Despite having a terrible Engrish title, Btooom is a decent show. It falls in line with the genre of kids who have to kill each other in an arena like Battle Royale or The Hunger Games. Even though this has already been done a million times, Btooom still manages to bring something new to the table. It doesn’t matter that the idea isn’t original, what matters is that the show is executed in an interesting way. A popular online video game called “Btooom” features teams of people playing deathmatches, and their only weapons are various types of grenade and mines. One day, many of the games best players are kidnapped, dropped off on a mysterious tropical island, and forced to play “Btooom” for real. Each character has a unique grenade or mine, and must kill the others in order to win the game and get off the island. As you would expect, characters form alliances to try and improve their chances of survival.
The show is fun to watch. It manages to have a lot of variety and somewhat ingenious ways to use explosive devices. It has just as much of characters outsmarting each other than just winning by brute force. The characters are likable, and the plot moves at a quick pace. The ending leaves a bit to be desired, clearly they want to do a second season, but at least it didn’t stop on a cliffhanger. My only real complaint is that this show is inconsistent in the blast radius of the various explosives. Sometimes, it seems that a grenade will explode right next to someone, and they will be unharmed. But, whatever, it’s anime, it isn’t realistic. Btooom is worth a watch.
Kill la Kill
Kill la Kill is the spiritual successor to Gurren Lagann. Those of you who follow me online know that I declared Gurren Lagann best anime of the last decade. And I still stand firmly behind that assessment. Naturally, I was extremely excited to check out this show, given its outstanding pedigree. And the show is really good. It puts an interesting spin on high school dynamics. In reality, high school is like a constant battle against annoying peers, jealous kids, exclusive cliques, and raging hormones. Kill la Kill takes that to absurd levels with the students literally fighting each other. The student council dominates the academy, passing down special uniforms to favored individuals that will boost their fighting skills. One day, a mysterious transfer student (anime trope alert), Ryuko Matoi, comes to school demanding vengeance for the murder of her father at the hands of the head of the student council, Satsuki Kiryuin. They each get special talking battle uniforms, and battle it out, blasting apart the school, and pounding each other with absurd levels of force. What arises from that is an even more absurd concept. The world has been colonized by “life fibers” which are evil alien organisms that have plotted to take over the world by forcing human to wear them as clothes. An insurgent organization, Nudist Beach, is trying to rid the world of clothes. Ryuko, Satsuki, and Nudist Beach ultimately team up to battle the life fibers.
The action in Kill la Kill is phenomenal. I haven’t seen a show with such fantastic battle, and such tremendous animation quality since, well, Gurren Lagann. There is also a lot of humor in the show to punctuate the onslaught of battles. Unfortunately, Kill la Kill isn’t perfect. For all its great points, the show is ultimately hollow on the inside. There is no character development, there is no deeper meaning, everything is taken at face value, and despite the worldwide battle, the show is surprisingly low-stakes. None of the heroes die. One dies, but it turns out to be a fake out, and he was fine all along. Characters don’t have to die to make a show good, but it goes a long way to show that there are real stakes, and there are real dangers against which the characters are willing to sacrifice themselves. As none of the heroes die, they can throw themselves headlong into every battle, and there is never any worry that anything bad will happen to them. Also disappointing is the fact that the heroes don’t kill either of the primary villains. Both of the villains end up killing themselves. So, even with all that fighting, the good guys were completely ineffectual. Overall, Kill la Kill was a lot of fun. It may be light, mindless entertainment, but it was incredibly entertaining mindless entertainment. It’s hard to recommend a show more than this one.