In Bubuki/Buranki, or BBK/BRNK for ‘short’, we start out watching as two young children live with their parents on an island in the sky full of sleeping giant robots known as Buranki. Their mother Migiwa has devoted her life to keeping the giants on this island safe and preventing the Buranki from awakening and leaving to cause havoc on the Earth below.
Of course, matters can’t stay like this… that would be too idyllic, and our protagonist Azuma and his sister stick their hand into the wasps nest and stir up the sleeping Buranki. For no explained reason, Migiwa decides to send them along with her Buranki Oubu down to Earth. Here’s where things get weird, because not only does it randomly skip forward 10 years, but we find out that Buranki split into 5 parts (Legs, Arms, and Heart) called Bubuki and are used as sentient weapons by people on Earth. And that, after those 10 years, Bubuki users are hunted and prosecuted by the government.
The show progresses and the five wielders of Oubu’s Bubuki – Azuma is its heart, naturally, but his sister has seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth – get together and try to return to Azuma’s home: the island known as either ‘Treasure Island’ or the ‘Buranki Nest’. Of course, matters are not that simple as a sinister group of Bubuki users known as the ‘Four Heavenly Kings’ challenge them to strange duels in order to take their Bubuki from them. Apparently these weird robot weapons have hard-coded ‘honour’ that prevents them from interfering in a duel between other Bubuki users, somehow. It all makes absolutely no sense, but at least leads to some interesting action sequences.
Or well, sequences that would be interesting were it not for the show’s greatest flaw: nearly all of the main characters suffer from severe personality defects that only surface when they fight. It’s a real problem when you can say the most stable character is the one who genuinely believes she’s a gemstone and not a human. Nearly every other member of the main cast goes from relatively ordinary – if slightly troubled – child to deranged psychopath in the blink of an eye as soon as the fighting starts. It really saps the life out of the show, and makes the combat more about watching them gradually devolve than about the action.
Which is actually a real pity, because the show’s action is actually quite good. There’s an interesting dichotomy between the characters fighting with their sentient weaponry and the mech combat that I really enjoy. It has an almost Power Rangers-esque quality to it that was quite fun to watch.
Additionally, the show’s background story – which only begins to unfold near the end of the show – is actually really interesting. The previous history between Migiwa and Reoko – the psychotic woman behind the Four Heavenly Kings – had me hanging on every word. It was both interesting and engrossing, and incredibly well written. Sadly, it only really is relevant to a small portion at the end of the show.
The one other real curiosity is the fact that Azuma, his sister, and their father were all sent down to Earth together at the start of the show. Yet not once during the entire show does he mention any relative except his mother. He seems to have no desire to see – or even think about – either of the other two members of his family, yet they seemed pretty close in the opening. It’s weird and really disconcerting.
I can’t say I didn’t enjoy BBK/BRNK, but I will say that it was a hard show to really get into. You really need to ignore a lot of flaws in order to get to the fancy fighting and the interesting backstory, but if you can ignore it you’ll probably have a lot of fun with it.