Relaxing after Third Impact.
Bubuki Buranki is by no means perfect, but if you enjoy stylish, highly-kinetic action, it can be worth your time for the unexpected wrinkles that make it more interesting than the synopsis suggests. Chiefly among the antagonists.
As the series that was fourth in line for my personal coverage (of three, it barely missed out), I was interested in how Bubuki Buranki would end up. I’d say that it ended largely in line with my expectations, though some elements were better than expected, and some never rose above what we saw in the first few episodes.
The action was good throughout, and compared to the animation in Ajin, Bubuki Buranki looked much better. It’s still CGI, for sure, but where Ajin feels jarring and inhuman, this is more along the lines of a Pixar or Disney animated feature—it’s certainly CGI, and you never really forget it, but after a while you stop paying attention to it because it’s close enough. I’ll let someone else get into why that’s the case—I’ve heard it mentioned that it might be a hybrid between traditional and CGI animation, but I don’t know. Animation techniques are other people’s business; my business is stories. But it’s undeniable that CGI fits the action genre well, since it allows animators to do on the cheap what only the best traditionally animated series can do for more money. The animation in Bubuki Buranki was a lot of fun to watch, even if it sometimes fell into the trap of being too much, too quick—we humans can only absorb too much. But that’s a small criticism for what was given.
The plot and characters are where some justified criticism can be levied. The strange thing about this series is that all the steps in character development and plotting were there, but they seemed to jerk from step to step, blazing past details that would allow us to organically feel how everything proceeded from A to D. Take Hiiragi—in the first few episodes he was an insufferable jackass, then he was kind of a nice guy, then all of a sudden he was heroically friendly to Azuma, having all but given up on his goal of taking Migiwa back to Earth to fight Reoko, or at least being really damn chill about it. I can see the progression, and in the context of what happens it makes sense, but it feels like they forgot to show or tell some of the steps. So it feels jerky.
The same thing can be said of the plot, which I always felt like I was on the cusp of really getting into, but I never quite managed. I just couldn’t connect emotionally with everything was happening because of those steps that were glossed over. Yet I also appreciate the speed and ambition of the plot. Other series would have spent an entire season on the Bubuki Battles, which were handicapped from the beginning because we knew the protagonists couldn’t lose their bubuki. But it didn’t. It did that, and then it introduced teams from other countries, and it went up to space, and even if everything was rushed, at least they had the audacity to give us more. Your mileage may vary on how well that worked; there’s an argument to be made for going slower, as Hai to Gensou no Grimgar has shown. But I feel like the toxic middle ground could have easily been chosen, and they decided to give us more instead.
The biggest element that I didn’t expect to enjoy in the way I did was Reoko’s team. At the beginning they looked like cackling villains, and don’t get me wrong, that’s a lot of fun. I’ll take a magnificent bastard with a slasher smile over some whiny emo kid any day (looking at you, Kylo Ren). But much like Kylo Ren, the antagonists ended up being more interesting than the protagonists because they were multifaceted. They remind me of the old saying that Rome conquered the world in self-defense—and with the past Japanese government murdering every bubuki user they could find, even if they were children, Reoko’s team pretty much did the same. I wouldn’t by any means call them heroes, but there are reasons for why they did what they did other than “for the lulz” (even if they did seem to enjoy it at times too). They felt like a fully-realized faction in their own right, not just a bunch of villains created to oppose the good guy. Compared to that, while I liked Azuma and his crew, it was the torture characters like the Russian team (the sister who grew a conscience and the “mice” who always had one) and Epizo (the American leader, who was ridiculous but still a leader in his own right) that I liked more.
Though, no, that’s not entirely true. Like Rey in the new Star Wars—I have no idea why that movie’s on my mind, but screw it, I’ll roll with it—Azuma gets saddled with having to be the moral and emotional center of the whole thing, which prevents him from being much of a character in his own right. But when Kogane goes murderous over the man who killed her father, shit gets awesome fast. Kinoa had some good parts too, and Hiiragi got much more tolerable, and even became likable by the end, even if his journey there was uneven. Probably most interesting was Shizuru, who easily could have been the ditzy girl who said eccentric things, but was much better utilized than that—her weird logic was taken a step further, and she became a genius combat powerhouse.
Migiwa was the weakest link, which is a problem when she’s the crux of so much of what happened. Having a badass mom character who didn’t die to motivate the main character (maybe…didn’t die at the beginning, at least) is appreciated, but so much of what she did seemed to be because of “plot,” and her communication issues account for most of the drama. Kaoruko was also heavily underutilized, but it looks like she’ll have more of a place in the sequel, so that might be fine. We’ll see.
Above all else, the one thing that I enjoyed most about Bubuki Buranki is that it always felt like it was trying to have fun. It takes its action and plot seriously, but it still mixes in the occasional joke or visual gag (especially visual gags) to lighten things up. It’s showing off what SANZIGEN’s animation style can do, certainly, but the point of entertainment media wasn’t forgotten—to entertain!
I enjoyed Bubuki Buranki, though it’s not perfect, and if you comment that you hated it for X, Y, and Z, chances are I’ll understand. (Especially if your criticism is that most of the character’s outfits look goofy, which is so true.) This is less a post about how a series is objectively good, and more about how it can be subjectively good, and whether you’re the type who might enjoy it. And sure, the surface of the Earth should have been decimated when Treasure Island fell, but they patched it over with Azuma using his rinzu, so it should be fine, right? Eh, whatever. The plot might be shifty on occasion, but like I said, at least it’s fun.
Bubuki Buranki has already been greenlit for a sequel, so it’ll be interesting where it goes. If it keeps up the pace of the original, who knows where we might be after another twelve episodes. I think it’ll be fun to find out.
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: Inside Out: What Emotion Drives You?, Superhot: Storytelling through gameplay, Deadpool: Tonal Balance Through Non-Linear Storytelling, and Through their own flaws.