What it’s about: Ryouta Sakamoto, veteran player of the online first-person-shooter game Btooom!, wanted to make his hobby into a career by applying to work with the game’s developers. But he didn’t expect his life to change like *this*. He awakes one day on a tropical island equipped with a bag of bombs, a crystal embedded in his hand, and no idea how he got there. But whether he wanted it or not, Ryouta has been entered into a real-life game of Btooom!, with no rematches or respawns. The only way to get back home is to kill seven other hapless participants, all equipped with their own bombs and just as strong a desire to survive.
Why you should watch it: It’s a classic battle-royale anime, with a strong focus on tactical action scenes and big explosions. The ways that Ryouta and others adapt their particular skillsets and the equipment that they’ve been given into combat on the island is a lot of fun to watch, as are the plots and betrayals within the various groups. It’s easy to knock it as a derivative of an increasingly popular trend, but it does add some interesting twists on the common story. If you’re a fan of “survival” shows or action anime in general, Btooom! is worth checking out.
Caveats: One of the key features of a battle royale is having a wide cast of characters, and the success or failure of these types of shows is in how well it manages to balance the character development of each party. Btooom! kind of puts all of its eggs in one basket with the protagonist pair, leaving most of the side-characters as a bit one-note. Whatever your initial impression of them in the first five seconds is, that’s pretty much as far as they go. The show was also produced mostly as an advertisement for the manga, so while the current arc is wrapped up by the final episode, it’s not a complete story.
Themes: Man’s darker desires, and how so many people are largely just looking for an excuse to give into them. At the same time, the necessity of trusting others in spite of knowing that, and continuing to extend your hand even after being burned in the past.