Bokurano – Review

I just learned Bokurano got picked up by Crunchyroll a few days ago, and burned it down for a streaming review pretty much as soon as I knew. Bokurano was already one of my shortlist shows, and it turned out to be even better than I’d hoped – a chilling and heartfelt series of character stories that doubles as a relentlessly paced scifi thriller. It’s really something how well this show brings its broad cast to life. Bokurano is very much a “me” show – like Monogatari and pretty much all of Urobuchi’s works, it posits that the world is a harsh place, but that only means we have to try all the harder to bring hope and charity to it ourselves. Shows like that kinda kill me, but it’s a good feeling.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below!


Episode 1

Title: “Game”

Big CG monsters, lots of kids as main characters

“When we became middle-schoolers, we thought we were grown-ups, able to do anything”

Nice faded backgrounds

“Real sadness and fury doesn’t exist in everyday life”

There’s fifteen of them

Mitomo Island

What seems like the main dude complaining about them being treated like little kids

The dialogue is very frank and unvarnished. Good stuff – we’re getting a pretty fast introduction to fifteen distinct characters

“The individual has a duty to serve the group”

“Shouldn’t it be the other way around? ‘All for one?’”

Interesting, kinda imposing violin track for this sequence

One of the kids is torturing a crab. Jeez

They explore a cave, and find a secret hideout with computers

A weird man who keeps repeating himself shows up. “This is perfect. Would you like to play a game?”

“Fifteen enemies are going to attack this planet. Giant robots intercept them.”

Kana’s brother says she’s not going to do it

The man calls himself “Kokopelli”

The giant robot appears!

The enemy looks like a giant robotic insect. The CG is real janky

“They can regenerate. All of them have a weakness, and the location varies.”

“Kids. I’m s-”

Episode 2

Title: “Zearth”

The couple at the beachfront bar actually saw the two monsters

Most of the kids are still excited about the game. A couple of the girls suggest they tell the adults what they know, and one of the boys says they’d confiscate the robot then

Komo, the daughter of the diet member, wants to tell her father about it. She seems the most level-headed

Anko, the news anchor’s daughter, says they need proof

A tiny flying creature appears to answer their questions

Koyemshi is the creature

They all get chairs from their homes in the cockpit

The “MC”ish character’s father didn’t show up for his big soccer game, and he lost interest in the sport

“I’m gonna be a hidden hero”

Waku’s the MCish one, Moji’s the thoughtful lighter-haired one

Looks like people can actually see the things

This show moves fast!

They name the robot “Zearth”

The creatures all look like giant horrible beetles

The CG and effects of the fights are terrible. The mountain exploding looked like it just got erased. Kind of a shame

The glasses kid elbows Waku AND HE FUCKING FALLS OFF THE ROBOT

Man, what a senseless death. Christ

Episode 3

Title: “Secret”

The shoreline is a wreck

The kids are being interviewed by cops, asking them why they attended the summer nature school

153 already confirmed dead. Jeez

The kids say Waku went off on his own. That he wasn’t with them

Sayama’s the detective, the one who wanted to question them separately

Waku’s body was found washed up on the beach

The group agrees that Ushiro didn’t push him on purpose

So they lie to avoid blame

The diet member’s daughter tells the truth

Of course, the misanthrope kid’s dad didn’t come to pick him up. We’re getting full lives of all these characters. This is great

Some of the kids want to speak, but they know they won’t be believed. But a special investigation team does seem interested

The siblings unsurprisingly seem to have a mess of a home life

Waku’s funeral approaches

Gah this funeral

The police learn he didn’t die from drowning

The spinning chairs contrasted against the burning casket. Jeez

Episode 4

Kodama, the misanthrope with the fake glasses, has a predatory real estate magnate for a father. He’s learned his selfishness from his father

He sees the world as a competition between the weak and the strong, the “chosen ones” who get to do what they want

This creature looks very different. More of a massive shell on it

“If they die, that’s their destiny.” Kodama sure is a cool kid

Kodama actually enjoys making people die

“Doesn’t it look like that one’s hesitating to destroy the city?” Huh

Pretty standard orchestral tracks

It fires out CG tentacles at the Zearth

Kodama chucks the beast, but it causes massive damage. And he himself falls on his father

“Papa just can’t die!”

