Bocchi The Rock! (2022) [REVIEW] | Gloomstar Requiem

I don’t have much time for anime series these days, so i rarely even try another to watch the new ones as they get are on-going, but i did get wind – as most people in anime online spaces did -of this new slice of life anime called Bocchi The Rock, based on a 4-koma manga of the same name by Aki Hamaji, and slowly but surely became the sleeper hit of the season.

Move over, Lain, because the internet has a new goddess or idol (in the other, liturgical sense). At least months worth of.

Given my love of slice of life animes and the many out-of-context clips promising a fun ride, i decided to see the entire series after all episode became available on Crunchyroll (where it’s officially streaming), and even do a full review, because there’s no shame in bowing down to the power of Bocchi THE Rock.

Especially since i often forget i do pay for Crunchyroll.

So, the very “japan-english’ed” but indeed curious title belies the tale of Hitori Gotou, a lone high school girl that has been playing the guitar since middle school, but has never made a single friend, just ammassed a decent online following with her instrumental covers under the hilariously generic alias of “guitarhero”.

One day she desperatly tries to fish for attention by bringing a guitar case at school, and she basically gets forced to join a girls’ rock band – called Kessoku Band – because they were missing a guitarist. She becomes friends with the girls, whom nickname her “Bocchi” since her first name is used as shorthand for “hitoribocchi” (all alone), and her gloomy, awkward persona that makes it obvious she is introverted to the max.

But she will try her best regardless!

Aside from the obvious and immediate appeal of wanting to see this social wreck of a person, this lovable, ever-so-relatable gentle weirdo (opposed to someone nasty like Kuroko from Waganai, for example), confront her problems and succeed in spite of her tendencies to gloom herself into a dust bin so to avoid confrontation or eye contact… the series actually does a lot more than provide the internet with a new relatable anime meme girl.

Even if those do help a lot these days.

Yes, the show does a great job in portraying exactly how a teen like that would approach extreme social anxiety, of course exaggerating her behaviour and reactions for laughs, but it isn’t just hollow, superficial understanding, as the drama and characterization of Bocchi feel genuinely relatable, especially with her tendency of feeling like she isn’t worth the attention people are willing to give her, flipping between extreme committal and last-second going back on her decision since she’s uncomfortable, wanting to overdo things in order to “prove” something or hiding because she doesn’t want to be seen by the very people she seeks approval with.

It does this without ever going overly serious, and it also manages to do so with a lot of style to it, it’s clear the staff at Clowerworks had a lot of creative ideas and went the extra mile, so often have the use of mixed animation style to convey the many inner conflicts or weird imagined scenarios of “Bocchi”, be it by having Bocchi in a Kenshiro-esque desert done in normal animation, only to have it transition to a combination of stop-motion and CG, or having the same sequence done in increasingly cruder rendition, ending with a rough CG model of Bocchi in a t-pose that is sent flying against a crude computer generated house/block of polygons. XD

And of course the glitch scene is legendary, as Bocchi’s VA is mighty impressive, you wouldn’t believe that cursed glitchy scream came out of an actual human and wasn’t tinkered with in post.

It’s not as batshit insane and valiantly bizarre in the way it does comedy as something like Asobi Asobase, but they still found many creatives ways to spice visual gags with the use of live-action camerawork, stopmotion-looking pieces and clay-like Bocchi in her various “forms”.

But you’re probably thinking of the overall premise and laboring why bother when the main gist of Bocchi The Rock sounds like a lot like K-ON. I don’t why you would take that as a negative if you’re a fan of slice of life animes, but if you need an extra reason, it’s definitely the musical side of things, as in, this is no light music club, the girls just play in a very small band, practicing when they can after school, and the manager of the place makes no issue of telling them that they pretty much suck when they need to.

And in a surprisingly realistical twist, Bocchi The Rock manages to show and depict with feeling what mediocre performances look like, portray the kind of scenarios a small high school girls rock band would face, from the difficulty in selling enough tickets to cover any potential revenue loss for the estabilishment, the taxing costs of instruments (when there’s no Mugi with her conveniently endless oujou-sama funds) the feeling of being “watched” by a fairly disinterested crow of passerbys and regulars that aren’t really watching you but looking at their phones, when you don’t rope in family and friends to slightly crowd the place, and all the training and exercising and busting out your very best… to reach what would be honestly quite a mediocre result.

And i mean that in a positive way because it makes no sense for these girls to twiddle on guitars, “ganbare-ing” their way to become Becks or Jaco Pastoriuses in 8 episodes or less….so they don’t, and it doesn’t really matter because they realistically don’t want the impossible, nor care too much that they are as ramshackled as a high school band would be, they just want to do it for fun.

Bocchi does help the band overall to grow, as she could do mediocre but refuse to, when push comes to shove, there’s no handing out convenient happy endings and she knows it, so they’re gonna have to fight even to satisfy their small crowd, and keep fighting for their modest but earnest dream.

Also, the group of friends itself feels very organic, with the dynamics and roles very down to the earth, so Bocchi doesn’t stand out so much because she’s peculiar, but because she’s chronically introverted. Still, the bassist is even weirder, and they just gel with Bocchi, they don’t give her much shit for it, just simply accept she’s like this and go with it, but don’t soften their verbal blows, like actual friends won’t. Also, Bocchi (and the opposite super extroverted girl Kita to a degree) does have a character arc, an actual one, not just “for funsies” pretense of one.

This doesn’t mean the characters and character designs are not cute as well, i mean, it’s based on a manga published on Kirara Time, the same publication which housed other slice of life mangas like New Game and my beloved Yuru Camp, and you get some delightful, welcome “classics”, like the party-going cute alcoholic bass player that’s clingy and constantly low on wallet funds, which plays in a fairly popular indie ….psychedelic rock band (which is quite uncommon to see portrayed in anime, honestly), intriguingly so, and the latter isn’t used to just milk some Bocchi gags out of it, it’s clear the staff and the author knew their stuff.

While i can’t say at the moment if this anime adaptation does the manga justice (or its way better, as it can be the case for these 4koma series turned anime), if you have the slightest interest in slice of life anime and dig the rock band theme Bocchi The Rock! (gotta shout every time) is very good, not just excellent meme material, an actual must for lovers of the genre in question, as it’s as overabudant in style, creativity as much as the superficial “cute” aspect, and it’s pretty funny.

Needless to say, i’m crossing all my yubis for a second season, it’s likely to happen since the series managed to outsell Chainsaw Man in terms of japanese home video Blu-Ray for a week (which is impressive despite Chainsaw oddly performing quite bad on home video sales), a Nendoroid of “Bocchi” it’s already available to preorder via the Good Smile Company, but you know, just in case.



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