Not quite a Darkness in the Light – Anime Critique: Gokukoku no Brynhildr

56657Title: Gokukoku no Brynhildr (Brynhildr in Darkness, Extreme Black Brynhildr)
Format: TV anime
Genre: sci-fi, action, tragedy, gore, horror, harem
Series Creator: Lynn Okamoto
Series Director: Kenichi Imaizumi
Studio: Arms
Series length: 13 episodes (+ OVA)
Original Airing dates: April 6, 2014 – June 29, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

“The story revolves around high school boy Ryouta Murakami, who cannot forget his female childhood friend whom he let die in an accident. Feeling that he must fulfill their promise of proving the existence of aliens, he has continuously looked up at the starry sky as a member of the astronomy club. One day, a girl named Neko Kuroha who looks exactly like his childhood friend appears as a transfer student. She displays supernatural strength when saving Ryouta from a foreseen accident. It turns out that Neko is a magic user that has run away from an alien research lab. From then on Ryouta supports these magic users, hoping to live normal lives regardless of being pursued. How will Ryouta’s life change now?”


Review:

With such a cross section of genres focussed around a harem here is where I’d pull out The List! But unlike Strike The Blood, Seikoku no Dragonar or DATE A LIVE II, Gokukoku no Brynhildr has absolutely no need for such a bashing in terms of being a generic superpowered harem tale.

That is mainly because the male protagonist isn’t an utter twat who is over confident in his own powers/abilities but constantly needs to be save by more powerful female characters who all want to ride him like the allegorical pony.

No, Ryouta actually possesses a form of agency & intelligence all of his own, which he uses in combination with the powers of the female protagonists in order to ensure their collective, continued survival -even to the point of sacrificing himself so that the others can live a happy life (with whatever days remain to them).

Yet, for all the positives this series does in terms of genre reconstruction, it still falls to some pretty appalling tropes. The usual hypersexualisation rears its ugly head but all nudity is censored by steam (bathing scenes) or random rays of light. Although it’s interesting that after a certain point Ryouta doesn’t get flustered by seeing any of the girls naked (usually by mistake or in a rush to convey devastating news) or mocking Kasumi’s lack of curves. Though what I find most unsettling is the violence directed towards female characters. Granted, it is the female characters who are the ones empowered yet vulnerable, so they take the lion’s share of the brutality but even with the censored violence, it’s not very comforting to see so much violence directed at woman. Granted, it’s not at the levels of Freezing! which combined violence & nudity to disgusting new lows, Gokukoku no Brynhildr doesn’t set easily for someone like me.

This may fit into the social conditioning that violence, even when directed by a strong narrative, should never be directed against (attractive) females. At least in Gokukoku no Brynhildr it’s not truly gratuitous or indulged in but it may put some viewers off. As will some of the other general extreme violence.

One reason for this level of hyper-violence can be found in the series creator, Lynn Okamoto -who is the man behind the creation of the series Elfin Lied -which many fans considered to be the most brutal anime ever made (oh, ignorant, child, you know nothing of anime brutality). Yet at least Okamoto uses violence as a means to discuss human nature & why we are so able to inflict harm on those we consider as non-human (in this case the magicians) then using it for it’s own gratuitous sake. Although Gokukoku no Brynhildr is pretty liberal is splashing the claret around, so don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll only be struck by a metaphysical impact.

One factor that can mentally mitigate the violence is the fact that, at its core, Gokukoku no Brynhildr is a story about survival in extreme odds.

The Mahou/Magicians can die in so many ways, despite all the power that they have. In fact, it is because of this extreme scientifically created power that they are so vulnerable. Each of them are implanted with a chemical command where if they don’t take a form of medication, they will melt into a puddle of goo. Also, if their Harness (the source of their powers) are damaged or a certain button is hit on them, they’ll self destruct & melt. This is done in order to keep them under control & prevent them from escaping. The are also hunted by other Magicians who work for the Lab, all of whom are more powerful then our female protagonists. Not to mention that if they overuse their powers, they’re locked out in a cool down period, leaving them open to attack.

Gokukoku no Brynhildr - 04 -5

This is where an interesting twist on genre trope comes in.

Instead of attempting to beat their enemies head on, growing more powerful in each battle, our heroes use intelligence to utilise their skills & abilities in the most effective ways. This is usually done with Ryouta, using his high level intelligence, figuring out the limits of their opponents or how they use their powers & instructing the others -usually Neko Kuroha (the main female protagonist)- the best way to proceed resulting in the least risk to them. Yet even if there is a high level of risk, Ryouta will do his best to see everyone safe, even sacrificing himself so that, at one point, a Magician with the ability to rewind time by a minute, is forced to use her power after he fatally wounds her -even though she kills him for his effort.

Ideas of love & sacrifice overcoming self interest are at the core of this series, raising it above so many other action based series of recent seasons. Redemption also plays a huge factor. With Ryouta being unable to forgive himself for the being the cause of death for his childhood friend, so he works to redeem that act by saving Kuroha, who resembles his deceased friend, as well as making the other Magicians happy in their short lives. Yet it does have some moments which bother & confuse me (aside from those already mentioned).

Yeah, River Song quote here, but in the final episode, Kasumi literally gets cut in half by the series big bad, Valkyria, & dies; yet in the coda of the episode she’s standing there completely healed & alive. One reason could have been she was revived by other Magician with healing power yet no hint of that is given. Same with how, Kana, once completely paralysed, is suddenly able to appear in front of Kuroha to save her from Valkyria’s attack. In the manga is it explained she can give up her future telling ability for super speed but the anime makes utterly no attempt to explain this.

Other issues that I have is with the rushed-brevity that plague other series this past season yet that is mostly due to having to condense a 9 volume manga into a 13 episode anime. The open endedness of the final episode was also annoying but that is from the aforementioned adaptation factor.

In the end, if you can get passed the hyper-violence & hypersexualisation, Gokukoku no Brynhildr is a series that is worth watching for how is attempts to subvert so many standard tropes of harem & action narratives. It is pretty emotional & brutal but worth the watch, from my point of view.

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3 thoughts on “Not quite a Darkness in the Light – Anime Critique: Gokukoku no Brynhildr

  1. The Otaku Judge 09/07/2014 / 11:41 PM

    I think I would enjoy this as I was a fan of Elfen Lied. I’m not normally squeamish when it comes to violence against women (if they are a fighter it is to be expected) but Tomb Raider changed my mind on that. The stuff they did to Lara in that game was over the top.

    Like

    • andthegeekshall 10/07/2014 / 5:23 AM

      One reason I never played that game. Think you’ll enjoy this series but if you can wait for the uncensored blu-ray, I’d go for that.

      Like

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