Black Rock Shooter
Official Site: Japanese, English
Additional Links: ANN Entry, Wikipedia
Video [Free]: Nico Nico Douga, ANN Article (embedded)
View Period: August 19 - 31, 2010
It's been a while since announcements were made regarding the worldwide streaming and release plan for the OVA Black Rock Shooter, but finally, the anime is officially being made available over the web in its entirety!
BRS has a very interesting history. It first came to life towards the end of 2007 as a single drawing, entitled "Black Rock Shooter", by the artist huke, which in turn inspired a Vocaloid song by ryo, leader of the popular Internet-borne music group supercell (Cencoroll, Bakemonogatari ending themes). Huke would eventually join its stable of artisans and contribute to the song's animated music video the following year, which would go on to garner over 2 million views and a special "pilot" DVD release in 2009, further increasing its popularity. Prior to it, an OVA "expansion" was announced, spearheaded by Yutaka Yamamoto's Ordet studio, of which would be their first chief production effort. Accompanying the project would be huke's design work, and a score by ryo, along with a script co-written by Nagaru Tanigawa, author of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels (which Yamamoto helped adapt at Kyoto Animation).
Plans to release the anime were unique in its aspirations, aimed on a worldwide scale on DVD/BD with subtitles in seven languages. Streaming plans on a similar scale were also made earlier in the year, but little else was made of those until now, when the feature was finally made available via popular Japanese video site Nico Nico Douga.
Prior to this, a disc with the 50-minute long anime was bundled with a few Japanese magazines, and as it goes, found its way onto various video portals. Normally, I would rather wait until the official streaming was made available, but given the lack of further details and news (and the approaching end of the promotion campaign), I was unsure if those plans were to ever come to past, or if they were quietly being swept under the rug. Breaking protocol, I decided catch it at one of the said portals.
Just slightly familiar with the titular figure and having only seen the music video and trailer, I was cautious about OVA, though its synopsis and style lent it some intrigue. At the end of it all, I came away very impressed (as outlaid in my "mini-review" on HD's Twitter page). It was thoroughly great across all areas--story, animation, acting, scoring, etc.--and it was apparent that a good deal of attention and care was placed in every part of it. In a sense, it was reminiscent of the old one-shot OVAs of the '80s and '90s (more notably, the good ones ;) ) that held a self-contained, often experimental story in the confines of an hour or so, with top-notch production values. There's a lot of that essence in BRS and its simple, yet finely-nuanced, tale of a friendship between two polar-opposite girls, juxtaposed (but also nicely balanced) against a battle between a pair of mysterious young ladies in an alternate world. Couple it with very likable characters, first-rate acting and animation, ryo's outstanding score (including the end theme he penned), design style (both worlds), and heart, and you have a work very worthwhile seeing, and soon, owning.
Thankfully, the producers have gone out of their way to make Black Rock Shooter available for free viewing streamed, after all. A caveat: while the video quality's decent, it's also not subtitled. In addition, you'll probably notice the white kanji floating across the screen. This is Nico Nico Douga's distinguishing feature--viewer-submitted comments overlaid onto videos--which can be turned off by clicking onto the white "dialogue box" on the far right-side of the player (comment input, and usually the site itself, is relegated to Japanese residents only). The near hour-long OVA is divided among four videos, but Anime News Network was kind enough to also embed all of them in the article linked above.
Black Rock Shooter is an outstanding piece that tells its story quite well and with a lot of heart and effort. It's great to see the people behind it promote it the way they have and hopefully, you'll give it a chance, too.
No bonus pick(s) this month (catch BRS while you can, instead)! Though I guess I'll have to save the picks I had planned in lieu of the not-dropped streaming plans for another day...