Maaya UchidaSayaka SenbongiKotori KoiwaiJunji Majima
Bocchi the Rock
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2022
Director: Keiichiro Saito
Writer: Erika Yoshida
Actor: Ikumi Hasegawa, Junji Majima, Kana Ichinose, Kotori Koiwai, Maaya Uchida, Misaki Watada, Rie Suegara, Saku Mizuno, Sayaka Senbongi, Sayumi Suzushiro, Yoshino Aoyama
Keywords: anime, favourite
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2022
Review date: 2 February 2024
It's a comedy about a girl (Gotou Hitori, nicknamed Bocchi) who's introverted almost to the point of derangement and might degenerate into non-human forms if forced to interact with people. This anime does that with absurdist animation that made me laugh aloud. She's so into her inner fantasy world that she'll occasionally lose contact with reality. Years ago, she heard that playing in a band might be a way for introverts to become popular, so she spent three years practising the guitar for six hours a day. This failed and she still didn't make any friends, because she'd forgotten that talking to people is a requirement even for guitarists. She has an Extremely Online social life that involves uploading music videos.
She's magnificent, as is this show.
I was expecting another "cute girls in a band" anime, but it's so much more than that. Music nerds have waxed rhapsodic about its portrait of band life. The mangaka researched the life of small independent bands and put all the detail in here. Our heroes face paying the venue out of your own pocket if they don't sell enough tickets, doing auditions and the dilemmas of songwriting. (Commercial success, or writing from the heart even if this means no one will like your music? This discussion struck me as good advice.) Also, most of the show's cast are drawn from specific real Japanese rock bands. Kessoku Band are a nod to Asian Kung-Fu Generation, matching both their surnames and band roles.
I knew the staff understood the material from the following quote:
"Prior to the greenlighting of Bocchi the Rock!'s anime adaptation, character designer and chief animation director Kerorira was a fan of the manga for its comedy, art style, and characters, and in particular Hitori's 'unhinged' nature."
Unhinged = yes, yes. I love Bocchi and she's one of the great anime protagonists, but yes.
Yes, Bocchi eventually finds a band in high school and she couldn't have been luckier in finding three lovely girls who understand her weirdness. This could easily have been just another fluffy feel-good show... and it is, but it has another side that really isn't. The show's portrayal of Bocchi is brutal, yet also sympathetic and never mean-spirited or depressing. They've found a way to portray pathological negativity in a way that's both hilarious and loving. (The mangaka regards Bocchi's personality as a projection of hers and says that she relates with her the most.)
Consider also Bocchi's drunkard mentor. She's wonderful. I love her. She's the person Bocchi needs more than anyone else in the world, twice over... but she's also deeply unhealthy and a bad role model. She shows by example that Bocchi has a chance to fix herself and grow, but also that there's a slippery slope. Underneath its adorable surface, this show has teeth.
I'll also note that if Bocchi's Japanese-speaking parents were real, they'd have been bastards to have named her Hitori.
Sometimes my children watch my anime. I filter (not very rigorously) on acceptability for small children, then wheel out anything I think they'll love. They've enjoyed things like HeartCatch PreCure!, Kemono Friends, Cells at Work, Fruits Basket (the good one by Akitarou Daichi), etc. This show will go on the list. I'll put it in a run of girl bands, with Zombieland Saga, Show by Rock!! (seasons 1-2 only) and maybe K-On. (Okay, yes, Zombieland Saga is an idol anime rather than a girl band, but going off into Love Live! and The iDOLM@STER would take months.)
This show rocks. (Sorry.) It's sharper and more thoughtful than it looks, but it's also endlessly lovable and funny. Bocchi has huge growth over the course of the season and she'll never again be the invertebrate she was in ep.1. I loved it to bits, despite not generally being into the band anime genre per se.