Trickster – 04

trick42

Just when Twenty Faces surfaces with a new intricate plot into which to lure Akechi and the Boy Detective’s Club, Hanasaki is stuck at school, attending his compulsory school day a month. That hardly sounds like enough to make a difference, but Akechi insists, keeping Hanasaki out of this week’s action.

trick41

As for Twenty Faces’ plot, well…it leaves a bit to be desired. The most impressive feat he accomplishes is when recorded video of him correctly predicts Akechi’s responses, making for an unexpected bit of dialogue between the two that initially sours Akechi’s interest in taking on the case, which involves a police officer Twenty captured. He changes his mind when Kobayashi exhibits some fire, then pairs him up with Inoue Ryou.

The clashing personalities make for a promising dynamic, but all they really do is trudge through some dark hallways, try to hide using the lamest tactic imaginable (a stealth umbrella, not bothering to move to the edge of the room), and get trapped in a chamber, the doors to which Kobayashi can’t bust through even as it starts to fill with water.

trick43

Throughout the episode we get flashbacks of Ryou and the mission that led to his paralysis and his partner, classmate and tennis star Katsuda, to quit the club. But this backstory seems shoehorned in and doesn’t really gel with the present events in any meaningful way, other than for Katsuda to warn Hanasaki “always listen to Akechi.”

All that aside, I can hardly feel apprehensive about Kobayashi being trapped in a chamber filling with water when it’s already been established he can’t die. That, and backup will probably be on the way before they have to worry about Ryou drowning.

In previous episodes I could at least look forward to a case beginning and then ending within the space of twenty-odd minutes, but the cliffhanger tries my already thin patience. I’ll see how things are resolved, I guess, but after that…likely Dropsville.

16rating_6

UPDATE (27 OCT): After further deliberation, I’ve decided to summarily drop Trickster, effective immediately. To fill the gap it leaves, I’ll be taking over reviews of Fune wo Amu from Zane.

Advertisements

Trickster – 03

trick31

Trickster continues its somewhat unambitious competence with another case-of-the-week, and I’ll admit I had to really fight not to immediately dismiss this week’s client—an elderly woman whose son is missing—as the culprit once more.

The search for the old NEET becomes Kobayashi’s official trial run: Inoue thinks it’s too dangerous to keep the kid around, but Akechi is willing to give him a shot. I would mention, however, that this is the third straight week Kobayashi threatens to run off and tells Hanasaki to leave him alone. Dude, do you want to die or not? Continued instances of this behavior will be annoying.

trick32

Hanasaki sees value in the kid, and actually wants to convince him to drop his death wish. That value is clear when the two infiltrate the creepy cult / corporation that essentially stuffs old people into pens, and when the time is right, harvests their organs, then tosses their bloody organless bodies on the floor to be disposed of by a central “body blender”…all in the middle of a room with windows for all to see.

This company of organ smugglers couldn’t be more idiotic, but in the universe of this show, apparently the city is full of murderous assholes wanting to make a buck. The former police medical examiner seems to be the ringleader, and talks a very thin argument about saving lives, but let’s get real here: dude wants to get paid.

trick33

The security guards of the facility are also armed, which I didn’t know was legal in Japan. Then again, these guys are making ElderSmoothies so it stands to reason they’d flout gun laws. Hanasaki survives their assault thanks to Kobayashi’s impenetrable shield, and thanks to Noro’s technical expertise, the good guys have the bad guys on tape doing fucked-up shit and the police arrive to arrest ’em. They also found the guy whose mother hired them to find, so Case Closed.

What a dumb case! But you know what? It was still fun, if not particularly intellectually stimulating. Hanasaki’s got an endearingly casual attitude towards everything, and Kobayashi may be whiny, but he’s got a good heart. Also, Gackt Twenty Faces seems poised to show up next week to challenge Akechi and his agency once more. Presumably he’s less idiotic than the last two baddies.

16rating_7

Trickster – 02

trick21
Yup, she’s the culprit

It happens so often, especially in old detective stories: a beautiful, seemingly pure and innocent “Dame” walks into the private eye’s office, claiming they’re the victim of some heinous crime…only to end up being the femme fatale using the P.I. to frame someone else for crimes she’s committed.

That’s the case here (literally), and despite the dame’s attempts to misdirect (not reporting a crime, only suspecting her boyfriend of possibly being up to something illegal), the episode couldn’t keep up the charade for long.

Indeed, when she reached for her bottle of mineral water rather than touch the coffee, I knew she was up to something. It was pretty darned obvious.

trick22
“Get down!”

Before I pat myself on the back for correctly suspecting the woman, I’d just note that the episode put that clue there for a reason, which is to get us questioning her motives. Her obsession with the pure and organic is revealed to extend to a hatred of anything non-organic, and she targets the genetic scientist whose activities go against her ideology.

So even though the big “twist”, when it comes, comes far too late, I still enjoyed the journey to get there, which included some key assists from Kobayasahi, who is convinced this week that if he wants to die, he should stick with the kid in yellow.

trick23
“I’ve always wanted…sniff…to attend a catered affair.”

