Tag Archives: Detective

The protagonist or prominent character is a detective and the crime element is core to the narrative.

Ghost Hunt – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ghost Hunt

 

Similar: Psychic Detective Yakumo

Ghost Stories

xxxHOLiC

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Comedy Horror Mystery

Length: 25 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good fun.
  • Everyone is a fraud.
  • Isn’t predictable.
  • The Australian accent.

Negatives:

  • The Australian accent.
  • Low production values.
  • Not scary at all.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Ghost Hunt looks like arse, the performances are half-arsed, and these ghost hunters couldn’t tell the difference between a gust of wind and their arses. And that’s what makes this anime fun.

For reasons that could never see justification, Mai is forced to work as the assistant to 17-year-old Kazuya, sceptical ghost hunter of the Shibuya Psychic Research Company. Their slave-master relationship begins at her school with the case of the abandoned school building, but soon goes on tour to other haunted locations in Japan. They are joined – rather coincidentally – at each site by a rock star Buddhist monk, vain Shinto priestess, TV spirit medium, and (my favourite) an Australian Catholic priest.

The poor visuals and near absence of animation turned me off the series until the full cast of characters assembled at school. Unable to handle the bad PR of having a haunted building on campus, the principal hired someone from every religion he could think of to assist Kazuya. They are great together. I love that they each think everyone else is a fraud. It brings a good level of humour to the story, especially coupled with the inspiration taken from those fake American ghost-hunting series. A chair falls over and everyone freaks out!

However, nothing is funnier than the Catholic priest in the English dub. His accent is so bad that it transcends hilarity, so much so that I recommend watching Ghost Hunt in English. I couldn’t stop laughing every time he spoke.

The other strength of Ghost Hunt is in how they handle the mysteries. Each case takes three to four episodes, building layers to the backstory and throwing twists at the investigators. It isn’t as predictable as I anticipated. I like how Kazuya is a sceptic who doesn’t jump straight to the supernatural answer, instead checking if there is an earthly explanation for the weird occurrences first. Just when you’re sure it’s a phantom, he unveils a logical explanation or vice-versa. Furthermore, these aren’t generic urban myths you see in every horror series. The mysteries are good enough to keep you on the hook, wanting to know what happened, and the group dynamic among these hack frauds maintains decent tension and humour.

In an effort to dispel any notions that Ghost Hunt is a great series after all that praise, let us go through the problems. First, Mai isn’t a useful character. She is your typical audience stand-in – an ordinary person thrust into a paranormal world surrounded by experts (“experts”) that do all the work. Second, there is no need to waste time reintroducing the other exorcists each new case. And third, Ghost Hunt isn’t scary. At all. It could have made more effort with the horror side of being a comedy horror series.

I went in with zero expectations, which dropped further upon seeing the art and hearing the performances, but I came to embrace the goof once the cast gathered and the mysteries developed.

Art – Low

There isn’t much animation (no high detail to compensate either) and the shattering glass is so obviously CG. What else do you need to know?

Sound – Low

You have to watch this in English for the Australian accent. He does have oddities in his Japanese dialect as well, but you won’t notice them if you don’t understand Japanese. The spooky OP is effective, though I wonder if the lack of lyrics was a budget constraint (made the best of what they had, regardless).

Story – Medium

A high school girl becomes assistant to a ghost hunter to pay off a debt. With some possibly unintentional comedy and unpredictable mysteries, Ghost Hunt has enough to be good fun for cheesy horror fans.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. Ghost Hunt’s slim budget and cut corners only add to the fun. This is a horror series for those who prefer mystery over gore (see Another for the gore).

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Advertisements

Real Drive – Anime Review

Japanese Title: RD Sennou Chousashitsu

 

Similar: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Serial Experiments Lain

Time of Eve

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Action Science Fiction

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good music.

Negatives:

  • The teens.
  • Jarring sexiness.
  • Lacks world building.
  • The virtual world isn’t interesting.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Masamune Shirow of Ghost in the Shell fame steps up into a lead production role to bring us Real Drive, a science fiction series that brings exploration of the human creature to a younger audience.

