Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace – Anime Review
Synopsis: Inspired by the works of author Edogawa Rampo: When several murders at a middle school attract the attention of genius detective, Akechi, a student named Kobayashi volunteers to help with his investigation. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Rampo Kitan was easily the most experimental show of 2015, offering up a more artistic, abstract visual take on the Edogawa Rampo story it’s attempting to tell.When depicting a crime scene, with detectives discussing what possibly lead to the victims death, we don’t receive flashbacks, or watch talking heads, instead we watch as wooden dummies perform the events as described. Or maybe we get spotlighted stage like visuals of the deceased character talking about their life, or perhaps a cheeky, lively, and all together annoying medical examiner to dismember a representation of the body before our eyes while giving us a quick rundown on how this brutal act would’ve killed the poor victim. Rampo Kitan is, if nothing else, all together odd. There’s something refreshing about that, watching an anime that embraces the power of the medium and delves into absurdity that few other mediums can easily allow for. Unfortunately, beyond that and its stellar Opening and Ending songs, Rampo Kitan has little else that satisfies.
Linny: The music of Rampo Kitan does a magnificent job in regards to building an eerie atmosphere. It gives the show a uniquely sinister and ethereal feel. Rampo starts off grotesque and mystifying, something that is sure to hook viewers who enjoy bizarre murder mysteries. Furthermore, the show explores themes of evil and corruption within society in a manner similar to classics such as Death Note, which makes the viewer question what true justice and morality really is. The show also has plenty of tragic characters and story lines to evoke strong reactions and attachments, giving the viewers more incentive to keep watching.
Tom: The trouble is Rampo Kitan doesn’t do any of what Linny listed all that well. The narrative itself crumbles halfway through the series, unable to keep itself focused on critiquing the flaws of society, or develop any of its tragic characters in a satisfying manner. Many of the crimes committed have little to do with the critique thrown at modern day Japan, and what critique there is becomes relegated to brief media segments scattered through later episodes with only the most vague of ties to the on-goings of the story. This is only compounded as Rampo begins to drag. One particular crime acts a perfect example of the painfully inept pacing, as the story is stretched out over two entire episodes. Episode one of this two-parter acts as an elongated explanation/summation of the crime, only for the second episode to reveal the perpetrator within the first five minutes and uses the rest of the twenty-two minute episode to explain, in exceedingly unnecessary detail, why they committed the crime in the first place.It’s sloppy, painful, and a waste of the viewers time, no matter how artsy and unique the visuals may be.
Linny: The show does unfortunately fall apart rather quickly. Its stunted pace makes Rampo feel repetitive and lazy, which is particularly annoying considering the show’s attempt to appear hyper intelligent and deep. It bombards the viewer with concepts and plot lines involving intellectual plot devices like a math equation/formula that apparently is capable of even predicting the exact minute when the phone will ring. However, we are never offered any proper explanation as to how it all works, especially from a layman’s perspective. You are often left feeling out of the loop or as if you’re being served pure hogwash under the pretense of being “high concept.”
Tom: The formula mentioned above isn’t helped at all by its exceedingly late introduction, with no significant mention anywhere prior to episode eight. Thus, with so few episodes till the conclusion, the explanation is short, unhelpful, and completely lacking in detail to give even the vaguest hints of plausibility to such an outlandish concept. That late introduction also serves as the same platform for introducing Rampo’s ultimate villain. His presence only further drags the quality down as his entire background is nothing but one cliche after another. But that isn’t new for Rampo, as a major surprise twist in episode five also produces an unending cycle of cliches. At this point I’d argue that Rampo is at its best within its first four episodes, before the cliches and pacing cause what potential the series did have to come crashing down.
Linny: For all of its ambitions, the show does end up with a boatload of cliches. This may not be a huge downer for others, but some audiences will definitely be discouraged by Rampo’s decision to have your introductory character, Kobayashi, be the generic emotionless, intelligent, weirdo loner..and hey, here’s the other main character, Akechi, and guess what? He’s super intelligent, emotionless, and a loner weirdo. (See, they’re not the same, I switched the order of the words around *sarcasm*). The show also drops the ball when it comes to covering its bases and repeatedly contradicts itself. And while I did mention the presence of emotionally effective characters, almost every other character in the show suffers from some flaw or the other. A lot of the villains are greatly exaggerated for gore/creep value to the point of it being comedic and awkward. And the show seems to have no idea on how to handle female characters or simply has a vendetta against women. Almost every single lead female character was either a freak, a weirdo or a sacrifice and it felt annoying to have any female that came on screen end up either sounding like a psychotic moaning slut, or a complete basket case… or die within minutes.
Tom: Some of the more outrageous elements, such as the absurd and insane medical examiner, are tied into the story within the last few episodes. The execution is lazy and doesn’t address her more annoying qualities. Indeed the final episodes shatter what little Rampo Kitan had going for it. Within its final episode Rampo completely breaks its own rules concerning the “Formula” that’s able to predict anything and everything by allowing a prominent character to act “outside” the formula without any rhyme or reason. While this mathematical equation was able to predict anything and everything else it failed to predict this one boy? Why? Sadly that’s an answer we just won’t ever get.
Linny: Despite a solid start and gripping music, Rampo Kitan ends up feeling like a tedious journey as you slog towards the finale. It loses and changes its directions several times, ending on a note that feels inconsequential and anti climatic. This show still has some points of appeal for those who would enjoy a story told in a rather unique visual style, and are into exaggerated character cliches as well as bizarre and sadistic crime stories. But for others, this show may only serve to disappoint as it progresses.
Tom: Rampo Kitan isn’t something I’d recommend, especially for those seeking a strong consistent narrative within their more artistic forms of entertainment. For a show that billed itself as a celebration of Edogawa Ranpo and his work, it takes significant liberties, so much so that what they’ve created bears almost no resemblance to the original.