In today’s internet culture an idea can fruition into so many things very quickly, and Black Rock Shooter embodies this new reality. Black Rock Shooter conceptually began as an illustration by Huke on the Japanese community art site Pixiv. Inspired by Huke’s art Ryo from the Japanese group Supercell created a song titled “Black Rock Shooter”, which, in collaboration with Huke, developed into a music video that became popular on the Japanese video sharing site Nico Nico Douga. Growing ever more Huke and Ryo collaborate once again to develop Black Rock Shooter into a 50 minute long OVA. At the same time, many figures of the character Black Rock Shooter have been created, and they have become immensely popular as well. While the song releases and the OVA for now seems to be the greatest achievements for Black Rock Shooter’s creators Huke and Ryo, the lifespan of Black Rock Shooter seems to expand ever more possibly leading to a full length anime.
The Black Rock Shooter OVA begins with a battle scene between Black Rock Shooter, dressed in her iconic albeit skimpy outfit, fighting an unknown female foe in an unearthly land. After Black Rock Shooter appears to receive a death blow, the audience is quickly taken to a contrasting scene where a young girl named Mato lies sleeping. From her garb and her features Mato bears an extreme resemblance to Black Rock Shooter; however, instead Mato seems to be a simple, albeit inquisitive schoolgirl who is merely preparing for her first day of middle school in Japan. Shortly thereafter the scenes begin to interchange between Mato heading to school and Black Rock Shooter searching for someone or something. Mato gets to school and is at first quite shy, but she soon becomes fascinated with a girl named Yomi who seems to standout in her class. Mato more curious than timid introduces herself to Yomi, and after learning they share the same route into school the two begin to develop a strong friendship. Back in the world of Black Rock Shooter, she confronts her foe again who is now quite recognizable as an alternate version of Yomi, who is dressed similarly to Black Rock shooter. Time begins to flow very quickly in Mato and Yomi’s world, and as the OVA progresses the audience is led to wonder if the girls’ friendship will remain strong or if the alternate world of Black Rock Shooter perhaps prophesizes troubles ahead.
The little I knew of Black Rock Shooter I knew from having heard the song and seeing figures and illustrations of Black Rock Shooter. So I did not have many expectations as to what the OVA would be about except that Black Rock Shooter would be likely be fighting. Therefore when the OVA began with a fight I expected that the battle would set the tone for the series. However, as I quickly realized, the OVA is less about Black Rock Shooter’s fighting and much more about Mato and Yomi’s friendship and the trials they must endure. Of course, there must be a reason though why the two worlds are interwoven in the OVA, and I think that reason is because the conflicts between Mato and Yomi are acted out in the world of Black Rock Shooter. In Mato and Yomi’s life, as with any friends, their differences may surface and conflicts may arise over time; however, in the short time span of an OVA not much of that can be fully developed. Therefore, in my opinion, the battle between Black Rock Shooter and her foe is likely the creators’ way of providing a virtual analogy for the girls’ struggles. This concept worked wonderfully in one of my favorite films The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, where the characters alter-egos lived in a comic world, and I think the transitions between Mato’s world and Black Rock Shooter’s had an equally powerful effect in this OVA as well.
Aside from the story what really impressed me was the art used throughout the OVA. Immediately of note, the characters of Mato and Yumi were drawn to be particularly cute, probably to emphasize their youth and simultaneously differentiate them from their fighting counterparts. The ‘moe’ art style does help set the tone for the characters, and likewise I feel their look allows fans to connect with Mato and Yumi. More than that though the art used for the town is what especially drew me in. For Mato and Yumi’s world, Huke seems to have synthesized the beautiful landscapes of Makoto Shinkai’s and the vibrance found in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time to great effect. Even in Black Rock Shooter’s world, starkly different from the bright colorful town, the audience is presented with a beautifully dark stage for combat. In the realm of Black Rock Shooter Huke seems to really shine. Of course, one might consider that the art stands out because of the better budgets OVA’s tend to have; however, more likely I think Huke’s love for Black Rock Shooter is what gave birth to such beautiful art.
Ultimately Black Rock Shooter reminded me what I like about OVAs and what I like about anime in general. Simply put I remembered that even just under an hour, a well crafted, well thought through, story can still pack some punch both emotionally and visually. Watching Mato’s friendship blossom with Yomi is very adorable at first; however, all the while I think the audience realizes that Black Rock Shooter and her fight represents both classic coming-of-age emotions and the weight and delicate nature of friendships. All too often in stories, anime and TV alike, everything comes together like a fairytale ending. Black Rock Shooter though reflects the grittier side of life, by representing the fear and anger inside, and the inevitable conflicts we encounter. If you have an hour in your day to spare, then I strongly recommend you check out the Black Rock Shooter OVA. Maybe if enough people check out the OVA Black Rock Shooter will get the full length anime it deserves.
Score: 4.5 out of 5