In the Darkness

I tried out a couple of episodes of Brynhildr in the Darkness. I thought the manga was okay so I hoped the anime adaptation would at least be on the same level. I can say that it is, but like most manga to anime adaptations, I prefer the version with the moving pictures. The creator also made Elfen Lied, if that means anything to you out there. 

Briefly, the show is about an ordinary boy who’s fallen in with teenage girls with psychic powers on the run from the sinister organization that created them. Also, one of the girls may be the boy’s childhood friend who he thought had died years ago but who seems not to remember him.

You could probably guess most of the story beats from that summary, and you would probably be mostly right. Still, the show is unexpectedly subdued for a series containing psychic duels and time travel and teenagers in love triangles. Well, perhaps it’s not unexpected, since the manga is also not very flashy, but there’s a certain type of anime one might expect from the summary. You know what I mean: repeated vows to protect one’s friends, liberal use of the word "nakama" (comrade or close companion), endless battles spaced out over several episodes, heterosexual romance enacted through stubborn denials of its existence, constant flashes of tits and ass, and a theme song written and sung by an idol singer who drops English words into the lyrics to make everything sound cooler. You know, the usual.

Brynhildr isn’t that type of show. Well, it’s mostly not that type of show. It’s ostensibly aimed at boys, making it a shounen (boy) anime. But for a shounen anime, it treats things rather a bit seriously.

This is not necessarily a good thing, because I think the subject matter deserves a little razzmatazz in the presentation. Fantastic things deserve fantastic display. Perhaps not all the time, but at least some of the time. The animation, though, can be workmanlike. It’s not terrible and it tells the story like it’s supposed to, but it’s just kind of there. There deserves to be at least one or two sequences where I can gape at the marvels I’m witnessing, but so far I haven’t seen one yet.

Other criticisms apply. The comic parts don’t elicit much reaction beyond a polite chuckle. The male protagonist doesn’t have much of a personality beyond having a stick up his ass. The show doesn’t say anything beyond what the plot is saying. And is it perhaps a law in Japan that healthy romantic relationships cannot be depicted in anime targeted at boys?

Perhaps I sound like I hate this show, but I really don’t. It’s not a classic of our age, but what is? I do like the song from the opening sequence well enough.

Still, like its animation, the show is just kind of there. Somehow, I feel like something exceptional is just slightly out of reach, like the show is trying to be something and kind of has an idea of what that something is but isn’t quite sure how to get there. I’ll keep watching, since I have a rather high tolerance for imperfection, but this show is not something I can unreservedly recommend.

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