Treasure Island: a floating island that is called home to a race of sentient mechs called buranki as well as a small human family led by Migiwa Kazuki, a former buranki pilot and guardian of sorts to both buranki and the humans below. When Migiwa’s children, Azuma and Kaoruko, accidentally send a horde of buranki hurdling towards Earth, Migiwa herself sends her family to the surface while she takes care of the disturbance on the island.
10 years later, Azuma returns to Japan after spending some time abroad to find himself persecuted as the son of Migiwa, who is slandered by the government as being a witch. Just as it seems that Azuma will be taken into custody for the heinous crime of living, a childhood friend breaks him free of the soldiers hassling him with the help of a large sentient glove called a bubuki, a sentient, disembodied limb of a buranki transformed into a weapon that can be used by humans.
After this valiant rescue, Azuma is brought to meet a small group of resistance fighters, each in ownership of their own bubuki. As it would turn out, each of the bubuki owned by the other resistance fighters are the limbs of Oubu, the buranki once piloted by Migiwa which was used to defeat Japan’s despot, Reoko Banryuu, and her buranki, Entei. The race is on to awaken Oubu, return to treasure island to rondezvous with Migiwa, and finally bring an end to Reoko’s reign.
A kindhearted young man with a strong sense of justice, Azuma is the current holder of Oubu’s heart and as such, is also Oubu’s pilot.
Unfortunately, Azuma falls victim to “MC-Kun” syndrome, where he has all the depth of a run-of-the-mill harem protagonist. He’s kind to everyone he meets and makes friends faster than most; replace the trope of every girl wanting to get with him with him having strong moral fiber and the picture is complete. He does have some meaningful interaction in the series across a couple characters, but even in these cases he acts mostly as a banner for the group to rally under than anything; that would be fine, but he mostly accomplishes this goal by simply playing the nice guy in varying degrees.
That’s not to say Azuma’s unlikable. He fits the bill as the heart of both the group and Oubu well enough. At the end of the day though, he lacks defining characteristics outside of being headstrong and understanding.
Kogane is a sweet young girl trying to get by in a harsh world after the murder of her father. Despite her hardship, she remains positive and lighthearted thanks to the companionship from her fellow resistance fighters and her bubuki, the right hand of Oubu, which manifests as a large glove lovingly named righty-chan (on account of it being a glove for a right hand).
Kogane’s character is somewhat straightforward for the most part, acting as the female equivalent of Azuma in attitude minus some selflessness and plus some daintiness. However, when she comes face-to-face with her father’s killer, she suddenly becomes violent and intense, giving the her some welcome variety in her character. Otherwise she’s mild-mannered and is a soft love interest for Azuma, overall decent, but not necessarily a standout outside of confrontation.
The headstrong “leader” of the bunch, Hiiragi is out to find Migiwa and bring down Ryoko. Hiiragi is in possession of Oubu’s left leg, which manifests as a stylish spear named Iwatooshi.
Much like Azuma, Hiiragi is a simple character; he mostly goes on about how his father was a broken man after Migiwa abandoned him and their team mates and how he is determined to break his father out of his slump by changing the world. He warms up a bit throughout the series, but he does little to rise above his friend-tsundere style.
A cheeky cool girl, Kinoa is confident in herself and her skills. Her bubuki manifest as a pair of swords called Himekiri and Hoemaru that comprise Oubu’s left arm.
Like Kogane, Kinoa comes to blows with a figure from her past and we learn a bit about her and why her character is the way it is through it, but otherwise she just sits on the sidelines for most of the series. If nothing else though, she acts as decent comedic relief due to her sarcastic personality .
Shizuru is a tough nut to crack, and it makes her straddle the line between a really good character and a lazily written one. Early on in the series, she mostly sits back and fits the drowsy character trope: monotone voice, low-intensity reactions, and the occasional clueless/cute quip. However, about halfway in she reveals herself to be an extremely skilled fighter with serious developmental issues. That is to say that Shizuru doesn’t even consider herself human, but rather, a stone; in fact, she is pushed forward by her goal to become a well-polished gem and actually can become catatonic if she is aggressively told she is human and not a stone. Looking back, her behavior does line up with her backstory, but the reveal came a bit fast. Maybe if they drew out her character traits as small revelations across multiple episodes as opposed to one big plot dump and its aftermath.
Oh, and her bubuki is a large sniper rifle named Tsurarai that becomes Oubu’s right leg. She can also steer her shots, and that’s pretty cool.
Psychotic demi-loli and shadow organization leader Ryoko is the pilot of Entei: the buranki Migiwa and Oubu defeated so many years ago. Due to the catastrophic damage sustained in the fight, none of Entei’s limbs survived; however, so fierce is Ryoko’s resolve that she continues to destroy even complete enemy buranki without limbs.
Ryoko is regarded as a hero for continuing to protect the surface from buranki, while Migiwa is persecuted for leaving to live on treasure island. This seems like it would be a big deal, but in the end it just serves as a device to get Azuma with his team and a bit of backstory between Ryoko and Migiwa. Otherwise, Ryoko doesn’t do much besides play the untouchable big bad until near the end of the series when more of her history is learned. They try to make her a sympathetic character right at the end, but in reality it just made me question both Ryoko and Migiwa more than just make me dislike Ryoko less.
