This is review number two hundred and ninety six. This anime is part of the Spring 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Brynhildr in the Darkness or Gokukoku no Brynhildr. It’s a thirteen episode anime about a bunch of super powered girls killing each other or something like that. The girls also grope each other’s breasts and form a harem to service our main character. That sounds like a fun time, right? Let’s read on.
This anime is about a boy named Ryouta Murakami. He once had a childhood friend that believes in aliens a lot. One day, she was convinced she saw one and asked Ryouta to see it as well. They crossed a narrow path on the side of dam to see the alien. Suddenly, Ryouta slipped while walking along the pipes and the girl tried to catch him. They both plummeted to the ground. Ryouta then woke up in a hospital bed after surviving the fall. After he got out, he was told his childhood friend died in the fall. He has been blaming himself ever since. After a few years passed, he is still hung up on that event. If only he hadn’t slipped then she wouldn’t have died. One day though, a transfer student joined Ryouta’s class. This girl looked exactly like his childhood friend. Overcome with emotions, he then tried to be involved with her life. He never would’ve believed though that this girl that looks like his dead friend is actually a witch running from a secret evil lab. Ryouta then promised to protect her to compensate for that one time his life changed forever.
Taking the Pants Off
Here’s something to get some people overly excited. It’s a show made by the creator of Elfen Lied with a lot of the same old gore, nudity and cute girls dying. Naturally, anyone who enjoyed the mindf*ck that is Elfen Lied would immediately want to see this. It doesn’t really matter what it’s about. Just tell someone that it has gore, nudity and cute girls dying made by the same dude that gave us one of the most needlessly violent anime of its time then you’ll have people clawing to see it. Here’s what you shouldn’t do though. Don’t ever give such a glorious thing to Studio Arms. They’re an inept studio so dumb that their notable releases include Queen’s Blade and Ikkitousen. Maybe trusting the same studio that handled Elfen Lied to adapt another Lynn Okamoto work is something sound and commendable. I guess for pure nostalgia and a nod to Elfen Lied’s success then having Studio Arms give us Brynhildr in the Darkness is the only way to go. This is a bad idea though. In my honest opinion as someone who has seen a lot of what most studios have to offer, Studio Arms would be two notches higher than Gonzo. That doesn’t mean much when they’re both thirty five notches lower than Production IG. You do not give a compelling manga to an inadequate studio. Why, you might ask? Because they’ll screw it up and boy, did this one marvelously screw up. The ideas of the manga are nicely presented but it’s pretty easy to tell that the whole thing is badly mishandled. I did see the first few chapters and they had the same pace. Things turned retarded after the second half and the ending kind of wrinkles the whole experience. For what it’s worth, I do think the Elfen Lied elements do resound wonderfully in this show. Plus, the addition of harem does make it all the more intriguing. Keep in mind though, this anime is both mishandled and retarded. How much time are you willing to invest in something like that?
This show is about Ryouta trying to save this girl that looked like his childhood friend. The plot was a bit confusing starting out though. It definitely feels a bit crammed with a lot of things happening in short intervals. It opened with this story about Ryouta being obsessed with this girl that looks like his childhood friend. He was a bit invasive in the way she approached her but she understands that the dude is a bit hung up about certain things. After this relationship was established, it was then revealed this girl is actually able to prevent certain deaths. For some reason, she is able to predict certain deaths and then finds a way to stop them. After telling Ryouta he’ll die if he rode the bus home, the guy is suddenly intrigued. At this point, the show really had me. It just screams potential and I quite like how it was able to setup this complicated relationship on top of an exciting story of people preventing deaths. It looks like a pretty fun show. Wait a minute though, we’re not done. After preventing Ryouta’s death, the anime then revealed that the childhood friend is actually a witch. She’s a super powered girl able to break objects after a shady laboratory experimented on her. She managed to escape the lab with a few other witches like her and now they’re on the run and hiding. She is now preventing deaths because she knows her days are numbered and she’s doing something meaningful with her small window of freedom. Ryouta would not have any of this though and then tried to give hope to her. She can live as a normal girl attending school and Ryouta will do his best to make that happen. She’s not being poetic with the small window of freedom line though. She is literally on the end of her days because witches can’t live long without this special pill that helps them stay alive. If they don’t take it every 35 hours then she will freaking melt and die. It took a while to get there but the true premise finally takes form at this point. I’d say four episodes of disjointed exposition before the actual premise materializes. It’s a clear sign of the manga being condensed down awkwardly with the editing of the story taking a huge hit. The pacing of the manga feels too precise and you can tell the show is cramming as much as it can in four episodes. That’s alright though because the initial premise is still pretty intriguing.
