The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Hitori Gotō

Bocchi The Rock! – Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.” –Ray Bradbury

After Ikuyo rejoins Kessoku, Hitori ends up taking on the task of writing the lyrics for their next performance, and while she struggles, after a day out with Nijika, Ryō and Ikuyo, she finds the inspiration she needs, and ends up writing lyrics the others like. However, Seika has decided to put on auditions for performers in STARRY’s upcoming show. In order to pass, Hitori and the others practise in earnest, making the cut. As it turns out, Seika had wanted to spur everyone on, and with a spot in STARRY’s next live house, the Kessoku head out to sell tickets. While the others have an easier time of selling tickets, Hitori finds this extremely difficult. While commiserating in the park, she runs into Kikuri Hiroi, an alcoholic performer with some knowledge in music. After a conversation, Kikuri convinces Hitori to put on an impromptu performance to promote Kessoku, and this ends up drawing the attention of two schoolgirls, who end up buying tickets from Hitori. Ahead of the performance, Nijika and Ikuyo visit Hitori’s home to prepare t-shirt designs, although Nijika and Ikuyo end up spending more time hanging out with Hotori’s family. On the day of the concert, a typhoon grazes Tokyo, and while the number of attendees is lessened, Kessoku proceeds with their performance. While the audience is initially unimpressed with Kessoku, as they begin making rookie mistakes, Hitori decides to improvise, pushing Nijika, Ryō and Ikuyo to play their best and turning things around for the audience, who find Kessoku’s performance enjoyable. At the after-party, Nijika explains she wanted to succeed to help Seika out, and had long known that Hitori was guitarhero. After seeing Hitori play, Nijika is confident she can realise her dream. With summer vacation drawing to a close, Hitori realises she never did any classic summer activities with Nijika and the others. While she lacks the courage to openly ask everyone, they quickly deduce as much and take her to Enoshima. Despite a rougher experience, Hitori has a great time and finds herself wishing summer could last longer. When the school year resumes, Hitori is torn about whether or not to submit a request to perform. Ikuyo submits this request but becomes guilt-ridden after seeing Hitori’s response. Kikuri later takes Hitori to a concert and explains that she’d also been similar to Hitori, joining a band to get over her social anxiety. Encouraged, Hitori decides to do her best and lets Ikuyo know she’s looking forward to the school festival. On the day of the festival, Hitori disappears into a remote part of the school after nerves overtake her, preventing her from helping her class out. Once Ikuyo and the others find her, they swing by Hitori’s class and lend a hand. As the culture festival’s second day arrives, Kessoku is slated to perform, and despite hiccoughs arising, the show is successful. When Ikuyo turns the floor over to Hitori, she ends up diving into the crowd. Some time after the concert, Hitori’s parents reveal they monitised her YouTube account and she’s made enough to buy a new guitar. Hitori ends up going out with Nijika, Ryō and Ikuyo to buy one, and despite being frightened by the staff’s enthusiasm, she manages to buy a new guitar of her own. Thus ends Bocchi The Rock!, one of last season’s more recognisable works that became acclaimed for its art style, music and portrayal of social anxiety.

What makes Bocchi The Rock!‘s story standout is that through the course the series, Hitori isn’t magically lifted out of her fear of social interactions and made as confident and outgoing as Ikuyo. Instead, her growth happens at an incremental rate; with support from Nijika, Ryō and Ikuyo, Hitori is able to slowly step outside her comfort zone and experience the world, and even if things do happen uncomfortably fast for Hitori, her new friends in Kessoku band look out for her, dialing things back so she isn’t overwhelmed. In this way, for every step back Hitori suffers, she’s taken two steps forward: by the end of Bocchi The Rock!, even though Hitori still finds it challenging to engage a shop keeper in conversation or even maintain eye contact with someone she’d just met, she was able to fulfil a dream she’d had since middle school, and while she may not believe it to be true, the skill she’d accrued while playing on her own means she’s certainly not a burden. Seeing Hitori perform skillfully even in difficult situations show that despite her lack of confidence, she’s got what it takes, and this is where Bocchi The Rock! shines: the anime ultimately shows how difficult it is to push people from their comfort zones, but in spite of this difficulty, with the right people in one’s corner, one can still take those difficult first steps forward. In this way, Hitori’s growth in Bocchi The Rock! never comes across as unrealistic, and while she’s still largely the same person she was when starting out, she is a little more confident and open to new experiences by the series’ end. Similarly, Bocchi The Rock! suggests that people are often more talented and skillful than they give themselves credit for, and it is only with encouragement from others that their potential is realised. While Hitori had previously performed online and accrued a reputation for being a skilled guitar player, being with Kessoku band has allowed her to see first-hand how far she’d come from those early days: on two separate occasions, she was able to save the show, and moments like these show how the soft-spoken folks can be unlikely heroes, acting as a reminder to viewers that excellence and talent can come from anywhere despite appearances, and that people who support and encourage one another will reap the rewards of these efforts when the going becomes challenging.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The praises out there for Bocchi The Rock! are quite varied, speaking yet again to how anime can find success with viewers when they excel in a range of areas: although Bocchi The Rock! is a Manga Time Kirara series, which are typically known for their emphasis on the ordinary and adorable, Bocchi The Rock! manages to give the characters additional personality through their unique traits. The characters in Bocchi The Rock! maintain a kawaii aesthetic about them, and this comes through in their actions, but they aren’t saccharine and over the top, either.