Kobayashi’s ravenous hunger (and the unsettling threat of “food being stuffed down his throat” if he tried to starve himself) lead to him tasting poison soup meant for the scientists.

It was poisoned not by the client’s boyfriend, but by the client herself, without the boyfriend’s knowledge. Hanasaki, not the worst judge of character, initially determined the guy’s face was too “pure” to be capable of those letters. And he was right.

trick24
Personal space!

When the time comes to stop the scientist from drinking the poison water the client personally serves to him (indicating she didn’t care what happened to her as long as he died), the door is barred, but Kobayashi uses his power to break it down so Hanasaki can save the scientist and nab the perp.

Thus the case-of-the-week is wrapped up with an almost too-neat little bow. Ultimately, this case wasn’t that important, or high-stakes, and the criminal this week, unlike Twenty Faces, was extremely dumb for not cutting her losses and staying far away from her failed, overly convoluted plot.

But the case didn’t matter so much as how it affected the characters. When he places his hand on the stage where the scientist had thrown a glass, a shard of it sticks in Kobayashi’s hand, and he bleeds. That’s the second time that’s happened hanging out with Hanasaki, so his best chance yet to get what he wants (death) is to join the club.

Hansaki, on the other hand, is starting a race with himself: will he find a way to kill Kobayashi first, or find a way to get him to not want to die instead? It’s an intriguing challenge; I look forward not just to the results, but the events and means by which they were achieved. But yeah, there was definitely an old-fashioned flavor to this story.

16ratings_6a

Trickster – 01 (First Impressions)

trick11
Ahh, if only real city skies were like anime city skies

What is it: Trickster, based on the stories of Edogawa Ranpo, focuses on the “Boy’s Detective Club” as they pursue the famous master thief Twenty Faces (Gackt) and attempt to learn what he’s plotting. One member, Hanasaki Kensuke, meets Kobayashi Yoshio, a barefoot, suicidal boy with an invisible bubble around him that makes him invincible.

After Kobayashi comes to rescue him at a fire at a heavy industries facility, Hanasaki offers him a job at the detective club. In the incident, Kobayashi recieves a cut on his hand that starts to tingle.

Why You Should Watch: The Ranpo pedigree aside, this was a well-paced, well-plotted, and well-directed lark, which starts out super-dark (due to the initial Kobayashi POV) but is brightened by Akechi’s cavalier attitude and Hanasaki’s infectious optimism. The agency, its members, and its activities (another stalemate with Twenty Faces) are efficiently laid out while the story of the invincible kid takes the spotlight.

 

trick12
ENHANCE

Rather than come off as annoying or arrogant, Hanasaki just seems like a decent kid who is always trying to see the best in people and situations, even when they can’t see it themselves. His crossing paths with a boy in Kobayashi who definitely sees his “ability” as nothing but a cruel curse seems to instill new purpose in the kid’s life…even if he promises to grant his wish by killing him someday.

To be specific about the animation, Trickster is definitely on a lower frame rate than ‘good’ anime. However, the gestures and the quality of the character designs (being stylish and specific but not over designed, which would break up gestures) make it a gem to watch  hear, with awesome music, including an OP sung by Gackt.

trick14
Obligatory Quirky Hacker Girl

Why You Shouldn’t Watch: Twenty Faces’ part of the story feels more like a B-plot here; little more than a taste of what’s to come and a vehicle introduce how the detective agency operates and who they’re after.

The other characters perform their roles competently but no one other than Hanasaki really stands out yet. With 24 episodes ordered, if you’re in this, you’re in it for the long haul. That’s about all I can think of in Devil’s Advocate mode.

trick13
—”Nice Bruce Lee jumpsuit.” —”Nice…whatever the heck you’re wearin’ over there.”

MagicalChurlSukui’s Verdict: Trickster is off to a slick, stylish, understated start, and I’m fully on board after just one episode. It can spin a good yarn, and there’s certainly a lot more where that came from.

Oigakkosan’s Verdict: its very easy for me to draw comparisons with Ronpo’s Bungou Stray Dogs, which feels very similar. However, Stray Dogs ultimately (and quickly) fell apart because it was ‘too quirky for it’s own good.’ I do not think that will be the case here. The mood is just more serious – Not brooding or drama-grim – TAKEN more seriously.

Thumbs up!

16rating_8

 

Sket Dance – 71

The first part is a satirical retelling of the Japanese folktale Saru Kani Gassen (The Quarrel of the Monkey and the Crab), with Himeko as the crab’s offspring, Bossun as the cow pie, and Switch as the Monkey. In the second part, Date has transformed into an Modern Enka singer, and his friend and bandmate Rodan insists they help change him back. The Sket-dan converts to the visual-kei asthetic, but it has no effect. Eventually, Bossun determines Date fell victim to sleep learning after falling asleep in front of the TV.

We keep watching Sket Dance because we never know what it’s going to throw at us next, and for mind-bending episodes like this, which exhibit the intense variegation of Japanese culture and society. Japanese folklore is not our strong suit, and there are certainly some who would consider this parody in poor taste, but we found it both educational and hilarious. Whether it’s Date still trying to make cool gestures as an usu, or Bossun’s turn as a literal piece of shit with no confidence (but all the good ideas), it was well-executed, self-contained little story.

