Tag Archives: Mystery

An air of the unknown, a puzzle to solve…

Ergo Proxy – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ergo Proxy


Similar: Psycho-Pass

Serial Experiments Lain


Ghost in the Shell


Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Mystery Science Fiction

Length: 23 episodes



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


  • 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


Kino’s Journey – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World


Related: Kino’s Journey: Life Goes On (prequel)

Kino’s Journey: The Land of Sickness (sequel)

Kino’s Journey: Tower Country (OVA)

Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World Animated Series (2017 remake)

Similar: Mushishi

Girl’s Last Tour

Humanity has Declined

Spice & Wolf


Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Slice of Life Adventure

Length: 13 episodes



  • Philosophy without the boredom.
  • Intriguing exploration of society.
  • Pleasant yet disturbing.


  • The art is jank.

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What a pleasant surprise to find an anime pitched as philosophical that is interesting! Usually, the best philosophy we find in anime is from series that don’t advertise this element, while those that do often curse us into a vegetative state of boredom.

Kino’s Journey follows the titular character Kino on her journey to see everything the world has to offer, meet its people, and learn of its societies accompanied by her talking motorcycle Hermes. They will pass through a town that believes the Apocalypse is tomorrow, discover what happened to a telepathically connected society, meet a robot nanny that cares for a wealthy family, and Kino will even fight for her right to first class citizenship in the most magnificent city.

The magic ingredient to the success of Kino’s Journey is in the ever crucial ‘show don’t tell’ story technique. It’s important in all stories, but particularly so for a philosophical piece if it means to engage the audience. At no point does this story tell you how you should feel or what you should think of a person or society. Do you agree with a town that forces kids to go from 12 years old to adulthood in a day, skipping the teenage years if it means making them better adults in society? What about two countries that go to war without casualties on either side at the expense a few tribesmen between the two? Less people die than if there were a real war, even in the tribe. Is it right? Kino’s Journey allows you to answer for yourself. At no point does it tie you down while it vomits philosophy down your throat until you get the message.

Mystery plays an important part, keeping you curious until the often-disturbing end each episode. Many of the stories are low-key disturbing. No one will overreact or show abhorrence to those involved, which only makes you, the audience, more uneasy. Kino’s Journey is pleasant even when it disturbs you. I love this subtlety.

One episode has Kino visit the greatest library in the land, where one can borrow any book in exchange for another – a bibliophile’s dream! However, writing books is banned. Why? The answer is a great commentary on the balance between creativity and criticism.

Outside of a two parter, each episode is a different story in a different location with vastly different people. The episodes always mix things up. You could easily see another series having dragged out each story for two to three episodes, but not Kino – it takes as little time as is necessary for you to connect to the characters and for the effect to sink in. This is an unpredictable world with threats around every corner. Kino doesn’t know whom to trust. Even during happier episodes, I anticipated it all going wrong in some sick twist at the last second. The nicer stories are a heart-warming change of pace.

I can’t finish without mentioning Kino herself. She is an unusual protagonist, though a perfect fit to the subdued tone. From her soft voice to her contemplative nature, she has subtlety to match the philosophy and rarely shows emotion. It’s rare to have an adventure protagonist that doesn’t explode with excitement at new discoveries. She may seem dull at first – she was for me – but she’s deceptively deep and you soon realise that a more animated lead wouldn’t work.

Like its protagonist, Kino’s Journey doesn’t look like much, yet its exploration of society, psychology, the meaning of life, and the human animal is a must watch for any anime fan.

Art – Low

Though I like the vintage art style, the animation leaves much to be desired. Kino’s Journey secured the budget of a niche title, which is regrettable if understandable. They couldn’t be sure a philosophical series would find success even when adapted from bestselling novels. The folk tale sequences are good storybook moments.

Sound – High

The acting is good in English, though the Japanese has the edge with a better Kino. Pleasant music, even when it gets disturbing – rarely shifts from that pleasant tone.

Story – Very High

A girl rides her talking motorcycle around the world to learn everything its societies have to offer in the understanding of humanity. The use of subtlety, pace, and deep exploration of Kino’s Journey’s themes makes it a resounding success.

