Black Bullet Vol. 1: Light Novel Review

A world filled with hate and discrimination, not much unlike the world we live in now. While I was reading this I often wondered if the author or his family had past trauma with being discriminated against. There is a lot of anger in this volume, while this is not an issue, it brings a certain emotional factor into it. I really like it when novels can do this effectively. Whether this one accomplished that is up for discussion.

Black Bullet is a light novel series written by Shiden Kanzaki and illustrations by Saki Ukai. There are currently 3 novels out in English with the 4th volume coming out late August. There are 7 volumes out in Japan but unfortunately Black Bullet has been on hiatus since 2014 with no clear indication when it will return (if ever). If you have not read the novel before or just want a quick peek at what’s in store, check out my Black Bullet vol. 1: Ground level where I go in detail about the story and characters up to the first chapter.

10 years ago the Gastrea, mutated monsters that spawned from a parasitic virus, wreaked havoc on the Tokyo area. It was called the Great Gastrea War, Humanity lost and was forced to put Varanium barriers to keep out the monsters. Thousands of lives and millions of acres of land were lost during the Great Gastrea War.

The Gastrea virus causes the virus to take over the host in multiple different ways. They are ranked from a stage 1 all the way to a stage 5, 5 being most dangerous. Moving from a stage 1 to a stage 2 is essentially the Gastrea maturing or “growing up” in a sense. They take on the characteristics of their host (i.e. deer gastrea, spider gastrea, etc.). They are incredibly strong and extremely difficult to kill. It is made apparent that (similar to superman with Kryptonite) Varanium weakens their health regeneration, giving humans the ability to kill them more efficiently. Varanium can be used in a number of ways; from bullets to swords all the way to the barriers that keep the Tokyo area safe.

Rentaro is our main character, a 16 year old high school student, losing his parents at a young age (his delusions tell him they are still alive). He was housed by the Tendo family. Not much is told about his stay there, but it was probably not a good one. He grew up with a sister, Kisara Tendo. Who he is in love with. The book puts it as “she is the girl Rentaro yearns for” and that describes it pretty well. He did not have a good childhood, he was a witness to the Great Gastrea War. He saw all the death and destruction that resulted from it.

Rentaro also lives with a 10 year old girl named Enju, who is madly in love with Rentaro. I swear it’s not creepy, let me explain. In this world there are agencies who deal with gastrea that somehow make it past the barriers or the virus infects someone in the city. These people are called civil security officers. Rentaro is a civil security officer (civsec officer for short) for the Tendo civil security agency run by their president, Kisara Tendo. They are accompanied by initiators, more commonly known as “the cursed children.” Enju is one of the cursed children.

Cursed children are 10 year old girls with the gastrea virus in them. During the Great Gastrea War, pregnant women who were infected with the virus gave birth to girls that had the virus infused in their DNA. This gave the girls superhuman strength and agility. There are many different styles of cursed children. For Enju’s case, she is a rabbit gastrea. This gives her amazing agility and speed. Along with the different styles, they also get the health regeneration that gastrea have.

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This is not a happy story

Now, because of the horrors of the war and the massive casualties, the general population has an extreme hatred for the cursed children. This is where the emotional part of the series hits me. I’ve always imagined myself the kind of father who would do anything for his family. So when I see younger characters in anime (usually the loli type characters), I usually want them to be safe and happy. I want to protect them. That’s the father tendencies in me coming out, even though I have no children yet. Seeing all these people just openly hate these girls that were abandoned by their parents, it hurts my heart. Worse yet, due to their DNA being infused with gastrea they cannot do paternity tests to find these girls’ parents. Growing up with no family and the entire population hating you has got to be very traumatizing and depressing.

This volume is a series of very small fights, leading up to the final fight. In the first fight, Rentaro and Enju fight a man infected with the gastrea virus. Before that Rentaro has a run in with a masked man at a crime scene that ended up killing two police officers. During this altercation, Rentaro finds out real quick that this masked man is nothing to scoff at. But before long the masked man leaves in pursuit of something else. After the fight with the infected man, Rentaro and Enju race to the store to pick up on-sale food items. All the while forgetting to get paid. Kisara is so unhappy about this that she nearly destroys their office building.