  • Longtime Manga Time Kirara fans will therefore be right at home with Bocchi The Rock!, but at the same time, by not relying on age-old gags and archetypes, Bocchi The Rock! is also able to appeal to viewers who would otherwise not watch a Manga Time Kirara series. Coupled with the fact that music isn’t a problem for the already-competent Hitori, and that her issues come from dealing with social situations that she’s otherwise unaccustomed to, Bocchi The Rock! is able to show viewers that Hitori’s guitar skill is present, and this leaves the series to focus on Kessoku’s journey, as well as how Hitori changes over time.

  • Hitori’s outbursts and imagination are quite dramatic; CloverWorks takes moments of awkwardness and elevates them in a way that isn’t present in the original manga. Besides allowing CloverWorks’ animation team to show off the skill, Bocchi The Rock! is able to really convey how some things are for folks who do not have a natural disposition or training in conversations with others. By comparison, the manga is actually more conventional in aesthetics: the characters in Bocchi The Rock‘s manga resemble the characters from GochiUsa.

  • The departure from the manga’s aesthetic in favour of one that’s a bit more wild means CloverWorks is free to adapt things in their own style, and this is what makes Bocchi The Rock! so visually distinct. Over the years, I’ve heard arguments both for and against the idea of maintaining complete faithfulness to the source material during an adaptation. On one hand, a work that’s faithful wholly brings the original to life through motion and sound, but there are also some design choices in the source material that may not adapt as elegantly. Similarly, deviating from the source material may cause some things to become lost, but it also allows a studio to potentially do something that wasn’t possible in the source.

  • Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer: whether or not an adaptation is faithful to the source is secondary to the outcomes, and in the case of Bocchi The Rock!, the final product ends up standing of its own accord. After three episodes, I had commented on how the series’ wilder moments might become a distraction, but as time wore on, it became clear that as Hitori becomes more comfortable being around Nijika, Ikuyo and Ryō, she begins to show her true self more often, and as her anxiety wears away, more of her competence is shown to viewers.

  • While CloverWorks is no Kyoto Animation, all performances within Bocchi The Rock! remain of a fair standard and are quite fun to watch. The music that Kessoku performs has a youthful vibe about it that gives it the same aural aesthetic as do the ending songs to K-On!. Whereas Houkago Teatime’s music was quite fluffy, and Aki Toyosaki’s delivery of K-On!‘s opening themes gave a kawaii feeling, Yōko Hikasa’s performance of the ending songs always conveyed a more mature, yet rebellious and carefree feeling compared to the other songs in the series.

  • After managing to pass the audition, the next step for Kessoku’s first real performance is to sell tickets. For Ikuyo, Nijika and Ryō, this presumably isn’t too difficult. For Hitori, it’s a tall order, and while she’s too prideful to sell to family, she becomes intimidated at the thought of approaching strangers to close a sale. It takes a chance meeting with Kikuri, an experienced bassist, to turn things around, and while Kikuri is smashed when she meets Hitori, she’s still alert enough to see herself in Hitori, which is why she takes an interest in the latter. With some nudging from Kikuri, Hitori is able to put on an impromtu performance that convinces a pair of passing girls to buy tickets and check out Kessoku band out.

  • Because Hitori finds herself incapacitated by her own thoughts at times, and speaking with others is a great difficulty for her, every win she earns in the series feels meaningful. With this in mind, I’ve seen some viewers praising Bocchi The Rock! because they related strongly to Hitori and her social anxiety, saying the anime captures how they feel perfectly. While this does speak to the series’ strengths, I do not believe that Bocchi The Rock! is validating this sort of thing. Instead, Bocchi The Rock! speaks to how important it is to step out of one’s comfort zone and embrace the process of being open to new experiences (along with handling failure).

  • Curiously enough, while Hitori tends to over-emphasise the drawbacks associated with failure, when she does actually fail, she is able to pick herself back up. Meeting Kikuri is one such moment, as she’s able to move her tickets so effectively that the others immediately conclude Hitori must’ve been lying. This is a character trait that makes Hitori relatable for me: while she does fear to try new things and worries about failing, she’s actually more capable than she believes herself to be. After Kessoku’s concert is scheduled, Nijika and Ikuyo end up swinging by Hitori’s place on a hot summer’s day, and scenes like these show CloverWorks’ typical style for making backgrounds feel lifelike.

  • The object of the visit had originally been to come up with a t-shirt design, but in typical anime fashion, everyone goes off mission, and the t-shirts aren’t designed. Instead, Nijika and Ikuyo end up spending time with members of Hitori’s family, to her chagrin when it’s clear her family get along with Ikuyo and Nijika better than she does. I would imagine that, while the Gotōs support Hitori to the best of their ability, it is probably a little difficult for them since she’s so reclusive, and this is why they just assume that she’s got no friends.

  • As a secondary student, I never had friends over, but I did visit friends, mostly to play games: one of my buddies had set up his own Ragnarok: Online servers, and he would host War of Emperium events over at his place. It always took a long time to get set up, and the matches where total chaos, but they remained immensely enjoyable nonetheless. While I did briefly have my own private Ragnarok: Online and World of Warcraft servers a year ago, ever since my move, I’ve been using an ISP that blocks ports, which prevents port forwarding. This, in turn, prevents me from opening the ports needed to get my private servers running, even locally.

  • After managing to persuade Hitori into trying some new outfits out beyond her usual tracksuit, Nijika is pleased with herself for having an eye for fashion, while Ikuyo finds herself thoroughly impressed. She breaks out her iPhone for some photos, and Hitori is rendered speechless, eventually disappearing into ashes similarly to what happened when Thanos dusted half the universe in Infinity War. In the aftermath, the t-shirts somehow get designed, and Kessoku is ready for their big day. However, a typhoon grazes Tokyo, and the ensuing rainfall dissuades a number of guests from attending.

