Here we are with another review from Jon Spencer’s #AniTwitWatches Monday group watch thing. I’m writing this post a week after our latest AniTwitWatches session (part 2) ended, so you know how far ahead I schedule post so the secret is out again. When this watch party first started, I wasn’t so sure about what benefits would come from it at first other then watching more anime. It seems as more times goes along with this fun party, the more fun I get from watching something the same time as other people. All of which means a variety of other opinions coming from it. It’s the same thing that happened with Violence Voyager. Many bloggers were picked by a company to review that movie and everyone brought their own opinions to the table and it’s sort of magical in a way. It’s nice to have an ongoing conversation with people every week. Thank you for setting this collab up, Jon .
With that, let’s discuss the anime series in question then. Rampo Kitan is an anime with a wonderful purpose of celebrating the famous mystery author Edogawa Rampo fifty years after his death. Because of that, Rampo Kitan starts with a mystery. A junior high student by the name of Kobayashi (whose very feminine) was framed for dismembering his teacher. Despite him being the lead suspect due to obvious evidence, he sets out to solve his own crime even with his best friend Hashiba (whoses the heir to a huge company) worried about him at every step. Kobayashi sees the excitement of having his life on the line and solving a case that goes beyond what he can do at school. Plus the allure of being the side kick of high school genius mystery solver Akechi is there too. So obviously Kobayashi just fails, right? Well, that would completely ruin the plot if that happened.
In my mind, Rampo Kitan is split into two halves, the mystery half and the more character focused second half with mystery on the side. That feels like a hard thing to do considering that it is only one cour, but I think Rampo Kitan handled that decently well. The first half has Kobayashi as the central protagonist with Hashiba as the tag along though, Akechi’s presence is never missed because of his constant input and snark. With Kobayashi’s explorations and case solving, we see the boundary pushing of this world. Relationship boundaries, criminal boundaries, and sexual boundaries. We also see some of the characters from Edogawa’s world in action too. This is where we see the appearance of the anti villain Shadow Man and the antagonist of this series with no solid identity, Twenty Faces. This portion reminds me of Hannibal (tv show) in that way and I like that fact.
The second half is the more character focused around Akechi solving cases regarding twenty faces with Kobayashi and Hashiba as his Watsons. It’s an interesting, small exploration of the justice system with how it protects us but also how it allows some criminals to get away where the law has no reason to hold a criminal for some reason. The perception between what an individual sees and what the law sees is always different. Yes the exploration is a little simplistic and there was some exploration in the second half too, the first half was more about character building.
The weakest portion of Rampo Kitan was tied to Akechi’s backstory in a way. Finally after sitting on his computer and beating up some criminals, we see what motivations him and pushes him to keep solving crimes. All of it is tied to the Twenty Faces spectator that keeps appearing. Akechi has had a relationship of some sort (whether it be romantic or not is up to the viewers interpretation) with a genius boy who was always abused at school and at home. Akechi saved him with his martial arts skills and the two worked together to put an equation that predicts all events and allows a person to save the world if they wanted to. Kind of like Death Note in that kind of way. The equation is the thing that ties the two of them together, but I don’t think there was enough time in the series to fully explore this equation because it just feels like rushed. The relationship between Akechi and the person is fine, just not this.
With that, I love how Rampo Kitan develops his characters. It’s built out of conservative and liberal types of people in different scenarios. Kobayashi and Hashiba is an interesting relationship where Kobayashi seeks something else other then himself and Hashiba, as an heir of a large business, worries about himself and Kobayashi for him (because he has an obvious crush on the kid). I never felt like I connected with Kobayashi at all, but I definitely understood Hashiba because he is me in a lot of ways. Akechi and his friend was also a duo with Akechi being the conservative person who seeks to protect the other no matter what lengths he has to go. There is a third relationship like this between the formerly idealistic detective Kagami and the much more relaxed Nakamura whose been on the police force longer. I wish the show had more time to develop these characters, but this exploration is enough to carry the show.
Do you know what really does a lot of leg work for Rampo Kitan? It’s visual presentations because it looks like a stage play. From an art stand point, I think I could call the character designs average and the animation, apart from some stellar animated fight scenes and running scenes, is barely though. The way each background looks with some very specific sorts of lighting with some just straight stage lighting onto a character to all sorts of funky backgrounds and things? Plus the autopsy scenes are just great and work with the funky tone of the show itself. Also just like a stage play, the stage extras (or characters that aren’t focused on at all) are used pretty well too because it gives us perspectives of focus character in question during specific episodes. Kobayashi sees people as blurred out figures with no shape because he doesn’t care about them while Akechi sees people as puppets because they are tools he can use. There is so much character to the presntation that I can’t help but love it.
Where would I put Rampo Kitan on my own personal score? Somewhere between an ok and a solid. For all eleven episodes that the show has, it really does a lot of things including building a world, making some interesting characters, and some interesting exploration about laws and breaking boundaries. I just think there was something lost here for me considering that I have never read anything from Edogawa Rampo. For those fans who have read some of his work, I feel like each would have a field day with everything in this series. I could only judge what was put in front of me and while everything really did flow together pretty well with an awkward transition in-between the two parts. Still really enjoyed the experience of seeing another world that I haven’t considered reading about before. Maybe reading some Edogawa Rampo material is in my future perhaps.