Talentless Nana – 01 (First Impressions) – Song of Ice, Fire, and Wits

Major plot spoilers follow. Proceed with caution!

“Watch Talentless Nana blind”, said ANN in their Fall 2020 Preview. I didn’t read any further than that, and followed that advice—and boy am I glad I did! We start with the introduction of protagonist Nakajima Nanao, who in a remote island school full of students with elite superpowers, he apparently has none. He is bullied and mocked by boorish fire-user and elegant ice-user alike…but if he is truly “Talentless”, then why is he on the island?

Some of the students believe he could be one of the dreaded “Enemies of Humanity” who have threatened mankind for fifty years (which seems like a really long time for neither side to have decisively won, by the way). Enter two new transfer students, the shifty, hostile Onodera Kyouya and his exact opposite, the ridiculously pink and adorable Hiiragi Nana.

Kyouya won’t reveal what his talent is, but Nana is immediately forthcoming: she can read minds. Upon being assigned the desk next to Nakajima, she senses he’s being bullied, but her mind-reading soon becomes a nuisance to Nanao, who’d rather simply fade into the background. Even so, she follows him after school and has him give her a tour of the island.

During an unexpectedly deep discussion of his past over lunch, Nanao tells Nana how he was the “dullest member of his family” but his father still urged him to “aim for the top” and seek leadership wherever he ended up. He was disillusioned when doing so in class made him an object of mockery.

On a dramatic cliff at sunset, Nana confesses to having had similar trouble making friends due to her mind-reading. No sooner are the Enemies of Humanity brought up than a mysterious gust of wind nearly pushes Nana off the edge. At the same time, Onodera is searching the student records.

Nanao rescues Nana, but later that night he pushes her away, calling her constant mind-reading “violating”. Even so, Nana believes that he should be the leader of the class. Alas, he’s shoved to the sidelines in the inevitable superpower duel between the Fire and Ice guys, and when the latter wins Nana seems to accept him and Nanao is disheartened.

The Fire guy is pissed that he wasn’t able to go all out to prove himself, and ends up going a bit too far, launching a huge fireball at the rest of the class, including Nana. That’s when Nanao springs into action and reveals his true power for the first time: the ability to neutralize anyone else’s power, much like Kamijou Touma’s Imagine Breaker.

After his triumphant coming-out party, Nanao goes up to the cliff with Nana at sunset, where she takes his hand and declares that she can’t hear his inner voice anymore, and it’s wonderful. Even so, she can still tell what he’s thinking: he’s so glad they’re friends.

Then she pulls his hands away so he’s off-balance and shoves him off the goddamn cliff.

The entire palette of the scene darkens, Nana’s eyes glow red, and Ookubo Rumi’s voice drops at least an octave. As Nanao hangs on to deal life to a frayed rope, she reveals that she never had mind-reading powers; and details all the ways she made him think she did by simply making deductions from his appearance and behavior. If she has a “power”, it’s her wits.

Just when Nanao is declaring that she’s an Enemy of Humanity, Nana flips the script once more: he is the true Enemy, and for humanity’s sake, she asks that he please die, and he falls. She checks her phone, which tells her Nakajima Nanao could have potentially been responsible for over a million deaths.

I love shows that seem like one thing (initially a fun cross between My Hero Academia and Assassination Classroom) and turns out to be something else entirely. This was such a well-constructed and executed fake-out. Your enjoyment may well depend on your level of gullibility, but the fact is even I knew something/someone was “off”, it was just a matter of not knowing exactly when and how that other shoe would drop. That tension and atmosphere was delicious.

Even better, the dull boy protagonist ended up not being the protagonist at all, but the unwitting enemy (if Nana is to be believed); the clue was right in the title: it’s Talentless Nana, not Nanao, after all. Nana’s early performance manipulated me just as masterfully as she manipulated her quarry, along with the rest of the class (except for Onodera, who is clearly suspicious about something).

Is he Nana’s ally, enemy, or a little of both? That’s just one of dozens of questions floating around in my thoroughly, beautifully blown mind. Unlike Higarashi and its gory cold open, Talentless Nana held its sinister cards close until the very end, and both methods worked. Here’s hoping it has more fun surprising twists in store.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. After remembering we first saw the phone instructing someone to “kill the Enemies of Humanity” and “save 10 million lives”, I believe both Nana and Kyouya are engaged in a competition to see who can save those lives fastest. Which means so far Nana has the early lead.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 03 – The Ghost Behind the Mirror

When Moriarty’s 16th birthday party is interrupted by the arrival of one Tanaka Pu, on the run from the police, Mrs. Hudson (a weird but clever adaptation of the original landlady character) hears him out.

When Lestrade arrives to arrest him for murdering his Uncle Cosmos, Hudson intervenes by bribing Lestrade and giving the assembled detectives a job: prove Pu’s innocence.

