“Please, don’t make me watch another episode! I swear, I can’t take anymore pleaARRRRGHHH-”
Akuma no Riddle
The first show I’ll be touching on is Akuma no Riddle, featuring a class of most dangerous high school girls who also, coincidentally enough, happen to be highly trained assassins. This motley crew have been brought together for one reason: to kill just one of their classmates. Not very cordial, guys. Every single one of them besides the heroine and the love interest are not characters as such, but CRAZY!!! caricatures with traits from random pages yanked out of the DSM tacked onto them. They take things to extremes, and quite literally anything can and will set them off. One girl introduces herself to the class by speaking about her fetish for middle-aged men. When someone ‘politely’ questions her on it (because these girls can only speak passive-aggressively to each other), it’s all death glares. Another refuses to introduce herself, eerily giggling about oh, how she will once night falls – of course, night falling means that her more CRAZY!!! personality takes over.
In fact, the only one who doesn’t ostensibly fit into this merry band of whackos is their target, Haru. She’s a bumbling ball of obliviousness who wants to graduate from their class more than anything (possibly hinting how she’s done all this crap before), and of course our stoic heroine takes a shine to her. To cement their OTP status, a scene has stoic-chan flipping up her skirt and in turn, exposing her underwear. Kyah~! But no doubt Bambi here will be the most dangerous one of them all, if the scars lining her thighs and dubious snatches of her past are any indication. And of course the rest of them will have tragic pasts of their own to share, copious amounts of abuse thrown in because that’s what these shows do. Expect this one to revel in such a chance to exploit all those low angles and eyes filled with tears for all they’re worth.
Akuma no Riddle is very much from the tits’n’explosions school of thought, fitting quite comfortably on a high school’s anime club bill with other highly esteemed alumni like Mirai Nikki and Deadman Wonderland. You want voluptuous, scantily-clad ladies speaking in barbed threats, getting up close and personal every second scene? Ridiculously grandiose music to accompany it? Characters pulling dramatic facial expressions as if their screen-time depends on it? You got it. It is ridiculously hammy and will only get increasingly distasteful as it wears on, I feel, but no doubt it’ll be up a couple of viewer’s streets. There is the added yuri factor, after all. But even that isn’t enough to save this crap.
Gokukoku no Brynhildr
There aren’t many names attached to a series that has the power to immediately alienate viewers, but Elfen Lied‘s mangaka would be one of the major offenders. By now infamous, the series served up an immensely cringe-worthy hotpot of shit that for reasons unknown, caused it to become one of the more feverishly recommended series in the western sphere. It’s the kind of series used as an example by younger anime connoisseurs to show that ‘not all anime is for kids, mom!’ with all its super mature tits’n’explosions and blood’n’guts. I watched it a good couple of years ago and the only thing that comes to mind when I think of it is blood, blood, and more blood. Also some incest with a Gustav Klimt opening, but mostly blood. With such thoroughly exploitative shlock, certain expectations were already in place for Brynhildr.
The first word uttered in the series is ‘Kuroneko’ (tl note kuroneko means please can we pretend that oreimo no longer exists), which sets a precedent for how the episode goes because it makes up most of the protagonist’s dialogue. In his younger years, our Yuuji Everylead had a waifu by the same name whose death he unwittingly caused (OR DID HE?!?!?!). She believed in aliens and wanted to prove it to our little skeptic, so in repentance for his logical younger self, Yuuji makes the transition into adolescence holding a desire to work at NASA. In order to prove that aliens exist. What could possibly go wrong? Being the second smartest student in the country, I’ve no doubt that his shelves are filled with the likes of Däniken. His world changes for the worst when a girl who looks just like Kuroneko transfers into his class (bet you didn’t see that coming). But she’s obviously not his waifu, for Kuro- totally not Kuroneko’s – name is Kuroha Neko. Completely different. In order to ascertain her identity, of course our genius has an ingenious plan up his sleeve. Instead of patiently waiting until she’s on her own, he orders her to show him her armpits in front of the entire class. Cue slap. Ecchi~!!!!!!!!!
Kuron- Kuroha herself spends most of the episode looking as bored as possible (even when about to witness one of her classmates die, how charming) until she completely breaks character as a result of Yuuji demanding her to add two and two together. She starts blushing! Sweating! Reveals her true nature as a master of punnery, followed by a triple dose of “shut it”! How moe, zombie-chan. There’s also this fantastically awful scene which results in her nearly drowning with a couple of guys in her class commenting on how they’d totally tap that, all the while she’s struggling for breath and everyone else is freaking out. Classy. Sure, the entrance exam for their school may be ridiculously hard, and sure, Kuron- Kuroha’s brain almost overheats when asked a simple sum, but she has enough arm strength to override that. The discrepancy here boils down to her having being saved from that untimely death; the price for having a second chance at life genetic experimentation. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that her reasons for not being able to answer the question Yuuji posed was because she was caged up all this time.
