Trickster – Preview
Original Air Dates: October 3rd, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: The year is 2030. Kogoro Akechi, a famous independent detective, sets up a detective group that becomes responsible for solving cases left and right. Anything from the small time to the big time. However, junior member Hanazaki Kensuke meets a boy, Yoshio Kobayashu. Yoshio is tormented by his inability to die, suffering from the affects of an ‘unidentifiable mist’ that shrouds him from all harm and can even harm those around him if not careful. He yearns for death, but can’t have it. Taking an interest in him, Hanazaki befriends Yoshio and attempts to get him to join the group just as Akechi finds himself pitted against this centuries’ greatest villain, the fiend with Twenty Faces.
1st Episode Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Trickster is the second anime in recent years to proclaim itself as an adaptation of Edogawa Rampo’s work. For those not in the know, Edogawa Rampo was ‘essentially’ the Edgar Allen Poe of Japan, often writing darker styled stories. Trickster is adapting the Boys’ Detectives Club, a juvenile novel series tied to Edogawa’s greater works surrounding the fictional detective Akechi Kogoro. It’s the second novel in that particular series and Trickster takes some significant liberties. For starters Trickster takes place in 2030 where a villain known as Twenty Faces (the villain of the novels) is wrecking havoc upon the city. The plot involves futuristic technology, potentially including some supernatural and fantasy elements and bears little, if any, immediate resemblance to the works its adapting. The world Trickster works within isn’t all that well defined, the audience left to glean what little they can from events and dialogue as they unfold. By the end of this first episode, I still felt I only had a passable understanding of Trickster’s world, so that’s something it’ll need to work on or it’s at risk of losing the audience.
Linny: There is a LOT happening in the very first episode itself but thankfully, the events are told in an easy to follow manner. We have a detective agency that deals with all sorts of assignments, from odd jobs like tracking down a lost dog to high profile cases like helping the police chase down a highly dangerous criminal. There’s a lot of action and over the top showdowns within the first episode itself making it clear that this show is aiming for dramatics and not just crime and mystery.
Tom: For an adaptation of Rampo’s work, there seems to be quite a bit at play here. While we are introduced to the Twenty Faces villain and plot line (which has seen quite a ‘modernization’) there’s other events going on as well. In fact our focus is more so on one young man, Yoshio Kobayashi who’s suffering from a bizarre phenomenon that prevents him from dying or aiding others. Yoshio is also a character from the novels, although Yoshio of Trickster seems to bear little resemblance to the original. There’s a lot happening in this episode and while I was generally able to follow it from beginning to end, I fear this may be a sign that Trickster is perhaps juggling too much narrative early on. It’s scheduled for two seasons however, which gives me hope that Trickster’s pacing will allow it’s rather congested narrative to breath.
Linny: The story involving Hanazaki searching for a missing pet dog takes an extremely dark and tragic tone. It happens so suddenly and quickly that it leaves quite a shocking impact. However, what makes it all the more unsettling and weird is that Hanazaki who witnesses something extremely gruesome and unexpected seems to take it all in stride and initially completely ignores the deadly and bloody incident that just happened before his very eyes. Of course, later in the episode, it all takes an ever more tragic and sad twist leaving me feeling very confused about exactly what we were supposed to feel during this entire incident. Hopefully, this was just a shaky start and the show will learn to better utilize and express the more dark and tragic events that might follow as the story progresses rather than using murders and deaths as random shock inducers or sudden tear jerker attempts.
Tom: Yoshio’s character is pretty melodramatic as he screams and cries for people to stay away, for fear he’ll hurt them by virtue of his seemingly impenetrable bubble that protects him from all kinds of harm. But that melodrama and overly emotional portrayal actually kind of worked for me considering the kid’s situation. Our other lead isn’t actually the detective Akechi, who didn’t get a whole lot of screen time or focus. Instead our sights are set on Hanasaki, the thrill seeking unofficial detective. How he’s connected to Akechi and his detective agency is one of the aspects under explored here. Hanasaki himself is pretty loopy, jovial, and reckless. Despite his more aloof personality, I actually found myself enjoying him thanks to a streak of kindness beneath his quirk laden facade. Akechi and the rest of the agency get very little screen time, acting more as bit players necessary to introduce Trickster’s overarching narrative, and generally set the stage of its world. We don’t know much about Akechi besides that he’s focused on catching Twenty Faces, is a bit of a lecher and driven by money. His assistant is stone faced and Makoto, a cyber hacker who controls an owl through which she communicates with the team, is a shut-in oddball.
Linny: Yoshino’s mysterious condition might hook viewers who are curious about the exact specifics of it. On the other hand, brace for a lot of melodramatic outbursts. Hopefully, as the story proceeds and he gets integrated into the detective agency, he will cut back on the emo screaming and sobbing. His frustration is understandable but there’s only so much sobbing one can take. This episode had a handful of silly and random moments, some intentionally funny while others unintentional. These insertions of quick comedy in the middle of tense moments might have been attempts to lighten the mood but they haven’t been done in the most smooth manner, sticking out like a sore thumb and breaking the flow of the situation rather than lightening it. Some of the characters are so quirky and bright eyed that you might struggle to take them seriously or even find them distracting from the more tense vibe of the story.
Tom: For fans of J-pop, you might be drawn to Trickster purely for it’s Opening song performed by none other than Gackt himself, who makes music often a bit weird, yet interesting, perhaps making him a perfect fit for Trickster. Trickster, however, having been one of just two anime in the past few years to adapt Rampo’s work immediately invites comparison to Ranpo Kitan, the other adaptation of Akechi and Yoshio’s battle against Twenty Faces. Ranpo Kitan started in a good place, but quickly devolved down a rabbit hole of metaphor and questionable narrative choices. Trickster seems to be in a better spot, although there’s already signs that it could suffer from similar issues down the line. I’m crossing my fingers that Trickster does however manage to avoid the pitfalls that made Ranpo Kitan so hard to ultimately appreciate.
Linny: It’s hard to shake off Ranpo Kitan flashbacks. The premiere episode opens on a melancholic monologue with some lines that might have you rolling your eyes right from the start. However, past that opening, the show gets less angsty even though there are some pretty dark incidents throughout. The content of Trickster makes it susceptible to straying into corny territory very easily and it also has some very prominent cliches, like a villain who does the evil smirking line at the episode end, a hero who makes sexual jokes at women, etc. There’s definitely things here that do not sit well with my personal tastes. But if you like the broody and edgy vibe, Trickster seems to start off with more promise than its predecessor. At the very least, it definitely does try to reign in the hammy lines before things get too pretentious.
Tom: Trickster has me cautiously optimistic. I was burned once before, and while Trickster seems to be of a better quality, it had signs it could end up down the same rabbit hole Ranpo Kitan leaped down. But right now I’m liking what Trickster has to offer, and while it’s story is a bit congested I think there’s plenty of potential here.
Trickster is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com