極黒のブリュンヒルデ 第1話 「きみを待ちながら」
Brynhildr in the Darkness #01. 「While I Wait For You」
Source Material: Manga series of the same name by Okamoto Lynn (岡本 倫)
Director(s): Imaizumi Kenichi (今泉 賢一)
Writer(s): Kitajima Yukinori (北島 今泉)
Studio(s): VAP, Arms
Art Director(s): Ujie Makoto (氏家 誠)
Brynhildr in the Darkness is a science fiction manga by Lynn Okamoto, who is most well known for his series Elfen Lied. Brynhildr began serialization in Shueisha‘s Weekly Young Jump seinen magazine in January and is currently ongoing.
Protagonist Murakami Ryouta is an eleventh-grade high schooler who has lived burdened by the premature death of his childhood friend, who he simply calls Kuroneko. In the accident that caused her death, Ryouta reached out and grabbed Kuroneko’s hand while falling off a building, resulting in a strange turn of events wherein he was the only one left alive. Since the tragedy, Ryouta has committed himself to become a researcher at NASA and to prove the existence of aliens for the sake of Kuroneko, who was an adamant believer. One day, his home-room class receives a transfer student who is the spinning image of Kuroneko, save for three moles located just next to the left armpit. Ryouta recognizes her immediately and makes a scene, but his accusations of their history together is forthrightly shut down by the girl, named Neko Kuroha. Later on, during physical education in the pool area, Neko is seen with a stunted ability to swim, drowning as soon as she enters deep waters; it is a suspicious parallel to Ryouta and Kuroneko’s accident in which their fall collided into open waters. Right after, a classmate is involved in a freak accident when her leg gets stuck in the pool filter and she begins seriously drowning. A mysterious force causes the poolside to collapse and disable the pool filter, saving the girl. The same evening, Neko follows Ryouta to the observatory of the Astronomy Club to reveal that she had foresight of the accident and was the one who saved the classmate, Kashiwagi. More importantly, she prompts Ryouta to ensure that he catch the bus home tonight because he is the other of the two classmates under the threat of death. Ryouta deduces that Neko isn’t very bright, surprised at her inability to do simple calculations of the multiplication table; but is subsequently overwhelmed by her strength in an arm-wrestling match. Neko receives a transmission via radio that warns of the cosmic death threat being more powerful than before estimated, and she bluntly tells Ryouta that he had actually better just stay the night in the observatory before promptly leaving. Ryouta does not comply however, and ventures outside into the rain with a curiosity as to just how psychic Neko really is. Neko returns to Ryouta’s aid and saves him from a mudslide and collapsing boulder, by effect revealing to Ryouta that she really does not have three moles near her armpit as Kuroneko would. At the sight of this truth, a solemn Ryouta beings to accept that his childhood friend really is dead.
I can’t say Brynhildr in the Darkness is a particularly different and or unique series, but I also can’t say it seeps into the mold of the generic. Though in knowing that it comes from the same mind that authored Elfen Lied, I can say that it definitely flaunts some more traditional story-telling elements; i.e. the immediately revealed tragic back-story for the protagonist that defines his disposition in the present day environment of the classroom and the good ol’ fashioned self-narrating monologues. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve heard a character so openly and explicitly admit his love for a girl like that in a while; it’s all the rage nowadays for the romance to be circumvented for the most part and be as long and drawn out as possible. Alongside that, if the opening sequence is anything to judge by, it looks like Brynhildr will also be retaining the Okamoto comfort with gore that Elfen Lied exercised so much. It’s a steady pacing this premiere is keeping here, leaving me with no proper guess as to which genre it will veer towards most: science fiction, action, or horror; or maybe some dark horse category I’m not even considering yet. At the moment, I can’t say I’m too invested in the narrative or the characters themselves. Sure, Ryouta is an earnest and generally likable guy, but the portrayal of what seems to be his greatest trait, his intellect, isn’t winning me over so much right now. As with the background characters, he seems to be shadowed by the over-arching atmosphere of the show, this kind of vibe of the writers’ personality and style of story-writing. It’s probably a nit-picky thing on my behalf entirely, but scenes like the schoolboys talking about how lucky a girl was to survive a life-threatening accident after not moving an inch from their immediate locations themselves to try to help her and Ryouta’s intellect being boasted because he was able to consider the lives of people on a bus (yet still got into danger and needed saving himself) are underwhelming, if not a bit irritating. I do also find myself wondering how a dying club of one member has to its right an observatory the size of multiple classrooms, but that’s much less of a story-writing tidbit and more of the benefit of the anime doubt kind of explanation. As for the other interactions, they can be quite cute, when in the department of romance and comedy. Neko’s failure to recite proper and basic math and Ryouta baffled at losing an arm-wrestling contest to a “squishy” girl leave me with no qualms about the two embarking on a lovers’ character relationship route. But then again, I highly doubt love and laughs is what this series aims to primarily be about, and taking one look at the title again just about confirms that entirely. Brynhildr in the Darkness is a fine show so far, but I think even it knows that it can do better, so I’m looking forward to how the story spans out now that the basic expositional material and emergence of its science fictional motifs have transpired.