One of the giant monoliths on the edge of Tokyo Area is about to collapse. The world is ending, but the monstrous Gastrea waiting outside the city might not be Rentaro’s most savage enemies...
Rentaro has defeated Tina Sprout, the young sniper prodigy who tried to assassinate Lady Seitenshi, and now Tina has become a fellow member of the Tendo Security Agency along with Kisara and Enju. However, an infamous Gastrea has successfully attacked one of the gigantic stone towers, or monoliths, that form a protective ring keeping the Gastrea out of Tokyo Area. Rentaro receives an urgent summons from the Seitenshi informing him to assemble a team to participate in the defence of Tokyo Area when the monolith falls in seven days. Scrambling with the little time left to him, Rentaro and Enju begin to piece together their team before it is too late.
How Was It?
Black Bullet Vol. 3 gets off to a pretty good start by cutting straight to the chase in laying out the latest existential threat facing Tokyo Area. The premise here is fairly simple - a monolith tower protecting the city is damaged and crumbling, and the city has seven days to prepare for a Gastrea onslaught. This was introduced effectively by a prologue which follows a soldier patrolling the monoliths immediately before the damage is done, and I liked the way that this put the threat in more real terms than if it had simply been explained in exposition. We get a vivid sense of the horror the city faces early on, and I felt that this underpinned the rest of the story quite nicely in making the stakes at hand more apparent. The situation is then conveyed to Rentaro by the Seitenshi immediately afterwards, and her orders in building a team to fight the Gastrea after the impending destruction of the monolith formed a clear spine for this volume in the early going. I really liked this focus throughout the beginning of the volume, and I felt the simplicity of this plot line worked really well in drawing me in.
Rentaro’s journey to assemble his team doesn’t lead to any interesting character development on his part, but I liked that this plot line gave the book a solid sense of direction early on. Rentaro’s search for members to add to his team culminates in him meeting with the Katagiri siblings, who are fellow Civil Security officers. This meeting quickly resulted in a fight, and this segment ends up being the strongest part of this book as Rentaro and Enju face off against the opposing pair. Black Bullet’s action scenes have been largely decent so far, and this scene was by far the best in the series so far because of the clarity with which the action is described in. I never had trouble following this extended sequence, and the pacing was perfect in conveying the hard-hitting use of each pair’s abilities to try and outdo the other. This was great in terms of putting Rentaro and Enju’s powers into context in an exciting way, and I’ll be very happy in the future if the fight scenes continue to be of this quality.
While Rentaro’s attempts to recruit members for his team do an admirable job of keeping the focus early on, this volume begins to lose steam as the various tangential scenes begin to distract from the coherence of the main plot line. As the monolith’s destruction gets closer Rentaro and Enju arrive at the staging base to await orders, and at this point the book begins to meander more noticeably. The first half of the book felt like it had a driving sense of urgency because of the need to assemble a team before the monolith collapses, but this is lost in the second half of the volume. We spend a lot of time seemingly waiting for things to happen despite the dire situation, and I felt this threw off the sense of pacing. Additionally, the sequence of events - from Rentaro taking trips into the city to his lessons to the cursed children - made it unclear what was actually supposed to be going on as judgment day approached.
A few significant scenes in the first and second half of this volume are devoted to exploring the place of the cursed children in Black Bullet’s world through Rentaro’s pseudo school-lessons to them, but I felt this plot line missed the mark. Black Bullet has been quite clear about the predicament that the Cursed Children face - shunned and discriminated against by normal people because of their Gastrea infections, the Cursed Children have zero hope for the future. This is illustrated as Rentaro and Kisara begin teaching a class of Cursed Children, but the problem is that these scenes drag on for far longer than necessary to convey the simple point of their discrimination. I felt that more could have been done in these scenes to explore Rentaro’s character, and in this absence his character development remains relatively stagnant in this volume. A second series of scenes follows Rentaro as he defends a Cursed Child who has taken to begging on the streets, and this scene works a little bit better in helping make the predicament of the Cursed Children more meaningful. However, these scenes always felt like tangents distracting from the flow of the main plot, and I would have liked if they were better integrated into Rentaro’s main goal of enlisting a team.
The culmination of the Cursed Children plotline comes with a dissatisfyingly macabre thump to end off the volume. My frustration here was that it felt like the author thought there should have been more emotional impact than I actually felt, making this scene feel unsatisfying as the climax of this volume. Another issue I had with the Cursed Children storyline in general was the continuation of the persistent creepiness with which this book treats them. It seems like every prepubescent girl Rentaro comes across seems to fall in love with him, and this continues to be a very distasteful part of the series that feels wholly unnecessary. The problem as it related to this volume’s ending is that the series uses the Cursed Children both to fulfill a fanservice element while also expecting readers to take their plot line seriously when called to do so. This did not work for me at all, and as a result the final scenes of this volume felt generally ineffective on an emotional as well as a storytelling level.
Black Bullet Vol. 3 starts off on the right foot by introducing a focused premise for the story of this volume, but sadly this is lost as things proceed. The fight between Rentaro and Enju against the Katagiri siblings was an early highlight, but I was disappointed that this was all the action we got in this volume. Instead, the second half spends much more time meandering and loses the sense of urgency that made this volume work early on. Although this volume takes some pains to explore Rentaro’s relationship with the Cursed Children, I found that this serious attempt was undermined by the persistently uncomfortable sexualization which has been a running joke in this series. The next volume seems to be setting up for a massive battle which should play to this series’ strengths, but even as a set-up volume this one leaves much to be desired despite doing a number of things well.
Black Bullet Vol. 3: The Destruction of the World By Fire was translated by Nita Lieu and published by Yen Press on April 19th, 2016. Authored by Shiden Kanzaki and illustrated by Saki Ukai, the series is currently ongoing and published by ASCII Mediaworks’ Dengeki Bunko imprint. Volume 4 scheduled to be published in English on August 23rd, 2016
Date of Publication: April 19th, 2016
Translator: Nita Lieu
Author: Shiden Kanzaki
Publisher: Yen Press