Christ, the CG is so bad. What a shame

Kodama stabs at its belly while screaming. “This isn’t what a hero does”

“It seemed like he would always survive, no matter what…”

“Papa was one of the chosen!” He collapses, and the glasses fall off

Kodama just collapses, dead

“This thing is powered by human life force. After the battle, you’ll most definitely die.” Jeeeez

Episode 5

The system is so arbitrary. If they don’t fight, the earth just explodes

“The individual has an obligation to serve the group.”

It’s about their personal reactions to this situation, and their individual philosophies on the value of a life, based on their own lives

“You blame Kana-chan for your mother’s death, don’t you?” Ah. The older brother’s mother died in childbirth

“I don’t feel inspired by the thought of protecting my family, never mind the world”

“Why not use your time to impress Honda and win her favor?” The stupid mascot thing baiting their life dramas

10,000 people have died

The military sweeps them all up, and promises to protect them. Nice how quickly it’s moving

Koyemshi appears, and the military can see it! No wasting time here

Negotiating with that awful creature

And Kako is chosen

Episode 6

Bokurano is full of great match cuts, shots that make great use of open space, purposefully warped perspectives, etc

The character designs are very strong, as is the incidental character animation. These designs are perfectly suited to animation

Some of the single shots are so impressive

And the ways these characters see each other is excellent. Tons of individual, understandable perspectives

Chizu’s story is a bit archetypal and melodramatic, but there are tons of compelling individual moments. And she herself comes across as a deeply sympathetic character. Plus the storytelling is very efficient, and ties gracefully into the previous narrative

The animation for her episode is wild key frames separated by huge animation gaps. But it looks far more compelling than smooth but less ambitious animation

Chizu using the robot to punish her teacher

Every attack is a clear public catastrophe. The framing makes sure you can see the consequences of each battle

“Maybe Kodama would have been able to answer that,” referring to the reconstruction time. They don’t forget the lost

The smart guy finally calls out Zearth’s face, which is the same as the monsters

“Two lights went out. Nine left”

“One of us didn’t agree to the contract”

“We don’t have enough pilots”

Episode 9

The stalwart, heavy-faced boy is next. He’s only concerned for his siblings

Daichi is just a great dude. Fine story

Episode 10

“I’ll carry out my duty” for an episode entitled “Comrades”

She gets bullied, and her mom gets mocked for her promiscuity

The bullying is simplistic, but relatable

All of them have their own compelling hobbies

A somewhat muddled narrative and moral, but it comes together

“Please look for my brother’s real mother”

Episode 11

Oh no, we’re starting with Moji, the smart boy

Moji wants his heart transplanted into his friend, who he lived together with at an orphanage

“Deep in my heart, I was relieved that Nagi had the disease and not Tsubasa.”

Moji sees himself as a sinner for things anyone would feel. But his feelings are totally understandable

The girls meet up and discuss their feelings on everything happening. Several of them are surprised Moji wasn’t the one who missed the contract

They’re still not sure what these new locations being chosen are about

And this one splits almost in two. Lots of different appealing things in this show

“Don’t make assumptions about them based on your own common sense”

Moji discovers the monsters have minds just like ours, and can fall for psychological tricks. And then he’s off

“We’re this world’s sacrifices.” An awful but true way of looking at it. That “a strange creature came to look at our tiny lives” line – the earth’s defenders die after winning in combat, but what we get to see is their vitality, their happiness and sadness, their reasons for being alive

Episode 12

This time it’s Maki the tomboy’s turn

Fighting back against Ushiro for not valuing his sister. Maki is adopted, and her parents will soon be having a boy

She wants to be able to spend some time with her little brother

A tabloid magazine has gained info on the pilots. An investigator comes to see if the woman soldier leaked this info

“They’re sacrificing themselves in secret. What about their feelings?”

