Review-Roundup: Ranpo Kitan: Game Of Laplace 01, Aquarion Logos 01
Finally we get a hero insane enough to have a genuine hero-complex!
This time I review:
Ranpo Kitan: Game Of Laplace 01: A dude gets murdered. The police’s best suspect? A little boy! And there’s even a genius-boy-detective getting involved as well! Naturally the little boy loves it all – even as when he gets imprisoned by the police because at the end of the episode they really consider him to be part of this murder… It’s hard to tell where the series’ seriousness and sense of humor starts and ends with this absurd tale…
Aquarion Logos 01: Another one of those! This time around it’s language itself that goes berserk and needs to be fought with the Aquarion-mecha! Also, the heroic main-chara is simply crazy.
Ranpo Kitan 01 Review:
Because that’s what we all would think in this situation probably. “What, if I found the grotesquely placed remains of a corpse with the obvious murder-weapon in my hand…? Sure, of course, I’ll get excited! That DOES sound like a load of fun!” If you wouldn’t think that, prepare to consider the main-character of this series to be very unsympathetic.
It’s easy to misrepresent an artist’s work if said artist isn’t there to complain, I guess. Therefore why not misappropriate some sort of anniversary to release an anime that responds more to our modern-day perception of what the mystery-genre feels like than what famous authors like Sir Conan Arthur Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe or Edogawa Rampo have done in the past. These are authors who tried to entertain audiences in the past and that these authors’ stories still mostly are entertaining serves as a sign as to how transcendental their work has proved to be. And of course, a legacy like that shouldn’t stand in the way of anybody offering a new perspective on those stories or just offer more stories which are linked to what these authors have done for the mystery-genre. But managing to divide your attention between honoring the legacy of a famous author and updating the adaptation for modern audiences is quite a challenge to be sure. Sadly, in this case we get to see a first episode who fails to live up to its source-material.
More incredible than anything else is how cleverly (and, I assume, subconsciously) this series is using modern-day-anime-tropes to provide us with an absurd comedy instead of a serious, dramatic horror-story with a mystery as a plot-device. Just reading the synopsis and finding out that school-students would play a prominent role in this series’ storyline tells you a lot about how utterly grotesque this series’ priorities are.
The girly boy (the series’ words, not mine) who ends up at the center of this first case is the most ridiculous audience-stand-in/victim/hero, I’ve ever seen! Seriously, this series just has no sense of reality as it establishes the first mystery by letting the girly boy wake up with a bloody saw in a classroom where a teacher has been killed and taken apart in order to become some sort of art-piece. But the boy just wakes up in the room not knowing how he got there and what has happened.
That’s where things immediately become absurd as the police immediately arrive and this is the dialogue that happens:
Detective: I want you to cooperate in the investigation as a key witness.
Boy (13 years old): I’m not a suspect?
Detective: I can’t rule you out yet, since there’s a possibility you’ve been used.
Of course, nothing about this feels natural because it’s mostly just exposition explaining what role everybody is supposed to play without the main-character (said boy) ever showing concern or interest in whatever’s going on around him. It’s hilarious how little the series does to acknowledge the grotesqueness of the situation. The series doesn’t even try to rationalize what’s going on. It’s like everybody’s just following their gut-instincts in this episode. The police-work in this episode is so bad that it becomes hilarious. The police makes these assumptions as to what the girly boy’s role has been in this grotesque murder but it’s never informed by any sort of self-awareness. And so you get a detective actually entertaining the idea that maybe the girly boy had something to do with the murder after all. It’s a theory that could fit SOME of the evidence but it doesn’t make any sense! The boy is too weak to use that saw on a human body, he doesn’t have a motive and in the first place why would he remain in the classroom if he had something to do with the murder? And that dialogue I mentioned above… It happened in the classroom with the dead body! Yes! These policemen found a kid in a room with a dead body and just told him to stay in that room until some policeman allowed him to leave!
It’s also troubling how this series approaches its more euphoric Sherlockian “The game’s afoot!”-sensibilities as it comes across as celebratory while ignoring that Sherlock Holmes isn’t exactly a hero you should aspire to be. It’s someone you can cheer for because he does want to serve justice with what he’s doing but his more sociopathic motivations have become cute quirks in adaptations like Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes. But in those instances this at least kinda works because it fits the general tone of those movies/episodes. Here, though, it certainly feels like someone is applying the same logic without understanding that Sherlock’s sociopathic tendencies are something these adaptations make seem fun while technically they shouldn’t be fun at all. So when this series just gleefully introduces the same beats without stylistically or tonally justifying those, the writers themselves come off as sociopathic because nothing about the genius-detective and the girly boy agreeing to this little mystery-solving contest seems relatable or natural.
