First Impressions – Gokukoku no Brynhildr

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Toss another log on what’s shaping up to be a pretty vigorous fire this season.

OP: 極黒のブリュンヒルデ (Gokukoku no Brynhildr) by Tokisawa Nao

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I had pretty high expectations for Gokukoku no Brynhildr.  Not masterpiece level or anything, but this looked like a series with a spark of originality and wit that would be a nice change of pace from the standard fare on every anime schedule.  The big name here isn’t the director or A.D. but the creator of the source material – Okamoto Lynn, who’s best known as the creator of Elfen Lied.  I wouldn’t say that’s a great series, but certainly it’s one of the most provocative and shocking anime we’ve seen in the last decade, and it manages to be that while telling a pretty good story with fairly complex characters.

Elfen Lied was also the showpiece for Arms Studio, who’ve had other commercial successes but nothing with the artistic merit of Elfen Lied.  So seeing them reunited with Okamoto-sensei (shepherded by inconsistent veteran director Imaizumi Kenichi) is quite the interesting prospect.  If we’re seeing a new golden age for sports anime, we might just be in the midst of a horror renaissance as well – there are several more shows on tap for this year, the most intriguing of which are Parasyte and Tokyo Ghoul (I don’t know that I’d call Watanabe Shinichirou’s Terror in Tokyo a horror series based on the early returns).

The first episode of Brynhildr in the Darkness did indeed have some scary moments, but what really struck me in watching it is how funny it was.  And then I remembered that you know, Elfen Lied was pretty damn funny sometimes too, in spite (and occasionally even because) of its spectacular levels of violence.  My sense all along has been that this series is going to be less graphically brutal and more sad than Elfen Lied, but it’s really too soon to say – the premiere isn’t giving all that much away.  What it does illustrate is that Okamoto can write very good dialogue, and the staff and cast assembled for the adaptation seem capable of translating to anime.

We start in the past, with two small children – a boy named Murakami Ryouta (Satou Rina) and the girl he calls Kuroneko (Taneda Risa).  The two play together all the time though he doesn’t even know her real name (which is odd, though not impossible).  She’s a strange little wisp who has three moles under her arm and believes in aliens, for whom he helps her search.  But she senses that deep down he doesn’t believe her, and tells him she knows where a real alien is, even acquiescing to his demand to be taken to see it.  This leads to the accident that defines Ryouta’s life.  As the two children are tiptoeing across a pipe halfway up the face of a huge dam (don’t ask) he slips and falls – and then makes the decision he’ll always regret, grabbing her hand when she offers it.  He lives, she dies (or so they tell him) and he dedicates his life to becoming an astronomer so he can find aliens and prove her right.

In the present, Ryouta is now a brainy (the top-testing 11th-grader in Japan) would-be astronomer played by Ohsaka Ryouta.  It’s when the transfer student shows up (it’s always when the transfer student shows up) that things get weird.  She’s a dead-ringer for his dead friend, and the teacher introduces her as “Kuroha Neko” (at which I laughed enthusiastically, and I’m confident I was meant to).  This starts a chain of events that displays snappy dialogue, clever direction and some very funny gags – the first of which is when Ryouta demands that Kuroha-chan “show me your armpits!” in front of the entire class.  A classmate almost dies when her knee is sucked into the pool filter in a rather silly but still quite creepy-in-an-Another sort of way scene.  Later, when Ryouta is star-gazing at the school observatory with the 200-inch reflecting telescope (again, don’t ask) Kuroha shows up and tells him that two students were supposed to have died that day – the girl at the pool was the first, and he’s the second.  And if he wants to live, he better not miss the last bus.

Reading all that back it sounds kind of silly – but really, would you ever have called Elfen Lied realistic?  Okamoto is a highly stylized writer who isn’t striving for photorealism, but a kind of absorbing surrealism in a realistic setting, and it’s working for me here.  I love the Hitchcock-style instrumental OP and the over-the-top nature of the pool scene, and the dialogue between Ryouta and Kuroneko (or not) is excellent.  She reveals odd things about herself little by little: she thinks multiplication tables are something you eat at.  She’s ridiculously strong despite having “squishy” arms (and stomps Ryouta at arm-wrestling to prove it).  And she has an old-school military phone in her bag, on which she receives a call telling her that Ryouta is “going to die either way”.  At this point she casually tells him “It’s fine if you miss the bus after all”, which is another very funny moment – though she soon reveals she intended to save him anyway.

I smelled the mudslide coming long before it happened, but again, it was well-staged.  At this point Kuroha saves Ryouta using some very unnatural abilities, then tells him that she’s a witch who’s escaped from the scientists who made her that way with “surgery and drugs” (which of course implies something other than witchcraft altogether).  Is she really Kuroneko?  Well, she doesn’t have the moles – but the degree of coincidence is a bit too much to write off here.  I’m thinking clone or alien myself, but that will obviously be revealed in the episodes to come, as well as the reason she”s been tasked with “saving the world from ruin”.  In any event I’m quite interested in finding out – this was a vastly entertaining premiere, with characters who aren’t idiots, and doesn’t seem to be trading on the nauseatingly familiar clichés and tropes most anime rely on.  I still don’t really know whether Gokukoku no Brynhildr is horror, science-fiction or comedy – I suspect a healthy measure of all three – but so far at least it’s working beautifully.

