Tag Archives: Detective

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

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.

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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.

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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

No. 6

 

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

Positive: None

Negative: disapp

Dissapointing

Metropolis – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Metropolis

 

Similar: Akira

Ghost in the Shell

Steamboy

Casshern Sins

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Adventure Drama Science Fiction Romance

Length: 1 hr. 49 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Some truly magnificent art.
  • City design.

Negatives:

  • Character motivations and personalities aren’t interesting.
  • Art over story.
  • Plodding pace.

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Metropolis adapts the 1949 manga of the same name from the creator of Astro Boy (hence the character designs), Osamu Tezuka, who based this story on a single image of the famous 1927 Metropolis silent film. As such, despite sharing a name and setting, the two versions have little in common.

The city of Metropolis rose to greatness thanks to leaps and bounds in technological advancements. Robots have replaced much of the manual labour and menial tasks. However, what should have been a utopia of man and machine, has turned into a class war. Robots are second-class citizens, attacked and destroyed by rioters on a daily basis. They cannot venture beyond their designated zones. Japanese detective Shunsaku and his nephew Kenichi arrive in town on the trail of an organ trafficking case, but the master of Metropolis, Duke Red, has plans involving a robot girl of his creation that throws them off track.

Metropolis draws you in with its city design. Life bustles and clanks along on every corner and in every alley, creating a sense of wonder and a desire to see more. But a film is about story, and it’s not long before you start to ask where this elusive feature has gone. Every character moves in every scene – it never stops to sit down and show us motion within characters. More scenes go towards showing us the world and all the fancy art techniques used than towards developing characters. Art came over story.

The plodding pace of the first act is manageable thanks to the world, though once in the second act and the pace is still like gears grinding together, it becomes difficult to pay attention. The heroes are your standard good guys, which is obviously not ideal, yet I believe the true problem lies with the antagonists. The Duke is your typical Big Boss Villain atop the Tower, residing in the background for the most part (why does he look like a cockatoo?). The other is his adopted son, Rock. He goes after the robot girl, intent on destroying her out of jealousy. The Duke lost his daughter and would rather create an artificial replacement over accepting Rock. His daddy issues aren’t interesting because they lack a foundation to make us care or see them as a problem. We have a few brief interactions between father and son that serve to advance plot, not deepen character. One could say the same for much of the cast. They are tools to the story, nothing more.

The third act finally gets it together to give us action atop the highest skyscraper, which makes for a spectacular and tense set piece. Emotion and character enter the spotlight as the truth behind the robot girl comes out. The Duke reached for the sun in his beloved city and it went beyond his control. He constructed his tower too high and it fell so far. You may notice this as an adaptation of the Tower of Babel, and you’d be right – Metropolis outright states this. Some subtlety would be nice.

I love art as much as anyone does, but story is more important. Metropolis has plenty of the former and mere morsels of the latter.

Art – Very High

Tezuka’s Astro Boy character art of Popeye biceps and effeminate curls on everyone has never looked good to me. It doesn’t hold up, nor does the once spectacular CG for several scenes. I was going to give the art a High rating, until the finale blew me away. It’s magnificent.

Sound – Medium

The acting is fine in either language, while the music is serviceable. The finale song is the only standout.

Story – Low

A detective and his nephew become involved in the plight of a robot girl amidst a technologically advanced city. Metropolis put nine out of ten energy cells into the art, leaving a blinking check engine light for the characters and plot.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For art fans. Metropolis is an engaging time if great art alone can sustain your enjoyment.

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

Positive:

Stunning Art Quality

Negative:

No Development

Psycho-Pass 2 – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Psycho-Pass 2

 

Related: Psycho-Pass (prequel)

Psycho-Pass Movie (sequel)

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Science Fiction Action

Length: 11 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The villain’s lore.

Negatives:

  • The new girl.
  • So much stupid.
  • Mishandled parallels to season one.
  • Script written for robots.

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I can’t hold back my curiosity any longer; I have to know what everyone means by saying Psycho-Pass 2 is terrible when compared to season one, Psycho-Pass. How can one create a terrible product when given such a strong and established series to work from? Well, dear readers, this is how.

Psycho-Pass 2 starts not long after the last season with a new girl, Shimotsuki, joining veteran Akane on a case reminiscent of Akane’s first day in Division 1. However, this time, Akane finds a way to lower the target’s Crime Coefficient out of the “execute him now” range. Shimotsuki disagrees with Akane’s decision to give him a chance. Get used to Shimotsuki disagreeing with everything Akane does, for that’s her only purpose in Psycho-Pass 2 when she’s not being the stupidest character I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet.

