Tetsuro Okino and his pride-and-joy mecha are recruited to work for Namidome Industries, supposedly a "pest control" company- but he's shocked to find that the "pests" are "Giant Beasts" that, along with poisonous gases, have driven into exile the residents of a place called Ryugan Island.
Yes, OF COURSE the TITLE of this show sounds awfully close to a vulgarity in English. And since I've started in a grousing mode, I'll continue in that vein- for a while.
We also have here, once again, the Japanese tendency to gushing, verbose episode "titles" that reveal the key theme of each episode at the very start, thus spoiling things for the viewers. This is clearly wrong, since spoiling things for the viewers is MY job.
There are some critical deficiencies in the story too. Okino says he's been working on the Bullbuster mecha for 3 years, which pre-dates the Ryugan crisis. And, indeed, he's shocked (shocked, I tell you!) at the "Giant Beasts" when he first encounters them; he says that Bullbuster was originally designed for "wildlife management". But what wildlife was it designed to "manage"? Hordes of Hostile Hippos? Rampaging Rhinoceri?? Enraged Elephants??? A Brace of Belligerent Brahma Bulls???? (Well, that WOULD explain the name.) I wouldn't think there would be THAT many situations in wildlife management- much less in ordinary animal husbandry- that required a titanium armored hull, a machine gun, and a rocket launcher.
Our cast seems inexcusably dim at times too. They've been taking the Giant Beast corpses to Shiota Chemical's Biological Division for analysis- but when folks with supposed scientific expertise are unwilling to even acknowledge what you ALREADY know, then any reasonable person should smell a rat. Our Namidome crew express frustration, but seem unwilling to recognize that if someone's stonewalling you to THIS degree, they're probably hiding something. (Speaking of rats, the guy from Shiota who's handling this business, named Mitsuru Inomata, is, besides being a liar, a sexual molester as well.)
I'll also note- since others already have- that the 3DCG animation here seems rather... underfunded. (Rather appropriate to Namidome's OWN situation, too, but I'll get to that.)
And now, despite all that, I'm about to disclose that on balance I really liked this show quite a bit. It's partly due to some of the characters and their interactions, and partly due to aspects of the general scenario.
Tetsuro Okino is the definition of callow youth: he's exuberant in the promotion of his invention, and quick to speak his mind; but this also means he's often insensitive to others, frequently goes ahead and acts without inquiring first with his boss or peers, and doesn't really have a diplomatic bone in his body.
Koji Tajima is the president of Namidome and pretty much the opposite of Tetsuro in personality. Tajima is the conciliator, the one who, in classical Japanese fashion, is the designated apologizer, dealing mostly with the now-exiled Ryugan Islanders (and doing his best to advocate for them), but also having to deal with his former employer, Shiota Chemical. Tajima also thinks he's familiar with the desalinization plant Shiota built on the island, but is, perhaps, not up on the latest developments there. His aversion to taking firm stances on things becomes a critical piece of the story. (He's also going through a bitter divorce, so you really DO feel for the guy.)
Namidome Industries, we're told, was originally a construction company, and it really makes a lot of sense that the construction industry would be the most likely civilian occupation to adopt mecha. I guess this is where they got Ginnosuke Muto, a burly (but generally personable) middle-aged man who also tends to say whatever's in his head- at one point, also to the detriment of Namidome.
I'll point out here that the struggles of a small company are a pervasive theme throughout the show- a little unusual for a story focus (especially in a mecha anime), and I thought a very compelling concept here. Some of the things involved are very real issues for small businesses. I loved that part of the show.
And the "struggles of a small company" brings us to Kintaro Kataoka, Namidome's accountant. (Read, "bean counter".) A short, bald guy, Kataoka often raves hysterically about expenses, at one point even chastising Okino for using too many bullets. Opinions from Crunchy viewers about the guy split into two camps- some utterly loathed his constant whining about costs, while others felt that someone like him was necessary for a low-budget operation like Namidome. As for myself, I just found him often excessive; for example, on the bullets issue, you use as many as you NEED to. Period.
Namidome has two female members. Arumi Nikaido is one of the mecha operators. There's no obvious evidence that she's meant to be a trans character, yet she's always referred to as Nikaido-kun, the honorific usually used with a young male. I guess she's what in Grampa's day would have been called a "tomboy". She's surly and taciturn, and Okino's overbearing personality and careless mouth seriously rub her the wrong way, at first. She's one of the former islanders. You could also say that she's haunted by her lost dog. (In fact, the show seems rather reluctant to let that issue go.)
The other Namidome female employee is Office Lady Miyuki Shirogane. She's portrayed as rather hapless, but she does have a great moment, when she reveals a little about her own background.
And there's a late- and nobody is quite sure if he's really welcome- addition to Namidome, named Shuichi Namari. He's from Shiota, and Okino thinks he might be a spy for them- and the show just keeps you guessing about him. He's not very flexible, at any rate.
And also from the Shiota side, there's a young woman, a soft-spoken researcher named Nagisa Mizuhara, that I really liked. She's one of those people who really DO put principle over what's to their personal advantage.
Oh, besides the unusual working-class mecha aspect, there's also a more familiar theme here- of a corporate coverup.
Most people are familiar with the fact that the tobacco industry in the U.S. covered up their own research that showed the danger of smoking. Grampa has his own story: a couple of decades ago, I worked for a testing lab. One day, the new lab manager told us that the lab had been one of the first to identify benzene in "designer" drinking water bottles. She said the water company had treatened to sue the lab if it ever revealed that fact. This contamination WAS eventually revealed to the public- though I suspect not by the lab I was working for; I wasn't there when it happened, but I kind of inferred that they knuckled under. Powerful corporations can use legal threats to keep things from getting out, and you may see this in Bullbuster. Nowadays, through social media, these companies can also confuse things by flooding the discourse with misinformation, and you may see THAT in Bullbuster as well. (Companies sometimes go through this much trouble just for simple negligence; I was interested to see if more than that was involved here. I thought the scenario became a little too convoluted, though. By the way, at one point we're told that hydrogen sulfide should be emitted as a contaminant, but an actual analysis of the "poisonous gas" talks about sulfur dioxide. Two different things; BOTH toxic, but the hydrogen sulfide is much MORE so.)
For its vivid characters (whether you like them or not), its working-class focus, and its ecological message, I'm going with four stars on this one. I'm also borrowing the Rec from Crunchy viewers, whose collective knowledge of anime far exceeds my own.
No bulls were busted, or even seriously endangered, in the production of this review. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: There's violence, though it's only to humans once or twice. I don't think Crunchy rates this; I'd go PG-13 for violence, mature themes. Also, if you cried from Disney's Old Yeller, you might get triggered.
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Bullbuster © 2023 P.I.C.S./Kadokawa/Namidome Industry Movie Production Department
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