15 children, 8 boys and 7 girls, are enjoying their summer camp together when they suddenly discover a grotto by the sea. When they enter the mysterious place they find a room full of computers, as well as a man named Kokopelli, who introduces himself as the owner. He claims to be working on a game which involves a giant robot that has been designed to protect the Earth from 15 different alien invasions. Kokopelli hasn't been able to test the game yet, so he persuades all but one of the children to sign a contract in what he claims will be a fun adventure.
However, as soon as the contracts are signed things start to take a much darker turn. In Bokurano, the children must now pilot the giant robot Zearth one at a time in the hopes that they will have what it takes to defeat all of the upcoming enemies. But Kokopelli has left out one very important piece of information: the giant robot Zearth's energy source.
“I have no choice but to pretend I am a warrior who knows no fear.”
Truer OP lyrics have rarely been attributed so well to an anime series.
Fifteen children are tricked into participating in a battle for Earth itself. However, don’t be fooled by video clips of huge mecha fighting each other – this is not a classic mecha series with epic space battles and the like. Instead, each child who comes to pilot the mecha known as Zearth faces not only the struggle to save the world but also a struggle of their own. What do they fight for? Some fight for their loved ones.
Others fight for themselves. A few see it as their duty. Some don’t know why and struggle to find a reason to look death in the face for the sake of complete strangers.
Each story arc deals with the next pilot set to fight on Earth’s behalf. Each child has a story to tell, a conflict of some sort to work out before they fight. One wants to prove himself to his workaholic father. Another deals with bullying because of her mother’s reputation. Another grapples with his disappeared dad while supporting his three younger siblings. And so on and so forth. At first, getting to know all the kids all at once is overwhelming, but as each one is explored and developed, they become unique and well fleshed out. Each arc then becomes a “coming of age” story for each of the kids, culminating in their final battles as they reflect on their lives and the world they fight for. In the meantime, the group of children draw unwanted attention to themselves from the government and military and they must deal with the implications of their actions.
As you can imagine, it’s heavy on drama and it gets amped up even further as the story progresses and the children learn more about this twisted “game” (but to discuss them here would be very spoilery). Bring tissues.
For the more technical merits of Bokurano, it fares pretty well. Animation and art aren’t overly detailed and there aren’t any bright, glaring colours. Realism is what the animators seemed to be aiming for. Still, it slips up here and there, and sometimes obviously so. I also caught some re-used animation a few times, too. The mecha are done in CG and while it’s noticeable, it doesn’t stick out too much in a bad way, and Zearth and some of the other mecha designs are well rendered.
The OP and the two EDs are all sung by Chiaki Ishikawa. The OP, “Uninstall”, carries a rather haunting melody and is well-suited to the anime. The EDs are, unfortunately, more forgettable. Still, it’s notable that the lyrics of each song fit the anime to a T, so the translated lyrics are well worth paying attention to. The background music is, for the most part, unremarkable – not noteworthy but not bad, either. I have no complaints about the seiyuu as they all did a great job.
Overall, Bokurano was a surprisingly strong series that gives viewers plenty to think about. No magic tricks here, no fairy tale endings. Nevertheless, despite all the hardships the characters face, I can’t help but feel a bit hopeful, like I should appreciate life a little more and all the good things in this world. After all, we never know when it’ll all be over.
I posted this review on a forum as a recommendation to someone who was looking for a depressing and slice of life anime, and I was told by two people that my review was able to get them to watch the series and I believe they enjoyed it, so I decided to share my review here in hopes of intriguing more people into watching it.
Thoughts: This anime cannot be completely enjoyed unless you have the patience to watch it all the way through. Even if you do not have much patience, I still think the first episode ends in a way that compels the
watchers to continue watching because it really does leave you at a cliffhanger. I would go more into detail, but I really rather not spoil it for anyone. Even though Slice of Life is not one of the genres for this anime, I still think it has its moments where this genre is applied. The children have to go through a lot, and there are many times throughout the anime where you feel sorry for them, since they lose, let's say, something very close to them after each battle. Again, I do not think the first episode will be as exciting if I go into more detail, so that is as far as I will go.
