“Fragments of Hope“
The view from Igirisu:
There is a rollercoaster of hope and despair this week, with the possibility that the pills the witches need to save their lives could be replicated, and then the revelation that it’s going to take months. In a moment of inspired animation, the colour washes out of the scene. It’s subtle, and doesn’t last for long, but it’s enough to emphasise that moment of sadness, along with the horrible pause before Murakami delivers the news.
“It’s not good.”
The reaction of the girls is admirable: they are very kind to Murakami and grateful for him trying, and the resignation with which they accept it shows the extent to which they understand and expect their likely fate. Kazumi goes off and cries on her own, which is a very sad moment.
This is really Kazumi’s episode, going off shopping with Murakami, who continues to play hard to get with her. It’s a very familiar storyline in harem anime series: the more the guy rejects the girl, the more she obsesses about him. It’s not a particularly pleasant thing to watch, although in this instance it doesn’t appear that Murakami is trying to string her along. He’s just not interested in anyone other than his lost love Kuroneko. Despite that, Kazumi has a wonderful time, another reminder that these girls have lived such a horrible life that they have never been able to experience simple pleasures, and something as prosaic as a shopping trip with a friend becomes “the most fun I’ve had in my entire life.” Kazumi is a character who is really growing on me. To start with she was selfish, combative and sexually aggressive, but over the last few episodes we have come to understand why she has been behaving in that way, and she has mellowed and become much more fun to watch. Her lack of social skills are becoming very funny.
“Hey, perverts! Wanna bet those guys have never even kissed a girl?”
Also lacking in social skills is Neko, who accidentally finds an effective way to turn a guy down without actually having to say no to him:
“For some reason I don’t get nervous and my heart doesn’t speed up when I touch you.”
She is clearly falling for Murakami, which makes it hard to believe that she would accept the karaoke invitation in the first place. I get that she wants to grab every moment of fun or new experience, and maybe just do a normal thing with friends, but these are little more than acquaintances to her, and it doesn’t quite ring true that she would want to go off without her real friends and waste one of her final days on a bunch of non-friends and an irritating guy making a play for her. Incidentally, if you can’t stomach her awful singing in the dub, switch over to the subs for that scene. I don’t think I’m hugely exaggerating by saying there’s virtually no such thing as a Japanese voice actor who can’t sing, whereas almost the exact opposite is true of American dub actors.
So what else do we have this week? Well, it’s a fairly workmanlike, middle of the road, steady progression of the story. There is some talk of an “S” rank, just when we thought AAA was going to be bad. They are going to run out of letters eventually. Then we had another of those unintentionally amusing moments with the bad guys sitting on very tall chairs in the mist; not quite your usual conference room setup. And of course some obligatory fanservice, which was even more clumsy than usual this week.
“Why are you standing around in your underwear?”
“It’s hot in here.”
It’s not quite underwear, but might as well be, and there are plenty of low pervert-eye-view camera angles that don’t reflect anything that any of the characters can see, the hallmark of clumsy and gratuitous fanservice. At this stage in the series, the viewers who dislike fanservice will probably have given up, or it will wash over you by now, but one thing did distract me from the storyline far more than that: the incidental music. Oddly, the early part of the episode played out with some very distracting jazz piano music, which was a slightly awkward fit for the scenes it accompanied. It was good music, and might have worked for a different series, but was just too jolly for Brynhildr and so distracting and high in the mix that it was hard to concentrate on some of the dialogue. But Brynhildr has always been an odd mish-mash of elements that don’t quite fit together, and I love it for that.
The last couple of episodes have set a gentler pace, and have been an enjoyable breather from the usual fast-paced developments. Now we have passed the halfway point of the series, it feels like the time is right to pick up the pace again… RP
The view from Amerika:
Uncle Closed Eyes makes me laugh but that’s not for the right reasons. I’ve worked with a person who would have these hyper-elongated blinks while we’re talking during which time I’ve really wanted to dive behind a desk or hide somewhere so when her eyes reopen, she’d wonder where I’d gone. I’ve refrained from this practice because… you know… work… but I desperately want to do it one day anyway. When Uncle Long-Blink talks to Murakami, I want to see him open his eyes and find his nephew missing. But then, since he’s so willing to help, after using a logical process of trial and error to prove that the explosive powers are real, I guess, diving behind a desk would be mean! Do you do that to someone who is trying to help you? (For the record, many years ago, I also worked with a woman who never made eye contact and instead stared fixedly on ones shoulder. Many times I’d become self-conscious and check to make sure I hadn’t sprouted an eye from my shoulder! I often thought of putting something there to make it less of a target…)
Speaking of funny things, I do laugh a lot as Kazumi smacks Murakami on the head for seemingly no reason. I also burst out laughing when she takes him down with a “look, jackass…” comment. Murakami becomes a more dimensional person in this episode too. While I’ve been utterly perplexed by his lack of emotion towards a beautiful woman being willing to be a bit showy with him, I do credit the writing and the character for not being lascivious about this. Now, to add to the depth of character, we learn that he’s a tutor. Meanwhile Neko is quite funny too when a student is hitting on her and she comments that “for some reason, I don’t get nervous” when he touches her. Meanwhile an awkward thumb touch from Murakami sends her heart aflutter. I like where that’s going!
As for influences, there must be something in Japan about grades where S is a high grade. Watching the insanely ridiculous-but-hyper-funny One Punch Man, I learned that there are superhero grades and, like this series, S seems to be tops. This fascinates me but not the way aliens do; just a curious cultural thing. I found the comments about the alien civilization very interesting, reminding me that we are not watching a superhero series, but another sci-fi anime. This ties in again with the very opening of the series where young Neko seems to be aware of an alien and is taking Murakami to see it when she plummets to her death.
And speaking of aliens, what is the deal with the dudes in chairs in the holodeck? Clearly they talk to our resident evil scientist/witch hunter, but what is their deal? Are they actually aliens? I guess they must be after that toothy, eyed horror we saw a few episodes ago. And what of the commentary that comic and manga stores are not just for virgins and perverts? (Not just for implies, they are for them, but not solely… I had to laugh.) And what’s behind the cryptic German message “Destroy all witches immediately, do that and the truth shall come unto you”. Dire indeed but what truth? Does it have to do with the aliens? I’d say it must because when one died, we did see an alien come slithering out of the corpse. We’ll see. I’m enjoying this series a lot right now.
I think the thing that impressed me most with this episode was that when Murakami tells his Witch friends that the medicine will take too long to produce, they don’t get angry with him or with anyone. They accept it. Kazumi has the most practical reaction of all, walking outside to get some air and actually starts to cry but they all accept that the hope was nice while it lasted and they thanked Murakami for trying. In one small scene, I am utterly determined to see them survive at all costs. And I’ve got 5 episodes left to make sure they do… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Brynhildr in the Darkness Episode 8