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ED:”Ichiban HoshiIchiban Hoshi” by Risa Taneda, Aya Suzaki, MAO, & Azusa Tadokoro



  1. t

    it was a decent premier. it gave me same feeling when I started reading the manga not too long ago. so it's a good thing that it..met my expectations (which weren't high or something, but that's still counts!). in fact, this series isn't something really great. but it's just..(as you said) somehow creates enough interest and curiosity to find out and keep on with that.

    I heard people saying they have problem with the MC male (Ryouta right?) since he keeps whining and so. well, I was prepared for that, so it didn't bothered me. to some extent I can understand them, still I don't..see it as a real bother for now.

    although Gokukoku no Brynhildr probably won't become an elite series or even a great series, it's still an enjoyable one. it has potential with the story and I love the swinging toward the past. animation is good, even very good, and the OP&ED are nice. as long as the execution continues to be good, this series will be fine and more enjoyable. I'll keep following.

  2. R

    Peeked a little at what the LN was all about and i now know where this one is headed.

    still, it does have potential to be at least an interesting watch. though what worries me is that there are a lot of gags here that could be drawn out for too long, such as the whole "Kuroha doesn't know math" deal. At least they nixed that possibility early with the "proving the three moles under her armpit" part by resolving that right here.

    As is with this kind of adaptations, the fanservice also worries me, cause it can really distract from the potential of the story. Hope they tone that down later on.

  3. Seriously? Was there really that much fanservice in this? I hardly noticed any.

  4. R

    ah great. i mean manga, not LN.

  5. R

    not much in terms of scene number, but that pool scene is something that i am particularly not fond of. especially that one with Kuroha lying in a sort of fetal position. it just felt like those are something that this series doesn't need.

  6. t

    you even capped it, Enzo.
    anyway, I agree that this particular image and scene felt like "much" fanservice for nothing. but, that scene passed pretty quickly so it didn't really bother and doesn't really counts as much for me. other than that..wasn't really something or much of fanservice….

  7. I don't know… In a medium with so much truly excessive and pointless fanservice, it seems odd to me to be bothered by a short scene that actually factors into the plot. It also showed the boys in their swim trunks – were you also bothered by that?

  8. R

    not the whole pool scene per se, just those particular shots of Kuroha. though, as thedarktower said, these are just quick bits, so i will be fine with it if these would be far in between.

  9. K

    Eh, I don't think it was too much. The manga has their fanservice but at least this one is tasteful. And in any case, this is a tragedy so prepare some tissues for your eyes…

  10. j

    Hey Enzo, I'm trying to cut back from watching too much anime as I spend too much time trying out animes that ends up being too formulaic and cliche for my tastes. How would you say this show does in terms of standing out?
    I'm only basing this off pv's and pre-air art, but it looks like the cast will have some of the usual archetypal characters. Thanks in advance.

  11. It doesn't seem archetypal to me, and if Okamoto uses archetypes I suspect it will be to satirize them.

  12. m

    I didn't realize its the sam creator as Elfen Lied. That's funy bc I was going to say even though the first ep doesn't show it, the rest of the manga gives off a very Elfen Lied feel, but I wont go into details so as not to ruin anything. If it follows the manga and is adapted properly this will definitely be a great show.

  13. w

    For some reason, I get the feeling this series is gonna troll us and it'll turn out Kuroneko's moles were on her other armpit. It was several years ago, maybe he remembers slightly wrong?

  14. F

    "with characters who aren't idiots"

    So the MC is spending his time trying to prove the existence of aliens by looking through a telescope? Does he expect them to be picnicking on the moon's surface?

    I don't know. Not much of what I'm trying out this season is connecting with me, this one included. Aside from Mushishi and Isshuukan Friends (and maybe Haikyuu!!) there don't seem to be any "smart" shows that stand up to close inspection.

  15. If you stay with it you'll find they don't come much smarter than Baby Steps.

    If your goal is to find extraterrestrial intelligence, it seems to me that astronomer is a pretty logical career choice…

  16. F

    You miss my point. I'm not saying his career choice was illogical, just that the chances of "spotting" proof of the existence of alien life with a telescope seem to be fairly small. I know astronomers have many other tools and tech to help them, I just didn't think his chances for success were very good based on the size of the night sky compared to the area available for viewing through a telescope at different magnifications.

    Then Baby Steps it is! I didn't know I enjoyed a good sports anime until I watched Ginge e Kickoff!! I'm really really enjoying Yowapedal and Haikyuu!! has potential (I'm a big volleyball fan, former player).

  17. m

    Great sports anime are something anyone can enjoy. Great anime of any type of genre transcend the whole idea of not being into a certain genre. Baby Steps manga is so good it's hard to say its just an amazing sports manga. It easily top 10 manga of any type of all time, and it could theoretically not even be halfway done. For a manga that takes "baby steps" with its story development it never feels drawn out or slow. It's just a realistic pace that builds tension without hitting that WSJ big three point of "all right stop drawing it out just finish the battle already".

    As for GnB the reason he's "searching for aliens" isn't that he believes in them, it's blatantly an obsession that stems from the guilt of feeling that he is responsible for his friends death. So he carries on he dream in spite of his own beliefs on the matter. THAT is where the realism lies. You really can't judge the show at all based on ep 1. It's so much different than the first ep might lead you to believe.

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