Story: While watching the scenes from the opening song, you figure that the anime will be a typical mecha with the typical battles, and since you are told that there are 15 children and 15 alien battles, it is hard to be persuaded the battles are going to be very unique. That is partly correct. The battles do seem overused a lot, but the actual plot for the anime is rather unique. As you continue watching, you learn that there is more to the actual battles with the "aliens" each time. There is a deeper meaning in the anime, but it is the watcher's duty to figure it out, which is a good and bad thing. If you are just watching an anime for enjoyment, then I really do not suggest this. However, if you wish to analyze the anime and find the deeper meaning, then this will probably interest you.
Animation: The art is rather simple, and I did not have any problems with it, but I think it could have been better. Sometimes simple art works well for certain kinds of anime, but I think it was not completely fitting for this one. There have been plenty other anime out there that have successfully been able to pull off the simple style of animation before, but unfortunately this one could not. The 3D for the mecha battles were actually pretty good, any way.
Sound: The opening song, Uninstall by Chiaki Ishikawa, was impressive, I thought. She has a pretty powerful voice, and it really worked for the opening. I think the music could even make up for some of the disappointing animation, but that is just my opinion. The ending songs work too, but Uninstall was mainly the only song that captured my attention.
Character: I really could not favor one character over another in this anime (partly because almost all of them "disappears" by the end), but I liked how one of the characters in the beginning acted like a total jerk, and eventually lightened up in the end. There is actually a side story that explains why his attitude is like that, but I cannot be bothered to explain everything in that area. You will learn that some of the characters live depressing lives, pretty much like any other anime, but I do not think there is any one perfect character in this show, which makes it more enjoyable.
Enjoyment: I just really liked how this anime played out overall. I think I said this before, but it is a rather unique story. I do not recall there being much comedy or any at all, but I think that works for some people. I believe most watchers will definitely cry during some episodes. I have to admit that I did.
Manga, Light Novel, Anime: Bokurano was originally a manga done by Mohiro Kitoh. It began running in Shogakukan's Ikki magazine in 2004, and is still running at present, at a total of eight collected volumes. It has yet to be licensed Stateside.
A light novel entitled Bokurano ~alternative~ written by Renji Ohki and with character designs done by Mohiro Kitoh began running in May of 2007, and is still running at this point in time, with three volumes released this far. It also has yet to be licensed Stateside.
The anime series clocked in at a total of 24 episodes, and was done
by Studio Gonzo (famous for Gankutsou: The Count of Monte Cristo and Saikano) and directed by Hiroyuki Morita (famous for his work on The Cat Returns). It ran from April 8th to September 25th, 2007 on Japanese TV, and has been licensed Stateside by Funimation, though they have yet to say when they're actually going to release it. EDIT: As of this time, Funimation has only ordered cease and desists to fansubbers on behalf of Gonzo, but a NA liscensor has yet to be announced for this series.
Story: So, there are these fifteen kids, all in middle school except for one girl in fourth grade, and they're at this summer camp. They end up finding a grotto with a random guy in it, and he enlists them in a "game" involving robots. What he fails to mention is that the game is real, and that they actually do have to pilot a robot. There are fifteen robot enemies, one for each kid. They have to beat them, or the Earth goes bye-bye. The robot they pilot runs on their life forces, though, so even if they win, they die, too.
The story focuses on the backgrounds of each of the kids as they're called up to pilot initially, but there are subplots involving the government and the overall game added in after the halfway point, along with some AMAZING plot twists.