The show is about a bunch of witches trying to run from the people that subjected them to some pretty horrific experiments. This lab has made no qualms of disposing screw ups and the escaped witches are considered rejects that needs to be thrown away. The girls’ poor lives are about to come to an end if the lab captured them. Ryouta, madly obsessed with his childhood friend, will do everything in his power to make sure this doesn’t happen. With the ability to foresee deaths and Ryouta’s own perceptive mind, they try to overcome the odds and survive anything thrown at them. It’s a pretty sound premise with a lot of potential to deliver some wonderful moments. The show doesn’t shy away from going gory and presenting disturbingly graphic as well so I think there are a lot of things to be done with such a wonderful story. Once the initial plot is established then the anime just grows from that point on. This is also where the two main plot points started to get established.
The first plot point is about hope vs. despair. I’ve seen this particular plot point come up in a lot of anime and I always admire how the two contrasting things just play off each other wonderfully. The same thing applies to this show as well. Ryouta is hell bent on making sure the girls stays alive for as long as he can manage to take them. The odds are beautifully stacked against the group though. The girls know full well that they’ll melt away without their medicine. With only a handful left, they can keep on hoping but it’s still pretty clear that they’ll die sooner rather than later. To make matters worse, they are hiding from a bunch of shady people whose only goal is to kill them. Our main characters are horny teenagers with unreliable powers up against a mega powerful entity that can manipulate the police and the media. The idea that this entity has made witches with super powers is a secret they want to stay a secret. They’ll do everything in their power to make sure that the witches’ deaths are certain. All the forecasts and smart strategies can only get you far when you realize you are a group of five people up against a group that can produce an entire army. Things look absolutely grim for this group and it only gets worse as each day passes by. The potential this plot point is really something I quite like. Honestly, hope vs. despair, when done right, can give us a ton of epic things. Just look at how Attack on Titan did it. For this anime, it was a bit disjointed in its delivery. While the odds are stacked rather unfairly for the characters, I don’t quite like how deus ex machine saves them all. These are convenient plot devices that appear out of nowhere to aid our main characters with the show never once establishing them. I remember this scene where a witch with the ability to wipe someone’s memory erased all of Ryouta’s memory. She claimed that the poor bastard is now a five month old baby who can’t even talk. Ryouta is pretty much done at that point. Oh wait, he’s not. Apparently, having photographic memory can’t erase your memories. At this point, this was the first time we heard of this photographic junk. So out of left field, with no effort whatsoever, he just overcame the odds. A lot of stupid things like this happen in the show. It will punctuate the hopelessness with some rather cruel situations and then soften the blow by conveniently throwing a life preserve to our characters. Hope vs. despair is presented rather pathetically and a bit unbalanced. It honestly could’ve been better and then you realize the anime butchered a lot of things from the manga.
There were a lot more brooding and planning and absolute hopelessness in the original source. The story actually plunges deep into a lot of situations where characters die and even establishes them dead. The next panel would then reveal their actual counter plan and it is as smart as you’d expect it to be perfectly capturing the hope vs. despair plot point the story set up. Of course, expect the anime to take some short cuts with the story since it needed to fit it all in thirteen episodes. With that being said though, I’ve seen some anime adapt just a few chapters of the original source to capture the integrity of the story and come out as good as the source. The way Brynhildr in the Darkness is presented just screams mishandled. It should’ve been better. Expect me to trash this anime a lot as I keep forming sentences because I am very much disheartened at how this show turned out. Anyways, hope vs. despair doesn’t end with the main characters. It also extends to all the witches in the series. The escaped witches were ordered to be killed and the lab sends more powerful witches to tie up the loose ends. Since the escapees are all failure witches, their powers aren’t that useful. The lab then tasks more powerful successful witches to go after them. The witches are usually just mean killing machines who provides us with some unsettling gore. In the short run of the anime, a lot of witches died. From the main characters literally dying, only to be brought back to life some way or form, to the side characters, you see them go up against far stronger opponents and sadly get killed in the process. I remember this one poor girl hiding in a shack only to be hunted down and then running away only to lost a side of her body from a witch that didn’t even bat an eye. This is purposely intended to add context to the hopelessness of the witches. They are weak and there are stronger killers out to get them. Seeing them struggle just often breaks your heart knowing the show is open to ending their life. It doesn’t end there though. These witches hunting other witches have their own unfortunate story to tell as well. Fail at your mission and the lab will end your life no questions asked. Soon, some witches are humanized some more by having them express their desire to be free only to fail at their mission and then melting away as if the lab is just using them as tissue to wipe their nose with. In the end, they’re all poor girls in the same hopeless boat robbed of freedom with a knife stuck to their throat. Some of these witches wish for the same thing our main characters want and I think it’s just sad knowing the show will kill them after subjecting the audience to such a vulnerable moment.
