Black Rock Shooter – OVA
I’m admittedly not a big fan of the Hatsune Miku nor vocaloids in general, but when supercell‘s illustrator Huke designs an original character named “Black Rock Shooter”, composer Ryo writes a song titled after her for Miku to sing, and everyone can barely contain themselves after learning that a 50-min OVA was going to be made, it felt like I was going to start getting death threats if I didn’t blog about it. That’s an exaggeration of course, but the popularity behind “BRS” sure as hell doesn’t seem like one within the Nico Nico Douga circle of fans. To date, the music video has over 3.3 million views and 170 thousand comments. Personally, I’m not that keen on the song itself in comparison to some of supercell’s other works (e.g. Bakemonogatari‘s “Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari”), but just in case anyone hasn’t seen the 2008 music video that started it all, please see below.
If you aren’t a die-hard fan or simply not familiar with the BRS craze, then it might be somewhat difficult to grasp exactly why this video led to this long-awaited OVA two years later. I wouldn’t sweat it though, since I’m sort of familiar with the craze and I still don’t quite understand exactly how it got as big as it did. It’s never all that clear what will become extremely popular, but there’s evidently a lot of appeal in an extremely slender, fiery blue-eyed, twin-tails girl in nothing more than a black bikini top, hot pants, and a long cloak when she wields a katana and a huge transforming cannon/sword and can kick ass with it. In a way, she fits the “sexy girl kicking ass” stereotype, who targets the pettanko niche as well with her revealing outfit. What’s important to note is that Black Rock Shooter is not Hatsune Miku, but a completely different character designed by Huke. There probably are some hardcore fans out there that will burn you at the stake for making that mistake, even though it’s an honest one to make when Hatsune Miku is sometimes shown cosplaying as BRS. In any case, we have an original character who soared to popularity with a supercell song sung by Hatsune Miku, leaving fans thirsty for some sort of anime about her. I dare even say it didn’t really even matter exactly what it’s about as long as they got to see one of their favorite characters looking sexy and cool at the same time.
Stepping up to the task was former Kyoto Animation employee, production director of Suzumiya Haruhi, and choreographer for its ridiculously popular ending sequence “Hare Hare Yukai”, Yamamoto Yutaka. Some may recall how “Yamakan” was fired from KyoAni after directing only four episodes of Lucky Star, after which he went on to found his own studio called Ordet. Since its creation in 2007, Ordet has only provided production assistance thus far, with Kannagi being their most notable work to date since Yamakan directed it as well. With Black Rock Shooter, it marks the first time the studio’s headed the production of a project. Objectively speaking, this OVA doesn’t look bad by any means, but it isn’t exactly anything to write home about either. Ordet seems capable, but being a very small company of only ten or so employees with roughly three million yen of capital, one’s expectations naturally need to be aligned accordingly. Quite honestly, I found it more than sufficient in helping realize fans’ desire to see BRS brought to the life in an anime. The only thing needed was some sort of story to tie things together in some form, which they provided some resemblance of a plot to wrap around the Black Rock Shooter fan-service action.
For that, Yamakan went to another former Kyoto Animation employee, Yoshioka Shinobu, to both direct and write the script for the OVA, while he himself served as a supervising director for the project. Surprisingly, he also enlisted the help of Suzumiya Haruhi’s creator Tanigawa Nagaru to work with Shinobu in writing the script, which is likely due to their collaboration work for the anime. All that really translates to is having a couple of key guys related to Suzumiya Haruhi on board with this one, which is reassuring in a way if nothing else. The story they came up with involves two middle school girls, Kuroi Mato (Hanazawa Kana) and Takanashi Yomi (Sawashiro Miyuki), who become very close friends upon entering their new school. Over the course of the 50-minute run, an entire school year actually lapses to drive that point home, during which Mato joins the basketball club while Yomi joins the volleyball one. To put a contrasting personality spin on it, Yomi is somewhat of a refined girl who comes from a wealthy family and has spent time in Germany, whereas Muto is a bit more spirited and carefree and the one that initiates most of the conversation.
I can’t say I’m the least bit surprised that they decided to go with the school life premise, but in reality it mostly served as something to balance out all the dialogue-less fighting between Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master in some alternate world that the scenes kept switching to. I originally meant it as a joke that there needed to be some resemblance of a plot to make this work as an anime, so it was kind of funny how they actually went so far as to literally interleave one. If we were to just take all the scenes between Mato and Yomi, this was more or less a very uneventful middle school anime that finally got some drama when Yomi grew jealous of how well Mato was getting along with her classmate and basketball manager Yuu (Asumi Kana) and suddenly went missing afterward. If we were to take all the scenes between Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master on the other hand, this would have been what everyone really wanted to see from this OVA. The problem is, the second option is completely devoid of plot and is just there to serve as pure eye candy. I don’t think anyone would have minded if they made a story out of that world alone, but I do find this unique approach of overlaying a 24-minute episode about one world on top of a 24-minute episode of another one intriguing. I didn’t go as far as timing the actual duration of the scenes, but that’s how this 50-minute OVA came off to me.
Of course, it wasn’t all for naught, since the connection was made between the two concurrent stories to help explain Yomi’s disappearance and why Black Rock Shooter kept extending her hand out to Dead Master. However, other than confirming that Mato and Black Rock Shooter are indeed one in the same like everyone likely concluded from the very beginning, not a whole lot was explained on why she has such an alter ego. In fact, nothing was delved into this alternate world at all, nor exactly how Yomi’s feelings of jealousy caused her to become Dead Master. What it did reiterate is that Black Rock Shooter is trying to save the person from such a fate, and apparently failed to do so in another girl’s case. If nothing else, the story did manage to establish that premise, before leaving off with Yuu succumbing to those same feelings of jealousy upon Yomi’s return. Her alter ego didn’t have much of a role here, but the door is left open for some sort of continuation involving her. Whether or not we’ll actually see one is another matter, but this OVA delivered what everyone was looking for — a Black Rock Shooter anime.