Who says the art of gaming isn’t helpful? For gamers who prefer a bit of realism and gore, the Battle Royale-inspired ‘BTOOOM!’ is the perfect psychological action series to grit your teeth into.
The Madhouse production revolves around 22-year-old unemployed Ryōta Sakamoto who is addicted to online gaming. Sakamoto isn’t your average gamer. In fact, he is one of the world’s top players of the combat video game called ‘BTOOOM!’
One day, he wakes up stranded in the middle of a tropical island with a pouch of bombs and a computer chip embedded into his hand, not knowing how or why he got there. To his horror, he soon realises that he has suddenly become trapped in a real-life version of his favourite game, and in this game of survival of the fittest, players are required to utilize stealth and strategy to eliminate each other.
From the director who also worked on Chihayafuru and Madoka Magica, this is a distinct opposite direction for Kotono Watanabe, and boy, what a brilliant achievement coming from a female director with limited portfolio.
Although criticized for its similarity to Battle Royale, Sword Art Online and Hunger Games, Btooom! is unique in its own way. The art direction is vividly realistic, allowing the audience to immerse themselves in the game’s authentic environment. Situated on a lush tropical island with plenty of sea and greenery, Btooom!‘s island is very much real and lively, and within an alarming instant, hell breaks loose when they realise what is truly beyond the naked eye.
Everything about Btooom! perfectly captures the poisonous atmosphere of a game that has spiraled out of control. Just like Sakamoto, the audience vicariously gets thrown onto the island without much knowledge. As we progress through the story and piece the clues to find an answer, the audience realises that there is a conspiracy plot behind the game organised by none other than Btooom!’s game developers, Tyrannos Japan.
In this vulgar world of Btooom!, the rules of the game are forthrightly black and white. Not only does it make it understandable for the players in the ‘game’ but for the audience as well, and this ultimately makes the game restricted and absolutely fatal.
Combined with the show’s high-quality animation, rugged camera-work and no hesitation on its bloody content, the audience (along with the characters) become subjected to this constant foreboding sense of doom in Btooom!’s extreme setting.
On this island, we are introduced to a bunch of characters from all walks of life — the obsessive gamer (Sakamoto), the psychotic kid, the heartbroken lady who wants revenge, and many more. Each character has a story to tell, and the series has done a satisfactory job in developing the characters within the given timeframe of twelve episodes.
Accompanied by flashbacks and hazy memory inserts, we come to the conclusion that these characters have been placed on the island as a form of punishment. In the long road to survival, all facets of their human personalities are being drawn out and tested in the face of fear, life, and death in the most terrifying manner — which makes it amusing entertainment for us viewers.
Amidst all the action and drama, Sakamoto and Himiko’s relationship was definitely the most interesting highlight of the series. To have previously met in the online game of Btooom! and to be reunited in the real-life game of Btooom!, this is something that we have never seen before.
Throughout the series, we see their relationship being developed and tested in a way like no other, and it was enjoyable seeing a mutual trust being formed in such conditions. What made Btooom! rather cool was the insert of ‘moments’ from their online Btooom! experience. From the day they first met to their wedding in the game, this provided great character development for both Sakamoto and Himiko, and this additional aspect to Btooom! was what made the series special in its own way. If only the series showed more!
Speaking of online Btooom!, it is difficult not to link this series with the world’s ongoing discussion about violence connected to gaming. Just like any video game, Btooom! perfectly illustrates how gaming benefits your senses, and your tactical /problem-solving skills.
But it’s not all good news as it also shows how gaming affects your mental psychological state. To be trapped in a world like Btooom!, the game thirstly plays with your mind between the virtual and reality worlds. Players have to constantly remind themselves that they’re not part of any gaming world — everything is real, the consequences are real and their lives are at stake for real. And to think Btooom!’s game developers are the ones pulling the strings behind the actual game, you know the series is trying to imply something more in a subtle manner.
Overall: Btooom! is a thrilling anime that has done Jun’ya Inoue’s manga series justice. Although there is a sense of conclusion to this anime, the ending’s cliffhanger fuels many questions and mysteries to be uncovered. We personally believe Btooom! is under-appreciated by the public, and deserves recognition where it deserves. Hopefully, Btooom! gets a second season or spin-off series in the near future.