Narrowly surviving his last run-in with the crazy Kagetane Hiruko, Rentaro and his partner Enju gets sent back into the field to find the madman before his scheme can come to fruition and destroy their home for good.

The Lowdown

Rentaro wakes up pretty disheartened at his utter failure at reclaiming the Inheritance of the Seven Stars. He is given little time to rest though as Kagetane Hiruko now plans to unleash one of the world’s greatest threats on the Tokyo region. While he recovers though, he remembers pieces of his past… pieces that formed who he would become as a CivSec officer.

How Was It?

Volume 3 of the Black Bullet manga has been a very pleasant surprise. After a rough first volume which was all set-up and second volume which was still hampered by exposition, Volume 3 finally seems to get how to create a compelling 1 volume arc: it allows its plot to breathe.

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The first two volumes of the Black Bullet manga were unduly hampered by a need to push through an insane amount of plot within the first few chapters, barely allowing any particular point to stick about the world or characters before moving on to the next point. In contrast, this volume shows an increased sense of focus, fleshing out a handful of existing plot strands. Rentaro’s interactions with his childhood friend and boss Kisara Tendo, and Kayo, the cursed child are both highlights in their own way, allowing for some emotional and psychological nuance to come through the pages. This conveyed an enjoyable sense emotional weight I hadn’t expected, especially with Kayo’s relationship with her promoter Shougun. As an example, one single understated double page spread of the two of them gave more emotional weight and gravitas than any amount of effects work in any of the action scenes. It was marvelous.

However, no amount of elevated storytelling makes up for the series more embedded faults. The weird pseudo-sexual tension between Rentaro and the young girls is still present, but thankfully is not not overpowering. Personally, I found Rentaro’s naïve and impulsive sense of justice more jarring than the usual “lolicon” aspects this series has included thus far. As a result, this naivety reaches a point where it is hammered home so bluntly that you can almost feel the cliche whacking you in the face in the process. It’s not enough to ruin the book, far from it, but it does leave a niggling sensation that this volume could have been so much more with a slightly better script in a couple places.

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On the other hand, the art displayed in this volume exceeded my expectations. As mentioned previously, the usually overly detailed art of the manga does allow itself a few moments of subtlety in the volume that really helps with the visual pacing. Aside from that, the compositions in this volume are a whole lot more readable on the whole, especially during the action scenes, and this was a definite step up from some of the more obtuse composition of some earlier chapters. In this sense it follows up on the narrative strengths of this volume, and I felt that it really delivered on the story being told.

Final Thoughts

Black Bullet Vol. 3 is definitely a step in the right direction for this series because it manages to compile the most compelling, emotionally resonant, and cohesive story points seen so far in the series into one small package. It may not make the entire series worth it for those not already invested, but for those even marginally interested this is definitely worth its price. Hopefully the future volumes of this series will all be this good.

What do our scores mean?

Black Bullet Vol. 3 was published by Yen Press on March 22nd, 2016 and translated by Nita Lieu. The original work was created by Shiden Kanzaki with art by Morinohon, and published in Age Premium. Volume 4 releases in English on June 21st, 2016.

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