Later on Rentaro goes to meet Sumire Muroto. She is a Gastrea researcher who frequently advises Rentaro. She also loves to tease him. She is the head of a legal medicine lab in Magata Public University Hospital. She may be a weird character considering she never leaves her lab but she means well. She is looked down upon in the medical community for her research of the Gastrea. She is a Hikikomori (similar to acute social withdrawal) and a mad scientist. She is also the smartest person Rentaro can turn to.

After some time Rentaro and Kisara are brought in to a government building along with multiple other promoter and initiator duos. Enju was not at this meeting because Rentaro didn’t want to pull her out of school. During this meeting we learn that there is a briefcase that contains the inheritance of the seven stars that is missing. It has the power to destroy the Varanium monolith barriers that keep the city safe and cause a great extinction. And… the masked man, later named Kagetane Hiruko, is hunting it down so he can summon a stage 5 gastrea!

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Kagetane Hiruko and his faithful initiator Kohina Hiruko

After the meeting is over, that night Rentaro is visited by Kagetane. He has developed a fondness for Rentaro. He sees the pain and despair in his eyes. Much like Kagetane’s. We learn that Kagetane and Kohina were once civil security officers as well. With an IP rank of 134. The lower your the better you are. Rentaro and Enju’s IP rank is around 122,000. He was also part of the “new human creation plan” where a secret agency experimented on soldiers where they genetically and mechanically modified the soldier’s body to create a super human. Which explains Kagetane and Kohina’s IP rank. They also offer him a suitcase full of cash!

Even knowing all this, Rentaro still denies the opportunity of working with Kagetane. Kagetane laughs and tells Rentaro simply, “no matter how hard you keep working for them, they will only keep betraying you.” The next morning Rentaro is called by Enju’s homeroom teacher that a rumor is spreading that she is one of the cursed children and she should be brought home for the day. While it sounds like the teacher is concerned for her, he is really only concerned for his own safety. When Rentaro arrives at her school he witnesses her being ruthlessly bullied in a circle by a number of kids. Many of them screaming “you’re not human! You’re a monster!” That was the last time she went to school.

After this, the first of the two final fights begin. Rentaro and Enju are escorted in a medivac helicopter to the site where the briefcase is rumored to be. Of course, Kagetane is there as well. Rentaro and Kagetane have a viscous battle that lasts a long time. Ultimately Rentaro is left in shambles, forced to be hospitalized for multiple wounds and massive blood loss. During this time he has a dream of looking in the mirror and seeing that he is a small child no older than 6 with his right arm and leg ripped clean off and his left eye gouged out. A doctor approaches his stretcher with two pieces of paper, one is his death certificate and the other is a contract. He is asked to choose… lifting his left arm to point, the words of his foster father Kikunojo Tendo repeating in his head “If you don’t want to die Rentaro, survive.” It was only a dream right? Right?

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Ruler of the Tokyo area, Seitenshi

After sleeping for over a day, he wakes up in the hospital. Kisara and Enju are at the hospital fighting back tears. Immediately upon waking up, he is briefed on the situation. Kagetane acquired the briefcase and is attempting to summon a stage 5 gastrea. All civil security officers are currently working on a plan to prevent this from happening. After a small amount of time, Rentaro receives a call… From the ruler of the Tokyo area, Seitenshi. She was the one who called the meeting that Kisara and Rentaro went to earlier in the story and now she is asking him to join in on the mission. She’s also 16 years old, more fuel for the harem-mobile I guess. While it’s not apparent now, in later volumes she’ll probably fall in love with him like every other girl in this story.

Rentaro decides to join in on the fight despite his better judgement and Kisara’s worries. Enju and Rentaro are dropped off in the woods where Kagetane is told to currently be with the briefcase. After having some run-ins with assorted gastrea and another initiator girl (she was separated from her promoter and injured) after a small talk and Rentaro bandaging her up, they get word over the girl’s walkie-talkie where to meet up with the rest of the civsec officers. But the other officers jump the gun early and start fighting.

