Final Impressions: Black Rock Shooter


Black Rock Shooter doesn’t have much of a message.

Actually, the funny thing about that statement is the fact that this series has a message at all, and that, against all odds, it manages to tell that message in a unique, unabashedly straightforward fashion.

Let’s not mince words here: Black Rock Shooter, as a character, is one of the most context-free existences around. Anyone remotely aware of the twin-tailed cannon-toting heroine would know that her character, such as it is, barely extends past the borders of the sketch Huke uploaded to Pixiv way back in the day. She exists because she looks cool, and for little other reason.

Normally, series like these saddle studios with the unenviable burden of thinking up plots for the plot-less, creating attitudes and worldviews for the inherently un-opinionated, and crafting personalities for characters that don’t even amount to a persona.. The results are often either well-meaning disasters or, as in the likes of Rio Rainbow Gate, absurdist shrugs of defeat.

Black Rock Shooter actually carries an advantage, in that the products it's hawking are closely tied to to the basic nature of the brand, namely the character of Black Rock Shooter herself. Whereas Rio Rollins as a character has nothing to do with a pachislot machine, the only thing a Black Rock Shooter adaptation has to worry about is the need to have Black Rock Shooter in it, and have it all look appropriately awesome.

You can see it in the brand itself. The Miku song "Black Rock Shooter" sells illustrations of Black Rock Shooter, fan art of Black Rock Shooter sells copies of the song, the game, and the anime, which all sell copies of each other. It's a strange, harmonious confluence of commercial (and artistic) interest in which there is very little "source material" to "be faithful" to.

As a result, the only potentially negative thing one can say about the fact that Black Rock Shooter the TV series, is that the parts with Mato Kuroi in them potentially drew away resources that Studio Ordet could have used animating more scenes of Black Rock Shooter and her buddies. There's an argument to be made in favor of the Mato bits, but more on that later.

Anyway, the message. I said that there wasn't much to it, and I'm right. There isn't. Black Rock Shooter's message is the same one that countless anime, manga, and games have spouted incessantly:

Don't run away from reality. Pain Is Part Of Life. The World Is Colorful, and You Won't See Any Of It If You Shut It Out. Face the world and Be A Better Person For It.

If that's too hard, don't worry, because You're Not Alone. You Have Friends that will help you deal with it. And if you don't have friends, get out there and be friends with someone. They Have Issues, Too, and that's something you can help each other with.

And whatever you do (besides shutting out the world), DON'T BECOME A HIKIKOMORI OR A NEET.

Though if you do, at least write a light novel or something so we can adapt it.

From Bleach to Onegai Teacher to Persona to .hack to Catherine to Kingdom Hearts to Evangelion, to more anime than you can shake a job application at, such is The Message, aimed at the teens and and manchildren who still watch this sort of thing and - in the latter case at least - buy these sorts of figures.

Mind you, I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing. The Message is so widespread for a reason (it's meaningful), and a fair amount of people in the target audience do need to hear it every so often.

Well-adjusted persons of drinking age might not find value in it, though, but that is where all that awesome CG and those bitchin' figures come in. Watch the adventures, buy some more of that ass-kicking girl in hotpants with her eye on fire. Or her friend with the horns and a scythe. Or her other friend with the Hulk-arms. Or the other friend with low-rise jeans and a saw blade. Or the loli with a crown and a spider-car that shoots macaroons.

Where was I?

Oh, right, I mentioned that Black Rock Shooter conveys The Message in a reasonably interesting way, one that justifies all its otherwise uninteresting, mundane non-CG bits.

Put plain, by the end of the show Black Rock Shooter has told us The Message in about the most literal, straightforward way possible, short of actually flashing a public service announcement (otaku service announcement?) onscreen between fights.

It's spelled out at least thrice in the last few episodes: Whenever a pubescent girl develops Issues (that tends to happen a lot when it comes to pubescent girls), a CG character in Metaphor World is born. The characters are themselves emotionless, avatars for the pain and insecurity, fighting eternally as scapegoats to be put upon.

Black Rock Shooter is a dubious messiah of sorts, the avatar of a girl (Mato) whose denial of the pain is so complete that she doesn't even know it's possible to be hurt. The stronger the repression, the more powerful the avatar, and combined with her unwavering, eventually self-destructive urge to play martyr, results in her ability to actually win the fights she gets into.

Except that winning a fight with a given avatar means that the non-CG, real-life girl being represented gets artificially severed from Her Issues, her heart cut out by a scalpel coated in Valium. Hurtful boyfriends become strangers, dysfunctional relationships become cruelly blunt catharsis, and pain? What pain?

Of course, that runs counter to The Message, so it cannot stand. Even the girl whose pain is so all-consuming that she'd opt to switch places with her avatar, because pain is easier to cope with than the complexities of pubescence.

Thus denial ends, the "real" Black Rock Shooter ignites her eye, and the Metaphor Worlds merge to make for a More Complete Whole, ready to face life and all its Issues.

So, eight episodes later, where does that leave us, the viewers?


That CG looks AWESOME! Did you see that chick with the zipper hoodie?! Her gun is HUGE! And the other girl, her scythe is made of BACKBONES! The one with a spider-car has WHEELS FOR LEGS! Oh, and the Hulk-arms! Four of them?! And they turn into pile-drivers!

Where can I get action figures of that? Is there a PSP game version?

Hey...what's with all this schoolgirl stuff? Boo-riing! Maybe someone'll sell a Blu-ray of all the fight scenes spliced together, yeah?

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures


Filed under... #anime #Final Impressions #Hatsune Miku #top stories



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