This weekend, I decided to take the opportunity to finish up watching this past spring’s mecha anime, BBK/BRNK, in preparation for its second season this fall. What I got was a show full of angsty teens with colorful backstories, living weapons with emotional eyeballs, and a giant mecha fighting equally giant monsters. It also has a villain plagued by an absolutely horrifying take on immortality.
In the world of BBK/BRNK, when certain children are born, they inherit a living weapon–a weapon that can transform into an arm, leg, or heart of a giant mecha. One of these children, a heart wielder named Reoko, finds out as a teenager that she only has three years left to live. In the time she has left, Reoko decides to leave her mark on the world–i.e., proving that giant magical robots exist by walking her robot, Entei, into a populated area.
However, before she can do so, she is confronted by her best friend, Migiwa, who proceeds to destroy Entei’s arms and legs–and finally Entei’s heart. However, unlike the other mecha in the series, Entei cannot exist without a heart. Thus it merges with Reoko, making her the new heart–and granting her immortality as a side effect.
Now, Migiwa does this on purpose in order to prevent her friend’s looming death. However, Reoko’s eternal life is more a curse than a blessing. To start with, her actions brand her a traitor, forcing her to be locked up for years under Migiwa’s care. During that time, Reoko confronts the first downside of her immortality: She will forever be trapped in a teenaged body, never to blossom into an adult. While her companions age, she appears as nothing but a young girl even as she nears what should be middle age. As the pilot of the only working mecha in the world (at the start of the series, anyway) she is well known and her lack of aging mark her as even more of an inhuman monster–a “witch.”
But that’s only the beginning of the curse she is under. While immortal she may be, Reoko is not invincible. Each time she pilots her mecha, she feels every bit of pain it does. Should it take a fatal amount of damage–or should she get hit herself while she rides on the outside of it–she will die just like anyone else. The difference is her body will reknit itself and soon she will return to life.
While the repeated pain of death would be enough alone to break pretty much any psyche, for Reoko, it is even worse. Each time she dies, her body fixes itself but she suffers an amount of brain damage. While the effects of dying once or twice are hardly noticeable, fighting monsters in her legless, armless mecha, she dies dozens of times to bring them all down. Over time, her personality shifts as her memories degrade and are corrupted. At times, she even lapses into a confused, near-infantile state.
Eternally young, feared by the world, and constantly on the edge of insanity–or perhaps already past it given her bloody coup over the rulers of Japan–she is humanity’s only hope against the monsters. And tragically, even when every part of her mind that made her the person she was is gone, her body will remain: an insane, undying shell in control of a giant magical robot.
That is the inevitable fate of BBK/BRNK‘s villain–not defeat by the hero or some kind of redemption and happy ending. Is it any wonder she loathes her former best friend with every fiber of her being?
…Actually, her hate is so justified, are we sure this isn’t a revenge fantasy with Reoko as the true hero of the story?
BBK/BRNK can be viewed for free and with English subtitles on Crunchyroll. The second season will premiere in October, 2016.