Kotori, Kazumi, Neko, Ryouta and Kana
Anime: Brynhildr in the Darkness / Gokukoku no Brynhildr
Original Run: Apr 6, 2014 to Jun 29, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Drama, Romance
Murakami Ryouta has lived with a lifetime of guilt, believing himself responsible for the death of his treasured childhood friend Kuroneko in an accident that Ryouta himself miraculously survived. But when new transfer student, Kuroha Neko, shows up in his class bearing great resemblance to Kuroneko not only in name but also in appearance, Ryouta starts to hope that his old friend is alive.
But there’s more to Kuroha that what meets the eye and when she saves Ryouta’s life using strange powers, he is abruptly pulled into a world of artificial magic and extraterrestrial creatures. He soon finds himself shielding a number of ‘Magicians’- girls who were given special powers – from their creators who are willing to take severe measures to wipe them out.
To start with, let me say that everything about this anime from the MAL summary to the OP is misleading. First of all, main heroine Kuroha Neko is also the blandest of the lot, managing to somehow stand out even less that the mute paralyzed girl. She’s not all that special to the story until the very end and the only thing that makes her an integral part of the story is the protagonist’s obsession with her. Secondly, this is by no means an action show. That alone is not a negative but both the summary and the opening themes suggest that Brynhildr is more action-oriented than it actually is. In truth, most of this focuses on Ryouta bonding with the girls and the girls bonding among themselves, interspersed with occasional skirmishes. And finally, while aliens are an important plot point in the story, don’t expect details or explanations on that front.
Despite all of this, I don’t really dislike this anime. It’s not particularly good nor is it horrendously bad. It’s mediocre and watchable.
The protagonist, Murakami Ryouta, is not a carbon-copy harem hero. He’s socially awkward, emotionally stunted and refreshingly blunt. This doesn’t stop girls from falling for him left and right but that can be excused by the fact that he’s genuinely kind and also determined to help them despite the risk to himself. His strength lies in his intellect and photographic memory, both of which he makes good use of. The character interactions are amusing and there are even some nice emotional moments. All in all, Brynhildr has some decent execution. It’s not at all impressive but neither is it mind-numbingly awful.
However, there are moments scattered throughout the anime that warrant criticism. This gets particularly bad at the end. Characters have a tendency to stand around and talk during crucial moments, often at normal volume while hiding from an antagonist who’s only a short distance from them. That’s more or less forgivable but the contrived ‘happy ending’ isn’t. Characters who should be long dead by the parameters set in the show manage to stick around long enough to deliver their last words to a friend or even be stitched back together. The entire final episode is one big disappointment because of this.
There’s also no real resolution but it’s made clear that they are all safe for the time being. Ultimately, I wouldn’t recommend Brynhildr to anyone, at least not unless another season is released, but I don’t regret the time I spent on it.
Ryouta is the best character in this anime. He’s likable and smart and most of all, he pauses to think things through rather than recklessly rush into something. This has helped save people’s lives, including his own, many times in the story. That said, he’s not unrealistically perfect either. His blind faith that the girls will all survive sometimes comes across as excessively naïve and his lack of a sense of self-preservation does seem exaggerated at times. But altogether, he’s a nice guy. Kuroneko or Kuroha Neko, despite being the main female character, has all the presence of a fading bulb. Her only defining characteristic is that she is very into saving others, often running into situations she can’t handle because of it. She’s not a bad character per se, just not very engaging.
Kazumi is undoubtedly the most noteworthy girl in Ryouta’s pseudo-harem. She’s also a character that I’m very torn about. On one hand, her approach to love and sex is one that I really like. Her idea of seduction is to basically go to Ryouta and ask to sleep with him. She’s the opposite of a shy, blushing virgin and that’s a wonderful approach to a character. On the other hand, Kazumi has a deplorable habit of molesting other characters, including Ryouta and the other girls. Kotori is her usual victim but the most disturbing scene was when she undressed and groped Kana, the girl who’s paralyzed and can’t even push Kazumi away. In short, Kazumi, despite some good traits, is not a character I can bring myself to like.
Completing the main five are Kotori, a relatively weak Magician who’s sweeter than sugar, and Kana, the resident precog whose abilities get less and less reliable as the series progresses. Towards the end, yet another girl, Deus ex Hatsuna, shows up to fall in love with Ryouta and keep people alive. Alas, the show ends before we learn much about her.
The antagonists in this are okay. None of them are particularly interesting or unique but they keep the plot moving and aren’t complete idiots.
Art and Music:
Brynhildr has good but generic art. The character designs are standard and unremarkable but they are certainly pleasing to the eye and there are few moments of bad animation.
The first OP by Nao Tokisawa is an eclectic mix of styles and very good. The second OP, Virtue and Vice by Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas will appeal to those who’re into screamed, barely comprehensible music (like me). The ending theme is tame, unlike the opening themes, and not really to my taste.
A mediocre show with harem elements as well as a sci-fi premise.