Hexen

A review of the Gokukoku no Brynhildr anime

There’s not even anyone called Brynhildr in Gokukoku no Brynhildr (Brynhildr in the Darkness), let alone being in the dark. It’s far from the only misleading thing about the series but it’s a good enough place to start. Unless you’ve seen Elfen Lied, in which case it’s probably worth stating that Brynhildr is by the same author and has the same kind of sadistic nonchalance towards human life but without the puppy killing or fascination with urination.

Anyway. Witches exist, except they’re technological rather than magical so they have an implant rather than a broomstick, and several have escaped imprisonment and now cluster around the interminably dense male lead, Ryouta Murakami. Stuff happens, breasts are exposed, stupidity is enacted, and witches die. And when they do they melt into a puddle of poorly censored goo. Oh what a world. What. A. World.

It’s difficult to understate exactly quite how dumb Gokukoku no Brynhildr is. It’s the type of series that if you didn’t know how old the author was, you would swear blind it was written by an angry teenager who had dropped out of school and is baselessly infuriated by everything. The adolescent witches are gruesomely murdered with a frequency that would be alarming were we allowed enough time to feel anything about their deaths other than indifference. No sooner is a girl introduced who can speak to animals (I guess the wiccan store was all out of telekinesis) than she is summarily obliterated by a punk-rock witch with shark teeth and bad skin. And how do the good guys - Ryouta, Neko and co - defeat this obviously powerful adversary?

They put a paper bag over her head.

I wish I was kidding. It’s the kind of show that doesn’t know how very silly it is and continues to play the straight man while everyone else is already in the on the joke. It unironically puts super-hero masks on its cast so that they are unidentifiable to the police. Without a trace of shame it makes everyone sport sunglasses to stop a witch who can alter memories from using her powers. It’s a series that is so bursting with flimsy backstory that the answer to any question is laden with copious exposition: “Is this the observatory?” “Why yes it’s was built during the astronomy boom of 1973 and I like to look at the stars and all my friends graduated and LET ME SEE YOUR ARMPIT.”

Yes as well as macabre deaths and a disregard for secondary characters there’s a whole heaping of extended and inappropriate nudity and an undercurrent of general lewdness. As is expected from the solitary male protagonist Ryouta, he is mortally terrified of the female body so despite one of the witches stripping naked and pressing herself against him, demanding he have sex with her, the most Ryouta manages is a timid blush and stammered words. One can only assume he’s saving himself for Neko despite her being about as dynamic as a deceased fish. At least we’re safe in the knowledge he has an eidetic memory so the vision of a girl throwing herself at him will be forever remembered.

Like a lot of the series reveals, Ryouta having a photographic memory is dropped in casually but feels like it comes in from way off the map. Conversely, other reveals are so face-palmingly blatant yet delivered with such gusto that you begin to wonder if it’s doing it on purpose rather than just blithely assuming it wasn’t so obvious. No more is this apparent when, running out of plausible opportunities for introducing new witches for Ryouta’s burgeoning harem, a world ending super-weapon is revealed and then stopped just as quickly. This is after a gun-toting, militant nun makes a brief stage appearance. I suppose it was always possible, the witches had to have been created for something right? And all those clandestine meetings on a (virtual) foggy hilltop had to have been for something other than hinting at a fondness for Evangelion.

When all is said and done, if you can ignore the completely out of character second opening (which is odd in and of itself for a thirteen episode series) and the unsettling eyes that every character has, Gokukoku no Brynhildr is still watchable for the guilty, trainwreck voyeurism of finding out what could possibly happen next. Sure every character is as bland as beige wallpaper and the lead male is an obstinately pure crybaby, but we just annihilated part of a mountain. Oh witch melting not doing it for you, well, uh, how about aliens? Aliens are good right?

I would be lying if I said the series had a promising start - the first opening is stylish and bravely without vocals - but otherwise this is a patch-work of tawdry, violent and otherwise questionable scenes (entrepreneurial money making idea though) with a half-baked plot seeping out the seams. It engenders low expectations then continually lowers them with absurd situations and stupid characters. Borderline entertaining but for all the wrong reasons.