  • Because of this and the initially cool reception, Kessoku starts out poorly, fumbling their performance and leading some members of the audience to dismiss them as novices. Spotting the decrease in engagement, Hitori steps up her game, and jazzes up her solo in a way that fires the crowd up. Seeing the crowd in better spirits leads Nijika and Ikuyo to begin playing with a renewed enthusiasm, and by the end of their performance, the crowd is reasonably pleased. The two girls Hitori ended up selling tickets to are thrilled with Kessoku’s performance.

  • Following the performance, Kessoku have a party with Kikuri, Seika and STARRY’s systems engineer, an unnamed lady who dropped out of high school and assists Seika in keeping STARRY operational. During their celebration, Ikuyo explains to Seika that she enjoys doing publicity work for Kessoku because it’s more fun to do thing with others, and Ikuyo’s energy overwhelms even Seika. Throughout Bocchi The Rock, whenever Ikuyo’s positivity manifests, it’s accompanied by a キターン (Kitaan), which is translated as “Kit-aura”. The original kitaan is probably derived from the cutesy way of saying “Kita-tan”, but there’s no equivalent in English, so I imagine that translations choose to render things as “Kita’s (positive) aura”.

  • For me, watching Ikuyo’s rant about how her name is a bad pun (きた, 行くよ!, Hepburn kita, iku yo!, or “I’m here, let’s go!”) was one of Bocchi the Rock!‘s most adorable moments and shows how even the outgoing, extroverted Ikuyo has things she’s insecure about. Moments like these, although short, do add to the characters, and Ryō’s smile was similarly fun to behold. Although Ryō resembles The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Yuki Nagato and every other stoic character of that manner, she also has her moments.

  • In a moment that makes it clear to viewers (but ironically, not Hitori herself) that Hitori’s become an integral member of Kessoku, Nijika and Hitori exchange a conversation that details Nijika’s past. It turns out that she’d lost her parents at a young age, but Seika managed to stay in her life, and since then, Nijika feels that her dream is to help Seika succeed in her goals. Despite her past, Nijika remains the most level-headed and friendly of Kessoku, helping Hitori to navigate the world of interpersonal relationships and keeping Kessoku together as a cohesive unit.

  • Of everyone in Kessoku, it does feel that Nijika is always on top of figuring out how to manage Hitori whenever the latter becomes consumed by her thoughts. While the band’s had a good summer and managed a successful debut performance, the break has evaporated, and Hitori finds herself wanting to do more traditional summer activities. Hitori’s feeling, that something like this cannot be accommodated, is a mindset that is seen amongst folks with less confidence in themselves. For people with an open mind, adventure and novelty can be found in almost any way, and here in Bocchi The Rock!, Nijika and Ikuyo bring this to the table to try and raise Hitori’s spirits.

  • In this way, Hitori and her friends end up visiting Enoshima. Although their impromptu day doesn’t go quite as smoothly as they’d like, the trip still represents a fantastic time for Hitori, who has a great day in spite of herself. Anime are very fond of sending their characters on wonderful day trips, and this is accommodated by Japan’s extensive rail network, which allows people to reach destinations in Japan quite readily even without a personal vehicle. On the flipside, over here in Canada, if one has a vehicle and an inquisitive mind, one can partake in similarly relaxing excursions.

  • During the course of the day, it becomes clear that of everyone, Ikuyo is the most adventurous and would rather do things that are less touristy in nature. She’s the one who suggests ascending the stairs leading to Enoshima shrine, and upon reaching the top, has energy to spare. Bocchi The Rock! is another anime about light music, but unlike its predecessor, K-On!, more attention is paid towards the world of independent music and live performances. K-On! had been set purely in a school setting, and Houkago Tea Time only ever performed for their classmates, or at community events. Instead, the anime struck a balance between everyday life in a club and Yui’s journey towards becoming a competent guitarist.

  • By comparison, Bocchi The Rock! eliminated the need for Hitori to become skilled with a guitar by introducing her as being competent already, and this let the series focus on a more social experience. Both anime excel in their respective stories, but the overwhelmingly positive reception in the contemporary community regarding Bocchi The Rock! suggests that people do desire something that’s a little more focused on music, and characters that are a bit more nuanced. K-On!, with its emphasis on enjoying tea and cakes in the clubroom, is not quite as adventurous as Bocchi The Rock!, which has Hitori taking up a part time position at STARRY, actively write lyrics and participate in an audition, personally help out in selling tickets and even performing at a live house.

  • I therefore wonder about how, were Bocchi The Rock! to be released back in 2009 instead of K-On!, would the community of the time have received it a little more warmly, or if Bocchi The Rock! would have been as polarising as K-On! was. I have found that, perhaps surprisingly, that slice-of-life anime often generate more controversy and vitriol than even the series with topics that are more polarising or difficult; while shows that deal with more involved topics naturally invite such discussion, even now, I fail to understand why anime about everyday life, of finding the extraordinary in the mundane, self-discovery and common experiences are regarded with such severity.

  • Although Kikuri was introduced as a bit of a trouble-maker with experience in music, being part of the band SICK HACK, a conversation Hitori shares with her later reveals that Kikuri had also been shy and withdrawn, and after discovering music, utilised alcohol to calm her nerves before a performance. Over time, she would become more confident and outgoing. Of course, drinking so often has meant that Kikuri’s become something of an alcoholic and is hammered in almost all of her appearances. However, in spite of this, she does offer Hitori some good advice, and suggests that it’s actually quite noteworthy that Hitori is able to get on stage without any alcohol. In this way, Bocchi The Rock! hints at how spending time with Kessoku will likely be what eventually leads her to become more comfortable in social interactions.

