(11 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Mystery series set in the near future.


Shinjuuro Yuuki, “the Defeated Detective”. He’s very good at his job, but gets involved in cases so politically sensitive that they tend to get covered up by the authorities (hence his nickname, as his successes never get publicized to the wider public).

Inga, his intense pint-sized sidekick. Or is it Inga, the tall and sexy woman he claims to be his “boss” and who can hypnotize anyone in giving one (and only one) truthful answer ? Obviously there’s something bizarre at work here…

Rinroku Kaishou, elite consultant in Justice affairs (among other stuff). Apparently in the future justice will be privatized and corrupted so that this dude can order the whole system around. Sure, he’s a talented sleuth, solving the whole case despite not even being on the scene (he’s a recluse), but he’s also the one announcing the cover-up in the same breath.

Rie Kaishou, our point of view character so far, daughter of the former, sent to a political gala in his stead because he can’t be bothered. She fancies herself as a good sleuth too (and invokes his authority until he barges in through video-conference), but she gets carried away by the first red herring…

Izumi Koyama, a prosecutor. She’s mostly superfluous in the proceedings (which she obviously seems to resent quite a bit), and is often reduced to helping some exposition along.

The case of the week involves a businessman who allegedly embezzled money from reconstruction efforts (“as you know, our country was recently at war with terrorists…”), and gets killed halfway through the costume gala he set up to try and clear his name.

Production Values

It’s Studio BONES, of course it looks good. I note that they somehow managed to dress half the cast in period 19th-century garb, eh. The character designs have a bit more style than their usual offerings (especially Inga, in both forms).

What did I think of it ?

Well, this is certainly a fast episode : it burns through a complete mystery plot (including two full-blown red herrings) and some extensive setting exposition at breakneck speed. While you do need to pay attention (in particular, the “description of character” overlays are a bit too fast), it never loses sight of clarity. While it’s hard to try and deduce the solution before it’s given (especially are some crucial data is shown too late because of screentime constraints), it’s still a decent mystery in itself, with some nice pieces of foreshadowing.

I’m a sucker for the mystery genre : of course I’m going to keep watching this. But the quality is quite good, and I’m intrigued by the setting and Inga’s weirdness. It also seems to be fully aware there are only 11 episodes available, and is paced appropriately, which is a good sign.

via [In which I review] New anime, Fall 2011 – Page 10.

Persona 4 – The Animation

(25 episodes)

What’s it about ?

The anime adaptation of a cult videogame… which I’ve never played (I don’t own a PS2).

The plot, as much as I can discern so far : a few high-schoolers living in a little town in the middle of nowhere discover they can enter TVs into a parallel world where they fight monsters (the game’s a RPG with heavy visual-novel/dating-sim overtones, from what I’ve understood).


Narukami, the player character. As such, he has no personality whatsoever and speaks as little as possible. He’s going to live in Littletown for a year with his uncle (conveniently a senior detective, thank you conservation of cast !) because his parents are busy abroad. He gets weird dreams and voices talking to him, eventually leading him to walk into a giant-screen TV in the local mall. There, a passing friendly monster helpfully gives him glasses that allow him to summon a giant avatar to fight nasty beasties. It has to be said that the glasses make him look 200% more badass.

Hanamura, the token perverted best friend. Son of the mall’s owner, and only here for six months. Part of the initial party, although all he’s done so far is freak out and piss himself.

Chie, the tomboy. You can tell she’s important because she wears a bright green sweater instead of the dull grey school uniforms of nearly everyone else in the class. Also part of the initial party.

Konishi, a quiet girl who seems as the center of things : she discovered the corpse of a gory murder, and the “girl in the haunted TV channel” urban legend looks a lot like her.

Production Values

This series has one of the best opening sequences of the year… despite having spent no budget on it whatsoever (it’s just geometrical shapes intercut with snippets of the prologue -our protagonist coming to Littletown in train). But the tune is very catchy indeed. (Same deal with the ED.)

I’d love to say that the same sense of style permeates the episode… but alas, no. The soundtrack alternates between the quite good and the ill-timed ; and there’s something slightly off with the rhythm of most scenes. It feels… very visual-novelly, for lack of better term ; characters exchange dialogue in a slightly disjointed fashion that makes it look like a direct adaptation of the original game’s VN scenes (although I have no clue whether the game was actually like that).

I love a lot of the stylistic quirks here (such as the calendar shots to mark the passage of time), but it doesn’t quite click.

What did I think of it ?

Well, it’s more than a bit rough, but I can’t quite fault a show for trying to be a bit stylish and falling slightly short of the mark. It’s certainly got atmosphere, and I’m interested in where the dating-sim-meets-dungeon-crawl story is going.

