Bocchi the Rock Review: Relating to Introverts Everywhere.

A few months back, one of the most hyped up anime of the year, Chainsaw Man, began airing.
While Chainsaw Man certainly did live up to its massive expectations, what was surprising was that there was another anime airing around the same time that seemed to be getting the same level of buzz, despite not having the amount of hype beforehand.
This anime was Bocchi the Rock.
Based off the manga by Aki Hamaji, it felt like this show came out of nowhere, becoming one of the most talked about anime of the year.
Having heard this discussion, I decided to check it out and discovered a charming and often hilarious story that relates to introverts everywhere. 

It was surprising to see just how talked about Bocchi the Rock became, until I watched it.

Bocchi the Rock follows Hitori Goto (Yoshino Aoyama), a teenage girl who suffers from extreme anxiety when it comes to social interactions.
Wanting to make friends, she decides to learn how to play the guitar, in the hopes that this will provide new opportunities for her to meet people.
Unfortunately, due to her severe introversion, she is unable to approach people for years, until, in a twist of fate, she is approached by drummer Nijika Ijichi (Sayumi Suzushiro), who is desperate for a third member to join her band, known as Kessoku Band. 

Nijika quite literally drags Bocchi into being social.

Now with a chance to make friends, Hitori joins the band, meeting the third bandmate, who is the bizarrely aloof Ryo Yamada (Saku Mizuno).
Later being joined by the upbeat Ikuyo Kita (Ikumi Hasegawa), Hitori earns the nickname Bocchi and struggles to fight her introversion in her efforts to help the band to succeed.
These efforts often result in some gut busting humor, including plenty of hysterical fourth wall breaks. 

The fourth wall humor in this anime is excellent.

I often found myself pausing at least once per-episode so I could have a good laugh before continuing.
What really shines about Bocchi the Rock, along with the humor, is how relatable Bocchi is as a character.
Having struggled with a bit of social anxiety myself (although not to Bocchi’s extent), Bocchi’s journey to becoming more sociable through Kessoku Band was easy to become invested in and I know this was the same for a lot of other viewers as well.
Bocchi’s relatability makes the high moments of the show shine even brighter, which is most apparent in Episode Eight where one performance had me on the edge of my seat.

The performance in Episode Eight is the best scene in the anime so far.

These performances of Kessoku Band come with some quality animation, which often changes style to suit the situation, whether that be serious or goofy.
The comedy in the goofy style of certain scenes is helped by the voice performances, especially Bocchi’s voice actor, Yoshino Aoyama, who has a truly impressive range.

It’s very impressive that Bocchi’s voice actress managed to do this scene without any voice editing required.

It is not just Bocchi who shines through the comedy though because many of her bandmates also get their funny moments, with Ryo being a standout.
Overall, it is the relatability of Bocchi and how she grows as a character that got me really invested in this show.
Hopefully a season two will be greenlit so we can all cheer Bocchi and Kessoku Band on, while simultaneously laughing at the excellent humor of this anime.   

Eighty-Six Review: Fantastic Commentary on Child Soldiers.

There are many anime out there that deal with teenagers being sent to the front lines of battle.
To name a few of the ones I have seen, there is obviously Attack on Titan, and also Mobile Suit Gundamn: Iron Blooded Orphans.
However, despite there being many anime that depict this issue of child soldiers, I would argue that few handle this topic as well as Eighty-Six.

Eighty-Six deals with the ethics of teens being sent to war better than any anime I have seen.

Developed by A-1 Pictures and based off the light novel by Asato Asato, the Toshimasa Ishii directed anime begins in the Republic of San Magnolia, a country that has been at war with the Empire of Giad’s AI army, known as the Legion, for nine years.
Despite many years of war, the Republic claims to have lost none of their soldiers, due to their own mechanized, remote controlled forces.
Thing is, this is all just propaganda.
The Republic’s mechanized forces are far from remote controlled.
Their Juggernauts are actually controlled by the Colorata minority, a diverse group of people who have been stripped of all human rights by the dominant race of the Alba and forced by to fight for them, along with being forced to relocate all to the 86th District, hence the title of Eighty-Six.
With all of the Eighty-Six’s parents having been killed in the fighting, the Albans are now forcing their children to pilot their Juggernauts to fight the Legion, with Alban handlers directing them.
One of these handlers is Vladilena “Lena” Milize (Ikumi Hasegawa), who hates what has been done to the Eighty-Six, and is put in charge of the Spearhead Squadron, lead by Shinei Nouzen (Shōya Chiba), nicknamed The Undertaker.
From this point, the story unfolds, as Lena is quickly faced with the horrors the Eighty-Six have to go through on a daily basis and her own hypocrisy in how she treats them, all the while Shinei and his fellow 86 learn to deal with a handler who actually sympathizes with their plight. 

Just because Lena sympathizes with Shinei and his friends, does not mean she doesn’t dehumanizes them in their initial intercations, which is called out perfectly and creates great development for her character.

This results in numerous hard hitting moments, both on the battlefield and off, helped by the amazing animation and soundtrack by Hiroyuki Sawano and Kohta Yamamoto, all coming togethor to bring the story’s commentary on the horrors of war, nationalism, racism and child soldiers to the forefront.
Yet, there is also hopeful themes among the dark ones, which is especially apparent in the last few episodes, which were delayed due to production issues.
Despite these issues, these final few episodes were incredible, making me tear up in the penultimate episode.
Heck, even Asato Asato apparently cried at the adaptation so you know the anime did something right. 

The penultimate episode has my favourite moment of the entire series so far, making me tear up along with the characters. Everything from the animaton, to the soundtrack, to the cinematography, came togethor to create a masterpiece of a scene.

Given the quality of these last few episodes, I really have to praise A-1 Pictures because clearly everyone involved, from the animators to the director, were passionate about this story, as proven by how they delivered the last few episode with the same quality as the rest of the anime, while having production problems.
The quality was so good that now I am even more excited for a follow up, which I hope we get.
With how amazing this anime’s story, characters, themes, direction animation and score are, if it gets a follow up, it could be up there with some of the greats.

Give us more 86, please.

Of all of these great features, I have to end this review by once again praising its themes.
Of all the anime I have seen with child soldiers, Eighty-Six delivers the best commentary on that.
It even trumps Attack on Titan in this regard, since Eighty-Six actually deals with the deplorable ethics of using children in war, despite their insistance to fight.
It is a theme I hope to see expanded upon whenever we get a follow up, which should happen because there is apparently enough source material to create more.
Fingers crossed that this is what happens.