The view from Igirisu:
Bit by bit we’re learning more about what’s going on here. We find out that Neko was held captive in a laboratory for ten years, before she escaped. We also find out that she only transferred into the same school as Murakami in order to save lives, and having done that she isn’t bothering to go back again. Luckily Murakami is on hand to help her to change her mind and also to look out for her when she is at school, covering for her lack of basic education. Much like Elfen Lied, this is one of those anime series with basically one male character among the female protagonists, so it’s important that he comes across as the kind of person the girls would gravitate towards. Last week we saw him refusing to perv on the girls in their swimsuits, in contrast to the other guys at school, and this week he really comes across as a nice guy. He’s also somebody who questions his own motivations. Is he being so persistent with Neko because she looks like Kuroneko, or because he believes she could actually be Kuroneko? He isn’t quite sure himself.
The third member of the group of heroes is added into the mix this week, Kana Tachibana. She has tragically been left paralysed after her time in the lab, but has the ability to predict deaths, sending Neko on missions to prevent them, which joins the dots for us about exactly why Neko transferred to the school, and how she knew about Murakami’s impending road accident. Kana is an interesting character. The way she is dressed makes her look like a doll (if you’ve seen Rozen Maiden you will see the resemblance), and in fact if you listen with subtitles instead of the dub Murakami does actually mistake her for an exquisitely made doll. Rather amusingly she’s really feisty and mean to Murakami, but there’s a tinge of melancholy to that because she probably reacts in that way because she is so helpless and vulnerable. I think her aggression comes from a place of fear. One thing unfortunately detracts from the character. As much as the idea of Kana using a keypad to speak makes perfect sense, we all know that those devices are incapable of speaking with emotion or emphasis, but Kana’s device somehow manages normal human speech patterns. This is a problem that affects both the dub and the sub. In fact, it is actually worse in the sub, which simply adds a little echo to the actor’s voice. At least in the dub there is an electronic voice effect and the actor makes some attempt to tone down the emotion in her voice, but it really doesn’t work.
This episode makes some attempt to examine the consequences of these girls being removed from society for so long. It’s ten years since they ate cake, so their reaction to that is both amusing and terribly sad, with Neko even bursting into tears at the thought of not being able to eat the final slice. Then we have Murakami managing to persuade Neko to go back to school because deep down she actually wants to be there. Although she was only there for a specific mission, it gave her a taste of normal teenage life.
Also this week we get our first glimpse of the laboratory, and the debut of the creepy scientist who can be seen in the opening sequence. One big strength of this series is the character designs, all of which are really distinctive. Chisato is one of the best, with his handsome but dangerous features, and striking appearance. It’s a face you wouldn’t forget in a hurry. We see a “witch” being “ejected” for the first time, in a horrifying moment when Kana and Neko’s old friend Kanade ends her life strapped naked to a table and is reduced to a puddle of hot slime. So already we are getting a sense of a very different power balance to the one we saw in Elfen Lied. The Diclonii were so strong that the odds were stacked in their favour as soon as they escaped. In contrast, the “witches” of Brynhildr have a device in their necks that can potentially kill them instantly if activated. We also have a hint of a bigger problem than that, with Neko and Kana taking some kind of pills, and also Neko developing a nosebleed at the end of the episode.
“The next day she didn’t make it to school.”
For every answer this episode gives us, it throws another question our way. But the one that puzzled me the most was this: who sits down to breakfast with jam on toast and a fry up in front of them, and eats the jammy toast first? Maybe some mysteries just don’t have an easy answer. RP
The view from Amerika:
I was very pleased to see that the creators, writers, animators or characters took one of my first complaints to heart and changed Murakami’s talking-to-himself to internal monologue. Delightful. It takes nothing away and gets the point across more believably. Now that’s one less issue with the series. And look at that… no sudden outbursts. It may come to pass that I take to these characters far more than I expected in episode one. I think the story is what roped me in during episode 1, while the characters are coming to life by episode 2. Through a fairly slow piece, we are introduced to Kana; a paralyzed girl who can type ferociously on a little keyboard that she can’t see and manages to form perfect sentences at lightning speed! Good on you, mate! A job well done, I say! I can’t type a simple writeup without vigorous use of the backspace key and I have full sight of the keyboard and the use of both hands. Oh, to be a Gothically dressed witch…
Speaking of things to be impressed by, I’ll take a step back to say I was extremely surprised and impressed to see that episode 2 had a different constellation in the opening. I recall Neko saying in the first episode that there were so many constellations and that was a nice touch to illustrate a new one here. Knowing there are 12 episodes (ignoring the OVA for the purposes of this observation), makes me appreciate what the writers were doing here. Another feather in the cap, so to speak.
Episode 2 also gives us a hint that things are bigger than Murakami suspects. A line of military trucks drives down the street and he wonders why. Inside, two naked girls are kept chained up. Later we are introduced to the series villain. Now, this is going to take some leap of faith for me to buy into his evil. He wants to know where the other witches are. When the girl he has strapped face down to the table says she doesn’t know, he liquifies her by removing some metal implant in her back. I definitely want to know where we’re going with this! I can only speak for my own motivations: liquifying naked girls that I have strapped face down in front of me doesn’t seem like a thing I can conceive of, and you’d need to give me a pretty good reason for it. Face up on the other hand… No, I am genuinely kidding! But the motivation to actually melt a being has to be pretty high for me to allow for that, so I am dying to know what his story is and why he wants to kill the Witches. If we’re just in the common territory of being different, that’s going to get old. You don’t melt people who are different.
Of course, the answer may have been provided to us already. Cake! I mean, when you buy 3 pieces of cake for three people and two people claim all 3, that’s pretty rotten. Suddenly I might be OK with liquifying the people who do that to me. Depends on the type of cake I suppose. Chocolate might sway me. Chocolate with ice cream… out with your implant! Speaking of comedy, I laughed out loud when Murakami arrives at Neko’s address only to see it’s a lookout point. “She gave the school a lookout address…” But less comical was the realization that she’s living in a destroyed town. Less comical indeed, but perhaps more telling since the town was destroyed by a dam. And what killed his childhood friend? A fall from a dam. I have yet to be convinced these events are not connected.
And then there’s the question of what is going on with both girls. Neko and Kana are both dying. Neko is aware of it and wants to do good with her remaining time. So upon finding out about a woman in red who will die, she sets off to find the episode’s Miss Scarlet. Instantly, I knew what was happening the moment they run into a woman on a bike, but I was not bothered by the predictability of that scene. I was impressed because we are seeing fate denied. I said it in week one, and I say it now: this is not a fatalistic universe, even though events are “supposed to happen”. That’s a nice subversion of the genre and I am impressed. On the other hand, this may have helped define another genre. Having just recently re-watched Stranger Things, I can’t help but notice the nosebleed Neko had at the end of this episode and her sudden absence from the class the next day. I believe the chicken may have been Brynhildr and the egg was Stranger Things. Oh and speaking of class, I had to laugh at Neko’s inability to read and Murakami’s attempt to help. I keep wondering if Neko can read minds. If she can, they can work wonders together: he just has to think the words and she can pull them from his mind. But I’m making things up now… I guess I’m just anxious to see more. Well, I am determined to see where this goes, come hell or dam-burst high water! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Brynhildr in the Darkness Episode 3