When a game becomes reality, moral compasses can return pretty quickly. Most of the time.
What They Say:
In the blink of the mind’s eye, Ryuta Sakamoto suddenly finds himself transported from playing the hit BTOOOM! video game to being stranded on a mysterious island. He’s equipped with a day’s worth of provisions, a bag of bombs, a strange crystal embedded in his left hand, and a huge gaping hole in his memory. But it doesn’t take long to figure out what’s going on, especially after the first person Ryuta meets tries to kill him. Someone is attempting to recreate the ultra-violent BTOOOM! game in real life, and the island has been filled with an army of other unwilling players, each armed with one of the multiple variants of explosive weapons called BIM.
Fortunately, Ryuta’s an ace BTOOOM! player, but this insane version of the game has no reset switch or second lives, and there’s only one way off the island: kill seven other people before they can kill you! Can Ryuta repurpose his game-based skills fast enough to survive this ultimate battle royale?
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release gives us two locked language tracks as we get the original Japanese in stereo as well as the new English language dub in stereo, both of which are encoded with the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. The series is one that works the range pretty well with what it does between action and dialogue as there’s some good design with the layout of things. When it comes to the action and related effects like the sonar, it hits a good note across the forward soundstage with directionality at times and working with the depth of placement that comes into play with how that works. The impact of the bombs isn’t quite what you’d expect, but it is working with a TV style design so it goes only so far, though it does the job decently overall. Dialogue works in a similar manner and adds in some good effects with the internal dialogue at times. Overall, it’s a good clean and clear track with what we sampled of each as we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second which also has the couple of extras there. Animated by Madhouse, the series has a really good look to it with the color design and detail which gives it an appropriately lush look when in the jungle and a cold and distant look when dealing with the city. The colors for the island aspect of it really comes across well with a vivid color design that helps the detail to pop nicely whether it comes to the greens or blues or that of the explosions. The character designs aren’t simple but they’re not overly done while containing a good look to them that works well within the show. The transfer captures the details of them well and the fluidity of the fast paced animation is spot on, making for some very engaging scenes throughout.
The packaging for this release is done with a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover gives us the pairing of the two main characters with serious looks on their faces as it has Sakamoto throwing a BIM and avoids having Himiko looking like a victim, which is good. We get some good if mixed colors here with the greens around the logo and the flames of the explosions in the background contrasting with the characters colors of their clothes. It’s a busy but solid cover overall that definitely gets yout o take a look at it. The back cover works a similar angle with different placement of the colors as we get the usual array of items here. There are a few shots from the show along the top in two strips and we get some disturbing character artwork along with that. The premise is well covered without going too far into things and we get a good break down of the episode and disc count as well as the extras included. The production credits are clearly listed while the technical grid breaks everything down cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works the green theme pretty well, which works since it’s the in-game color of the series as well. With the logo looming large in the background, it’s got some good character artwork in the foreground where the first disc features Sakamoto as we see him on the cover but brings in his BTOOOM personality as well, which is a nice dynamic to see. The navigation is along the right as it has the episodes by number and title which doubles nicely as the pop-up menu during playback. Submenus are minimal but load very quickly and are easy to access, making it a breeze to navigate the release.
The extras for this release largely works with the basics here as we get the clean opening and closing and the welcome inclusion of a few of the TV spots from the original promotion as well. This release also comes with three of the story digest pieces, which clock in at a couple of minutes each and essentially recap things for the series to try and draw in more people.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the ongoing manga series by Junya Inoue, BTOOOM! is a twelve episode series animated by Madhouse that looks to capitalize on the games and violence trend that’s always out there. With a fair number of series the last few years playing up the actual video game side, made more real by the detail and quality of games out there with how they can look, there’s a lot more options than there used to be. BTOOOM takes the simple game style here of something that’s basically player versus player, groups and single, and translates it into the real world with some morality issues brought into play. While there is a larger storyline going on here that we get a few glimpses of, and it gives us the potential for where a second season could go if such a thing is made. It also makes it easy to transition into reading the manga in the meantime.
The basic premise of the series is easy enough to digest in that a group of twenty to thirty people are dropped on a remote and uninhabited island in the South Pacific where they have to kill each other to be able to escape it. Everyone has a green gem embedded in their left hand and they must collect eight of those total, their own included, before they can get a helicopter off the island. The gems they have are useful in that they act like a sonar and there are a few tricks along the way that are discovered which changes the dynamic well. Each person is also equipped with something called a BIM, a miniature bomb like what’s in the BTOOOM game as well where there are very different types that all cause very different kinds of destruction. Everyone gets dropped in, loaded and ready, and the chaos starts relatively quickly, though some try and work with each other while others are pure loners looking to win quickly and decisively. And some, of course, enjoy all the killing.
