Deep breath Delightful, charming, lovely anime, great, thought it was funny, songs are a banger, basic premise is really well iterated on, minimum of Anime Bullshit, characters are all well realised and have interesting dynamics that relate to one another and the story is satisfying as it covers a number of small distinct enjoyable story beats and yeah okay, good. Good! Great! I really liked Bocchi The Rock and I think that if you like anxious girls and music and anxious girls who make music, then you’ll probably find the series pretty enjoyable!
I want to get that out of the way first because I don’t think you’d be well-served in any interesting way to see me talk about what happens in Bocchi The Rock! or if you ‘should’ watch it because it is ‘good.’ Anyone can tell you that, and so far, we have yet to find a ‘good’ anime, in part because no anime is good, and in part because the idea of ‘good’ media is silly. Instead what I want to do is talk about the things that Bocchi The Rock made me think about as I watched it, and the ways it made me feel, and why.
I’m jealous of Bocchi.
I’m jealous of Bocchi for a ridiculous reason, because at one point, she saw a reason to want to make music, and turned to her dad and asked if she could, and he went ‘sure!’ and that was it, she could do it. There’s this immensely supporting web around Bocchi that lets the story play out the way it will, and that includes her dad letting her use his guitar for years. We don’t get to see any kind of orientation period, but I assume that around the point she’s playing guitar every day for three years (trust me I’m not spoilering anything after the first minute of the series at this point), he got a clear signal that she was absolutely okay with being trusted with the guitar.
This is a super supporting parent situation of a kid with immense social anxiety, and both the parents understand their kid has needs, and wants to try things and that’s okay. They don’t make her feel stupid and they don’t fight her on her needs for privacy or hiding in the closet to make art and we also know they’d have to be okay with her doing the things she’s doing here.
It makes me think about how when I was interested in trying out music, I was told it wasn’t appropriate for me to try and get into music and then we did some staid recorder playing at school in class. Oh, there’s some painful memories of choir as well, where the whole point was not about learning how to make music but instead drilling, drilling, drilling on specific musical experiences to replicate them right and now I sing my own national anthem wrong.
Gosh, Bocchi’s family are great.
There’s this point where Bocchi talks about her relationship to having a job, and reflecting on the way that jobs are treated and explained to us as we grow up and the sort of ‘oh yeah, you’re going to do this difficult thing for a little bit of money forever and it’s going to suck, forever, and everyone is okay with that.’ There’s this recurrent consideration of what a job looks like for a kid with social anxiety and then how you can feel when you’re pushed to a limit!
I find this really meaningful because even though I don’t think you could make a case that I’m socially anxious, the one thing that makes me clench up inside at the idea of capitalism is when I don’t have time to make and do things on my own time. Watching this series show small moments of a kid dealing with a part time job and then showing how it scales up to the potential of being an adult…
And I think one of my favourite things about Bocchi The Rock! It does this really good job of showing you emotional landscapes of a character who is struggling with something that, genuinely does suck, and where her inability to be socially adept makes that struggle into an episode-worthy challenge. It’s not like a 50s sitcom where there’s a hijink of something ridiculous that a socially deft person could address, but instead is a much more relatable example of a real problem that you maybe can relate to, and then putting that problem in the hand of a kid who is really bad at handling that.
And like, that emotional simplicity is big in how the story handles a lot of things too. When Bocchi gets her nickname, I remember lighting up the same way when someone gave me a nickname for the first time when I was… embarrassingly older than she is. It really rings true to me for that idea of ‘oh hey, I am now being given a Normal Highschool Experience, This Rules (And I Had Better Not Screw It Up).’
One thing I couldn’t stop thinking about as I watched Bocchi The Rock though is how it’s this really interesting question of translation. Not translation into English – though you know, I watched it subtitled with a lot of the ‘you know what these words mean’ kind of weeby subtitling that happens (AND I AM SURE THAT IS HOW YOU WOULD TOO, AS WE ARE ALL WATCHING THE OFFICIAL SUBTITLES), but that Bocchi the Rock is a TV series based on a manga, which is itself, primarily about a person who makes music.
I mean, as someone who doesn’t know music at all and sucks at its execution, that already makes me feel overwhelmed but then imagining the task of taking a song that people only ever imagined hearing in their heads, a song that was only ever expressed by how people reacted to it and then making that a character in a series that was otherwise only a ghost kind of makes my hair sweat? Like I don’t even know how to describe how difficult that challenge seems to be.
You’re going to hear people mention the way Bocchi The Rock uses the term Bocchi Time to describe the moments when Bocchi is having little episodes and seeing mixed-media alternate takes on events with claymation or live action footage or peerless 3d graphics or whatever, but that, that’s just good ole disassociation, I have no problem imagining how you could use mixed media forms to do that. But taking lyrics that were only ever written on a page and turning them into key moments of performance in a totally different medium, where people get to hear them?
The stakes for this story could not be lower. It is about a kid playing an afterschool band that does not need to succeed or excel with a family who care about her enough to help her with her challenges and overcome that kind of problem and the problems that come from it. The problems she encounters are entirely within her own experience and the overwhelming size of them, the immense impediment of them, is all entirely appropriate to the scale they have as being personal.
There’s a sort of fuck yeah! moment in the language of stories, the moments when you can tell the story is demanding you pump your fist and go fuck yeah! in sychrony with the story. It’s relief, it’s excitement, it’s elation and it’s because something that matters gets to matter to you and it matters and it’s great and, and, uh anyway, the point is
Bocchi The Rock rules.