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Bubuki Buranki – More Than Meets The Eye

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.

March 30, 2016 at 1:03 pm
  • March 30, 2016 at 2:05 pmHunter-Wolf

    Glad to see this series review here, i just finished watching it now, and i have to say i really enjoyed it a lot, the action was a blast to watch and had a lot of spirit and guts to it, the CGI is some of the best i have seen in anime and it shows really well specially during the action and comedy scenes, and i do agree the costume designs are a little corny, but it really doesn’t matter after a while when you are so involved with the characters, action and story it fades in the background.

    My top fav character is really Reoko, Azuma and his team are fine and cool but the most interesting group are Reoko and her team, each and everyone of them has a different motive and personality of their own, they aren’t there to just oppose Azuma and his team but to seek their own goals (and they do sometimes team up with Azuma and co), Migiwa is interesting because she is a badass mom whose power is beastly and whose true motivations and goals aren’t fully known (aside from the “prevent the Buranki from going down to earth”), the best story in the series was her relation with Reoko and why she did what she did to her, that revelation was truly the best bit in the entire plot of the first season because they kept it a mystery till the very end and it all made sense when they showed it to us, i now totally understand why Reoko hates her despite Migiwa actions being good intentioned, this .. this kind of relation really elevated the whole series to a different level for me, a true example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions, Migiwa’s actions were all stemming from good intentions but they all caused a ton of chaos and death.

    As for the rest, the Russian and American teams are interesting but they didn’t get enough time to be fully fleshed as they were introduced late in the series(the Russians were more interesting IMO and the leader of the American team, i liked his episode with Azuma), then we got the British team as well, but it seems that’s just a hook for season 2, and yeah .. FINALLY .. Azuma’s sister, i suppose they got separated when they reached earth, which begs the question, why Azuma never bothered to look for her, did something else happen between them before they got separated, only the 2nd season can answer that.

    Still, i only kept coming back and watching this every week mainly because it was a LOT of FUN, that’s enough reason for me to stick with it to the very end, and did i mention i LOVE the ending the opening, they are so damn good and IMO are some of the best of this season of winter 2016.

  • March 30, 2016 at 3:15 pmPancakes

    I’ve always thought of Bubuki Buranki as a KLK-esque show. It started off by throwing big giant mechas in our face, kept on throwing big giant mechas in our face, spiced up this basic idea with melodramatic elements, and never once thought about explaining how or why we got big giant mechas on a floating island in the sky. The need for suspend disbelief regarding the central facet of Bubuki Buranki is, IMO, the primary strength of the show. Beyond character motivations there is little need for explanation, allowing interpersonal conflict (i.e. big giant mecha battles) to dominate. What we got (much like in KLK) is a show all about entertainment, about simply enjoying each fight and becoming enraptured by the larger than life personalities of each character–villain and protagonist alike. Bubuki Burakni is simply the embodiment of unabashed fun, period.

    Now the above doesn’t mean the show is without its faults. As you mention Stilts the main story felt disjointed, sputtering along between quick jolts of development. Things appeared rushed as a result, with characterization itself suffering the most. Although somewhat smoothed over by Bubuki Buranki’s organization (big giant mecha battles), characters like Hiiragi came across as flat, with their emotional changes seemingly popping up out of nowhere (Batman vs Superman had a similar problem, anyone whose seen it should know the moment I’m referring to :P). It will be interesting to see if these issues are corrected in the second season and validate some commenters’ argument that this season was simply an introduction/setup for the main story.

    Overall Bubuki Buranki is no masterpiece, but it holds its own easily when treated purely as thoroughly enjoyable entertainment. As long as one is not looking for compelling thought or a complex, deep story, one can certainly do worse for Saturday viewing. I will definitely be watching the second season of this, guaranteed.

    • March 30, 2016 at 4:47 pmStilts

      If this was just introduction, it was introduction done right—i.e. it’s compelling enough on its own to not feel too much like introduction. Unlike a certain other show I blogged.

      On Bats vs Supes:
      Show Spoiler ▼

  • March 30, 2016 at 3:41 pmsealouse

    I just hope we find out more of what happened after they first left the island in season 2. The only concrete info was that Azuma spent 10 years in America right?