  • In my discussion of Bocchi The Rock!, I’ve not mentioned Ryō to any extent, and found her role in the anime was actually quite limited. However, despite her limited screentime, her reason for being a member of Kessoku stems from a disagreement she had with her previous band, and in a conversation with Hitori, she encourages Hitori to write lyrics in her own style rather than sell out and produce what she thinks people will want. Despite her stoic and cool manner, Ryō has a few eccentricities, such as spending all of her money on instruments and leaving her to consume wild edibles. As a result, while she does help Hitori in her own way, Ryō also exploits Hitori’s friendship by asking her to pay for her food and transportation, creating a bit of a running joke where Ryō’s monetary debt to Hitori continues to grow.

  • In this post, I’ve elected to skip over the culture festival – while culture festivals are an essential part of the Japanese secondary experience (and where some pivotal things happen, such as with The Quintessential Quintuplets), Hitori’s struggles with her class’ maid café don’t really impact the series’ pièce de résistance moment, which is Kessoku’s live performance in front of Hitori and Ikuyo’s classmates. Such a moment allows Hitori to fulfil her old dream of performing in front of classmates, and this acts as a suitable way to wrap up Bocchi The Rock!‘s run.

  • The last time I watched an anime with a live rock performance was K-On!, where Houkago Tea Time had put on several memorable performances. Their concerts were quite lengthy, and I remember how their final performance spanned a full episode, featuring multiple songs and Yui’s emceeing. By comparison, Bocchi The Rock!‘s culture festival performance is more concise. However, it is no less fun to watch, and Kessoku’s performance remained a wonderful way to round out the series. I found the vocal performances in Bocchi The Rock! to be an integral piece of the anime: like K-On!, the animated format allows for additional dimensionality that wouldn’t be possible in the manga.

  • The rock music of Bocchi The Rock! has a very energetic, youthful vibe to it. Over the years, I’ve come to really enjoy music of this style, and if I had to guess, it’s because this music reminds me of my time as a secondary and post-secondary student – there’s a carefree tenour and feeling of wistfulness in these songs. Bands like Stereopony and H△G capture this aesthetic best, and I now understand why older people are so fond of music from the 80s and 70s. For me, I actually grew up with things like the Bee Gees, Beatles, Carpenters and the like, so I’ve always connected with the music of my parents’ age more, but since I became an anime fan and found Stereopony through their performance of Gundam 00‘s second season’s second opening.

  • With her natural affinity for people, Ikuyo does the emceeing for the culture festival performance. After introducing Ryō and and Nijika, Ikuyo turns to Hitori, who’s seized with a panic at the thought of having to say something memorable. As far as I can remember, I’ve never really had a fear of public speaking per se – early on, I would simply prepare for a presentation or oration weeks in advance. Since graduate school, I’ve become better at improvisation, and these days, I can gear up for a presentation in as little as a day if needed. Being put on the spot is not a problem, although I will comment that coming up with something amusing to say can be challenging still.

  • Hitori ends up diving off the stage into the crowd, and gets knocked out for her trouble. Hitori does end up leaving quite an impression, and this moment similarly speaks to how when the moment calls for it, Hitori can uncharacteristically bold when spurred on. Her classmates are left with a memorable show, but for Hitori herself, it’s a bit of an anticlimactic outcome to a moment she’d been dreaming about since she picked up the guitar. Some time after the culture festival, Hitori learns that her parents had secretly monitised her YouTube channel, and with the ad revenue, she’s able to buy her own guitar. Until now, Hitori had played her father’s guitar, and this moment shows yet another instance of how Hitori’s been able to do things at her own pace.

  • After an eventful afternoon, Hitori ends up with a guitar of her own, ready to continue her journey with Kessoku band, and with this, Bocchi The Rock! draws to a close. Overall, this series was remarkably entertaining, and for me, it was a clear-cut A (4 of 4, or 9 points of 10). With lovable characters, a natural story and innovative use of visuals, Bocchi The Rock! does indeed deserve the praise that it’s garnered – there’s a little something in Bocchi The Rock! for everyone. Manga Time Kirara fans will feel right at home with things, and people who don’t usually watch Manga Time Kirara adaptations won’t find themselves overwhelmed with gags or idiosyncrasies that make Manga Time Kirara anime appeal to fans of moé.

  • I’m not sure of whether or not Bocchi The Rock! was well received in Japan, but if it was, and given that there is more source material to adapt, then one could reasonably expect this series to continue. I’ve been keeping an eye on Bocchi The Rock! since seeing advertisements about it on Twitter a year ago and becoming curious about the premise. A year later, I’m glad to have gone through this journey at my own pace and decide for myself what makes Bocchi The Rock! standout. Here, I remark that normally, hype among the community has no bearing on what I choose to watch, but in CloverWorks’ case, their top productions of 2022 have all been home runs.

