Black Bullet – Child Soldiers

In the near future… massive, infectious monsters called Gastrea are rampaging around the world. Humanity has discovered that a metal called Varanium can both hurt and deter these Gastrea. They use this to create sanctuaries surrounded by giant Varanium monoliths where life can go on.

These Gastrea were once humans and, upon being infected by the Gastrea virus, quickly became monsters. In rare cases, a woman with child who became infected would pass the infection on to the child in stead – children born this way had incredible physical capabilities and an unnaturally high tolerance for the virus. These little girls become known as ‘the Cursed Children’ and quickly become humanity’s only hope for defeating these monsters.

Monsters Everywhere

The show’s premise makes it appear as though we’ll be looking at a sort of ‘monster of the week’ style anime… but that isn’t at all what you get with Black Bullet. While the Gastrea are always kept within scope during the show, there is a much larger focus on a different sort of monster… society itself. It’s a pretty cliché concept, but the way it manifests itself within this show is fascinating.

The Cursed Children are the world’s only hope, but yet… they’re treated by many as if they’re essentially extensions of the Gastrea, due to their heritage. There is a lot of focus on the horrible ways they’re treated… and since our main character doesn’t approve of that situation, he is left to deal with a crisis of conscience. This type of concept is nothing new, but the way they develop this alongside Black Bullet’s unusual characters makes the show so good to watch.

Despite this horrible content, they never let the show feel too dark that it gets heavy or unbearable. There are scenes that are horrid, but there is enough happiness and levity amid it that it balances it out so the show never wears you down. This isn’t a show that becomes hard to watch over time because of its dark subject matter, it’s a show that encourages you to explore both that dark and the light avenues it has.

More Than Human

The show’s best characters are the ones that aren’t normal humans. Our main characters and the primary antagonist – Satomi Rentaro, Aiharu Enju, and Hiruko Kagetane – are all more than merely human and they’re all incredibly well-developed characters. It’s strange to see a ‘villain’ whose primary character trait appears to be homicidal insanity as a ‘well-developed character’ but Kagetane actually is. As you go through the show you’ll see a variety of facets to his insanity, and he doesn’t always act in accordance with what seem to be his goals.

Moreso even than the unique development given to Kagetane, the relationship between Enju and Rentaro makes this show. The way their relationship builds over the show – and not in a romantic way, much though Enju may wish it – as things go wrong around them is masterfully handled. Neither of them are normal… one is a Cursed Child, the other has been experimented on and several of his organs were replaced with Varanium. Because neither of them are entirely normal, they both see humanity in a different light. Black Bullet uses this pair of misfits to provide interesting commentary on morality and society.

Crush, Kill, and Destroy

Now, I’ve gone through four paragraphs talking about a show that, at first glance, is primarily an action show without ever touching on the action. It’s time to end that – Black Bullet is not a show for the faint of heart. There is a lot of blood, quite a lot of death, and a near constant stream of fights. These fights feature a very dynamic array of special abilities, swordplay, hand to hand combat, and gun-fights. It’s rare to run into action in anime that is this diverse without having it seem nonsensical…. but Black Bullet pulls it off. That isn’t to say everything is completely logical, there are a few abilities people have that make very little sense and aren’t explained very well… but these are the minority, and overall the diverse combination of styles you see makes the show more exciting.

But most importantly, they manage to avoid making the action feel predetermined. That’s not to say that none of the fights end the way you might guess, but even when they do there is still usually a surprise or two in store. I mean, it’s an anime with two key main characters, so you can be fairly certain they’re not going to die… but beyond that, you can never be absolutely sure. The show does a good job of making sure everything is full of surprises – even the story has a few twists.

Final Thoughts

I have heard some criticize the show for entering into ‘child harem’ territory… I won’t discuss that too far in detail, but I just want to say that it really feels like that is a gut reaction to a few scenes taken out of context. The show does have a number of young girls in it, but aside from Enju being somewhat enamored of Rentaro, it’s hard to really say that the show suffers from any creepy harem attitude. This isn’t “

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