It has been 50 years since the passing of Japanese literary icon Edogawa Ranpo. To commemorate the time since his passing an anime series has been commissioned based upon his work. That anime series is Ranpo Kitan: The Game of Laplace and it is every bit as genius, forward thinking and utterly captivating as Ranpo’s original work. The game starts now!
For these first thoughts I decided it was more appropriate to wait for both the first and second episode to air before I expressed my opinion on this series as the first two episodes cover one shared mystery; The Human Chair.
Right from the get go we are introduced to the droll gray scale world of Kobayashi, a young boy who easily passes as a beautiful young girl in the eyes of many. While Kobayashi views the world in shades of gray, with the people around him appearing ingeniously as silhouettes until they pique his interest, he is stricken with a strong urge to fulfill an inexplicable emptiness inside of him. The world around him seems so boring bar a few people he holds dear to him. It isn’t until he wakes up one day at the crime scene of his murdered teacher with the murder weapon in hand does his world begin to gain colour.
The show goes to great lengths to throw red herrings at the viewer leaving them constantly in a state of flux as to whether Kobayashi is indeed the killer or not. The crime committed is almost artistic in an aesthetic violence kind of way. The teacher is mutilated, cut up and rearranged in the shape of a ‘human chair’. It is a twisted case to say the least but for the viewer and Kobayashi is is a juicy mystery to unravel.
Along the way we are introduced to countless characters and I must say the way the show introduces them really does come off as a very interesting stylistic choice. As I previously mentioned just about every background character is portrayed as a silhouette when we are in the perspective of Kobayashi, it gives the sense of the detective mind that he inherently has. People only come into view once Kobayashi decides to pay them some attention. Rather interesting is when the show jumps away from Kobayashi to another character such as Hashiba, everyone appears in full colour to portray the difference of world views between the characters. It is simply fascinating and makes for a visually engaging viewing experience.
Some interesting elements of these first two episodes come in the shape of a budding romance between Kobayashi and Hashiba. I found it very interesting that Edogawa Ranpo the original author of these stories was so forward thinking as to write a same-sex romance in the early 20th century. I wonder how this sub-plot was received in that time and how much it is amplified in this series. Regardless of that I can’t help but root for these two as Hashiba was the only person who didn’t appear initially as a silhouette in the eyes of Kobayashi. I’d really like to see this subplot progress further as the show goes on but I don’t want to see it take precedence over the mystery aspect that is the major hook of the show. That said, great job on such a forward thinking plot line Edogawa Ranpo.
There is a lot to dissect from these first two episodes but I won’t go as far as to spoil the big twist ending. The cast here is very interesting and the show is so stylistically inventive that I felt a repeat viewing for both episodes necessary to fully take in everything unfolding in front of my eyes.
Without spoiling too much, Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is utterly unique and its take on the mystery genre is unlike anything else in anime. It may very well feature the first ever comedic autopsy in the history of television and the way in which the characters deal with such extreme horrors is deadpan. The twisting turns the story takes are all completely out of left field yet somehow feel genuine and logical. The underlying eroticism conflicts harshly with the aesthetic violence and will likely leave viewers wondering what exactly it was that they just watched, but the answer really hits home that it is wildly creative and overwhelmingly thought provoking. Can murderous intent blossom out of intense love? It is questions like this that make Ranpo Kitan deliciously exciting.
I’d be remiss to not make mention of Kogoro Akechi, the legendary Sherlock Holmes-style detective. Akechi is a teenage genius working for the government to solve difficult crimes such as this. Akechi views solving crimes as a game, he abuses pain killers and is addicted to canned coffee. Ranpo Kitan plays him as a challenger to Kobayashi, a spin on the works of Edogawa Ranpo that reverses roles. In this story we see the world from Kobayashi’s eyes rather than Akechi and it makes for an interesting conflict to see these detective minds duel over solving this mystery.
So what is the real hook of Ranpo Kitan? Well it’s simple really: Ranpo Kitan is the first of its kind, an anime unlike anything before it, a completely unique experience that no one has dared to make until now. It is wildly innovative, emotionally captivating, visually fascinating and thoughtful to boot. This is the kind of anime that makes me proud to be an anime fan, Ranpo Kitan is a daring adventure into the heart of mystery that lies within the soul of every living being in this world. I am glad that anime like this can still be made. This is a challenging anime series that breaks all convention and bravely heads out into territory that few anime ever dare to. Whether it gets the recognition it deserves or not, Ranpo Kitan is defiantly counteractive to modern anime. This one isn’t made to make money, this is made because these people felt these stories had to be told.
You can check out the fantastic Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace over at AnimeLab.