The initiator girl decides to stay behind and kill all the gastrea that heard the commotion, in order to make the battle with Kagetane go smoother. So Enju and Rentaro head towards a dilapidated church, here we see all the civsec officers… dead… piled up like firewood. This enrages Rentaro and they begin their battle. Enju and Kohina square off against each other and Rentaro and Kagetane whip out their pistols and begin. This battle lasts a long time and is very well done. During this battle, Rentaro realizes he cannot beat Kagetane. This is when he decides to pull out his secret weapon. Turns out, it wasn’t a dream he had. The contract he agreed to when you was on that stretcher 10 years ago was an agreement to be part of the new human creation plan. He was given a prosthetic right arm and leg and mechanical left eye. He vowed never to use it unless he had to. This is where things get interesting.

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This is from the manga but this shows what he was looking at in the mirror in his dream

Shortly before going on this mission, Rentaro stopped in to see Sumire. While there he received some viles from from her. He was to “not take these unless absolutely necessary.” We do not find what these are until they are used. These viles/syringes are a new experimental medicine/AVG test drug that gives you the health regenerative abilities of a gastrea. One catch, you have a 20% chance of turning into a gastrea once you inject yourself with it. After getting a few gunshots and injuries, he decides to use one. He fortunately beats the odds and all his wounds are healed in an instant.

After he is healed, he heads back into the fight with spectacular displays of physical strength. But Kagetane is still better, he gets behind Rentaro and lays his hand on rentaro’s side. “it’s over, I will show you my secret weapon. Endless Scream.” This completely blows a semi circle chunk out his abdomen. Rentaro is shocked, his ribs are visible and his intestines start spilling out. He collapses staring into the rain, slowly fading to black. At first he could not hear anything, Enju was screaming at him, she was by his side, tears streaming down her face. He suddenly hears Enju screaming at him, “Don’t die, Rentaro! We haven’t been able to do anything yet. Don’t leave me alone!”

His heart starts beating again! immediately, he pulls the caps off all of the syringes he has left and injects himself with the AVG test drug. He springs back to life and starts regenerating everything. His body was dying and coming back to life all at the same time. After this, he returns to the fight and due to quick thinking and good timing, Rentaro manages to defeat, not kill, Kagetane.

Before Rentaro and Enju can really rest easy and celebrate their win, he receives a call from Kisara. Kagetane was successful in calling the stage 5 Gastrea. He is now thrust into battle with that. The mission is to make it to the Stairway to Heaven. An old war machine in the final stages of development. It hasn’t even received a test run yet. It was designed during the Great Gastrea War to annihilate all in its path. He manages to make it to the Stairway to Heaven. It is many kilometers long and has the ability to shoot projectiles close to the speed of light. There is no ammunition so he decides to detach his arm and use that. After many complications he is forced to manually shoot this Gastrea. Keep in mind, this Gastrea is over a kilometer away. Shooting that far is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But somehow (shocker) he manages to shoot it in the head and defeat the Gastrea. He is then rushed to hospital for his injuries.

After everything is said and done. He is brought into the government office and awarded for his acts of valor with the IP rank of 1,000. The first time anyone has jumped that much in rank ever. He is awarded the rank by Seitenshi herself. While this is going on, he asks a few questions. He does not receive the answers but he does realize that she is not the overall ruler of the Tokyo area that you think she is. Other factors are involved.

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She’s so cute! I can’t handle it!

I have been waiting for this light novel series to come out in English ever since the anime came out! At this point, I waited so long I’ve forgotten a lot of what the anime was like. I was so excited to read it. I love the plot and the characters, they have a certain depth to them. The style of writing isn’t too bad either. Now, a lot of people will be turned off by the amount of loli characters and the “emo” style plot and back story but if you go in with an open mind and look at what the story is trying to convey. I think you will really enjoy this. This was also the longest review I’ve written to date! It took quite a bit a time!

I hope you all enjoyed! Have a wonderful day!

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Karandi says:

    Actually sounds like ti twould be a pretty interesting read. I didn’t mind the anime but didn’t really get into it either. Thanks for sharing this detailed overview.

    Like

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