    • March 30, 2016 at 4:01 pmStilts

      Was it America? “Abroad” is all I remember.

  • March 30, 2016 at 4:37 pmSmokex365

    Started off a little scattered, got its act together latter on and wrapped up pretty well. I’m interested in seeing what role Azuma’s sister will play and more about Migawa and Reoko. I get the feeling that there is probably some big understanding between Migawa and Reoko about what happened that should be interesting to see.

    Hopefully the continuation will be a little more focused since they should have gotten most of the character introductions out of the way.

  • March 30, 2016 at 5:15 pmMormegil

    I watched this for Reoko and Megumi Han. Megumi Han is a very good seiyuu.

    I kind of wish the Migiwa and Reoko flashback wasn’t saved for the last episode of the season. They should have had it a little earlier. It was an interesting flashback, so having it earlier on in the series would have made the plot more engaging. At least for me.

    • March 30, 2016 at 5:18 pmStilts

      Agreed. Having the flashbacks earlier would have been nice.

  • March 30, 2016 at 6:44 pmWraith

    So are we actually going to learn more about Azuma’s sister in the second season?

    • March 30, 2016 at 11:28 pmHunter-Wolf

      Did you watch the final episode (ep12), she does appear and explicitly say that the it’s time for her side of the story now, i suppose that makes it clear the 2nd season will mostly focus on what happened to her after she landed on earth (during the events of season 1) and overlap that with what’s happening at present time, either way it’s gonna be mostly her story.

    • April 1, 2016 at 12:54 pmStilts

      Also, the promotional art for the second season features her and no other characters. So those two together seem to indicate it’s going to be Kaoruko’s show, in full or in part.

  • March 30, 2016 at 6:55 pmMicheleuno

    I felt with this show, that all that happened, was for the sake of the plot, it was forced to move the history fordward. The decisions of the characters felt like a coincidence, not like a premeditated choice to get some the desired effect…
    The CG was actually pretty good, in some parts it actually didn’t look like CG at all…
    In summary for me, was fun, but that’s it.
    Sorry for the bad engrish.

  • March 30, 2016 at 7:22 pmDvalinn

    This show was kind of a clunky mess, I felt, filled with good ideas but not always knowing how to execute them. I never really felt it connected all that well together, and it was more of a Frankensteinian patchwork of loose story pieces than a well-flowing story. Which is sad considering the amount of potential it showed in its opening episode.

    That said, I did enjoy it. The characters certainly felt lively (and the CGI wasn’t too bad either) and lots of them had hidden sides to them. Whether it was seeing nice or spacy characters go apeshit, like Kogane or Shizuru, or the different sides and connections with the protags that the highly amusing villains had. It was them that made me come back every episode, as well as the sequel. So, y’know, mission complete in that aspect.

    I do fear for said sequel though. While it’s very possible they’ve learned from their mistakes and do better the next time, the chance also exists that it’ll just turn its messy structure up to eleven and turn into a trainwreck. I’d hate to leave this franchise on a sour note, so I hope they’ll be able to pull through.

    Also, the ED kicked ass. Never got tired of that one.

  • March 30, 2016 at 9:52 pmsonicsenryaku

    Bubuki buranki is full cgi; there’s no traditional animation mixed in there. Think of the cgi used in panty and stocking on full blast; that’s what BBBK is. As a matter of fact, some of the staff that worked under imaishi worked on Bubuki which is why some of the action scenes have the kinetic energy a gainax show would. The thing with cgi is that most animation staff do it cheaply and they are not really good at using the animation technique. Imaishi one of the people trying to teach young animators how to better use and integrate cgi in animation. There has been talk as to whether there could ever be sakuga for cgi animation, and while there is a possibility, there is a certain sense of “freedom” one loses when switching from traditional animation to cgi. Long story short, sakuga wont have as much varying degrees of creativity in cgi form. But enough of me going of about my knowledge of animation, BBBK was an entertaining romp: flawed in some areas like pacing, character building, and story cohesion put it mostly holds up in the grand scheme of things and im all in for the next season whenever it comes around. I wanna find out what happens after these kids wake up from the effects of third impact. Im sure ill find out sooner than the other show actually based on the after effects of third impact; eva 4.0, where the hell are you?…where the hell are you darker than black season 3? where the hell are you Fullmetal panic the third raid? where the hell are you chiaki j. Konaka’s Despera? where the hell are you a good DC universe live action movie??…………..excuse me

    • April 5, 2016 at 3:54 amSherrisLok

      That’s interesting. Do you have any links to interviews?

