Whilst perusing the list of freshly released UK anime titles Brynhildr in the Darkness caught my eye, as it is promoted with the blurb “from the creator of Elfen Lied.” I am a fan of Lynn Okamoto’s series because, much like Madoka Magica, it subverted my expectations. The cute character artwork belied the dark themes permeating through its narrative. If anything Elfen Lied’s subject matter was a little too macabre for some, resulting in negative reviews from squeamish critics (man up you pussies.) This time round Mr Okamoto has changed tact, hoping to appease the naysayers. What we get as a result is a show that recycles Elfen Lied’s ideas in a more presentable package. Scenes of tragedy and dismemberment may remain, but they ultimately play second fiddle to more palatable moments of harem hijinks (and shots of boobies.)
Brynhildr in the Darkness begins with astrology club president Ryouta Murakami crossing paths with a new transfer student named Neko Kuroha. When Neko introduces herself to the members of Ryouta’s class she catches the eye of the budding astronomer, as she strongly resembles one of his childhood friends (a deceased girl who tragically perished when a friendly game of “find the alien” culminated in her plummeting down from a dam.) Neko claims to have never met Ryouta, but does reluctantly admit to being a witch after she rescues Murakami from a mudslide via the use of supernatural powers. It appears that Neko has the ability to detonate objects from range, although the origins of her sorcery lie in science rather than magic – to be precise, the source of Neko’s talents emanate from a metal implant affixed to her neck.
It’s eventually revealed that Neko is one of many witches who fled from a laboratory, which was conducting cruel experiments on her. Other witches of note include Kuroha’s roommate Kana Tachibana, whose soothsaying skills come at the cost of her mobility. Kana’s paralysis prevents her from speaking, but she is still able to communicate through the use of a keypad. The pair sometime calls upon the services of Kazumi Schlierenzauer, whose bewitching gifts allow her to hack computers faster than Lizard Squad breaches Sony servers. A fourth escapee, named Kotori Takatori, who has an aptitude for teleportation eventually joins the aforementioned trio. For a while the gals enjoy their freedom with Ryouta, but it isn’t long before their former captors make an appearance. Keen to keep their research a secret, the lab dispatches rival witches to apprehend the absconders. In a battle of witch versus witch, who shall emerge triumphant?
My rating for Brynhildr in the Darkness is three and a half stars. As a fan of Elfen Lied it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I really enjoyed the series, even if Lynn Okamoto is guilty of repurposing the “chicks hunted by evil scientists” formula for a second successive time. On the plus side, out of the two shows, viewers who detest gore and bleakness may favour this tamer Elfen Lied clone. The gruesome deaths are less graphic and Ryouta/Neko are more amiable than their Elfen Lied counterparts. Overall Brynhildr is less difficult to watch, from an emotional standpoint, as the cast isn’t exclusively composed of characters suffering from psychological trauma. What the script suffers from however is a rushed finale that chooses to fast track the arrival of new enemies, the chief antagonist’s motivations and revelations about witch technology in the two last episodes.
A hurried conclusion isn’t the worst thing ever though. Brynhildr ends on a satisfactory (albeit bittersweet) note, which trumps the unresolved cliffhangers found in other shows. Based on this enjoyable adaptation I wouldn’t be averse to checking out the source material. I’m curious to see what occurs after the events of the anime and what was cut, given that eighty chapters worth of manga were condensed into thirteen episodes. Had the harem shenanigans been removed the plot could have been fleshed out more, but I honestly didn’t mind. Scenes of Kazumi flirting with Ryouta seem reasonable given her predicament. I can certainly see how a hormonal girl, with a limited lifespan, would be keen to lose her virginity. Unfortunately for her Ryouta spurns the opportunity to get laid in what must be Brynhildr’s most unrealistic moment… and that’s saying a lot from an anime featuring girls who can summon black holes!