An anime derailed itself today; crews have yet to find any survivors
What’s the Story?
…Ok…I really don’t have any clue where to start, mostly because this anime has no idea what its story is. We start with Azuma living on a floating island with his sister and parents, oh and there’s giant robots called Buranki walking around. Then things go bad and Azuma and his sister fall off of the island and we skip ahead 10 years to where Azuma joins up with a bunch of kids and their Bubuki, their like pieces of Buranki that combine to control an actual Buranki. They face off against a bunch of adults out to wipe out the Buranki who are led by an immortal sixteen year old girl, Reoko. They battle over Bubuki as the kids try to reach the island in the sky. Then we throw in a bunch of international teams who are also out to reach the island… and I think we can all see the problem here.
This anime is just fascinating to watch, it’s like a car crash you just can’t look away as it gets steadily more and more horrific. It’s not the worst anime I’ve ever seen, there are some decent ideas in here, but they’re drowned under so many plotlines that come out of nowhere and go right back to nowhere. It’s like the writers of this anime just couldn’t decide on what story they wanted to tell. We’re going to tell a story about a floating island and these kids’ attempts to return to it. No! We’re going to tell a story about these weapons with minds of their own and the battle between the kids and these adults that have turned Japan into their own private dictatorship. No! We’re going to tell a story about these giant robots that lots of corrupt governments were exploiting, until Azuma’s mother shut them all down, now all these teams from other countries are fighting to activate the robots again.
It’s too much. This anime is 12 episodes long, you don’t have the time to tell all of that and by trying to you have less of a story and more of a wriggling, heaving mess on the floor. It’s like trying to tell three different story arcs all at the same time; it’s not going to work not unless you’re a genius writer (which, no offence, but these guys clearly aren’t).
This anime also has problems explaining things, though that could be down to the different stories not checking the back story with one another. Let’s take episode 1 as an example. We start with Azuma and his family on Treasure Island, the floating island. It’s all very nice and idyllic, very much the calm before the storm, there’s some decent character work and few good mysteries sown into events, then we get the time skip which proves that a good 60% of that was pointless. We get that Azuma’s goal is to get back to his mum who’s still on Treasure Island and find out if she’s ok, but what about the rest of his family? We only see Azuma’s sister a couple of times after this and she just watches from a distance, making ominous comments and teasing a 2nd season. She has no impact on the plot whatsoever and neither Azuma nor his mum mentions her again. Then there’s Azuma’s dad who vanishes from existence entirely after episode 1.
Bear in mind that the anime has barely started at this point and it’s already fallen flat on its face. The time skip is where a lot of my opinion that the writer’s had no idea what they were doing comes from. There is a complete lack of explanation of what’s going on. It’s been 10 years since Azuma fell from Treasure Island and we have no idea what has happened in those years. Where has Azuma been? Overseas is the only answer we get. What has he been doing? Looking for a way to get back to Treasure Island, but how was he doing that? Who has been raising him during this time? Surely not his dad because we all know he blinked out of existence as soon as he left the island. It doesn’t help that Azuma wanders around like a clueless idiot having everyone explain stuff to him, I know we need a character for you to explain to so that we the audience can get the explanations, but Azuma is such a blank slate it makes me wonder if he’s just been in a coma for the past ten years.
Then we come to the big question. Just what on Earth are Bubuki and Buranki. Where do they come from? What do they want? When did they first appear? There’s been human interaction with them for a long time, so what was that like? A little bit of history please. A mystery is a good way to hook in your audience, but when you have hundreds of questions and not even a handful of answers it’s more likely to annoy the audience than draw them in.
The anime can’t even do it right on the character front. It tries to give the kids interesting back stories to get you invested, but they’re all such bland stereotypes with limited personality that I hardly care. The only character that I actually looked forward to seeing was our lead villain, Reoko. I admit I have a soft spot for a villain who can pull off a truly insane evil cackle. She is full throttle insane and she enjoys it so much you just can’t help enjoying it too. It helps that she’s not just crazy though, she has a genuinely tragic back story and you understand where all of the anger and crazy comes from.
On a final note there is something I can praise in this anime, the animation. It’s entirely CGI, which will no doubt put off a lot of people, but it’s actually pretty good. It moves very well especially during the action sequences and also manages to convey a convincing amount of emotion. It adds a nice stylised look to proceedings, I could put up with more CGI anime if they have this quality of animation.
In the end, Bubuki Buranki is really a mess of an anime. There’s just too many different plot threads fighting against one another, meaning that the few good ideas don’t get the attention they need, the characters don’t get any room to breathe and development and vital questions don’t have room to be answered. It does have some pretty nice animation though and the action is good, so if nothing else this anime works as a visual spectacle, but nothing much more than that.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.