The story isn't quite as good as Gankutsuou was, but this is up there with Gonzo's better works. Yeah, the story's just a bit depressing, but there are little rays of brightness that peak in every once in a while, and it's enough to keep you going through. Each kid gets development enough that you care as they go to face their deaths, and you'll at least be able to remember either their first or their last name, as do other people who become involved in their situation.
It's a good story and all, but it didn't quite have the impact on me that I thought it would. I mean, just looking at the show's description, I thought it would be Saikano-esque levels of depression, but it never quite reaches those.
The show's also very self-aware at times, and pokes fun at the mecha genre (the kids naming the robot, shouting out their attacks, getting "uniforms" to wear as they ride in it, etc).
If you're going into this as a mecha fan, though, be aware that the robot fights aren't central to the story; there's at least one every episode, but the story's more centered around the children than it is around the robot.
Also, let's cover a big controversy that came up while this was being released, and contains slight spoilers, so read ahead at your own risk. The creator of the manga, Mohiro Kitoh, made a blog entry while the show was being released that claimed that the author hated the source material (he did dislike it, admittedly, which begs the question of why he was even chosen to do this), and has asked if there was a way that he could save the children. Kitoh supposedly gave the go ahead, but asked for fans of the manga to stop watching the anime, because it wouldn't be anything like the manga. Well, I went and compared what I could find for information about how the manga unfolded and how the anime turned out, and the only real difference that I could find was in how some characters were handled and the order in which they were called to be pilots. Again, yes, different from the original, but the children were not freed from the contract and the fifteen who are contracted do end up dying, and the changes that did happen were nothing that would call for Kitoh to ask fans to boycott the series. I think this is a case of overreaction from the original author. It's all the more ironic and hypocritical since he's involved in a complete retooling of the story (the Bokurano ~alternative~ light novel).
Art: The style that Gonzo chose to use for this is a bit simpler than I've seen with other productions that they've done. It just doesn't look very good, honestly -- I've seen other series that have done simple well, like Kino no Tabi, but it just doesn't work as the series goes on.
3D is obviously used for the mechas, and it looks pretty good. Yeah, it stands out quite a bit, but then again, it's highly doubtful that one could do a robot entirely in 2D, and the thing's SUPPOSED to stand out.
Music: The background music for this series is, like Toward the Terra and Elfen Lied, one of the few scores I've actively listened to and noticed since Gankutsuou. Excellent recurring themes.
The OP, "Uninstall", is done by Chiaki Ishikawa, and is an absolutely beautiful piece that fits the series perfectly. Both of the EDs are also done by her, and are more of the typical female JPop ballads, but I like the second one ("Vermillion"), more than the first one ("Little Bird").
Seiyuu: Kenji Nojima, who replaced Takemoto's seiyuu in the last episode of Honey and Clover, plays one of the children, Tomokazu Sugita (Soldier Blue in Toward the Terra and Mayama in Honey and Clover) also appears as one of the children, and another child's seiyuu also appeared in Paranoia Agent as Shounen Bat. The rest of the cast gives excellent performances, as always.
Length: This feels about right, though there were some character's arcs who took more than one episode and probably could've been shortened a bit. Any longer and it just wouldn't have worked.
Overall: A good, solid mecha story centered around the children who pilot it, with decent art and length, beautiful music, and pretty good seiyuu.
Bokurano is a show that sets itself apart from most conventional standards and clichés. It doesn't have the high-tempo, flashy battles of most mecha anime, nor does it have characters which fit into any standard role, or any of the type.
The first episode of the show can be quite overwhelming to some; you will rather suddenly be introduced to the entire cast of fourteen seventh-graders and one fourth-grader. They are gathered from various places on a summer camp, enjoying a seemingly peaceful summer. That is, until they decide to explore a hidden cave. here they encounter a peculiar man with an even more peculiar name,
who invites them to play a certain game...
To put it simply, they are tricekd into a contract binding them as pilots for a giant robot, and what's worse, they have to fight other giant robots, unless they want Earth to face acopalypse. And so they decide to fight. But there are a lot of secrets revolving around the impeding fights, the robots and why they have to fight. And some of them are more horrible than others...
