(This has been adapted from my reddit thread)
Sometimes the decisions we make aren't always the right ones. During the process, though, we often think that there is zero chance that we are doing could be wrong. But as we all know, "hindsight is 20/20." Most of the time, our choices not only cause a radical affect on ourselves but also on the people around us. Taking this in stride, BTOOOM! is an anime about bombs, psychology, and a host of problems that make the entire experience less than favorable.
BTOOOM! is a tale involving Sakamoto, one of the best players to play the game the anime is titled after. After a small series of events, he finds himself trapped on an island with other people, having to play the game outside of the virtual world.
The pivotal aspect of the show that it explores is the way in which characters interact with one another after being placed into such a situation. Many ideas are brought to light and are put into play: how to trust, and not trust, certain people, learning to cope with hope and despair, and choosing the morally sound decision in a particular situation. A lot of the characters represent these varying sides to a degree, and for the most part, it works. But it's a difficult sell because for most of us it is completely unrelatable. Not just having to fight for our lives; predicaments such as dealing with terrible parents or lying to make events happen in our favor are not things that we've all dealt with. I'm not saying that there aren't people like this, as they certainly do exist, it's just attempting to cover so many bases at once is beyond the show's capabilities.
One major issue that the show has is in the game itself. The issue is that it is too simple. Essentially, it involves two key components: bombs and radar. The show incorporates a sizable amount of different bomb types and some tricks involving the radar. But beyond that, there isn't much to go off of. To combat this, the show tries too hard to make the fights seem too dire. What is presented, then, are a lot of overly dramatic scenarios without much weight behind them. It becomes way too predictable what is going to happen the more the show progresses. And while it tries to be "cool," the lameness of the game and the overly-simplistic battles come off as boring and silly instead.
When it comes to fan-service, I'm not one to complain. I often don't mind if it's there or not. However, BTOOOM!'s use of it is rather strange. On the one hand, certain aspects make sense such as Himiko's sexual assault. On the other hand, certain aspects don't make sense, such as the river scene or later on when she is passed out. These are blatant attempts at showing off her body that were sorely out of place.
At it's core, the premise of the show is quite inane. Basically, any single person can be chosen to be selected for this game for potentially any reason. In other words, it's required of the audience to suspend some belief throughout the show; how the government would allow this, how a gaming company could possibly undertake such an event, etc. The argument here is that for a lot of shows we need to do exactly this. But BTOOOM!'s problem is that it takes itself so seriously that it is quite hard to do. In other words, the show has a huge issue when it comes to being "super edgy." Many instances happen "at the last second" or characters escape "by the skin of their teeth." This happens a lot throughout the show, so at some point you become desensitized to it. At that point, you mostly start to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Surprisingly, the art and animation for the show is quite lackluster.
In regards to the art-style, it mostly sticks to foliage and ruined buildings. It all seems appropriate given the setting and the island the cast is placed in. The characters, however, are pretty much cardboard cutouts. In other words, they are not very imaginative; Sakamoto is skinny with brown hair, Himiko is blonde with big boobs, Date is an older gentleman with glasses, etc. These design choices were most likely chosen to coincide with the "mature" vibe the show was attempting to give off, but instead it just makes everyone rather boring to watch.
Animation-wise, the explosions from the bombs, such as the "timers" and the "poisons" are nicely animated, given the subject matter. However, both during and outside of the battles, the animation is rather poor. The show loves to do zoom-ins, single face shots, and jittery camera work. Even when the show gives the close-ups nice detail for the teeth, facial contours, and shading, it usually just sticks to mouth movements instead of eye or facial movements.
The psychological aspect to BTOOOM! is at least above average, but the same cannot be said for its characters.
One of the worst characters in the show is Sakamoto. A NEET by day, he is the "10th best BTOOOM! player" in the world. Yet, even after learning what he was thrown into, he acts as one of the dumbest. Even from the get-go, he doesn't understand or even recognize the bombs and the radar that he discovered he had. Alongside being stupid, he generally contradicts himself; he doesn't want to kill people because it isn't the right thing to do, but sometimes he tries to and other times he doesn't. Essentially, it just depends on the situation at hand.
Himiko is a young woman, who is both beautiful and troubled. Early on, she had the potential to be a rather strong character. Her early background and initial time on the island set her up to be someone who could have overcome her trust issues and have her see some actual character development. Instead, the show chooses to place her in this quasi-state of trust and doubt that doesn't make much sense. She starts off hating men, not wanting to believe anything they have to offer. But by the end, rather than having her become independent or strong enough to deal with issues on her own, she relies solely on Sakamoto, the type of person she previously deplored.
The rest of the supporting cast are mainly used to highlight the different psychological aspects detailed earlier: Taira with worry, Date with doubt, Miyamoto with disregarding morality. For the most part, the supporting cast are better than Sakamoto and Himiko (the mains). However, these characters are simply used to showcase their psychological aspects and nothing more. Among all of them, I would consider Taira the best member of the entire cast, but he is quickly cast aside and only taken back into account at the show's conclusion, which is a massive blunder.
BTOOOM! suffers a "Mirai Nikki" with its OP, in that the OP somehow outclasses the entire anime. The guitar, roughness of the lyrics, and range of the vocals make it great to listen to.
The ED is supposed to contrast what BTOOOM! offers. Instead of being dark and tense, it is quite light and soft. It does its job well, even if I don't particularly like the song.
The soundtrack for the show is rather forgetful. Nothing notable stands out. The same can be said for the voice-acting. No one in particular does an outstanding job, despite the crazy situations the cast find themselves in.
I didn't know what to expect when going into this one. Honestly, I just thought that the title was kind of hilarious. I didn't expect one bit that the show would look so heavily at the psychology behind such a situation. While perhaps not executed as nicely as something like NGE, I think anything trying to go at least a bit more mature is a good step in the right direction.
Yet, I often found myself cringing during every episode; Sakamoto "marrying" Himiko in the game, Sakamoto jumping sideways during his fight with the young kid, and especially the introduction of the "giant lizards." These parts made me laugh and shake my head all at the same time, because I couldn't believe that the show was making these parts seem "awesome" when in fact they were quite ludicrous.
The show also suffers from a terrible case of continuity issues. A large selection of the scenes depict many near-death-experiences. But the next shots, or at least the explanations behind them, show that they had a lot more time than what is initially perceived. In other words, the anime is trying to make us unfairly feel tension in these moments. I never felt this way during these moments, perhaps because the same trick was used over and over.
I think BTOOOM! had a lot of potential in every department. I'm not sure what happened along the way, but something clearly wasn't done right. Whether this be the world itself being too simplistic or the characters being wholly uninteresting, something better could have been done. Instead, the show activated a "cracker" and forgot to throw it, blowing itself up in the process.
Story: Bad, the psychology works but everything else doesn't
Animation: Fine, art style fits the show's tone yet the actual animation is lackluster
Characters: Terrible, lame, boring, one-dimensional, or a combination of the three
Sound: Fine, good OP, fitting ED, average soundtrack and VAs
Enjoyment: Fine, has its moments but mired in silliness
Final Score: 3/10