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Black Bullet Vol. #03 Novel Review

5 min read

Black Bullet Novel 3 CoverA less action-packed entry then the title may lead you to believe

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

What They Say
Rentaro, Enju, Kisara, and the fearsome sniper Tina–just when they thought the future was looking slightly less uncertain, they’re confronted with a terrible discovery: One of the giant monoliths that protects Tokyo Area from invasion by the monstrous Gastrea is on the verge of collapse, putting the lives of every single human within the city at risk! Is there any way to save Tokyo Area? And even if there is, what will become of Rentaro, Enju, Kisara, and Tina?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
As the volume kicks off, we get yet another short prologue, but this time, it actually sets up the volume properly as you’d expect. We get a somewhat gruesome first-person tale of a guard meeting his end in an unusual Gastrea attack. This makes for a solid opening, both providing some action to draw you in and actually giving the Gastrea a role, considering they were essentially absent in the last volume. Anyway, as it turns out, this was just a distraction so that a Stage Four Gastrea known as Aldebaran could inject corrosive fluid into one of the Monoliths. As a result, the structure is set to collapse within mere days, and Tokyo Area will, in turn, be left wide open for three days until a replacement can be completed. With some seriously high stakes laid out succinctly, this certainly makes for a strong and intriguing set-up to kick off the volume.

When the volume proper opens, we’re given the second focus of the volume: Rentaro and Kisara acting as teachers for a low/no-budget school for Cursed Children. It’s a nice enough idea, but it would honestly be nice to have seen the students fleshed out a little better. There’s some interaction with them as a mass, and the point comes across well enough, but we never get enough to even really identify any as an actual character. Rather, they’re more plot points than anything, which is a shame as it wouldn’t have required that much more effort to help the reader actually feel the connection with them that Rentaro is supposed to gain.

Anyway, Rentaro of course gets dragged into the preparations for the fight to protect the gap the Monolith will leave, and as such he needs to form an adjuvant with other civil officers. After plenty of failed searching, he comes to the Katagiri siblings, a rough pair of officers who certainly aren’t up for the partnership at first. However, Rentaro twists their arms enough that they agree to join up if he and Tina can take them in a battle. And this is honestly the only real instance of combat in the book, actually, outside of some brief glimpses here and there. Fortunately, though, it turns out to be a pretty great brawl, with everyone really demonstrating their strengths. And of course, in the end, our heroes win, gaining them at least a single partnership.

Most of the rest of the volume is set laying down the pieces for the adjuvant that will likely be the core of the next book, as well as a bit of foreshadowing and mysteries here and there. There is one more thing of note, though, and that’s the continued arc surrounding the Cursed Children running throughout. There’s a bit of abruptness where some Cursed Children apparently commit a murder, and then suddenly the Seitenshi’s law to protect them is stricken down and one discriminating against them is immediately passed. It’s a little awkward and feels waaaay too fast, like it was just jammed into a timeline that was forced to be compressed due to the theme of the countdown on the Monolith. We also do get a nice bit of a “red herring” wherein Rentaro meets a blind beggar Cursed Child and manages to just barely save her from discrimination. Which makes it all the more blindsiding when it turns out that his class was wiped out in an explosion while he was away making preparations for battle. It still results in some solid scenes, but as mentioned earlier, the girls are largely faceless, and as such it feels like a lot of the potential impact is lost. We can still react to Rentaro’s feelings as to the loss, but it just doesn’t quite have the same oomph when the reader never got a chance to get to know them in the first place. It’s still a strong enough emotional beat, but it’s a shame that in the end, it really wasn’t used to its fullest.

Anyway, as the book ends the wall comes tumbling down ahead of schedule, giving us a powerful cliffhanger to lead into the next volume.

In Summary
Despite the rather intense title, there’s actually not a ton of action in this volume (though the title isn’t entirely unfitting as it does indeed still match up with an event from the book). In fact, it’s largely spent on a lot of setup. Fortunately, though, that doesn’t mean that the book is boring, as there are still a number of interesting developments and solid scenes to keep readers interested. Heck, even the somewhat low-key fight scene that’s the central action of this volume is better than what we got in the last entry, and this is certainly a better book overall. That’s not to say it’s perfect, though, as there is certainly some wasted potential in the otherwise interesting plot surrounding the Cursed Children, and the book really could’ve used at least a few more pages on that matter to flesh things out. And as this volume is largely set-up, while that may be interesting in and of itself, it remains to be seen where much of it is heading. Still, hopefully, the next book can run with what’s been laid out here, as there’s definitely a lot of potential. For now, this makes for a solid addition to the series, despite its more laid back nature as a whole.

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

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 19th, 2016
MSRP: $14.00

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