Sherlock and Watson visit Pu’s house and interview his mother, but Holmes is really there to get the measure of who Pu and his family are by studying their living space. Kyougoku Fuyuto is also on the case, mostly because he’s a huge fan of Pu’s uncle’s “legendary rocker” friend B-zou, who says every eighth word or so in English.

It’s nice to see another side of the usually very uptight Fuyuto, but when he insists Pu is indeed the murderer based on the preponderance of evidence, Sherlock voices his disagreement, and delivers an alternative possibility based on the information he’s gathered.

In his now-trademark rakugo style, Sherlock deduces that Uncle Cosmos isn’t dead at all, but faked his death as a murder committed by his nephew. The charred remains weren’t him, but his brother, Pu’s father. In fact, this whole time Cosmos has been hiding inside a mirror mounted above the bed in his penthouse.

It’s another fun and zany enough case, though somewhat predictable; I was pretty certain the murderer was either B-zou or a faked death situation, and I’m usually terrible at such predictions. Watson’s cold-open narration of the events that led to him seeking out Sherlock felt tacked-on and somewhat clumsy.

Now that they’re officially roommates, perhaps he’ll soon get a chance to bring up his case.  As for Moriarty’s pressed clovers and the giant moth he kills…I got nothing, though someone on a forum suggested they represent Jack the Ripper’s victims. All I know is, classic Moriarty (AKA Ratigan) is Holmes’ arch-nemesis.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 02 – A Star Isn’t Born

Another day, another case for Detective Row, a loose collective of private dicks like Sherlock who compete for jobs. Sherlock doesn’t let the fractured leg he suffered when Watson hit him with a car slow him down—though he does exploit Watson’s guilt (and need for his services, though the exact nature of his personal case is still not known) by essentially making him his servant.

This time it’s not murder-most-foul, but a case of a florist named Fujiko who fell victim to an apparent scam. She was convinced she was scouted by an idol agency for her distinctive symmetrical beauty marks, but after a week of strenuous training, the agent vanished without a trace on the day of her big audition.

Upon taking the case, Sherlock puts Watson to work cleaning his house, then puts on a disguise (that doesn’t fool any of his fellow detectives) and heads to the florist’s to meet Saori the part-timer who was watching the store while she was practicing for the idol audition.

There is loud music playing when he comes in, which he abruptly cuts off, after which there are strange banging noises. Saori comes out from the back room, her skirt covered in a strange powder. Sherlock later declares he’s found the culprit, but is furious when he learns one of his rivals, Mary Morstan, also knows…thanks to Watson.

Being from the West Side of Shinjuku, Watson is an easy mark, as evidenced when his wallet was stolen last week. But when he chats with the pretty Mary, she puts a bug in his clothes. That’s how she learns what Sherlock learns…and Sherlock tosses Watson out, warning him never to return.

Watson is almost victimized once again by a gang of little kids who know how to turn on the charm (and turn it right back off at the drop of a hat). He’s saved by the same high school-age lad who recovered his wallet, and a frequent visitor of Sherlock’s.

As for Sherlock, he manages to catch Saori and her accomplice, and when they ask how he knew, he has another one of his wonderful impromptu rakugo sessions, explaining how when Fujiko was off practicing for a non-existent audition, Saori hacked away at the wall between the florist…and the vault of pawn shop containing gold bars.

Sherlock didn’t account for a third thief in The Cobra showing up, but he’s bailed out thanks to the high school lad—whose name we later learn is none other than James Moriarty—telling Watson where Sherlock was. The bank rewards Sherlock a cool 20 million, on top of the million he got for uncovering Fujiko’s scammers. I’d say Watson earned a cut of that this week!

Kabukichou Sherlock – 01 (First Impressions) – Catching Cases in the Sleepless Town

What was originally a swamp grew into a thicket of neon lights, bars, clubs, hotels, and nightclubs, and in the middle of all this churning, chaotic humanity resides a detective agency.

Moving Sherlock Holmes‘ digs from London to Tokyo’s entertainment and red-light district is an inspired move, and having him one of a group of detectives competing to see who will catch Jack the Ripper first makes for an effective combination.

While I know who Sherlock is (as most people do), I have seen more adaptations of his work than read the actual Doyle books, from The Great Mouse Detective and Wishbone to the meh Robert Downey Jr. mini-franchise and the better BBC series starting Benedict Cumberbatch.

It’s nice to see a fairly radically different Holmes here. He’s still a brilliant eccentric with antisocial tendencies here, but the difference in the nice little details. For once, the fact characters have famous names doesn’t really detract from my absorption into the show.

Among the more surprising and amusing differences is Sherlock’s performative breakdown of a murder case that turns out not to involve Jack the Ripper, which takes the form of an impromptu rakugo show with an audience of only two: Dr. Watson (just arrived and already contributing with his medical knowledge) and a young lad whose name I didn’t get.

The fact that it’s not particularly good rakugo is immaterial; the content of the conclusions is what matters.

