by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Community score: 3.5
A stealth train? Really? I can understand having the main characters of BBK/BRNK travel around in a train, and I can understand giving them a vehicle with some kind of stealth system, but the two just don't seem to blend very well. It's a lot harder to be sneaky when the bad guys can predict the path you're going to take by looking at a public transit map.
Azuma and friends rush in to help Kogane with her fight against Matobai this week, but it turns out their options are limited. As the wielders of the right hands of Oubu and Entei, Kogane and Matobai are locked in a one-on-one Bubuki duel that none of their allies can interfere with. Unable to do anything besides retreat, the team finds a train designed to carry a Buranki like Oubu back up to Treasure Island. After a flashback to the day Matobai killed Kogane's father, the fight rolls toward its conclusion as the kids use the train as a battering ram. Matobai is forced to give up the duel, but another one of Reoko's four henchmen quickly arrives to start a battle of his own.
On paper, the idea of the Bubuki duels makes sense. It's a simple and easy excuse for the series to set up fights between each member of the Oubu team and their counterpart from the Entei group. In practice, however, it comes across as overly contrived and more of a narrative device than a believable function of the Bubuki weapons. Part of the problem is that BBK/BRNK puts very little effort into explaining how the duel system works. Matobai switches on a green light, Horino spouts some exposition, and the audience is just expected to go along with it for the sake of the story. That's acceptable once in a while, but too many instances of “that's just how it works” can start to undermine a show's world-building efforts over time.
BBK/BRNK peppers the fight scene with a few stylish shots, but this duel reinforces the impression that the show is better at depicting battles between big robots than battles between people. Where Oubu and Entei were able to move with a convincing sense of weight and bulk in their opening showdown, Kogane and Matobai's movements aren't as smooth as they need to be. The visuals work around the problem as much as possible, but there are still moments where a character's motions are just awkward enough to make the scene less immersive.
On an emotional level, Kogane's desire to avenge her father by beating the stuffing out of Matobai is effective. The flashback offers a reason for her intense anger without going overboard on the melodrama, and it gives a convincing explanation for why Matobai killed her dad in the first place. While it all works in the heat of the moment, it makes Matobai into a less interesting character than I'd hoped he'd be. For all that cool guy swagger and crooked detective style, he's just a guy who can't let go of an unfinished fight. Most truly compelling villains are complex enough to convince the audience that they believe in their own causes, but Matobai just comes across as a crazy guy here.
From what I can see at the moment, that might be a recurring problem with Reoko and her henchmen. Whenever they're plotting and scheming behind the scenes, it seems like they have their reasons for playing the role of the evil shadow government. As soon as one of them picks a fight with the heroes, however, that character loses a lot of subtlety and turns into a standard-issue baddie who can't stop shouting about wanting to inflict pain and misery on the good guys. At some point, BBK/BRNK will have to settle on one approach or the other.
Each episode of this series has featured flashes of brilliance, but it continues to struggle with turning that potential into a strong finished product. Some more consistent depth on the part of both the heroes and the villains would go a long way, as would a little extra effort at selling the details of the world. BBK/BRNK isn't far off the mark, but it has too many small flaws to qualify as a must-watch series at the moment.
BBK/BRNK is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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