Rentaro Satomi is a young man who would give his right arm to destroy the Gastrea, giant monstrosities that take the forms of birds, reptiles, mammals, and dinosaurs (and endless hybrids thereof), and whose blood and secretions can turn humans into members of their own kind. Teamed with Enju Aihara, one of the "Cursed Children", he pursues a relentless struggle to defeat both the human and monster obstacles standing in his way.
Despite some silliness in the premise and some logical problems, and its occasional bow to harem anime clichés, and even its violence, I sort of liked this. (But then again, I really liked Elfen Lied, too, so you might be a bit careful about accepting my opinion here.) For me, it had at least a couple of characters I never thought I'd like- but then I DID, because the show gave me REASONS to like them.
I should start with the show's general setup. We're not given much info about the circumstances surrounding the arrival of the Gastrea, but we're told that all humanity was attacked, and that finally a weapon was found- a metal called Varanium; the Gastrea shun it, and bullets made from it (the "Black Bullets" of the title) can kill them. (They're normally extremely hard to kill, due to their power to quickly regenerate from injuries.) As the synopsis notes, their blood and secretions, when either ingested or injected into a human (including through a wound) introduces their DNA into the human, which acts like a virus, converting a human's cells into their own. We're told that the so-called Cursed Children were infected in the womb -we're NOT told how their mothers survived the infection long enough to bring them to term- but in any case, the children somehow were actually born, but having both Gastrea and human cells; when their emotions flare up, their eyes turn red (as the Gastrea's always are), and they acquire extreme physical strength and stamina, and even regenerative power, from their Gastrea "sides". It's ultimately a losing battle for them, though, because in addition to persecution of the children (driven by fear) by normal humans, their monster cells actually just grow more slowly in them than they would when injected into a normal human; the show refers to the slow replacement of their human cells by Gastrea cells as "corrosion", and we do see the rather inevitable conclusion of this. (Another one of the principal characters ALSO suffers from slow destruction by a disease, though by a more prosaic one; this show's obsession with degenerative disease is maybe unique.) The "Cursed Children" are all about ten years old, dating to the original war, before giant Varanium "monoliths" were constructed that at least served to stay the advance of the Gastrea- but it's a holding action that's LITERALLY about to crumble.
To fight Gastrea "breakthroughs", the world governments (Japan's is now broken into several regional ones) use "civil officers", which don't seem to be regular government employees but are more like contractors, which is probably how this show would justify the existence of what is literally a high school operation; Rentaro's a high school student, and his "boss", Kisara Tendo, is a classmate. (She's romantically interested in him of course; clichés, again, must be honored.) The actual fighting is usually done by pairs in which a human "Promoter" is joined by a Cursed Child "Initiator". (You might recognize the terms from a leading theory of carcinogenesis; there's that disease obsession again.) Enju Aihara is the Cursed Child that Rentaro works with; she too, of course, is ALSO in love with Rentaro. "A ten year old shouldn't be talking about love" is Rentaro's admirably appropriate response to her, but it turns out that the Rentaro/Enju relationship is quite a bit emotionally deeper and more complex than a lolicon crush; his desire to protect Enju AND the other Cursed Children helps Rentaro keep his sanity (AND his humanity) in a world where many humans have grown nearly as cruel as their inhuman adversary; while Enju gets from him a sense of purpose, and someone who accepts her (and her fellow Children) as they are.
Oh, yes, there's the "harem" stuff, and oh yes, it DOES hurt the show. A girl named Miori, who also seems to be a classmate of Rentaro's and Kisara's, seems to be Kisara's main real rival for Rentaro's affections. Her family manufactures weapons (of occasionally questionable quality.) I thought the show might have been improved simply by ditching Miori. (Speaking of weapons, by the way, and being nitpicky, weren't we told that more than ONE projectile would be required to do the job at one point?) There is another Cursed Child who becomes a really big fan of Rentaro (after starting out otherwise), but again, he's kind to them when others aren't, and they naturally respond to that. Rentaro's also got an adult female supporter and mentor he just calls "Sensei" who was one of the surgeons who did some repairs on him when he was younger. Finally we have one other important adult female in Seitenshi, the Tokyo Area ruler. She does an excellent job of being gentle while still being strong and decisive, and I even rather liked her hat, though that's a matter of taste. She was one of the two characters I most liked in the show. Enju eventually became the other. Sure, she has that crush on Rentaro, and also sure, she makes the requisite fanservice cliché slurs against Kisara's breasts (actually, Kisara almost always wears a dark school uniform, so I didn't notice their size.) But there's that bond that I mentioned that always runs below the surface of Rentaro/Enju, and by the end, I think you'll understand just how it works for them.
The fight/battle sequences are well done, with the CG fairly well integrated into the more conventional animation. In this, and in some aspects of atmosphere, the show reminded me a bit of Beyond the Boundary, though for all my complaints about fanservice clichés this show is MUCH lighter on those than BTB was (though it's also much more explicitly violent.) Some of the Gastrea are very imaginatively conceived. The show mostly avoids the quick cutaways and "explosion smoke screens" that are used as "cheats" on the action in some shows' battle scenes. It's also interesting that Rentaro sometimes ISN'T the only (or even the most critical) player in critical battles.
And the final episode was pretty amazing (albeit dark as hell), as the inhuman cruelty of a previously sympathetic character is laid bare, while two others cling desperately to their own humanity. (The ending is NOT recommended to the squeamish. Or the sensitive.) The difference, to me, between the violence of a show like this versus, say, that of a show like Triage X is whether at least some of the cast are trying to stay in the light (as at least some are here) versus everyone simply surrendering to nihilism and embracing the darkness (as in Triage.)
I gave three stars to Beyond the Boundary, which, as I said, I found somewhat similar; and though this one has better characters, and deeper character relationships, than that one had, I couldn't QUITE see my way to four. Not quite. The violence here is, though, is , as noted, nearly Elfen Lied level. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: This show is DARK, DARK, DARK. AND extremely violent, including dismemberments, horrifying transformations, and rivers of blood. The fanservice is extremely tame by comparison. For the violence, I'd go 17+ .
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Black Bullet © 2014 Kinema Citrus
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