  • March 30, 2016 at 10:49 pmBamboo Blade Cat

    Imo, this was a hot mess. I stopped watching seriously midway, since it just repeated the same character dynamics, mismatched/inconsistent personal histories that masqueraded as character progression, and boring fights between the MCs and their corresponding antagonists. I’d have it on while doing something else and would pay attention if the story progressed, which honestly wasn’t much besides introducing more over the top characters and teams.

    Once they got to Treasure Island, I hadn’t really missed a beat, which is truly telling at how much story there was. To be honest, I was just waiting to see what happened to the sister, who may have a whole season to herself or something. What’s strange is the MC nor his mother ever wondered about the sister, or the father for that matter. This show just felt really scatter brained with characters that weren’t all that likable besides maybe the mom.

    Also Reoko’s backstory was a mess. She kinda became insane completely randomly in terms of progression. Like one second she was normal, and all of a sudden she’s hamming it up with crazy laughter and killing people in the government.

    The series in a nutshell, they met, argued, fought, got on a train, argued, fought antagonists, then argued and fought with new teams, then made it up to that island.

    • March 30, 2016 at 11:49 pmHunter-Wolf

      I strongly disagree about Reoko’s story, it was far from being a mess, in fact it is the most clear and satisfying story arc in the entire anime.

      She didn’t go suddenly insane or anything and i’m not even sure where you got that impression, first she gets terminal illness at such young age that will kill her in few years, soon after that she decides to reveal the Buranki to the world as her final act of rebellion before she dies, but her best friend attacks her and tears her limbs apart, then kidnaps her and keeps her in a solitary cell for 8 freaking years (that does things to you), after she sets her free she -due to her immortality- is still in the body of her 16 years old self while everybody else she knew aged, then the Japanese government decides it wants to commit genocide aganist all Babuki users -after Reoko revealed their existance to the world- attacking and killing entire families in the process, of course at this point and after all the shit she has been through (and being partly responsible for that genocide) she would be quite unstable and murderous, and frankly the government officials she killed deserved it, there is just no excuse for their genocide.

      Final piece of the puzzle is that her immortality -the one forced on her by her best friend aganist her will- is far from perfect, she actually does die but can revive afterwards, and while fighting the headless Buranki she does die multiple times each time a more gruesome death than the one before it, not only that but with every revival she loses part of her memories and personality, all that perfectly explains why she is acting the way she is since the start of the show, there was nothing sudden, illogical or unexplained about the way she acts or what happened to her whatsoever.

      • March 31, 2016 at 2:21 amBamboo Blade Cat

        Well, even when she got out of being imprisoned, she still seemed pretty normal overall, as there didn’t feel like there were hints of the craziness she presently exhibits. Then the next thing we see she’s threatening the prime minister in a blood smeared room and acting all villainous. I’m not saying there’s no cause for her actions to attack, but her over the top villainy felt very abrupt.

      • March 31, 2016 at 5:53 amHunter-Wolf

        @Bamboo Blade Cat
        Psychotic people don’t act manical all the time, what signs did you want her to show!?, only when they are put under huge pressure or their specific issues are brought to light (like PTSD patients), in this case it’s the former.

        The Japanese gov. started a nation wide genocide aganist all Bubuki users after Migiwa disabled all Buranki hearts in the world, and they were so brutal that they are willing to kill babies of Babuki users so they don’t get contracted by the Bubuki of their parents, the Prime Minister is the true villain here, but Reoko is acting like that because she is finally cracking under the constant pressure of being responsible not just for defending earth all by herself from masterless Buranki giants that fall from the sky but also defending all Bubuki users in Japan and fighting aganist her own government, a mess created by her best friend who made her the way she is now and imprisoned her for years.

