What They Say:
Haunted by memories of his childhood friend Kuroneko, Ryota Murakami has dedicated himself to discovering the truth behind the claim she’d made before she died: That aliens from other worlds walk among us. Believing that becoming a scientist is the path to the truth, Murakami pursues his studies by day and peers through a telescope at night. But when a girl named Kuroha Neko joins his class, the answers he’s sought may be closer than he ever expected.
For Kuroha looks exactly like an older version of Kuroneko, and seems to have abilities that no human could have. But the truth isn’t the only thing Murakami is about to uncover, and the secrets he’ll learn come with a deadly price. Because Kuroneko was right, and there are those who will do anything to keep that knowledge hidden. And unless Murakami and a handful of unlikely allies can somehow survive their lethal purge, the entire human race could be doomed!
Contains episodes 1-14.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with a newly created English language adaptation, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that mixes it up with the action and dialogue fairly well, going with a number of shorter bursts of sound effects for the sequences and a few bigger sequences along the way. But mostly it tries to keep things under control by going for a more dialogue-driven approach or using the swell of the instrumental music to set things in motion. The action side of it works well enough as a slightly better than standard action piece, but it’s mostly just for some of the tricks of the powers in how they’re presented. Dialogue-wise, the show is fairly straightforward with what it wants to do by providing some areas where there’s a touch of depth and placement to it as most of the girls are on screen, but otherwise going with a full feeling for the dialogue with minor placement in general. Everything comes through clean and clear with both language tracks, though, making it a solid experience.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show has the thirteen episode run plus the OVA spread across two discs with nine on the first and five on the second. Animated by Arms, the show has a fairly basic look and feel to it where a number of scenes and sense of style has you viewing it as a kind of budget oriented project. There’s no real flaws in how it’s designed, but it lacks the kind of detail and firmness in a sense to really bring the material alive. The transfer shows this pretty clearly with the almost basic color palette used for the character designs while the backgrounds get a bit more attention in general so that it feels more grounded in the real world. The show doesn’t have a lot of detail when it comes to the characters, so most of what we get are in the backgrounds and that holds up well. Things are solid throughout and we had no problems with noise or breakup throughout, resulting in a clean if not terribly engaging presentation.
The packaging for this release is done up with a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover is one that definitely clues you into how dark it’s going to get as we get four of the main female characters in their school uniforms, plus one maid, where they’re done in black and white with shades of gray and splashes of red blood on them. It’s made even more distinct by a post-apocalyptic landscape behind them done in shades of purple and black that just makes it all the starker. The cover clearly lists the episode count and the inclusion of the OVA, which is nice. The back cover is a very busy piece that balances its darkness well as the cover wraps around from the front but is largely obscured by other pieces. The premise uses the shape from the neck device in the show, which is a nice touch, and it’s clean and easy to read even with the visuals behind it. A good selection of shots are spread across the cover as a whole and we get a clean breakdown of what extras are included with it. The remainder is given over to the usual production credits and technical details, both of which are conveyed cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release are nicely dark and really set the tone well with a black style background mixed in with some shades of purple that gives it a sense of menace. Laying the character artwork over it with a focus on Kuroha, as is to be expected, provides the right kind of contrast with it both in color and the tone of it. The navigation shines through as well with black segments for each episode, which is broken down by number and title, and then using a red highlight across it to draw the blood into it. The layout is simple and effective and the color choices for it works to really set the mood going into all of it.
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Lynn Okamoto that began in 2012 and has fourteen volumes to its name so far, Brynhildr in the Darkness is a thirteen episode TV series and OVA that aired in the spring 2014 season. Animated by Arms, the show certainly has a particular kind of look about it. I had not read much about the show prior to watching it, and I didn’t remember much from the spring 2014 season having covered a couple hundred other shows since then, so my first basic impression of the show is that it felt like a low-rent version of Elfen Lied. So I was certainly amused when I discovered that it came from the creator of Elfen Lied. I had a lot of issues with that series when I first saw it and while I came around on aspects of it, it’s still a show that I didn’t feel like it was executed right.
If you’ve seen Elfen Lied and liked it, you’ll more than likely enjoy this series as well. The premises really do feel the same, just expanded slightly but lacking in greater context that I presume can be found in the manga, which obviously has a lot of material to work with. The series revolves primarily around Ryota and Neko, characters that we initially see as young children that end up doing something stupid and falling off of the dam that they were climbing across as she was going to show him proof about aliens. Ryota survived, but Neko died, leaving him with a real sense of emptiness. He filled that hole over the years by dedicating himself to being able to work at NASA to help really discover aliens. With a photographic memory and some good intelligence about him, he’s spent the ten years since then working towards his goal. And as he nears the end of his high school years, there’s obviously some real potential about him.