The second plot point is the harem. It’s just straight up harem. I mentioned cute girls and nudity before. They appear in this plot point. In my opinion, this one cancels out the effectiveness of the other plot point. They’re just two things that don’t go well together without the anime looking shallow. I mean, I haven’t seen a successful gore/psychological/harem anime before and I think part of the reason is because they are like oil and water. So after the initial story is established, the show introduced the rest of the cast. Unsurprisingly, a bunch of witches started to gather around Ryouta. The astronomy club soon welcomed its door to two new members who also happen to be witches. The formula is rather simple. During certain scenes, our witches would be in the convenient hot spring located near them grabbing each other’s boobs or talking about how Ryouta makes them horny. It’s a freaking harem so things just go in the usual manner. Soon, Ryouta would be involved in some funny but fan service heavy situations with the girls. He’ll see them naked in the bath, he’ll accidentally grab one of them in the boobs or the ass, he’ll see them undress each other in front of him and he even goes as far as for one of them to casually offer sex to him. He politely refused though but he still agreed to sleep next to a naked girl. Oh hell, he even saw her vagina while he accidentally turned around while also lifting up her leg. What?! For all the seriousness the first plot point provides, the second plot point returns it with some misplaced non sense. Apparently, hopelessness and sheer pointlessness of living needed to be paired with a harem element. It just doesn’t go well together. I remember this one witch melting and all the girls are horrified. Knowing that they’ll end up like her soon, the instantaneous reaction to the situation is to go fondle each other in the hot spring. So some misplaced fan service and comedy immediately made that sad death scene pointless. I do believe though that the point of the harem is to humanize the characters some more and add some light hearted components to a serious story the anime has going. The girls do have fun but the idea that their life will soon end still looms. It’s not really fluff as more of a clam before the storm moment because the audience know that a sh*t storm will unfold after this fluff of a moment. It’s a great form of storytelling that adds build up and tension despite being just fun and cute. This is really how wonderful Lynn Okamoto’s writing is. Even the fun moments carry sadness and dread.
With that being said, the harem is still confusing. I don’t really know where it fits in both the anime and the manga. I need to read the manga soon but still, harem and psychological gore just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. You have one side where it’s all about hopelessness and a lack of morality then on the other end you have girls flashing their breasts and groping each other. It’s weird. I think maybe the mangaka took the challenge head on and created a story of oil mixing with water. I want to read the manga just to see if it does work. To be fair, the harem and ecchi elements are good by themselves. I am not a fan of the blind censors though. I have seen the uncensored version and I like what I see. You’d have to block out the fact that these witches are happily groping each other on a disturbing blood trail though but the story is too retarded at this point for it to even matter. Sure, a girl getting naked is a nice harem staple and girls not wearing bra on a regular basis is cool. Does it add anything to the overall plot? No. Does it serve a purpose outside dumb fan service? No. As I said, it makes the entire anime shallow often making every hope vs. despair moment useless in the entire run. I take it for what it is. It’s a retarded show with a story filled with potential that is badly mishandled. The anime lover in me is badly weeping though because I really wanted this show to succeed. This does not happen. In fact, it horribly crumbled towards the end.
