Original Story: Shiden Kanzaki
Character Design: Saki Ukai
Translation: Sheldon Drzka
Lettering: Abigail Blackman
What They Say:
Humanity continues to fight for its right to a future. Rentaro’s enemy is the sinister Kagetane Hiruko, but there’s another threat-a gigantic Stage Five Gastrea that threatens to destroy everything Rentaro has worked to protect. Overwhelming odds demand unthinkable sacrifice, and even that may not be enough. Sometimes, when all is said and done, what you really need is a very large gun…
In humanity’s continuing fight for its right to a future. Rentaro’s enemy is the sinister Kagetane Hiruko, but there’s another threat-a gigantic Stage Five Gastrea that threatens to destroy everything Rentaro has worked to protect. Overwhelming odds demand unthinkable sacrifices, but sometimes even that may not be enough…
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
So, during the end of our last encounter with Black Bullet, we discovered that Rentaro has become some sort of cyborg crime-fighting badass. Enju, on the other hand…well, she’s still a ten-year-old girl. But despite that, this duo is ready to take down Kagetane Hiruko once and for all before he can summon a stage-five gastrea in order to plunge the world into never-ending war. And, of course, this means we get to see how the new and improved Robo-Rentaro fights in comparison to our masked, gunslinging antagonist. Surprisingly enough, he actually puts up a good fight. For a bit.
After he’s finally touched for the first time, Kagetane decides he needs to step it up a bit and show Rentaro just who he’s really messing with. From this point on, the fight slowly shifts from Rentaro’s favor back to Kagetane’s and ultimately culminates in the villain unleashing a devastating blow that lops off a good 30% of Rentaro’s stomach, leaving him lying in a pool of blood on the floor with his initiator weeping over his body. This is where the volume gets interesting.
Initially after this blast, we’re designed to think Rentaro is actually dead. (I mean, I’m sure none of us really thought that. But that was the plan). After passing out, Rentaro wakes up in another realm, greeted by a younger version of himself that goes over his feelings on the death of his parents and Enju’s entire persona and role in the world of Black Bullet. The narrative switches to a sort of epilogue of what succeeded Rentaro’s death. Kisara and the other Civ-sec officers had been relocated to Osaka, leaving Enju behind to endlessly search for a means of proving Rentaro is still alive. Flooded by emotions brought on by the assumed sadness of his initiator, Rentaro is able to break through the wall separating him from life and death and rejoins Enju on the battlefield, completely healed. This was all made possible through his perseverance and a new serum developed by the doctor. Here’s the catch, that serum essentially chipped away some of Rentaro’s humanity and briefly turned him into a gastrea. But don’t worry, that’s all over now and Rentaro is able to kick Hiruko’s ass all the way into the water.
But it’s not over yet. Somehow, Hiruko was still able to summon the stage-five gastrea, Scorpio — who looks really ‘effing cool.
With the introduction of this super evil gastrea, you would assume that the manga is about to take a turn for the worse, right? That’s where you’re wrong. In just a single chapter, it is revealed that there is a colossal railgun named “Stairway to Heaven” designed to take out stage-fives and that Rentaro must climb to the top of it and activate in under an hour. The thing is, this railgun has never actually been used before and no one knows if it’s even going to work or not. Of course, there is another chapter after this one so it’s safe to assume that it will. So, before Scorpio has a chance to do anything cool, Rentaro and Enju climb up the Stairway to Heaven and use his arm as a varanium bullet to blow it to smithereens in perhaps the most anticlimactic final duel I have seen this year. And, hooray! All is well.
The last chapter of the series winds up being equal parts celebration and cliffhanger buildup. Kisara’s grandfather (Who I think was like a prime minister or something along those lines) turns out to be the bad guy! In a final [verbal] showdown between him and Rentaro’s gang of good guys, it is revealed that Kikunojou Tendo is the one who essentially summoned Scorpio. It is ALSO revealed, that Kagetane isn’t even dead. In fact, he talks to everyone over the phone as if nothing even happened before breaking off and saying, “Oh, by the way…Next time you’re dead, Rentaro!” and then hangs up. As if that wasn’t enough, Rentaro storms off, electing to not kill perhaps the most evil man in Tokyo and, instead is just like, “See you next time…father…”
After the showdown ends, we’re greeted with one of those cryptic endings where everything seems totally fine — until Rentaro’s PTSD kicks in and it is revealed that he completely murdered that girl Kayo (Shougen’s initiator) like two volumes ago. But that’s totally fine because he and Enju are about to bring ice cream to their graves! All is forgiven. No, but in all seriousness, these last few pages shine some light on the seriousness that is the world of Black Bullet. Kayo was killed to prevent her from turning into a Gastrea after becoming gravely wounded. It just…feels a little out of place and could have been thrown anywhere else and still maintained the same purpose. It basically lures you into believing that there will be more of the manga series when this is, in fact, the finale. Regardless, it’s good to see Rentaro and Enju back together, no matter how many lives were lost in the process.
Plain and simple, the last volume of Black Bullet seems rushed. Despite having a solid foundation in its first chapter, the succeeding ones tail off and try to cram so damn much into so little space. There are far too many revelations, cliffhangers, and attempted backstory/exposition material that even the final battle wound up being cut short — literally killing the ultimate enemy in the series with the press of a button. That being said, though, this final volume works wonders in terms of art design as it is laden with thought-provoking and heart-wrenching images of the cursed childrens’ struggle. Plus, and I know I mentioned it before, Scorpio just looks so damn cool. Unfortunately, sheer art design can not make up for what was lost in the process of ending this series — closure. Even though this is the finale, it feels like nothing was really accomplished in the long run. All of the pre-exisiting bad guys still exist. So what was the point of this all? You could go on to say that this ending does well in mimicking the overall hopelessness of the Black Bullet universe…but honestly, I feel like that would just be a cop-out. The final volume of Black Bullet is essentially no more than an advertisement for the light novel series. And while I enjoyed the journey overall, I’m sad to say that this cryptic ending was a bit of a let down.
Series Content Grade: B
Volume Content Grade: B-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: June 21, 2016