In this final manga volume time is running out for Rentaro and Enju, as they are left alone to deal with the incredibly powerful Kagetane Hiruko who threatens to unleash the earth’s most terrifying creature upon the Tokyo Area: A Stage 5 Gaestra.
Pushed to his limit, Rentaro reveals his real power as a cybernetic human super soldier, similar to Kagetane himself. Now the battle between the trans-humans can finally begin in earnest, and Rentaro fights for the small ray of hope he finds in the world he knows. Can he manage to claim the Inheritance of the Seven Stars before the Stage 5 utterly destroys Tokyo?
Black Bullet Vol. 4 ends off the short-lived Black Bullet adaptation on a resounding high note for the series. This volume is a climactic, engaging, action-packed finale, and I was impressed with how it managed to tie together the story arc of the manga into an emotionally satisfying fireworks display.
The majority of the volume naturally centers on the battle between Rentaro and Kagetane which really shines as the pinnacle of Moriohon’s action artwork, which has always been one of the strongest aspects of the manga. However I found this volume in particular to be incredibly readable and fluid, and like that the composition sold every punch, kick and blast with ferocious intensity. I really think the art team here outshone the first couple of volumes by a good margin while equaling the quality of the more introspective third volume.
Thematically the volume remains strong too, building upon the emotional core which had been building to a head in the previous volume. Rentaro’s insecurities about himself, the relationship between the cursed children and the society that exploits/hates them, and the injustice of the current political system all find some good resolution here. I also really enjoyed that they brought out some parallels between the cursed children and Rentaro’s own trans-human body, giving even more depth to what could be considered a hodgepodge of classic shounen plot devices. But even with the cliche-ness of said plot devices, the story still holds together, mostly because the writing fully commits to the absurdity of its premise while also being expounded during a patently over-the-top action sequence. So unlike some of the previous volumes where Rentaro’s “naivité” became head-smackingly corny due to the more serious tone of the scene, here it comes off a whole lot better because the constant one-upmanship of the action allows for more the ridiculous plot beats to feel as grounded as the scenes they are found in.
If there’s one thing that holds this volume back it is the final chapter. Not for any real damage it does to the story, but because it tries to tie up all the small plot and character threads brought up in the manga. Some of the character callbacks come away quite well, particularly the call back to the police officer from volume 1, who is waiting for the world to end, as well as the ending of Kayo’s story from volume 3, as both of these small stories have a sense of reserved thoughtfulness and poignancy that showed off the thematic resonance of Black Bullet at its finest. However the final wrap-up of the political aspects was much less impactful, partially because the characters there were so much less defined, while also being the part of the story only interested in the continuing plot, which the manga will not cover. So while it does give answers to all the small hang ups of the story (like who Kagetana’s backer is) it ends up just feeling like a tacked on “read-the-light-novel” ending to a story which already had an emotionally satisfying conclusion.
Black Bullet Vol 4 is an emotionally satisfying, action-packed payoff to the manga series. While it does end with the story not fully resolved, it does manage to pull together the best aspects of the emotional through-line into its grand finale. For a series that began on shaky footing, this last volume really nails the pieces of the story that really work. It’s about the best send-off I could have wanted for an incomplete adaptation, and one that might might make it worthwhile for genre fans to at least give this short series a try.
Black Bullet Vol. 4 was published by Yen Press on June 21, 2016 . and translated by Sheldon Drzka. The original work was created by Shiden Kanzaki with art by Morinohon, and published in Age Premium.
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