There’s a mild sense of intrigue to Brynhildr, but it’s shockingly scripted and the cast sound as if they’re phoning it in. After trying to reenact one of the many Final Destination films, there’s this brilliantly feckless scene where Kuron- Kuroha starts explaining what the viewer wants to know, but her words are ignored by Yuuji because, horror of horror, he can’t see her moles! Not like, y’know, she had them removed or they slightly moved with the passage of time or anything. Brynhildr mightn’t be as offensively awful as Elfen Lied, but let’s be real, hardly any series is. But expect gratuitous death scenes, time loops, clones, sad pasts, incest, lots of gore and characterization as shallow as a puddle anyway.
M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane
While ‘from the same creator as Elfen Lied’ would make the more sensible anime fan back off, Mari Okada’s name attached to a project is starting to have the same effect on me. I found AnoHana to be a relatively touching work, but her recent Nagi no Asukara was melodramatic trash which only served to infuriate me every other episode. She absolutely lost it when it came to one character in particular, cranking her brand of insufferable melodrama up to eleven whenever she appeared in turn clogging up the narrative with all her gooey uguuness. I thought M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane‘s first episode was prime terribad material, sure, and I thought it was fairly deliberate in its handling of the characters but I didn’t know Okada played a hammy hand in its composition. How I wish I did before watching it.
Many anime have gone down the humans vs. them route to varying levels of success, but M3 threatens to veer dangerously off track despite passing all the same stops. Most works that deal with such a premise eventually have the unreveal of humans being the real monsters, yet M3 holds no bars against unleashing the twist immediately. Early on in the episode our protagonist Sergeant Alpha has a run in with one of these ‘monsters’, and pockets a locket he finds at the scene of the crime. And he does this knowing that civilians aren’t supposed to wander around outside after dark in case they do end up running into the monsters (who cares about the dude working at the convenience store, right). Rebel without a cause here, ladies and gentlemen. Too cool for the rules. A modern day vigilante.
Through various means the genki one gets her overeager hands on the locket, and wears it into battle – but the same monster wants it back! And hold on, the locket opens and – gasp – contains a photo of a mother and her child! No way! Being an Okada show, of course everything is as subtle as a group of children bashing together pots and pans they found lying around so the team gives us a play-by-play account of what’s happening. Just in case, you know, it wasn’t that fucking obvious or anything with the Okada Golden Raspberry going for “we can’t possibly kill it now!”. Clearly no other viewer was thinking that, right? Being alpha as fuck and all that. But lucky we’ve the infallible Sergeant Alpha on the case, the dark knight who has no need for sissy things like emotions. A lone wolf with a tragic past (cue Linkin Park backing track), he recognizes himself in the monster (DEEP). He has no qualms about shooting it, believing it’s better for someone to end it than drown themselves in the past. Shit is like, totally deep bro. Simply epic. Alpha as fuck, am I right? #YOLO
When a parental figure is evidently worried about his moving out, Sergeant Alpha forcefully slams a hand against the wall above her head and being the pinnacle of masculinity that he is, calls out her concern as sexual frustration. She like, clearly wants it coming into a man’s room all on her own! God forbid she shows concern towards his welfare or something! Talking about the past? Nah man, he totally gets women. Her reply? That he’s going through a rebellious phrase. Alpha-kun also holds some resentment towards his dead brother (who “deserved to die”), but given that these ‘monsters’ are actually humans chances of his running into his dear onii-chan at some point are all but confirmed. What about the rest of the cast though, the mere mortals trembling in the presence of the almighty Sergeant Alpha? Well, we’ve quite the colourful and varied selection. There’s the evil scientist one (because of course all scientists are evil and the same applies for adults), the fanservice one (in which most of the episode’s budget went into a scene involving her and some softballs, harking back to a Matrix-like scene in High School of the Dead), the genki one, that other guy, that one girl, and a couple of dead ones. I wait with baited breath for the NESSA LOVES LOVE one to appear.
There’s also a realm of darkness (literally, not the one the show mostly takes place in) and some group in charge of everything, because of course the civilians are in perfectly safe hands with them. Not like they’re corrupt or in charge of some cover-up, how preposterous. Never mind the fact that the group is named ‘IX’ and characters die nine days after hearing the song of a corpse.