“While I Wait for You”
The view from Igirisu:
For anyone who has finished watching Elfen Lied and enjoyed it, there is one obvious place to look for your next anime series: Brynhildr in the Darkness. Seven years after Elfen Lied aired, Lynn Okamoto launched his Brynhildr manga, covering much of the same ground as his Elfen Lied. Three years after that, the anime adaptation aired. Everyone always talks about the similarities between the two, and Brynhildr clearly has been written to capture the same audience, but to what extent is that deserving of criticism, and how much of a remake is this series? That’s just one issue we will be looking at over the course of the next three months, as we tackle Brynhildr in the Darkness on an episode-by-episode basis.
As always you get two for the price of one. I am a relatively experienced viewer of anime who is rewatching this series. Mike will append his reviews to mine. He is no longer entirely an anime virgin, but is coming to this series for the first time, having been following my recommendations since we started the anime section of the Junkyard blog. As usual, both of us will do our best to avoid spoilers for future episodes, but will make no attempt to avoid them for the episode we are talking about, to allow for a detailed examination of each episode. If you’ve not seen the series yourself, why not join us on this journey, watching one episode a week and then reading our articles? Better still, add your own thoughts to the comments section.
So let’s take a look at the first episode, titled While I Wait for You. Doing the waiting is Ryouta Murakami, who lost his childhood friend Kuroneko in an accident, feels responsible, and has been living his life in her honour. They shared a passion for stargazing, so Murakami looks to the stars to search for the aliens Kuroneko believed in. Luckily his school has an amazing observatory, which he seems to have the exclusive use of. It’s the first aspect of this series that takes some believing. It makes sense that he would have chosen a school that offers that facility, but it’s such an incredibly cool place that I can’t quite believe nobody else would want to make use of it. When I was a kid, everyone would have wanted to be in that club.
Even before the opening credits, we go straight in with a flashback sequence, and immediately we have our first reworking of an Elfen Lied plot point: two main characters connected by a childhood friendship, separated by a tragedy, and now with confusion over the identity of the girl. But whereas this played out across most of the series with Elfen Lied, it’s the first thing that gets established here. Instead the question of where Neko Kuroha has come from is left to play out across several episodes, which is an aspect of Elfen Lied that was shown to us right off the bat with Lucy/Nyu. For now we are playing a lot of the same notes, but not in the same order.
Lacking from this series is any kind of pre-existing support or friendship for Murakami. Unlike Kouta he doesn’t have a girl hanging around him already. Instead he strikes something of a lonely figure, and is likely to have alienated his classmates by his reaction to Neko. This is a tightly-focussed episode with only two characters of any significance at this point, but despite that the funniest line of the episode goes to the guy who is sitting at the front of the class when Murakami confronts Neko: “you’re a sicko”.
So we have a mystery here. Is Neko actually Kuroneko? If not, why does she look exactly like her? Why does she lack a basic grasp of mathematics, and who is that girl she is communicating with by walky talky? If Neko is Kuroneko, why was Murakami told she had died, and where has her birth mark gone? My wife has one of those in a similar position so a probable answer to that question presented itself immediately, but I’ll assume that for most viewers it works better as a mystery than it did for me. The other mystery is of course Neko’s powers. She has some kind of super strength, and also managed to somehow cause the ground to cave in by the swimming pool in order to destroy the pump and save a trapped girl. In an interesting merging of science and magical themes, she refers to herself as a witch, but then attributes her powers to “surgery, and drugs”. It’s an interesting rebuttal of Murakami’s blinkered philosophy:
“Aliens can be explained by science but there’s nothing in magic that can be explained by anything.”
…which of course ignores the possibility of magic existing as hitherto-unexplained science. Neko is the embodiment of that idea, and it’s one of my favourite themes that crop up in sci-fi.
One area in which this series scores over its predecessor is the visuals, which are far more slick and impressive. There is some use of CGI, which is well-integrated in this episode, although the striking CG model of the telescope in the end credits might be an acquired taste for some viewers. I like it, but I also understand the opinion of purists who don’t want CGI in anime. Technology hasn’t quite reached the point yet where it can be included seamlessly.
Talking of the credit sequences, the ending is a pleasant tune and a pleasant sequence, but the opening is something else. I’ve seen a lot of anime openings, and I still think this is the best one I have ever seen. It’s a thumping good tune (turn it up loud!) and the visuals are absolutely stunning. That shot where the camera pans across the characters who turn to look directly down the lens is an absolute masterpiece of animation. Gorgeous. And who are those two very cool looking enemies at the end? The girl’s smile is pure menace. So many questions. You’re going to want to keep watching, to find out the answers. RP
The view from Amerika:
I’m embarking on another anime and I admit, I start with a tentative step. But why? It’s a bad attitude! I’ve been shown nothing but quality so far, so why does it take me so long to invest the time? Let me start by reviewing my viewing experience so far. I’ve seen all of 5 series.
