Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review | Anime | Bokurano

BOKURANO : 15 children travel to the beach for a summer nature camp and come
across a cave filled with computers, and occupied by a man calling himself
Kokopelli. Kokopelli tels the children he is testing a new game he has created
about robots that defend the Earth from 15 alien attacks, and offers the roles
of beta tasters to the children. 14 of the children agree and enter the contract
as the game's new heroes, only to discover that the game is not a computer game,
but a game played in reality. Worst of all, the children are unsure how to break
their contracts and prevent the city - and possibly the world - from being

Anyone who knows me will tell you that mecha anime is no favorite of mine. It has never been interesting to me and never held my attention. That's why it's no great shock that people are surprised to learn that I have taken a great liking to Bokurano, finishing the 24-episode series in 2 days. It ultimately broke my record of anime finished the quickest, superseding Gunslinger Girl, completed in 5 days. So how could I bring about the nerve to watch a mecha anime? None other than the series' theme song, "Uninstall" by Chieko Ishikawa, as haunting as it is beautiful.

It isn't rare that I discover a theme song before the anime and ultimately watch the anime; KOKIA's mystifying "Tatta Hitotsu no Omoi", the Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino theme song introduced me to the Gunslinger Girl franchise, which I am now a great fan of. Other examples of theme songs introducing me to their respective anime include Clannad, Le Portrait de Petit Cossette (which sadly, disappointed me), Sola, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni and Wolf's Rain. Seeing as very few of these animes have proved distasteful, I went with my usual instinct, and a fandom of Bokurano was formed.

The plot seems a simple yet complex one at the same time. 15 middle school children attend a sumer camp, and wander into a cave covered wall to wall with electrical equipment all owned by a strange man who will only give his name as Kokopelli. Kokopelli, as suspicious as he is, seems strangely friendly to the children, who many of the children notice and become wary of. He invites the children to become beta testers for a brand new game he has created about robots that must defend the Earth from 15 alien attacks. Being middle school children, they are immediately pulled in, and contract themselves as the new heroes of the game. All of them apply, except for 9-year-old Kana Ushiro, who is forbidden by her hateful brother to take part in the activity. After applying to the contract, they wake up on the beach, suspecting what they had seen was a dream did they all have the same dream?

No sooner do they begin to worry does a huge robot appear in the city, and the children are whisked away into a robot controlled by Kokopelli. Kokopelli defeats the robot, but later disappears, his final words to the children being, "I'm sorry."

The robots have now gained global attention after destroying much of the city and killing thousands. The children are now unsure of how to release themselves from the contract, and with their smart-mouthed tutor Dung Beetle offering no real help, the children have no choice but to fight the remainder of their battles, increasing the body count of the civilians caught in the crossfire, all to make sure their planet, families - and universe - are protected from a vicious cleansing.

Bokurano illustrates the importance of family and the people close to you, and follows the lives of the children individually as they are selected to pilot their robot, Zearth, to stop the alien attacks. Their lives and scarring pasts play out and reveal what the children are protecting as they pay the ultimate price to protect them. Though some scenes can be slow and unneeded at times, it is otherwise excellently paced and keeps up the story in a way that keeps you attentive, which is probably half the reason I watched 14 episodes in a day. Despite my extreme dislike for mecha anime, Bokurano kept me attached to the very end.

As appealing as the idea of young children piloting robots - every little boy's dream - and defending the earth may be to kids, Bokurano is definitely not an anime for children. What's more, the manga is far more graphic than the anime, which condensed a lot of the stories to a less explicit nature. Upon suffering a mental breakdown prior to his battle within Zearth, a boy chases a girl through an aquarium and attempts to force himself onto her; the girl kicks him down a flight of stairs and he is knocked unconscious. We hear that the same girl had a physical relationship with her teacher, and that he sold pornographic pictures of the two of them on the Internet (we also hear he had installed cameras in the school girls' dressing rooms; in one scene we see this being done). It is implied later that the girl is pregnant. We hear that several children must sacrifice their lives to pilot Zearth, and we see many of them die. We hear that thousands of people have died due to the robots' fights. A man's arm is cut off (we don't see blood) and a woman is shot several times, and other people are shot throughout the series. A small robot makes explicit comments to a boy about what to do with the girl he likes. A girl is told her mother used to sell her own body; the girl later becomes desperate for money and attempts to sell herself. Her potential customer later reveals he is a friend of her mother's and offers her the payment without her services.

Bokurano is a very edgy anime with plenty of grit, and even if you aren't the biggest of mecha fans yourself, if you're looking for an adventurous anime, with lots of tragedy thrown in, you'll certainly want to add Bokurano to your list.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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