Of course, the outside world isn't going to stand still as rampaging robots duke it out across cities, killing thousands and ruining property for billions. This results in some intricate side-plots with some, well, some standard mecha parties/groups. Namely, the military, and some separate group of scientists. And these side-plots, which plays out quite well and interestingly, are pretty much what you get of a real, continuous plot; because aside that and the fighting it's much more about each of the characters struggling with problems in their life.
And the characters, sure, they get their screen time and it is done very well. Extremely well. Though I must admit that for seventh graders they act a little on the mature side. Maybe they shoulda been a few years older and it owuld have been completely believeable. Anyway, they are normal children, thrown into an unescapable battle with everything at the stakes if they lose and nothing but despair to the victor. Since they each know what cruel fate awaits them when they get chosen as the pilot for the robot, they end up living out their last days doing what they feel compelled to do before parting with this world. And yes, you get to see inside the lives of each of the teenagers; some getting more screentime than others, and it would seem that each of them have their troubles in life. Love, forbidden or not, revenge, family problems, there's a ton of stuff these adolescents have in their life.
Oh, it plays out quite beautifully, except for the aforementioned fact that they seem to young to actually react to these problems, at least in the way they do; they seem overly mature for their age.
And along with the main cast, there's quite the few interesting side characters. who have their important say in the plot and the lives and struggles of the main characters, while shining wonderfully on their own.
There was one thing which struck me when I watched Bokurano. It was that it seemed very dispassionate, almost cold in its emotions. When there's a battle, it's not like one would feel the adrenaline. When characters face problems, it's not like they seem overly emotional about it; at least the viewer will not go as far as to become emoional with them. The voice actors, they were all quite quiet and calm, and so was the mood set forth by the animation and the soundtrack. This was, to this reviewer, a good thing for the show. It is great to see that the show is never rushed; yet, at the same time, it doesn't get bogged down with unecessary scenes or anything. It just is placid.
Together with this, the animation is quite marvelous to look at. It's not breathtaking or meticulous, but it's good to look at. There's no sharp, glaring or bright colours. There's no rough edges or anything. The light and shadow efffects are lovely to look at, too. It's all very temperate. Even the massive mecha, which are all made in CGI, aren't too glaring or disturbing to look at in the environments it is put into. Movements in eneral are qutie smooth; they certainly didn't skip ahead on frames when making this anime, and that is really nice.
Going along, the opening and ending themes are quite melliflous tunes. Chiaki Ishikawa has a serene voice and sings three stunning songs thereafter, all of which are themes I would want to listen to over and over. "Uninstall" is very mysterious, almost a bit adventurous; yet very inviting and makes you feel that the show has something for you to experience. The ending themes, "Little Bird" and "Vermillion" both are interesting themes to listen to. The first is something I could gladly listen to after going to bed at night, to fall asleep to, or simply and plainly relax to. "Vermillion" leans towards the J-pop side of things, but has its interesting tone, like you're just drifting off somewhere, in a world of dreams, illusions.
The background music is composed mainly of calming string tunes and mysterious, inexplicable piano songs. It sets up the mood quite well, albeit keeping mainly to a single one or two; making sure that your emotions keep within the doldrums; reposed and quiet.
If I were to sum it up, I would have to say that Bokurano isn't a show that stands out very well. It doesn't leave a lasting impression, but while you watch this, you will most certainly be affected by an aura of melancholy; of placidity and stoicism. It drags you into the lives of a group of unsuspecting adolescents and shows you what would happen if someone suddenly had the choice between not doing anything and watch the Earth go asunder; dying along with it, or try and save it, with a risk of failing, and still dying. It shows you what a variety of people would do with their final days, if they knew they were about to die. To me, Bokurano was quite good, but not entirely up there.