When Azuma Kazuki returns to Japan after 10 years, he gets assaulted by a group of armed men and becomes their prisoner. Kogane Asabuki, a childhood friend, saves him with a weapon on her right hand known as Bubuki; a weapon with its own mind. Azuma Kazuki, who is a Bubuki user himself, learns about the existence of Bubuki and goes on a journey alongside the companions he has found, in an attempt to find and revive Oubu, a Buranki who sleeps underground.
After meeting his mother on Treasure Island again and finding out that there are other Buranki users, he travels to Taiwan to find that his long-lost sister Kaoruko is also a heart user and that she has her own version of Oubu that she controls with the help of four others in her team that acts as her limbs. The competition between the two siblings is apparent from the get-go and Azuma tries to get Kaoruko and her team out of the slimy grasp of Guy and convince his stubborn sibling that she’s getting herself into real trouble. Meanwhile, Shūsaku approaches the team and begs them to save Reoko, who is currently being held in captivity by Guy and keeping her alongside her old buranki, Entei.
Bubuki/Buranki has been an anime of mixed reviews, criticising the storyline (or lack thereof) and the fluctuating CGI elements. I think what keeps me coming back to this anime is the strong dynamic between the five characters that essentially make up each Buranki. In the first season we saw Azuma, Kogane, Hiiragi, Kinoa and Shizuru come together and try to work as a team in order to get Oubu to function properly. They have now have this great synergy that has taken them through into the next season, which is good as there’s plenty more to focus on. The teams from other countries that we were briefly introduced to in the first series are making more of an appearance, and their team dynamics are often a bit more complicated than our core team. The larger-than-life United States team have now found a working heart for Megalara and there is quite clearly still a defined hierarchy in the Russian team: heart-user Maxim still in charge, followed by his twin sisters as Zanpaza’s arm users and Ignat and Dersu are still getting a rough deal as the legs.
On my own opinion of the CGI, I would say that this still tends to vary a little but production is better and they have certainly got more ambitious with the animation and the battles within the episodes. It’s not so noticeable that it distracts from the narrative and plot, but it can get a little awkward at times. I might have missed this last season, but occasionally they have this beautiful lighting style that causes parts of characters (hair, clothes, bubuki, etc) to have a somewhat neon quality. There is something positively luminous about the characters at times that makes them so pretty.
The series carries a consistent theme about absent parents and the way characters deal with this issue in their own way. Some blame them, some mourn then and some try to get substitutes in all the wrong places. It doesn’t ever skim over the issues, especially when the show could have just easily settled for familiar territory. Instead, it shows us how past events affect your view of the world and the way in which you decide to live your life. When anime series attempt to tell stories from this angle, it would usually just be used for a tragic back-story and then conveniently forget about it when it gets in the way of the action. But this isn’t the case here, it’s almost a theme that they lay out and explore in greater detail, which gives this show the extra depth that it needs. It doesn’t let the adults featured in the show off the hook either, but it never forgets that they are people too, with flaws and past mistakes, not just authority figures to overcome.
Bubuki/Buranki still excels at emotional moments, especially as they are usually framed in between beautiful battle sequences. After years of seeing well-meaning-yet-sexist ideas in anime, this particular story has surprised me with its progressiveness. I’m looking forward to seeing just what Guy’s motivation actually is and how this is going to impact the buranki teams.