As unlikely as it might seem I’ve really come to love this show – for it’s absolute and complete fearlessness, irreverence, and full-bore embrace of the absurd. And it’s truly remarkable on how many different levels it works. There’s no question I love it best for its comedy, but it holds its own as a mystery and horror show too, and even makes the characters people you can actually care about. The question of tone is critical to everything about Brynhildr, and shows like that are always on a knife’s-edge between success and failure. Thank goodness, then, that this one has such an unerring sense of balance.
The addition of the new odd couple Nanami and Kurofuku added a lot to the mix, and gave us a thoroughly delightful episode. Make no mistake, this one was heavy on the comedy side of the scale. Nanami’s deadpan delivery and Kurofuku’s wry exasperation fit hand-in-glove, and this was really the first time one could sense something almost resembling affection between one of the witches and their abusers (mostly on her part to be sure, but not exclusively). She keeps getting him to buy her sweets on the bogus grounds that she needs them to perform her memory magic, and it’s obvious that he knows he’s being played – but in a very tiny way, the fact that he’s willing to play along and let Nanami have a miniscule amount of pleasantness in her miserable existence says Kurofuko isn’t completely soulless and venal (just mostly).
There are so many elite moments of comedy gold in their search for the missing witches, starting with Nanami’s explanation of why she (naturally) has to life her skirt every time she performs her magic: to get people to look at her so she can make eye contact. It’s so dumb, yet it makes a kind of twisted sense. Then there was her sketch of Ryouta and the exchange it prompts (“Your art skills are…” “Advanced. Yes.”) The best of all is set up by her escape scheme – she talks Kurofuko into bringing into a crowded area (somewhere with a castle – Odawara maybe?) and then tweaks various passerby’s memories so that they assault him for assorted wrongs they now believe he’s done them. As soon as one of them knocks is sunglasses off, she zaps his memories – though all she does is eliminate his memory of her and tell him his job is to watch the castle at all times (yes, she definitely feels something besides hatred for him).
The upshot of all this is that she’s a girl alone in the city, and figures she’s going to enjoy a day of freedom before she rats out the escapees. After using her magic to skip out on her hotel bill Nanami resolves to be a “normal girl” for the rest of the day. As she’s got no money she does what any normal girl would do and offers to sell her body to Kurofuku – ¥1000 for a peek at her boobs. He calmly compliments her (“Nice coloring. Beautiful gradation.”) and she promptly ends up giving the money to two boys to stop their fighting over a rare game card one has damaged. “Basically, I saved their friendship by showing a guy my boobs.” Nanami muses – another in the litany of great lines of dialogue that Brynhildr provides more of than any other show this season. “How much for my navel?” she asks when she goes back for another round, and the answer is nothing – he’s seen them already (the elephant in the room is… Well, whatever) but apparently Kurofuku is an armpit man, and Nanami gets her cheesecake money after all.
Let’s be clear – there’s just nowhere else to turn for moments like that, because no other show would dare try them with a straight face. Eventually of course Nanami’s path crosses with Ryouta’s, as she’s happened into one of his school friends and read her memories. When Nanami gets that friend to bring Ryouta to meet her at the park (that same park by the lake, dammit) he tries to talk her into going into hiding too – but she blasts his memories when he decides to show he trusts her. Fortunately Ryouta’s eidetic memory is apparently a superpower too – it prevents her (he does a baby impression to convince her otherwise) from erasing or changing his memories (she calls him a “write once”, a tech term that may or may not be foreshadowing something important).
Another classic moment comes when Ryouta rushes back to warn the others, barging in on them while they’re bathing (and Kazumi is rubbing Kotori’s breasts 100 times). There’s not a trace of embarrassment on his part – he just says “We don’t have time for that now!” and starts talking (Ryouta is awesome). Kazumi tracks Nanami down in milliseconds based on Ryouta’s drawing (he’s better at this than Nanami is), and everyone meets in the city – more memory zapping follows, and eventually Nanami decides to join the others on the run. I don’t expect it to end well for her – I’m not sure it’s going to end well for anyone, to be honest, and it’s surprising how much I find myself caring about that. That’s the special alchemy Gokukoku no Brynhildr manages to perform week after week.