The story and characters in Bocchi The Rock! were already of a solid standard, providing a clear-cut journey for Hitori as she joined Kessoku and began playing in a band with others. However, with CloverWorks at the helm, Bocchi The Rock! also appeals to animation enthusiasts. The anime utilises a variety of art styles to convey Hitori’s social anxiety and visualise it to viewers; at minimum, such moments create comedy, but in some contexts, it really captures the short of psychological conga that takes place inside one’s mind if they’re thinking themselves into a frenzy or locking up. From rendering Hitori with her iconic facial expression, transforming into an amorphous blob and becoming dusted the same way people become dusted after The Snap, to more subtle cues like seeing her hair ornaments melt like ice cubes, Bocchi The Rock! has no shortage of creative means of showing what social anxiety may look like to those who experience it, and by incorporating a range of art styles into the anime, CloverWorks simultaneously gives viewers a visercal show of what anxiety looks like, as well as showing off the talents at their studio. At the same time, concerts are animated well, and backgrounds are detailed. The world of Bocchi The Rock! is vivid and conveys a lived-in sense. All of these elements come together ith the music, narrative and characters to create a memorable experience, serving as a fantastic way for CloverWorks to round out what was probably one of their best years in recent memory: 2022 has seen this studio produce smash-hits like Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, My Dress-Up Darling and Spy × Family in addition to Bocchi The Rock!. Bocchi The Rock! is, in short, a worthwhile experience: it’s got all of the elements from a classic Manga Time Kirara adaptation (adorable characters and an emphasis on finding the extraordinary in the everyday), but at the same time, pushes the envelope with its animation, using the medium to convey emotions and feelings in novel, engaging ways. Even for folks who do not watch Manga Time Kirara series, there’s enough happening in Bocchi The Rock! to make it fun. The story in Bocchi The Rock! is still ongoing: there’s a total of five manga volumes, and the anime has reached the latter chapters of the second volume, so depending on sales, there is a possibility that a continuation could be made. Additions to the story would be welcome, showing how Hitori matures over time as she continues to play music and learn more about a world she’d, up until meeting Nijika and the others, had remained largely separated herself from.

Bocchi The Rock! – Review and Reflection After Three

“Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.” –Walter Anderson

Hitori Gotō has always been a shy introvert who had trouble socialising with her peers. When she reaches middle school, after seeing how a band can garner applause and adoration from their audience, Hitori decides to take up guitar and put on a performance before graduating. Her nerves end up preventing her from ever performing in front of classmates, but over her three years, Hitori practises alone and puts her performances up online, where other netizens find themselves impressed with Hotori’s playing. Upon reaching high school, Hitori continues to struggle until one day, she runs into Nijika Ijichi, who’s a member of the band, Kessoku, and in desperate need of a new guitarist ever since their previous guitarist unexpectedly left. Hitori’s social anxiety makes it difficult for her to turn Nijika down, and she ends up being introduced to the band Nijika’s a part of – Nijika is a drummer, and their other member, Ryō Yamada, is a guitarist. Although performing poorly in their show, Nijika is happy to have met Hitori, while Hitori is quite excited about thing despite being exhausted from the day’s events. Nijika and Ryō later recruit Hitori to work at their bar, STARRY, and despite her attempts to ditch, she ends up showing up anyways, learning that serving customers isn’t as daunting as she’d imagined. At school, Hitori encounters Ikuyo Kita, who’s enamoured with guitar and wants to play. Hitori has difficulty in relating to the energetic Ikuyo, and ends up bringing her to STARRY. The normally cheerful Ikuyo becomes worried, and it turns out that she’d been the guitarist who’d quit Kessoku; she had happily volunteered to play guitar for them because of her crush on Ryō, but quit after realising that guitar was more involved than she had imagined. Hitori and the others convince her to stay, with Hitori offering to teach her how to play properly. This is Bocchi The Rock! three episodes in – this season’s Manga Time Kirara anime is an amalgamation of 2009’s K-On!, and 2019’s Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, combining the former’s light music with themes of overcoming social anxiety from the latter. Although the premise is not particularly novel or innovative, Bocchi The Rock! sets the table for a story of how music and camaraderie creates a suitable environment for people to open up and incrementally become more confident in their ability to interact with others.

Bocchi The Rock! follows in the footsteps of Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu with its lead character – both series are characterised by highly exaggerated traits in the protagonist. Hitori of Bocchi The Rock and Hitori of Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, for instance, both suffer from crippling social anxiety to the point where neither can carry a conversation with others, second guess the intentions of others at every turn and withdraw at the first sign of trouble, becoming reduced into a squeaky mess. Such propensities are a caricature of introverted tendencies, and while at first glance, it can appear as though such anime are mocking folks who are less comfortable with social interactions, such characters actually are immensely valuable in the series they appear in. Exaggerations serve to emphasise the sort of thing that people uncomfortable with approaching others may experience in a way that’s clear to those who do not share their same situation. For instance, when Hitori attempts to turn down an invite to work at STARRY, she decides to catch a cold rather than approach Nijika and Ryō directly. In reality, being forward with Nijika and Ryō would yield the quickest results, and one can turn things down politely without burning any bridges. However, the roundabout approach that Hitori takes is a show of how difficult it can be do take this route. In this way, the exaggerated traits of characters like Hitori serve to emphasise that some people really do have a tough go at social interactions, and in turn, when viewers see Hitori improving throughout Bocchi The Rock!, the changes become more apparent and rewarding, similarly to how by the end of Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, Hitori had similarly amassed a group of friends; while taking a very unconventional route, Hitori is reaching out to more people and finding friendship anyways, showing how a desirable result can arise even if one’s methods aren’t the smoothest. In this way, Bocchi The Rock! is quite fun to watch, being a rather visceral depiction of the sorts of challenges that folks with social anxiety may experience, and even then, how the right people at the right time can help catalyse growth that helps one to gradually become more comfortable around other people and even embrace new experiences.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hitori initially resembles Machikado Mazoku‘s Momo, and her beginnings with the guitar are humble; she practises on her own with the hope that one day, she’ll be able to join a band. I remember that, back in my time as a middle school student, prior to entering my final year, I decided I wanted to give jazz band a whirl and ended up teaching myself how to play the trumpet. I therefore rented a trumpet during the summer break and spent two hours a day practising. By the time September came around, I was able to play alongside my peers, although the instructor flat out refused to believe that I was self-taught and suggested I took lessons.

