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Black Bullet Vol. #01 Novel Review

5 min read

Black Bullet Novel 1 CoverQuality that hits you like a bullet!

Creative Staff
Story: Shiden Kanzaki
Illustrations: Saki Ukai
Translation: Nita Lieu

What They Say
The future – where a terrible battle against a parasitic virus called “Gastrea” has been fought, and lost. Humanity is cornered, and lives in despair. Rentaro and Enju face constant danger in their work as a team of anti-Gastrea specialists known as “Civil Security.” If the daily fight against oblivion weren’t enough, they’ll soon face a threat that could destroy all of Tokyo…

Technical:
The cover here is a fairly solid one, showing the central characters front and center over a rather beautifully painted cityscape in the background. It’s a bit of a shame that the cover doesn’t really bring across any of the interesting facets of the book, such as the Gastrea or the Monoliths, but it’s still a very nice looking image that does its job well. The back cover goes for a very simple look, offering only an image of Rentaro’s gun, alongside the usual synopsis and a stark white background. Paper quality feels solid, text reads smoothly, honorifics are not used, and the usual afterword and colored images at the start are included as extras.

The images included are all quite nice, and though they’re mostly used for what’s roughly character introductions, we get a nice variety of images that are goofy, touching, and even a little action packed throughout. The colored pages in the start are particularly stunning pieces, and just look absolutely great. And perhaps best of all, the book is free of the pandering fan service images that seem to clog up light novels! The one big knock that I do have, though, is that the images pretty much don’t show the Gastrea at all, outside of a tiny glance of one in one of the last pictures in the book. It’s a shame, as they’re very central to the book, and it would definitely help flesh out the visual identity of the world to show them off a little clearer, but it’s nothing too terrible and doesn’t take away from the great images that are provided.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The book decides to start off with a bit of a punch by throwing us right into the thick of things. We join our hero Rentaro as a young boy in the midst of a world falling apart due to the assault of the alien and monstrous Gastrea. It’s a grim and gritty opening that lays down a number of important details, but more importantly it catches the reader by showing them first hand just how messed up the situation is for both our hero and humanity in general. As the prologue closes down, we’re informed coldly that humanity has lost to the invaders, and has been forced to hide inside Monolith barriers in order to survive.

Continuing on, we rejoin Rentaro as a high school student, and find that he’s also working as a civil officer. As it turns out, this means it’s his job to deal with Gastrea outbreaks inside the city, which takes him to an apartment building. And in a surprising twist, it turns out that the first opponent our hero comes up against is not the Gastrea he expects, but rather a strange masked man, who we later find out is named Kagetane Hiruko. Rentaro ends up absolutely overpowered, and Kagetane massacres the police on the scene and spouts some grandiose statements before departing. It’s definitely an interesting move to introduce the villain so soon, and he does feel just a tad out of place so early in the book. However, it’s a move that works out well, as it establishes Kagetane quickly and gives him time to exert a real presence and develop some character throughout the course of the novel.

This takes us to our second key introduction, as we join the resident of the room the Gastrea had disappeared from. And this results in a powerful scene showing another important element of the Gastrea, their ability to convert humans into more Gastrea. We’re given just enough time with the man to understand him, before he tragically shifts shapes and is thrown into battle with our hero. Joining in on the battle is Rentaro’s Initiator, a 10 year old girl named Enju Aihara who acts as his combat partner. Though young, she’s one of the “Cursed Children”, young girls who are able to tap into Gastrea power without being overtaken, thus making her quite fierce when it comes to fighting. As the battle moves on, we also learn of the metal Varanium, which is the only tool effective against Gastrea and thus what Rentaro uses for his bullets, and also what allows the Monoliths to work. And on the Gastrea side, we also learn that the monsters base themselves off existing Earth creatures, allowing them (and the author) to tap into the abilities of those animals. Of course our heroes do come out on top, but it turns out the “source” Gastrea that still infected the man still remains, leaving the dangling thread for our heroes that will unravel throughout the rest of the book.

Over the rest of the volume we’re given all sorts of twists and turns, as our heroes have to deal with enemies that are both Gastrea and human, as well as more complex matters such as the discrimination that the Cursed Children face from the general public. Will our heroes be able to overcome all this, especially considering they’re not even considered especially good at their jobs?

In Summary
This volume pretty much nails it, hitting all the right notes to make for a rollercoaster ride that’s enjoyable from beginning to end. There’s a real sense of desperation throughout the book, from both the situations Rentaro finds himself in, as well as the setting in general. And the book fortunately does a good job of running with it, tackling multiple issues throughout and giving us a great look into our main characters. Add in a villain with a real presence, a ton of great action, and some real solid twists, and you get one hell of a first volume. Hopefully the rest of the series can live up to what’s laid out here, as this book absolutely knocks it out of the ballpark and shouldn’t be missed. Be sure to give it a look, as this a read that’s sure to please.

Content Grade: A
Art Grade: N/A
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: B+

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: August 18th, 2015
MSRP: $14.00


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