Buso Renkin Volume 1

“Now go to hell! I’ll splatter your guts!”

Not the the catchiest of catchphrases I’ve heard but it cuts right to the point. Let that quote set the standard for the entire series.

Buso Renkin is the story of your average joe shonen, in this case a guy named Kazuki, getting himself mixed up in some crazy form of bother involving monsters and schoolgirls. One night he attempts to save a girl from impending death when in the process he gets stabbed through the chest by a giant snake and dies. The end? No, no of course not because the schoolgirl who he was trying to save is no ordinary schoolgirl, she’s an alchemic warrior. She fights these monsters, which she calls Homunculus, by dressing like a schoolgirl and walking around dark alleys in the middle of the night. Personally I think her plan is ever so slightly flawed and might attract a different breed of bad guy.
The schoolgirl, Tokiko, proceeds to revive Kazuki from the dead by inserting an alchemic device in his chest to replace his heart called the Kakugane. The manner in which she inserted the Kakugane made me crack a big smile because the only thing I could think it looked like was putting a disk in a car CD player. Maybe if you hold his mouth open he’ll play back some Johnny Cash.
The Kakugane combined with Kazuki’s will to battle these Homunculi gave him his own Buso Renkin in the form of a giant spear with a piece of material hanging from it. I think Tokiko beat him on the best Buso Renkin weapon design though, in fact as far as it goes I’d say her metallic spider legs with knives weapon is one of the most unique aspects of the series so far. So anyway, with this new power he will protect his friends and his loved one’s from these monsters that feed on humans.

My first thoughts were, ‘I’m sure I’ve seen this before’. I could have sworn by it but after about halfway through the second episode I realized I was thinking of Bleach and then that was that. This series is pretty standard as far as shonen set ups go and when you watch the first few episodes of Bleach followed by the first few episodes of this the similarities are impossible to ignore. Before I go into that however I want to emphasize how flat the show seems. The character designs struck me as being stock and unimaginative and as far as the main characters go it just seemed like they thought ‘Oh well we’ll just give the chick a scar and the guy a haircut that defies physics’ and with that they wrapped up the design work throwing in a ‘happy go lucky’ guy with an over the top haircut you’d probably see as the butt of the joke in Excel Saga for good merit. Nothing at all so far really stands out and screams originality and that can be fine if what it lacks in originality it makes up for in entertaining you. Even taking that in to account the bells still ring and the town crier shouts, ‘AVERAGE!’.

As far as the villains go I apologise for not being able to take a guy dressed like Madame Butterfly in a thong seriously. About as intimidating as an Adam West Batman villain.

Now let’s examine the Bleach (which began before Buso Renkin) connection.

  • Both series have a mysterious female character that can perform some sort of other worldly technique to rid the world of monsters/homunculi/soul reapers or whatever and help the lead character.
  • Both of these female characters have a constant frown that rivals that of Gordon Ramsay’s plastered across their face. They speak in semi-cryptic, monotone and it seems like if they ever stop being serious for even a moment they might get an electric shock to the face to put the frown right back where it belongs. Personally I tire of these kind of characters easily but you see these everywhere in anime so you might as well learn to get used to them.
  • The setting, at least in the early episodes of both series anyway. Both are set in suburban city districts where the battles proceed to take place in schools, abandoned warehouses and dark alleys. It’s a more interesting setting than some other battle shows I can think of but most of the time the environment isn’t used to it’s full advantage and might as well take place in some pub in the Yorkshire Moors for all it matters.
  • The atmosphere. Again this may have something to do with the suburban setting but both of these series work very well when presenting action sequences in darkly lit environments giving those scenes an extra degree of menace that Buso Renkin sorely needs.
  • Both main characters have a collection of goofy school friends. You know those guys that provide a poor excuse for comic relief and just end up getting more and more loud and wacky as the series progresses.
  • The sweet, innocent, softly spoken, frustratingly positive, ‘oh did I do that?’ character with giant breasts that all the male characters fawn over makes a prominent appearance in both series. In Bleach there was Orihime and here we have the protagonists sister, Mahiro. They must store all that positive energy in their breasts.

I could go on but it’s not just similarities to Bleach. I’m not really a fan of shonen fighting series in general but for the most part I can at least see the appeal. However in Buso Renkin it just strikes me that so much is borrowed and puzzle pieced together from other series that it loses any identity. If Buso has one up on other typical shonen shows of this style though it’s that it’s contained in just 26 episodes. A welcome relief than the thought of dread caused by knowing there’s at least 200+ episodes of Bleach or Naruto that fans will feel obliged to sit through (Good luck with that). Despite not being padded out to the point of absurdity during battles the characters still manage to talk more than you would expect them to in heated battle situations. Everyone has a sob story to tell and a ‘good reason’ for what they’re doing. You’re just thinking, ‘Dude, I don’t care’.

Throughout the first half of the series there’s nothing I can really say that stunned me in regard to twists and turns. Tokiko’s stuffiness and hard done by girl who MUST at all costs carry out her mission routine gets more and more intolerable with each episode. With that school uniform she acts like some sort of pissed off Sailor Moon. Admittedly I fell asleep twice and I skipped several parts of episodes that seemed to drag but this is just a testament to the fact that it’s pants.

I just hope the second half off the series proves to be more refreshing than this first half.

In Summary

The entire thing so far seems like a jigsaw of other more entertaining series. The characters are anime and shonen stereotypes in design and personality. Some interesting mechanical design work and a reasonably effective atmosphere is created but all in all nothing stands out enough to fans of shonen jump who will have seen it all already or anything to entice the more casual anime viewer. Unless the second half really turns the quality of the series around like several, but very few, series have succeeded in doing I don’t see a great deal of reason why you should check this one out apart from the rather low price for a 13 episode box set. If you like pissed off Sailor Moon girls though then this one’s for you.

3 / 10