What they say:
The Gastrea virus spreads like wildfire, causing each infected host to rapidly mutate, gaining new powers and abilities with every stage of development, even while they continue to attack, kill, and infect multiple new hosts. Unable to fight a pandemic enemy that turns defenders into adversaries, the shocked remnants of the human race are forced to retreat into cities surrounded by giant monoliths made of Varanium, one of the few materials that can stop the Gastrea. Now mankind’s last hope lies in the Cursed Children, young girls infected with the virus who have managed to retain a hold on their humanity. Paired with a partner, they alone have the strength to take on a gastrea in one on one combat. But the very thing that gives them power is a ticking time bomb, so even as they protect humanity, they are also feared and shunned. Are they girls? Monsters? Or mankind’s ultimate salvation? The answer awaits as the apocalypse is unleashed in Black Bullet!
The audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 comes in fairly well despite two instances where the voice pitch of the main character in the English dub seemed like it was recorded in mono rather than standard stereo. However, each sound effect and composition from the score come in with smoothness and clarity. The one major flaw regarding the audio is that it cannot be changed during the course of the show (meaning you have to return to the main menu and switch the audio track).
The packaging is admirable in its execution. The title is displayed at the top with the main characters positioned right below in action poses in front of a stylishly fragmented background. Rentaro, the male lead, brandishing his gun in plain sight over the title with the Bullet hole is eye-catching while the back showcases silhouettes of Rentaro and Enju along with a few scenes from the series. The text is in white for easy reading and includes all the imperative data regarding content. In addition, the discs include the main characters and supporting cast with each disc uniquely colored to coincide with their respective menu screens.
The menus are laid out in a similar fashion to the DVD cover in showcasing the main characters and some of the supporting cast while playing the opening song and the ending song respectively. The menus are easy to navigate with no delay or lag.
The DVD release of Black Bullet does not contain many extras. However, the trifecta that accompanies Sentai Filmworks DVD releases are here in the form of textless opening and closes as well as trailers for other Sentai Filmworks titles.
A catastrophic virus brings about the isolation of society in 2021 and the existence of monstrous creatures. Children born from this virus, the cursed children, possess supernatural abilities and are labeled extremely dangerous by society. However, due to the effects of the Gastrea virus, girls are primarily susceptible to it. To prevent the Cursed Children from being harmed by the masses who are terrified of the Gastrea and its numerous offshoots, Civil Security agencies were formed to help the girls amalgamate into society. Enter Rentaro Tendo, an agent of the Civil Security agency, and Enju, the Cursed Child he has taken into his care to not to nurture her abilities for the greater good, but to care for her as if she were his own daughter.
The first three episodes of this show waste little time in showing both the cruelty of this world and the range of its writing. From Rentaro’s first encounter with Enju, which was comedic and fun to Rentaro’s first case involving a brutally murdered child in an alley, and his first fight with the masked antagonist, Kagetane, the series delivers in action, pathos, and comedy. The series captures the startling hardship of its world quite well. However, the execution of the comedy and its fanservice (though even in spots) almost sabotages this series in pivotal moments. But it never takes away from the kinetic flurry of action sequences despite how jarring the fanservice gets (especially in the middle of the series).
The series for the first four episodes is a dramatic twist on the monster of the week until the human element regarding the girls becomes the center and plays a part in some of the more heart-wrenching moments of the series. The supporting cast ranges from anime clichés such as the cynical and naughty researcher Sumire (played by Joanne Bonasso), the childhood friend Kisara (Christina Kelly), and her sensual rival Miori (Margaret McDonald) (which make up romantic rivals for Enju along with some of the other cursed children introduced later) to solid characters such as Shoma until the end rectifies matters immensely, especially in the case of Kisara and the moe fanservice prevalent throughout the series.
Speaking of kinetic flurries, the animation is admirable from studio Kinema Citrus (Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Code:Breaker). The opening sequence is flushed with color and alluring shots that accompany its opening song by Fripside (Koihime Muso, A Certain Scientific Railgun S). The closing sequences range from smooth and somber to riveting attraction with each closing song well done by Nagi Yanagi (Waiting in the Summer). The animation is smooth throughout until the CG creatures create a contrast in comparison. Although some of the gastrea are animated well, there are others that appear out of place due to the rendering of the CG animation. The special effects are well done with brightness, especially in fight sequences. Atsushi Hasebe (Afro Samurai: Resurrection, Darker Than Black) and Chiho Umishima (Gargantia of the Verdudous Planet [OVA]) help bring the animated flair out in a way where it slightly resembles Darker Than Black. The sound effects are a little dull in some gunfights, but come together in other parts of the show, especially when Enju is battling the gastrea monsters (which are mostly spider creatures until episode 6) and Rentaro is clobbering corrupt officials (which becomes prevalent during episode 7). The musical score is handled wonderfully by Shiro Sagisu (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bleach, Attack on Titan live action movie) with diverse compositions that beautifully convey the emotion of each sequence.
One of the more apparent weaknesses of Black Bullet is the pacing and random comedy intertwined with its heavy drama and action. The voice acting of the English dub is relatively good and slightly above average when it comes to Sentai Filmworks. The English Dub of Black Bullet is somewhat on par with that of Caanan, but has instances where its localization is too simplistic. Although this is a seinen series, which is seen in the brutal acts of violence towards the Cursed Children from the first two episodes onward and even the bits of cheesecake in the series, the English dub emphasizes the maturity of the show through its repetitive coarse dialogue with four specific words used by the lead. However, the cast itself is strong with Luci Christian (Fullmetal Panic, One Piece) as the strongest with her cogent portrayal of Enju and her range of emotions. Chris Patton (Akame Ga Kill!, Demon King Daimao) plays Rentaro to a pretty good standard but seems slightly off in certain sequences in the series. However, his best work emerges in the final episode of the series when Rentaro attempts to make the great sacrifice to save everyone and shares what seems to be his final moments with Enju until the plot takes twists that make it an entertaining yarn.
In an age where Dengeki Publishing is becoming more prevalent with the help of titles like Baccano, Durarara, Sword Art Online and Accel World (not to mention the Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax series), it’s easy that something like Black Bullet got lost in the shuffle. Shiden Kanzaki’s novel turned anime has some compelling drama mixed with admirable action, but it has other elements in its writing that prevent it from being an ace. Despite the title of Cursed Children, young girls are the primary targets of the series, which loans itself to moe fanservice in a great deal of instances in this show. The degree the show emphasizes the age difference between the two leads and those around them along with sketchy spots in the pacing of this 13 episode series. However, the heavy drama and variety of intense action help to balance the equation in a manner that makes the show enjoyable.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Philips 32PFL3506/F7 32-Inch 720p 60Hz LCD HDTV F7 and Playstation 3 Blu-Ray Player with HDMI link.