I have never been able to fathom the Japanese obsession with robots and all things mecha. I am sure that if you did a run-down of anime themes, that genre would be at the top of the listings. I can’t go a week anywhere without seeing (or hearing) of another mecha show. The problem is that we have honestly seen this before. “BBK/BRNK” (also known as “Bubuki/Buranki”) is our latest venture. Let us go back ten years, but only to visit, OK. And no souvenirs, either!
Azuma Kazuki (center) is a young boy living with his family on Treasure Island, a floating island several thousand feet above the Earth that is inhabited by giant sentient robots called Buranki, all of which are “sleeping”. However, several of the Buranki are starting to wake up, forcing Migiwa Kazuki, his mother, to send Azuma, his sister Kaoruko, and their father down to Earth in a Buranki named Oubu for safety, leaving her behind. It’s really dangerous now and you don’t want to get stepped upon.
So, it is a decade later and Azuma is captured by the authorities, but was saved by a childhood friend, Kogane Asabuki (to his left), who is a user of a sentient weapon known as Bubuki, which also forms a Buranki’s limbs. Discovering he is a Bubuki-user himself with the Heart of Oubu, Azuma and Kogane unite with three other Bubuki-users (left to right) Shizuru Taneomi, Kinoa Ōgi and Hiiragi Nono, to work together to seek and revive the lost Oubu.
This one got a bit hard to follow, as I wasn’t certain what the story was they wished to tell. “BBK” revolves around these, well, giant fighting robots, but in one sense, it’s like “Voltron”, as you need people to be the parts of the robot and you act as a cohesive whole. So, Azuma is the ‘heart’, Kogane is the ‘right arm’, Shizuru is the ‘right leg’, Kinoa Ōgi is the ‘left arm’ and Hiiragi Nono the ‘left leg’. Oubu is the torso that they will connect into.
Well, things like this are never as smooth as you need it and there is the rival or the enemies or those ‘old people’. They have a Buranki, Entei, piloted by Reoko Banryū and her crew, the Four Heavenly Kings. Now, they have been around the block a few times, so they are that ever-standard, ever-annoying mixture of conceit, arrogance, condescension and churlishness. Our team here can barely get along and if there is disharmony aboard this ship, your BBK is not going to function as well as it can.
Then our team goes through a session of self-doubt and loss of esteem, wondering why they are actually doing what they are doing. Perhaps it would be better to go back to the farm and deal with the plow than to go up against people who are far better and more talented than you can ever be. Can they work as a unified force or are they doomed to be not much more than an independent contractor?
Then, an incident occurs that rivets their attention and they decide whether to fish or cut bait.
It’s just that the mechanics of this universe were a bit hard to fathom, and is there not a school for them to go to, so they can learn HOW to pilot these things. I can’t imagine you just jump in the saddle and off you ride, but that is what we are to expect. A lot of the show was taken up with the inevitable clash of personalities and wills, not only among themselves, but with the Heavenly Kings. It also appears that anyone who has one of these parts is some degree of snooty, as we see the ‘old people’ having the same caliber of problems trying to come together.
This is one of those instances where there was a good idea, but it just didn’t show through. And I also wonder if there was a degree of CG at work here. It’s not as obvious as “Knight of Sedonia”, but I really felt that something was lost with the animation. The visuals are spectacular, especially when robots clash, but the message at the heart of it never connected as well as it needed to, just when it felt like it had to. Much like our crew. Expect a second season.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Solid concept betrayed by the animation)
Plot 7 (Strictly boilerplate)
Pacing 7 (Moves along consistently)
Effectiveness 7 (Tells its story as well as it can)
Conclusion 6 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Overall 7 (Too diffused in what it wanted to say)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. I am the heart.