Rampo Kitan: Game Of Laplace Has A Spark That Is Occasionally Shadowed By Fanservice

Rampo Kitan: Game Of Laplace Has A Spark That Is Occasionally Shadowed By Fanservice | rampo kitan

Anime: Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace

Released By: FUNimation

Release Date: December 13, 2016

Retail Price: $64.98

Those familiar with the works of Edogawa Rampo (the pseudonym for Japanese critic and contributor to the evolution of mystery fiction) may already expect Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace to be an immersive mystery series, but others may be unprepared for the unusual series that pushes boundaries in various aspects. The series is referenced as teetering between artistic and grim, which, on many levels, is an accurate depiction of Rampo Kitan. At the center of the mystery anime series is middle school student Kobayashi, someone who has grown extremely tired with his day to day life and seems almost numb to his surroundings until one day when he finds himself in a crime scene of the murder of his teacher.

The case became highly publicized by media outlets, prompting high school student and renowned detective Akechi (Yes, it’s already strange, but just roll with it for now.) to insert himself into the fray. Akechi had been known to be seeking any sort of solitude from society as frequently as possible, but, when Kobayashi sticks around, his ways began to adapt even when he doesn’t seem to show much interest. After clearing Kobayashi of murder, he allows him to become an assistant for incoming cases that takes them down a trail of connected murders — all tying back to a group of vigilante “heroes” labeled Twenty Faces. This kicks off a team of detectives (all under 18, not-so shockingly) to do their best to stop Twenty Faces from growing into a far more dangerous force of nature.

Initially, there doesn’t seem to be an overarching plot in Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace, but, with time, you begin to notice the recurrence between two things: the constant appearance of Twenty Faces and a mysterious person in Akechi’s life. There are a few moments that suggest a grand story, but an issue with Rampo Kitan is that it takes its time to really utilize those elements and acts when it’s almost too late. I will say that those more serious moments are a strong part of the memorable traits in the anime series, and I found myself invested in random storylines or slight aspects in the 11 episode run. Having an appreciation for animes with horror or mystery, there were fulfilling thematic instances — but with that comes the flaw of going too far (which Rampo Kitan does sporadically). A storyline involving kidnapping and innuendos of worse things is hard to stomach, mostly because there has the shock value goal in mind. Instead of leaving certain things unsaid, it’s guilty of crossing a few lines, which can isolate viewers.

In terms of characters, the protagonist Kobayashi is probably the most difficult character to actually enjoy in Rampo Kitan. He is someone who uses boredom as his reason for investigating, which establishes him as some sort of sociopath without real moral regard for anyone other than when he is turned down (practically) by another character whose attention he spent the series seeking. In that life or death moment (quite literally), he shows possibly his only example of genuine human emotion apart from desire or selfishness. To top off his already aggravating role, he is portrayed as a frail, feminine character (including his body type, voice, hair, clothing and everything you can think of) that is privy to fanservice. It’s apparent that the series wanted to use a gay male character to fill the fanservice void but with the most unnecessary ways, such as making him a teenager who is pursued by men of all ages and entering dangerous (or inappropriate) waters.

There are a few characters who actually impress in Rampo Kitan, such as Akechi and the character he has a past with, Namikoshi. Akechi is present from the very beginning; however, Namikoshi doesn’t get much developed screen time until the final arc of the season. The relationship between the two characters is something we begin to see unfold over time that plays a big role in the antagonistic development in Rampo Kitan. The ending provided a unique choice that other animes would have never dreamed of, involving the pair and Kobayashi (though there is an unfortunate turn, too). Another character I instantly felt compassion for was Shadow Man, someone you never saw in actuality but was a ray of hope in the anime for his strong attachments that enforced the emotional impact at play.

Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace has a strong argument as to why the artistry sets it apart from other series. There is a sense of imagery appearing in fragments, and the atmosphere is filled with darker shades that, when mixed with intricate settings or character art, really feels like a complete production (specifically Akechi’s apartment). For such strong art, it can also be hazardous to the anime — for example, the inappropriate and cringeworthy depiction of Kobayashi and the recurring female character Black Lizard. As predicted, the voice casting for Kobayashi plays up his female personality and almost bizarre fetish (or perversion), but, aside from him, the remaining voice cast stands strong with a solid lineup and fitting for the core characters. Rampo Kitam has a lot of potential with mystery, emotional development and artistry, but plenty of times the actual strengths from the series are cast to the background when it chooses to embrace fanservice — something that countless animes have already brought to the table.

Overall Score: 6.5/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– Akechi and Namikoshi were a great balance of close characters, but their role in the plot did sometimes make me feel like I was watching an entirely different series.