The government has deliberately hid as much information as possible, even to the extent of leading to more damage

“You have to find the key to break the contract without force!”

The soldier is retained because she has a contract and because the kids near her. It’s all about keeping the kids stable

Maki’s mom goes into labor early, unsurprisingly

“These kids are truly facing the reality of this world”

“Maki granted us this child”

The music is excellent. A mix of strong string-led tracks and then these chilling percussion pieces just hammering the tension

The monster designs are also quite diverse, even if the fights are short

“Where are we?” “Earth. Although it’s not your earth…” AH SHIT

Episode 13

“Think of it as home games and away games.”

“Humans like us are probably inside that thing!”

Yep. They’ve been setting up meaningless conflicts between various earthlings

This monster has rotating blades

“If you mess up, the universe containing your Earth’s continuum will be destroyed.”

“The idea is to thin out excess universes” “That’s insane.” “Perhaps, but it’s necessary”

“It’s survival of the fittest”

“If you win, all those people are gonna die anyway!”

Shots to all the people praying for this earth’s victory

“You have to crush the enemy pilot”

“I wonder how long the people of this earth have been fighting?”

“It’s my job to protect the earth that we live on… the earth my younger brother is going to live on.” Doing what she can to find a reason to fight. Good stuff

As the show continues, the situation just gets worse and worse

The other pilots refuse to look away. They share the burden together

Maki opens the cockpit to actually look at the person she must kill

You would think this show is childishly nihilistic, but it loves its characters, and they bring dignity to an awful situation

God, this moment with the stars blinking out. Great music here. Heavy orchestral singing shifts to bright guitar strings as she sees her younger brother

This sequence is so good

I actually kind of love how ridiculous this setup is. The violence is utterly senseless, but the people are deeply human. Violence shouldn’t be justified

Seki, the soldier dude, has been recording their fights with his robotic arm

Seki doesn’t trust the professor taking the recordings

The girls get approached by some suspicious men, and Tanaka fires to protect them

Episode 14

The children were attacked in hopes of learning the secrets powering Zearth for energy companies

And now the government wants to install chips on the kids

Apparently Tanaka has some ulterior reason for getting involved

She meets with her outside contact, who passes her the second Zearth report

“This is all because of Ishiro and your sacrifice. But who’d expect the orphan he left behind to be wrapped up in this?” Okay, so that must be Ushiro’s real identity

A fight in the group, and then Tanaka announces she plans to leak info

Kanji’s mother is the scientist

They go to see the research results

“Professor, don’t use this technology for the sake of big business. Please use it to save these children.” Well that’s a little on-the-nose

Kanji has no faith in his mother

Really nice string track here

Yeah, Tanaka’s actually Ushiro’s mother

Episode 15

“I don’t want to fight for the earth that drove my mom to suicide”

Relatively solid story that actually layers Ushiro well

The other mech kills itself! And with only a few pilots left to go

But that still leaves Kirie as the pilot

This mafia guy is great. A needed tonal counterpoint to the story

Episode 16

Kirie’s father returns. He doesn’t trust him, but his mom is happy

The adults discussing their plans. The early scene in the diet is solid, as is this conversation

The diet member, newscaster, and scientist all have their own understandable priorities

Tamotsu (mafia dude) gets Kirie’s mom a job

“People can change this much?” The two unhappy boys surprised by the shifts of the adults. They’re in the age where they think every emotion will last forever

The show is really good at making its kids feel like kids, which means they’re both more childish and more adult in various ways than most anime characters

“I don’t know if this earth is worth protecting. But I’ve changed my mind after seeing how hard my mom is working.”