  • While some people learn better when they have someone walking them through things, I’ve found that being self-taught means that, since there’s no safety net, one must adapt to problems and sort out issues for themselves before continuing. There are merits to being instructed, and while I’ll probably say I’m more comfortable with an instructor, in practise, I am technically a self-taught iOS developer, and I learn best by experimenting. Hitori is likely similar, owing to her reservations about social interaction, and while she’s unable to perform at a concert for her classmates, her skill as a guitarist becomes passable owing to how dedicated she is.

  • Cloverworks’ visual work for Bocchi The Rock! is impressive, equivalent to the artwork and animation seen in their past works. Akebi’s Sailor UniformMy Dress-Up Darling and Spy × Family are all excellent titles both in terms of story and technical elements. With a solid repertoire, it is clear that wherever Bocchi The Rock! is headed, one can reasonably expect an enjoyable experience ahead. I acknowledge that this is akin to judging a book by its cover, but because Cloverworks’ track record is of a fine standard, my expectations for Bocchi The Rock! is that this is going to be something I have a good time with.

  • A leading complaint about K-On! had been how Yui had a near-supernatural tendency to become remarkably skilled in the things that she put any effort towards, and that throughout K-On!, Houkago Teatime were never actually shown practising extensively or taking music as seriously as other bands would. However, the point of K-On! wasn’t the music, but rather, how shared experiences and camaraderie creates memories worth holding onto and worth giving thanks for. Anime bloggers and anime critics of the late 2000s and early 2010s missed this, leading K-On! to become a highly polarising series, even though the series itself had been sincere and authentic.

  • Bocchi The Rock! circumvents this possibility by establishing that Hitori is a decent guitar player as a result of having spent so much time practising, and although she’s never participated in any concerts, she does upload her playing to YouTube, where she’s built out a decently-sized following and developed a reputation for being an enjoyable guitarist to listen to. In real life, Hitori is so shy that she can hardly carry out a conversation; lacking the courage to initiate one, she also has no idea of how to respond when someone else starts a conversation.

  • I relate to Hitori more than I do the typical extrovert. Left to my own devices, I am perfectly content with doing my own thing and maintaining the silence. However, people have stated that I have an extrovert’s tendencies: after I warm up to people, I can carry out conversations about almost anything without too much trouble and have a propensity for lame puns and bad jokes that people find amusing. The truth is that extroversion and introversion exist along a spectrum; I lean towards introversion even though I’m comfortable with people, and while I prefer doing things on my own, I won’t experience any physical difficulty in attending events with more people.

  • Because Hitori has difficulties with social interactions, Bocchi The Rock! introduces Nijika in order to jump-start things and break the status quo. The younger sister of the STARRY live house’s manager, Nijika is friendly and outgoing, being quite involved with the family business. Nijika knows her way around bands and the industry, making her a valuable asset. In appearance, Nijika resembles Blend S‘ Kaho Hinata. Seeing familiar faces in Bocchi The Rock! shouldn’t be too surprising: character archetypes are commonplace in Manga Time Kirara series, and the joy of watching these adaptations comes not from individual characters and their traits, but rather, how everyone gets along once together, and how their interactions drive new developments.

  • Nijika’s request is to have Hitori act as their guitarist, since their previous one suddenly rage-quit. Although any other guitarist would’ve probably felt at home, Hitori struggles to summon the courage needed to play. Bocchi The Rock! does this for comedy’s sake, but I do relate to the situation of developing nerves when performing outside of one’s comfort zone. Having said this, I have found that, if I focus on the task at hand, I am able to relax more. For instance, when I left my first startup and joined my second startup, what allowed me to settle in within a month was the fact that my day-to-day was still to work with Swift.

  • Hitori hasn’t been around the block quite as long as I have, and after butchering things during practise, she throws herself in the trash (marked by the kanji 可燃, or “burnable”). This was especially piteous, since Hotori doesn’t even consider herself as being recyclable (the container on the right is for cans and bottles). Bocchi The Rock! is an example of what is colloquially referred to as “pity anime”, in which the characters are in situations that evoke a sense of pathos. My heart always melts when seeing these moments, and while such traits in reality are debilitating, anime choose to go with things like these to really emphasise a character’s traits. Kiniro Mosaic had done something similar; when Karen was feeling left out as the other girls discussed their future aspirations, she hid in a cardboard box and resembled an abandoned kitten as a result.

  • A quick look around finds that perhaps I’m unique in referring to anime like Bocchi The Rock! as a “pity anime”. I’m sure there’s a specific term referring to anime like Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru SeikatsuSansha San’yo, Anne Happy, Comic Girls and Bocchi The Rock!, but if there is, I’ve not learnt of it yet. These anime are characterised by mannerisms that would be outrageous in reality, but utilised effectively to drive character growth. To really show her as being socially inept, Bocchi The Rock! indicates that Hitori will go to great lengths to avoid interactions, even proposing that she perform in a box so she doesn’t have to see the audience.

  • In the end, although Kessoku performs quite poorly thanks to Hitori rushing ahead. A good band is in sync, and in K-On!, Mio, Yui and Tsumugi will often speed up their playing to match Ritsu’s pace during a concert. A skilled musician like Azusa will notice this; Azusa has commented that even though Houkago Teatime is rough around the edges, their synchronisation with one another is good, resulting in moving performances. At this point, it is still very early in Hitori’s time as a member of Kessoku, so gaffes like these are forgivable.

  • Although their first live performance is a bit of a let-down, and Hitori still has a long way to go before she’s able to play in front of an audience as herself, bring able to perform to any capacity for an in-person audience is a step up for Hitori. Of course, when Nijika offers Hitori a job at STARRY to help pay for upkeep costs. Nijika explains that live halls like STARRY use revenue to stay afloat, and often run a side business to bring in revenue because with many bands, agreeing to let them perform actually results in a net loss.

