Black Rock Shooter OVA Blu-ray Review

The Black Rock Shooter franchise is an interesting example of the evolution of a media IP. What started out as a music video with simple footage of a girl in black clothes and an azure fiery eye became a line of figures, a video game and an OVA. But is the Black Rock Shooter OVA a step forward that will further refine the Black Rock Shooter franchise, or is it just a cheap cash-in created to sell more merchandise?

Excitement and nervousness brews up in Matos as she readies herself for her first year in middle school. A new school means news friends and the spunky and energetic Mato quickly make friends with the quiet and relaxed Yomi. The two are off to a great start and end up spending the entire first year together as best friends. But when the two are assigned to different classrooms in the following year Mato spends more and more time with another friend called Yuu. This causes Yomi to become very jealous and eventually disappear from school. Soon after Mato discovers that Yomi has gone missing. Her search for Yomi takes her to a strange place where Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master – two girls who look very similar to Mato and Yomi – are fighting each other.

If the Black Rock Shooter OVA sounds simplistic it’s because it just is. The entire OVA is quite uninspiring; following only two girls through a basic plot and little else. Most of the OVA is spent showing us the growing bond between Mato and Yomi. The problems in the girls’ relationship starts only in the later parts of the OVA, and Yomi’s jealousy seems childish and inappropriate for a middle school girl. The glimpses we get at the strange world in which Black Rock Shooter fights are far and few between. The connection to the world where Black Rock Shooter and other girls from the franchise fight is also never made clear, as if this layer was only added to justify the buy for the Black Rock Shooter fans out there. Even though the world of Black Rock Shooter is interesting and enigmatic very little of it is shown. The battle between Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master is stretched over half of the OVA, making it a boring affair despite the skillful use of camera angles it employs.
The OVA has beautifully drawn backgrounds. In the real world the backgrounds are detailed and the surroundings around Mato’s neighborhood and school look very convincing. In Black Rock Shooter’s world the surreal and somewhat forlorn backgrounds have a big emotional impact and are used in an artistic manner that makes the fights look much better than they should. Sadly, the backgrounds look better than the characters who occupy them. The character designs of all the characters in this OVA are rough. The designs of the school girls’ haircuts, faces and clothes are very simplistic and make the girls feel a bit dirty. Both Mato and Yuu look like they could use a shower and a trip to the hair salon. Even Black Rock Shooter and her fellow fighting girls are bare bone characters. Their characters lack refinement and details. In the beginning of the movie we see a nameless girl who is basically a copy-paste of the Black Rock Shooter design. With only five of these girls showing in the OVA couldn’t the production company come up with a more convincing “dismissible” character?

The Black Rock Shooter OVA stumbles in the animation department as well. Although nothing truly interesting ever happens in the real world Mato and Yomi move in a slow and a bit exaggerated manner. Things are much worse in the Black Rock Shooter world, where the girls don’t seem to have any weight and float most of the time. The float-like movement makes the battles’ chirography appear weird and the lack of weight behind the girls’ weapon swings negates any impact these fights might have had. The somewhat disappointing animation is accompanied by a mediocre soundtrack that fails to be exciting. The songs themselves are not half bad, but they feel inappropriate for this particular OVA and distract more than contribute. The OVA’s theme song is Braveheart by The Gomband. The songs Black Rock Shooter by Ryo is sorely missing from the actual OVA despite being heavily featured in the OVA trailers.

 

Black Rock Shooter OVA Unboxed

 

The OVA comes in a big and impressive cardboard box with a blue transparent sleeve cover. Inside you will find the DVD and Blu-ray copies of the OVA, an art booklet, Nendoroid Petite figures of Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master and a thick 312 pages long (!!!) storybook booklet. This last booklet covers the entire OVA storyboard and can be a nice article for those interested in the direction and planning of anime. The Blu-ray copy is presented in 1920x1080p and Linear PCM Stereo. There are seven different subtitle tracks: Japanese, Chinese, English, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and French. It’s important to note that this is a region-free Blu-ray that will work with any player regardless of the region. The English subtitles are frequently out of context, or add unrelated information. For example, when Mato says “I bought this in the store earlier” the subtitles proclaim “I bought this for you” instead. Such sentences litter the translation from beginning to end. The OVA’s theme song is left untranslated despite being the only vocal song in this OVA.
The Blu-ray extras include a lengthy video in which Huke shows how he created the cover art for the OVA, a 10 seconds stop motion promotional video made for the OVA, a boringly long video showing how they made the 5 second stop motion, trailers for the OVA and a 90 second music video for Braveheart featuring clips from the OVA. None of the extras come with English subtitles, which is a pity since most of them would have required very little subtitling. None of the digital extras stroke me as interesting, but the physical extras that come with this release (specifically the Nendoroid Petites and the storyboard) more than make up for that.

In the end The Black Rock Shooter OVA is geared towards selling more Black Rock Shooter merchandise instead of telling an engrossing story. The OVA lacks in almost everything, from story to execution to closure. The plot is very simple, the characters are entertaining but not very relatable and the ending is a resounding disappointment. The backgrounds are beautiful but cannot hide the rough character designs. The animation is faulty and will leave you unimpressed. I assume most people who will buy this OVA will be more satisfied by the included physical extras than by the poorly executed OVA itself. Those who are looking for an engrossing and beautiful Black Rock Shooter anime should ignore this OVA and instead check out the much superior Black Rock Shooter TV anime.

 


Pros:

- Nice physical extras.

 

Cons:

- Rough character designs.

- Boring story with a poorly executed ending.

- Subtitles can be out of context.

- Bad animation that takes away from the action and the realism.

 

Final Score: 4/10 (Terrible)

 

 

Product Information: Black Rock Shooter OVA Limited Edition Set w/ Petit Nendoroids (Blu-Ray & DVD Combo). Published by BRS Project. Release Date: December 17, 2010.

Review Equipment: an LG Electronics Japan HD LED passive 3D 27 inch PC monitor (D2770P-PN) connected to a PS3 using a ver. 1.4 HDMI cable.


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