Kirie’s actually an excellent pilot, by far the best at controlling Zearth

Machi, the freckled girl, is the one who didn’t agree to the contract

Machi and Kokopelli were both sent from another earth to gather pilots

Awful mascot creature says Machi is his little sister

The government has a stooge admit to “fabricating” the Zearth report

And then, of course, they attack the diet member

Episode 17

The diet member knows exactly what’s going on. This show has a really compelling adult cast for something so focused (and insightful regarding) adolescents

Christ, the mafia guy is so endearing. Pushing Ushiro and his mom together

Great conversation where Ushiro agrees to let Tanaka buy him and Kana clothes. It’s these incidental conversations, not directly related to the show’s plot, which really bring characters to life

The first segment of the Zearth special airs. Looks like the newscaster is having an affair

The newscaster’s daughter and Kanji are flirting pretty hard

Machi is the one who’s been communicating with the mascot. And he decides the order, and has some final plan as well

Wow. He was having an affair, and the show uses it to sabotage him and knock him off the program in bare minutes

“Mama isn’t Mama anymore.” Kanji moves to hold her, and sees she has the tattoo. Jesus

“Your dad’s an important guy on TV, right? Someone with that much power needs just as much responsibility.” Jeez the mafia guy is a good addition to the show

“You have to protect Mama. Fight for her. And I’ll fight for earth.” THESE ARE SUCH GOOD KIDS

Jeez. Some crazy wire monster this time

“Deep down, I always thought Mama and Papa would save me. But I have no choice but to fight alone”

Anko dies in Kanji’s arms. I HATE THIS SHOW


Episode 18

Time for Takami, the diet member’s daughter

“I have a feeling Zearth is manipulating government and industry”

Tanaka being awkward about getting clothes for her son

Komoda, the diet member, is telling everything in his resignation conference

The team attempts to get Komoda away from his trailers, but he just wants to go home to spend the time Takami has left with her

The show’s animation isn’t strong enough to handle a car chase. It’s not strong in general, but hey, them’s the breaks. There are some good highlights, at least

Big shootout in Komoda’s mansion. Tanaka gets shot!

She points to her gun. “Give this to Jun. Tell him to live.”

Man, this episode’s tragic. Lotta love for these families

And the fights are just these quick, brutal, pointless things

“This is perfect for you lowlifes. What they call ‘animal cunning.’” These aliens really do come across as despicable creatures

“No matter how much he was betrayed, Dad loved his Earth.” If anyone says there’s no reason to hope

And the fuckface alien decides to use Kana to fill in the pilot shortage

Episode 19

Some really nicely framed shots in this show. Ushiro from under the table here

Mafia dude bringing Ushiro out, buying him a jacket and reminiscing about his dad. More nice character moments

Ushiro’s dad was a great, level-headed negotiator

Jeez, Tanaka married him at 16. Kind of an unbelievable story, but I guess in the context of these fractured lives…

Kusaka, who I think is one of the lead politicians, doesn’t appreciate the Kid’s peacekeeping efforts

Aw dang. Even back then, the mafia guy got left behind to protect the survivors. He keeps representing the people left behind, who get almost no coverage in this series

So yeah, the whole backstory. And then we end with the other military dude confronting Yoko

Episode 20

Yoko agrees to tell them everything

Yoko’s brother had been in the game before, and she’d been in Kana’s position. She’d watched him throw others to the wolves to live

And then their mascot creature told them the last person alive would have to take its role, chaperoning the kids of other earths

“This tells me everything I need to know about you.” Yoko’s brother was happy to let others die, but was not willing to fight himself

Koyemshi is his name, right

Koyemshi wants to see everyone act as selfish as he was

It’s like the show’s darker instincts keep wanting the message to be “life is pointless,” but it never turns out that way

“You’ll always just be a spectator!”

