Ryouta is in the top 10 ranked players in Japan for the game Btooom. The goal of the game is to use bombs against an opposing team to claim victory. Ryouta has nothing going in real life, so his existance revolved around the game until the day he woke up on an isolated island in the Pacific with no idea how he got there. His first encounter with another person resulted in them attempting to kill him with bombs. Ryouta is now in the real life version of the game he loved, but does he have the drive to survive by killing real living people? Does he have a choice?
Battle Royale is one of my all time favorite movies, and what I'd consider best among the survival genre (which has been done enough). Btoom essentially being an anime Battle Royale with bombs doesn't sound like a bad idea. The problem with this anime is a simple one: it's poorly thought out. The survival story formula is well known, but requires attention to a few critical aspects which Btooom gets (mostly) wrong. Why take shortcuts when the groundwork in the genre has already been done? Laziness.
You'll have to cut the show some slack with the setup. The situation placing people on an island so they can blow each other up isn't going to make much sense, and that's fine. However Btooom skips the realm of the unlikely, and goes full on stupid with the reasoning behind it all. A game company uses the island for a live game testing ground. There's so much wrong with that, I won't get into it, but every time its brought up I had to roll my eyes.
At first I thought my biggest problem with Btoooom would be technical stupidity. Many bomb types aren't realistic, and people often survive explosions to the point that it's a surprise when anyone is killed. That didn't bother me much. On the other hand nothing in this anime struck me as very clever, so the setup using bombs is a lame duck gimmick, although each player only receiving 8 is the most interesting feature.
Where Btooooom let me down was in its characters. I hated pretty much everyone. A good survival story lives or dies on empathy, and I really didn't care if anyone died (in fact I hoped most of them would). The unlikely coincidences tying characters together felt half assed. Some are players of Btooooom (the online game), one is a former classmate of Ryouta and so on. Instead of relying on a strong story, it tries to manufacture drama with contrived relationships. It's cheap and it feels that way. On top of that the tie-in with the game, and Ryouta being such a pro at survival because he was great at the Btooooom game also feels like a cheap shortcut used in place of substantial character development.
Aside from all of this, Btoooooom is in the middle of its story, waiting for another season I think is unlikely to come. Because Btoooooom misses the fundamentals, I think this one is better left unfinished so we can move on, but I'd have no problem upgrading this review if it by some miracle got awesome. If you're okay with a generic anime, and a big fan of the survival survival genre, it might be worth a shot. Otherwise better to skip.
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