“That Which I Want to Protect”
The view from Igirisu:
I’m used to the opening titles being a mess, with the “singer” amusingly shouting over random images of Hatsuna licking an ice cream and Nanami contemplating her slice of cake, but this entire episode is a confusion of cobbled together ideas. Like the opening, it somehow just about works.
What happened here, to put this is context, is that the final four episodes of the series covered more chapters of the manga than the previous nine, so the pacing becomes so frantic that ideas are never properly developed. Hexenjagd are a good example, new characters brought in at the last minute, who served to almost save the day on two occasions and that’s about it. The boy who can cancel out witches’ magic seems like he should be an important character, but he never gets a backstory at all. He’s just there.
There is also no time to resolve several important plot points, which frustratingly could have been removed altogether from the series instead, in order to make it a more coherent viewing experience. We were told last week that the aliens inside the witches will hatch out at any time, but yet that is forgotten by the end of this episode and we get our happy(ish) ending. The convenient breakthrough Kagorou makes with the pills is treated as if it saves all their lives and that’s all happily ever after for them, and yet they might only have days left. Speaking of Kogorou, all that stuff about Murakami giving him the alien egg came to nothing, as did his past history with Ichijiku.
We are left with so many lingering issues. The evil guys in their high chair conference room in the mist are still around (probably much more of an effective threat now the incredibly incompetent Ichikiju is gone), and if Kuroneko survived the black hole antimatter thing then what became of Mako? The two of them were revealed to be sisters, which is nice, but again we were robbed of any backstory for that. Just out of the blue Neko has a sister, and without any flashback sequences for context it really came across as a plot contrivance and nothing more.
So why did this all happen? What possessed the animators to do this? Well, there’s no doubt they didn’t handle the situation facing them very well, but their problem is one that besets the whole anime industry. When a manga is picked up for adaptation to an anime it is nearly always ongoing, but a bigger issue than that is how few series get awarded a second season. The odds of any given series getting a second run are vanishingly small, and it doesn’t seem to make a huge amount of difference if a series is popular and well-received. That leaves the writers with a choice of two bad options: (1) make an unresolved first season, stopping at some point in the ongoing story and keeping their fingers crossed that lightening will just happen to strike in the right place and they get to finish their story in a second run, or (2) rush everything through to a conclusion in one go. Out of those options, I have to say that what we get with Brynhildr is the lesser of two evils. I have seen so many incomplete anime storylines, and it’s much more frustrating than a rushed approach to the subject matter. At least we get a resolution of sorts. All that was needed was for the material to be spread across the series more evenly, rather than faithfully adapting about the first 40% of the manga and then rushing through the remaining 60% in four episodes.
That said, it made for a breathtaking viewing experience, especially on first viewing. The cracks showed a bit more the second time around. As we have come to expect, there were some amazing twists and turns. I didn’t expect everyone to survive, and the fate of Kotori was therefore no surprise, nor was the revelation that Ichijiku’s experiments had been a success, but his reaction to his sister’s final words, pleading with him to stop, was a shocking indication of the extent of his obsession, completely uninterested in her plea and just delighted that his Frankenstein’s monster awoke. His shielding of Mako was a big surprise, and actually really clever writing because so much had been made of the way he valued no life other than his own and his sister’s, but in the end he couldn’t completely suppress his human instincts:
“We forego logic and favour our wishes and dreams.”
Apart from the demise of Kotori, we had a rollercoaster of deaths and recoveries. Observant viewers last week would not have been surprised to see Hatsuna come back to life, as that process had already started, and I suppose what happened with Kazumi was therefore not a huge surprise, but this was definitely a twisty and turny episode, and it was actually quite refreshing that the writer refrained from killing off more than one of the harem. That was balanced to some degree by Kana being cured of her paralysis (and amusingly her own voice is the same as her computer’s!). We finally learnt what the third button does, giving the witches an extra power that comes at a price. Kana loses her ability to see the future, while Kuroneko frustratingly loses her memories again, although I loved the hint at the end that they are starting to return.
Despite packing so much in, the finale managed to neatly resolve far more plot points than were left hanging. It just did all that very quickly. Murakami got to play the hero (the foot in the face scene was great), and importantly got to relive his chance to save Kuroneko, and nothing was going to make him let go of that hand. So, all in all, I’m not complaining about this finale. Yes, it packed a lot in, but that’s better than not doing enough and leaving us frustrated with a lack of a resolution, as happens so often with anime. It’s not quite the end of the story, either. We have an OVA episode to look at next week. But for now let’s allow the quiet heroine Kotori to have the final word:
“Make sure everybody else lives, and lives happily.”
The view from Amerika:
As we come to the end of our journey though the darkness with Brynhildr, it dawns on me that the name makes no sense. All 13.5 episodes and it just hit me: there was no Brynhildr! Was she the observatory curator? Maybe she pops in to fix things up when no one is around, mops up couches full of blood and patches massive holes in the wall, all while shaking her head saying “these crazy teenagers! Always getting up to something?” Just at the end, I wanted to see a grown up walk in and be all flabbergasted about the state of things. But no, instead we get another of these blasty-showy things with enough gunshots that put Scarface to shame. 200,000 bullets rip into the guy with two many dotted letters in his name, Ichijiku, but not one comes out the other side to hit Antimatter Girl? Forget that, these assassins have perfect aim and hit only him and even then, he still has life enough to talk? This dude has some strength! (And before anyone goes all ballistic on me showering me with antimatter blasts, I did look up the title and understand the meaning; I’m just having some fun with name that could have been better selected!)
