I’ve come across many headlines about Black Rock Shooter seemingly for such a long time now, but I never read anything for myself. I watched the OVA just moments before writing this and I thought I needed someone who can share the context of why BRS is so highly anticipated. So I asked one of its flaming fanboys, 21stcenturydigitalboy to let us all know.
All original (non-screen captured) images in this post are by Huke.
Thank’s GL, also for letting me guest here on THAT.
To understand the popularity of Black Rock Shooter, one must first understand the popularity of Hatsune Miku. Miku is a ‘Vocaloid’, the personification of a software that allows the user to create songs by programming a voice to sing. There’re a number of Vocaloid characters, each of which has it’s own distinct voice, but Hatsune Miku was the first one to strike major popularity, and even as more Vocaloids have been released, she’s remained the most popular.
To contextualize that popularity, it’s comparable to the likes of Touhou, or to any given Kyoto Animation show. In fact, one such show, Lucky Star, featured a famous scene in it’s OVA wherein Kagami cosplays as Miku for a couple minutes – the popularity of that cosplay was enough to get it’s own Figma (which I own~). Miku and the other Vocaloids have also been a massive hit in America, to the point that even non-anime-fans are aware of them.
Like a Touhou character, Miku doesn’t have any set personality or story, so the only definite aspects of her character are the design and voice. However, it’s the strength of those two factors that’ve made her so immensely successful, and her malleability is exactly what’s inspired thousands of artists, writers, and programmers to make, well, anything you could possibly imagine the fanbase making out of her. (I’ve written two Hatsune Miku fanfictions myself, one of which is a sci-fi adventure, and the other an action story – which goes to show you the diversity of her usage).
The original illustration
This brings us to the unique creation of Black Rock Shooter. As explained on the Black Rock Shooter wiki, the character, along with the other characters from the series, were originally created by artist ‘huke’ with no relation to Hatsune Miku or Vocaloid. The connection was made because of ‘ryo’, a songwriter who’d been using Miku’s voice out of necessity because he couldn’t find a vocalist, and ended up becoming easily the most popular musical artist to use Miku as well as the most popular artist on Nico Nico Douga. ryo formed the group ‘Supercell’ out of himself and the team of illustrators who worked with him to create graphics and videos for his works. huke became a member of that group, and when ryo saw huke’s Black Rock Shooter illustrations on Pixiv, he was inspired to write the song Black Rock Shooter, and the character’s design was actually altered to more closely resemble Hatsune Miku for the sake of the video. The rampant success of the song and design lead to Black Rock Shooter becoming the most popular alternative Miku design.
Because Black Rock Shooter isn’t Hatsune Miku, huke still has full rights to the character. The Vocaloid company is apparently known for being fairly protective of Miku, and may have either not wanted an anime to be made for her or was simply asking too much for it (and anyway, there’s no way it could’ve been any good.) So instead, with huke and ryo’s permission, studio Ordet (formed a couple years ago when Yamakan, the man who could be called the reason for Haruhi’s and Lucky Star’s success, left Kyoto Animation to form his own studio) decided to produce a Black Rock Shooter anime.
Knowing not only how popular Hatsune Miku is, but how popular ryo’s song and huke’s design are, as well as knowing that Yamakan’s studio is behind the production, you can guess how large the positive response to this project was among the fanbase. Not long after the adaption was announced, a number of extremely high-quality Black Rock Shooter figures also started going on the market, and were among the top figure pre-orders for as long as those were open. (I happen to own the first one that got released, which is also the most expensive single item in my collection~). The trailer for the anime was aired on a big screen in the middle of a live Hatsune Miku concert (that was, in fact, a concert, in a concert hall, wherein a 3D hologram of Hatsune Miku performed her music. Sort of like Gorillaz, but moe) which instantly went viral from the shitty rips of many camera-wielding otaku. Not long afterward, the official trailer was released to the world, and then the long wait for the OVA began.
You can surely imagine the amount of anticipation being poured into this as Black Rock Shooter fanboys like myself clutched their hundred-dollar figures tightly and prayed that it would turn out as good as they hoped. Which is why it was imperative that studio Ordet deliver – so the OVA got a massive animation budget and some of the industry’s biggest seiyuu behind it (including Kana Hanazawa, Miyuki Sawashiro, and Kana Asumi, the first of which is easily the most popular seiyuu among otaku this year, and the other two of which are among my personal favorites).
In some ways, what you get from the Black Rock Shooter OVA is fanservice born from fear. The OVA’s story alternates between the tale of two girls in the real world and their counterparts in a dream-world. All of the plot happens in the real world, whereas there isn’t even any dialog in the crazy world. This is exactly what I, and surely most others, expected, as it was direly important for the anime not to impose any kind of personality on Black Rock Shooter beyond what’s represented in her art and song, lest it risk alienating or enraging fans who wouldn’t be satisfied with the given personality. Hence, the real-world characters were created to protect the sanctity of the Black Rock Shooter character, so to speak. This could come across as weak to some viewers, but as a BRS fanboy, it’s exactly what I wanted, as I, too, wouldn’t have been satisfied with my vision of the character being wronged.
Anyway, I greatly enjoyed the OVA, but I don’t have much to say about it. I look forward to the further installments that will definitely happen with there being so many characters left to introduce. GL can take it from here.
Thanks digiboy, I’m giving you a hug like how Mato gave Yomi.
The OVA itself plays like a Hollywood superhero film in only in that it works like half of an origin story. While we learn all about Mato and Yomi and their friendship: how it started, grew, and developed tension. But we know very little about Black Rock Shooter herself.
It seems that she functions like an avatar for Mato in that dark stylized world, but she appeared to Mato to invite her in it. Mato ‘became’ Black Rock Shooter. It would be something like the black alien symbiote suit that Spiderman used for a while, if the suit wasn’t a parasite, and actually revealed itself to Spider Man first.
This is an action show, and the action — the battle — is shown in the beginning, and in-between segments of Mato and Yomi’s story. As for the content of action and battle, it would not be a big stretch to say that there is as much fighting and battle in this show as there is musical performances in K-ON! This isn’t a knock on either show, I merely intend to highlight that the shows are more concerned at telling the story of the girls than showing the performances.
Since this is a show where best friends fight, I can’t help but compare it with another OVA with the same conflict: Macross Plus. Black Rock Shooter is the Macross Plus for lolimoe fans. I can’t say I’m really impressed by the action (the special effects, like the gun shots annoyed me), but I appreciate it.
I think this show will make the fanboys rejoice, but I don’t think it’ll automatically alienate non-fans. Mato and Yomi’s story while rather light to justify the deadly combat to come, was engaging enough to watch. I don’t think anything felt like a cheap play for laughs or even moe reactions.
So yes, Black Rock Shooter works as half of an origin story for its ‘superhero’ character, though if digiboy is right, there was never meant to be a story for the shooter herself and it should be that way.
Have you been waiting for Black Rock Shooter?
Did it live up to what you expected?