Sep 10, 2019
Trivialmadness (All reviews)
”Look, dude, it’s just a game, right?”
”Just a game. Sure. And death is just...a long nap.”

Bus Gamer is one of the coolest things that never really came to be; instead, it remained an obscure piece of original work for Minekura fans to worship. What is it all about then?

*A spoiler free review*

A death game. In 1999, the same year Bus Gamer started publication, a novel called Battle Royale also saw daylight. Sharing many themes and ideas with it, Bus Gamer is a death game in urban environment. Having the core plot of fighting for survival in predetermined locations, using your wits and environment to pull through tricky situations and trusting either for yourself or the teamwork until there’s only one winner left - that sounds like something that became a big hit in the next decade. Bus Gamer is definitely not among the first survival or death games out there, given the whole battle royale concept originates from ancient times, but it is undeniably one of the first new generation stories before the boom.

A prologue. As Minekura herself has stated, Bus Gamer: The Pilot Edition is like a collection of ideas and a prologue to the longer series she had in mind. The Bus Gamer that ran from 2006 to 2009 is the reboot of this original and was intended to become the main series– it has unfortunately been on hiatus ever since. The Pilot Edition throws us in the middle of action and manages to create more or less coherent story with its existing chapters - too bad the story ends just when the main players are introduced and we have started to get somewhere.

Characters who have bite. It wouldn’t be Minekura if the story wasn’t full of these charming, emotionally-damaged, ass-kicking snark knights. Easy to like, harder to figure out, Bus Gamer’s main characters Toki, Nobu and Kaz are brought together to play a game where knowing who to trust and when might be a key to survival. Their past and reasons to participate in the first place are hinted, but the story hasn’t enough run time to explore the characters more deeply. That said, the character interactions are really enjoyable and the dialogue translation is guaranteed golden age Tokyopop entertainment with mad one-liners.

Blatantly '90s. Mini discs, diskettes, flamboyant trench jackets…welcome to the period drama my dears. The setting could be any big city from its time and the urban feeling is always subtly present but never getting in the way of the colorful characters. The goddess of pretty boys and girls is on the roll, and her art is always a delight to see. Also, brownie points for Minekura to have her characters play a Saiyuki game in the arcade.

Some degree of cult reputation? It would have been interesting to see what kind of series Bus Gamer could have been had it not suffered from publication problems and author’s personal problems. It has a simple idea, it’s easy to follow and the characters are interesting and likeable. I would have loved to see more of it.

Bus Gamer: The Pilot Edition is the original Bus Gamer story, an action flick with survival game themes, simple plot, engaging characters and huge potential that never came to be. A must read for Minekura devotees and recommendable for experimental people, '90s lovers and old school death game fans.