The show really tried to cram a lot of things into it. This resulted in a badly rushed ending with a lot of the important events from the manga condensed to create a pathetic ending. It had too many things going on. The emotional reunion of Ryouta and his childhood friend, a group equally shady as the lab also trying to kill witches, the alien component that makes up the witches, Neko and her sister’s emotional tug of war and this plot point of the world ending via an alien invasion. All of these told in the last three episodes of the anime and it was one amazing clusterf*ck. The initial premise is just promptly thrown out the window and Studio Arms gave us their own version of the ending. The listed down key events of the manga and decided they should all be in the show. Even if it makes no sense or if it didn’t have a buildup or even mentioned or forewarned, they just appeared and basically ruined the show. The last three episodes is just one glorious train wreck that you can’t help but watch simply because you want to hate the anime some more. I honestly don’t see a lot of studios f*ck up this bad. Anime has standards nowadays. They usually just peak mediocrity and never truly past awful. As an impartial reviewer who has seen way too many shows, I don’t think such a low standard should exist in 2014. Clearly, this show could’ve been better and it pisses me off a bit that it isn’t even mediocre. It’s bad and yet it really shouldn’t be.
Anyways, the characters are all one dimensional. The show hinted at the potential the characters had but they were presented pretty badly. Some of the most compelling characters in the series often just sucked in the long run. Ryouta is a character I wanted to like. He clearly hasn’t move on from that event where his childhood friend died and his misplaced obsession is fueling him to save the witches. He is especially likeable when you see the odds ganging up against him. He always had the option to just walk away but instead, he shoulders as much weight as he can for the witches’ sake. He is all the more impressive when he goes head first towards danger after coming up with a brilliant plan to save the witches. Most of his plans involve him jumping someone and pinning them to the floor. He did this in the first girl they fought who can slice things using the wind. The girl can also turn back time for a short minute. Knowing that, he purposely allowed his childhood friend look-alike to die a miserable death then he stabbed the opponent. After that, he also died. There it is, both our main characters are dead and then time rewind and they won. His plans are bold, risky and exciting. In the manga, he faced a lot more opponents sent by the lab. All came with their own impossible odds to survive and yet he can devise a plan that requires most of them dying yet all of them coming out unharmed in the end. His awesomeness is promptly canceled out by the harem though. I don’t have a problem with harem itself but our hero is often reduced into the typical harem lead where he doesn’t acknowledge the bunch of girls worshipping him. He also acts like the oblivious goof and it just didn’t go well together. This perceptive genius now comes out as a bland main character that just happens to be in a club with four other girls. I do understand that the girls are trying to fall in love because of how they never experienced it before. However, the whole thing comes off cheap and shallow.
Ryouta belongs in the astrology club and it has four other members. The first one is Neko Kuroha. She looks just like the girl that died but she insists that she isn’t. Neko is your typical heroine. She doesn’t really have that much of a standout personality. She just happens to be the main love interest and her longing for the normal life keeps her in the loop. Much like the rest of the escaped witches, she simply just wants to live up her life to the fullest. Her powers involve breaking objects by using gravity or something like that. She focuses on them and they just blow up or break. It’s not a dependable talent though because she easily loses it when used too much. It’s the reason why she is considered a failure by the lab. She is a bit innocent though. I love how she can’t define why her heart leaps out of her chest when she’s around Ryouta or why she would break things when other girls flirt with Ryouta. It’s a childish trait but something that does make her unique.
The girl that does stand out the most is the resident tsundere, Kazumi Schlierenzauer. She had the most meaningful interaction with Ryouta in terms of the fan service and just overall pace of the story. Neko automatically has a spot in Ryouta’s heart and Kazumi is trying her best to claim a spot as well. The interaction ranges from simple teasing and commenting on how small Kazumi’s breast is up to serious ones where Kazumi would often be vulnerable in front of him. She was also focused pretty heavily during certain parts of the story as she slowly begins to have a mutual understanding with Ryouta. Of course, all of this is shallow though because it didn’t really serve a purpose overall. The anime butchered the story half way so I’m guessing Kazumi does have a more important role further down the line. Her powers involve hacking and she usually uses her powers to help find certain people. It’s a useful talent especially when they are being hunted down. Speaking of characters with important roles, perhaps Kotori Takatori’s role was butchered the most. Kotori is the usual klutz with big boobs. She has a more innocent personality that Neko and she is usually the one being groped. She has the ability to teleport. Mainly, she can switch places with somebody but only once before her power empties. It’s an extremely reliable power though because it is usually a big part of Ryouta’s big schemes. It’s an all or nothing move though because Kotori can only do her power once. In the second half, it was revealed that Kotori is actually an important thing for the lab. I don’t want to spoil it but she was the center of this undeveloped plot point and I think it was one of the most mishandled things in the show. I love that small twist with her being in the center of a conspiracy and the show screwed it all up by rushing to the ending. She had an awesome scene at the end but, since it lacked context, it was just a shallow moment with a bland side character.
