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Black Rock Shooter OVA Review

Black Rock Shooter. It's become a insanely popular franchise as of late. It all started with a picture and a song and soon spawned a myriad of fan art and many figures from figure maker Goodsmile Company. But then it was announced that a animated OVA would be made and many wondered exactly what it would be considering the whole thing was really just based on a song. I got my copy in about a week ago and I have to say I was really surprised at how solid it was given the source material.

Now for those unaware out there Black Rock Shooter has not been released in the US however it was released on Blu-ray in Japan with English subs and being Blu-ray it shares the same region as the US so a import is a very easy task.

I personally picked up the limited edition release which contains both a Blu-ray and DVD as well as an artbook and Storyboards and a set of Nendoroid Petit's of Dead Master and Black Rock Shooter. All this costs about 40 bucks so if you can still find it it's really a great deal. However being limited it may no longer be so easy to get. If not you can pick up the regular edition for about 20-30 bucks. But anyway on to the review.

As mentioned many wondered how the OVA would fare with no real back story or anything along those lines to go by. The overall story is rather simple but in this case it's a good thing and it works very well. For those who wish to remain uninformed on the story skip over the next paragraph or two as I will be talking about the plot.

The story really does boil down to the simple theme of friendship. The OVA opens with the main character Mato entering into her first year of Junior High and meeting a another first year student named Yomi. The two quickly become fast friends and over the next year you see how they become not just friends but the best of friends doing nearly everything together(except for clubs which turns out to be key later on). However when Mato and Yomi's 2nd year of Junior High Starts their classes are split and while Mato has no trouble making new friends Yomi isn't so lucky and the two slowly drift apart and Yomi disappears. All this happens while scenes of Black Rock Shooter battling Dead Master in her own world are inter spliced. The key here is that Black Rock Shooter resembles Mato while Dead Master resembles Yomi. There is alot more to go on here and I will not spoil how it all ends but suffice it to say that it really just works.

The surprising thing I found was that you really do tend to sympathize with Yomi and her Dead Master counterpart which many probably would not have foreseen prior to the OVA's release as most expected her to just be a plain old villain however she has real reasons behind doing what she does and many will understand her and feel for her in the process.

Now on the to technical aspects. The OVA is gorgeous. It's expertly animated and seeing it on Blu-ray is the best way to go as the show really does benefit from it. Fight scenes are hectic and fast paced while the school scenes are more calm and slow paced much like a slice of life show. Some scenes really do impress at the detail such as Mato looking out over her town in the beginning. Seeing the entire town at sunrise so detail really is beautiful. Or Black Rock Shooter looking out over Dead Master's castle.

As mentioned the show is subs only so dub lovers are out of luck here however that's no much of a issue as the subs are very well done. They are very accurate and there is only one or two typos throughout and they are easily missed for most. The subs are also for the most part very well timed and only at one point do they get offset a bit but they recover the very next sentence so overall a very good effort here. One need not worry that the subs will be filled with engrish or typos as they are easily on par with those of US DVD releases.

As far as sound it's unfortunate that there is only a 2 channel mix however one could be fooled easily as I thought I was listening to a 5.1 mix the entire time and was somewhat shocked to see that wasn't the case. They really did a great job with sound considering there is only a 2 channel mix here. The wind in Black Rock Shooters world was particularly well done as you feel as if it really adds to the feeling of loneliness the world has. While the real world feels alive with chatter and sounds of life. The voice acting is very solid and all the voices perfectly fit the characters. Mato and Yomi are the primary players here but all other minor characters sound great as well. It's great to see they payed attention to how everyone sounded and not just the main characters.

The soundtrack has two sides to it(much like everything else in the OVA). The real world has a quiet charming and sometimes upbeat sound to it while Black Rock Shooters world has a more metal and rock sound to it to accompany the battle scenes. Some may be confused at the lack of the inclusion of the song the OVA was based on but for those who listen closely you can indeed hear the melody several times throughout the OVA even if the entire song is absent. The ending credits also contain a great upbeat rock track by J-rock band The Gomband named Braveheart. Overall the soundtrack does a perfect job of adding to the moment. Making the quiet scenes more pleasant and the action scenes more hectic and intense.(It must also be mentioned that Ryo the creator of the original Black Rock Shooter song did all the music for this OVA)

Overall it's quite a good OVA. While it's a little on the short side(clocking in at just under a hour) I thought that was okay as it never once felt like it dragged on. It was quite literally short and sweet. Many have wondered where the franchise goes from here and that is a good question. There has already been talk that perhaps a second OVA may be on it's way(and for those who sit through the credits there is even a tease for a sequel) but nothing has been confirmed at this point in time. The great thing however is that the OVA does a great job of standing on it's own. While it could be continued it also doesn't leave you hanging so one need not worry about feeling as though there is more to the story. I think this is quite the rare OVA. If you don't need a super deep story or ultra violent action then there is bound to be something here for you.

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Archaic4456d ago

I have to admit, I found the OVA a bit confusing. Wonderful art, but it just didn't seem to flow all that well for me. Of course, I think I'd had a bit to drink at the time. Maybe I should go back and check it out again.

Reibooi4455d ago

The one thing that confuses many people when watching the OVA is that the real life bits are mixed up with the other world bits. But the time line is different then what is shown. It's easier to understand if you know that everything that happens in the real world happens before everything that happens in Black Rock Shooters world. Despite being shown otherwise.

The reason they did this is it keeps the show moving instead of having 30mins of slow school life bits and then one large 30 minute action scene in the other world. It works better splicing it like they did but they never do explain that what takes place in the real world takes place before everything in the other world. Once you know that and re watch it the OVA makes much more sense and is alot easier to follow. It's actually something many Japanese movies and series do but hasn't been done to often in recent times.

Archaic4453d ago

Nah, I got that things were shown out of sequence, that's not especially unusual for me (particularly with Boogiepop as one of my all time favourites). I just found it a bit disjointed even after taking all that into account. Again though, a lot of that was probably due to me being drunk at the time. ^^;;