Sharp-dresser and intellegence leader for Ryoko, Shuusaku wields a bubuki that takes the form of a pistol that can steer its own shots, though in a lesser degree than Tsurarai. Like the rest of his team, Shuusaku’s previous bubuki was destroyed by Migiwa, and as such he can no longer form Entei’s right arm due to his replacement bubuki not being strong enough to handle the strain.
As it so happens, Mr. Matobai is also Kogane’s Father’s killer. There really isn’t much to it besides that. He acts the secretive agent and the remorseless killer for almost the entire series, and is then given a glimmer of sympathetic growth at the end that really doesn’t factor into anything.
A prim and proper ojou, Zetsubi is more or less the Bathory type: she wants to be young forever and revels in the pain of those younger than her. Her current bubuki is a stopwatch which can freeze time in a small area as well as extend its hands into blades. Other than that, she used to form Entei’s left leg.
Seriously. That’s it. Like the entirety of team Entei, they try to make her more sympathetic in the end, but where others (besides Matobai) have something heartfelt or serious, Zetsubi just kind of acknowledges the willpower of team Oubu and calls it a day.
But hey, she produces some high-quality ojou-san laughs, so there’s at least some tangible value to her.
All sorts of crazy and somehow the team’s medical lead, Souya wields a bubuki in the form of multiple rings that can cast illusions and fire lasers in lieu of his previous bubuki which comprised Entei’s.
Once upon a time, Souya was romantically involved with Kinoa. Having fooled her into thinking he was an undercover government operative, he managed to get close to her due to the fact that she was being hassled as a bubuki user. The details are fuzzy after they first get together, but obviously it ended poorly.
Souya’s face turn is better than most, being the most emotionally moving outside of Ryoko’s. However, due to the fact that the series is only 12 episodes long, his change from an off-the-wall crazy personality to a genuinely caring and concerned one is far too much way too fast.
Akihito is a combat genius and former mentor to Shizuru. His current Bubuki is a fountain pen that can turn what it writes into reality (for example, by writing “nothing,” he is able to nullify an explosion), he once formed Entei’s Right leg.
It was Akihito that came to Shizuru in her catatonic state and convinced her to own her identity as a stone over being human. Having also been her mentor, he excels in high-speed combat. That’s really all there is to it; his importance is just to prop Shizuru up in the series and do pretty much nothing else, not that there’s much wrong with that.
There has been much talk as to whether or not stylized CGI will have a significant part in anime’s future, and BBK/BRNK doesn’t really do much to sway me in either direction. The visuals are beautiful, from the landscapes to the massive semi-sentient mechs that fight in them. Even outside of their respective buranki, the characters look amazing in combat due to quality choreography and visual effects on the characters themselves. With that said though, it seems as though only the fight scenes have this kind of love behind them. Character building and downtime are stifled by framerate and can be somewhat off-putting because of it, though to be fair, there are some bits that use more conventional animation to convey more emotion. The sound is quality all throughout, sporting one of the catchier OPs of the season. So with all that said, BBK/BRNK does have merit in its combat scenes, but falls behind on character building as far as visuals go. With that in mind, it’s hard to say what this means for the medium; however, I do respect its trying a unique balance as opposed to being all 2D or only being 3D during combat.
It’s a shame really, when I first started watching BBK/BRNK I thought I had found a superior answer to RWBY, but throughout the series too many things just went wrong: character development is lacking, there aren’t enough fights (though I suppose it would be hard to fit many quality fights in 12 episodes), and too many questions are left unanswered. The experience is surreal; it’s like watching a silent let’s play of a mediocre game based off an excellent film or series; you know the type, the ones where only the biggest and loudest scenes make it into the game and the devs totally misread what people likes about the source to begin with. The culprit here is obvious, and it’s the 12 episode run time. The characters look and feel like they want to be so rich, but they just don’t have time to shine. The worst part is that a second season is already confirmed, and that it’s presumably going to follow Azuma’s sister, Kaoruko, who was absent throughout the series save for two post-credit sequences. With 12 more episodes, we could see a smoother transition in Shizuru’s character. We could see Souya struggling to keep up is insane in the membrane persona due to his own concern getting the better of him. With that said… it seems like my issue is mostly that I want more. BBK/BRNK is not perfect by any means, but the fights are great, the characters interact well, and every moment is emotional, be it high or low.
As it stands, BBK/BRNK bit off more than it could chew, but it’s a fun ride if you don’t sweat the small stuff. I would say that it’s worth a watch if you’re into the character types or action portrayed in the series, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth putting at the top of your list or even watching in full more than once.
I don't know if it's socially acceptable to diagnose Shizuru with autism
For all its issues, BBK/BRNK offers a great deal in concept, interaction, and combat. Some characters are more inherently interesting than others, but roles are set well enough where everyone at least fits in their place. Above all though, it just feels fresh. For example, (mild spoiler alert) one of the major conflicts in the series is immediate survival of humans versus long term survival of humans and buranki alike. Usually, the villain is the one who takes the long-term, far-reaching approach to make a better world at the immediate cost of human lives; however, it is actually the heroes (specifically Migiwa) who take this stance. With this drama combined with the humor and action in the series, BBK/BRNK is a fairly unique experience.
If wonky pacing isn't a concern for you, I definitely recommend taking a look at BBK/BRNK.