Overall Quality – Very High

Recommendation: A must watch. Kino’s Journey is an excellent anime that even the philosophy-averse should watch. Stick to the original over the 2017 remake despite the polished visuals of the latter.

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


Deep NarrativeStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

Girls’ Last Tour – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou


Similar: Kino’s Journey

Made in Abyss



Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Science Fiction Mystery Adventure

Length: 12 episodes



  • Adorable characters with a great dynamic.
  • Angelic music.
  • Doesn’t drag.


  • Needs more atmosphere.
  • Little environmental storytelling.

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The city once stood grand, an industrious marvel that reached for the skies and bustled with life. Now, the only life you will find, apart from the howling blizzard, is the low rumble of a tread bike as it grinds over rubble and under fallen girders. Listen carefully and you may even catch the sound of laughter from two girls. Chi and Yuu might be the last people alive.

By all indications, Girls’ Last Tour shouldn’t have worked with me. I don’t like those plot-light ‘do nothing’ anime that use the excuse of “It’s meant to be like that!” for the utter lack of depth, purpose, or interesting characters. Girls’ Last Tour succeeds by having those three elements. Who would have guessed that was the secret.

The series works, at its core, thanks to the two girls, whom are a delight to be around. Chi is the brain, focused and prepared, while Yuu is the brawn, asleep and hungry, and the two complement each other well. If you’re going to have two characters together all the time, they had better work. These two are adorable.

Each episode has the girls travelling to a new place as they search for supplies and explore the fallen city. The content is light – one episode is about them making music with the sound of rain falling on tin cans. Another centres on them learning to use a digital camera. You know, wholesome stuff. These may sound dull – they do to me – but the pacing sells it. These episodes don’t drag. The story doesn’t force itself to extend the girls crafting a makeshift hot bath in an abandoned factory for 20 minutes just because that’s an episode’s runtime. The stories vary in length, often paired together to fit the length of an episode. When a story does take longer, it makes the effort to include more drama – not too heavy, mind you – that deserves the minutes.

A curse of plot-light anime is the feeling that they aren’t going anywhere, particularly when they are set in one location. Each new episode feels more and more like a repeat. Girls’ Last Tour is always on the move and showing us something new each episode. As I came to realise this, I found myself looking forward to the next episode because I trusted the show not to waste my time. I relaxed.

The world has good ambiance. It reminds me of a collapsed Soviet Russia blanketed in perpetual snow. There’s a story to it, a mystery. However, it doesn’t make enough use of environmental storytelling. For example, in the game The Last of Us, you come across animals from the African savannah among city ruins in America. Without a word, this tells us a story of what happened to the zoo when society collapsed. Girls’ Last Tour should have used this technique more. It gives titbits – no more.

The atmosphere is in a similar situation. There is enough of it to say Girls’ Last Tour has an atmosphere, yet with room for so much more. It covers the basics of blizzards, rain, and silence. Why not go deeper? What about that specific sound of wind howling through damaged pipes? How does it sound through a collapsed high rise with shattered windows? Are there any insects around? Can one hear the slow creaking of a bridge on the verge of collapse? A greater atmosphere remains hidden in there somewhere.

Girls’ Last Tour is a surprise success nonetheless. It doesn’t overdo the cuteness, it keeps moving, and the girls a bundle of wholesome fun.

Art – Medium

The character designs are adorable. I’m not one for moe designs, as my regular readers know, but these work. Their heads look like mochi! The artists must have had fun designing the world, desolate and mysterious. However, they could have worked in more environmental storytelling.

Sound – High

The two actresses for the girls work great together. Good thing they do, for there isn’t much more beyond them. I like the angelic music, one of the few atmosphere-contributing elements of the series.

Story – Medium

Two girls tour the ruins of their once thriving city in a quest for fun and hope. A lack of drag and the inclusion of mystery on the move lifts Girls’ Last Tour among other plot-light anime.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: For fans of calm anime. Girls’ Last Tour won’t blow your socks off, but its fun characters and light mystery will make you feel wholesome by the end.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Tasogare Otome x Amnesia


Similar: Another

Ghost Hunt



Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Horror Mystery Romance

Length: 12 episodes, 1 OVA



  • Some gorgeous colours.
  • The humour succeeds.