– The Shadow Man could have easily been a bigger presence in Rampo Kitan, and it’s a common mistake animes make when they choose to cast interesting characters aside.

– Honestly, if Rampo Kitan would have entirely removed Kobayashi, the series could have gone up an entire point (maybe even two) because of how problematic his role was.

– There were flashback sequences done that replicated stage productions — easily one of the strong suits of a series that sways back and forth between inappropriate and interesting.

Noragami Aragoto Is Full Of Action, Fun And Unexpected Seriousness

Noragami Aragoto Is Full Of Action, Fun And Unexpected Seriousness | noragami aragoto

Anime: Noragami Aragoto (Season 2)

Released By: Funimation

Release Date: February 21, 2017

Retail Price: $84.98

 

In the anime series Noragami, there’s a lot to offer – including action, humor, drama and unlikely gods. Yato may be considered to be a minor god-like being, but that doesn’t stop him from dreaming big like the rest of us. His plans may not always go as he would hope (for example, not a single person has a shrine to Yato the god of depravity) but it doesn’t stop Yato from thinking highly of himself and exuding confidence. In the first half of the series, Yato was in search of a regalia (aka divine weapon that comes from a human spirit) and located Yukine, the 14 year old who generally has an aloof demeanor. Opposite the pair of Yato and Yukine is Hiyori, a half human half Ayakashi with enhanced abilities to perceive the otherworldly events who “changes” Yato’s life.

After establishing the core three and a few other major players like the god of war Bishamon, the anime took the time to introduce us to the characters personalities before more naturally diving into their lives with less time to feel introductory. Sure, things for Yato haven’t exactly changed (Yukine still seems to care less about Yato and he’s still gullible and broke) but we immediately recognize the fact that he is doing his best to avoid a face off with Bishamon for the crimes of murdering her past regalia (and if you don’t remember, she had plenty.) In the first half, there wasn’t as much time spent to humanize her to viewers, but after just moments season 2 uses her regalia to show us a more grounded version of the god of war.

As we already knew, Bishamon holds great disdain towards Yato, but a third party becomes involved in the long running conflict that ignites a larger feud with multiple lives being at risk. The relationship between regalia and gods takes a lot of the run-time which was a strong contributing factor to my enjoyment of Noragami and proving to be different than the well known series Soul Eater. The first half used mostly Yato and Yukine, but the initial punchline of Bishamon having countless shows the broken souls she’s saved and a pleasant way to flip the original plot of the anime series. One of these regalia-focused choices involves Yukine and a regalia of Bishamon’s finding friendship while a war brews to remind us of the innocence some of these kind-hearted figures have before using them as a tool. Loss taints the series with a grim tone in part two, something felt by the already distraught Yukine more than others.

As mentioned, Yukine shined in season one of the anime, with season two elaborating on his life since becoming a regalia and losing his human life. For being so young, he seeks out answers and deeper thoughts about how it will affect those he cares for and that’s only just the start of mature transitions for Yukine in Noragami. Yato does his best to take on the role of a guardian or parental figure of Yukine, sometimes coming off unwarranted to Yukine, but as most parents his intentions are to protect the young regalia. Despite taking those serious turns, the series still finds plenty of time to use the unserious persona of Yato and the teenage rebellion of Yukine to keep things from getting too heavy and limiting the audience – a nice tactic to enlist fans of more than one genre.

The series may have the perks of alternating tone, but by the end nobody can say that it doesn’t become an emotional rollercoaster for one character – and those who wanted to protect said person. It brings up a notion that even with these practically immortal figures, there can still be repercussions that hold a greater sadness than an easy death. Without spoiling it, this moment I make reference to takes the anime down a slightly darker path than we had anticipated. By the series end, there is hope and change instilled in multiple key figures in Noragami Aragoto to leave room for more storytelling and more importantly, a good reason to return to this anime world.

The animation of Noragami Aragoto is done by the widely recognized Studio Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Space Dandy) who is responsible for bringing the second season to life so vividly. The character designs fluctuate as needed with the obscure changes, but the usage of the regalia’s and their internalized form (like Bishamon’s for example) are the more important scenes visually. Funimation followed up the success of the first Noragami with another wonderful English dub of the series and gave it a spectacular box set to follow the first half with special collector’s perks like additional art cards. Noragami Aragoto returned with more serious innuendos, hope for growth and hints at a larger budding storyline, making it a solid anime sequel that matches (and even surpasses on occasion) the first season.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– Yukine was put through quite a lot once again but manages to rise above as he should.

– There were plenty of similarities between the first and second season with an edge added to season 2.

