BTOOOM! Ep. 4: Sympathy for Mr. Psychopath

The episode opens by introducing us to Kira, yet another twisted character with a history tainted by murder and — you guessed it! — rape. So far, nearly every major player in the story seems to have some grimdark baggage, but to be quite honest, the result of this is that the whole is much less than the sum of its parts. Whoever wrote this story seems to think that if he or she keeps piling deranged characters into the narrative, it’ll never get boring. Unfortunately, the result is actually quite the opposite.

Whenever the audience meets a new character, they can almost be assured that there’s something messed up about the new character’s past. This is even true of the good guys. Ryuta has a serious video game addiction, and Himiko is linked to an incident involving gang rape (yes, I know she isn’t really responsible for what happened to her friends). Only Taira seems to have escaped the author’s desire to bludgeon us with people who need psychiatric help, but hey, it’s still early. Taira might too turn out to be a freak.

More importantly, however, the characters are predictable as a result of their grimdark pasts. There’s no wiggle room when you’re dealing with a murderer-slash-rapist. As a result, the potentially intriguing nature of the game goes flying out the window. Y’know how the saying goes: “Society is just nine meals away from anarchy.” Whether you agree with it or not, there’s a cynical thesis out there that any one of us will quickly abandon our morals when survival becomes of the utmost importance. With BTOOOM!‘s premise, you thus don’t really have to try that hard in order to get the players to organically descend into some variant of a Lord of the Flies situation.

Unfortunately, the anime does try too hard. With almost every character introduction, it seems as if the show constantly wants to be edgy and shocking. Meet our fat rapist! Oh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Here’s a 14 year old murderer who just happens to be a necrophiliac too! I mean, c’mon, if you’re just going to stick a bunch of whackos on an island, no shit they’re going to kill each other. It’s just too predictable. Where’s the suspense? Where’s the tension? On the other hand, what if the story had opted to focus on “normal” people instead?

It then becomes a bit of a mystery, doesn’t it? The audience has to wonder, “Who’ll be the first to suffer a breakdown? Who will be the first to shed blood in order to survive and escape the island? Who makes a move to consolidate ‘political’ power?” It’s almost akin to The Thing: you just never know if and when the person next to you will turn on you. Unfortunately, Ryuta knows who to trust and who not to trust. A 14 year old serial killer-slash-rapist? Yeah, probably not him. Instead, I think I’m going to side with the curvy, blonde schoolgirl with tits till Sunday, if you don’t mind me.

Notes:

• We see a young Kira murdering frogs. Did you know that according to the Macdonald triad, there are three common characteristics to which most serial killers share? Those three characteristics are apparently cruelty to animals, pyromania, and bed-wetting. The last one has always struck me as odd. Anyway, I wouldn’t take the Macdonald triad too seriously; it’s just not that simple.

• How can the lawyer lecture Kira on the wrongness of abusing animals, but then turn a blind eye to the father’s abuse?

• At first glance, Kira’s bombs seem to create a vacuum powerful enough to make surrounding objects disappear:

It would actually be kind of clever on the anime’s part if the bomb is meant to reflect the character’s lack of empathy for living things. This wouldn’t be too farfetched. The fat rapist from the second episode had bombs that would release toxic gas. I’ll let you connect the dots.

• Snickers have twice now made a cameo in an anime series.

• Okaaaay… apparently, it isn’t enough for us to see the abusive father grab the kid’s balls and squeeze them painfully. Madhouse felt we needed a a close-up. When I asked for insanity, I swear I didn’t have ball-squeezing domestic abuse in mind.

• Here’s another troubling trend regarding fiction and serial killers: trying to curry sympathy for the psychopath. The episode starts off by telling us that Kira had killed and raped three women. Just a quick blurb. For once, BTOOOM! isn’t very gratuitous about the rape. Over the next ten or so minutes, however, it is a pity party for our deranged psychopath. Y’see, he’s only this way because of his dad! Yeah, sure, I’m perfectly capable of understanding the basic concept of cause-and-effect, but why are we constantly trying to sympathize with our serial killers? Why do we love them so?

SYMBOLISM.

