After what seems like an endless period of hype, promotion and teasing, the much-anticipated Black Rock Shooter OVA is here. Can a simply Vocaloid track and some neat character designs really make the transition into a full-blown anime?
Things certainly kick off with the promise of action aplenty, as we're thrust straight into a stylised conflict between Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master which is exactly the kind of thing we were expecting. It isn't long however before we're transferred back to the real world, and the first day of high school for one Mato Kuroi, an energetic but far from academic girl.
On that first day, Mato finds herself immediately entranced by one of her classmates, and after the school opening ceremony Mato approaches her to introduce herself. The two soon strike up a friendship, and before we know it Mato and Yomi Takanashi are doing everything together from sharing homework through to joining adjacent clubs - basketball for Mato and volleyball for Yomi.
As this pair reach their second year of school however things begin to fall apart, as the two first find themselves assigned to different classes before Mato ends up spending more time with new classmate and fellow basketball club member Yuu; a scenario which causes jealousy aplenty for Yomi, and quite probably the main reason for her disappearance, with Mato learns of via the police turning up at her home.
But what does all of this slice of life drama have to do with Black Rock Shooter I hear you ask? Well, that's a very good question, and it's one that is never really made apparent throughout this OVA. The entire instalment is interspersed with scenes featuring Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master even before the collapse of the relationship between their real-world counterparts, but we're never let in on either the chronology or the setting for this - indeed, it's only late in the OVA that there's any suggestion that what we see with regard to Black Rock Shooter is any kind of reality, although even then you could still argue that it's some kind of fantasy within Mato's head or a virtual world or something.
If this were the first episode of a series, or the first instalment in a set of movies or OVA, this sense of mystery would be perfectly alright, but the fact is that this is a one-shot story, and as such the entire thing is left feeling decidedly unsatisfactory. It's a shame really, because those action sequences have potential which is never realised thanks to their short-form nature and a complete lack of dialogue, leaving them to rely on impressive scenery and some fluid movement alone, while the slice of life side of things is a reasonably compelling story of friendship and jealousy. There are myriad ways these two components could have been interwoven via a decent narrative, but such a story is entirely lacking here, giving the two sides of the OVA a feeling of having been written by entirely different people.
After all the build-up and hype, the fact that the major pulling points of that hype have ended up being left almost entirely unexplored and under-utilised seems simply bizarre, although I suppose if they were trying to build up demand for a sequel perhaps they have succeeded. Certainly, Black Rock Shooter does need a second instalment to try and tie its disparate elements together - without so much as the promise of such explanation however, the whole thing is left feeling a little odd and empty.