– Storyline hints at the end make it clear that Noragami should return to explore what’s to come.

Death Parade (Complete Series Review)

Death Parade (Complete Series Review) | death parade

Anime: Death Parade (The Complete Series – Limited Edition)

Released By: Funimation

Release Date: November 29, 2016

Retail Price: $84.98

Death Parade Review

From the anime production company Madhouse (Death Note, Claymore) comes an anime based on a short film regarding the concept of life, death, reincarnation and right vs wrong entitled Death Parade. The premise involves two people who pass away at the same time, leaving their souls in limbo of achieving reincarnation or disappearing into the abyss. That’s when these lost souls to wander into a bar (Quindecim) and are led to play a seemingly carefree game rigged with high stakes — one can pass on and get reincarnated with the other merely ceasing to exist. With an interesting lead to an excellent series that only gets better as it progresses, you’ll surely want to immerse yourself in Death Parade.

Now knowing the generalized structure of Death Parade, we can begin to discuss the elements that make the series tick, including bartender and arbiter, Decim. The white-haired man is the new bartender/arbiter, whose role is actually to determine if someone is worthy of salvation as opposed to being erased from existence. The arbiter (Decim, in this instance) is the sole person in the establishment to make these calls — until, one day, a girl wanders in and has the awareness of losing her life, making Decim’s job of judgment the most complex it had been thus far. The girl (Chiyuki) becomes a piece of the afterlife decision-making process to aid Decim as an assistant, and it brings the heavy choices one makes into question.

Decim serves as a character who is (by design) meant to feel emotionless to all of the death, loss and grief as we begin to learn more about the creation of arbiters. It becomes a major ongoing theme throughout the series on if it is a necessity to be deprived of those raw feelings, or if it is vital to understanding the human psyche, soul and or heart. Decim and Chiyuki (early on called ‘black-haired woman’) play opposite sides of the coin in terms of decision-making skills, pivotal to what draws you in as far as Death Parade’s complexity. You begin to see it evolve during the 12 episode anime, only becoming a bigger question to more than just those two but also the individuals who call the shots from higher up in this afterlife building (like a business driven by death). Though Decim is the poster-child for Death Parade, Chiyuki is so steadfast in her beliefs that, within moments of her introduction, I was completely invested in her role and becoming more anxiety-riddled as she gains a more centered role.

In a sense of discussing judgments, most of the episodes provide enough backstory in a stretched-out timeframe to give viewers an opportunity to sleuth their way through the evidence and make their own call — or, in some cases, none at all. The anime places such seriousness into the various motives behind people’s actions and life choices that it requires an analytical observation with each chapter to properly feel what the creator intended to make viewers aware of. One prime example is when we meet another remarkable character, Mayu Arita, who, similar to Chiyuki, is a soul who another arbiter (Ginti) has trouble deciding what to do with. Mayu is entertaining, goofy, lovable and driven by quirks that may not be understood by everyone. Her huge heart shines in unconventional ways, and, with multiple moments in the series, you truly begin to feel for the girl with no fate. When you do get to the decisions being made, it makes it very apparent that Death Parade has no problems in creating characters you utterly root for or adore entirely. Because of that road Death Parade takes, the series is also one that draws out an emotional viewing with consistent storytelling and connectivity amongst humanity. Even though I will say I enjoy both main characters, I tend to feel more relatable to Chiyuki for seeing eye-to-eye on most all of the choices made in each varying scenario — but part of the fun is determining where your stance would be, so there is no wrong choice, regardless.

The animated direction in Death Parade is purely magical from beginning to end. The enhanced dark colors to create this post-life ambiance is done with perfection and feels like a perfect fit for the tone of the anime. There are similarities to the characters, so, if you enjoy the art of one, you will most likely become a fan of the others, too. The English dub cast was a nicely balanced group that ranged from heartfelt to emotionless and even creepy on a few occasions. The limited edition box-set includes a casing that resembles the elevator to the afterlife (a must for collectors) with a few extra perks and bonus features to enhance the Death Parade experience. I instantly knew Death Parade was going to be an emotional rollercoaster, and it delivered more than I could have predicted — but, more importantly, it was in all the best ways. Death Parade is a series that I would recommend to any anime fiend because the quality is evident, and a gem like this deserves to be enjoyed.

Overall Score: 9/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– The nuance of life, death and afterlife was explored efficiently, as opposed to many animes that can’t quite reach such success.

– Characters (both brief and consistent) were given enough depth to truly generate an emotional interest.

– If the series were to continue, it would be a nice addition to see how things play out from a higher-power perspective.