I never would have known that this came from Shirow had I not glimpsed his name in the credits on Wikipedia when doing background research. Real Drive feels like someone tried to imitate Shirow without understanding what makes Ghost in the Shell, or more specifically, Stand Alone Complex so good.

We find ourselves in 2061 AD when a virtual network called “the Metal” has linked human consciousness on a global scale. However, security leaks and data breaches have begun to affect people’s minds beyond the virtual and into the real world. The young Minamo finds herself at the forefront of the investigation after she pulls Masamichi back from a failed dive into the Metal. She is to work alongside her brother Souta, the android Holon, and other investigators to find solutions.

Shirow’s first mistake was Minamo. I haven’t seen Ghost Hound, Shirow’s young adult horror anime, so I don’t know if he succeeded there, but he doesn’t seem to know how to write using or for teenagers.

I hate all the young characters in Real Drive. Their inclusion makes no sense in this, let alone having one as protagonist. She barely has anything to do with the Metal, which is the core of the story. When Minamo hangs out with her friends, usually at a dessert café, it feels included because “you need to have that in a young adult anime or it won’t be relatable,” said Shirow, not knowing what he’s talking about. Her brother would have made for a better protagonist. He is a young counterpart to the old Masamichi, is a lead diver for the Metal, has the romantic subplot, and has a justified presence.

Also, what is with the “sexiness” at random moments? You have the usual panty shots – bad panty shots aren’t a surprise anymore, so whatever – alongside weirdly timed instances of characters trying to act sexy. For example, when an old woman is in agony, possibly dying, during episode one, her granddaughter/assistant (?) makes sure to pose cutely with her arse in the air. “Old woman is dying, so let’s focus on the teen arse and have her turn like she’s in lingerie commercial,” said someone during production. “Get on it stat!”

Wait, it gets weirder. When the chairwoman of this Artificial Island video calls the investigation team, she presents herself as though she’s ready to ask Leo to draw her like one of his French girls. Why? What tone were they going for? Is there some hidden satire I’m missing? Shirow had a fair amount of eroticism in his Ghost in the Shell manga, and it’s adaptation weren’t shy either, so perhaps he felt obligated to have some erotic element in Real Drive. It doesn’t work here – more funny than sexy.

Next, we come to Shirow’s other big mistake, the virtual world itself. The Metal is incredibly boring. Remember Luke Skywalker floating in the batca tank in The Empire Strikes Back? Ever held your breath inside a swimming pool? Well then, you’ve experienced all the Metal has to offer. It isn’t engaging to watch people floating in water occasionally attacked by bubbles (!) as a substitute for action. Why didn’t he use marine life as proxies for viruses and data breaches? A monstrous, digitally warped shark is more frightening than bubbles. At most, we get some graphics in the environment and corruption on a character’s wetsuit. Do you know why Hollywood makes hacking sequences with effects, progress bars, and furious typing? Because real hacking is reading a bunch of text, which isn’t engaging.

I can’t wrap my mind around the notion that no one at production saw the Metal and pointed out that it‘s a load of nothing. The best scene in Real Drive is the very first, set in the past when a dive turns catastrophic. There is real action. After that, dives are mind numbing.

The vagueness of the overall plot compounds this dullness. For many episodes, Real Drive is about solving virtual problems with no concrete goal. You can’t have a non-episodic crime series and say it’s just about solving crimes. You need to be more specific. Which crime? Is the goal to ultimately catch the Seattle Reaper? Shirow already knows this – Stand Alone Complex is about catching the Laughing Man – so I’m surprised at the fault here. This gives the impression that he had an idea – “I want a series about solving virtual crimes” – but didn’t flesh it out, get at the core of his idea. I doubt Real Drive would have received the green light had it not had the name “Masamune Shirow” attached.

Art – Medium

What is with the doughy women? Every female character has extra dough packed on, even those that are said to be thin. I suspect that the artist has a fetish for “thicc” women, as the android Holon, designed to have the ideal female physique, is definitely for those who want to get down with the thiccness. The world has a lovely design akin to a futuristic paradise island, but the virtual side is plain water.

