Ryōta Sakamoto is an unemployed 22-year-old who lives with his mother. In the real world, there may be nothing really special about him, but online, he’s one of the world’s top players of the combat game called Btooom!. One day, he awakes in what appears to be a tropical island, though he has no memory of how or why he has come to be there. While wandering around, Ryōta sees someone and calls out for help. The stranger responds by throwing a bomb at him. Ryōta soon realizes both that his life is in danger and that he has somehow been trapped in a real-life version of his favorite game. ~wiki

As a fan of the manga, I was very excited when I heard Btooom! would be getting an anime adaptation. What worried me most, however was that the anime would air while the manga remained unfinished. There’s a trend of issues and problems within the anime industry’s history of other occurrences ending horribly and I hoped the same would not happen to this series.

I felt that the anime remained rather faithful to the manga, which can be seen in positive and negative light. The latter being that manga fans barely saw anything they hadn’t read before, though I do admit it adds depth. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the manga, but the anime, while by no means just mediocre, failed to reach the “top” status the manga has for me. I liked the voices and the animation stayed relatively crisp, heck the music was good as well, but as a huge fan of the twisted survival game theme for anime/manga, I had higher expectations for the Btooom! anime.

Btooom’s plot is generally a different take on the island survival series, similar to notable series like Battle Royal or even non-island ones like Highschool of the Dead. The main plot focuses on a death match between people that were chosen through a chain letter. They are inserted into a deserted island, given bombs and whatever they were carrying at the time of their kidnapping, and a chip that is implanted in their arm. To get off the island, you must gain 8 chips (including yours) through murdering other players. The rules of the island follow up on the rules of a game called Btooom, a popular online game. The story’s viewpoint is seen mostly through the main protagonist, Ryouta Sakamoto. A NEET that has spent most of his life after highschool jobless and online. As a result, he is one of the top players of Btooom–but will he be able to perform just as well in real life?

Characterization, as in many series, is where I feel Btooom excels strongest in. Each of the characters we meet fill many traditional roles that are ever present in anime, however because they are on this island, you know each has a deeper, darker side to them. It is in the moments where the character’s sanity’s are tested that we really see everyone for who they are. This coupled with rich background scenes that give insight into how each character’s psychology became what it is, helps to connect us to the show.

Ryouta in particular is shown as a pro-gamer, however we see that in real life he’s a social recluse. I really enjoyed the aspect of the hero being seriously flawed, as it makes the series a bit more realistic.

Make no mistake because every survival series has a lack of something that should have been there. In this case, Btooom has them too. The series lacks a diversity in which how the game is played. In other words, there is only bombs that are the primary weapons for the contestants. It does play on its main title as “Btooom!” seems to be synonymous to “BOOM!” That’s of course what happens when one of those BIMs goes off and your body splatters. As gruesome as it sounds, the series tries too hard occasionally. Furthermore, the main male protagonist often comes with cases of deus ex machina. It’s almost as if he is protected by the “main protagonist should not die” shield. Other problems I’ve run into the series is that the seemingly rushed sequences. Some of the contestants are killed off in a single episode with little to no screen time given beyond their performance in the game. In other words, they don’t stand out as much as the main protagonists. In the end, they’re just more like obstacles for them to get by and almost a way for them to “level up” or gain experience in the game.

The artwork of the series is fine but nothing unique. What it does reflect though is the nature of the game of Btooom and its survival themes. These include the abandoned buildings, the tropical forests, the shallow waters, the high mountain cliffs, and other things you typically see on an abandoned island. In fact, most of the characters’ outfits reflects this as well in their casual wear and their battle scarred clothing. Most of them are dressed in ways in which they are of themselves which means that none of them were prepared for a real life version of Btooom. And of course, the battlefield has left ashes and bombs going off is usually visually represented with its spectacular explosions. Nothing else is more than that though as I found the artwork to be typical but gets to the point.

The soundtrack of the series is presented with its action paced OST. In most scenes involving action, there is the rhythm. There is hardly any comedic or lighthearted soundtrack in this series as it doesn’t fit within those grounds. Yet, it does occasionally have emotional melody especially for flashback scenes of the contestants; more often these are represented as being tragic. The OP song, “No pain, No game” by Nano is a classic for this series. That’s right, no pain means no game and in the world of Btooom, there’s both of that. On the other hand, the ED song, “Aozora ” by May’n is presented in a more soft paced style especially featuring one of the main characters, Himiko.

Ultimately, Btooom is one of those survival series that can be enjoyable but at the same time, becomes frustrating with its strange twists. The cliffhangers and occasionally plot twists have become predictable especially in later episodes. At the same time, there is a feeling of explosiveness (more than just the BIMs) when we watch the action scenes. It’s not intelligent but packs that feeling of survival horror where your life really is at stake here. In the world of Btooom, it ultimately comes down to how to play the game. If you play your cards right, you’ll win. If not, then game over for you and no second chances. No pain, no game, right?

With that said and the scores I’ve given each episode here.

I give Btooom! a 86/100.