In his years spent scanning the stars alone for any sign of otherworldly life, Ryota Murakami has nothing but time to reflect on faith and mortality. To his mind, it’s his only means of atoning for the loss of his first and only friend, Kuroneko. Unconvinced of her claims that she’d met an alien, he followed her to its precarious lair, but as he fell to what might have been his own death, her rescue attempt exchanged their fates. Now, cursed with an eidetic memory, he keeps the moment running on a half-deliberate loop. In true teenage fashion, he feels he must suffer, at least until he’s honoured her life by proving her theory right.
When a new student transfers to his school ten years after Kuroneko’s passing, it sparks off Ryota’s realisation that you can’t merely wallow in anguish forever. That there comes a point after every fault, and in all grief and distress, where you must take responsibility for the next steps in moving on. Kuroha Neko has all of his old friend’s qualities, but none of her memories from their childhood. Though his seeking out whether she is Kuroneko comes from selfishness first and foremost, the fact that he chooses to take action at all is a meaningful message of the power of belief.
So Ryota comes to discover, if essentially through stalking Neko, that she is a witch with unearthly strength; a product of years of experimentation by the sinister government organisation bent on chasing her and her fellow escapees down. She bears prophesies of doom as foreseen by her coven sister Kana Tachibana, leading her to Ryota’s school to snatch him away from his own demise. This is how she comes to terms with what she has become, rescuing anyone she can whether human or witch.
The empowerment and horror in Neko’s unnatural abilities and her shared reliance with Ryota, as she lacks the basic maths and reading skills to make it through school without his help, set a balance where self-belief and faith in others can overcome all dark forces, internal or external. But the exploitative gore and ecchi, as though left over from Lynn Okamoto’s other studio Arms adaptation Elfen Lied, subdues this significance.What begins as a deftly shaded exploration of grief, and its potential to bring about power or destruction on equal terms, wilts away in the increasingly repellent bids for titillation. And yet, at those times when a witch’s vulnerability emerges, gentle and untainted, there are certain sensations that remain framed in beauty and steadfast elegance.
Extras: English dub; Japanese dub with English subtitles; OVA episode; clean opening and closing animation; also available from Sentai Filmworks