Sound – Medium

The music boasts a great orchestral soundtrack. However, the sound mixing is horrendous at times. In episode two, a scene of Minamo whining to her brother about breakfast has building tension music from the likes of Fantasia. Fire the mixer. The acting is fine.

Story – Low

A team of investigators dive into a global consciousness known as the Metal to resolve problems of this virtual world. The Metal is dull, the teenagers are superfluous, the sexiness makes no sense, and the plot offers little reason to keep watching Real Drive.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Real Drive is a poor man’s Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex…made by the same man.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

City Hunter – Anime Review

Japanese Title: City Hunter

 

Related: City Hunter 2, 3, ’91 (sequels – included in review)

Angel Heart (spin-off)

Similar: Black Lagoon

Golden Boy

Trigun

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Action Comedy

Length: 140 episodes (4 seasons), 2 OVA, 3 movies

 

Positives:

  • Ryo is great.
  • The humour.
  • Moments of emotion for balance.

Negatives:

  • Too long for such a small overarching plot.
  • Animation budget stretched thin.

(Request an anime for review here.)

No woman is safe from Ryo Saeba. Whether ally, villain, or stranger, he will flirt them into submission. This gun for hire only takes on the hottest of female clients. After all, the best ladies deserve the best gunslinger in the land to solve their dangerous problems. But who protects the ladies from Ryo? His partner Kaori and her trusty giant hammer, of course.

Angel Heart, a spin-off of City Hunter, was one of my first anime reviews and I noted that after the initial serious 13 episodes, that anime suddenly shifted to an episodic structure with a focus on goofs and gaffs. I thought that odd. Having completed City Hunter, now I see why Angel Heart made the shift, matching the tone of original series.

Each episode or two has Ryo take on a new client, always female and always in life-threatening danger. This follows the standard episodic structure, going from case to case, helping people and taking out gangsters, blue-collar crooks, and creeps (look who’s talking) with gunfights and explosion abound.

One job has him acting as his favourite actress’s manager to protect her from someone trying to kill her on set. He keeps yelling “Cut!” whenever her co-star goes to kiss her or do a love scene. The director grows so fed-up with the interruptions that he just lets the camera roll and incorporates Ryo’s antics during action scenes into the film. I love it. Ryo is such a great character. He makes the series and is the core reason to watch. If you don’t enjoy him, then I wouldn’t bother with City Hunter.

He’s an expert marksman to a ludicrous degree. He hits insane shots, including down the barrel of a villain’s gun and shooting the exact same spot a dozen times at range. You have to suspend disbelief, but it works thanks to the humour.

Not everything is comedy, mind you. There are moments of emotion, and while not heavy enough to break your heart, they are an effective change of pace thanks for Ryo’s voice actor. Akira Kamiya (also of “Omae wa mou shindeiru” fame) is great at switching between goofy and serious instantly, almost as if they swapped actors. It’s impressive.

As a side note, City Hunter has received more adaptations than seemingly any other anime. Last month, I watched the Korean drama of City Hunter and none of it was familiar. Korean Ryo was some serious Robin Hood figure, didn’t chase the ladies once, and the goofs were missing. I was so confused that I had to go back to the original City Hunter anime to check of the K-drama fit in any way. It didn’t.

I can easily see City Hunter becoming a comfort anime to some. Because it doesn’t require much attention or emotional investment, it is a stress-free experience. It’s entirely adult cast also provides something different from modern offerings.

However, if you don’t feel like 140 episodes, I leave you with this amazing clip from the Chinese City Hunter movie starring Jackie Chan.

Art – Medium

The art is classic 80s, especially the women who look fine, but the animation feels stretched to cover the numerous episodes.

Sound – Medium

Ryo’s actor is perfect for the role and the women have the right mature sexiness. The music is classic 80s anime, much like the art.

