BOCCHI THE ROCK! – Ep. 1

So this is pretty awkward. At the time of writing this episode review, Fall 2022 is ending in a few weeks and that includes BOCCHI THE ROCK!. I usually don’t join the bandwagon like this, if ever. However, I’ve also done very little anime blogging this year, I currently have this urge to just write about something current, and timing ultimately doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. So here I am. As for why I chose BOCCHI THE ROCK! specifically, there’s a couple of reasons. One, I have noticed on a couple of sites that this has emerged as a cult hit so I feel more interested in covering this show over other shows. Second, the first episode checked a lot of boxes for me and I can’t shake this feeling that I may regret not covering it down the line. And third, it’s CGDCT. Yes, I am sometimes that simple.

Prior to starting the show, I was a bit thrown off by the fact this show happened to have name Bocchi in its title. As it just so happens, there’s another CGDCT show from a couple years ago called Hitoribocchi no Harumaruseikatsu and its titular protagonist also goes by Bocchi (though in her case, that’s literally her first name as opposed to a playful nickname like it is in BOCCHI). I checked and Hitoribocchi did actually come out first but I imagine the vaguely similar titles are a complete coincidence and it only comes across as such because I don’t speak Japanese. Still, it was a bit funny when I asked myself if this show stars a socially anxious girl trying to make friends and that very much ends up being the case.

Enter Hitori Goto (Yoshino Aoyama), later nicknamed Bocchi, an introverted girl trying to come out of her shell and make friends. After seeing an interview with a rock band on TV, Bocchi develops an interest in playing guitar, hoping that doing so will lead to her joining or forming a band and achieving her goal. By chance, she is recruited to fill in the role of guitarist for an all-female high school band called Kessoku Band, currently comprised of an upbeat drummer named Nijika Ijichi (Sayumi Suzushiro) and a cool and quiet bassist named Ryo Yamada (Saku Mizuno). The show also hints at a fourth girl joining the group, presumably in a couple of episodes.

What I like the most about the first episode is how it dominoes one plot point into another and factors in Bocchi’s character. Bocchi starts her story practicing guitar and you wonder what could go wrong. Fast forward a few years and Bocchi has gotten really good at playing the guitar and has even developed a following online under the alias “guitarhero”. All of that is rendered moot however as Bocchi’s anxiety still prevents from becoming part of a band, let alone make friends. Things briefly light up when Nijika asks Bocchi to join Kessoku Band but Bocchi must also perform in front of a live audience within the next couple of hours. Once Bocchi practices with the band, she learns that she’s too used to playing solo and she currently can’t play in sync with the others, making her entire plan moot once again. On one hand, this series of events makes you sympathetic towards Bocchi. You can’t help but root for her and feel bad for her as her efforts are continuously invalidated. At the same time however, it’s also really funny how things get increasingly out of Bocchi’s comfort zone and her dream takes hit after hit. The poor girl just can’t take a break.

The show is of course not cruel enough to dash Bocchi’s hopes away (though this episode does pull up a fake credit sequence right when Bocchi is about to give up at one point). To her credit, she does eventually muster the courage to perform on stage. Despite Bocchi’s “shortcomings” and the fact that their performance is doomed no matter what, Nijika and Ryo still welcome her to the band with open arms. Ryo is even the one who coins Bocchi’s nickname. Mind you, the resolution isn’t perfect. The gang opts to have Bocchi perform inside a cardboard box so that she feels more comfortable. Despite the newfound comradery, Bocchi drops out of Nijika’s proposed afterparty due to exhaustion from all the social activity. Some (admittedly hilarious) compromises have been made here though it’s still a step in the right direction that Bocchi is able to push forward and, more importantly, make friends who seem supportive of her.

The only moment that seems odd to me is the part (aside from the humor, I mean) is where Nijika and Ryo talk about “guitarhero” in front of Bocchi. I get that this is to make Bocchi feel less alienated from her new bandmates but I am curious at her decision to not reveal herself as “guitarhero”. Maybe that’s her anxiety kicking in or maybe she wants to be valued as herself and not her online persona. That I can buy into and understand but this does this moment open ended so I wonder if it’ll be addressed in a later episode.

Aside from the story, what really draws me towards BOCCHI is its art direction. I’m really liking the all the silly ways the animators draw Bocchi. Sometimes, she’s drawn normally. Other times, she’s chibi or her design is much more simplified. In one scene, her eyes look normal. In another, they’re empty or in a spiral. While not to the same extent, the other characters have their fair share of deviating from their usual look. There is the risk of inconsistency but for now, all these different touches gives the show a lot of personality and it particularly fits well with Bocchi’s personality.

I also want to give points to Yoshino Aoyama’s performance as Bocchi. I laughed so hard whenever she made Bocchi go high pitched and screechy during a freakout, in contrast to her usually meek demeanor. I’ve never heard of Aoyama before and I don’t believe she’s been in a lot of roles but it would not surprise me if that all changes with this show.

OP: “Seishun Complex” by Kessoku Band

ED: “Distortion!!” by Kessoku Band


Watch BOCCHI THE ROCK! on Crunchyroll.

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