Now, let’s get past the light show and talk about other things. Killing off some amazingly good characters is a damned risk but since the show is ending, fine. Maybe they took a page out of a Joss Whedon series from the early 2000’s (hint hint… too soon?) but the difference is the source material. Sure, fans are going to say “well this continued in the manga”, which is a cop out. It may be true, but this isn’t a manga, it’s what’s called a tv show. Know the story, or where you want it to go and tell the story. Don’t expect people, many of whom are casual tv watchers, to then race out to Barnes and Noble for more. Manga fans might, but most tv watchers are watching. It’s a passive act and something more people prefer because they have jobs and families and hobbies that might take up more time and they are looking to relax and unwind, not add more to their days. So they want a show to watch and carry them along for a fun ride. Now, I’m ok with what the team did here! The creative team wipes out some great characters and in the case of Kazumi, she dies having fallen in love but never consummating it with the one guy she wanted to be with. Why that doubly sucks is that he repeatedly made her feel like she was lacking in some areas and who was that in contrast to? Kotori Takatori! It’s not even in comparison to the girl he actually loves, but the girl Hatsuna referred to as “Ms. Udders” for her ample bosom. Kazumi gets to feel inferior and die without finding the one thing she kept asking for. (“But it’s in the manga” – and just for the record, even as I type this, I’m typing it all nasally to sound more nerdy – because it’s no excuse! We are talking about a show!) Now it’s great that they don’t let her stay dead because she is one of my favorite characters, hands down! But she comes back to realize that even though she died for him, Murakami still only wants Neko. And yet that now triply sucks! Can something suck three times over? Yes, because Neko now has the mind of her 4 or 5 year old self with no memories of anything of adulthood. So Murakami will undoubtedly wait for her to grow up, all the while his harem longs for him. (I’m going out to make friends with witches!) Sure, her memory might return in the final scene when she remembers the summer triangle, but the only thing we know from that is that the ending credits, which do not reveal anything more like the magnificent Erased did. All in all, a very unsatisfying end!
But hold on infomercial fans, there’s more! Uncle Closed Eyes is introduced to work on a cure and by the end, while he has succeeded, the only real pay off to his whole existence is for him to leave a voicemail. WOW, talk about an ending. Can you imagine this in terms of real actors? “Yes, so in the end, you won’t actually have anything to show for it, but a voicemail you leave will let the audience know you succeeded. Don’t close your eyes when I’m talking to you!” We didn’t need him in the story, because the pills end up being a background element that really stops playing a part far earlier than this. And as family plays such a part in this, I ask: what’s up with that? Mako is Neko’s sister and of course they are among the most powerful of the witches. And why does Mako vanish but Neko survive? Anyway… Ichijiku is trying to revive his sister in Kotori and her memory comes back enough for her to tell her brother not to do bad things. I mean, there was convoluted written all over this. In the end, the alien being is still there, the guys in highbacked chairs are still lording over a fog and there’s a cure out there… on a voicemail! WOW…
Yet with all this, I have to say I loved the characters! I mean, this cast is some of the most fun I’ve experienced in my limited time with anime. Another was a great show and yet, I only feel strongly about a few characters. Erased only has a few but that was almost beyond compare. The only cast that comes close to this is the Haruhi cast, but I did get 2 whole shows with that cast, so I don’t know if it’s fair to count them! I don’t think there was a main character here I didn’t like. I think every witch that came on screen, even the time traveler who ends up being dispatched quickly, or mouth cannon, the Dragonball Z wannabe… they too made an impact that won’t be soon forgotten. And Murakami is a great character too… excluding his belittling of Kazumi. The humor of this series was often delightful and there are moments of symmetry (like Murakami’s dive to save a falling Neko in the end) that are just outstanding. Kotori’s dying words about loving life just made me love her even more, even with the spider legs growing out of her back. In summation, this cast carries an otherwise lackluster finale and leaves me with memories of a series I will actually probably hang on to for a long time, despite its shortcomings. What I think blows my mind more than anything is that this is the same series that gave us Elfen Lied and that was a far superior work with perhaps not-superior characters.
They say life is about the journey and I think the journey through the darkness was fun and enjoyable because of the characters and their attitudes. Good people who sacrifice for one another is exactly what we need to be reminded of every day so I highly recommend the show, even though the last two episodes left me feeling like I was watching one of those later X-Men movies; a lot of flash but little substance. Get to know the characters; you’ll love them. Don’t try to figure out what’s going on. You’re better off rewatching Inception and I don’t recommend that at all. (In ironic fact is that all 12 of these episode probably is only a shade longer than that movie and at least this has awesome characters and tons of humor!)
Well, I’m ready for our next series… Something to do with girls, tanks, and the apocalypse? Stay tuned for Girls’ Last Tour, coming soon to the Junkyard after we first take a look at the OVA episode of Brynhildr. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Brynhildr in the Darkness OVA