On the very first page of Gokukoku no Brynhildr the author Okamoto Lynn makes it clear that this story isn’t going to end well. He’s not exactly known for making happy stories after having made things like Elfen Lied and Nononono. But in neither of those did he make the intent this clear right on the first page. That intent being to make you depressed and cry. I’ve always had some issues with Okamoto Lynn’s works, but with this series I feel he is clearly getting better at what he does, and I feel like I can comfortably recommend you subject yourself to the emotional rollercoaster he has crafted here.
The setup of the series is going to sound familiar. When Murakami was a child he had a best friend called Kuroneko. Both of them were in an accident where Kuroneko supposedly died, but now 10 years later a new transfer student appears in Murakami’s class who looks just like he remember Kuroneko did. She has no memory of him, but for seems to want to stick around him for some reason. He eventually learns that she has psychic powers, and knew that he was about to die in an accident. She was sticking around him in order to prevent it, although she was supposed to do it without revealing her powers.
This isn’t the first “girls with psychic powers” manga Okamoto Lynn has made, Elfen Lied being his first one. Gokukoku no Brynhildr however does a much better job at telling a story of that kind. I felt Elfen Lied went a bit too far in just about every area, whereas this series is much more restrained. There are more psychic girls than Kuroneko, and they have all escaped from a group of scientists that gave them their powers. They have lived most of their lives in facilities being experimented on, and are because of it incredibly awkward socially and don’t have much, if any, education. This makes them all somewhat helpless, apart from their individual powers. In order to live they have to eat special medicine, so right off the bat there’s a ticking timer to tragedy as they will have to raid compounds and factories in order to obtain more medicine. But doing so puts them in grave danger of being killed.
What Okamoto Lynn does best is create a sense of unease. Any hint of happiness from the characters means the series has started building up toward something horrible. Nobody can be left happy for too long, and it’s also reflected in the character designs. There’s a sense of desperation and fragility from everyone and everything. I feel it’s done more effectively in this series than in his earlier works, as it feels more unpredictable. The psychic powers of the main characters, but also the antagonists have incredibly strong offensive power, but are balanced with huge blind spots that can be easily exploited if you know how. This makes every encounter with assassin psychics interesting as you see the powers used in clever ways. It also doesn’t take long for things to happen. Times between major dramatic events are generally short, so it’s constantly moving forward, and the style and tone of the series makes it hard to tell if someone you like is about to die in the next encounter or not. All you can be sure of is broken dreams and despair.
I mentioned earlier that Gokukoku no Brynhildr felt more restrained than Elfen Lied. If you don’t know, or remember, Elfen Lied had a character which pissed on the floor at one point, and the psychic characters in it were so underdeveloped mentally they were like toddlers. In this manga everything feels more mature and done in better taste. Even the sports manga Nononono he made after Elfen Lied went a bit creepy at times which made some readers too uneasy to keep reading. Here Okamoto Lynn plays to his strengths, without going too far at any time and alienating an audience that might have enjoyed the work otherwise.
What we end up with here is a series which is essentially a retelling of the same story concept we saw in Elfen Lied, but done better in just about every way. The creepy exploitative vibes it left off have been almost completely removed, while the emotional connection with characters work well, and leave you with a constant feeling of unease reading it. Personally I can’t wait for the rest to be made, as I see no reason why it shouldn’t leave everyone a depressed emotional wreck. In the best possible ways of course.
NOTE: Gokukoku no Brynhildr has not been licensed and is only available as translated scans.