Brynhildr in the Darkness

Brynhildr in the Darkness (Gokukoku no Buryunhirude, i.e. 'Extreme-Black Brynhildr') is an ongoing science fiction / science fantasy / harem Japanese manga series by Lynn Okamoto that began serialisation in Shueisha's seinen manga magazine Weekly Young Jump in January 2012. A television anime adaptation by Arms aired from April through September 2014.

The storyline centres on high school student Ryouta Murakami (foreground) and his 'harem' of three female friends, possessing various, seemingly supernatural, abilities referred to as 'magic' (from left to right), Kana Tachibana, Neko Kuroha and Kazumi Schlierenzauer.

The manga series, now running into its 140th issue, centres on high school student Ryouta Murakami, amateur astronomer, who, ten years prior, lost his best friend and childhood sweetheart Kuroneko in a freak accident, while looking for aliens on a local dam.

In the present, Ryouta, now a top student in his class at the high school, still cannot forget about Kuroneko and is consumed by the feeling of guilt for her untimely death. He keeps the promise he made to her, 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 seemingly impossible thing happens: 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, but the striking resemblance between the late Kuroneko and present-day Kuroha remains always at the back of Ryouta’s mind.

However, physical similarities aside, there are some striking differences between the two: Kuroha is seemingly able to predict the future and displays also other remarkable, seemingly supernatural abilities, such as unnatural strength. And, after she saves Ryouta from a certain death, by obliterating a huge boulder falling off the cliff, using mind-power alone, a split moment before it would smash him to a pulp, Kuroha reveals the true nature of her extraordinary abilities.

Ryouta finds out that Kuroha is one of the ‘witches’ – the term used to refer to her kind – individuals altered by a cybernetic implant or ‘harness’ located on their napes. The implant contains an alien parasite called ‘Drasil’ which, by means of the harness, connects with the host’s spine, giving the carrier 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 (she used this power to disintegrate the boulder falling on Ryouta). Her special ability comes at a price however – every time she uses her ‘magic’ power, she loses part of her memories. Kuroha also informs Ryouta that she escaped from a top-secret alien-technology research facility, where unscrupulous scientists experiment on juvenile females like her (as young girls are, presumably, ideally suited to host the alien implants) with the aim to master the alien technology.

Hexenjagd (witch-hunt) is a small resistance group, which initially wants to destroy all the 'magic' users, a.k.a. 'witches'.

In order to find out more, Ryouta secretly follows Kuroha to a remote house, where she is looking after her best friend, Kana Tachibana, who, as Ryouta learns later, escaped from the research facility along with Kuroha. Kana’s special ability enables her to foresee the near future, especially when someone is about to die (she was the one who warned Kuroha about Ryouta’s impending death in a landslide, thus saving his life). Kana’s entire body is paralysed (the result of a botched operation when 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, while at first suspicious of his motives (Kana initially suspects him of voyeurism and calls him a “pervert”), soon start to trust Ryouta, and reveal to him that every carrier of a ‘harness’ inevitably dies, unless they take a pill of DR623G, the so-called ‘Death Suppressant’ once a day.

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

Ryouta offers Kuroha a safe haven at the rarely visited old observatory he frequents. Kuroha accepts, and becomes first new member of the Astronomy Club, later joined by her friend Kana Tachibana, C-rank ‘magic’ user, and three other ‘witches’: Kazumi Schlierenzauer, a half-German girl, B+-rank ‘magic’ user whose special ability is computer hacking, Kotori Takatori, buxom bubbly girl who is a B-rank ‘magic’ user with a teleportation ability and Hatsuna Wakabayashi, A-rank ‘magic’ user who possesses the power of regeneration with the capability of restoring her body, or bodies of others, from otherwise fatal injuries.

Later in the story, Neko Kuroha finds her old diary, that helps her to fill-in some of the missing memories.

However, the bulk of the narrative concerns the quartet Ryouta/Kuroha/Kazumi/Kana with a primary focus on the odd love triangle that develops between the former three, with Ryouta fancying Kuroha and Kuroha liking him back, but, owing to the side-effect of her special abilities, having no recollection of it, therefore not returning his affection, making him think that she is not interested in him, and Kazumi relentlessly pursuing Ryouta, an attention that he finds somewhat disconcerting.

Over the course of the series, Ryouta continuously tries to prove that his beloved childhood friend Kuroneko and the ‘magic’ user Neko Kuroha is one and the same person, struggles to protect her and the other ‘witches’ from being located 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 Suppressant’ DR623G, the drug necessary to keep the ‘magic’ users alive.

Later into the story, after many adventures, mishaps and confrontations, Neko happens on her old diary, that helps her to regain some of her lost memories and, most importantly, remember her affection for Ryouta.