Note: I apologize in advance for a poor proofreading job in this article. Eye Drops can do that to you.
So I’m having difficulty collecting all my thoughts on this one. What I can say for sure is that, after watching the first three episodes, it’s interesting. To make it a bit easier to explain, I’m just going to divide it into sections (story, characters, technicals, and some general thoughts), and explain each one separately. Sorry for the bad writing, but I really can’t get this one done today any other way.
Ryota Murakami is a victim of two great tragedies, young love, and loss. His childhood friend and secret crush, Kuroneko, was killed in an accident which, ten years later, he still hasn’t gotten over. But fate has more cruel mysteries for him, as a girl who is eerily similar to Kuroneko in almost every way transfers into his high school, but has seems to have no memory of ever knowing Ryota. Her name? Kuroha Neko.
Through the first episode it is made clear that Neko is even more mysterious as she appears, as she is twice able to predict the deaths of students, one of them being Ryota, and though neither of her predictions are fully realized, it may be because she was able to prevent them. In order to so the curious cat Ryota from walking right into death, she has to reveal to him that, through technology and medicine, she has become a witch. Neko explains to Ryota that she’s spent ten years in a lab, being experimented on, to become what she is. Now she’s escaped, and to keep things that way she requests that he keep what he knows about her secret.
When Neko doesn’t show up for school the next day, Ryota gets curious and goes looking for her. He finds that she and another witch, Kana, who can predict deaths before they happen, live together in an abandoned neighborhood. Together Kana and Neko try to save people, at the cost of their own pleasure. If they’re found, they’ll be killed, so death looms heavily over both of them, and by getting closer to them Ryota’s ensuring that he’s in the same danger.
Ryota is a nice change from the common high school attending male protagonist, yet at the same time not. He’s very smart, something of a loner, is a skeptic and scientifically inclined, and is generally helpful. So he is a lot like Kyon. But there are two big things that distinguish him. First, he’s independently interested in things. Most protagonists in his position are made as neutral and moldable as possible so the viewer can easily put themselves in the position of the character. If a character likes something specific, it becomes harder for anyone who doesn’t like that that to insert themselves into the story. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If a story is actually engaging, if it’s interesting a told well, the viewer doesn’t have to be able to pretend they’re the hero to enjoy it. Self-insert characters are more often a crutch of a story that can hardly walk, than the wings of one which soars. Ryota loves astronomy. When they were kids, Kuroneko would make him look for aliens with her, and now he continues to look for them in her place. The second thing the distinguishes him is his actual engagement with the story. Unlike the Kyons of anime, who are forced into the roles and begrudgingly do what they’re supposed to, Ryota actively participates. Having a main character who actually contributes to the story, what an unusual idea! He’s an active character with potential to develop.
Moving on to Neko, I again have to reference Haruhi because at first I thought she was Haruhi. Well, I was partly right. She’s a lot like what Haruhi would be if she knew about her powers. She very conscious of what she can do, and feels she has to put that to its best use. She knows she can’t live long, and thinks the best thing she can do with the time she has left is help as many people as she can. To her, if she fails to save someone, it’s as if she killed them herself. but despite being weighed down from the future by responsibility and from the past by traumatic experience, she’s often very stoic. Her emotions do come up on a regular basis, but as reaction and not reflections.
Finally, Kana is the most stereotypical of the three, but by no means dull. She’s nearly completely paralyzed, only able to move the fingers of her left hand, but that doesn’t seem to bother her much. contrasting this completely silent body is a fairly loud personality. She not only speaks, but yells, through a keypad and voice box. She’s immature, but not selfish.
The animation is simple but good. It’s hard to really “review” because of it’s simplicity, but there are a few things I would like to comment on. First is that it’s very smooth, both in a micro and macro sense. Character movements, background shifts and objects all seem natural very well paced, with no jerkiness or speelines. And scenes are consistent; it never feels like corners were cut in one part to save money for another. The second thing I want to note is the use of shadows. Though the general color palette is very basic, characters and entire scenes are made surprisingly diverse by the use of static shadows. It gives new layers to visuals that would otherwise be dull and ineffective.
The intro is mixed for me. On the one hand its visuals are beautiful and intriguing, showing each character dead in normal society, but then suddenly alive once the backdrop changes to bombed out buildings and smokey grey skies. On the other hand the electronic music just isn’t satisfying, it’s fitting, but repetitive, aphonic and a little dull. It doesn’t hold the animation back, in fact it does still compliment it quite well, but it’s not something I’d listen to on its own. Visuals over audio seems to be the approach.
The show really pushes the concern of whether Neko is the same person as Kuroneko and what influence it has on Ryota’s feelings towards her. Usually I’d consider this kind of pushiness detrimental as it wastes time and seems to tell the audience what they should be interested in, but here it works. I’m genuinely interested in the relation between Kuroneko and Neko, and the way that question looms over Ryota. What is his interest in this girl? Does he like her because he still thinks she’s Neko? Does he like her because she reminds him of Neko? Does he just like her?
It posses some genuinely interesting questions about identity and how to live. But Evangelion and Elfin Lied could ask interesting questions, what I’m concerned with is whether or not it has anything interesting to say about them. For that, we’ll see.
I’m not quite sure what the Brynhildr in the Darkness‘s sense of humor is, or if it even has one. Most jokes it makes seem tonally dissonant from the dark themes, and not in a comic relief way. And In some cases what I at first took to be a joke later turned out to be the set up for another depressing turn.
Now, I haven’t mentioned an elephant in the room for this yet. It’s by Studio Arms, the same studio behind Ikkitousen, Queen’s Blade, Elfen Lied, and other anime torture porn. At first I thought I would have to credit them for making something that’s not torture porn, but now that I’ve watched three episodes I’ll instead credit them for making torture porn that’s worth watching. I’m going to be doing episode notes on this show now, starting with episode 3, and I’ll explain my reasoning there. For now, I give Brynhildr a recommendation, with the warning that it is, indeed, torture porn.
Don’t Lose Your Way