  • To keep in business, live halls are also licensed restaurants, and this conveniently suits Bocchi The Rock! – having Hitori work at STARRY pushes her in front of customers. I’ve long believed that the fastest way to learn is to metaphorically throw someone into the pool; this is achieved by putting someone into a situation where there is a clear objective, but where they must pick things as they go. This forces one to adapt and learn in response to whatever demands arise, fostering a stronger connection to the material. For instance, if one wanted to learn how to build an iOS app, reading algorithmic theory will only get one so far, and the best way to learn is to make an app in Xcode.

  • Applying this analogy in Bocchi The Rock! would probably end in disaster. Instead, Nijika and Ryō start with baby steps by trying to talk to Hitori and at the same time, introduce themselves to her. Although things start out well enough, Hitori’s lack of confidence causes her to lose composure with the questions. I’ve found that to overcome this, it’s helpful to do some introspection and have a set of basic answers about oneself. Then, depending on the context, one can fall back on an answer and tune it to address a question. It’s good practise, and coming up with answers and responses ahead of time could be a helpful means of aiding Hitori in communicating with others; if one knows roughly what to say in a given situation, then one can more readily adapt to the conversation and keep things flowing.

  • Seika, Nijika’s sister, runs STARRY, and she resembles New Game‘s Ko in appearance. Formerly a band member herself, Seika sports an aloof appearance and detached manner, but despite this, she cares very much about Nijika, and is more than happy to accept Hitori’s help, as it frees her to look after the reception desk. This is counted as being the easiest job, since on most days, there aren’t very many customers. In years past, some viewers would take this detail and use it to draw conclusions about Seika’s character, before using this as the basis for speculation that would invariably be incorrect.

  • However, in more recent years, anime discussions have trended away from attempting to psychoanalyse every detail in a given Manga Time Kirara series. I’ve always found this approach to be extraneous – knowing small details, like the fact that Hitori rocks a Gibson Les Paul guitar (the same model as K-On!‘s Yui, albeit in a different colour), might be cool, but it doesn’t generally contribute to overall enjoyment, or improved comprehension with respect to what a given work is trying to say. Because fewer people are taking this route in the present, I’ve found that it is far easier to enjoy whatever Manga Time Kirara anime is shown in a given season.

  • The reason I do not believe that it is meaningful to psychoanalyse characters, in an already-running slice-of-life anime, is because their actions and outcomes are already pre-determined – the writers have already laid down a path for what will happen in accordance with the themes that work was intended to convey, so speculating what will happen is unnecessary. Slice-of-life anime aren’t complicated, and once one figures out what messages are being shown to viewers, it becomes easy to work out the outcomes. As a result, I find it much more valuable to take in the journey, and see how pivotal moments contribute to a given character’s growth.

  • For instance, while Hitori initially struggles to present a drink to a customer after pouring it, support from Ryō and Nijika eventually leads her to succeed. Small victories like these are essential in a character’s growth; as Hitori acclimatises to interacting with customers, people she won’t usually know well,, she’ll slowly grow used to people in general. Understanding how slice-of-life anime operate is the key to enjoying them – anime like these are inevitably slow and seemingly incoherent, but over time, they speak to life lessons of at least some value.

  • Hitori is aware of these changes, and although she had spent a better part of a day trying to get out of things, once she realises working at STARRY isn’t anywhere as bad as she’d imagined, she suddenly finds herself looking forwards to returning STARRY the next day and do things at her own pace, one step at a time. In typical Manga Time Kirara fashion, however, Hitori does end up catching a cold, creating a bit of situational irony.

  • Par the course for a Manga Time Kirara series, characters are gradually introduced to avoid overwhelming viewers, and by the third episode, Ikuyo joins the cast. Hitori had initially tied to approach Ikuyo after Nijika and Ryō remarked they still need an additional guitarist. However, nerves gets the better of her, and Hitori is unable to act, at least until Ikuyo notices her. An outgoing and excitable girl who’s a people person, Ikuyo becomes interested in Hitori after hearing about her guitar playing, and attempts to convince Hitori to teach her.

  • Hitori tries to paint her band members as being exceptionally cool and talented in an attempt to dissuade Ikuyo from meeting Nijika and Ryō. However, when all efforts fail, Hitori reluctantly brings Ikuyo over to STARRY. The situation quickly changes as Ikuyo recognises the street, and tries to turn Hitori around. The pair soon run into Nijika; Ikuyo’s reactions hinted at her own past relationship with Kessoku and STARRY, and here, her reaction is adorable; although Ikuyo might have a happy-go-lucky attitude about approaching people, she’s not above feelings of shame and embarassment, either. In this way, Ikuyo might be seen as being Bocchi The Rock!‘s equivalent of Aru Honshō.

  • As it turns out, Ikuyo had joined Kessoku so she could be with Ryō, whom she’s got a crush on. However, once she realised playing the guitar was much more difficult than she had anticipated, shame resulted in her quitting suddenly. This is where Hitori came in to fill the void, and now that the truth is in the open, Nijika and Ryō both accept what’s happened and make it clear to Ikuyo that there are no hard feelings. To make up for the trouble caused, Ikuyo decides to work at STARRY, and right out of the gates, her outgoing nature means she’s a great fit for the role, as she handles customers with grace, even while wearing a maid’s outfit.

  • The trope of maids in a music anime is not a new one: K-On! previously had Sawako creating handmaid Victorian maid outfits for Houkago Teatime, and during the second season, to help Mio’s confidence prior to a stage play for the school festival, Tsumugi brings everyone to a café her family owns, where the girls spend the day waiting on customers as maids. Having been around anime for a shade over a decade, Victorian maids are a common part of the scenery, but the reason why they’re so prevalent is because maids are supposed to embody the concept of moé, being adorable and friendly.

