Well that was bad. Yep, after my strange optimism after the first three episodes of Ranpo Kitan, I can now safely say that this show is really just plain awful. Sure it has a few good moments, I mean when your stories are based off the works of Edogawa Ranpo you at least have a few good moments here and there, but overall this show is incompetent in a surprising amount of ways. Now, while I would love to spout out the same information I said in my last post, that would be pretty boring and frankly lazy. So instead I’m going to shake things up and take on these final episodes case by case. Not only will this help me really dive into the nitty gritty of each individual arc, but it will just show the many different ways Ranpo Kitan consistently screws itself over due to lackluster execution in both its writing and direction. And with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s dive on into the madness that is Seiji Keishi and noitamina’s daring mystery project.
The Fiend with Twenty Faces:
You know, this arc doesn’t start off all that bad. It introduces Twenty Faces pretty well, sets up some decent intrigue, and in general creates the base for what should have been a solid arc… But then episode 5 happens. Okay, I’m just going to be really blunt right here and say episode 5 is the worst episode in the entire show. Not only does the episode not work dramatically, but its way of revealing that Kagami is Twenty Faces is so docile and lifeless that it somehow becomes laughable.
Listening to Kagami ‘s exposition about his dark and edgy past with his sister, while wilting music plays over gritty visuals just feels so out of place in this show. For something that has been so focused on theatricality and stagecraft art design, the extreme dry seriousness just does not come off as genuine. Everything is delivered flatly , despite the fact that Kagami bites his lip and bleeds as we see the gruesome image of his sister hung from a flagpole. Basically episode 5 ruins what was an otherwise decent arc, making Twenty Faces’ introduction to the story become one of the show’s worst arcs.
The Filler Episode:
My first reaction when watching this episode was confusion. I mean out of all the shows, why would Ranpo Kitan decide that it needed a little break from its main episodic cases? After all, it’s not like there was an overarching plotline and the show is only 11 episodes anyways, making the addition of a pointless one off mystery seem completely useless. It probably doesn’t help that this filler episode in particular showcases Ranpo Kitan’s absolutely terrible sense of humor. Seiji Kishi is usually pretty good at comedic timing, but here every joke lands with a loud thud.
This is likely due to the fact that every joke in this show is based around a really generic anime stereotype. The worst example of this is definitely Black Lizard, who in the original works of Edogawa Ranpo was a deadly villain, but here she becomes sadistic prisoner who gets sexually aroused every time Akechi insults her. She’s not funny, and her interactions with the main cast always feel aimless and disgusting. Of course the other joke characters aren’t much better, the Shadow Man’s constant attempts at seducing little girls is unfunny pedophilia at its finest, and the constant jokes about how androgenous Kobayashi is just feel awkward and stilted considering how obviously psychotic his character is. I would go on to complain about how dumb this episode’s main plot is, featuring a timed bomb defusal story that accomplishes and reveals nothing about any of the casts personality and backstory, but frankly it’s not even worth my time. NEXT!
The Strange Tale of Panorama Island:
I actually slightly enjoyed this one. Oh, don’t get me wrong, this arc contains just as many problems as the previous ones (Unfunny jokes, a disturbing and poorly delivered mystery, bad directorial choices), but at least it developed a character. You see, one of my biggest problems that prevails throughout all of Ranpo Kitan is how it never once develops any of its main cast. Despite the fact that Kobayashi, Hasiba, and any of the show’s many criminals are ripe for character exploration, the show never really does anything with them. Besides a few allusions to certain in episode situations and the occasional flashback, most characters remain pretty static throughout the show’s runtime.
The one exception to this seems to be Akechi who, despite having some of the most hilariously tryhard character scenes I’ve watched in awhile (Seriously, in multiple episodes he plays a dark mopey English song while he contemplates his past), manages to be one of the few cast members who gets some decent motivation. In this arc in particular, we get to see why he’s so driven to stop every new Twenty Faces’ clone, harkening back to a sweet childhood friendship of his that went horribly wrong. And while that childhood friend plot is made overly complicated by the inclusion of weird nonsensical math equations (Somehow he and his friend Namikoshi create a Chaos formula that predicts outcomes in reality), but it’s still is able to inject more intrigue and emotion into Akechi than anything else in the series ever did. So kudos to you Ranpo Kitan team; you at least did this one thing right.
The Grand Finale:
My feelings on Ranpo Kitan’s final case are complicated. On one hand it’s the best arc in the series, pulling together all the previous allusions and plot points in the series together in a satisfying way; but on the other hand I still don’t think I can call it good enough to redeem the series. Most of the time when a bad or mediocre show has a good finale it’s like a cherry on top of a gross sundae, but here I just walked out of the whole experience kind of annoyed. And I think that’s because the whole show could have been like this finale, compelling, nicely directed, and satisfying; but it wasn’t.
Of course that isn’t to say the finale is an amazing masterpiece. Like the rest of the series more dramatically focused content, a lot of the hard hitting emotional stuff is delivered through boring exposition that really doesn’t help the series in any way. It also includes one final hilariously awful twist in the form of episode 9’s Twenty Faces clone, who turns out to be the girl from the 3 minute autopsy sketches that occurred in each case. Not only did this twist baffle me due to how random it was, but it also made no sense. Does that mean the 3 minute shocking sections where taking place in real life in front of the main cast? If so, then why? What was the point of it?
Otherwise though, these three episodes tackle some compelling stuff. We see the ramifications of Kobayashi working with Akechi finally take effect, since he begins to skip school in order to help solve Twenty Faces’ chaos equation, and even Hashiba begins to turn into a colorless cutout before his own eyes. There’s also the final confrontation between Namikoshi and Akechi, which goes into some pretty edgy territory. It turns out that not only was Namikoshi not dead, but he also had a lot more problems than the ones that were shown in the first flashback with him in episode 8. He’s an abuse victim, murdered all of his enemies, and is planning to kill himself and Kobayashi to send the world into chaos. Wow, we’re almost approaching Elfen Lied levels of edgy and unrealistic!
Those jokes aside, the main reason this conflict works, despite its over the top darkness, is because it uses every element it has at its disposal. Kobayashi is on the verge of collapse, the Twenty Faces’ clones are rampaging through the street, and the symbolic imagery and spotlights are being used constantly throughout each episode. Everything combines to form an actual sense of tension and catharsis that doesn’t really happen in the rest of the series. Sadly, the final minutes don’t really give much finality to what these characters plan to do after the Twenty Faces’ incident, but at least it ended with some closure rather than none.
In the end though, Ranpo Kitan is really not worth anyone’s time. It turns out that getting Seiji Kishi and Makoto Uezu to make Edogawa Ranpo’s works appealing for a modern audience was a terrible idea, resulting in a haphazard mess of dark comedy and boring dramatic events. Occasionally it has some interesting visual direction, and the finale is pretty nice, but otherwise it’s a complete failure. I’d rather watch Ranpo Kitan’s OP and ED on repeat for four and half hours than than the actual show itself. Goodbye Ranpo Kitan, I won’t miss you.