That feeling when you get when you realized your life is now fucked up, turned from virtual fun into a bloody reality, and your only chance to survive is to trust in no one (I mean it here) but yourself. With only your disposal – a package of bombs, a strange gem on your hand, and your own intuition, you realize that your life has been changed forever with your new life now residing on a strange island in the middle of nowhere...
So, what should you choose to do?
A) Panic! Scream and hope someone will help you out
B) Try to team up with someone and trust in him or her and hope that they will not betray you.
C) Do the opposite of choice B. In other words, when you find the first opportunity, KILL THEM after you've gained their trust
D) Just try to survive. Your life belongs to you and yours only
These all sound pretty horrifying, right? Well, that's Btooom! for you.
Btooom! is survival horror themed anime series based off the manga of the same name. It doesn't take long for the characters in the series to realize their lives have changed forever to be quite honest. The series takes itself from the very beginning and presents a game senario where in order to survive, you must kill seven other people before they can kill you. It's survival of the fittest and it's a every one for themselves.
The basis of the series is actually based off a game from the anime series itself called Btooom. But now, our 22-years old main protagonist Ryota Sakamoto's life has changed forever when he realizes the new situation of his reality. In fact, he used to be an pro gamer from the game itself. However, his new life puts on the edge between survival and death. The difference? It's real. In other words, there's no pause button, no restart, or bonus lives. No, now you're dead, YOU'RE DEAD.
The influence of the series seems to be based off of the classic deserted island theme. Only this time, the island itself becomes a battlefield for survival. And of course, series with themes like this isn't new especially in today's anime industry. Series like Mirai Nikki, Deadman Wonderland, and Gantz all have these themes where survival is absolute. Even in manga series, these themes are present such as Psyren, Mahou Shoujo of the End, and Cage of Eden. The fact is that these series all share a common factor in which an ordinary main male protagonist's lives are changed forever after a certain event. These events turn from peculiar, to dangerous, to tragic, to emotional, and one which will leave a memory in their minds for the rest of their lives.
Well, it's hard to describe them all but let's look at some of the most prominent ones, shall we? We begin with the main male protagonist -
Ryota Sakamoto. He is a 22 year old young man who has achieved mastery and fame in the Btooom world. In the game, he is ruthless but yet cunning as well as being infamous for his skills. In real life though, he is described as a NEET. In other words, he has almost no life but rather chooses to spent them playing the game. Yet, he is a brilliant, caring, loyal, and courageous young man if we look at him carefully especially during his time of playing the real Btooom game in the anime series.
On the other hand, there's Himiko (also known as Hemilia). She is the main female protagonist with a pair of big boobs but with a small interest in the opposite sex. As a matter of fact, she hates the male population in general for fear of her past. It's for this reason that she carries a stun gun throughout the series as a warning sign to any men who dares to approach her. In her mind, every men in the game (and possibly on the planet) is her enemy and that she is their prey. This is especially true in the beginning episodes where some of flashbacks are shown in a dark fashion.
The other contestants of the Btooom game all have different ideologies, goals, and personalities as we see the series progresses. What they all have share in similarities is their desire to win the game and get off the island. As such, most of them are willing to hurt, betray, and even kill to ensure that their goal is achieved; well, most of them anyways. For people like Kiyoshi Taira, there seems to be hope and friendship. But for others, there exists hatred, dominance, power, and intellect as part of their characteristics.
For example, Kousuke Kira, a young boy at the age of only 14 holds a hatred for his father due to his childhood. It turned him into a child murderer and one that lacks empathy. Then, there's Masahito Date who is willing to do anything to ensure his successes throughout the game and becomes its victor. Then, there are some others who uses their brains rather than their brawns such as Nobutaka Oda who has mastered his usage of the Remote Control type BIM. The point is that every one the island wants to get out of it and return to their lives.
Yet, they know their lives won't be the same again...
The games' concept involves survival and thus, there are some science fiction themes mixed in with the brutality of violence, strategy, and a little bit of luck. After all, a game is never easy when there are others with skills that matches your own. To add to the game, there are the BIMs or bombs that players use as their main weapons of destruction. These bombs all have different abilities that can lead to the death of an opponent. It reflects the science fiction side of the series. The horror side? Those would be some of the flashbacks of the characters as well as the reality of what the players face. They realize that it's not a game anymore and once they're dead, it's game over forever.
Now, the series isn't as good as it sounds. Make no mistake because every survival series has a lack of something that should have been there. In this case, Btooom has them too. The series lacks a diversity in which how the game is played. In other words, there is only bombs that are the primary weapons for the contestants. It does play on its main title as “Btooom!” seems to be synonymous to “BOOM!” That's of course what happens when one of those BIMs goes off and your body splatters. As gruesome as it sounds, the series tries too hard occasionally. Furthermore, the main male protagonist often comes with cases of deus ex machina. It's almost as if he is protected by the “main protagonist should not die” shield. Other problems I've run into the series is that the seemingly rushed sequences. Some of the contestants are killed off in a single episode with little to no screen time given beyond their performance in the game. In other words, they don't stand out as much as the main protagonists. In the end, they're just more like obstacles for them to get by and almost a way for them to “level up” or gain experience in the game.
The artwork of the series is fine but nothing unique. What it does reflect though is the nature of the game of Btooom and its survival themes. These include the abandoned buildings, the tropical forests, the shallow waters, the high mountain cliffs, and other things you typically see on an abandoned island. In fact, most of the characters' outfits reflects this as well in their casual wear and their battle scarred clothing. Most of them are dressed in ways in which they are of themselves which means that none of them were prepared for a real life version of Btooom. And of course, the battlefield has left ashes and bombs going off is usually visually represented with its spectacular explosions. Nothing else is more than that though as I found the artwork to be typical but gets to the point.
The soundtrack of the series is presented with its action paced OST. In most scenes involving action, there is the rhythm. There is hardly any comedic or lighthearted soundtrack in this series as it doesn't fit within those grounds. Yet, it does occasionally have emotional melody especially for flashback scenes of the contestants; more often these are represented as being tragic. The OP song, "No pain, No game" by Nano is a classic for this series. That's right, no pain means no game and in the world of Btooom, there's both of that. On the other hand, the ED song, "Aozora " by May'n is presented in a more soft paced style especially featuring one of the main characters, Himiko.
Ultimately, Btooom is one of those survival horror series that can be enjoyable but at the same time, becomes frustrating with its strange twists. The cliffhangers and occasionally plot twists have become predictable especially in later episodes. At the same time, there is a feeling of explosiveness (more than just the BIMs) when we watch the action scenes. It's not intelligent but packs that feeling of survival horror where your life really is at stake here. In the world of Btooom, it ultimately comes down to how to play the game. If you play your cards right, you'll win. If not, then game over for you and no second chances.