We thought it would continue into the next half, but instead we’re treated to even more ridiculousness in the form of a visual-kei dilemma. The show is essentially turned over to Gackt, who puts on a clinic as a suddenly-transformed Date who has gone all the way to the other side of the musical and stylistic spectrum, all thanks to sleep learning. He can sing Enka with the best of them (like we’d actually know…), and is certainly better at belting out sentimental ballads than the Sket-dan are at coming up with cool interpretive phrases. However, perhaps the most bafflingly bizarre and uproarious moment was the Shiki-like visualization of Bossun’s creepy little poem about black roses and a “dilapidated princess”. How the hell do they come up with this stuff?


Rating: 8 (Great)

Sket Dance – 29

In the first half, the Sket-dan assists Dante in the case of a stolen love spell. It turns out, it was mistakenly stolen by his crush, who thought it belonged to her crush. In the second half, Bossun is defeated by a ramen-eating challenge, but when Chiaki stops by the clubroom, they learn she is a champion eater due to her athletic activities. Using teen drama terms, Bossun motivates her to finish the last morsel of ramen – a boiled egg, which she hates. She wins the challenge but has to puke in the end.

As we continue with Sket Dance, it occurs to us that a show like this is not for everyone. It was an acquired taste for us (though we have definitely acquired it), but some might be turned off by the references, frequent breaking of the fourth wall, and everybody typically yelling at the top of their lungs. But all of that appeals to is. This season needs a lark – a frolic – something that’s all ludicrous comedy with no baggage. Although it’s proven it can do serious drama too, Sket Dance’s greatest strength is making us laugh out loud with consistency, through its rapid-fire pace and incredible energy.

This week marked a return to the two-stories-in-one format, and both stories were equally engaging and hilarious. Dante (Gackt) is always good for laughs, especially the way he irritates Bossun and Himeko while Switch calmly translates his sparse, cryptic words. We also love how everything was building up for two lovebirds to unite in harmony, but it turned out to be a misunderstanding. The second story, all about Captain’s amazing eating skills, simpler but no less funny, particularly how the melodramatic buildup almost reaches critical mass. Most admirably, the episode dusted off several characters who’d been on the shelf for some time and breathed new life into them. Well done all round.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance – 28

With Switch’s asistance, Yagi launches a live intra-school lunchtime TV show. She chooses Machiru as her first guest, to do a cooking program. Feeling slighted, Agata and Daisey take exception to his choosing Tabuki and Minorin for his assistants, but when they draw lots and take their place, they’re unmotivated and depressed. The cooking program becomes a farce when the asistants misbehave and Agata gets Machiru drunk on sake vapor.

The TV-show-within-a-TV-show format was a great vehicle for lots of Student Council hijinks, of which we’ve seen too little, from the look of it. Agata, Machiru and Daisey are a decent comedic team with their excellent chemstry and individual idiosyncracies. As one of the most popular students in school, Machiru makes a great first guest, but his attempt to do a serious cooking show is utterly ruined by the horseplay of his assistants.

Fortunately for us, the resulting farce is far more entertaining than if the show had gone off without a hitch. Hitches always lead to more entertainment on this show. As for the Sket-dan, they’re relegated to tamborine duty for Yabasawa’s solo, and once again Bossun looks like a loser in the eyes of his mother and sister. This show is great at abusing its “main character”, keeping him honest by piling on the misfortune and often leaving him out of the spotlight entirely. Next week: more Gackt.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance – 27

A new character arrives in the person of Remi Misora, a new teacher and former kid’s tv show host who calls herself “Onee-san”. At times she proves to be an extraordinarily careless klutz, leading the Sket-dan to seek out Chuu-san for a cure. However, while all of his potions change her personality, the underlying carelessness remains, after which he tells her to leave it be, as it’s whats makes her her. The second act deals with a found box of Switch’s random inventions, many terrifying, which end up saving the day and proving to Onee-san that the Sket-dan is capable of greatness.

Sket Dance turns in another solid, often hilarious outing, with a new opening by Gackt that’s much better than the last one, a new ending with nudity and chocolate, and in between, a new teacher who’s main strength is her passion. Indeed, she lends a great deal of energy to the show, and serves as an honorary fourth member of the Sket-dan all this week. We aren’t sure who voiced her (yet), but she does an excellent job both bringing the bright, bubbly Onee-san to life, and showing a wide range of personalities as she downs Chuu’s various potions (served in Sake bottles, making for two excellent bumper cards.)

With her character established, she takes a half-step back out of the spotlight, as this is primarily about Switch’s really wacked-out inventions, including a disembodied anime head that blows on hot ramen, a hyperrealistic baboon-head knapsack, hover shoes, a shoulder-dislocating cheer bazooka and neck-snapping homing goggles. Onee-san is quietly evaluating the Sket-dan with regards to their reputation as The Club that Helps, and it looks pretty bad, when all of a sudden all that random crap is put to practical use rescuing a kindergartener falling out the window. Ridiculous? Yes…but in the best way.


Rating: 3.5