The last member and technically not a member because she’s paralyzed all over, is Kana Tachibana. She’s the girl clad in a cute Lolita dress. She can only move her hands and she uses it to type to a keyboard that acts as her voice. She is the one predicting people’s death and I just love how ironic it is that the girl that can’t even go to the bathroom by herself is the one saving people. She’s like a tsundere as well but not that much since she literally doesn’t do anything but lay in bed all day. Aside from predicting deaths, she is pretty bland. While I do think a paralyzed Lolita makes her interesting by itself, I still think she could’ve done more to improve the story. It’s a shame though that predicting deaths was conveniently tossed aside as the show progresses so she also eventually lost her place.
The villains are also pretty bland. Much like the rest of the anime, they have potential but they were also badly mishandled. The one shot characters are pretty nice though. They were the hurdles the main characters tried to overcome. Some of them are really cool looking with their display of their scary powers. The thing I like the most about them though is how the lab would just dispose of them easily when they fail at capturing witches. It just goes to show how especially evil the lab is. Chisato Ichijiku is the head of this evil lab. He is mostly just this intimidating presence that represents everything antagonistic in the show. If it’s something evil and morally lacking then he’d have a hand in it. He experimented with a lot of girls and plans to capture every failed specimen out there. He also follows orders from higher ups though but this wasn’t properly established. With the rushed ending, his motivations for being bad also look pretty damn shallow. I do think he is an effective villain but the anime just managed to screw it up. It screwed a lot of things up and basically turned the manga into something a dog chewed up and vomited afterwards out of disgust.
Now let’s be clear with this though. Elfen Lied is a pretty subpar anime as well. It just came at the right time. Elfen Lied represented its audience’s crave for blood and meaningless deaths in a time when gore was not a common thing. Elfen Lied is like a novelty gem of its time. Plus, the first episode is considered one of the most f*cked up first episode in the history of anime. Looking back though, the gore is really the only great thing about it. The anime adaptation had a pretty weak story as well and it just thrived on the bizarre and sadistic moments. Lucy rampaging when that boy killed the puppy, Nana being dismembered at the cemetery and the clumsy secretary getting her head ripped off are all gore moments the show is known for. It had shock factor and people who loved Elfen Lied really just loved the shock it brings. In terms of everything else, it was pretty mishandled as well. Not as bad as this anime being mishandled though but it’s still pretty bad. For Brynhildr in the Darkness’ case, I do blame two things. The first is the ineptitude of the studio that handled it. The story, the animation and even the characters are badly misrepresented in the anime. The show did follow the pace of the manga from the beginning but it slowly got lazy and retarded. The result is one sad anime with a lot of missed potentials. The other thing though that ultimately doomed this anime is the manga itself. How do I say this? The manga is too good to be turned into an anime. Maybe it’s the gore or the overly complicated story or the explicit lack of morals as the theme but the manga just doesn’t translate well into an anime. I’ve seen this phenomenon before. Mohiro Kitoh’s works are also very hard to adapt. Shadow Star NaruTaru and Bokurano are laughable anime compared to the gritty and dark styling of the manga. Also note though that Mohiro’s works were also adapted by subpar studios. Then again, maybe small kids being subjected to torture and getting their bodies dismembered is just not what anime should be presenting. Whatever the case, never let a great manga get into the hands of inept studios. I’m going to call this thing as the retarded equation. One good source plus one bad studio equals crap.