So, naturally, the dead girl has to come back to life but now know who he is or anything about the town where he grew up. Ryota does his best to get to know her, though, but it’s complicated because she’s aloof and disconnected from normal living, even as a transfer student. As it turns out, she’s faked it all because she’s been secretly experimented on all her life in a lab which has resulted in her gaining the power to create explosions (invisibly) within her line of sight. She’s actually working with another girl she saved from the lab and escaped with named Kana as Kana has the ability to see into the future and they’re randomly trying to stop people from dying in accidents and the like. It’s so utterly haphazard that it makes no sense – until you realize that she really is the kid from ten years ago and the use of her powers has eaten away all her memories. When we discover that she can’t do two plus two math equations and thinks multiplication tables are places you sit at, well, it’s times like this that Ryota proves that he’s not smart as he can’t figure it out – even though he keeps wishing she was the same person from his childhood because he has so many unresolved issues with her.
Brynhildr takes a lot of pages from the Elfen Lied playbook and runs with it here as Kuroha and the other girls that show up (oh yes, there will be more) all require certain pills from the lab in order to keep functioning. These pills help them keep their form because without them their bodies melt away into blobs of nothingness. it’s really quite gruesome when it does play out and it happens more regularly than you’d expect with the supporting cast of players that have been experimented on and enters Ryota’s life. What makes the thing even stranger is that the device built into their necks that help them with their powers and stability actually contains a small alien lifeform. One that will, someday, undergo its own transformation and devour its apparent host so that it can become a huge monster. There are so many weird points to how all of this is put together that it’s easy to see why there really isn’t a cohesive feeling about the show.
The result is that a lot of the times you feel like the characters that are dissolving into a blob. These are disturbing moments visually to be sure and they should make you feel a bit wigged out by it. But the show also plays to Okamoto’s other strengths, which is bodies being torn apart and other violent aspects. They’re made a bit more grisly here by both the simple designs and the simple animation so that it stands out more. If it was more detailed and realistic it might actually not have felt quite as impactful as it does here. It’s almost tame at first in how it does it, but as the show goes on and more characters participate from the lab on both sides, the bodies are torn asunder and the blobbiness continues. I’ve no problem with violence but something about the way it’s presented here, similar to Elfen Lied in most respects, just leaves me uncomfortable.
The actual story itself is obvious inconclusive with the manga ongoing and that does leave us with some difficult aspects. While it starts off small enough, Ryota and Kuroha against the evil lab, it gets a bit more expansive with the various girls that come into it, former lab workers that started a seemingly religious offshoot with the plan to destroy the lab, and the man behind the whole project intent on discovering the truth about life through the girls even if it will destroy the world. Which it will, if not stopped. It gets so big and expansive, faster than it should, that none of it feels properly weighted. There’s a seriousness to what’s going on and several subplots along the way as well involving all sorts of things because girls will be girls according to this, that the impact is just lost. Even though they’re going to be responsible for the end of the world and are fine dying to prevent it, everything will be super okay if they can just go out on a date with Ryota and maybe even get a smooch.
Also owing to Okamoto’s trademark style, this uncensored version features plenty of nudity. Well, maybe not plenty, but far more than most shows these days as the tops are lost quite often, we get a few requisite bathing scenes and changing scenes, and the always unfortunately common breast sized comparison material. It does relish it when it plays out these aspects and it’s all given proper attention, but it’s not something that in the end I think helps the show. I won’t say it hinders it or anything, but it didn’t do much to add to the show and just felt like a trope check-off point more than anything else. But at least it’s consistent with the original creator’s works, so it’s not a surprise.
I went into this series largely blind about it, which is how I prefer to do it, and I found something very, very familiar. With it being a variation on Elfen Lied from the same creator, it’s definitely going to have an audience and it’s going to go over fairly well with them. There’s less emotional resonance with this series than that one simply because the cast is larger and less time is spent really working through them, particularly since Kuroha is such a cipher for much of it and without much personality. The series really is just the first chapter of a larger work and it definitely shows the closer you get to the end. It does the best with it that it can and it certainly goes big, but it’s also unable to really carry it through with the right weight to it all because of the amount of time that it has to work with. Fans of the show will definitely be pleased by it, especially since it got a dub as well, and the materials used here are pretty solid. It didn’t click well enough for me, but I definitely know the appeal of it and why it’ll find its audience who will be pleased by it.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and Closing
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 6th, 2015
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.