OP2: 「Beat your Heart」 by Suzuki Konomi
「炎の巨人」 (Honou no Kyojin)
The magical melee battles are great, as are the mecha slugfests; no one should be surprised that the action is solid. But the story they’re trying to tell is fundamentally sound, and the second episode patches any holes the first episode left. This could be one of winter’s sleepers.
Making Use of the OP & ED
I’ve always been fascinated with how anime use their OPs and EDs. They’re a unique tool that western TV doesn’t allow itself to the same degree, and they can be powerful, both to set the tone and to deliver specific messages about the show. (For more on this, I once wrote an entire editorial about using OPs and EDs.) And I like how Bubuki Buranki used its OP and ED.
The OP was nice because it provided information about the characters, getting some of the exposition out of the way so it didn’t come as a surprise during the episode. Granted, identifying who had which parts of Oubu could have been accomplished in the narrative, and was, but the reiteration was helpful. I also kind of liked how they revealed which antagonist would be opposed to which protagonist, even if it’s technically a spoiler. Plus, action, and I liked the music. Solid.
The ED was more fascinating though. An antagonist ED isn’t unheard of—the clustersnarl that was Tokyo ESP had one—but it, along with Reoko’s collapse and the mention that she’s been 16-years-old for 24 years, implies that the antagonists might not be the cackling nutjobs they appear to be. Or they might be, but more in addition.
The Action’s Great, But The Story’s Good Too
With CGI series like this, we except the action to be great. You can do all kinds of cool things that would look goofy (or be outrageously expensive) with traditional animation, and make ’em work. But the concern is that good action is all it will have. Bright lights and sound, no substance.
Fortunately, that’s not the case here. The story is certainly larger than life—cackling villains, city-destroying brawls, overdone character designs, the fate of the world hanging in the balance—but the actual beats of the story are being told fairly well.
I’ll give you an example. Resident douchenozzle spear-wielder Nono Hiiragi (Saito Soma) started attacking Azuma to bring out his Bubuki, and then dandy-with-a-pistol Matobai Shuusaku (Tsuda Kenjirou) showed up and did exactly that. This could be construed as convenient, and to a point it was, but it’s not something that just luckily came apart. It was all an outgrowth of character—that Shuusaku (and by extension, the other antagonists) are much more powerful than the plucky kids, and that Azuma thrust himself in front of the gun meant for Kogane’s Migite-chan. That told us several things about the world, and also, the heart didn’t reveal itself on all the times Azuma took collateral damage before that—only on a killing blow Azuma damn near forced Shuusaku to deliver. The storytellers maneuvered things such that that would happen, of course, but it felt fairly natural in the moment.
There were other instances. The protagonists tended to get sidetracked on their own priorities or start squabbling when antagonists were still on their tail, but they are a bunch of kids, and at least for the first one, they thought they had beaten Shuusaku. (Always remember to go for the double-tap, children, and even then you can’t always be sure.) And there’s the simple fact that they went up against Banryuu Reoko (Han Megumi) and her Entei with a seeming advantage—only for her to clean their clocks repeatedly. The best they could do by the end was get in one good shot, and then run the hell away before she flash-fried them.
The story is larger than life, certainly, and not always especially subtle, but all the right movements are there, and it’s compelling so far.
Be The Leader, Azuma
Much hinges on Azuma, because, well, main character and all that. And I felt that he acquitted himself well this episode, as a protagonist with a strong moral compass and a certain devil-may-care attitude in the face of danger. Risking his life to save Migite wasn’t exactly smart, granted, but between the hugging and him quickly turning to the others for help, he appears to be a trusting sort, at least in those who don’t call his mom a witch, and the kind of person who inspires trust in others. And I’m sorry, but any protagonist who can laugh at the threats of a bad guy who has proven to be more powerful than all of them combined—and laugh not out of arrogance or fear, but out of a true belief that his mother is alive and that they can do this—is someone I don’t mind following for a while longer.
Then there’s the others. I already like Ougi Kinoa (Ishigami Shizuka), who’s fiery, hard-charging, and swayed by the moment, as well as flighty Taneomi Shizuru (Komatsu Mikako), even though she’s the least developed so far. Kogane, too, who is the heart of the group as much as Azuma will likely become.
Aaaaaand then there’s Hiiragi. He’s a prick, to be sure, but he was also one of the more interesting characters this episode. It was him that showed how Oubu was controlled—that each of them could hijack it, even as Azuma proved that working together was a more powerful way to operate—and revealed the source of his hatred, that Reoko had driven his father insane. (Parents aren’t having a good time in this series. I would expect that to continue.) He also displayed some serious problems with control—or specifically, with giving it up to others … “my” Oubu, my ass—and that he thinks of Bubuki as tools, unlike everyone else. This gives him the most room to grow, and by the end of the episode, he was almost cowed, going along with Azuma’s plans even if he didn’t seem to like it.
I would expect Hiiragi to play the Lancer (trope!—and he even has a lance) to Azuma’s Leader (eventually—also, trope!), with Kinoa as the Big Guy (trope), Shizuru as I guess the Smart Guy (trope), and Kogane as the Chick (trope) and/or the Heart (trope). Yes, I’m expecting them to be a classic Five-Man Band (troooope), and the antagonists to be an evil version of it. But even though I just flooded the page with trope links, remember: Tropes are not bad. They’re just tools. And this one, in particular, is one I’m quite fond of. I like me some team vs team battles, so if you do too, don’t despair. There’s plenty of variability to be had within that framework, and most of the characters are already showing variations on those roles. Also, I could be wrong.
Anyway, as for Hiiragi, he may turn into a male tsundere, which would be preferable to the prick he’s been up to this point. It depends whether he stays like that, or if that’s the starting point that allows for his growth into someone we don’t hate, or even like. The former would be annoying, while the latter would be awesome. Let’s hope for his growth.
I appreciate that the fallen Buranki, along with Reoko’s collapse, provide reasons for why Entei won’t immediately chase down the protagonists and burn them to a crisp before they have a chance to level up. That aside, I’m horribly conflicted on this show. Not about watching it—I’m in for the ride at this point. About whether I want to blog it. If it weren’t a Saturday show, when I already have Utawarerumono, I’d probably be all over it! Guuuh. Tell me what you all are thinking after this episode. The schedule will probably go up sometime next week, so I guess you’ll learn what I decide then.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Turns out this is melee brawler + mecha slugfest anime, & the underlying story beats are solidly done. Expectations rising #bbkbrnk 02
- There’s something awesome about them riding on a big mech. I also like that they kept getting shields to excuse why they’re not all paste.
- As much as Im enjoying this, the faces can still get goofy at times.
- I can’t decide whether Migiwa (Azuma’s mother) is alive or not. Last episode I assumed she was, but as soon as Reoko claimed she was, I assumed she wasn’t, haha. I’m leaning toward she’s still alive and keeping the Buranki suppressed, but in some way incapacitated. Their old house is still standing, at least.
- Only thing I’m confused as it where the skeleton went when the kids fell. Can Azuma disappear it now like the others can with their limbs, or is it going to be on a train later? We’ll see, I suppose.
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.
ED: 「ANGER/ANGER」 by MYTH & ROID