With shows like Sword Art Online, Log Horizon, and No Game, No Life, recent years have certainly seen a fair few anime set around the idea of humans becoming trapped within a video game for one reason or another. Recently I decided to take a look at one of the smaller hits of last year, BTOOOM!, which plays with a similar idea to those mentioned above, but shakes things up enough to keep them interesting. Read on to see what I thought!
BTOOOM! introduces us to 22-year-old Ryota Sakamoto, a skilled player of the online video game BTOOOM! where he is ranked tenth in the world. One day Ryota wakes up to find himself trapped on a seemingly deserted island, but it isn’t long before he discovers that this island is a stage for him and others trapped there to battle it out in a real-life game of BTOOOM!.
The rules of this deadly game are simple, kill or be killed. Everyone on the island starts out with a chip embedded in their hand that works as a radar, and are supplied with ten bombs which they can use to kill off other players. The idea is to kill off seven people and collect their chips, and once you’ve done so you’ll be able to leave the island and this deadly game behind. Handily, supplies are dropped to the island once a day meaning, as long as you reach the food first, there is very little chance of you starving to death. It’s an interesting set-up without a doubt and interesting to see how the different characters react. No one really knows one another, meaning its survival of the fittest and no one has many complaints about having to kill one another if it means getting out alive, besides Ryota. As the story progresses Ryota teams up with two other characters hoping to find a way off the island without having to killing anyone, however with enemies all around this doesn’t guaranty them an easy ride by any means.
The series builds up the characters pretty well, flashing back to their lives before becoming trapped on the island and then showing their current selves as Ryota stumbles across them. It’s a nice way of doing things and offers good character development without having to rely on Ryota’s interactions with them (of which there isn’t often much as he’s too busy trying not to be killed!). BTOOOM! tries to show us what’s going on back in Japan and why the characters have been taken to the island, but more often than not this just doesn’t give us enough information. We learn that the people who end up on the island are those who others want to disappear, but as to why the company behind all this wants them to play a game of death? We never really find out. In fairness to the show it works best when it’s trying to give you a thrill anyway, it’s not as dependent on its story and the little things a series such as Log Horizon is. No, BTOOOM! is about the big fights and explosions and the general thrill of not knowing what’s coming next, which it does extremely well.
Overall BTOOOM! isn’t scared to push the limits with its story either. It shows extreme violence and isn’t scared to go into some pretty dark ideas, such as one of lead characters almost being raped. All this is honestly a credit to it, I mean yes it’s much more edgy, dangerous and controversial than other shows of the genre, but it does it well. It pays off because the series stands out from the crowd a little and offers something a little different to a much overused idea.
With only 12 episodes and the original source still on-going (although entering its final arc now) it’ll likely come as no surprise to know that BTOOOM! ends very openly and is just asking for a second season to come about. Despite this it’s not hard to enjoy the show for what it is, even if you don’t end up taking to any of the characters. Madhouse manages some rather impressive animation, especially during fight scenes and has some nice character designs. The series has a fairly solid opening and ending track, but there isn’t much of a soundtrack to speak of throughout the series, or at least not a noticeable one. The official soundtrack was released in two parts at 20 tracks a-piece, but during the series the tracks really don’t stand out enough for you to desperately want to own the CD as much as you would other shows.
In closing: BTOOOM! isn’t the best series of its genre, but it’s by no mean the worst either. It tries to do something a little different in focusing on the thrill of the idea, which works in its favour nicely. It’s a short enough series to get through in a few days, so definitely one worth checking out for those a fan of the setting.
- Overall 7
- Animation 7
- Story 6
- Soundtrack 4
- Characters 5