Bubuki Buranki is not the kind of show I would usually watch. The only real “mecha” show I’ve watched which is worthy of note is Code Geass which isn’t going to be very useful in terms of a comparison. Like most people, the reason this show caught my eye was due to its 100% 3DCG animation. That’s right, the whole show is animated with 3D models and none of the show is actually hand drawn. The PV looked very promising which was imperative seeing as the show is a complete original with no manga source material to adapt from. Produced by Studio SANZIGEN, it was clear that if there’s any genre they could handle, it’s a science fiction action hybrid. As of today, the show is receiving average reviews and to my disappointment, I completely understand why.
Bubuki Buranki (BBK/BRNK)
VISUALLY ENGAGING 3D ANIMATION WITH A SUBPAR NARRATIVE
ACTION, MECHA, SCI-FI | ANIMATED BY SANZIGEN | DIR: KOMATSUDA, DAIZEN
Overall Plot line and Character Integration
To put it bluntly, the whole plot of the show is not very good, nothing seems to really matter. In a somewhat dystopian world, Bubuki Buranki is set in a time where powerful mechanised robots are bound to a human master. Following a dark and tragic war, these robots have all but been eradicated from Earth, leaving a single woman Reoko with her mechanised weaponry. Untouchable in combat and maniacal in personality, the world bows to her power as she reigns hell on all who oppose her. Our protagonists (a group of kids, still bound to their mech), choose to fight and take on their quest to liberate the world of her evil reign.
BBK provides a generic “we are the only ones who can save the world” storyline with a “friendship will triumph over evil” message. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it’s very difficult to mess that up, I feel like BBK does it relatively well. The one issue I do have with this arc is that the audience is expected to relate and care for the main cast, but many people have admitted (myself included) that the villains in this show are so much more engaging than the good guys.
Setup of characters and their link to Buranki
The way a Buranki is structured in this show is with a heart, left arm, right arm, left foot, right foot. Each of these components are controlled by a single person – thus we have our 5 main characters. This gives direct links between each limb, the protagonist has to fight the antagonist as they are both heart wielders and so on. This only emphasises how much more entertaining the antagonists are as they are literally compared to the good guys whenever they are on screen. So much of the main cast’s dialogue talks about avenging their parents and to me, it felt like watching a crew of angsty children.
You know the people making the show also knew this as the final episode focuses so heavily on the antagonists (specifically Reoko) and they choose to fully flesh out these characters giving them relatively detailed back stories in comparison. Personally, Reoko was my favourite character of the show so I enjoyed the final episode more than the rest of the season (except for the actual ending, I’ll get to that mess later). They give her flaws and she shows a plethora of emotions given how dark her “life” has become and the actions she has to carry out to protect her country.
Visual Aesthetic and Character Design
I absolutely love the visual direction in this show, the art and extravagant scenes are one of the few things that kept me watching. Most of this is down to Daizen Komatsuda who directed BBK (Notable for his work on the second and third Evangelion movies and various episodes of Gurren Laggen and Robotics;Notes). Being entirely 3DCG gave so much creativity with how elaborate the backgrounds can be, just observing the settings of the main fight scenes can prove entertaining enough. An overall good demonstration of the technology we have.
I also adore how detailed and distinguished each character in this show is (this becomes much more prominent from episode 8 onwards). Although I give the main cast a hard time, they are visually memorable characters which is down to the show’s character designer.
Each character suffers from Protagonist Syndrome but I would rather they look this detailed than looking bland and forgettable. Just by looking at the picture, you can get a rough grasp on each of their personalities. Kogane is cute but easy to anger, Shizuru is an introverted genius, Azuma is a courageous leader, Hiiragi is the intense fighter and Kinoa is a seemingly level-headed tactician.
I SAID EARLIER THAT I WOULD DISCUSS THE FINAL EPISODE SO BE WARNED:
THIS SECTION DISCUSSES THE SHOW’S FINALE AND CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS.
The finale of BBK felt like being fed a gourmet meal free of charge where you can have anything you want, and then being punched in the gut so you painfully vomit it all back up while the chefs and waiters all laugh at how you trusted them. For almost the entirety of episode 12 all I could think was “This is actually a really strong episode”, it focused on arguably the best character of the show and gave us a flashback sequence to explain a lot of things we’ve been pondering. We were given high school scenes of Reoko and Migiwa which, not only further confirmed Reoko for best girl, showed how the world got to the terrible state it’s in.
The episode frames Migiwa as a flawed heroine who deprived Reoko 8 years of her life. Sentencing Reoko to a “life” of eternal youth, Migiwa flees for Treasure Island leaving the world in her hands. Can I note that all of this is done in 7 minutes. In less than half of and episode, more plot, more character and more life is created than the entirety of the previous eleven episodes. It shows how great this show could’ve been if not for the cookie-cutter teenagers saving the world plot.
When transitioning back to present day, the episode follows everyone’s efforts to prevent Treasure Island destroying the world and the fight between Entei and Oubu. Migiwa goes super saiyan and eliminates the outside nuclear threat and eventually both of the Buranki use their strength to push Treasure Island into a nearby ocean preventing mass destruction. Then the episode just ends. Like I’m not exaggerating, it shows some wide shots of the world ensuring nobody has died and then sets up for a second season following Kaoruko’s story.
Who’s Kaoruko you ask? You know, Azuma’s sister who hasn’t been relevant since episode 1, absolutely fantastic guys, way to ruin what could’ve been a great finale with some rushed fight sequences and a monologue from a character we barely even know that feels like it was just slapped on at the end. From my point of view, this show doesn’t really deserve a second season but it’s getting one.
Bubuki Buranki captures the struggle of children trying to fight in an adult’s world. Their “Buranki Limb counterparts” all have at least a decade of experience over them and it’s the deciding factors in these fights almost every time. Funnily enough, their direct counters are pretty much the opposite of themselves.
- Kogane is easy to anger and loses all control when enraged
- Matobai is a calm and collected fighter
- Kinoa is a very hotheaded and takes her fights very seriously
- Souya is a cocky fighter who taunts his enemies
- Shizuru is a genius who doubts herself and her identity
- Tsuwabuki is confident and experienced in combat
- Hiiragi rarely think about his fight and just charges in headfirst
- Zetsubi’s bubuki is focused around repositioning and evasion
- Azuma fights with his heart and lives to protect his home and friends
- Reoko has little remorse and will never forgive the witch who cursed her
One of the main issues for me was that I really disliked Hiiragi’s character until he actually stopped being an unlikable angsty kid. On the flip side of that argument, he is one of the few characters to actually feel like he’s progressed and isn’t just a one dimensional cut-out of the generic failed protagonist.
All in all, BBK isn’t a fantastic show but it most definitely improves as the season progresses. It feels like they’re trying to accomplish too much in 12 episodes seeing as they’ve introduced so many characters without really fleshing them out. I feel like the second season could benefit this show greatly, there is so much more of this world that can be explored but they just haven’t effectively used their time frame to develop it. Saying this, I don’t really think it deserves a second season nor are the viewers happy to see its announcement given the less than desirable reception from the public.
BBK/BRNK had so much potential but it took so long to actually get anywhere. This show was okay, it wasn’t fantastic but it did showcase the progression of modern day 3DCG and how it can be used in anime. This show has raised the bar for CG animation, but sacrificed a lot of key features we’d expect in a show like this as a result.