Story – Medium

A womanising gun for hire only takes on female clients. Using his unmatched skill, he protects them with his life and he could perhaps seal the deal in the process, if not for his partner with a ten-ton hammer. Fun episodically, light on story in the long run, City Hunter is best taken in small doses over a year.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For old anime fans. City Hunter doesn’t have much in the way of overall plot or a reason to keep watching beyond your fondness for the characters. As such, if you do find yourself liking Ryo’s antics, prepare to settle in for a long and comfortable cruise.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Ergo Proxy – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ergo Proxy

 

Similar: Psycho-Pass

Serial Experiments Lain

Texhnolyze

Ghost in the Shell

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Mystery Science Fiction

Length: 23 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Delightfully grim art.
  • The side story episodes.
  • Moments of brilliance.

Negatives:

  • Muddle storytelling obfuscates greatness.
  • Several useless episodes.

(Request an anime for review here.)

One of humanity’s last civilisations resides within the domed city of Romdo, where robots called AutoReivs supplement the low population on the path to humanity’s recovery. When a virus begins to infect these robots, Re-l Mayer gets on the case with her AutoReiv Iggy, but the case grows beyond her imagination and out of her control when a sentient and independent robot confronts her at home.

Despite what the setup may tell you, Ergo Proxy isn’t a crime series along the lines of Psycho-Pass and Ghost in the Shell. This focuses on the psychological, taking Re-l, Iggy, and AutoReiv engineer Vincent on a mind-altering adventure into the heart of Romdo and beyond its walls.

A favourite old movie of mine is Logan’s Run, which also uses the premise of escaping humanity’s last bastion, a domed city where the rulers justify the control they exert over the people. Such a similarity had me excited for Ergo Proxy, as did the dark style. I love the AutoReiv designs – they recall Jhin from League of Legends. Their masks give the feeling that they’re hiding something, made even more suspicious by their “natural” personalities. Iggy follows the rules to the letter, though will bend if you present a loophole.

The story starts strong with plenty of intrigue. No one believes Re-l’s story of the demonic ‘Proxy’ AutoReiv and someone has modified Iggy’s memory. The journey beyond the dome continues the intrigue. However, it isn’t long before the story takes a backseat to psychology. Rather than weave it into story, Ergo Proxy pauses to dump psychology through a jumble of mind-numbing scenes.

Have you ever watched two similar stories, found one engaging and the other boring or difficult to finish, and couldn’t put your finger on what made the difference? They were both well made and had good actors, so why weren’t they of equal quality? It’s in the storytelling techniques. You often see this distinction between great crime serials and the mediocre. The better series will show you the criminal mind and the detective’s process, whereas the other will sit you down and tell you what you should take away from the drama. Ergo Proxy has this problem with its psychology.

It’s hard to convey without showing the series, so I will use an example. One character suffers from an identity crisis with possible split-personality disorder. Instead of showing us this condition, this character has another character over the shoulder saying, “This is not your true self. The other you is your reality. Search your feelings; you know it be true,” (or something similar). For two episodes! It is nonsensical babbling, unneeded because later episodes gives us the relevant information again. This isn’t the only instance.

Ergo Proxy strikes at mind-bending scenarios about mistaken identities, existential crises, and philosophy, but it often gets lost in itself at the expense of cohesion. This results from being ‘too close’ to the art as the creator. When you write a story, you become the worst person to check if it makes sense, for the complete, sensible story in your mind automatically fixes any problems on the page before you have a chance to notice them.

Oddly enough, side episodes with no direct story relevance are my favourite. One episode has Vincent participate in a quiz show with the questions revealing lore and history about the world. A later episode is set in a bizzaro Disneyland, where the animal mascots are real, as made by a tyrannical Walt Disney. These episodes are refreshing in their clarity and fast pace. Yes, they are allegories about the society in which they live and they still have undercurrents of psychology, just without the drudgery.

I heard someone say that to “get” Ergo Proxy you must understand all of its symbolism and metaphors, which isn’t true. The core plot is a simple one of identity crisis – the symbolism is mere fluff that impedes more than it assists.