That sprawls across the whole season here as we see a wide variety of encounters going on. It focuses primarily on two characters and breaks into tangents with others to show the connections and how all the fights break out with each other along the way. The first main focus we get is that of Sakamoto, the only top ten ranked BTOOOM player from Japan who finds himself thrust into the game like everyone else. Someone who hates them deals with a chain letter of sorts that gets them picked up and taken in. Sakamoto is your classic NEET at age twenty who has dropped out of school, doesn’t work, has no job and spends all his days gaming while getting into arguments with his mother. The product of a broken home, he has a huge chip on his shoulder about the world and just finds that his game life is all that matters. It went so well that he actually got married in-game to someone that’s not met in person. While his early time on the island is difficult since he doesn’t realize the stakes and struggles through the morality of it, we see how he copes with it as it progresses, makes some friends and actually matures a bit along the way. It’s fairly standard material, but it’s teased out decently and provides a good backbone for the show.
The more interesting character is that of Himiko, who has some real struggles back in her real life. While she’s a player of the game as well, and it’s a little wonky with how she’s connected to Sakamoto in it, it’s what her life outside the game is like that makes her compelling. Being a foreigner that has been schooling in Japan for awhile, she’s made some good friends and through a connection with an up and coming group, she brings them all together to meet since her friends are big fans. Unfortunately, it was all a plan on the bands part to take advantage of the girls, something Himiko didn’t know about until she returned separately to the apartment with snacks and discovered what went on. She was attacked herself, though she escaped, but not before seeing the others take advantage of. That moment of fleeing turned her friends on her, even though she went to get the police which did the band in. The friends never forgave and became so angry over time that they signed her to this fate, having her face death on the island.
Because of what happened, she’s become very afraid of men while at the same time becoming dead inside to what life is all about. While there are other women on the island that we do see, Himiko ends up spending a lot of her time with a variety of different men. The no-rules aspect of this kind of world definitely comes into play and seeing the panic and fear in her is well done as she struggles to survive while still feeling like it’d be best if she didn’t. She does get assaulted here and it’s pretty rough for her and that just reinforces her worldview. So when she comes across Sakamoto, not realizing who he is, she resists him easily and he doesn’t exactly make it any easier considering the way he nearly molests her himself. That does come full circle, but it helps to show a very big flaw in Sakamoto’s personality because of his introverted NEET nature. It’s definitely one of those warts on a character that is difficult to get past, even if it was mostly just thought rather than action.
The comparisons to things like Battle Royale are pretty much a given and there’s some basic truth to it, though this goes its own way since it’s not really trying to make a statement and it doesn’t focus on just kids. We get a good range of adults here and there are some good backstories that are produced throughout it which helps to reveal the reasons they’ve ended up on the island and for some, reasons why they’re trying to get off of it. Some groups form quickly and break apart just as fast and there’s some solid chaos along the way with the players going at each other – and dealing with some of the actual inhabitants of the island. It doesn’t get too grisly but it doesn’t pull back from some of the ways people get killed. It doesn’t go Gantz level thankfully, but it’s not clean and sterile either. You get a good feel for much of it in the first episode and it largely sticks to that, though it throws in a psychopath or two along the way.
While I had seen the first episode of this series when it was simulcast, it didn’t grab me enough to carry on. Watching it in marathon form here, I definitely liked it a whole lot. The opening episode sets the foundation well with Sakamoto and the game itself, but it shifts gears well in the second by focusing on Himiko, making her just as realized a character as him rather than a supporting player. From there it sprawls outward with the various characters and stories and the fights that go on and it all keeps a good and rather brisk pace. There are stupid moments and characters act stupidly, but there’s something to be said for the reality that a lot of people would actually crash and panic in a situation like this for awhile. Madhouse has adapted the show well by all accounts and it’s seeded strongly enough to do more as well, which at the end of this set I’m actually a lot more interested in than I would have expected. BTOOOM! may be a weird sounding title, but it’s an addictive one to say. And it’s a good bit of fun to watch as well in this well put together and appealing collection.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, english DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Story Digests, TV Spots
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 10th, 2013
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.