We’ll see how it goes from here.

via [In which I review] New anime, Fall 2011 – Page 4.

Shion’s King (Shion no Ou)

(22 episodes, 2007-2008)

My previous exposure

None, besides having heard of the basic premise.

What’s it about ?

Eight years ago, the parents of Shion got brutally murdered in front of her eyes, leaving the poor little girl traumatized and mute. One of the only clues is a “King” shougi piece (apparently the murderer somehow decided to then play a game with the six-year-old). Now, Shion (who was adopted by her loving uncle, himself a pro shougi player) is a middle-schooler on the verge of entering the pro shougi circuit. She’d obviously rather forget all about her traumatic past, but the high-stakes tournament organized by the current champion’s brother is about to dredge all kinds of bad stuff back up to the surface…

Also quite important to the plot is Ayumi, a high-school dropout who crossdresses because he thinks it easier to make money fast on the female shougi circuit (since his mother is tremendously ill and the hospital bills need getting paid). Not at all important to the plot (despite being featured prominently in the OP) is Saori, another up-and-coming young female shougi player.

What did I think of it ?

First things first : the OP sequence is absolutely ridiculous, with every single cast member desperately trying to look badass or menacing. It’s completely different in tone from the actual show, which is way more sedate and less gritty (count all the sequences where Shion has hilariously exaggerated reactions !). I really wonder what the producers were thinking… although I did find it perversely entertaining enough not to fast-forward through it, so mission accomplished, I guess.

Also very misleading is that scene in the first episode where Saori looks like she’s actually a ruthless mafia daughter and orders minions to investigate her opponents’ backgrounds… but everything after that shows that she’s actually just a mostly nice girl (and her minions must be shit, because Ayumi hasn’t really thought his deception through). I wonder whether earlier drafts of the plot had Saori actually mattering to the plot…

Now, on any other series I wouldn’t be able to get past such bullshit plotting, but this one manages to strike a perfect balance between standard “tournament show” sequences and the convoluted mystery hovering on the edges of the plot. Separately, they wouldn’t be of much interest : the shougi matches are drowning in exposition, and the mystery is pretty crap (there aren’t many suspects, and the murderer’s motive only makes sense if you’re insane). But the prominence of the shougi competition allows the mystery to stay in the background so that its flaws aren’t too noticeable, while the mystery gives a lot of edge and suspense to the shougi matches.

There’s even some quite clever plotting, especially around the “sponsor” dude who has a vested interest in making the match-ups as dramatic as possible to generate maximum publicity. (And since he’s a complete neophyte to shougi, he’s helpful as someone to be exposited to.) I’ve grown quite fond of him ; Hiroshi Kamiya is very good at striking the right note between slight sliminess and just pure cluelessness. (Nice touch of having him voice the advert announcements !)

Overall, this is a fun, if heavily flawed, little series.

via [LTTP/WIW] Various anime from the 00s and beyond – Page 6.


(74 episodes, 2004-2005)

My previous exposure
Well, it’s an adaptation of a critically-acclaimed manga, so I’d at least heard of the basic premise well before coming close to it. I’ve mostly avoided spoilers, although I did hear of a particular thing Johan does in Prague, which thus didn’t surprise me when I reached it.

I actually watched the first 20 episodes of this way back in 2009, and only went back to it very recently. The reasons why should become clear below.

What’s it about ?

In the late 80s, Dr Kenzo Tenma was a promising up-and-coming Japanese brain surgeon in Germany… until he decided to save the life of a 11-year-old boy called Johan who got mysteriously shot in the head, instead of the mayor he was supposed to operate on. This basically cripples his career… for a few days, until the top management get mysteriously poisoned and the new management give him his status back. Meanwhile, Johan has disappeared…

Flash forward to 9 years later, when Johan re-enters Tenma’s life by shooting one of the doctor’s patients right in front of his eyes. (The man was an agent of Johan’s who was getting a bit too talkative.) It turns out that Johan is a charismatic monster, leaving a bloody trail behind himself, and he’s very thankful of Dr Tenma for saving his life. Did the doctor do the wrong thing by saving the not-so-innocent child ?

Dr Tenma soon finds himself accused of the various aforementioned murders, and is on the run from the cold but very clever Inspector Runge (who thinks Johan doesn’t exist and is an alternate personality of Tenma’s). Can the fugitive stop whatever Johan’s up to before it’s too late ? And is the good doctor really going to kill Johan, however much of a monster he is ?

