Sunday, December 30, 2012

BTOOOM! 11-12: Sakamoto, Drama Queen -- Final Thoughts

 BTOOOM! 11: Revival

The BIM inside the trunk that Sakamoto is carrying explodes and it looks like Sakamoto doesn't survive that one. A jubilant Date next goes after Himiko, who is too shell-shocked to fight back. Good for her, Shiki arrives just in time to stab Date in the back. It goes without saying that she's the one who warned Himiko about Date's duplicitous character. Date's wound turns out to be not fatal at all so he sends the girls running. Shiki figures out that Date has planted all his remote-controlled BIMs all over the place, making for a fine trap. Date taunts Shiki who predictably goes after him with one of Himiko's crackers. This is Date's intention all along as he plans to set a trap for Shiki, who seemingly falls for it. With her out of the picture, Date is free to take Himiko's chip as well as that of Sakamoto plus the three more in Taira's possession. But his plan is ruined when the cracker that belonged to Sakamoto doesn't explode upon impact with Himiko. This means, of course, that Sakamoto didn't die in the explosion. He incapacitates Date by moving the latter's BIM to a different location, catching him unawares and nearly killing him. Sakamoto decides that Date has to die since he wouldn't survive on the island with those wounds. Shiki, who miraculously survived, offers to do the honors. However, just as she brings down her scythe to kill her former lover, Date begs for her forgiveness. A distraught Shiki declares that she would never forgive a man like him before swinging down the blade. But it turns out that she doesn't kill him and merely stabbed the ground beside his face. In the end, Shiki treats Date's wounds and he seems to be stable. Meanwhile, Sakamoto and Himiko return to their hideout not realizing that another trap lies in wait for them.

 BTOOOM! 12: Bonds

While the others are gone, a delirious Taira battles his own demons. His insecurity and fear of being abandoned manifest themselves in the form of his wife and son, who ask him to come home. Taira eventually takes it upon himself to betray Sakamoto and Himiko, take their chips and together with the two others he took without their knowledge, he would have eight chips. Hiding in the forest, he sets his homing BIM initially on Sakamoto, who figures out what's going on quickly so that he is able to escape with only a minor leg injury. Realizing Taira's betrayal, Himiko attempts to protect Sakamoto by applying what she knows of the game, which is to catch homing BIMs before they come in range of their target. However, Taira is smarter than that so he targets her next. Sakamoto figures this out at the last instant and, thus, saves Himiko's life for the nth time. Upon witnessing this, Taira loses confidence and begins running away. By this time, Sakamoto has realized why Taira is acting out and blames himself for it, so he chases Taira in order to apologize. Taira, however, misinterprets and thinks they both want to kill him. He ends up in a pit, which turns out to be infested with comodo dragons. Instead of accepting death at the claws of these predators, Taira chooses to end his life using his own BIM. Sakamoto is devastated. Late that evening, Himiko offers up Taira's chips as well as her own in order to help Sakamoto get out of the island. However, Sakamoto has already figured out that Himiko is the same Himiko he met online and he declares that he is not leaving the island without her. With this last secret between them out in the open, the two kiss. Meanwhile, the game operators send out a tech team to the island to fix a mechanical problem. One member of the team turns out to be a friend of Sakamoto's and it seems he planned the whole thing in an effort to help his friend.

Well, I never really expected much from this show from the start. This was going to be a mindless action series despite early comparisons with Battle Royale. But this never was a show that aimed to make a political statement. Nor was this a character piece. So I took BTOOOM! at face value, which is entertainment, and never looked for anything deeper. To be honest, I think Sakamoto, as a main character, is weak and unlikable. And though his character comes at a full circle in the end, I thought the development was forced and unconvincing.
Speaking of forced and unconvincing, I get that shows, especially action series like BTOOOM!, need to have a romantic angle. I don't necessary agree with it but that has been the standard for a long time and it doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon. So the fact that they made the romance between Sakamoto and Himiko the center piece of this show, I don't have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is that these two have nothing to anchor their feelings on. We're supposed to believe that they fell in love online but back then both sucked as characters big time: Himiko was a ninny (she still is actually) and Sakamoto was  a major asshole. Now, I'm not saying that a ninny and an asshole can't fall in love. The show, however, kept telling us that their love was each other's saving grace. There is visual evidence, I admit, but zero emotional impact. Am I numb? I don't think so but I tell you, every time Sakamoto and Himiko have their scenes together, and especially at the finale, I find myself rolling my eyes because it feels so manufactured. I don't know. Maybe I'm just a cynic.
Visually, BTOOOM! is eye-candy. The colors are a bit dull, perhaps to highlight the somewhat dark themes of people killing each other in order to survive. But the art is really good and the animation even better. As expected, BTOOOM! has its greatest moments when things are exploding in your face. However, even the quiet moments gives viewers lots of opportunity to just enjoy the gorgeous art.
I don't want to comment on the music much as I don't really notice those kinds of things. But I do still like the OP theme and in fact I believe I made it the best OP theme for 2012. The singer just has that distinctive voice and the rock-inspired tune fits the show well.
As far as story goes, the purpose of the island was never fully explained. We get that it's some kind of experiment conducted by a game company but why this -- using live persons in particular -- and how the selection process works is never really addressed. There is an important revelation at the end of the series, which kind of points to the possibility that there might be a season 2. Not sure I'll be staying around for that, but good luck, Madhouse.