re one shot characters. They were meant to die. It feels insulting that the anime thinks the audience should care. It even tried to make us care for them but you can’t make a connection with them. So when they die, they just die. It’s part of the story. No need to glorify it as if the show can’t function without them. I’ll be fair, maybe the light novel did it justice but there’s no way one shot characters can make you feel for them. Definitely not with a show as convoluted as this one.

This anime really has some great potential in it. It’s a shame that the adaptation went awry. I think the studio adapted way too many volumes for this anime. The result is one massive clusterf*ck of good and bad things. I’ve had it out for Kinema Citrus for a long time now. I also loved the wonderful story behind Code:Breaker and it remains to be one of the most read review in this site because people know the manga is great. The studio absolutely ruined it though. They basically just created an anime to promote the manga. A lot of studios do it but some would at least try to spin the heartless campaign to make the experience worthwhile. I’ve seen too many JC Staff or Production IG mangalures and I never complain. It’s either Kinema Citrus is in it for the payoff or they are really just a horrible studio that just lacks experience to pull off something as compelling as Code:Breaker. They did the same mistake for Black Bullet so that says a lot, right? Black Bullet feels more ambitious though as if the studio really did try. You can tell from the visuals but the overall result was still a bit subpar. They should stick to slice of life or something easy like that. Masayuki Kojima is the dude that directed Monster. He emphasizes a more character driven story full of dialogue and you can clearly see this in Black Bullet. His style works for long shows though. A thirteen episode anime just feels like an odd fit for his storytelling style. You can tell how much this damaged the anime. I was drawn in by the action sequences and lolis being abused. I was turned off by the boring dialogue. Everything was just off with Black Bullet, huh.

Sight and Sound

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Saki Ukai’s character design works great for the light novel. Saki’s use of the blue palette creates some pretty amazing characters. Saki’s design doesn’t stand out in terms of how the characters look though. Sure, some of them have flashy clothes on, like the city area president, but most of them look pretty plain. The only stand out quality they have is usually the face. Rentaro has a pretty fierce look on him. This is thanks to his expressive eyes and the blue palette Saki uses. A bunch of the loli characters look nice mainly because they’re freaking lolis and they have a gentle face on made more attractive by those red eyes. Some of the female characters also look plain but with great faces. They usually have some decent hairstyle and a cute face to round it all up. Saki’s design doesn’t translate well to the anime. The illustration Saki does is outstanding. It is overly complicated with the use of the blue colors and different brush strokes but the subject pieces are usually simple and it balances out the impressive illustrations. It’s a shame Saki’s awesomeness didn’t come through in the anime. That’s all good though because the animation was still pretty amazing.

The dialogue killed it a bit but the animation is pretty outstanding. It was just really detailed and you can tell great care was given to it. The way the bugs attack is pretty great. It’s not that much but you can tell that they are menacing freaks with the use of CG as they move about like the creepy bugs that they are. I also love the facial expressions in the show. Rentaro cries a lot and gets angry from time to time. The anime was able to make the scene look decent even though it is hollow as hell. Still, seeing him go through some emotional changes is a wonderful plus for the animation. It was able to make a hollow scene feel easy to watch. Of course, the fight scenes are outstanding. The way the characters move, the use of special effects, the interaction with the surrounding and the whole pacing of the fights look amazing. They are short and unsatisfying but it’s mostly because of how amazing those few moments are. You really wish the anime would just build the story about all that action. Naming the moves is complete overkill though but the stance and the movements are smooth so you’re easily caught up in it. My favorite part about the show though is the details when it comes to killing something. Bugs would explode and you can see the details inside the body. It’s gruesome and awesome at the same time. The story actually has a lot of those disturbing images but it’s not highlighted as much. Still, seeing blood just spew off a severed body is awesome. You can easily tell that the moment was nicely thought out to fully deliver a shocking graphic moment. I appreciate the care given to each of them. I bet the light novel deaths are even more disturbingly awesome. The use of CG is smart in this show. It’s still as hell but it was used to make a scene more amazing. I remember the lantern festival at the end of the anime and it was epic. The CG paper lanterns created a moment that is just outstanding. From making bugs menacing to making background sceneries beautiful, I love how the stiff CG was nicely employed.

The anime’s OP is “black bullet” by fripSide. This is a pretty awesome song. The song has a nice beat and it’s full of energy. The singer’s voice is pretty awesome as it sets the pace of the song. It is catchy as hell and I hate myself for liking it because I do find it a bit generic. Still, a great song is a great song especially the chorus. It’s just high energy you can’t help but enjoy. The show has two OP. The first one pretty much covers the first half of the show and features a montage involving the first arc. It also showed a few of the key characters of the anime without giving anything away. The second Op sequence is more about the second half and it actually paints a clear picture of the social structure in the show. It also has a montage of the third arc without any spoilers.

The anime’s ED is “Tokohana” by Nagi Yanagi. There is no way to hate a Nagi song. Her voice is just so clean that any line she sings is instantly gold. I love her voice. It’s so amazing. The song itself isn’t anything special but Nagi does wonder with it. The slow pace is given personality by Nagi as she sings those lyrics. The ED sequence is about the Cursed Children. It’s about Enju being consumed by the alien bug blood she has inside her. It matches the rather solemn vibe of the song. In the anime, Cursed Children turns into monsters when the corrosion rate reaches 50% and this is basically a flashy way to tell it.

Overall Score

6/10 “Its forced and convoluted resulting in a disappointing anime experience save for all the little girls being abused.”

Again, it’s a very busy show. It had a lot of things going on with very little focus on anything. It had potential but you can tell that the show just wasn’t able to achieve it. In the end, it gave us an overwhelmingly bad, highly cluterf*cked and terribly forced story about a guy with a bunch of bugs. If you like some graphic violence, albeit minimal, you’ll enjoy the ones in this anime. If you like loli then you’ll love how packed this show is. The boring dialogue brings down the experience though so don’t expect much from it.

8 thoughts on “Black Bullet Review

      • You mean Moe :)? I do think that it’s cool when anime gets serious.
        By the way are you seeing “DRAMAtical Murder” new anime based on a yaoi game but not focusing on the yaoi? It actually has a good plot which is based on sci-fi elements so it has the material to be any other shounen/shoujo anime. Are you seeing “Free!”Eternal Summer”? “Black Butler: Book of Circus”? And “Ghost in the Shell:Rise”?

  1. The individual events that happened in the story were pretty good imo, but if they allowed more development of the characters so that you could actually care for them it would have been a lot better. That being said though, it’d be impossible given the amount of plot they decided to shove into only 13 episodes. I wonder if there will be a second season

  2. Believe it or not, I was going to review this too! I just had so much fun watching this and I love Kaji Yuki (Rentaro). I admit that they: defeated the villain, bought out a class five, destroyed the class five…by episode four. I freaking thought the second season started around episode 5, I am not even kidding. However, I really enjoyed the heck out of it !!

  3. LN readers say Bullet’s author is a huge fan of Urobuchi Gen’s works, and many of the human suffering themes in the anime and novels is him trying to emulate Urobuchi’s style.
    Apparently this is why the suffering increases even more in later volumes.

  4. Back then, I was really anticipating for this show because of its wonderful trailer. But after watching episode 1 and 2, I dropped it. I just couldn’t stand watching pedo series.

Thoughts~

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