• Your opponent constantly has to use his or her sonar in order to detect your location. You can also tell when your opponent uses his or her sonar. As such, why not run in a different direction and hide immediately after your opponent uses his or her sonar? I mean, there’s a dense jungle all around Ryuta, and it’s not as though Kira’s checking his sonar constantly. It seems to me that Ryuta would have plenty of opportunities to hide.

• Radar cancelling? Wow, what sort of magical video game is this?

• Ryuta going into — I don’t know what else to call it it — fantasy mode feels kind of cheap to me. This was the original conundrum: either Ryuta sticks to his morals and makes a difficult escape from a deranged killer hot on his trail, or he gives in to the game’s savage nature and kills Kira. Unfortunately, the story chickens out: Ryuta conveniently hits his head on a rock and, as a result, he mistakes his duel with Kira as simply another BTOOOM! match. Now that he’s fully engaged, Ryuta easily beats Kira, but upon doing so, he magically returns to his senses. Seriously, what a coincidence! Basically, our protagonist gets to win and still feel as though he didn’t have to compromise his values.

• And if you thought that was a cop-out, Kira doesn’t even die.

30 thoughts on “BTOOOM! Ep. 4: Sympathy for Mr. Psychopath

  1. appropriant

    Piling on crazy shit over more crazy shit, huh? Sounds like Mirai Nikki all over again.

    Jeez, there’s a bunch of shows this season that involve/mention rape one way or another. Or, at least, a bunch that I happen to pay attention to.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Why is rape such a popular tragedy to invoke? It’s simple really: “What’s the worst thing that can happen to women? Wait, wait! — what’s the worst thing that could happen to my woman? Ah ha~”

      Reply
      1. appropriant

        Seems like the most polarizing, pathos-pandering method of gaining sympathy. Like a morality litmus test except your mind is rewarded with naked chicks in submission either way. Why would one hold the middle ground when rape is involved?

        However, seeing it so much within the past few weeks only cheapens this sentiment for me.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Polarizing though? Who’s even on the other side of the fence? Oh, hi there Mourdock. Sup Akin? Nice to meet you, Rivard.

          Reply
      1. E Minor Post author

        Seems to me rape has always been popular. And when you complain about it, people come out of the woodwork to scream “Are you never allowed to use rape in stories?!” while bald-facedly ignoring the fact that rape seems to be everywhere.

        Reply
        1. appropriant

          Fair point. Though, I do imagine NTR to lean more towards cheating than forced, since one requires a woman already in a relationship while the other doesn’t necessarily need it.

          I feel dirty talking about this.

          Reply
        2. appropriant

          I wasn’t being clear. Didn’t mean to imply that NTR had no aspect of forced.

          Rape doesn’t require cheating. Cheating doesn’t require being forced. So, NTR applies aspects of both. So it’s more “one hand here, one hand there”. That’s all I’m really taking issue with.

          Reply
          1. E Minor Post author

            And all I’m trying to say is that — in practice — they usually go hand-in-hand, so the definitional distinction is just splitting hairs. I certainly think it’s more important anyway to emphasize how these “fantasy” stories often involve the idea that if you can force someone into enjoying something, it somehow makes the deed less heinous.

            Reply
        3. Stef

          […] these “fantasy” stories often involve the idea that if you can force someone into enjoying something, it somehow makes the deed less heinous.

          I was essentially referencing this. NTR may not always have a rape component, but there’s always a form of humiliation or another. And since part of the pleasure for the reader in NTR derives from that humiliation, I was (semi-seriously) wondering if the several cases of rape this season were exploiting the same mechanic.