The psychological focus over crime wasn’t a mistake – I love psychology – but the narrative techniques to convey this psychology were a mistake. Some would have you believe that Ergo Proxy is a truly mind boggling experience requiring a very high IQ and a solid grasp in theoretical physics to appreciate its subtle genius. Is it pretentious? No, I wouldn’t say so. You don’t get the sense that Studio Manglobe wanted to come across as artsy. They tried something different and it simply didn’t work as well as they had hoped. They were too caught up in the process to step back and see what worked.

Art – High

The dark and grim visual style is perfect for Ergo Proxy and it has great cinematography.

Sound – Medium

I love the choir music. The acting is good in either language – needs a tighter script.

Story – Medium

In a domed city of people and robots, a routine investigation leads a woman to question her world and venture beyond the city walls. Ergo Proxy’s good ideas lie behind walls of unsound storytelling techniques that make it an effort to finish.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. Ergo Proxy has limited appeal, but this psychological tale’s strange world and style will enrapture a select few.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Agatha Christie’s Great Detectives Poirot and Marple – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Agatha Christie no Meitantei Poirot to Marple

 

Similar: Detective Conan

Gosick

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Historical Mystery

Length: 39 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Introduction to the greatest detective writer.

Negatives:

  • The girl is shoehorned in.
  • Low production.
  • Poirot doesn’t feel like Poirot.
  • Better time spent with the books or TV series.
  • Title singer can’t sing?

(Request an anime for review here.)

It’s always interesting to see how foreign cultures adapt English works, just as we adapt foreign works. With Agatha Christie being one of my favourite authors and her Poirot as the best detective series, I am especially curious about this anime adaptation.

As the title suggests, Agatha Christie’s Great Detectives Poirot and Marple takes the legendary mystery author’s two biggest detectives and combines them into a series for children. Twenty cases feature from the extensive library of Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple novels, each spanning one to four episodes.

The greatest change from the source material is the addition of a young girl called Mabel West, daughter of mystery writer Raymond West, who works her way into the position of Poirot’s assistant through means that aren’t quite clear. It makes no sense that Poirot would need her, which he tells her, by the way. Poirot barely tolerates having to work with professionals. It is clear that the girl’s inclusion is to give the target audience a stand in character. I would have no problem with this had she been written in with more skill, not this shoehorned result we have here. She doesn’t contribute to cases. All she does is point out evidence done by other characters in the books or ask obvious questions to make sure the kids notice this information. No one needs her.

The first incident is The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan with the theft of a rich woman’s pearls from her hotel room, introducing us to the general style of the cases. A crime happens, Poirot and the police investigate, they lay out the evidence, deception and herrings abound, and it ends with Poirot (or Marple, in her cases) unmasking everyone. These simplified cases have less subtlety compared to the sources to give kids a chance to spot extra clues or figure it out ahead of time. After a few single-episode cases, we get the four-part ABC Murders for the audience to sink their teeth into.

My biggest disappointment with Great Detectives is how Poirot doesn’t feel like Poirot. He is meant to be an eccentric man, who both irritates and charms. Apart from his prodigious moustache (still tame by comparison) and occasional mention of “the little grey cells”, he isn’t like the great detective. Furthermore, Poirot was revolutionary at release for solving cases through psychology over clue hunting. Here they focus on clues. I suspect a psychological angle may be too much for little kids.

And that’s the ultimate point: this is an anime for kids. I’m sure they would enjoy this a lot than me and it does make for a good introduction to Agatha Christie. As for adults, watch Poirot starring David Suchet, which adapted every case into an exceptional series over 24 years (start with the ABC Murders in season 4 for a great sample).

Art – Low                           

Obviously on a budget with not much in the way of animation. Great Detectives uses the painterly environment art style reserved for seemingly every anime set in England.

Sound – Low

I’m not sure the vocalist for the OP and ED can sing – maybe it’s the style. The acting is okay, though no one feels like their original character.

Story – Low

A young girl joins the great detectives Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple as they solve classic cases in 1930s England. The simplification process for children gives no reason for adults to watch this over other adaptations.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For kids only. Adults, I cannot recommend enough watching Poirot instead. David Suchet is the perfect Poirot.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: disapp

Dissapointing