Secondary threads of the series follow Nina, Johan’s twin sister (who shot him in the first place), who tried to forget it all before Johan suddenly killed her adoptive family ; and Eva, Tenma’s former fiancĂ©e who entered a self-destructive spiral after she dumped him during his short disgrace. Another big question involves the investigation of Johan’s past : how exactly does such a monster come into existence ? Who’s responsible ? It’s not an easy question, especially considering how Johan is now being quite thorough in his quest to eliminate everyone linked to his past in any way…

What did I think of it ?

It’s certainly a very strong story… but I don’t think the anime version really does it justice. It’s a flawed adaptation that I had trouble to keep watching because of how much it tries to play it safe. It’s obviously trying to stick as close to the source material as possible, including every single detour despite how inconsequential some of them may be. The pacing is sluggish, with some very obvious padding techniques carrying the series from cliffhanger to cliffhanger (despite not much really happening between them). That kind of thing isn’t suspenseful, it’s just irritating. A third of the anime’s length could probably have been cut without losing much.

I got the impression that this really wanted to be a live-action series, with all the lack of creative use of the medium this implies. The realization is very pedestrian, bringing absolutely nothing in to make the story visually compelling. I’m not asking for Death Note-style flourishes, but at least something should have been done to keep the series from being so boring (which surely a story like this has no right to be !). Compounding the problem is the general grey-and-brown palette, especially for people ; the bland colors dull the strikingness of Urasawa’s angular character designs. Those are not characters with realistic appearances, however much the anime tries to hide that. As a result, the series loses a lot of impact and immediacy.

Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy watching the series ; but there’s a lot of tediousness in between the good parts. While I didn’t particularly care for Tenma and Johan remained an enigma till the end, there were lots of fascinating side characters that helped carry the story along the rough patches (ah, Grimmer…). The questions the show asks about human nature and how can evil be born are poignant ones, and the eventual denouement is quite clever. The coincidence level is a bit too high (I raised an eyebrow at the background of Tenma’s lawyer, which is a bit too conveniently connected to the rest of the story), but it mostly works out. Still, I’m not sure the series completely delivers on explaining Johan’s evil (the final crucial part of his background doesn’t feel like much of an explanation to me), and there are large parts of his behavior that I don’t really understand (for example, why did he protect Grimmer in Prague ?).

But what this series really lacks is energy, as well as writers daring enough to cut the chaff out and make the plot much tighter. That’s what prevents it from being the masterpiece of storytelling it could have been.

via [LTTP/WIW] Various anime from the 00s and beyond.

The Mystic Archives of Dantalian (Dantalian no Shoka)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Post-WWI England : a young lord inherits the care of a mystical library containing some very dangerous Phantom Books. The wider plot isn’t clear yet, but presumably he’s going to go on and investigate whichever of those are at large and must be contained.


Huey, our bishounen, Daisuke-Ono-voiced protagonist. His grandfather just got murdered by a burglar, so he inherits (1) a huge countryside mansion, (2) the valuable book collection therein, (3) the care of “Dalian” (whom he at first assumed to be a pet), and (4) the opportunity to become the caretaker of the Mystic Library of Dantalian. I quite like him ; his phlegm and and complete lack of freaking out when surrounded by weirdness are quite endearing.

Dalian, the gothic lolita living inside the mansion. (Fans of Miyuki Sawashiro hoping for her usual sexy, sarcasm-laden voice will be disappointed ; she uses a much higher register, somewhat akin to her performances in SHAFT gag series.) She holds the Dantalian books inside herself somehow, and contracts Huey to take care of it (cue blatant key/lock imagery).

The plot this week involves looking into Grampa’s murder and the theft of a Phantom Book… Except Huey’s already figured it out offscreen (the culprit was Grampa’s long-time rival mascarading as a burglar to get the book). We also get a demonstration of why Phantom Books are so dangerous (it kills the thief offscreen and summons nasty beasties), as well as Huey drawing on the Dantalian’s power to defeat the monsters.

Production Values

Average. The visuals are pedestrian, and there are some annoying storytelling hiccups.

The only thing of note is the ED sequence, a charming little B&W live-action piece (and the song ain’t bad either).

Overall Impression

Did Gainax really produce this ? It’s a baffingly mediocre show with no spark whatsoever : it feels rote and by-the-numbers. I had to catch myself from falling asleep several times.

Still, the premise is decent enough, and Daisuke Ono was enough to carry me through Psychic Detective Yakumo (yes, I’m that shallow), so I’ll probably give it a second episode to see where the actual plot goes. Not sure beyond that, though.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2011 – Page 9.

God’s Memo Pad (Kamisama no Memochou)

What’s it about ?

