#1 Overcoming anxiety through music
Terminally-introverted and a nervous wreck to boot, Hitori “Bocchi” Goto isn’t the kind of girl you’d picture as a rockstar. After being inspired by an interview, she dedicated herself to becoming a guitarist. She hoped to become a great musician, use that skill to make friends, and then form a band with them.
Unfortunately, Bocchi only got as far as the first step. She became skilled with the guitar, yet this did not magically cure her social anxiety. Since she doesn’t talk to people nor joins any club, nobody approaches her in return. Bocchi just sits in the back of the class in complete silence. Hoping for the day that somebody instinctively sniffs out her talent and takes an interest. It is wildly unrealistic, but she is no mental state to adopt any other approach. To actually strike up a conversation with people or seek out the attention she craves is utterly unthinkable to Bocchi.
This changes when she meets a girl called Nijika Ijichi. Her amateur band has a performance lined up and their guitarist has just vanished. Bocchi is gently coerced into helping them, which finally gives her the friendship she so desperately wanted. It won’t be easy for her, though. Anxiety doesn’t vanish overnight.
Bocchi is a girl that wants to have friends. A girl that wants to do activities and share her passions, who is held back by the impenetrable fog of anxiety. Even the smallest social interactions send her into an inescapable state of panic. At the start of the story, she can’t even look another person in the eyes. Playing in front of an audience is unthinkable to her, but the potential of that happening also becomes a driving force for Bocchi. Something to aspire and work towards.
In the span of months, she tackles issues that she has been coping with since childhood. She starts talking to people, sometimes with a hint of confidence even. Bocchi begins to assert herself and draw boundaries. She embraces other people as friends and puts her trust in them. It’s as much a story about an amateur rock band as it is about this one girl finally bursting out of her shell.
A journey that is relatable and endearing, even if it sometimes drives you crazy with second-hand embarrassment.
#2 Constant visual gimmicks
What actually drew me to Bocchi the Rock was its animation. The series is rife with visual gimmicks which turn the experience of watching it into a constant surprise. You can’t look away from it at any point, as you might just miss a visual gag or two.
The artstyle is fairly normal, yet always changing. It’s a show rich in moments that make for brilliant gifs; like the many moments where its protagonist descends into a state of total panic. Her art shifts between half-a-dozen different looks and goofy expression, all of which convey a lot of personality. And Bocchi is not the only character who gets this treatment.
I was also very impressed by the anime’s usage of animation techniques that tend to look rubbish in other series. When Bocchi and her friends visit a music store, it’s all rotoscoped pictures with the characters animated into them. It reminded me of the utterly mediocre Mitsuboshi Colors, but Bocchi the Rock actually does it so right. The rotoscoped scenes look superb. Partly because the series primes you for visual experimentation, but also because it just makes the visuals work.
#3 Rampant alcoholism
A minor point, but one that added tremendously to my enjoyment. I adored the character of Kikuru Hiroi. She is what all alcoholics aspire to be. A true role model for us all.
Never once is she seen sober. Kikuru is always either drinking something, enjoying the rush of having just had a drink, or in the process of acquiring the next. She drinks an amount of alcohol that would have Dionysus throwing up while remaining remarkably functional. Sure, she forgets her lines from time to time, but that she manages to get on stage to begin with is already a miracle.
Truly, she must be a Goddess of Alcoholics. Spread the word, ye fellow devout followers.
#4 Quality performances
An anime about a band of course has to have performances in it. Though Bocchi the Rock is only 12 episodes long, it has a number of insert songs spread across. These come with fully animated performances that looked incredible. Much better than what I am used to from other music anime.
The songs themselves aren’t exactly my kinda music, yet I enjoyed them a lot here. The instruments sound great and match well with the vocals provided by the voice actresses of the show. On top of that, there are numerous different ED songs that get regularly swapped out. As well as a fantastic OP in the form of Seishun Complex.
#5 Yuri flavors
While it is not a romantic series per say, Bocchi the Rock has a lot of cute yuri moments sprinkled throughout. Enough that I was left curious if future seasons will flesh this aspect out even further.
First and foremost, there is main character (and lead singer) Ikuyo Kita. A popular girl at school with a killer voice, who has a poorly-hidden crush on the band’s bassist Ryou. Anything Ryou does is certain to get an affectionate response from Kita. Sometimes a little too affectionate, maybe.
Then there are a number of individual moments between all the girls. It’s not a constant thing, but very cute whenever it comes around again.
More like this…
K-On!: Girls form a band together and hold live performances.
Welcome to the NHK: Surreal anime about a protagonist who is a nervous wreck.
Paradise Kiss: Sheltered protagonist grows as a person after meeting strange new friends.