          Reply
  2. Ian Caronia

    *New “Abusive Dad” with Kung-Fu Grip!!*
    …Sorry, I had to. Haha. That part was just done so ridiculous and over the top to me.
    Anyway, as for the character of Kira himself:
    Good to see the writers are just as brain-dead to BASIC rules of literature and the psychology of the reader/viewer as always. This character is incredibly lazily conceived all around (my point is punctuated by the oh-so “clever” name of “Kira”, which wasn’t clever in Death Note and sure as hell isn’t clever here, either), and I can tell you exactly why he’s 14, not that I doubt you already know. It’s because they wanted to further create the illusion of self-conflict within the viewers, just like how you pointed out his boo-hoo backstory and reached the same conclusion.
    They believe they can manipulate us into saying, “Argh! What a despicable bastard! Oh, but he’s only a kid… And he was beaten by his dad… What-What should I do?! Should I feel hatred, or pity? DOES NOT COMPUTE! DOES NOT COMPUTE!”
    -However, when you attribute the two most heinous forms of crime a single person can commit against another person to ANY character, be they a young teen or adult, you’ve lost the “sympathy” card. Yes, stories have been told depicting a character who has committed ONE of these crimes and has garnered sympathy from the audience, but rarely BOTH (the classic film “M” with Peter Lorre being the only story that comes to mind). Yet, whether their characters committed only one or both crimes, even then the writers often make it so that their criminals committed those acts unwittingly (“Of Mice and Men”), that they are desperately fighting a compulsion (“Mr. Brooks”, “M”, many romanticized vampire stories), or they are channeling their cruelty towards something “better” (“Dexter”, other serial killer/torturer vigilante stories). They do this because getting people to care about a killer who is JUST a killer is pointless and damn near impossible. It takes more work than just slapping a “My daddy hit my balls” sob story on it. Child abuse is horrible, but almost no one gives a shit if it happened to a serial killer. The fact that they thought they could pull it off by cranking down the character’s age and giving him an abuse backstory is laughable and insulting. Worse yet, they sabotaged themselves by making him a character that raped and killed THREE TIMES. Give me a fucking break and get back to English 101, you hacks.

    …Sorry for the rant, mate. This just flicked the part of me that worked his ass off to write better stories than this garbage and gets irritated at the thought these people got paid to write a character like this, let alone a story like this.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      This just flicked the part of me that worked his ass off to write better stories than this garbage and gets irritated at the thought these people got paid to write a character like this, let alone a story like this.

      Have you considered changing your stories’ characters to young teenage girls in high school? What about accompanying your stories with pretty pictures within frames… say, four per page?

      Reply
      1. Ian Caronia

        Hahaha~ Brilliant!
        And to keep the male audience captivated I’ll have totally disconnected scenes with the girls in a hot spring talking about how smooth each other’s skins are as they grope each other.
        It’s actually painful how many shows and RPGs have a scene like this… Ugh.

        Still, despite my rage, I knew what I was getting into when I started writing. The cross born by authors who want to put quality over popularity is obscurity (and often poverty). haha
        -Thanks for being a good sport about my supermassive post, mate!

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          There’s a middle ground though. Harry Potter’s not exactly Ulysses, but it’s not BDSM fanfiction either. Not saying you can strike gold like Rowling, but it’s not exactly a pauper’s life just because you don’t want to write trashy fiction.

          Reply
  3. Ax_v

    I have a feeling that they will probably never use the “Radar cancelling” until the climax, or what’s suppose to be the climax, of the show.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I’m not sure about that. All the show really has going for it are bombs and the sonar. Maybe they’ll milk this gimmick for all its worth.

      Reply
  4. mochirochi

    I agree with you, but I don’t know if that sympathy let people want Kira to live. I felt bad for him for the abuse he got, but he still deserve to die a horrible death.

    I laughed when Sakamoto triggered his BTOOOM powers when he hit his head. It would have been better if he struggled with what to do, but I think at that point I was just happy to see him attack and almost kill Kira.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Not saying it’d make people want Kira to live… I just think it’s silly to spend a minute on his crimes, then go on and on about how his dad is super abusive.

      Reply
  5. yalanjini

    Reminds me a little of the manga Deadman’s Wonderland. Tragic pasts ain’t nothing new to Shounen series. But that show took the cake for trying to lather on as much tragedy as possible within 100 chapters.
    1. Cop who watched his friends brutally murdered and sent to jail for a revenge attack
    2. Girl who saw her mother died and went on to become a lying deliquent for Mummy Issues.
    3. Homosexual man who got bullied at work and came home to find out that his boyfriend was having sex with another woman.

    You get the picture.

    Reply
  6. etery-chan

    All right… the so called plot hole from last episode was answered in this episode.
    But still, it doesn’t change the fact that the non-main characters have to be evil, abuser, rapist, scum and mentally impaired.
    When will we get to see a normal antagonist?
    Someone who’s just another gamer?

    Reply
  7. Jessie

    Well of course these people have dark pasts. It would be pretty messed up if some normal person wounded up there, that would mean someone wanted that person to disappear.

    Reply

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