BTOOOM! Collection (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Ruunning time: 298 minutes approx.
For 22 year-old Ryouta Sakamoto the only thing in life he places any value in is playing the global online MMORPG combat game BTOOOM!, at which he is the top ranked Japanese player. Since escaping from the reality of having no job and a nagging mother is where Ryouta is the happiest, one would think he would revel in the idea of being in a real life version of the game. But it is just the opposite as he, and everyone else on the remote island that a group of people find themselves inexplicably abandoned on, are in no way enjoying this fight to the death they have been thrown into.
Let’s get the lazy “Battle Royale meets Sword Art Online” pronouncement out of the way immediately. Yes there are obvious parallel elements shared between them but BTOOOM!, the creation of Jun’ya Inoue, manages to incorporate them sparingly enough in concert with Inoue’s own ideas to create its own identity and stand on its own two feet. If you’re one of those people who are likely to pick holes in this show because of these influences then more fool you as this is quite the entertaining show – occasionally for the wrong reasons – but one thing it certainly cannot be accused of is being dull.
A confused Ryouta awakens on a tropical island with a change of clothes, a small bag of bombs called BIMs and a green chip implanted into his left hand which sends out a sonar signal. After wandering a while he finds another person who responds to his call for help by throwing a bomb at him. Ryouta escapes unharmed but quickly ascertains that he is in a real life game of survival. Later he comes across a tubby forty-something named Kiyoshi Taira, who helps fill in the blanks. Every person in the game was accosted and drugged before put on a cargo plane headed for the island. They had all been nominated by someone to “disappear” thus qualifying them for the game. To win a player or players must collect eight chips each (including their own) from the (dead) hands of the others. But can anyone be trusted?
The cast of characters is quite diverse and while some familiar tropes are present the big intrigue is why they were chosen to “disappear”. For some the reason is plain – a 14 year-old boy Kōsuke Kira is a murderer and necrophilliac (!), a product of life with his bullying father, also in the game, a relationship which comes to quite the violent end. Not everyone is so disturbed – Ryouta was made to disappear by his frustrated mother at his refusal to get a job. As the nominal hero his growth into the role is exponential, refusing to kill until the actions of the fellow players force things to the point where his pacifism is no longer an option.
Providing the fan service/eye candy is Himiko, a buxom blonde schoolgirl apparently irresistible to every male in existence. She was chosen by her former friends to “disappear” as they blame her for them being raped by the members of a music group they liked while Himiko got away unscathed. As if karma was predetermined, Himiko is the target of at least three attempts of forced sexual activity by the males in the game, severely limiting her trust of the opposite gender.
It’s not easy to dismiss the appalling use of Himiko as a ready piece of meat for the men nor should it be condoned (the attempted rape scene in episode two is pretty upsetting) but it creates an extra dimension to her character, making her more interesting. Since she is being set up as the eventual love interest for Ryouta (they are unaware that their online personas marry in the game), it is refreshing to see that she doesn’t just leap into Ryouta’s arms after the first save, instead taking her time to trust him, being a tsundere without being a tsundere. Unfortunately as well developed as her character is, she is still eye candy and her bountiful bosom save her from death in one of the more ridiculous moments in the series.
There are other females in the show – Hidemi Kinoshita who uses her charms to snare any male chump to keep her safe and Shiki Murasaki, a wounded survivor from a previous game – but Himiko suffers the most despite not being a total damsel in distress, showing some spark when needed. Interestingly director Kotono Watanabe is female; one would think she’d reign in some of these misogynistic elements but instead kowtows to the male contingent, presuming they’d be the prime audience anyway. Otherwise Watanabe handles the direction with no discernible signs that she can’t hang with her male contemporaries in this arena.
The original manga is still ongoing, evident by the rush to tell the story so far inside twelve episodes, with an open ending that practically guarantees a sequel which disappointingly has yet to surface. Yet there is plenty to enjoy here. The animation is solid – the sonar chip effect is a cool gimmick – while the artwork of the island setting is detailed enough to create a rather inviting location. The backgrounds of the main players are sufficient to fully flesh the characters out, while the action rarely stops. It shouldn’t surprise anyone based on the aforementioned misogyny that the violence is often very graphic and over the top with some gruesome deaths too extreme for the original TV broadcast but shown uncut here.
BTOOOM! isn’t a perfect show but what it does it does very well and in the process does offer anime fans something different from the usual parade of harem/shonen/mecha fare. Its drawbacks are obvious but to focus on them as a detracting factor for the show is in detriment to enjoying the sheer exhilarating if senseless fun that is provided here. Maybe a guilty pleasure for some but a real thrill ride all the same.
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Japanese TV Spots
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
BTOOOM! Digest 1& 2
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black