Black Rock Shooter is a multimedia science-fiction/ fantasy anime franchise. The franchise includes a couple of TV anime series, several manga series, music videos, and video games.
Although the various versions have limited amounts of continuity, they all feature a mysterious girl known as Black Rock Shooter.
The series also has an indirect connection to the Vocaloid singer Miku Hatsune.
Table of Contents
- Characters/ Voice Actors
- Release Dates
- Where to Watch
Black Rock Shooter Plot
This article will look at three separate anime plotlines: Black Rock Shooter (OVA), Black Rock Shooter (2012), and Black Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall (2022).
The first two are metaphysical fantasy stories filled with symbolism, while the third features a futuristic science-fiction plot.
Black Rock Shooter (2010, OVA)
The OVA concentrates on two schoolgirl friends, Mato Kuroi and Yomi Takanashi.
These two start to drift apart when Mato spends time with a girl named Yu Kotari. One day, Yomi disappears.
Shortly afterward, Mato is transported into another world. While there, she merges with Black Rock Shooter, her “Other Self.” Meanwhile, Yomi’s “Other Self” is her enemy and rival, Dead Master.
The two rivals battle, and Mato rescues Yomi. The two girls return to normal, although the ending suggests that the same thing could happen to Yu.
Black Rock Shooter (2012)
The 2012 version features some of the same characters and concepts as the OVA. However, it reboots the story from the beginning, and expands upon the plotline.
At first, the series follows two seemingly separate plots — which are actually intricately connected.
In one plotline, middle school girl Mato struggles to maintain her friendship with Yomi. A third girl, Kagari, comes between them. (Yu also returns, and several other characters also complicate matters.)
In the other world, Black Rock Shooter fights against Dead Master, along with several new foes. These two worlds are linked through dreams. As in the OVA, the fantasy world “Other Selves” all have real world counterparts.
Black Rock Shooter aims to eliminate the “Other Selves,” because they represent painful emotions for their real world counterparts. However, destroying “Other Selves” causes real people to fade from memory.
Mato ends up in her Other Self. Black Rock Shooter kills Dead Master, and transforms into Insane Black Rock Shooter.
In the end, Mato must defeat her insane Other Self. And the other girls must regain their memories before things can return to normal.
Black Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall (2022)
Dawn Fall is a post-apocalyptic science-fiction story. It features an artificial intelligence rebellion against humanity.
Black Rock Shooter, a.k.a. “Empress,” joins the fight to destroy a space bridge in order to prevent an invasion of AI from the moon.
Meanwhile, Empress seeks to find the missing memories of her childhood. Dead Master returns as an ally who gets brainwashed.
The main villain is Artemis/ Lunatic, the AI leader. Lunatic is helped by the disturbing and creepy Smiley, a cult leader.
Warning: Although the scene is censored, the first episode implies that Smiley had sex with a girl. Later, the series reveals that he raped and murdered girls.
Black Rock Shooter Settings
The OVA has two settings — a typical Japanese school, and a dark fantasy world. Similar versions of these settings return in the 2012 version.
The normal, “slice-of-life schoolgirl anime” setting sharply contrasts with the dark and hellish fantasy world. Checkerboard patterns are often seen in the fantasy world, adding a touch of Alice in Wonderland to it.
Dawn Fall takes place in 2062 on Earth. The world has been devastated in the decades since the AI workers rebelled.
Although the planet is pretty unrecognizable after years of war and destruction, ruined cities do still exist. For example, the remains of the Golden Gate Bridge can be seen. And we also get a look at Bogota, Colombia (both before and after the war).
Characters/ Voice Actors
Mato Kuroi/ Black Rock Shooter (OVA and 2012) — voiced by Kana Hanazawa
Mato Kuroi is one of two schoolgirls who are struggling to keep their friendship together. She is kind and caring, but she also doesn’t want to be hurt. Mato is also somewhat philosophical.
Black Rock Shooter is Mato’s fantasy world “other self.” She is a quiet, calm, and stoic protagonist.
In the 2012 version, she is also an emotionless and deadly anti-hero, killing mercilessly. She’s motivated by Mato’s desire to help others. Unfortunately, in the fantasy realm, that means getting rid of all of the other “other selves.”
- Kana Hanazawa voiced Marimo Bando in Teekyu, Ichika Nakano in The Quintessential Quintuplets, Angel in Angel Beats!, Mitsuri Kanroji in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, and Red Blood Cell in Cells at Work!, among other roles.
Yomi Takanashi/ Dead Master (OVA and 2012) — voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro
Yomi is Mato’s quiet and polite friend. In both the OVA and the 2012 series, Yomi is caught between Mato and another girl, which leads to jealously and strained relationships.
Dead Master is Yomi’s fantasy self. She sometimes represents Yomi’s jealous side. But Yomi’s difficult relationships also manifest as literal chains on Dead Master.
- Miyuki Sawashiro voiced Fujiko in Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, Valkyrie Yuna in Edens Zero, Kyoko Honda in Fruits Basket (2019 reboot), and Kitaro in GeGeGe no Kitaro (2018 reboot). She is also the voice of Puchiko in Di Gi Charat, the Landlady in Hidamari Sketch, and Virgo in Fairy Tail, among others.
Black Rock Shooter/ Empress (Dawn Fall) — voiced by Yui Ishikawa
In Dawn Fall, Black Rock Shooter is similar to her previous versions. She’s still stoic and largely emotionless. But she’s more compassionate than the 2012 version. She has amnesia at the start of the series, and seeks to find out what she lost.
- Yui Ishikawa also voiced Mikasa Ackerman in Attack on Titan, Kyururu in Kemono Friends, and USS Enterprise in Azur Lane, among others.
Dead Master (Dawn Fall) — voiced by Saori Hayami
In Dawn Fall, Dead Master is a devoted ally of Empress. She fights against Empress when an enemy manipulates her feelings. She also plays an important role in Empress’s forgotten history.
- Saori Hayami is also the voice of Tsuki Uzaki in Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out, Yuuri in The Maid I Hired Recently is Mysterious, Aoyama Blue Mountain in Is the Order a Rabbit?, and Shinobu Kocho in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, among other roles.
Promo Video for the 2012 TV anime series at Fuji TV on YouTube (in Japanese only):
Promo Video for Dawn Fall at EMOTION Label Channel on YouTube (in Japanese only):
Somewhat unusual for an anime series, the franchise started out in 2007 as a character illustration by Ryohei Fuke, a.k.a. Huke. Huke posted it to the art website Pivix.
The illustration inspired a song, Black Rock Shooter, by the J-pop band Supercell. The song featured Miku Hatsune, and was made into a music video on Nico Nico Douga in 2008.
That in turn inspired an OVA. The screenplay was written by animator Shinobu Yoshioka and writer Nagaru Tanigawa (better known for the Haruhi Suzumiya novels). Good Smile Company released a version of the OVA in 2009.
In March 2011, the comedy manga Black Rock-chan featured chibi versions of the characters. That was followed later that year by the more serious, seinen manga Black Rock Shooter: Innocent Soul. It ran in Kadokawa’s Young Ace magazine.
In addition, Kadokawa also published the 2011-2012 seinen manga Black Rock Shooter: The Game in Comptiq, a computer game magazine.
The first TV anime series was released in 2012. Dawn Fall came out in 2022.