In spring, two girls meet: Mato and Yomi. They each sense something in the other that they lack in themselves, and are drawn to each other in spite of their contrasting personalities. Though initially hesitant, they form a strong connection. But they both have secrets - and in an empty world, two girls fight: Black Rock Shooter and Deadmaster. A strange being, Black Gold Saw, watches their mysterious battle, laughing. This is the story of two girls, in two worlds, entangled by the threads of fate.
I first saw Black Rock Shooter at Hyper Japan 2010, I was attracted to the quality of the character design (by Ryohei "Huke" Fuke). But I had looked into nothing about it since. Now over two years later, this DVD drops in my lap, and I'm overjoyed that it lives up to that quality, and then some!
Mato Kuroi is a normal, happy school girl, innocent and a little naive, but excitable and friendly, also good at basketball. By chance, she meets Yomi Takanashi, a contrastingly quiet girl, reserved and more into her art than sports. As different as these two girls are, they discover that they have something in common; a book from their childhood called 'Li'l Bird Li'l Bird Colorful Colors', which they both still treasure to this day. The curious, outgoing Mato wants to become friends with the gentle, sheltered Yomi, but she really is quite the closet-case. One day, Mato visits Yomi's house and it's soon revealed why that might be...
I sat wondering, "Well, this seems quite normal! How does that black-clad, bad ass looking girl come into all this?". But of course, this is anime, right? Anything is possible! It turns out that in Mato's dreams, she is this girl that battles against evils mysteriously connected to the real world. Initially, the whos, whats and whys about that don't seem to matter, as the series' true colours come to show and shatter your senses (plus I don't want to spoil it). Set in a confused, post-apocalyptic dystopia, combat takes place in a world that contrasts as much as Mato and Yomi's personalities. Brought to you by the animation studio Sanzigen (Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt), married with a decent score from music producer Hiroaki Sano (D.Gray-man, Honey and Clover), 2D and 3D seamlessly combine to create what is by far, the best CG anime-tion I have ever seen buzz off a DVD.
That's not to say this anime is all about fun effects and wow factor. The story is well paced and intact too, especially for the eight episodes it lasts. As the mystery between the dream and real worlds unfold, the friendships between Mato, Yomi and company become increasingly threatened. And as with many of us, our anxieties in the real world, can proceed to affect our dreams. The dystopian dream world begins to feel like a stage to live metaphor, played out by fashionably elite character designs, each sporting their own crazy arsenal of mahusive guns, swords, wheels and macaroons. And surprisingly, what seems like a fluffy anime at first, has hints of psychological thriller, perhaps even horror. In places, it felt like a better version of the film Sucker Punch.
Despite all the action, it is a story backed wholly on young girls' emotions. If that doesn't sound like your bag, its production quality will buy you in anyway. Studio Sanzigen have mimicked 2D with 3D so well, it's hard to believe the battles' character models are entirely 3D. It certainly opened up the canvas for its fights, as your eyes are brought upside down and inside out on various levels. The DVD's 'Making Of' featurette explores this a little, which is thankfully well translated and a wonderful bonus.
The series' impending climax is not as straightforward as I'd like, and there are some character holes. Overall, Black Rock Shooter is a simple but powerful, moral tale of BFF friendship, reminding us to not forget who our true friends are, and that our every action bears consequence when it comes to our loved ones, even inflicting pain, intentional or not. It's not afraid to touch on both the light and dark sides of human persona, fleshing out the gap between what turns the good in a person, bad. And does it alongside gorgeous, explosive, fascinatingly well-designed, armour-chick battling metaphor. Brilliant!