Jesus, this episode is a complete mess! Less than paying homage to Edogawa Rampo, this episode feels like reading a 17-year-old’s version of what he would think Edogawa would write about without any hint of self-awareness or understanding of natural characterization. The characters are either one-note or just seem like sociopathic sock-puppets. And guess what the best part is? The horror-themed mystery at the heart of the episode – which coincidentally is indeed the only part this series borrowed from Edogawa Rampo’s story.
Aquarion Logos 01 Review:
The main-character does this while this motorcycle is driving by! I guess, realism isn’t one of the concerns of this series.
Shoji Kawamori is releasing another Aquarion-series but this time around he does the same thing Gen Urobuchi constantly does these days: He delivers some core-ideas for a team of people who then have to figure out on their own how to make it work. Therefore Shoji is neither the director nor the script-supervisor this time around. Aquarion has become a kind of anthology-series where using a baseline-premise a lot of different styles and premises are explored and it’s a neat concept for a franchise.
In this case the central conceit is that language is alive. More than alive, language IS life. Based on some common conceits of philosophy this series takes those concepts to supernatural extremes back to old ideas of magic. The way this idea presented itself reminded me of a Grant-Morrison-story (the comic-writer) where abstract stuff gets personified as a character in a certain role within the story and the 4th wall was very thin or simply non-existent (like in that famous Animal-Man-moment). This series is tackling high-concept-story-ideas here. If your brain already hurts from realizing that on one level this first episode showed us the awesome power of the word “sousei” kicking the shit out of the word “maki”, then this is definitely not the right series for you.
Of course, this doesn’t mean this first episode actually is very intelligent. The whole high-concept-language-thingy is only one level of what’s happening in the first episode and a bigger part is the introduction of the cast and the general roles they’re supposed to play. And it’s here where you notice the touch of Jun Kumagi as the script-supervisor (his major credits include the Persona 3 movies, Psycho Pass 2, Galilei Donna and Valrave) because he has a way of simplifying character-dynamics for the sake of the plot. Akira, the hero-character, is a plot-device as it turns out. His motivation to be a savior is more like a statement of purpose than a personal goal. And he behaves that way too while the story allows him to behave that way as well.
As far as first episodes go, it’s strange to see how little this episode tries to build an emotional connection between the cast and the audience. A lot of the characterization is exposition indirectly thrown at the audience in the hope that the audience absorbs it and starts caring about what these characters are doing. None of the characters in the first episode get enough screentime to become compelling and whenever the series does delve into the realms of characterization there isn’t a whole lot going on. Kokone, the stuttering girl, is another major character of this first episode and her characterization is more descriptive while the plot doesn’t give her a lot to do which would show us what her deal is.
It brings it all back to Grant Morrison whose lesser series also suffer from the same problem of being too abstract. While this series isn’t as ambitious as an average Grant-Morrison-series, you get the same problem where it’s hard to find the plot-point or character that you’re supposed to connect to as a member of the audience. The series becomes even surreal as Akira’s behavior is simply absurd and even stuff like when he stops a motorcycle or breaks his own thumbs to escape shackles (without any consequences) or shows an unusual aptitude for piloting a mecha/jet-fighter. There’s stuff happening but the characters’ behavior seems almost as abstract as what thematically is going on. If the first episode’s all about giving the audience a reason to keep watching, it’s strange to see an episode like this one which does little to draw in the audience on a personal level. What this series wants to sell instead are its abstract ideas of language and an absurd plot-device that calls itself the savior.
Where Aquarion Evol was fun and utterly ridiculous, this version seems to be more serious and ambitious. Sadly nothing in this first episode makes it seem like the series will live up to those ambitions. I assume, the second episode will spend a lot of time explaining what is going on in this series and what everyone’s deal is but technically you’re supposed to do all that in the first episode. While intellectually it’s interesting to see the abstract takes on language in this episode, I’m not convinced that this series is actually prepared to go down this rabbithole all the way. So, the second episode either needs to offer another reason to keep watching or it needs to show its commitment to its absurd premise.
Posted on July 9, 2015, in Anime, Aquarion Logos, Ranpo Kitan: Game Of Laplace, Reviews and tagged Anime, Aquarion, Aquarion Logos, アクエリオンロゴス, Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace, review, 乱歩奇譚 Game of Laplace. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.