“The Clue Left Behind“
The view from Igirisu:
The focus on Kazumi continues this week. Although she originally seemed like just one fairly minor part of an ensemble, her prominence has increased every week to the point where she is the secondary perspective character. Even the important scene near the start between Murakami and Neko, which takes place against beautiful sunset colours, is undercut by the shot from above of Kazumi looking on. Once again, this is her episode.
Last week she was fast becoming my favourite character, but in this episode she is far harder to warm to. The hardest thing to watch is her violation of Kana’s personal space, starting to strip her off to shame her. Seeing that inflicted on a paralysed girl is not pleasant, and it’s a relief to see Neko step in and stop her. Kazumi’s sexual aggression towards Murakami reaches new heights this week, and Murakami displays a remarkable degree of self control. We can only speculate as to his motivations because it isn’t exactly clear why he restrains himself, but I think it is a combination of awkward nervousness at a situation that is unprecedented for him, his love for Neko, and perhaps an admirable realisation that Kazumi is not pursuing him for the right reasons. She’s a lonely, frightened girl.
Despite this all being very difficult to watch, I can understand why Kazumi remains the favourite character of so many Brynhildr fans. She might be flawed, but her characterisation is very strong, her actions are understandable in the context of the extraordinarily traumatic life she is leading, and at least she is trying to do something to deal with that. It might be the wrong thing, but it’s an active attempt to find happiness where she can, while she still has the chance. When you compare that to the other girls, who do nothing much at all about any feelings they have for Murakami, it’s not hard to see why Kazumi is so popular, despite her actions having an air of desperation about them.
You can understand why she would be so drawn to Murakami, as well. He very much plays the hero, in this episode in particular, heading off on his own to investigate the location on the map, which is their only lead. His arrest is a confusing moment. I think it makes sense, but to a certain extent it is left for the viewers to figure out what is going on rather than having it all spelt out for us. His arrest at the hands of the local police would seem to suggest that they are working with the bad guys, and yet they are later interrogated (and mind read/wiped), as if they know nothing about any of it. So is this just a standard case of heavy handed police brutality? I think the likely explanation is that they have some knowledge but not much, so they have been told that there are a group of terrorists in hiding in the area, and their tip off from the hideous woman Murakami questions was probably exaggerated, so if anyone has inside knowledge it’s her not the police. It’s never quite made clear though, so it does feel like something is missing from the episode. Having said that, this has always been a series that moves through plot developments at a fast pace. I am less forgiving of the password or password hint or whatever it is being carved into stone. You know when you have to choose a password for something and you aren’t supposed to write it down? I’m pretty sure that advice extends to carving your passwords into a big stone and putting it on display. It’s Dan Brown stuff, and that’s definitely not a compliment.
We have the introduction of a new character at the end of the episode, and it feels like we are finally leveling up to a more dangerous threat. The previous big battle was a couple of episodes ago and was a relatively easy victory against an enemy with a weapon that was clearly flawed, but Nanami immediately comes across as much more of a serious danger. She is initially kept completely covered up, presumably so that she doesn’t mind wipe everyone around her and escape, and when you think about that ability it’s probably the most effective weapon we have seen so far. Anyone who can wipe their enemy’s mind immediately neutralises them as a threat. This is going to be interesting… RP
The view from Amerika:
At this point, it’s evident that the Witches appreciate Murakami because he is trying to help them even at the cost of his own life. Yet none of them want him to risk too much. This probably comes from the realization that they all have an extremely finite amount of time to live anyway and there’s no reason for him to risk his life when he could have a perfectly normal lifespan. So it’s really impressive that they all show up to help him when the cops show up. But this episode got things wrong for me. I’m still enjoying it, but the things that went wrong were silly. First, those cops are not even attempted to be fleshed out. They are there simply to arrest and open fire on a young, unarmed man. It’s not even sensible because they’d be opening themselves up to ridicule the moment the family said a thing about it. Where’s the probable cause? Where’s the crime? Where were the no-trespassing signs? No matter how you cut it or put an age of “adulthood” on Murakami, he is still a very young man who has shown no signs of doing anything wrong. He was walking past a destroyed building, they show up and start harassing him. The lawsuit will be a landslide in Murakami’s family’s favor!
But while he didn’t do anything wrong at the site, he is guilty of another crime. I’m talking, of course, about Kazumi. Alright, I’m on record for saying I don’t feel the sex is a needed element of these animes, but in this case, there’s an interesting thing happening and it needs to be addressed. They have gone out of their way to show Murakami as a thinking, caring guy who is in no way lecherous. He cares about these girls not for sex, but because he sees them as people and he wants to help them. (And that he thinks his childhood friend is one of them, but that’s still nothing based on sex!) Yet where Kazumi comes into it, he needs to be more than the “gentle guy”. He should be intimate with Kazumi. The key ingredient to this whole equation is that they both know she doesn’t have long to live; even with the whole box of meds that she has for herself, she may have a couple of months on the outside if she’s not hunted and murdered first. She wants to have this opportunity and she wants it from someone who actually cares about her. Who better than Murakami? As observed in the last episode, she won’t speak to any of the other guys at school because they all want her body, but Murakami is doing everything he can to protect her and her people. Because he doesn’t do things motivated by sex, he’s worthy of her affection. To compound matters, she also knows she’s very different; a “freak”. When she asks Murakami if she’s really so repulsive, she’s very aware of her freakishness, her other-ness. Murakami may love Neko and that’s all good but even so, at that age, dating multiple people is not unheard of and is not a bad thing. We’re not talking about cheating on one’s spouse! In fact, we’re not talking about cheating at all – he and Neko are not together. Plus, even if they were, would Neko really not understand why he gave himself to Kazumi? Instead, what he’s done over and over again is embarrass her for being small-breasted. While it has lead to much humor, it’s not actually a good thing. He’s hurting her self image and making her feel inferior to the big-breasted girls. So not only will she die, probably soon and probably horribly, she will do so without ever having had that intimacy which she seems to want. So it’s all well and good to put this sort of thing into the episode, but I think it needs to be thought out better. (That said, I did laugh when Kazumi tells him to “take some responsibility and massage them for me.” Again, I wonder where my responsibilities lie!)
And speaking of the Witches, Kazumi being all “rape-y” and “molest-y” with Kana did make me laugh because of all the comments and how relaxed everyone was with her actions (no one outright runs to Kana’s defense) but it’s almost as if she’s trying to show some level of control in that realm which she evidently lacks with Murakami. Perhaps she can have some fun with the new Witch, the one who walks into a crowd and raises her dress before spinning her eyes hypnotically. Don’t know what her deal is yet, but it seems she can take people’s thoughts. Alas, the story continues and draws me in, but this one felt too much like a prelude to a bigger thing and we’re not ready to know what that is until the next part. I’m excited to see where this strange tale goes, but I do begin to understand my buddy Roger when he says he enjoys “slice of life” stories. For all the weird stuff going on, I was having much more fun watching everyone just being normal. What’s happening to me these days?! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Brynhildr in the Darkness Episode 9