“I can’t even choose to die. I’m just a pawn in this game.” Yep. Just continuously trying to prove people are inherently selfish

It is much better that Koyemshi was once a human himself

Episode 21

Kanji asks mafia guy to kill his mother

And the last soldier tells him to at least make sure she watches Kanji’s battle

Sakakibara is mafia guy’s name

“What should I fight for?” “This earth.” “That’s not really striking a chord with me.” “Anything will do. Think of something you want to protect.” “I’m drawing a blank.” The system tries to take everything away from them, to reduce them to where they either care about nothing or just themselves

“I wouldn’t mind protecting the planet if Mom really was trying to save us.” The kids are all understandable

“My mother was a terrible person, but her research was first-rate.” He finds the will to fight in trying to save his friends

I really like the piano melody for the fight scenes. Not the most complex thing, but it’s distinctive

“I’m gonna stop with the soul searching. I’m gonna leave the rest up to you.” KANJIIIII

Kanji wins, but the robot starts moving again. And Kanji’s mother says the Zearth program is running on her system

It’s draining the city’s energy to run

The winning earths end up feeding energy to the rulers, all through their own efforts to unlock the Zearth program

“Be happy. You can survive.” Koyemshi speaks to Ushiro alone to talk about Kana. He wants to see Ushiro abandon his sister

“I don’t want you to die on me, Bro!”

Ushiro is very, very cold, to the point where he’s not a likable or good person. But he is understandable

He decides to bring Kana home

Episode 22

Wait, holy crap, “Uninstall” has a meaning now

Ushiro invites Yoko to go with him and Kana to their dad’s home

Their dad was dedicated to building a school for kids who didn’t fit in at normal schools

It’s pretty interesting that the closest to a final protagonist character is such a deeply angry and unlikable kid

This show’s last act dips a bit too heavily into flashbacks and exposition all at once. It probably would have benefited from seeding these stories a little more

Ushiro feels deeply insecure and unhappy about helping his father with his school

This episode is really good about framing its shots across depth

Man, this show’s animation is messy

“I don’t care what happens to me, but for Dad’s sake, if Kana can be saved…”

The government is unmoved by the research institute’s projections. “Only the strong can protect this weak Earth…”

Episode 23

“Destroying these monstrous leviathans is also a public works project!” This politician is pretty much 100% evil, but in the show’s defense, many politicians are 100% evil

Governments collectively end up making terrible decisions

Ushiro and Machi set up a plan to kill Koyemshi. He gets the thing’s attention, she uses his gun

Jeez, this is a crazy-looking mech

Machi decides to do what must be done, destroying both Zearth towers

“So the children have given more thought to protecting this Earth than we have”

Episode 24

Ushiro’s father says that many children today face battles that wipe out universes. “I’m living here because I got sick of that zero-sum game society”

Now his dad talks about the compromises necessary in pursuit of an ideal

The government’s acting like the Zearth story has already run its course

Ushiro remembering all the others as he moves to fight

“I saw them win. And now I’ll win for them, no matter what!”

“Thank god I don’t have to bring that cycle to another world. Now I can be free”

“Sometimes I wonder if this place should be so peaceful. I think everyone’s faking it”

Daichi’s little brother has become resentful. He thinks others will leave him just like Daichi will, so he doesn’t see life as precious

Ending kinda peters out a bit, but the story’s done what it wanted to do

2 thoughts on “Bokurano – Review

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed Bokurano, it’s a favorite of mine. I think you really nailed what makes it work–it avoids feeling overly cynical and nihilistic just because it has so much respect for its characters. It really tries its best to impress the value of even a single life on you, and succeeds even with such a vast scale. Really great stuff.

    If you ever do get a chance, I’d recommend reading the manga–the anime follows the manga’s events more or less faithfully until Kirie’s story, where they diverge. (Tamotsu is an anime original character.) It’s kind of interesting to see how both sources interpret the story and what characters they focus on. I do think the manga’s ending is better, and it has the advantage that Kitoh’s art is great.

    • I agree 100%. The manga for Bokurano was so good, with distinct character designs and an even more unflinching story. Chizuru Honda’s story was, in my opinion, the best part of the series.

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