I really wanted to like this anime but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. While the gore and the harem are decent by themselves, combining them just didn’t work out well. The story being badly mishandled also ruined the overall experience. There are just a lot of things to hate in this anime and I just can’t believe such a show can still exist in this day and age. Kenichi Imaizumi is a pretty good director. He is known for handling the Hitman Reborn series. I personally haven’t seen it yet though. This is the first show I’ve seen his directorial talent and it does suck. If you judge him by the well-paced first half though then he does have talent. I don’t know who made the call to rush the ending but if it’s him then he should be ashamed of himself. As for Studio Arms, they are really small time. They are known for ecchi series’ though like Ikkitousen, Queen’s Blade and a whole bunch of hentai anime. Their works often go unnoticed though and it’s mainly because they do give us bad anime. Excluding fan service, Studio Arms doesn’t really have anything else to be proud of. I’m listing down Arms and Gonzo as two studios to avoid from now on. One is as bad as the other.
Sight and Sound
Character design is pretty decent. The body proportions are really cool but I’m not a huge fan of those huge necks our characters have. Lynn actually hides it by putting the attention elsewhere like the hair and the expressive faces. The anime did a good job of capturing Lynn’s design but the low quality animation does ruin it a lot. They also didn’t put much attention on the small details Lynn does for the manga. I think the design is good but it certainly could’ve been better. In terms of proportions though, the design is pretty good. The naked bodies look great and the fan service is presented nicely. The censors are a bit annoying but design wise, the girls are pretty great to look at. Of course, a brighter color palette could’ve made a whole lot of difference though. The gore is probably the one thing I don’t quite like in the series. When someone gets dismembered, the color of the blood is pretty lackluster and the small details of the wounds aren’t present. It’s just a big hole and some boring blood. I wanted to see guts and there was none in the anime. The animation is bad. One thing I hate is inconsistent animation and this show is loaded with it. Some scenes have great faces and expressive eyes then they’ll turn sideways and they’ll look deformed. The animation is very lazy taking as much shortcuts as the story did. It’s a shame because the animation could’ve elevated this show a bit. The whole thing just looks dull and a bit uninspired. Even the fight scenes lack excitement as if the whole thing is just going through the motions.
The anime has two OP. The first one is “BRYNHILDR IN THE DARKNESS -Ver. EJECTED-” by Nao Tokisawa. This is just instrumentals with a beat that just builds up. The sound is really ominous was if building up to an impending climax. It is very surreal. The OP sequence featured all the characters in this eerily post-apocalyptic setting. They are bloodied all over and then the scene turning grim with the background in shambles. I’m guessing the post-apocalyptic thing happened in the manga. The OP sequence is a good way to get you pumping to watch the show but also doubles the disappointment knowing how misleading it is. The second OP is “Virtue and Vice” by Fear, and loathing in Las Vegas. This is a freaking death metal song with really loud instrumentals and some lyrics that are hard to listen to mainly because the singer is just growling the length of the song. It’s an odd choice for an Op though considering it appeared when the show was rushing the ending of the story. The steady rock beat is impressive though and the key instrumentals at the end. The OP sequence summarizes the events of the second half and it actually does a better job at it than the actual anime itself.
The anime’s ED is “Ichiban Boshi (いちばん星)” by Neko Kuroha (CV: Risa Taneda), Kana Tachibana (CV: Aya Suzaki), Kazumi Schlierenzauer (CV: MAO), Kotori Takatori (CV: Azusa Tadokoro). This is a slow paced song with a really beautiful melody to it. Sung by the main characters, it has a very solemn and sentimental vibe to it while the rhythm comes off as heartwarming. I love the character’s voice. It’s as cool and as solemn as the song adding some great personality to the lyrics. The ED sequence features Ryouta walking on a starry night. First he is walking with his childhood friend then with Neko and then the astrology club. If you have grown attached to the characters then the ED sequence would mean a lot more for sure.
3/10 “It’s a mishandled adaptation with a good first half and a rushed pathetic second half“
The first few episodes were pretty good with the death forecasts but the addition of the harem and the story slowly being butchered just turned everything into one miserable anime experience. As I said though, the parts are better than the whole. The gore is decent by itself and the harem/ecchi looks decent by itself as well. The two things just don’t go together though. Solely for the first half, if you like gore and a few fanservice then you’ll like this anime. If you like Elfen Lied and you want to see this then prepare to be disappointed. It’s not a good show. I do not recommend this.