Black★★Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall – how did I even manage to finish this?

(Yes I had to copy paste the title because of the stars)

Warning: this is a post where I just write whatever comes to mind, so it will be quite disorganized.

Trigger warning: Dawn Fall contains scenes of sexualized lolis, which viewers who are sensitive to pedophilia and child grooming may find very uncomfortable. If you feel uncomfortable by such content, please avoid watching this series. Just a heads-up, I will mention those topics briefly in the review as well.

Background:

Black Rock Shooter is a franchise that sprang from a single illustration by original character design huke-sensei, which inspired ryo from supercell to write a song that sparked the franchise’s popularity.

I’ve been a fan of BRS since I was in middle school (which was at least ten years ago) and I was really surprised they decided to make another anime, considering the lukewarm reception of the previous anime adaptations. After two episodes, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to enjoy Dawn Fall.

BRS does not really have a specific back story. In the anime series and OVA, she’s some kind of ‘alternate persona’ to Kuroi Mato, a cheerful middle school girl who got into some troubles making friends, and the alternate world mirror her situations but with the girls literally fighting each other instead. On the other hand, the manga Innocent Soul had BRS as some kind of guardian of the Hazama, which is a realm between the world of the living and the dead. There’s also BRS Arcana and BRS The Game which I haven’t really looked into, but I’m guessing they’re in the fantasy/cyberpunk realm. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I was anticipating to see whether Dawn Fall will go the slice of life route or go the cyberpunk route. It went the cyberpunk route.

Watching this after my Ghost in the Shell marathon was a very bad choice.

Good points:

If you like girls with oversized weapons, then you might like this anime. The action scenes were cool to look at. It’s one of those anime where you just turn your brain off and watch pretty girls brandish their huge weapons. Sometimes it looks like watching a video game cutscene.

The CGI of the 8-episode series that came out in 2012 was superb and super cool for that time when CGI animes weren’t really a thing. Dawn Fall kept that going. I like how the CGI looks natural when blended with traditional 2D, and not rigid like how many CGI animes tend to be *cough EX-ARMS*.

BRS’s motorbike had always been her signature since the MV came out waaaaay back, but not many media used it until Dawn Fall. Black Trike reminded me of Tachikoma, the spider tanks from Ghost in the Shell, so I kinda have a soft spot for that bike already. I’m happy they included the bike character in this anime.

I watched the series in June, which was Pride Month, so seeing Isana’s and Monica’s relationship was pretty nice. I like how it didn’t feel like they were forcing the relationship onto the characters, but on the other hand, I felt like it was just included just for the sake of being there and was never mentioned again, making it just a random thing inserted just because they had screen time they needed to fill.

Charlotte’s relationship with her father was the one thing I got emotional about in this anime, but that was only in the last episode.

I like Black Rock Shooter AKA Empress’s design in this version, although she looks sleepy all the time lol. I also like the other’s character designs (except Dead Master, her stockings are kinda meh), although I felt like some were copied from some video games that I’m trying to remember which. KanColle, maybe? Schoolmaster Smiley looked like a terrifying version of Ken (Barbie’s boyfriend) and his powered form looked like Venom (from that movie with Tom Hardy). On one hand, Smiley looked very creepy, but on the other, I just couldn’t take him seriously.

The voice actors did a very good job of trying to give some color to otherwise very bland characters.

Seeing the Dawn Fall original characters become some kind of 2nd gen BRS was interesting, although they barely had a role and the reason for including them was questionable.

Meh points:

My issue with Dawn Fall was that it was no different from a gazillion other ‘monster overrun the earth’ stories out there. With other ‘monster overrun the earth’ anime, there were some variations that made the story interesting. Darling in the FranXX had all that puberty stuff. Sidonia had Nagate’s weird harem. Kabaneri had political conflicts between the surviving humans. takt Op. Destiny had Takt’s desire to play music again. What did Dawn Fall have? I don’t know. Girls on motorbikes? A robot obsessed with making children?

For this reason, I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to subscribe to Disney+ for non-BRS fans, and even as a BRS fan, I don’t find it interesting. It’s just a generic title with BRS’s name on it to sell the content.

My second biggest issue was the sexual content. I haven’t had any past traumas in life (only a minor one), but holy sheet, those scenes with Schoolmaster Smiley were so damn difficult to sit through. It’s not Goblin Slayer level, but I could feel that they friggin’ sexualized the lolis in those scenes, and it was really uncomfortable. So I just fast-forward through all those scenes. I hope I didn’t miss any important world-building dialogue, but even if I did, I don’t care.

Strength from the 8-episode anime was an interesting character. She was the only one who had a persona switch, meaning that among the alternate personas like BRS or Death Master, she was the only one that did not want to fight, making her an interesting character. In Dawn Fall, she’s the tsundere character, and her ‘weak’ alternate persona didn’t really do anything to her character development. I wished they could utilize more of that, because at the current, Strength is so bland. And let’s not get started about the mess that Dead Master became in this anime. I’m pretty sure Hayami Saori is her seiyuu, and that didn’t manage to salvage Dead Master.

I was waiting for Chariot to make an appearance, because she was just pure evil, and in Dawn Fall, I guess she became ‘Charlotte’, the jetpack girl. I don’t hate Charlotte, but the scenes she was in with Smiley were really uncomfortable to watch.

A lot of time was dedicated to ‘developing’ Empress. She did change a bit, but she didn’t really ‘grow’ from the process. I don’t know. She just doesn’t have a personality aside from ‘I will save mankind’ and ‘I love my friends’, so there’s not a lot of room to do things with her. Her seiyuu, Ishikawa Yui, also voiced Violet Evergarden, which is a character I love who shows clear character growth and development throughout her show. Ishikawa-san can pack a lot of punch, even in seemingly unemotional characters, but Empress didn’t make full use of her potential. She just sounded generic. I blame it on the script.

One thing I felt should’ve been done better is the flow of the plot. Dawn Fall had a video game structure, where you have your ‘main quest’ ie. destroy the Orbital Elevator, then you have the ‘sub quests’ where you get your gears upgraded and character developments happen. Those of you who play a lot of open-world games will know that it’s actually the sub quests that’s a big part of your enjoyment. Unfortunately, Dawn Fall’s ‘sub quests’ were, to put if frankly, boring. They’re the plot that you see pretty much everywhere, and most of them did not matter in the long run. Why did they even bother including those stuff, then?

The only remotely interesting episodes were the last two, minus the exposition dump that doesn’t make any sense. Also, the song Black Rock Shooter was only included in the last episode. I’ve been waiting 12 episodes for this. I thought we’d have a remix or a version by Ishikawa Yui, but nope, it’s just the normal version by Miku. I’m glad it’s at least there, though. Nostalgia.

Overall

Overall, Dawn Fall was a generic anime with Black Rock Shooter slapped onto it to sell. The characters are not that interesting, and the plot is generic. Action scenes were pretty cool, although many fights were cut in the middle or skipped. The last battle for the elevator was good, though.

Dawn Fall is not that bad of an anime, it’s ok for enjoyment, but I’m harsh on this anime because I’ve seen many similar anime execute the same concepts better.

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