This season, I’m going to have two shows about gamers to write about. Truly, we live in a beautiful world. In all seriousness though, I don’t think BTOOOM! and Sword Art Online can really be compared too extensively. The latter is really about the efficacy of simulacra in virtual worlds, even it’s doing a really goddamn poor job of it. On the other hand, the former has it the other way around: the real world is made to resemble a virtual world. It’s probably just a sick experiment on some tropical island (I’ve learned from anime that Japan is full of empty islands for all sorts of weird shit). Like a Scared Straight! for Japanese gamers, I guess. Also, BTOOOM! just feels like good ol’ pulpy fun. Well, I guess it’s a little too premature to tell whether or not the show will be fun, but if the first episode is any indication, there’s going to be a lot of violence and sex.
But let’s talk about that violence for a minute. It’s interesting how a reversal of a premise can affect how violence is portrayed. In general, I would say that SAO lacks any sort of effective violence. Sure, who really wants to see gratuitous blood and guts, right? But then again, there wasn’t exactly anything gratuitous in this first episode of BTOOOM! besides the tits
and ass. If anything, what the first episode has shown us is that BTOOOM! can at least convey the consequences of death. Of course, it has to. After all, this is the real fucking deal. Well, aren’t the consequences the same? Don’t people die in both stories regardless of how the premises are different? If SAO is really about how a virtual world can come close to the real thing, why does it fall so woefully short in convincing us that death can be tragic?
It’s hard to say I loved the scene, but I do appreciate how Ryuta, our protagonist, reacts to his first killing. He throws up because — guess what! — most people aren’t actually cut out to be killers. Oh, you’re ranked tenth in the entire world? Sorry, you still don’t know squat about what it means to see a dead person, much less kill them. And because it’s the real world, Ryuta’s first victim doesn’t just phase away or disappear into a shower of digital noise. We actually see the guy’s body in pieces. In SAO, we’ve been told that thousands of people have already died, but you don’t really feel it. It’s not like I want to see three thousand hacked up corpses, but the show’s atmosphere is still very happy-go-lucky. You can hardly even tell that the players are trapped the way they go about their lives, happily cooking rabbit ragout.
To be fair, the two shows do seem to have wildly divergent messages despite us having only seen a single episode of BTOOOM!. Even though people are trapped in SAO, you can’t deny that the story is very much a love letter to MMOs. Gee, look at how fair this game is, look at how romantic dates in an MMO can be, etcetera, etcetera. On the other hand, BTOOOM! tells us that actually being in a game can totally suck. Here’s a small bag of supply. Now go have fun! There’s no romanticizing about the beauty of the world or the combat system, something we immediately saw in SAO‘s first episode. If you hesitate too long, your guts will be plastered across the sand. I just hope this isn’t the entire message buried beneath a ton of blown up body parts and boobs. So a video game with consequences will suck? And to think, I thought it would be fun if there was a real life platformer with bottomless pits to traverse.
Still, it’s not a matter of who’s wrong or who’s right. Yes, I like to bash SAO, but I don’t hate it because it likes to fellate MMOs. Hell, I play MMOs, so the show would actually be preaching to the choir… if it was any good. I bash SAO because its execution is piss poor, and I will bash BTOOOM! too if it fails in this regard. I just think the initial contrast between the two shows is interesting, especially now that they will be airing relatively side-by-side.
• The gamers in-game (what a strange thing to write out) look like Master Chief ripoffs. That’s not a good start. You could almost always count on anime to add too much flair to its character designs, but they didn’t even bother to try here.
• So that’s what Light has been doing with his damn time:
Hey, remember the last time you thought you couldn’t lose?
• This show is already more accurate! Look at all the fat gamers. Seriously though, why would a deathmatch game have virtual marriages? I’m going to facepalm so hard if it turns out his virtual wife just coincidentally happens to be the heroine we meet later in the anime.
• The “We’re standing before a sunset and I’ll shyly reach out with one hand to grab yours” thing really needs to die hard:
• Uh, the ranked players on the leaderboard are all tennis stars? Man, I can’t believe Agassi retired for this shitty game! Also, even in a video game, Agassi beats Roddick.
• Hmm, more butterflies. This time, they accompany Ryuta’s first foray into this bizarre game.
• Why did Ryuta’s captors leave him with his cell phone if it wasn’t going to work anyway?
• This is probably why I’m the only person updating this blog:
Me: “Gee, look at that green tea dripping down his chin.”
Nyoron: “Like cum.”
• MA, I DON’T WANT TO WORK AT A GROCERY STORE! I’M GOING TO BE LIKE MY HERO FATAL-ONE-TY!
• What a strange game. Just bombs? C’mon, no action game has ever succeeded without sniper rifles. “BTOOOM, headshot!” doesn’t even have a nice ring to it. Unless I can camp all day and snipe newbs, this game sucks!
• I don’t get why Ryuta’s opponent would talk out loud. You could call it overconfidence, I guess, but it’s also really dumb and does nothing for the narrative.
• If you have to kill others and take their weapons in order to survive, might we see some parallels with Day-Z, a zombie survival game with pretty much the same premise? Can’t wait to see the protagonist sit down to a nice can of natto.
• Wow, the episode is over already. Maybe it’s just me, but did the episode just fly by for anyone else?
• Oh, there’s some epilogue stuff. But why after the credits?
• From the job interviewer to his mom, a lot of people in the show have that glazed-over look in their eyes. Something to keep in mind.
• Ryuta’s mom looks as though she has given up hope on her son. Man, it’s going to be killer if the premise of the show is that moms across Japan are tired of their deadbeat sons playing games all day and being umemployed, so they ship their sons off to some Battle Royale-esque island. Whoever wins gets a goddamn job.
• I chuckled when his mom barged into his room and he told her to get out:
• Hm, the previews for the next episode appear to show scenes of what is hopefully just attempted rape. Are we really going to go there twice in a season, anime? Are we?