- Another (and this is only beneath Erased because I can’t have two #1s)
- Elfen Lied
- The Disappearance of Yuki Nagato-chan
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya
The caveat to 4 and 5 is that I’m not sure which is better. I lean towards Yuki because it had brevity on its side and didn’t subject me to The Endless Eight, but Haruhi had science fiction and one hell of a good finale! As time goes on, I might adjust those last two. So I don’t have a good reason for delaying; all of these series have been exceptionally good so far. What happens when I start this one?
Within minutes, I’m engrossed. First off, the opening doesn’t give you a chance not to be. We’re introduced to Murakami who fell off a wall of a dam or something horrific, pulling his friend down with him and accidentally killing her. Lord, that’s bleak. 10 years later, he’s a sophomore (meaning he killed his friend when he was around 6) and a girl arrives at school who he is pretty sure is his dead friend. She’s gorgeous and all the guys at school like her. But she’s a witch. (Not like Saturo’s mom in Erased!) OK, I’ll tell you one big secret: I am actually writing this now, so I can jump into episode 2 as soon as I finish!
Sadly, there’s a few things that really bothered me in episode one. The first is Murakami himself. I’ve seen this in almost every anime I’ve seen but it’s usually done to very comical effect after we’ve had time to get to know the cast. That thing I’m speaking of is the sudden yelling like an infantile attempt at being Jerry Seinfeld. Murakami sees Neko arrive in his classroom and immediate start lambasting her instead of actually talking to her, then suddenly goes all wild and insists that she show him her armpit. It’s a turn off to the character before we’ve had a chance to get to know him. Thinking of Haruhi when Kyon decides to go do homework, she has a similar outburst, but we’ve had a series to get to know her, and her over the top reaction is designed to show a cuteness to her, that even in a simple thing like doing homework, she wants to be involved. For Murakami, the same thing could have been achieved even if he did end up getting smacked. Furthermore, I’m not sure what 6 year old would have the idea that climbing on a death defying dam would be a good idea. So he’s not wowing me yet. Neko also exhibits some really odd behavior: she randomly talks to herself out loud. Not mumbles to herself; I’m talking actually speaking. She’s channeling her inner Vorlon (Babylon 5 reference there…) in one of the scenes with a “and so, two people die”. She also does it while walking down the mountain side, and I actually said out loud (also to an empty room, just to illustrate the point) “who is she talking to?” What makes this silly is that she has a hand radio and can communicate with someone! She doesn’t have to be speaking to no one. We don’t have to hear the person on the other end, and it achieves the same end result. For that matter, Murikami “Seinfeld” does the same thing. While walking home after missing the bus, he starts to talk out loud. In Haruhi, we would frequently hear Kyon’s inner thoughts, so it’s not against the rules. He wasn’t actually speaking out loud. And that says nothing of the idea that, like Elfen Lied, we’ve got another girl who is the product of experimentation and has super powers. Japan really hit it big with Godzilla and clearly “experiments gone wrong” is still weighing on their collective minds!
On the flip side, while this is all going on, the show piles on the intrigue with the “witch” who knows when people will die and what to do to help them avoid that death. Clearly the web of time isn’t a thing she’s going to concern herself with. If someone was supposed to die, she just says “the heck with that” and fixes it! I was genuinely impressed with that because it spits in the eyes of convention! This is not a fated universe. Then, the way one girl is almost killed is so horrifying, with her leg caught in a pool filter and being mere inches away from the surface but unable to get to air… that was an amazingly unique (potential) death. There’s also some music or sound effects that really pulled me right in, as if I was stuck in a pool filter, unable to resurface. (I see a pattern!) And to add one more level of Scorpion’s “Get over here”, (thanks Mortal Kombat), the humor really struck a chord with me. The fact that Neko doesn’t like to sit at multiplication tables had me tearing with laughter, but knowing she’s not good with math and “telescope-y stuff” was icing on a very funny cake. Add that to her extreme strength but no muscles (puny arms), I could definitely see why Roger recommended this show to me.
But perhaps the most impressive bit is that, when asked, Neko just tells Murakami what’s going on. This didn’t have to be a season spanning “gee, what is she”, but he gets the information along with the audience in the first 20 minutes of the series. Color me impressed! Speaking of coloring, I would be remiss as a reviewer if I didn’t credit the artwork. While it’s not out of this world (yet?), I found the sequence at the end as the camera pans around the telescope to be really amazing. Camera’s can do that because they can, in fact, go around a thing. This is animation! Yet even with that, I found the final image simple but beautiful, even if I have no idea who I’m seeing yet! Well, I’ll give it this… I’m in for the next episode right now! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Brynhildr in the Darkness Episode 2