The villain, just like last time, has found a way to cheat the all-powerful Sybil system and keep his Crime Coefficient at “saintly” levels while killing people. Similarity is another aspect you should get used to. Psycho-Pass 2 is a near-carbon copy of Psycho-Pass. I don’t just mean that the villain’s method is the same or that themes carried over. I’m referring to scene for scene, shot for shot similarities, as if paying tribute. (Who pays tribute in a continuation of the same story? What are you? Slow?) Characters find themselves in the same situations, with the same dilemmas and decisions to tackle as before. There are too many such similarities to list. Think of it as giving two ghostwriters the same book outline to flesh out, yet one of the ghostwriters sucks.

Apart from being lazy, this “poetry” (“Again, it’s sort of like poetry; they rhyme.” – that guy who made the Star of the Rings prequels) fails because of the emotional aspects, not the technical. When a character has to make a difficult decision, the weight comes from the emotional context. If your protagonist has to choose between saving his mother or his girlfriend, it doesn’t matter if we never get the sense that he cares about either. They may as well be cannon fodder. You can transplant the same rules to psychological dilemmas. Do I sacrifice part of my soul to kill the villain? If sacrificing part of the soul won’t change anything in the character, then who cares? Psycho-Pass 2 is a context-less failure without the masterful psychology.

Worse than this problem, however, is the new character, Shimotsuki, whose role in this poetry is to replace the “by-the-book” character from season one. Where the original guy had a solid point on occasion, Shimotsuki is a threat to society with her stupidity. She’s a pretentious, one-note rookie that thinks she knows best despite being inexperienced in every department. For example, episode 4 has a hostage situation where the team knows an officer is in danger alongside civilians. So what does this rookie genius do? (Oh yeah, she’s supposed to be a genius. Bloody hell…) She does nothing – just waits for the captured officer to contact them. That’s right, an officer who’s probably on the verge of death has to lead the hostage rescue, while the equipped team outside should “just wait.” There’s stupid characters, then there’s this bimbo. And she’s surprised when the chief has another team take over the scene… You’re testing my tolerance, Psycho-Pass 2.

For a supporting character, she certainly takes plenty of space with her idiocy. Her position after the story’s main twist is idiotic. She must be mentally deficient to be the way she is in the end, as we receive the flimsiest justification for why she makes several of the stupidest decisions I have seen in anime. Not to mention, they’re inconsistent with her preachy nonsense from earlier. Psycho-Pass 2 likes to preach a lot. The original did explain character ideology to the audience more than necessary, but it succeeded most times. If you recall, the original’s first episode had a great scene that showed its themes through a rape victim wanting revenge, thus elevating her Crime Coefficient. This time, they added a scene to preach about how the Orwellian Sybil system isn’t so bad because you can still be a good person by yourself. What nonsense is this?

Psycho-Pass 2 doesn’t even feel connected to the previous season. They didn’t need to make this. They had nothing to say, nothing new to add, no extra world to develop, and none of the new characters are interesting. Kogami’s absence is noticeable. The only good I can say about this anime is that the villain’s secret is excellent, and therefore a travesty to see squandered in this piece.

Psycho-Pass 2 is the perfect example of the same idea poorly executed. Ideas are worthless without proper execution – it’s why no paid for that guy from high school with ideas he swore were better than the best filmmakers’ and game designers’ works.

After the series, I threw on the movie in hopes of something better after hearing it was made by the A team while the B team worked on Psycho-Pass 2. The movie takes us out of Japan to see how the world fared without the Sybil system. It’s okay – too black and white for my tastes. If you do want to watch it, find the dual-mix version, which takes half the audio track from the Japanese version and mixes it with half of the English, as characters speak different languages. Without the dual-mix, you have to either bear a lot of horrid Engrish in Japanese, or have confusing scenes in English as people pretend to speak different languages while speaking the same language. The dual-mix still has some Engrish, but it makes sense, for it comes from the Japanese characters. I love this dual-mix idea and hope to see more of it in future.

Art – Medium

Season 2 looks worse. It has that over-smoothed shading from cheap flash animation in many scenes, though the animation quality itself is good. The cinematography and imagery has none of the passion from before. Even the world doesn’t look as interesting despite being the same setting!

Sound – Medium

Robotic script in the face of fine acting. Music is nice.

Story – Low

A new girl joins seasoned Akane as they investigate the case of someone who can manipulate his crime coefficient to pass unseen by society’s judge. Psycho-Pass 2 copies everything from season one except for good story, good characters, logic, and world building.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For intellectual curiosity only. Psycho-Pass 2 is worse in every way. Even seen on its own, it has nothing to recommend itself. However, if you want to study a great example of the same idea executed twice to polarising results, Psycho-Pass 2 has plenty to teach.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

DissapointingInduces Stupidity