Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ranpo Kitan: Game Of Laplace Review

The world we live in is a dream. The world we enter at night is reality.

What They Say:
After waking up in a classroom-turned murder scene and being the first to see his teacher's body mangled into a chair, Yoshio Kobayashi becomes the prime suspect of a murder case. But who would have thought that would end with him becoming a junior detective? Completely uninterested in the "Regular world" surrounding him, Kobayashi starts tagging along with famous junior-high detective, Kogorou Akechi. The two of them (As well as a few others) must now bring justice to a crime-infested city. The only thing is, one of the main sources of crime is justice itself when vigilantes named "Twenty Faces" start sprouting up all over the city. Kobayashi and Akechi must now decide just what "Justice" means to them in order to shape not only their respective futures, but the future of everyone around them as well.

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)

Ranpo Kitan: Game Of Laplace was created to commemorate the passing of the famous Japanese author, Edogawa Rampo. And just as his literature was, Game of Laplace is dark, twisted, and all over the place. The weird thing though, is that it's all done with a smile. All of these grotesque scenarios like: Child abduction, self-mutilation, murder...they're all presented lightheartedly as if they were no big deal whatsoever. And if that sounds weird to you now, you don't even know the half of it. Ranpo Kitan is one of the most creative shows I have seen in quite a long time. However, it has come under fire as of late by many viewers who see it as "Too sporadic and odd to provide a positive watching experience". That isn't a direct quote, but I feel like I paraphrased a good portion of the community pretty well. Regardless, this is definitely not something you have seen before.

Directed by Seiji Kishi (Angel Beats/Persona 4: The Animation) and animated by the lesser-known studio Lerche, Ranpo Kitan comes off as abstract, while still bringing forth and even satirizing a good number of typical anime tropes. The story follows a 12 year old girl....err, boy...named Yoshio Kobayashi. Being the suspect of a gruesome murder case involving his teacher, Kobayashi had to figure out a way to prove his innocence. Which, in turn, he did. This ultimately lead to him discovering an interest in detective work which would soon-after morph into him clinging on to the lead detective of the former case -- that being Kogorou Akechi. Akechi (Who is also a full-time coffee and drug addict) is reluctant in letting Kobayashi help, but eventually submits seeing as it would be even more annoying having him beg at his doorstep like a stray cat for 24 hours a day.

And so, these two (As well as Kobayashi's friend, Hashiba) start going out and solving various cases too intense for regular police to handle. Whether it be a fat guy who steals little girls and buries them in his walls, a guy with a bag on his head that can somehow disguise himself as any other person, or that same guy that continues to steal little girls despite being told not to. The crimes are few in numbers and extremely weird, but there is a sense of unspoken realism to them not commonly touched in anime. Ranpo Kitan, if anything, isn't afraid to be ambitious and depict events that most studios wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. And it only gets more in-your-face as the story goes on. The downside, if you can even call it that, is that it winds up getting more confusing as a result. But at least a concrete story line is picked up once Twenty Faces emerges around halfway through the series.

At this point, the show becomes less focused on shock value and instead shifts its focus toward a deeper meaning -- the difference between right and wrong and the flaws of the typical justice system. In this anime, and even in a lot of real-life cases, criminals receive reduced sentences for pleading their mental instability. This eventually turns into them being able to roam the streets and repeat their offenses, hurting even more people. Twenty Faces is a vigilante who only kills those people. So now we have to ask ourselves if what Twenty Faces is doing is actually justice or not. Yes, it's illegal and even immoral, but should Akechi be going out of his way to catch him instead of the same people that Twenty Faces is targeting? I mean, he must be doing something right if half of the city has started to follow in his footsteps and even worship him on some levels. Twenty Faces becomes more of an ideal than a single person. If one is caught, two appear in his place. If those are caught, even more show up. The vigilante justice increases and increases until it eventually escalates way too far and the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, are at stake.

Ranpo Kitan is a lot different from how it appears on paper. It isn't your typical "Detectives doing detective stuff and catching bad guys" story. It's more of an audiovisual collage that blends lighthearted anime tropes with the darker side of the real world. It's the subtlety of the characters morbid tendencies that is more than just disturbing -- it's real. The school teacher has scars covering her wrists, but does her best to keep a smile on her face. Shadow-Man stalks children in order to "Protect" them. Akechi is an obsessed drug addict who has dedicated thousands of hours to proving that he is right. And everyone else is blacked out. Literally. The characters that don't matter are just shadows and wooden figures, implying that they are all the same, interchangeable creatures. The show is well-aware that it isn't a typical detective anime, and that's okay. In fact, it's even better.

Creativity is the first thing I look for in any form of art, anime is no exception. Ranpo Kitan is absolutely beaming with it. No, its bleeding with it. This shows emanates the darkest sectors of reality and presents them as if they were normal. Because the truth is, they have become normal. The world isn't all smiles, Pocky, and brightly-colored haircuts. There are forces out there beyond our control -- subtle miseries, that we are afraid to acknowledge. This anime takes those fears and disintegrates them, leaving us with a product that can be confusing to some, but memorable and important to others. It might not be for everyone, but I honestly feel like Ranpo Kitan is one of the deepest, most under-looked shows out there.

In Summary:
Ranpo Kitan is not for everyone. If you are looking for a detective anime or a murder-mystery, look elsewhere. If approached with a clear state of mind and no specific expectations, Ranpo Kitan could wind up as something extremely thought-provoking and important. By no means is this show for anime-beginners. Instead, I would recommend it to seasoned viewers looking for a show that will break away from the norms that have grown to shape the anime industry. It may just be the single most creative thing I've watched this year. That alone can't possibly be a bad thing.

Grade: A-

Streamed By: Funimation

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