Brynhildr in the Darkness

Brynhildr in the Darkness, or rather Extreme-Black Brynhildr (Gokukoku no Buryunhirude) is an anime adaptation of the original Japanese manga series by Lynn Okamoto. A tongue-twisting word Brynhildr is not some Jinglish, or a term lost in the translation from Japanese, but actually the name of one of the Valkyries (Odin’s twelve handmaids, warrior-maidens who choose those who may die and those who may live in battle, according to Norse and Germanic mythology) - and then that science fiction doesn't teach you anything!

Brynhildr is one of the Valkyries, Odin’s twelve warrior-maidens who choose those who may die in battle

Childhood friends Ryouta and Kuroneko are both amateur astronomers and share one common dream - to prove the existence of aliens. Kuroneko insists aliens exist and asks Ryouta to follow her to the nearby dam where she wants to show them to him. While walking the pipe along the dam wall, Ryouta slips. Before he falls, he gets hold of Kuroneko’s hand and they both plunge into the water. When Ryouta regains consciousness, he is in the hospital and is told that Kuroneko did not survive the fall.

Without taking the ‘Death Suppressant’ DR623G drug once a day, all ‘magic’ users experience profound bleeding and later, death.

Ten years later, Ryouta is a top student in his class at the high school. He cannot forget about Kuroneko and is consumed by the feeling of guilt for her untimely death. He keeps his promise to Kuroneko and, as the only member of the local Astronomy Club, keeps looking up at the starry sky every night, searching for the aliens.

One day, a girl named Neko Kuroha who is a spitting image of his childhood friend appears as a transfer student in Ryouta’s class. Neko denies knowing Ryouta or having anything to do with Kuroneko, but the striking resemblance between the late Kuroneko and Kuroha remains always at the back of Ryouta’s mind. But there are also some peculiar differences between the two: Kuroha is seemingly able to predict the future and displays other supernatural abilities, such as unnatural strength. When she saves Ryouta from certain death by exploding a huge boulder falling from the cliff, a split second before it smashes him to a pulp, he confronts her about his concerns.

This special ability comes at a price - every time Kuroha uses her supernatural powers, she loses part of her memories
Neko Kuroha is a spitting image of Ryouta’s childhood friend and sweetheart Kuroneko. But there are also some peculiar differences between the two.

Kuroha reveals that she is a ‘witch’ - the term used to refer to her kind - individuals altered by a cybernetic implant or ‘harness’ on their napes. The implant contains an alien parasite called ‘Drasil’ which, by means of the harness, connects with the spine, giving the host various seemingly supernatural abilities referred to as ‘magic’. Kuroha’s particular ability is destructive telekinesis that enables her to destroy any inorganic matter up to a distance of 12 metres. This special ability comes at a price however - every time she uses her ‘magic’ powers, she loses part of her memories. Kuroha also informs Ryouta that she escaped from a top-secret alien research facility, where unscrupulous scientists experiment on juvenile females (who are, presumably, ideally suited for the alien implants) in order to master the alien technology.

Chisato Ichijiku is a ruthless and seemingly emotionless scientist in charge of the research - he sees the B-rank ‘magic’ users as failed results of his experiments.

Ryouta later learns about Kuroha’s best friend, Kana Tachibana, who escaped from the alien research facility along with Kuroha. Kana’s special ability enables her to foresee the near future, especially when someone is about to die, and she was the one who warned Kuroha about Ryouta’s impending death in a landslide. Kana’s entire body is paralysed (the result of a botched operation while she was fitted with her harness) apart from her left hand, which she (by means of a small electronic device fitted with a keyboard, which generates synthetic voice) uses to communicate with the outside world.

Girls reveal to Ryouta that every carrier of a harness dies, unless they take a pill of DR623G, so called ‘Death Suppressant’ once a day.

The ‘harness’, a cybernetic implant with an alien parasite connected to the spine, gives its wearer various, seemingly supernatural, abilities referred to as ‘magic’.

Ryouta is also told that the ‘witches’ are ranked according to their abilities and power of their ‘magic’ from the lowest rank B, via ranks A and AA right up to the most powerful rank AAA. There are however, several individuals with a rank S (as in ‘Special’), whose abilities are so extraordinary and who yield ‘magic’ so powerful, that the normal ranking system simply does not apply. S-ranked ‘magic’ users are also referred to as Valkyries (now the reference to Brynhildr, one of the Valkyries, in the series’ title starts to make sense). Unbeknown to Kuroha (seemingly a mere B-rank ‘magic’ user), she is also a S-ranked ‘magic’ user, though she is considered a failed experiment, because her power is unpredictable and cannot be controlled.

Kana Tachibana, paralysed as a result of a botched operation while her harness was implanted, becomes something of a mascot for the Astronomy Club.

Ryouta offers Kuroha a refuge at the rarely visited old observatory. Kuroha accepts his offer and becomes a new member of the astronomy club, later joined by her friend Kana Tachibana and two other ‘witches’: Kazumi Schlierenzauer, a half-German girl, whose special ability is computer hacking and Kotori Takatori with a teleportation ability.

Over the course of the series, Ryouta constantly tries to prove that his beloved childhood friend Kuroneko and the ‘witch’ Neko Kuroha is one and the same person, struggles to protect the ‘witches’ from being discovered and recaptured by Chisato Ichijiku, the chief professor in charge of the ‘magic’ users experiment, whose goal is to find and kill all the escapees - seeing them as failed specimens, all the while he is constantly looking for new ways to acquire more ‘Death Suppressants’ DR623G, drugs necessary to keep the ‘magic’ users alive.