US Distributor: Sentai Filmworks
Production Studio: Kinema Citrus, Orange Animation Studio
Was this provided by the publisher? No
More Info: Anime News Network
Black Bullet is a series that definitely delivers on the action with its intense gun play scenes, fast-paced choreography, and stellar action sequences. Unfortunately, it drops the ball due to a combination of horrible plot pacing and poor character development.
The story takes place during the year 2031, and the Tokyo area has been invaded by colossal insect-like creatures known as Gastera. The only thing keeping the Gastera at bay are huge pillars that emit an electromagnetic signal. Despite the protection, though, some Gastera still manage to slip in and wreak havoc on the citizens of Tokyo. Retaro Satomi, a civil officer, and Enju Aihara, his young partner, deal with the Gastera that make it beyond those pillars. Despite the occasional Gastera breaking through the city’s defenses, the world seems perfectly fine. There’s no societal breakdown, revolt in the streets, or class warfare.
The only tribulation viewers will notice in the plot is that of the “cursed children”: young girls who are endowed with incredible physical abilities. There is a trade-off for such an ability, though: the more the girls use these powers, the closer they get to becoming Gastera. Given that Enju is a “cursed child”, and she helps Rentaro in the field, this adds some weight to the plot.
It’s a hook that ensures that viewers will tune in to see if Enju pushes herself too far. There’s always that question of whether she will end up as one of the very monsters that she’s trying to defeat. The suspense allows for darker, more moving moments in which the cursed children face ridicule and discrimination. While these scenes can be difficult to watch, viewers will never really see that final moment in which a cursed child turns into a Gastera.
Again, it goes nowhere.
Black Bullet’s Achilles’ Heel is its pacing. This is possibly the fastest-paced show I’ve seen in ages. Characters constantly repeat information to one another, even though they logically should know what’s going on. It’s a massive information dump that will have viewers struggling to absorb the heaps of plot and character data that’s piled on them.
What’s worse, though, is that the show simply rushes through its biggest moments.
Giant Gastera coming to attack the city!
…It wraps up in five episodes.
A mysterious mans plans to unleash the Gaster Virus!
… It’s finished in four episodes.
There’s no sense of closure.
This lightning pace makes understanding the characters’ motivations difficult. One minute, some characters are calm and cool. The next, they’re renegades with their own agendas. There’s no real characterization between these extremes, and the writer leaves much of the cast under-developed. For example, there is a scene in the series, in which one of the leads decides to take her own life. The scene was intended to move the viewer. Instead, though, it feels like the decision appeared out of nowhere.
The most consistent character in the show is Rentaro. There are so many things to like about him, and yet he doesn’t have much of a background. Really, the show doesn’t even give enough information to justify his kindness to the cursed children.
What I’m trying to say is that no one feels “finished” by the time the last episode ends.
I will give Black Bullet its props. Where the show drops the ball in regards to plot, pacing, and character development, it excels visually. It has style, which leads to a number of gorgeous action scenes that range from calculative battles to all-out brawls (complete with slow-motion punching).
That said, though, the poor pacing shines a light on the show’s many other problems. While the visuals make for a decent binge watch, there’s not much else that would inspire a person to stick around.