Keywords: , , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - Madhouse
R1 License - Sentai Filmworks (ADV)
Sakamoto Ryota is an unemployed 22 year old who lives with his mother. In the real world, there may be nothing special about him, but online, he's one of the world's top players of the combat game called Btooom. One day, he awakes on what appears to be a tropical island, though he has no memory of how he got there or why. While exploring the island, Ryota runs into a mysterious being who attacks him by throwing a bomb at him. Ryota then realizes that both his life is in danger, and that he has somehow become trapped in a real-life version of his favorite game. Ryota must now survive through the nightmare to figure out the reason why he ended up in the game in the first place.
(Summary Courtesy of Anime News Network)

Premiered on October 4, 2012.
Animated by Madhouse
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Rent 9 7 8 6 7 8 Ggultra2764 [series:2620#1552]
Btooom is a survival/ suspense style anime focused on male lead Ryota struggling to survive on an island where he and others are forced into a survival game based off an online video game that he is one of the top global players on. The series mixes focus between exploring how Ryota and several others wind up on the island and the players finding themselves trying to survive against one another using their wits and the various bombs they have in their possession to kill off one another. In its focus on the main leads and some of the other players, Btooom does very well in focusing on the issues faced by them as the series explores the circumstances and personal flaws that led each character on the island and how the survival game affects their psyche, with Ryota, Himiko and Taira's stories getting the best development among the bunch. The dynamics of the survival game are also engaging to see as each of the bombs fulfill specific functions that are reliable depending on the player's present scenario and each player exploits the battle environment, manipulation, their personal experiences and some luck with the real life/ online game to take advantage of any opportunity they can get to cripple or kill off their foe(s), making for genuinely suspenseful moments when Himiko and Ryota deal with rival players. The series also delves into the moral ramifications of the game as Ryota and some other characters deal with the circumstances of their life-and-death game in differing ways with mentalities varying between every person for themselves, breaking down from the lack of contact with trustworthy folk and trying to hold onto whatever morality possible.

Praises aside though, Btooom does have its fair share of issues that keep me from wanting to rate it higher. Some characters on the island don't get much in the way of depth and background, existing either to serve as obstacles in Ryota and Himiko's struggle for survival or to relish in some form of depravity, with one over-the-top case being a 14-year old murderer/ necrophiliac. Also, the means in which the survival game gets pulled off does stretch believability quite a bit with the means the video game company behind the Btooom video game pull off and get away with their acts. The series is also left open-ended as Ryota and Himiko are still on the island and several elements to the series that are hinted to are left unresolved.

Visually, Btooom's presentation is a bit on the plain side. Scenery shots of the island and city landscapes coming from flashbacks are nicely drawn with vivid, restrained color and plenty of detail. There is a good amount of diversity in the designs employed for characters to give the series a realistic feel, though they lack the heavy level of detail given to scenery. The animation to the series is okay, though mostly highlighted with any explosions and collateral damage that result from bombs going off and lacking the fluid and smooth frame rate that TV anime like Psycho-Pass and Fate/Zero 2 had from 2012.

While having its fair share of issues, Btooom is still a solid entry in the suspense anime genre in its focus on Ryota and Himiko's survival in a real-life version of the online game that they were a regular part of with its original premise and focus on the mental toll that the game pushes on some of the major characters.

Last updated Sunday, December 01 2013. Created Sunday, December 01 2013.
Rent Stretch [series:2620#628]
(All episodes watched):

Another video game-themed show, eh? Those were my first impressions while watching Btooom. A sizeable cast of characters were paraded through the OP sequence. Will they have any 'soul', or just be super cool yet dead inside? Too many shows go that way. But Sakamoto is fleshed out in a satisfactory manner. He's 22, unemployed, argues with his mother, is 'virtually married', etc. Another important test which he passes is that he reacts to the bizarre stuff which happens to him in a fairly realistic and believable manner. The premise is interesting and I trust that what has happened to Sakamoto will make sense sooner or later. The animation is pretty good, especially the scene of debris from an explosion landing in water. And the episode ends in a titilating manner, literally. So, so far, so good. I'll be watching this.

Episode two, in its entirety, explains how the girl Sakamoto ran into at the end of episode one wound up on the island. That gives her as much background as he has, and suggests that she might be a co-protagonist. She will clearly not be inclined to trust him. Instead of developing their relationship, as I had expected, episode three finds Ryota encountering yet another person, who explains how this all got started. While watching the thought occured to me that in some ways Btooom is a lot like Sword Art Online--Real world people have been forced to take part in fighting which might really kill them and which is based on a video game. Differences are that here the enemy is your fellow players in a kill-or-be-killed situation and the action takes place on a deserted island rather than in virtual reality. It seems that the only person who will turn out to be trustworthy will be Sakamoto and what's-her-name. I hope I'm wrong about that, because that would make events more predictable and unsurprising; it would be a matter of wondering how each particular character will go bad, not whether that will happen.

I thought the insanely evil character who was introduced in episode four was almost too bad to take seriously. Sometimes characters like this just sicken me, and I was tempted to turn the TV off. Also, it was really hard to believe that the convenient temporary amnesia which Sakamoto experienced was plausible. Likewise, an incredible coincidence occurs in episode seven; but it felt like a cheap shortcut being taken to jumpstart trust between Sakamoto and Mikoto (the girl's new name). I wish the trouble had been taken to refine the course of events in this show in order to make them a little more plausible. The fight that climaxed this episode, and in particular the tricks that were used to make it work out the way it did, almost made sense, but not quite. If this show had been written in a really skillful manner, I'd be asking myself questions like 'what would I do in their place'? But somehow that doesn't happen, perhaps because the cynical mish-mash of different sorts of nasty people is hard to take seriously--sort of like Gantz. Maybe the problem is that the characters are spending so much time fighting instead of talking that their personalities don't develop much; most opponents don't last long enough to say much. And nobody ever wonders how such an elaborate scheme as this is kept secret, or what exactly it's purpose is.

But that doesn't mean that the show isn't entertaining; I just don't expect any great truths about human nature to be revealed, no, this will be a drama about two or three interesting characters fighting for their lives against the bad guys, without taking the time or trouble to think much about the experience. The struggle to stay alive in this kill-or-be-killed situation holds my attention fairly well, but it's unclear if anything else will ever happen. A plot to escape from the island has been hatched, but the details are lacking and surely plenty of precautions would have already been taken to prevent such a simple thing from working. I was surprised to learn that this will apparently be just a twelve episode series. That left just one episode to wrap up all sorts of plot threads, like the insane teenager, Sakamoto's former high school friend, the plan to hijack a helicopter and escape from the island, the evil millionaire who devised the game, and so forth. I can only guess that this series is based on an incomplete manga, so there isn't any more material for additional episodes as of yet. Maybe a second season will come along someday (if the ratings were good), or maybe this will be all there is, anime-wise. Season one kind of fizzles out with the sad fate of a not so evil person who had lost his/her mind. While the action in Btooom is fairly exciting, a moral to the story seems to be lacking, unless it is 'don't trust anybody'. I would watch the remainder of the story if it ever comes about as an anime, but I wouldn't be heartbroken if it never does.

Last updated Saturday, January 19 2013. Created Sunday, October 07 2012.

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