“A Sudden Reunion“
The view from Igirisu:
The story is moving along rapidly now. With the threat of the Valkyria hanging over the witches, a new ally is introduced to help them in their fight: Hatsuna. Her power is another impressive one, the ability to regenerate her body and recover from fatal injuries. It’s a very defensive capability, which poses the question as to why she was chosen to guard the Valkyria. This is a change in her origins from the manga, which is why it doesn’t make quite so much sense, although she is an AA witch so presumably has some other trick up her sleeve as well.
Hatsuna’s addition to Murakami’s harem is deftly handled, with her test of his bravery and loyalty to the witches. His response to the dangerous situation she creates is a surprising moment for her and for the viewer, until you realise his decision not to let go is informed not just by the risk that she is lying to him, but also by his childhood tragedy of losing Kuroneko. Predictably, Hatsuna falls for Murakami immediately, but refreshingly she does something about that immediately, going straight in for a kiss. This kind of thing is so unusual for anime, where girls are almost always reluctant to confess their feelings and suffer in silence. It also makes for a fun contrast to the other girls in Brynhildr, none of whom have been direct in pursuing Hatsuna apart from Kazumi, and she has only gone after Murakami in a sexual way rather than actually speaking about her feelings for him. Neko’s violent outlet for her jealousy is always funny. Also, I did enjoy Kotori doing her teleport swap thing to save the day again. Amongst all the witches, her power has been the most effective and fun, and it helps that it has been used sparingly throughout the series, so it always comes as a surprise and you never expect it to happen.
There is some justification for the fanservice this week, with the other girls catching sight of Hatsuna’s scar, which leads to a discussion about her abilities (a tenuous excuse, I know), and then Murakami finally catching sight of Neko’s birthmark. That plot point has been dragged on for so long that it loses the impact it should have had (and it’s the second time round anyway). What should have been a moment for the audience to go “wow, he’s found out”, instead feels more like “about time too!”, but Murakami’s emotional response is very touching to watch, as is the fleeting but significant moment when Kazumi looks off to one side, realising that she has lost the battle for Murakami’s heart, and he only has feelings for Kuroneko.
While all this is going on, the Valkyria is getting ever closer, and we also learn more about her relationship with Ichijiku. It certainly brings back memories of Elfen Lied, with an unpleasant kind of Stockholm Syndrome dependent relationship between victim and captor. Ichijiku betrays no hint of nerves, entirely unafraid of her, which perhaps gives an insight into why he is making such bad decisions. He doesn’t seem to be frightened of anything. Amusingly, one of his bosses says “I never dreamed you’d be this incompetent”, which made me chuckle because he has done nothing but be incompetent so far. How many of his witches have escaped now? We also learn that Ichijiku and Kogorou have a past connection, so there’s presumably trouble brewing there, although all the angst about what to do with the remaining pills feels like an attempt to create a sense of jeopardy that isn’t really there. With the Valkyria coming after them, we’re heading towards what feels like a final battle, and one way or another this is going to be all decided long before the lack of pills becomes a problem, surely. However, it did put into perspective how far Kazumi has come as a character, immediately willing to share the pills with the newcomer, and unwilling to accept everyone’s offer to let her have all the remaining pills. In contrast, Hatsuna is a reminder of what Kazumi used to be, hoarding pills for herself.
A quick mention of the end titles, which have been updated again to include Hatsuna, and Nanami is still there in spirit as well. It’s nice that the animators took the trouble to do that, and it shows the level of care and attention that went into making this show. So, there are two episodes left, plus an OVA which actually fits within the events of this episode, so you could watch that now if you want, but we’ll be remaining true to the original viewing experience by looking at that after the end of the series and not disrupting the flow. With the Valkyria impressively teleporting in, and the hint that she might have some connection with Kuroneko, we’re heading into the endgame now. This is going to be fun… RP
The view from Amerika:
The show is all over the map. It has some incredibly deep moments, while other times it goes for a slow burn to a major battle that really doesn’t see the light of day for the entire episode. The general idea of the episode is obviously to show us what Valkyria is and what she can do. It opens with her slicing apart the 7 (yes, 7!) witches that were sent to keep an eye on her. That means all 7 of them are nothing by contrast to her powers. Then to further illustrate her destructive force, she uses an antimatter blast to wipe out an entire mountain. Considering this is not the sort of thing that can be discretely covered up, we now get into the minds of the 5 illuminati-like bad guys in their high-backed chairs and their henchman, Ichijiku. So most of this story is showing us what the Witches have been up against this whole time. Ichijiku is willing to make decisions that will get him killed, because he is determined to get subject 1107 back. But the thing I still don’t understand: who is 1107 (presumably Neko) but more importantly, why does he want her? He clearly has a super weapon on his side already, so it’s not that he needs boulders broken in his yard. Unless she’s more powerful than we have been lead to believe, but it still doesn’t help me with the why of it. What does 1107 have that all the others are sent out to retrieve? Why risk all the others for her unless she has something that can reproduce the witches? Perhaps even free them? It makes no sense so far, but we will undoubtedly find out soon.
Meanwhile, one of the sliced witches ends up being like our favorite of the X-Men, Wolverine, and can heal herself even if her body is cut in two. In an unexpected twist, her body being cut apart also removes the harnest on the back of her neck. Surely this is not a red herring! I am certain a secret lies in this oddity. Wolverine-girl, Hatsuna, goes in search of the other witches, finds them and immediately befriends them but she’s not sure about Murakami, so she puts him to the test and almost murders him accidentally. When he successfully saves her, she kisses him and Neko again has an adverse reaction! Again, some slice of life fun paired with giving us a sense of what the bad guys are doing.
So what do I have to work with coming into the final handful of episodes? The good guys are clever and we are definitely behind them. (In fact, I loved the genius behind lying on the ground throughout the astronomy club covered in “blood” to trick Valkyria.) Hatsuna does not know Kotori, so there’s something odd with that too, because all of the others seem to know one another. We know Valkyria can detonate a mountain but when her master comes and smacks her across the face, she cries and begs forgiveness, which one has to assume will be her downfall in some way. And we now know that through a freak of Kazumi, Neko’s birthmark is revealed and Murakami realizes his old friend is still alive. She has no memory of their time together as kids, but he remembers enough for them both. Now we have to see them survive. But as they stand outside together, a helicopter approaches. Valkyria arrives inside the observatory and we are poised on the edge of a conflict. For goodness sake… I’m going to be up late tonight! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Brynhildr in the Darkness Episode 12