Ranpo Kitan: Game Of Laplace – 03 Review
That’s one of the good guys. You know, being into little girls as a middle-aged man… turns out it’s not THAT weird apparently!
This time I review:
Ranpo Kitan 03: Someone who weirdly sounds like a child-molester gets falsely accused in a case of various girls having gone missing. Girly Boy is right there to help him clear his name and find the most recent girl Shadow-Man had gotten close to. Also, the kidnapper wanted to bang the Girly Boy – but that’s par of the course at this point, I guess.
I think the only reason this character is a boy is because this whole thing would be even creepier if he were really a girl. Just imagine a girl saying “Oh, you want me to dress up, act as bait and get kidnapped by a known criminal who does god-knows-what to his victims…? Haha, sure, why not…?”. Maybe it isn’t a good idea to insert such young characters into stories that are this darkly sexual and disturbing. This is adult-stuff and so the cast should mostly consist of adults.
Being weird and bizarre isn’t a bad thing. David Lynch’s oeuvre thrives on such things for example but even the craziest thing seems to exist as part of a world. In the case of Ranpo Kitan, though, its world is best described as a puzzle poured out of the box onto a table without making any attempts to assemble it. There’s no rhyme or reason to what characters can do in this world and questions of morality actually become hard to answer as it’s difficult to quite understand the logic behind their actions. The same way a dark impossible force might trap the main-chara in some bizarre world in a David-Lynch-movie, here the dark impossible force are the characters themselves who from start to finish often have trouble trying to keep their expectations and desires on a reasonable level.
It always strikes me when watching an episode of Ranpo Kitan just how horrible the characters are. Even when glasses-guy is worried about girly boy’s fate, it never quite seems like genuine empathy. There’s always something “not quite right” to varying degrees about what the characters in this series are doing. The OP’s visual motifs try to hint at that, I assume, but it’s still unsettling to watch an episode where everybody is a little bit crazy or worse.
The case of this episode is about a bunch of missing girls which the genius-boy-detective is supposed to help find. It’s assumed that the notorious Shadow-Man, a gentleman-thief and a disguise-artist (read: shapeshifter), is responsible because it’s known that he has a huge interest in little girls (he’s not the bad guy, though!). The genius-boy-detective is uninterested and the detective complains about how he really only takes cases that interest him (guess, someone saw Sherlock…). So girly boy wants to take his job but the police-dude is against it. Girly boy ignores him and wants to start investigating as the Shadow-Man approaches him and asks for his help to find the real kidnapper.
What follows is one of the most bizarre adventures you have ever seen probably. First, the concept of the Shadow-Man. Whenever he’s himself he’s a middle-aged lean man with a bag on his head. And the police are unable to capture him! There are witnesses who see him even but of course nobody does anything! Well, not that it matters because as soon as he takes off the bag, the Shadow-Man can be practically anyone! He’s a shape-shifter for all intents and purposes! And whenever he wants to turn back he has a bag ready to put on his head. This guy’s as realistic as an unicorn!
The next thing that absolutely baffled me was that one of the important story-elements of the episode was once again the creepy murderer feeling attracted to the girly boy. This time he even cross-dresses! Both times the killers’ usual victim-demographic were girls but still they felt attracted to the girly boy. Aside from the girly boy’s sociopathic need to get involved in solving dangerous crimes, the one thing this series seems to be fixated on is to make him seem like the prettiest girl ever – except he’s a dude! It’s one thing to describe him as such within the story but another to make it an essential part of the plot to such a forced degree. What makes it weird is how it feels like the series is fetishizing this aspect of his character. It’s like the series has a need to never let our mind wander too far away from remembering that girly boy is pretty like a girl except that he’s a boy. These three episodes so far have been plastered with remarks about how pretty girly boy is followed by qualifying this with “But he’s a boy…” figuratively and literally.
With the dialogue being as simplistic as this, it’s no wonder that at no point I gave a shit about this girl in this episode. This girl’s barely even a character. Instead of personality she’s just this balloon of cheesy, predictable dialogue she lets out with farting noise whenever something sappy needs to happen in the episode.
And the way the plot progresses in this episode is unbelievable. A lot of it relies on purely plot-convenient insights and revelations. The episode’s plot is a jumbled mess of narrative-shortcuts that get explained away by the most superficial kind of logic. There are plotholes in this episode big enough to drive a truck through! Often it’s less about what the characters know but the episode’s utter lack of explanation for how they came to have this very specific knowledge. A very important plot-point is girly boy knowing that the manga-café-card he had received from Shadow-Man had a tracking-chip in it. And the reason girly boy calmly risked his life and wasn’t surprised to see Shadow-Man in the kidnapper’s dungeon was said tracking-chip… which girly boy just kinda knew was there – and he was sure that the kidnapper would only ditch his phone and not his purse or something (with the card in it). It’s all just assumptions without any hard evidence but girly boy still somehow just KNOWS that this would happen.