  • Because consumers of anime and Japenese video games tend to be of a specific demographic, anime include maids to create a sense of familiarity and comfort. In my case, since I have no particular penchant for Victorian maids, maids simply become a part of the scenery, as unremarkable as watching people parade around in cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats for ten days of the year here at home. However, while I do not personally see the appeal of Victorian maids as anime portray them, their frequent presence does offer insight into contemporary Japanese popular culture, and specifically, the otaku subculture.

  • Seeing Ikuyo fit in so well with Ryō and Nijika causes Hitori’s confidence to deflate, and she chucks herself in the burnable trash container again. Moment such as these evoke pathos mixed with humour, and one could say that the pity in a given scene creates situational irony, which in turn drives comedy. The scene composition here is a familiar one; I’ve seen this particular setup in World Witches Take Off! previously, but I’ve never been able to identify what this visual gag is called. Such scenes are characterised by a character lying in the ground next to a pile of words depicting their final words or similar, and while it’s a long shot, if readers would be able to help me in identifying this, it would be most appreciated.

  • Once Ikuyo realise that there wasn’t really any bad blood following her departure, for both Hitori and the viewer’s benefit, she explains her story more fully, and decides that it’s probably for the better that she doesn’t rejoin Kessoku, even though she’s got a crush on Ryō. Moments like these reinforce the idea that despite their exaggerated characteristics, characters in Manga Time Kirara series also tend to be sincere, genuine and compassionate. This makes it easier to get behind and root for the characters as they learn and grow with one another.

  • Once STARRY closes for the day, it’s Hitori who takes the initiative and reaches out to Ikuyo. Although the manner of delivery is still piteous, the fact that she’s made the effort to keep Ikuyo around is admirable. She’s spotted that even though Ikuyo is inexperienced with the guitar, she’s still been practising on her own, and this is encouraging enough to move Hitori. Moments like these are why Manga Time Kirara series tend to be heartwarming: smaller details relevant to the story remind viewers of moments in their own lives where others extended them kindness, and in some cases, these simple actions have had a far-reaching impact on people. Ryō and Nijika have no problem with Ikuyo returning, especially now that Hitori’s offered to teach her, even if she is worried about

  • Of course, it wouldn’t be Manga Time Kirara if a touching moment wasn’t offset by comedy seconds later; it turns out that Ikuyo had bought a bass rather than a guitar, at great personal expense. Ryō would later buy the bass off Ikuyo and give her a loaner guitar to practise.

  • Viewers familiar with K-On! will probably be glad that Hitori is a ways more experienced with guitar than Yui was, which eliminates the concern that Ikuyo is learning under someone inexperienced. While Hitori’s weakness is her ability to communicate and open up to people, once she does, it does feel that she’s able to carry out conversations without trouble, and even teach with some degree of confidence. Of course, looking ahead, Bocchi The Rock! does appear to be one of those “two steps forward, one step back” stories in that, if the characters were allowed to advance too quickly, the story’s initial charms would be lost.

  • As such, as Bocchi The Rock! hits its stride, I expect Hitori to incrementally improve, but still suffer from nerves and lack of confidence from time to time. Bocchi The Rock! is off to a solid start, and while Hitori’s got a ways to go yet, I am hoping that throughout the course of this series, viewers will have the chance to hear Kessoku perform, too: the musical style here in Bocchi The Rock! is similar to that of K-On!‘s, and with Kessoku’s current composition, it does appear that they’re only short one keyboardist of having the same setup as Houkago Teatime.

While Bocchi The Rock! is thematically strong, and the anime is off to an excellent start, I am finding that Hitori’s runaway imagination and thought process to be a bit disruptive. The shorter scenes offer a modicum of insight into what Hitori is going through, and accentuate the tenour of a moment. However, lengthier scenes are presented as being in a separate context removed from a given moment, and as a result, have a tendency to break a scene’s flow. For instance, while imagining what would happen if she were to be a clerk at a convenience store, Hitori’s thoughts lead her to imagine her inadequacies going viral, leading her to be tried for frightening customers and being handed a death sentence. While speaking to how pessimism and doubt can result in a runaway cascade of negative thoughts, seeing this repeatedly occupies time that could otherwise be spent advancing the story. A few moments like these spaced sporadically throughout Bocchi The Rock! is unlikely to be an issue, but my hope is that such moments are used strategically: Family Guy is a series infamous for its use of cutaway gags, and while some people hold that they are essential to Family Guy‘s humour, I personally find them vapid and uninspired because the show has shown it can deliver excellent humour without them. In the episode “To Love and Die in Dixie”, after the Griffins move into the Deep South as a part of the Witness Protection Programme, they find their new home decrepit, and for the next two minutes, it’s nonstop jokes using their situation. This shows how jokes can be woven into the story without disrupting flow. Similarly, in Bocchi The Rock!, shorter moments of Hitori panicking are effective, reminding viewers that many situations still give her trouble, but excessively long fantasies can take away from things. However, aside from this minor grievance, Bocchi The Rock! is a very charming anime, and Cloverworks’ handling of the anime means that the series has excellent animation and art styles. Ordinary scenes are detailed and vivid, while Hitori’s own world is shown with a very cartoon-like aesthetic to accentuate the differences between reality and the inner machinations of her mind. The dramatic gaps in art style are reconciled elegantly, and as a result, one can surmise that over time, Hitori will similarly begin to feel less separated from the world around her as she gains confidence in her ability to perform in front of others and express how she feels to others more effectively.