Some people have tried to slap the “so bad it’s good” tag on Gokukoku no Brynhildr, but I don’t buy it (even if it is a compliment of sorts). In my book a SBiG show is one whose entertaining qualities come about by accident, while in this case I think the show knows exactly what it’s doing. I’m not saying everyone is going to like it, but if you do (as I do) it’s probably because you’re getting exactly what Okamoto Lynn and Imaizumi Kenichi want you to get out of it.
Take, as an example, the business with the death suppressants. I don’t know enough about the science to say whether Kogorou’s explanation – that it’s only possible to synthesize them within a month if the active compounds are crystalline in nature – is realistic or not. But the best part of this scenario is the way the teeny witches handle it. “Oh by the way, Murakami, whatever happened with the pills?” If my survival depended on how that plan worked out I’d sure as hell be on pins and needles to find out what happened, but the absurdity of this response is calculated, I’m 99.9% sure of it. Just like all the absurdity in Brynhildr is calculated.
I’ve come to view this as a “slice-of-death” series. The reason it works is because it embraces both the gory horror side and the comedic slice-of-life side of itself with complete sincerity, and in the face of all that’s holy sees no contradiction between the two. And somehow there is no contradiction – the looming tragedy and the periodic grisly violence serve the make the comedy that much more effective, and the contrast between the two sides of the series gives the entire thing that ironic sense of absurdity that keeps the darkness from becoming oppressive. It’s actually a pretty gutsy thing to pull off, but it’s more or less right up Okamoto’s alley.
Mostly, what we got this week was a series of classic school comedy situations – the karaoke scene, the swimsuit scene, the shopping trip to Akiba, the three-way (possibly even four or five) brewing competition for Ryouta. And Gokukoku no Byrnhikdr has a great ear for these things – they’re very funny when they’re supposed to be. The business with the microphone (“Why doesn’t my heart speed up when our hands touch?”), the jibes between Ryouta and Kazumi, and certainly the trip to Akihabara are all highly entertaining. Certainly the reaction of the guys in question when Kazumi loudly asks “Do you think they’re all virgins?” was the comedic highlight of the week.
Generally speaking, in fact, this is one of the least absurd of all the eps so far, most of the comedy being character-driven and interspersed with pretty straight material. There’s an interesting peek at Ryouta’s life when he’s not hip-deep in witches and aliens – he tutors privately, and the student we see very much gives off an imouto vibe (literal or symbolic?). The romance angle is played fairly straight too, with the fact that Ryouta and Kuroha are mutually attracted being obvious, but no less the fact that Kotori and especially Kazumi are falling hard for him too. I haven’t ruled out said little sister or Kana as falling for Ryouta either, but it seems pretty clear to whom his heart belongs.
We also get a longer look-in on the Committee of 300 or whatever they’re called here. They’re very concerned with retrieving something called “The Grane” and in completing a plan started a hundred years earlier – which coincides with the rumor (that whole speech was suspicious) Kotori supposedly heard that alien ruins were discovered on the site where the witch base was built a hundred years ago. In order to expedite things it appears the fearsome “S” class witch Ichijuki refers to as Nanami but Kazumi seems to know (via rumor) as Valkyria (it’s worth noting that Brynhildr was a Valkyrie in Norse mythology) is going go be unleashed, and Kazumi flags that she’s going to be coming after our foursome soon enough. Kotori also talks of an alien that’s a “big ball of meat and muscle”, and while in Akiba Ryouta finally turns on the tablet Kuroha got from the woman at the lab – and it’s welcome screen says “Kill the witches” in German. Yes, we’ve certainly got a full plate on our hands for the next six weeks…