That’s the most frustrating part of this episode: It doesn’t feel like a mystery. A lot of the story behind the mystery just gets told to you as characters seem to know all the answers already. And while explaining to the audience what’s going on, the characters themselves are just going through the easygoing motions of solving this “mystery” the police had failed to solve. There’s no real puzzle to be solved actually as the good guys already have all the pieces they need and they also already have a plan where everything goes according to plan (because that’s always entertaining to watch…).
There’s a sub-plot about Shadow-Man’s relationship with a little girl (who kinda could see through all his disguises because of his “gentle aura”) and this sob-story is the Shadow-Man’s motivation to find the kidnapper. Naturally his eventual failure coupled with the horrific reveal of what the kidnapper does to girls who don’t “behave” are supposed to make this episode seem shocking and tragic at the same time. It isn’t even the fact that the girl’s sappy backstory is pretty much a lame by-the-numbers-affair, what makes it outright laughable is how bad the writing is in these sequences. The girl’s story is “by-the-numbers” to the point where you literally just get presented with the stereotypical model for such a storyline. The girl is some happy, precocious, little kid whose mother died of a “disease” and then suddenly she gets the same “disease”. Naturally she’s doomed to stay in a hospital forever because of this “disease” and of course, there’s a procedure to save her but it’s expensive which her single-dad can’t afford – except Shadow-Man can (who constantly visits her with various disguises). Later the girl finds Shadow-Man (maybe the police should’ve hired this little kid to capture him). He vows to protect her but ultimately fails.
Where things get even stranger is when you try to put everything that happens in this episode into perspective and realize just how weird and chaotic this episode has been. There’s so much seemingly random shit the series just throws at the audience that never forms itself to become a consistent image. There’s the contrast between what the middle-aged man’s attraction to little girls is and what the kidnapper’s attraction to girls is: Both look at girls as their daughters but where Shadow-Man idolizes them, the kidnapper imprisons them, where Shadow-Man wants the girls to be free and happy, the kidnapper wants them to conform to his ideas of what they should be like. What a weird topic to choose “What’s the relationship between a middle-aged man and a stranger’s young daughter?”. And I don’t think I’m comfortable with either answer this episode provides.
It gets stranger with various other tidbits that make you wonder what exactly the script-writer is thinking about our current world. There’s the mother of the kidnapper who helps him, the fact that the kidnapper looks like a stereotypical otaku who also had captured the girly boy at a manga-café, there’s the supernatural strength of the kidnapper and there’s this weird comment from the police-guy at the end about how the kidnapper is a repeat offender who had gotten free due to a positive psyche-evaluation. I don’t even want to speculate what this series is trying to say with such complicated tpics that this episode actually never explores.
Sloppy is the best word to describe this episode. The script is bafflingly simplistic while dealing with very dark, mature themes at the same time. It’s quite surprising actually how absurd the episode’s twist and turns are and the themes are complicated to the point where such a subpar episode does those topics injustice. Of course, it doesn’t help either that the cast mostly seems like a bunch of sociopathic weirdos. It’s hard to relate to an episode that doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on societal norms, morality or just reality in general.
- It’s great how glasses-guy completely ignores the fact that the genius-detective is taking drugs in front of him. I get it, he’s very concerned about his love-interest but hell… the genius-boy-detective had just taken very strong painkillers or something like that, I assume (which is why then talks of feeling sleepy).
- Also very funny from a storytelling-standpoint: Without the intervention of Shadow-Man, the girly boy and glasses-guy would’ve had nothing to start an investigation. Before that meeting, it’s only been established how many girls got abducted, who the police suspected and a few moments later girly boy mentions that the documents had a list of witnesses and whatnot. But NOTHING about this seems like a concrete lead, implying that the police kinda only knows that those girls have disappeared which makes them seem like incompetent idiots. Of course, Shadow-Man somehow already knew where the kidnapper’s “hunting ground” was. Again, the episode avoids the depiction of a smart investigation as characters just make magical assumptions that turn out to be right or meet characters who quickly turn into talkingheads for the sake of the plot.
- The process with which the kidnapper has turned those girls into these freeze-frame stone-blocks (like Han Solo in Star Wars) doesn’t make sense, does it?
- Also, the usual nitpick: Guess school’s out with the way glasses-boy and girly boy spend their freetime…