Sherlock lives in a characteristically messy flat above a drag bar, consumes baffling combinations of food and drinks (how about some fried rice with canned pears, or a glass of alcohol with chili oil?) and has at least two or three people in his head talking things through with him.

It’s fascinating to watch Watson first figure out which detective actually is Holmes, then see the droll, taciturn detective grow more and more lively as he draws closer to solving the case. He’s equally reckless in confronting the killer, yet it’s Watson, not the culprit, who hits him with his own car (thankfully a tiny Fiat).

There will be twenty-four episodes of Kabukichou Sherlock, and however the various cases they encounter are organized within those episodes, I’m confident in its ability to tell a compelling tale in each one of them, building towards something bigger (and yes, the inevitable clash with Moriarty).

Holmes of Kyoto – 01 (First Impressions) – The Game’s Afoot

After Mashiro Aoi broke up with her boyfriend in Saitama, he immediately started dating someone I presume to be her best friend. Betrayed, angry, and generally very down in the dumps, Aoi wants to book a train there to give them a piece of her mind. In other words, while she may be justified in seeking vengeance, there are better ways she could be directing her energy.

Aoi also doesn’t have the money for the train, so she snatches some valuable drawings from her late grandfather’s house and visits an antique shop in Kyoto’s Teramachi Sanjou district to have them appraised. There, she meets the young Yagashira Kiyotaka, AKA Holmes, who is as exceedingly apt at appraising people and intent as he is appraising antiquities.

The story of her fateful first day at the shop is framed as a reminiscence between Aoi and Holmes two weeks after he hires her as a part-time assistant, in order to pay for her ticket—if she still feels the need to go to Saitama once she’s made enough.

Holmes can’t buy antiques from those under 20, but even if she was old enough, he uses the particular pieces she chose to try to sell to basically teach her a lesson about turning the other cheek. Even the famous artist Hakuin couldn’t escape scandal, even if he was the victim of a false accusation.

At the end of the day the infant he was left with made a strong impression on the artist, and the love he had for said infant is captured in the drawing. Because Aoi has a good head on her shoulders, she realizes the error of her ways and is ashamed—unlike one of the counterfeit sellers who visits the shop.

Aoi doesn’t turn down his offer of a part-time job, especially if it means working with such a bright, charming, attractive fellow. She may have entered the shop with her head hanging low, but she leaves feeling lighter than air, twirling past the same riverbank of couples she cursed earlier.

Holmes of Kyoto, as Aoi’s voiceover puts it, is a “quiet and beautiful story of the cases we solved in Kyoto,” which is an apt description. I’m liking the simplicity and focus of just two people in the small, simple yet potential-filled setting of a shop, and Aoi’s seiyu Tomita Miyu (Riko from Abyss) is always a welcome inclusion to any cast. In all, a strong start. I want to see more cases!

Classroom of the Elite – 09

“This test is sounding much more complicated and difficult than I thought it would be.” You and me both, Horikita! The details of weeklong survival trip that pits the four classes against each other is indeed are many and complicated; one might even say convoluted, to the point of ungainliness.

Much of this episode simply sets up all of the various rules and ways of spending, scoring, or being deducted points, but it’s a lot to keep track of, and the episode itself doesn’t do the best job of organizing everything in any kind of order. Instead, it lays out some rules, the students mill around in the woods, and then they lay out some more.

There’s also the fact that Class D is made up of twenty students, and yet we don’t really learn or get any kind of impression from any but the ones we already know: Horikita and Ayanokouji, the three bad apples, Hirata and Karuizawa, etc. The rest are kinda just there.

I appreciate the fact that everyone in the class can agree to appoint Horikita as their Leader (a position with both advantages and potential pitfalls requiring both responsibility and discretion).

What I did not appreciate were the incessant sexist allusions to girls being weaker, more delicate, and somehow not as cut out for roughing it as the boys. Out of twenty students, you’d think one or two of the girls would be outdoorsy types like Ike.

On that same subject, what the hell is the deal with the toilet situation? Have these kids not heard of these things called holes that you can dig in the ground to do your business? I realize a lot of these kids are rich and sheltered, but still…

Somehow, some way, the girls manage to survive the first day (/s), and Hirata manages to work out a reasonable number of points the class can walk away happy with: a floor of 120 out of the 300 they start with. As for the ceiling, well, it all depends on how many leaders they can identify, how may “spots” the possess for how long, and how much food and water they can take from nature without spending points on rations.

They also have to be careful not to lose too many points to deductions, and in this, right off the bat they stand to lose 30 points when Kouenji, after doing his Tarzan thing all over the island, craps out on the rest of the class by returning to the boat. I’ve no idea if he’s just out of the game or has some other plan (probably the former), because all he does is strut around saying “beautiful.”

At least with the majority of the test’s rules out of the way, we’ll see more execution next week. But seriously, CotE: dial back the male chauvinism a bit, if you would. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.