        Of course she wouldn’t be acting normal in that situation and under all that pressure specially with all the trauma from before built up within her.

      • March 31, 2016 at 6:00 amHunter-Wolf

        Short version:-
        That scene was her breaking point, the moment things got so messed up (genocide you know) and all the built up frustration , anger and trauma exploded to the surface, so she decided “FUCK IT ALL!!!, i am doing things my damn bloody way from now on”.

      • March 31, 2016 at 12:34 pmBamboo Blade Cat

        You obviously feel very strongly about this, but imo, I don’t think they provided a proper transition for her Magneto-like behavior, clearly you didn’t have a problem with it and I did.

      • March 31, 2016 at 12:38 pmBamboo Blade Cat

        Also, considering the rest of the characterizations were over the top and not exactly fleshed out to some viewers, Reoko’s backstory just seems par for the course.

        But…..I’m gonna re-watch the episode to see if I missed anything just to make sure, though I did pay a lot more attention to the last episode since it was mainly exposition.

      • March 31, 2016 at 1:16 pmBamboo Blade Cat

        Another thing I forgot, which I remembered while re-watching it, is in the flashbacks, we see the younger versions of the antagonists, and they all seem fairly normal too, which really makes their current characterizations feel really inconsistent, since their cartoonish villainy is way over the top too, like gunslinger saloon bartender guy, there’s no indication why he goes in that direction other than because of the written character choice, or why their guy with glasses becomes really skeevy. It’s all very inconsistent and abrupt.

      • March 31, 2016 at 1:40 pmBamboo Blade Cat


        So after watching it a 2nd time, Reoko seems pretty normal even when she first starts to take action against the government using a Buranki when Migiwa has to stop and save her at the same time. Even when she gets upset with her for jailing her, it all seems within the characterization they’re currently showing us. Even when she gets angry at the growing brutalities by the government, it all seems very reined in and natural. Whatever she becomes when she’s at the Prime Minister’s is just so cartoonish and insane, it makes the prior characterization feel like a completely different person. I get maybe they didn’t have time to show a bette transition, but it doesn’t stop it from feeling very uneven.

        And like I said above, every character seems fairly grounded in the flashback, which really just highlights how cartoony they eventually becomes.

  • March 31, 2016 at 2:19 amBamboo Blade Cat

    Well, even when she got out of being imprisoned, she still seemed pretty normal overall, as there didn’t feel like there were hints of the craziness she presently exhibits. Then the next thing we see she’s threatening the prime minister and acting all villainous. I’m not saying there’s no cause for her actions to attack, but her over the top villainy felt very abrupt.

    • March 31, 2016 at 2:21 amBamboo Blade Cat

      dang it, meant to reply above. disregard!

  • March 31, 2016 at 8:36 amWhyY

    Feels like I have watched the whole season of prologue for the main story in next season…

  • March 31, 2016 at 1:36 pmBamboo Blade Cat

    So after watching it a 2nd time, Reoko seems pretty normal even when she first starts to take action against the government using a Buranki when Migiwa has to stop and save her at the same time. Even when she gets upset with her for jailing her, it all seems within the characterization they’re currently showing us. Even when she gets angry at the growing brutalities by the government, it all seems very reined in and natural. Whatever she becomes when she’s at the Prime Minister’s is just so cartoonish and insane, it makes the prior characterization feel like a completely different person. I get maybe they didn’t have time to show a bette transition, but it doesn’t stop it from feeling very uneven.

    And like I said above, every character seems fairly grounded in the flashback, which really just highlights how cartoony they eventually becomes.

    • March 31, 2016 at 1:40 pmBamboo Blade Cat

      Ugh, I wish there was a delete button.

  • April 1, 2016 at 9:44 amAozora

    This was really way better than I thought it would be at the beginning. Glad I kept watching. And Reoko was my favorite character from the beginning. I just knew there was more to her behaviour than just “I am a freaking maniac. So, I will kill you all. Just because.”