“The Witch’s Son”
Bubuki Buranki builds a mythology in its first episode, then does its best to pull us in. Its rough, and the potential isn’t realized, but the potential for a good original story is absolutely there.
Ten Years Before
The first half of the episode is quite good, for two reasons. First, it takes as much time as it needs. It builds a mythology around the Buranki, and I use the word mythology deliberately. One look at the field of slumbering titans made it feel like something out of legends; a Shadow of the Colossus feel, perhaps. I say that rather than the titans of Shingeki no Kyojin because they’re not immediately an object of horror and fear, but one of wonder (and also fear, but fear deferred and under control). They feel mythical, even otherworldly. It gave me a sense of wonder, and that’s the first moment that really made me sit up and pay attention.
Secondly, it puts us on Kazuki Azuma’s (Kobayashi Yuusuke) side for the second half, by putting us on his mother’s, Kazuki Migiwa’s, side in the first. We saw what happened, so when people start calling her a witch and criticizing her as a mass murderer ten years later, we know that’s not true—she didn’t release the Buranki, and since it looked like there were lot more than just one, she must have put most of them down. She just didn’t get them all, for whatever reason (she was too slow, she got killed, etc). That sense of unfairness puts us on Azuma’s side, even though he himself doesn’t do much to earn it.
Ten Years After
In contrast, the ten years later part feels rushed. While the sense of drama in the first half felt earned—the mistake of the daughter, a mother sacrificing herself for her children, the slumbering danger of the Buranki—it isn’t so much in the second half. We lack knowledge of the stakes, and of context. Why does everyone want to revive Oubu? I get Azuma’s wish, to go see his mother, but I don’t know what drives the others. Nor do we know what drives the antagonists, or the state. Without context, all the cool action in the world doesn’t mean anything. It’s just light and noise.
I have sympathy for the job they set up for themselves, though. I feel like a double-length intro would have worked better. The thing is, we need the Ten Years Before part to understand the deeper context of what drives Azuma, as well as to understand the injustice of blaming his mother for something she tried to stop. That tragedy is foundational material, and good watching to boot. Yet it left them with a mere half an episode to introduce five protagonists, five antagonists, and an entire society. Not gonna happen. About the best they could hope for is only introducing part of the cast to make it manageable (that might have been wise), or trying to throw out a bunch of hooks to grab viewers’ interest and bring them back for a second episode, where they can lay down that foundation.
That’s why they ended the episode with Oubu stripped down to bones—Oubu, as an element from the Ten Years Before part that worked on its own, is a familiar element, and something we might just care about. That, plus the flashy action, hints of ulterior motives, and some earnest emotion from Azuma’s childhood friend Asabuki Kogane (Ozawa Ari)—which doubled as an expression of her motivation, though since “You killed my father, I’m going to stop you!” sounds like something a bereaved child would say in a fit of emotion, it worked for me—are the intended hooks, along with the whole Buranki thing from the first half.
It’s a risk, to be honest. The team at SANZIGEN tried to do something ambitious, and it didn’t entirely work. It didn’t entirely fail either, though. Personally, I’d rather reward ambition than complacency, so I’ll be watching more.
Animation, And Other Concerns
This anime is being produced by studio SANZIGEN, in a style similar to their successful (and largely anime original) Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova. Your mileage will vary on whether you like the animation style, but—
I actually wrote a long tangent here, but I’m trying to experiment with brevity, so let me condense: If you’re at the point where this kind of animation is familiar to you, where you’re used to it, and then you decide you don’t like it and don’t want to watch full-CGI series, that makes sense to me. More power to you. But if you’re not at the point, maybe watch a series or two. Ars Nova and Sidonia are both amazing, watch them. There’s a learning curve to growing comfortable with full CGI, and like someone who claims they “don’t like anime” (they don’t know, they’re just dismissing it), you gotta get over that hump to make an informed decision. Do as you like, but that’s my futile plea. Take it or leave it.
What I enjoyed here was how the episode showed the upsides of CGI. In this style the characters are under no obligation to move together (and stop together) so that the animators can have a few easy frames. That makes the flow of their movement more (potentially) natural, and at a lower production cost than the traditionally animated series that best achieve it. It also means they can move more, leading to fun little scenes like the two kids being tossed up in the air and spun around. This can get especially cool in combat, where the animators can go hogwild with effects and explosions that would break immersion in a traditionally animated show. The faces can still look funny (though they’re better in this show than any other CGI TV series I’ve seen), but there are advantages as well.
As I said before, this first episode of Bubuki Buranki is ambitious, and at least partially successful. And I want to reward that ambition by seeing where it goes. I’m definitely going to keep watching this, and I may blog another episode or two, to see where it goes. Tell me what you think about the episode so I can gauge whether there’s interest in blogging it more.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The Ten Years Before half was well done—the drama & tragedy earned. The second half was shakier, but the potential is there #bbkbrnk 01
- I like the little details of the world, especially in the first half—the ship on land, the house under the overhang, or the fact that they were actually orbiting above the planet (that was a cool early twist, and well foreshadowed). All shown without comment—which makes me wonder at them all the more.
- I enjoy the little details, like how they obscured the dates on Azuma’s passport to avoid dating the anime. There were a lot of little elements like that. It shows a certain attention to detail.
- Another thing on Azuma—I appreciate how he (claims) he wasn’t hiding when he was gone, but was searching for something (Oubu, I’d guess). It shows growth already from the crybaby he used to be.
- The Bubuki/Buranki/etc thing wasn’t as wonky as the premise synopsis made it sound. Bubuki are parts of Buranki. Buranki are these mythical titan things. That’s it.
- A convenience store on the roof. It’s a good thing they lampshaded it, because that’s weird. It’s still weird.
- There’s nothing like a slasher smile emerging from flames. The crazy smiles are strong with this one. Swiftly approved.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: $%&@* cuss words, Stephen, what is best in life?, It depends, and Momentum & mental space.
OP: 「Beat your Heart」 by Suzuki Konomi