Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace ReviewAmy Hazel
"Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality."
~ Edgar Allen Poe
As people go about their lives, they want to believe that there is a system in place that will protect them and uphold justice; but the world we live in is as beautiful as it is cruel. When citizens feel they have been wronged and the proper outcome has not been fulfilled, is it correct that they take up the sword themselves to rid the world of one more evil?... Even if that means becoming evil itself to do so?
When Yoshio Kobayashi wakes up in a blood splattered classroom holding the very instrument that caused the deformed nightmare his homeroom teacher had become, his boring everyday life takes on a newfound vigor. Not even phased by the fact that he is now a prime suspect and key witness to his teacher's death, he takes out all the stops to find the true killer and unravel the mystery laid out before him (and even clear his own name as a side bonus).
But this is only the beginning as Kobayashi, and his worrisome classmate Souji Hashiba, end up working with Kogorou Akechi, a young elite detective with government clearance tasked with investigating strange and often gruesome crimes. Central to many of these murders lays a theme of vengeance that Akechi is particularly interested in: a masked vigilante that goes by the name of Twenty Faces who carries out a true punishment for those in which the justice department let slip through the cracks. Usually announced publicly beforehand, Twenty Faces never fails to enact revenge through killing criminals in the same manner in which they offed their original victims.
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is an 11 episode mystery anime that delves into the concept of the human psyche and moral obligation in a gruesome bloodstained world. Created in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of famous Japanese mystery author Edogawa Ranpo, a few of his works are featured throughout the episodes. Many of his novels revolved around a hero detective, Kogoro Akechi, who was one of the first recurring detectives in Japanese fiction almost akin to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.
The anime itself weaves a slightly disjointed story that, while intriguing at times, often falls short of the depth it clearly holds the potential for. Horrifying, gruesome and tragic stories are introduced often with a slight nod towards the overlying story arc, but never remain the focus for enough time to get the audience truly involved. Where most mystery genre series will present the case, find clues and give the viewers a chance to piece together the outcome before discovering the true intent and identity of the killer; the Game of Laplace basically pulls all of the information together and discloses it to the audience all at once - usually via inner monologue from one or more of the main characters on a spotlighted stage away from the main scene. While this still brings a concept of resolution, it is hard to feel truly fulfilled when the buildup to the investigation was so strong only to be hand-fed facts that may or may not have even been disclosed previously. The cases are all so much more than a simple stabbing or kidnapping and it would have truly made a difference to have been presented a resolution in a different format. Show the audience what could drive someone into making furniture out of human body parts and let them mull over those details for a moment before pointing fingers at random side character #3 and hearing an immediate confession!
Character wise, Game of Laplace has an interesting line up that never seems to really scratch the surface. Observations and opinions can be created for the main characters fairly easily but it never develops much more than that. Kobayashi is an overenthusiastic androgynous boy that dives headfirst into danger to ward off his boredom; Hashiba tries to look after Kobayashi and keep him out of trouble while still helping out even against his own desires at times; and Akechi seems far older than his 17 years, worn down by his detective work all the while living off of regret, painkillers and canned coffee - though that does nothing to hinder the fact that he is truly brilliant and in a class of his own in regards to deductive reasoning. Additional characters make small appearances here and there just enough to pique the interest of viewers, but we never find out much more about them. There is the paper bag wearing Shadow-Man who seems like he might have good intentions... or not; there is also Black Lizard, who must be chained and behind bars for more reason than her psychotic obsession with Akechi. At least the slightly crazed medical examiner, Minami (who delivers a frantic rundown of murder details using her demonstration dummy, Corpsey) gets a slight bit of backstory even if it is short-lived.
Aesthetically, the artwork and soundtrack truly bring this anime into a realm of its own that makes it stand out from most other anime. From the grotesquely imaginative murder scenes to the symbolism and imagery that appear throughout, it promises to be something more than meets the eye. Even the blanketed silhouettes that appear to be any person not relevant to the cause adds to the foreboding sense of despair - painting an atmosphere where identity may not always be what you think it is. Paired with a beautiful soundtrack, from the opening and closing themes to the suspenseful, flowing and tragic pieces within, it melds the story together and connects the audience with everything that is unfolding before their eyes.
In the end, Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is a decent mystery thriller that will offer some measure of entertainment through to its end. It may not be for those looking to solve intricate murders or feel in any sense that justice has been served. However, its aesthetic merits may be enough to warrant its watching. It brings up pretentious concepts and thought-provoking theories that challenge how the world truly works. It is dark, gruesome, tragic and beautiful - much like the very world we live in.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
Just a happy-go-lucky girl working in the gaming industry and spending nearly all her spare time writing, recording music, working on cosplay, watching anime and horror movies, and trying not to obsess over getting that 100% completion rating on every game she touches.
About the Author: Amy Hazel
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