This post is part of the Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project.
Bokurano was a show I’ve been wanting to watch but never had the time to, and my Secret Santa was kind enough to offer it for my viewing. Naturally, I jumped at the chance.
(The other picks were Heroic Age, Gigantic Formula, and strangely enough, Clannad After Story. I think I have an idea of who my Secret Santa is!)
What confronted me was quite an interesting beast. I immediately latched on to the concept of humongous, several-skyscrapers-tall mecha battling it out in battles that are given the generous time limit of 48 hours to conclude. In this regard, the 3DCG works just right, capturing the awkward, ponderous actions of the mecha. You can practically imagine them creaking their joints as they move from their ready position.
It disappoints me, however, that the battles are so plainly and simplistically concluded. The protagonists’ mecha, Zearth (a play upon the phrase “The Earth”), never really feels threatened by any of its opponents. The kid pilots would always devise a solution in the nick of time, turn the tables on their adversaries, and triumph. The mecha battles were never the point of the show, but the richness of the concept was not utilized to its full potential. I can’t imagine Zearth and its skittery cousins to feature in a future Super Robot Wars game.
It’s a shame, because I enjoy the rarely-used concept of a mecha as a giant god of destruction. Zearth is a machine that operates on principles that are utterly uncaring of humans; it is neither a savior or an avatar of humanity, instead it is an alien, amoral force that cares not what it destroys.
Anyway, I’ll get to the real meat of the show, which is the characters. There are 14 kids who are chosen to pilot Zearth, but the catch is that the robot uses their life force to operate, hence killing a pilot for every battle. The anime focuses on each of the pilots’ lives as they come to terms with their impending death and duty–to win the battle is to die, but to lose is to have the entire universe die with you.
The kids are all varied: there are utter assholes, unexpected heroes and heroines, and there are really nice ones. I found myself getting into a few characters’ stories (Kirie, Mako, and Daichi), but Gonzo’s low-budget production and uninspired presentation didn’t help. The stories are written quite well, but the anime fails to make them come alive.
The second half particularly became boring for me, as the show focused on how the Japanese government reacted to Zearth. While this could have been interesting in its own right (had the direction been more competent), why go out of your way to expound on this, when you already have a goldmine of difficult teenage pilots to work with? It dragged too far away from the original strengths of the story.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the show, and the ending was actually satisfying in tying things up. Uninstall is even a damn good song. But all in all, I wouldn’t recommend the Bokurano anime to most people. It’s simply uneven and nowhere near pretty. Some mecha fans might welcome the fresh, atypical battles… if they’re willing to put up with the show’s shortcomings. Or you could read the manga, which is markedly different.