I guess I’m doing these after all. For consistencies’ and lazinesses’ sake, I’ll probably keep myself to doing these posts in bunches.
This was not a particularly good year for the mystery genre in anime, but at the very least I learned a fair bit from what I’d like to see from whodunnits/crime procedurals in anime going forward
The 1st and most certainly the least of the bunch is Ranpo Kitan aka “The Adventures of boipusseh, glasses boy and 2cool4u McEdge”. On top of being the weakest amongst the 4 titles brought up in this post, this one definitely qualifies the least as a mystery title as it is less about mysteries than it is about showing ridiculous psychopaths and the grotesque lengths they go to for the sake of murder. From there it simply resorts to having one of the protagonists act as some kind of crime-solving magician and simply tell us the answer minutes after learning the details. It simply jumps from the set-up to the conclusion with hardly any time to consider the possibilities given to us, the audience. You could say that half-hour episodic stuff simply doesn’t have the time to fit in proper investigations, but come on, that’s the sort of stuff that titles like Detective Conan, or heck even Scooby Doo do reasonably well on a regular basis. The final arc only made everything worse with it’s attempted jump from “crime procedural” to “crime thriller”, but the less said about all that “chaos theory” bullshit the better.
Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation might be an improvement over something like Ranpo Kitan, but it still retains that show’s crappy “mundane, reactionary kid and sociopathic Mary Sue detective” set-up. It attempts to mix the macabre with the mundane by varying between murder mysteries and stuff like “finding out grandma’s dying wishes”. The more serious cases lack in Ranpo Kitan’s edge, but there’s plenty of plot convenience to make up for that. Sakurako herself, whilst the least boring character, is also the biggest problem with the show. As an osteologist, am I supposed to buy that any police officer on the scene of a murder would take her unqualified opinion seriously? As if that wasn’t enough she’s able to pull random knowledge that has nothing to do with her field out of nowhere. One minute she’s an expert on knot-tying, the next, a 19th century paint aficionado. Not fixing anything is her useless sidekick Shoutarou who mirrors glasses boy from Ranpo Kitan in how his only reason to exist is to float around their Mary Sue and act as a straight man by trying to reign their conduct into societal norms (and occasionally blush when they see them in a “compromising” position). When the show wants to turn u[ the drama, it becomes even harder to sit through as well, such as the scene in which Shoutarou gets mad at Sakurako for not having the “proper” emotional reaction to a long dead cat. The worst I really have to say about Beautiful Bones, however, is that I have no reason to remember it after the season ends. It’s not utterly terrible like Ranpo Kitan and was never showed enough promise to be a disappointment like the next two titles.
If not for the existence of Gakkou Gurashi!, Rokka no Yuusha would be the biggest “bait-and-switch” of the year, and I mean that in a good way. As far as action goes, the show came out of the gate with an impressive first episode, but even though the choreography was nice, the animation itself was a bit too choppy to keep up, with the awful CGI monstrosities bringing the experience down with each appearance. That said I didn’t mind much when the show shifted gears from an action adventure to a”who’s the mole?” set-up. My beef with this show as a mystery comes mainly from how all the answers can only be solved with a few clues buried all the way back in previous episodes. This means that the entirety of the middle episodes were just spent on characters going in circles with red herring accusations and a token “I hate you, but I love you” romance with corny dialogue. The mystery may have played fair the whole way through, and the resolution was reasonable, but the actual ending is another story. The last few minutes of episode 12 were a real slap in dick since they essentially set the story back to square one in order to bait for a sequel I’m not particularly interested in (did anyone really care about the quest to kill the Demon God in the 1st place?).
And then there is Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider. A series that put too much stock is placed on making sure “it all makes sense” as opposed to giving the audience to giving the audience any real reason to care about what happened. None of the characters on the island have any tangible reason to care about what Shiki did asides from the case merely being a puzzle to solve for Saikawa and Moe. There’s also no reason to care about whether or not Magata gets away since all of her victims only died because they were psychos that all wanted to die to begin with. At least in the aforementioned shows, the characters had enough at stake to get involved in the mysteries that stemmed beyond mere curiosity. The overindulgence in all different kinds of exposition made this a real hard sell for me, whether it be the characters overexplain things, recapping stuff we already knew or having them talk about nothing of interest. I think my biggest beef with the show as a mystery is precisely how unrelatable and difficult to follow (without a bunch of philosophical dialogues) someone like Magata is. It’s the reason why I’m not a fan of having “completely insane” people within these types of stories since you can use that as justification for everything. It would be nice if her nihilism was based on something that’s actually relatable so I could buy into the character. On top of that, some of the details that went into the mystery as a whole were kind of dumb, so I can’t even use “at least it makes sense” to defend it. I could prod further with this, but that wouldn’t be addressing the real problem this show has with engaging the audience. You can craft a nice a puzzle all you want The Perfect Insider, but as long as I don’t have reason to care about solving said puzzle any more than I would for solving a Rubix cube than I reserve the right to remain disappointed.
Hopefully, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (which apparently will qualify as a “mystery” anime) will show 2015’s offerings the fuck up.