Genre: Drama, Mecha, Psychological, Sci-Fi
Release: S1 (2007)
“Looks like I have no choice but to act as a soldier who knows no fear.”
Browsing the net for more anime with Soichiro Hoshi voicing in them (known for When They Cry‘s Keiichi Maebara and Heaven’s Lost Property’s Sakurai Tomoki), I came across Bokurano: Ours. Its first impression to me wasn’t all that appealing- it simply gave that ‘old-school mecha anime with children piloting it to save the world’ feel. But after learning that Chiaki Ishikawa performed both the OP and ED songs, it had to be something good. And I was totally right! This anime will take you for a morbid and depressing yet beautiful ride.
“This is not a classic mecha series with epic space battles and the like. Instead, each child who comes to pilot the mecha known as Zearth faces not only the struggle to save the world, but also a struggle of their own. What do they fight for? Some fight for their loved ones. Others fight for themselves. A few see it as their duty. Some don’t know why and struggle to find a reason to look death in the face for the sake of complete strangers.” –Aeterna
Plot: Wasting no time at all, we are immediately introduced to 15 characters: 8 boys and 7 girls currently on their summer camp where they all met. They went on a stroll at the beach because their sensei told them to so they could all get along better.
Fifteen is a handful, to be honest. I had a hard time remembering every one of them. But worry not- each will be given their own focus in the episodes to come. And oh, there’s a reason why they’re so many: they’ll be dying one by one as the story progresses.
To summarize our protagonists, they would be: the energetic Takashi Waku, sadistic Masaru Kodaka, self-centered Isao Kako, family-oriented Daiichi Yamura, honest and hard-working Mako Nakarai, beautiful Chizuru Honda, kind and insightful Kunihiko Moji, son of military otaku Maki Ano, always bullied Yosuke Kirie, reclusive Takami Komoda, newscaster’s daughter Aiko Tokosumi, researcher’s son Kanji Yoshikawa, short-fused Jun Ushiro, his younger sister Kana Ushiro whom he usually hurts, and the adventurous Yoko Machi.
Roaming around for a bit along the shores, Yoko Machi discovered a mysterious cave and got the whole gang to come explore it.
What they found in the cave were an array of computers and electronic equipment. And to their surprise, they are greeted by a man who refers to himself as Kokopelli, and tells them that he took refuge there to finalize the game he is making.
Kokopelli invites them to test this game of his. He explains that in the game, there will be fifteen enemies that will attack the Earth and a giant robot will swoop in to save the day. And they would be the ones to pilot that said robot- a colossal black mass clad in layers of armor with insurmountable power. It sounds so cool, who wouldn’t give it a try?
Before starting, he required the children to make a pact to the game- putting their hand on some sort of gadget while saying their names out loud, and then the computer registers them as valid players.
Next thing they know, they’ve all woken up on the beach shores thinking everything was just a dream. But moments after, two immensely huge figures appeared before them. In a split second, they find themselves inside the robot, with Kokopelli in the cockpit. Piloting the robot for the first time, he demonstrates to the kids how to control and do combat with it as they would be the next pilots for the battles to come. Kokopelli defeats the enemy, but disappears soon after.
In the cockpit, each child is given a chair that holds valuable memory to them. It is also where they will sit when it’s their time to control the robot. The next pilot to battle the next enemy is randomly chosen via Russian roulette-style spinning of the chairs. The enemies come randomly, so there’s no telling when or where they will appear. All are immediately teleported to the cockpit when they do.
This is where it gets interesting. The robot Zearth, as the kids named it, actually depends on life force to function. In short, whoever pilots the damn thing will die after using it. Thus, the kids will now be forced to decide whether to win (saving the Earth and dying in the process) or lose and have everyone on Earth killed. This is scary if the people involved have crazy inner demons lurking about. And well, with them being kids from not-so-perfect families, traumas and issues are expected.
All the kid pilots will become murderers. Just moving Zearth in the city would destroy buildings, and the animators were kind enough to give us morbid visuals for those. Not to mention giving a head count on those that died every after encounter. Their stand would be ‘all for one, one for all!’ that if killing a thousand would mean saving millions, then so be it. The other kids weren’t so keen on this, though, and it kinda messed with their innocent perspective of life a whole lot.
These dire situations would amplify their personalities tenfold, and would bring all the good and bad out of them.
Take Chizuru Honda: replacing Isao Kako as the pilot after indirectly killing him, she decides to leave the battle scene to try to kill her sensei first before facing the real enemy. This is because of her complicated past where her forbidden love with her sensei ended up with him posting pictures of them while having sex on the internet. After forgiving him, she finds out that he’s also dating her older sister at the same time. That’s pretty much why she thought that before dying as a pilot of Zearth, she’d kill her sensei first. Some serious twisted shit going on here. Check out the other kids- their backstories are insane as well.
The kids aren’t alone: the Japanese government is aware of the situation and they have their full support, but all they can do is help the citizens to evacuate when the enemy comes. They were given the chance to investigate Zearth, to no avail. They also tried fighting the enemies when they appeared, also to no avail. So yeah, they’re pretty much useless.
Overall, Bokurano: Ours was a very emotional watch, be it a very dark and depressing kind. It takes the ‘children are our hope for the future’ to an extremely literal level. It reminds us that the world is not always kind, and there are repercussions to our every action. Should we base our decisions on our selfish desires? Or for the betterment of mankind? But why should we care in the first place when our lives and the people around us had always been shit? These are the questions this anime could answer for you.