(All episodes watched):
The quick revelation that this show would have something to do with shoot-em-up video games made me sit up and take interest. Lines like 'Head Shot!' or 'Dominating!' were interesting. The episode as a whole was sort of confusing, however. Was it that argument between Shun and his sister Mio that resulted in her being bedridden? And him feeling guilty about playing the game he used to love so much? As I understand it, Shun, Nozomi and Akito (who has always wanted to be an e-sports star) are three of the five, and they've never actually met the other two face to face. They run into one of these mysterious friends, 'Explosion-kun', inside the game when Shun is talked into doing a little playing once again, and this person has an intriguing secret. For some reason I'm reminded of Shichisei no Subaru, perhaps because of the general theme of old friends reunited in a video game. In some ways the events were kind of predictable, but they seem like fun and I'm on board for now.
The team needs two more members, and goes about recruiting in episode two. After being initially disappointed by the caliber of available candidates, they find 'Fallen Angel Cat Princess', a not at all handsome but highly skilled gamer. I had thought that they'd just try to track down their two old comrades, and in a curious manner they find one of them. 'Explosion-kun' has been busy over the past few years. Shun's situation is clarified--the reason he had to give up gaming was because his father was killed and his sister injured in an auto accident (not his fault, as I had thought earlier), and the family needed him to take on a job. I enjoyed episode two and this show seems to be remaining fun.
In episode three Yu/Explosion-kun is integrated into the team. She would have every excuse to spurn them, considering the embarassing episode when the others first learned that she is in fact a famous actress. The process is marked by guffaws and humorous incidents (I liked Cat Princess' autograph request). Better grade stuff than most humor anime have. There are still some secrets being kept, like Shun still doesn't know that Yu and Explosion-kun are one and the same. Exactly how much Yu has realized about the link between these people and her old fellow gamers was unclear.
In episode four the Xaxxerion competition gets underway. The team pulls off a remarkable upset, though I wish exactly how and why they were able to do it was made more clear. At one point I had guessed that when the team had fallen badly behind, Yu would ask to be allowed to work more closely with Shun and the results would be dramatically better, perhaps leading him to wonder about the similarity between her technique and his old comrade Explosion-kun. That didn't exactly happen, but the episode was fun nevertheless. This is definitely a show that I look forward to watching.
It must be hard to dramatize a video game--to make what happens as the emotionless avatars move about and take shots and get killed truly exciting. As in real life, things sometimes happen too fast to keep track of who's who and what's going on. It must be how the characters react that carries this message or that one. Anyway, in episode six we get a better idea of why Shun feels guilty about what happened to his sister. The team suffers a setback and must re-examine their goals. And the shadow romance between Shun and Yu progresses. A romantic triangle forms that includes them and Shun's childhood friend and longtime gaming partner, Nozo.
As the prize money starts to flow, Shun entertains thoughts of using his share to pay for Mio's treatment. He is offered a position on the Sleeping Owl team and must decide if he should go the route most likely to deliver money or the one which maintains his friendship and loyalty to the other Fox One players. I was certain at one point that Nozo would casually sign on the Shun's platform and discover that he had been asking Explosion-kun for advice about this, but that didn't happen. In episode eight the team goes into a slump and gets an unexpected but expert diagnosis of just what they are doing wrong. This made a good deal of sense and I enjoyed it. This show has managed to remain engaging and fun through the interesting plot (with multiple threads) and character dynamics.
In episode nine just why Mio doesn't want to undergo the therapy which might enable her to walk again is made clear. It makes a good deal of sense; people often hold firm beliefs even though they have never put them into words and don't know exactly why they hold them. In episode ten the conflicts that three different characters are struggling with are made clear. I thought this was clever and effective storytelling that you don't see often. For instance, the remark one character makes that she had called Shun to get advice for her own problem only to learn that he has one of his own. In episode 11 Shun offers Mio a choice between bad and worse regarding whether she will agree to undergo therapy. The tension was definitely building and I was highly engaged.
Things reach a climax in the final episode as the Fox One team has a do-or-die match against their old rival, Sleeping Owl. Though not perfect, it was pretty exciting. I didn't like the way Fox One again falls behind by 5 to 0 yet somehow manages a comeback to win the necessary seven games. That was hard to take seriously. Mio experiences a miracle--or maybe she just shakes off something that was all in her head to begin with—and Yu takes a drastic step, though it wasn't exactly clear to me why. The critical moment is animated in a different manner than the usual game graphics, to show how Shun has ascended to a new level of playing this game--something about 'seeing the future', which again didn't make complete sense but was good enough. We never learn how the seeming romantic triangle will be resolved, and Shun never learns that Explosion-kun and Yu are the same person, but that wasn't really necessary. Things work out well enough. BnAP turned out to be one of my favorites shows of the Fall 2023 season. It was about the characters, not the game.
Last updated Wednesday, January 31 2024. Created Friday, October 13 2023.