I just watched Black Rock Shooter OVA, and it far exceeded my already high expectations set by the pilot edition. A blend of flawless animation and grungy artworks, this anime is simply gorgeous. One particular artistic choice that really stood out is the stunning use of checkerboard patterns everywhere.
The checkered backgrounds, when taken together with the rest of the setting, are very reminiscent of the works of MC Escher. Escher is the artist behind all those famous print images often seen on the walls of math classrooms: the weird room with all the stairs (Relativity), the convoluted Necker cubes and Penrose triangles, and the metamorphosis of objects (Metamorphosis I, II, III). Besides being known for his architectural prints and use of space, Escher is also often associated with tessellations and checkerboard colorings.
Now consider the Black Rock Shooter OVA. The story is switches between two worlds: our world and Black Rock Shooter’s world. In the world where BR★S fights Dead Master, we see an especially abundant use of checkerboards. Additionally, the Gothic architecture resembles the structures seen in many of Escher’s works. For example, the girls fight through maze like corridors and jump into endless checkers. Like the prints of Escher, this anime is really a beautiful exploration of space.
In Mato and Yomi’s world, we also get bits of checkered walls. Like all the other motifs between the two universes (characters, eye colors, conflicts), the checkered walls are crossovers that help to emphasize the parallels. Again, this could be taken as another look at dimensions.
Further, MC Escher drew inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass for many of his works, such as Metamorphosis and Symmetry #66. Through the Looking Glass also has its fair share of checkerboards. In fact, the whole universe is built like a chess game. Of course, like MC Escher and Black Rock Shooter, the book also challenges our conceptions of space.
The similarities in themes do not stop there. Metamorphosis and identity are both important in Alice in Wonderland and Escher’s works. Likewise, at the end of the OVA, Mato comes to terms with the events and merges with BR★S. Carrol, Escher, and Black Rock Shooter all portray this theme using bold imagery, either visually or metaphorically. The checkers are especially beautiful as a backdrop to this transformation, because they divide and delineate space into dynamic parts and lend easily to optical illusions.
Thus, following Lewis Carroll and MC Escher’s checkerboard themed exploration of space and metamorphosis, Black Rock Shooter is just such a wonderful trip.
- Checkerboards are also significantly-used imagery in certain genres of music, but that is for another post.
- I really enjoyed the anime. I am actually excited about perhaps writing a full review for it later.
- The yuri in Black Rock Shooter is just precious!