  • The protagonist is as dull as the grave.
  • One of the worst dubs ever made.
  • Empty world.
  • The romance.

(Request an anime for review here.)

After you read the following blurb, I want you to guess what Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is about:

Yuuko has haunted Seikyou Private Academy ever since her death in the basement 60 years ago. Her memories of life lost, she establishes the Paranormal Investigations Club, where she meets Niiya, a boy who somehow has the ability to see her, Momoe, a girl afraid of ghosts, and the distrustful Kirie. They investigate the various mysteries surrounding the school to figure out which one relates to Yuuko’s death.

You’re thinking this is a horror mystery, yes? Well, you’d be wrong. I was wrong. This is a romance with a dash of horror mystery on the side – a romance with as much substance as a ghost.

Any romance with such a wet noodle of a guy as Niiya is doomed to fail. He’s a nobody. I don’t know what personality he’s meant to have. The idea of a ghost with several possibilities pointing to her identity and death is an interesting one. It hooked me. The mechanics of Yuuko’s appearance are interesting, for one.

When Niiya looks at her, he sees a sexy girl, voluptuous and well endowed in the right places, always flirting with him and craving his touch. But in the eyes of Kirie, she’s a monster, an onryo with long, matted black hair and black blood leaking from her skin. Her seductions aren’t for love. They are to ensnare Niiya and do who knows what to his soul. This is a great idea. The romance is obvious from the start and I thought its inclusion was to heighten tension, create uncertainty about whether she wants his love or his life. Unfortunately, this tension doesn’t last.

Another problem is the hollowness of the world. These four characters seem to be the entire population of this school. You see the occasional background character, but they may as well be cardboard cutouts. Imagine if there were more characters, each with a different perception of Yuuko and no one knows her true version.

We have this romance with no ground to stand on instead. Forcibly tripping over to grab both her breasts is supposed to be a heartfelt moment of their relationship (kill me…). Not joking. He’s a harem protagonist without a harem.

Even if Niiya were a great character, the meshing of romance and mystery needs work. The story progresses through a series of cases, investigating phantoms in mirrors, bodies buried under the school, an old myth about a curse on the last kid to leave school each day, and the like. All these mysteries lack layers without time to develop because the romance takes precedence.

Hell, there’s almost more comedy than mystery in this horror mystery. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia opens on a great scene of Momoe in the clubroom writing notes as various objects float around. She freaks out but explains everything away to keep her sanity. Niiya enters and can seemingly read her mind. Then the whole scene plays again, only to reveal Yuuko this time, responsible for moving the objects, drinking Momoe’s tea, and the mind reading is a coincidence. Niiya’s answers to Yuuko’s questions happened to fit Momoe’s thoughts. Great use of a ghost, I must say.

So what we have here is a horror mystery with more comedy and even more romance than either horror or mystery. Did I put in the wrong disc?

Art – Medium

The environments are grim and grungy, reminiscent of a noir detective game, but the characters look too clean, too ‘nice’ for the setting. Some shots have such gorgeous colours that I paused to admire them.

Sound – Low

What is with this dub? How did they make such a bad dub in 2012? This sounds out of the 90s before professionals did the job. Not everyone is bad, of course. That protagonist though…bloody hell. Thankfully, the Japanese is fine, so stick to it. Even so, don’t expect anything above average. The best friend’s freakouts are the best.

Story – Low

The Paranormal Investigations Club unravels their school’s mysteries to recover the memories of the girl that haunts the halls. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia made the grave mistake of focusing on romance with a soggy protagonist instead of the mysteries it had set up.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Even horror fans won’t find something of worth in Dusk Maiden of Amnesia because of the romantic focus.

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

Positive: None



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

Japanese Title: Agatha Christie no Meitantei Poirot to Marple


Similar: Detective Conan



Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Historical Mystery

Length: 39 episodes



  • Introduction to the greatest detective writer.


  • 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