What’s it about ?
Surely you’re aware of Edogawa Ranpo, the godfather of Japanese mystery fiction ? The guy Detective Conan took half of his pseudonym from ? The creator of characters such as Akechi and the Fiend with Twenty Faces, who often get referenced or namechecked in mystery anime & manga ?
Well, later this month is the 50th anniversary of his death, so here comes this tribute project. It’s notionally adapting some of his stories (starting with The Human Chair), but with the original mysteries reframed completely in a contemporary setting and different characters involved. In many ways, it’s not entirely different from UN-GO, a similar project from a few years ago.
Kobayashi, our 13-year-old protagonist. Despite appearances, totally a boy. He wakes up one day in his classroom with a saw in his hand, and the mutilated corpse of his teacher at the other end of the room. Normal people would see this as the start of a very bad day ; Kobayashi is actually thrilled to the gills at something interesting finally happening to him.
Hashiba, the class rep and student council president, does his best to defend his friend in front of the police… and gets progressively more and more weirded out by the way Kobayashi is lighting up instead of showing any hint of panic. The really obvious solution would be for him to be the culprit, but I hope there’s more to the mystery than that. And it’d be kind of a waste to lose the one normal dude in the series whom everyone can explain the plot to.
Akechi, a 17-year old detective on the case. Notionally he’s in high school, but he’s got a special license to avoid going there in exchange of helping the cops out on weird cases like that. He’s exactly the kind of excentric genius you’d expect to find in this type of story. Kobayashi makes a beeline to become his apprentice (and is certainly clever enough to track his home address down). Akechi’s answer is that if the kid solves the case, it doesn’t matter whether he accepts ; Kobayashi will get dragged down into this world anyway. Of course, it wouldn’t be fun if Akechi didn’t stack the deck against him, such as calling the cops on him.
Kobayashi is totally game for this.
The show makes the weird decision to keep all the characters in silhouette until Kobayashi bothers to truly pay attention to them. (You’d expect the cat-eared new teacher to warrant his attention sooner than she did, but apparently not.) Together with several other staging decisions, it contributes to make the proceedings eerily artificial… and hey, it’s not like classical mysteries aren’t artificial constructs anyway.
I think it’s great at setting the mood ; the jazzy music also helps.
You had me at “mystery”, but this has turned out to be actually quite good. Very well paced, an intriguing and fun protagonist with incredible cheerfulness and communicative enthusiasm… Clearly the staff had a blast creating this. It oozes fun and love for the genre from all pores.
This has the potential to be very good, and in any case it’ll certainly be fun. I’m all in.