Welcome to this week’s article of The Good, Bad, and What The?, where we took a good, long look at characters in movies, video games, anime, and books and put them on the judgement table to see if they are worthy to be in their respective stories. I strongly believe that well developed characters are more important than anything else in a good story, so I always judge them hard. At the end of every character’s evaluation I will give them one of four ratings: Good for those characters that are developed and deserve their place in the story, Bad for those characters that have no place being made or interacting with anyone else in the story, What The for the characters I just can’t figure out, and then the characters who are dull as dishwasher will get the rating of Sack of Potatoes. Today on the judgement table: Black Rock Shooter, the “sort of” main characters of the anime “Black Rock Shooter.”
Let me just clear a few things up. Black Rock Shooter is the “sort of” main character. What exactly does that mean? I don’t want to explain the whole plot and spoil everything, but the main character of this anime could also be argued to be Mato instead. This whole argument is something you should figure out on your own upon watching it. In addition, to make things easier, I’ll be using BRS when referring to the character. Anyway.
The story of “Black Rock Shooter” follows BRS and a young middle school girl named Mato. Mato is having some trouble with a new friend and some old friends who begin to act very differently. At the same time as Mato’s troubles, BRS is battling with other strange superhuman females in another world. As the story unfolds, the overlap between the two worlds and their connection begins to show.
BRS is a super girl who doesn’t exist in the regular world. She isn’t alone, either. There are other girls there much like her. Right from the start of the show, she is battling these other girls and you don’t really know why. BRS is a totally silent character until the last episode of the show. Due to her not speaking, you have to understand her through her actions, facial expressions, and in order to get her persona you have to really pay attention. This is an excellent manipulation of character writing right off the bat. It’s easy to make a harsh character or a character you could hate or love by having them speak this way. You have a guy walk up to an old lady and curse her out or kick a puppy. You’re probably not gonna be a big fan of him, that’s pretty clear. Now action can convey stuff too, like the kicking of the puppy. This action is a clear indication of strong assaulting the weak. In “Black Rock Shooter”, BRS isn’t beating up innocent people or defenseless characters. She is having huge, beautifully animated fights with other extremely powerful characters. So her personality is shown through subtle hints and actions. It is clear that she doesn’t take pleasure in killing her opponents, but she won’t weep over them either. She is resolute and stern; she knows she must do what she is doing. When she beats her opponent, she keeps a straight face and does not pity or celebrate. She carries a look of “it had to be done to fix the world.” You also see many times that she doesn’t believe she is totally invincible. There are many scenes where her confidence breaks and you can she in her expression that she fears defeat. But let’s clarify something. She doesn’t fear defeat because she fears her own death, she fears defeat because she doesn’t want to fail in her mission. She won’t accept that she could cause failure. This persona is excellently carried throughout the show and beautifully written. It takes some clever work to get these emotions across right with a level battlefield and no dialogue.
Consider yourself warned.
The thing that I really love about BRS and the show “Black Rock Shooter” is that the villain and hero of the show isn’t clear cut. BRS is both the hero and villain of the show. As the show goes on, you learn that the otherworld that BRS lives in is actually connected to our world through emotions. A character you see in the real world has an alternate persona that exist in the otherworld. BRS is the persona of Mato’s emotions. There’s also Chariot, Deadmaster, Black Gold Saw, and Strengh, each representing a friend of Mato’s in the real world. BRS has battled each of the girls in an effort to kill them. Killing the otherworld persona of someone causing all of their pain, sorrow, and stress in real life to disappear. Sounds pretty great, right? All the bad emotions gone. Well, there’s a catch. In order to be freed from the pain, the person loses all memory of their friends from before and acts very different emotionally. BRS killing the persona of the other character causes them to forgot Mato, but Mato doesn’t want that solution. She wants her friends back so she can help them. The reason that BRS is doing all of this fighting is because she shoulders all of Mato’s pain and grief so that Mato doesn’t have to handle it herself. This all sounds very noble of BRS, and it is. She does these things because she loves Mato, but Mato refuses to accept this. To right the wrongs, Mato enters the otherworld. This causes Mato to feel all of the grief BRS was shouldering and it causes BRS to become Insane Black Rock Shooter. Without giving anymore away, things begin to spiral out of control and Mato ends up battling BRS. Everything BRS does is for Mato, but she doesn’t thinks these things are right. This causes emotional turmoil and a lot of very sad stories to come out. The fact that BRS can be the hero and villain at the same time is excellent character design. I still find myself thinking about whether what BRS did was right, or if Mato trying to fix it all was the better choice. This actually ties the characters together into the motif of the show, which is grief and pain. The show sends the message that life can be painful and that we all must deal with it. No one person can simply erase the pain for you. BRS fights for something she thinks is the right choice, but others do not agree. BRS is so resolute in her cause that she fights the person she was protecting in order to protect her ideals. This very much like how most super villains often believe they are doing the right thing, even if others say they aren’t. Her hero nature comes in when she is protecting a loved one and trying to erase pain from the world. The debate on her being the hero or villain can never by fully answered. This also sparks another thought, which is the point that this means Mato could also be both hero and villain.
Now for the very obvious verdict. Black Rock Shooter gets the verdict of Good. Not just good. She is excellent. She is a character who you must understand without her showing her emotions through extreme actions or with dialogue. You have to understand her through subtlety and what she is doing to complete her mission. Also, as a nice little bonus, she is a really cool character. She is a quick agile girl whose main weapons are a giant laser cannon and an indestructible katana. She leaps around and fights with great elegance and speed, and in my opinion, has a great visual design. This is my second favorite anime, and one I recommend to any anime fan ever. Even if it only has eight episodes, the tempo never slows down. “Black Rock Shooter” is a truly great show.