NEET detectives (and a couple of high-schoolers) fight crime.


Narumi, our point-of-view character. A high-schooler whose family moved around a lot, he stumbles on the NEET detectives by chance and never really manages to get away. He’s something of a loner, joining the Computer club because there’s nobody else there. Also, he’s got very little presence (people forget he’s even there at least twice in the episode). I quite like him : his sarcastic narration is quite fun, and his straightforward approach to problem-solving is a nice contrast to the bozos surrounding him.

“Alice” (not her real name, MAL tells me) is the brains of the NEET detectives ; she’s the “always stays in her room and can barely function socially” kind of NEET. An elite hacker, she alternates between “very smart monotone” and “sickeningly cute” in a way that doesn’t really convince me (Yui Ogara can’t pull it off as well as Aoi Yuuki did in GOSICK).

The NEET field agents mostly act as a group : there’s the big guy with an attitude, the survival-gamer who plants cameras everywhere, and the smooth dude who’s totally not an escort. Oh, and they’re in friendly terms with a group who are totally not local yakuza.

Ayaka, a potential love interest for Narumi, is one of his classmates who approaches him because she’s the only member of her club too (the Gardening Club), and they can help each other’s club survive. Or something. Anyway, she’s the one who brings Narumi and the NEET detectives together (they’re regulars at the restaurant she works part-time at), although he’d already stumbled on them in one of their cases before.

Our case for the week revolves around the mysterious disappearance of a high-school girl practicing “compensated dating”. It’s noticeably darker than the zany hijinks of the NEET detectives, although the writers manage not to make it too jarring.

Production Values

This reminds me somewhat of Durarara!! : it’s not particularly outstanding quality, but there’s a real attention to detail and body language, and the backgrounds give a real sense of place to the proceedings.

The soundtrack is particularly good, and… wait. Random rapping ? Big sweeping violins on moving scenes ? Hello, Taku Iwasaki ! It’s always a pleasure. (OP & ED are nothing to write home about, though.)

For some reason, the first episode that aired as a preview is double-length (45 minutes). I have no clue whether this is just for the pilot or it is supposed to be the regular format for the show.

Overall Impression

Well, now we’re talking. This is the first show this season that impressed me. It’s got a fun premise and a good handling of characterization for most of the characters (which is important, considering the heart of the case resides in subtly conveying the self-destructive feeling of the main three characters involved). My only concern so far is Alice herself, who feels a bit too artificial a character to really work.

Still, this is a promising show. Let’s see how future episodes shake up.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2011 – Page 3.


What’s it about ?

1924, in the fictional European country of “Saubure” (sic, couldn’t they call it Savoie ?), there’s a prestigious academy gathering elites from the whole world. In a botanical garden above the library lives a mysterious girl who helps the police solve crimes with her intellect.


Kazuya Kujo, nicknamed “the black reaper” for reasons I can’t fathom. Our point of view character, a student fresh coming from Japan. Our Watson.

Victorique, our heroine. It’s heavily implied she’s never seen the world outside her green prison before the events of this series. There’s probably a convoluted reason why, but she’s not talking, despite Kazuya’s active prodding. It’s obvious she’s bored out of her mind there, and the mysteries she’s asked to solve are a welcome distraction.

Inspector Grevil de Blois, “the owner of the oddest hair in all of Saubure”. In the second half of the episode, Kazuya calls him on exploiting Victorique’s intellect for his own fame, and he’s got a point. Although he does not seem that bad of a guy, really, just not very bright and full of himself.

Production Values

There’s nice backgrounds and it looks quite slick (it’s heavy on costume porn), but there’s nothing particularly impressive (it’s not a premise lending itself to action scenes, after all). It’s mostly bright colours, which is appropriate for a show which stays mostly upbeat so far.

The OP is gorgeous, with a nice “animated picture book” look. The ED’s okay, I guess.

Overall Impression

Well, this one takes a lot of time to get started. Let’s be honest, I was prepared to write it off as empty fluff…

And then, halfway through, we get an impressive sequence in which Victorique solves a closed room murder in less than five minutes, without even going on the scene, purely from Grevil’s description of the case (and those five minutes include his exposition). This scene is just delightful, with a solution that’s both clever and simple enough to feel natural, and it does help that the banter between the three leads fires on all cylinders during it. If there’s one such sequence in each episode, it’d justify by itself watching the boring bits.

The end of the episode suggests that we’re getting a very tight wider mystery plotline instead of just a “case of the week” structure, which is probably for the better.

via [In which I review] New anime, Winter 2010-2011 – Page 8.