Anime Spotlight: Brynhildr in the Darkness

Brynhildr in the Darkness is an anime based on a manga by Lynn Okamoto. The series is produced by ARMS and is directed by Kenichi Imaizumi. The series aired on Japanese television from April 6-June 29, 2014. As of this writing, Sentai Filmworks holds the North American license for Brynhildr in the Darkness.

The main character of the series is a high school boy named Murakami. 10 years prior to the start of the series, he knew a girl he called Kuroneko who insisted she knew about aliens and had met one. When she takes Murakami to see the alien, an accident happens that injures Murakami and kills Kuroneko. Now in high school, Murakami has decided he wants to become a researcher at NASA, in order to get as close to space as he can and prove that aliens existed in Kuroneko’s place. However, he has no memory of what her name really was, and he also remembers the three moles she had near her armpit.

One day, there’s a new transfer student in his class named Kuroha Neko and she looks a lot like Kuroneko. Murakami reacts in surprise and believes that she’s Kuroneko. However, she says she doesn’t know him and that this is the first time that they’ve met.

During the class’ pool lesson, the cover comes off the filter, and it sucks in a girl’s leg. She can’t get it out and is having trouble breathing. Kuroha says to herself that two students at the school are supposed to die that day. The poolside by the filter collapses and the pump gets plugged, which allows the girl to be saved.

After school, Murakami gets off a bus and goes to an observatory. While he’s there, Kuroha enters. She emphasizes again that she is not Murakami’s childhood friend and tells him that two students at the school were supposed to die that day: the girl in the pool and Murakami. She then warns Murakami not to miss the last bus or he will die. After some banter back and forth, Kuroha receives a call on an amateur radio saying the situation has changed. Murakami will now need to stay at the observatory if he doesn’t want to die. Kuroha relays the message and heads on her way.

Murakami decides not to take the bus but leaves the observatory and walks down the road because he wants to verify what Kuroha said for himself even though it’s started raining heavily. As he walks, an avalanche suddenly happens, and it’s up to Kuroha to save him. Murakami discovers that Kuroha is a witch, and that she gained her abilities through surgery and drugs. It’s also revealed that Kuroha escaped from the lab she had been kept at.

Later, when Murakami is sent to deliver something to Kuroha because she missed school, he discovers that another witch named Kana is living with her. Kana was a witch experiment that ended up completely paralyzed, but she can make forecasts. Later, he learns that the witches need to take pills called death suppressants every day or they’ll die. Kuroha and Kana end up homeless after Kuroha accidentally sets their home on fire. Fortunately, Murakami saves them both. Unfortunately, their pills burnt up in the fire. Murakami allows them to live in the observatory, since he’s the only person who uses it.

Murakami finds the location of the factory that makes the pills. At the same time, Kuroha and Kana decide to call another witch that escaped with them named Kazumi. Kazumi has the ability to manipulate things online, so they believe she can take down the lab’s security to allow them access. Kuroha and Murakami go to the lab and take on a higher-level witch. After a bit of a battle, Kuroha and Murakami retrieve two boxes of pills. They are then joined at the observatory by a witch named Kotori Takatori, whose ability is teleportation.

Murakami goes to see a scientist friend named Kogoro to see if he can reproduce the pills, since they only have a month’s supply for the witches. Unfortunately, Kogoro determines there’s no way to reproduce them within a month.

Kuroha gives Murakami a device she was handed when she escaped, and he and Kazumi activate it while they’re in Akihabara. They discover it’s from someone who wants to kill the witches. The device basically isn’t touched on much until right at the end of the series.

As the series progresses, they meet two other witches: Nanami and Hatsuna. The man in charge of the lab, Ichijiku, is escorted by a powerful witch called Valkyria as he tries to find a particular witch; it’s one of the witches that we’ve met in the series. There’s a lot of revelations and surprises as the series concludes.

After watching the first episode, I thought the series showed a lot of promise. At the end of Episode Two, I thought there was a good setup for the story. By the end of Episode Four, after both Kazumi and Kotori were introduced, I found myself wondering if the series was setting up Murakami to have a harem. By the end of the series, I think I could safely say that while Brynhildr in the Darkness wasn’t a true “harem anime,” some of the girls surrounding him did act as if they were part of a harem of girls attracted to the main protagonist.

I started to become frustrated with the series around Episode Nine, because I felt like the loose thread of the device was left hanging. Unfortunately, it didn’t come back until Episode 12. With Episode 10, it started feeling like the writing became sloppier. And by the end of Episode 12, I felt like there had been such a sudden change to the tone and direction of the story. It also felt unnatural, like they were rushing things in order to fit everything into two episodes. I ended up being disappointed with how the series ended.

Brynhildr in the Darkness had a promising start, but for me, the series started falling apart the closer it got to the end. When I reached the end of Episode 13, I found myself thinking, “I devoted 13 weeks of my life to this show, and this is how it ends?” This is a series that I’m ultimately glad that I was able to watch as a free stream. While it wasn’t necessarily a bad series, the potential I saw for it never truly manifested itself during its run. While it wasn’t one the worst series I watched during the Spring 2014 season, it wasn’t exactly one of the best, either. Personally, I found it to be a bit of a letdown.

At this point, I really have no desire to watch Brynhildr in the Darkness again.

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