When Murakami loses his beloved childhood friend Kuroneko in a freak accident, he dedicates his life to proving what she always claimed to be true – that aliens exist. Years later, a mysterious girl called Kuroha who looks just like her transfers to his school. When she saves his life with unusual powers, Murakami finds himself caught up in something bigger and more dangerous than he could have ever anticipated.
Kuroha reveals herself to be a witch who has escaped from a laboratory and dangerous organisation, along with other witches who have scattered and fled around the area. Each witch has a metal implant in the back of her neck containing three buttons, one which inhibits the witch’s unique powers, another which causes instant death and a third which causes a fate worse than death which neither Kuroha or any other witch has ever witnessed.
Murakami soon finds himself helping not just Kuroha but other escaped witches as well. Although they aren’t the most well rounded in character development, their struggle against a brutal shadowy enemy is compelling, and their ties to their creation remain ever present as each witch has to take a pill every day to stay alive or a horrific and grisly death awaits them. Since making their escape from the lab, pills are scarce and hard to get hold of, and the awareness the witches have of their own mortality adds to their urgency to get to the bottom of their origins.
To begin with, Brynhildr in the Darkness could almost pass as a fluffy anime with its clean, innocent animation style and light fanservice-y moments. While Murakami is surrounded by cute girls, his grief for Kureneko and unshakeable hope that Kuroha could be her means that he remains indifferent and oblivious to the other witches, but Brynhildr in the Darkness keeps those cleavage shots coming anyway. As this show does slow down for lighter moments between the plot progression it is disappointing that Brynhildr in the Darkness often falls back on boob jokes, fanservice and other excuses to have the girls half naked when more in depth characterisation could have better added to the show’s emotional impact.
However, the witches aren’t completely one dimensional. One example of this is pink haired witch Kazumi, for whom the lingering threat of mortality has her focused on her wish to lose her virginity. The object of her affections of course, is sole male in the harem, Murakami. This provides an extremely convenient love triangle as Murakami only has eyes for Kuroha and remains largely indifferent to Kazumi’s seduction attempts.
The cliche nature of this plot thread is softened by Kazumi’s easy likeability as a character – although she’s brash, her attempts to seem cocky and inappropriate are a cover for her vulnerability and fear of losing her life before she’s really lived. This theme is reflected in the other witches, who amid their struggle for freedom also find themselves thinking about what living really means, as opposed to just surviving.
Brynhildr in the Darkness is a slow mover, and shoehorns fanservice into episodes in the most ridiculous of ways, and some of the backing soundtrack doesn’t seem to fit the more dramatic moments (jazzy piano, anyone?). From the promotional images I had expected it to be more serious and sci fi heavy in tone, but if you have the patience to stick with its slow build up, there are some genuinely funny and heart-rending scenes along the way as our characters learn how much they can truly lose in a staggering battle to be free. It’s just a shame there wasn’t more of that and less of the over the top anime silliness.