OP Sequence

OP: 「スピードと摩擦」 (Speed to Masatsu ) by (Amazarashi)

「人間椅子(前編)」 (Ningen isu (Zenpen))

“Human Chair (Prequel)”

Welcome back, NoitaminA – it’s almost like you never left.

No doubt, this season is front-loaded, so I’m not going to let this heady start make me giddy. But there’s no two ways about the fact that in Gangsta and Ranpo Kitan, Summer 2015 is off to a terrific start. Here’s another unconventional and challenging series, quite different fromGangstabut equally as far removed from the fashions of the day in anime. It’s also the first NoitaminA shows in quite some time that feels connected to what NoitaminA used to be all about – giving a vehicle to series that would otherwise struggle to find a place on the schedule.

The genesis of Ranpo Kitan is certainly an odd one, but I can’t help but be reminded of UN-GO when I consider it. The series is based on the stories of Edogawa Ranpo (as a tribute on the 50th anniversary of his passing). Ranpo is an absolute legend in Japan, and his hero Akechi Kogoro an almost Holmesian figure in Japanese pop culture. Ranpo has been the loose inspiration for manga and anime before (most famously, the Edogawa in “Conan Edogawa” is a nod to him) but this adaptation – while still liberally modernizing – is probably the closest thing to a straight adaptation Edogawa’s works have seen in anime form.

There are nods to modern convention in this version of the story, no doubt. In the novels the clearly Holmes-inspired Akechi is a married, chain-smoking adult – here’s he’s a 17 year-old played by Sakurai Takahiro whom the government relies on to solve their toughest cases. Novel Akechi had his own take on the Baker Street Irregulars – the street children who acted as an information network for Sherlock Holmes – in the “Boys Detective Club”. Here, they consist (so far) of Kobayashi Yoshio (Takahashi Rie), the suspect in the series’ first case (based –very loosely – on Edogawa’s The Human Chair), and Hashiba (Yamashita Daiki, and it’s great to hear him in more leading roles), the class president who’s oddly protective of Kobayashi.

I don’t think there’s any question that in making Akechi a bishounen teenager and Kobayashi a strikingly effeminate “trap” protagonist, Lerche is trying to update the material for today’s anime audience. True, the Kobayashi in the original stories was adept at going undercover as a girl, and the circumstances surrounding why he lived with Akechi and his wife were intentionally left mysterious. But as unconventional asGame of Laplaceis in most senses, there are distinctly conventional elements in the characters and premise as the series portrays them.

The director here is Kishi Seiji and the writer his usual collaborator Uezu Makoto (they’ve become almost the in-house showrunners for Lerche) and for my money, everything with this duo comes down to the fit with the material. They’re best with edgy (and not merely provocative, like Danganonpa), darkly comic stuff like Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita and Kamisama Dolls, and as such I think Game of Laplace is an excellent pairing. There’s a distinctly subversive and even deviant undercurrent running through this material, and one can almost sense Kishi and Uezu’s innate comfort with that.

More so than Akechi, it’s Kobayashi and Hashiba who dominate the narrative in the premiere. Kobayashi wakes up in his classroom of his Shinjuku middle school, his teacher grotesquely dismembered and displayed at the head of the class, the murder weapon in the boy’s hand. Hashiba assumes the role of Kobayashi’s protector, but that seemingly straightforward setup in only the barest surface layer of what’s going on here – subtext is practically flowing off the screen. Kobayashi is a very odd child indeed, his girlishly cute exterior (and voice – Takahashi makes no attempt to sound like a boy) belies a thoroughly disturbed psyche. He seems not at all frightened to be a suspect, or remotely squeamish about the brutal crime – indeed, he finds the experience “fun”, and declares it a welcome diversion from a boredom that has been his eternal companion in life.

As for Hashiba, his demeanor makes it clear that his feelings for Kobayashi are more than those of a responsible class leader. He’s apparently the scion of wealthy family (one which Akechi holds in great disdain), and certainly the audience proxy in that he’s the only main character who acts the way a sane person would behave as these events roll out. Akechi reveals little of himself here – he lives in a marvelously depicted former rooftop cafe, despises cell phones but loves “Sim City”, and sees all of this as a game. He lives a fantastical life, his genius leaving him exempt from schooling or employment and seemingly bereft of family, and Kobayashi immediately sees his life as some kind of Nirvana to aspire to. He issues a challenge to the younger boy – solve the current case, and he’ll admit Kobayashi “wins” and make him his assistant. But there’s a handicap – Akechi has notified the police of Kobayashi’s presence, and the latter is hauled into custody as a suspect in the murders his teacher committed before he was murdered himself.

This is really fascinating stuff – intellectually dense, twisted and emotionally opaque. And while I haven’t been a huge fan of Lerche’s previous work in terms of production, they’ve done a really nice job here. The background music by Yokoyama Masaru is excellent and perfectly suits the tone, and Kishi employs some very interesting visual tricks, such as depicting the secondary characters shrouded in shadow until they become directly relevant to the action. There’s also a stellar cast in a variety of supporting roles, including Kishi favorite Nakahara Mai as the nekomimi-wearing homeroom teacher. Ranpo Kitan is off to an intriguing start, and I’m very curious to see where this modern take on a Japanese cultural institution goes from here.

ED Sequence

ED: 「ミカヅキ」 (Mikazuki) by (Sayuri)


  1. This certainly left me very unsettled-but also hooked. Most probably my take will be affected by the fact I’m not familiar with Edogawa’s works, but I feel I’ll enjoy this, a lot.

  2. So I’m watching this, and suddenly I see that scene with the teacher… It clicked “This is going to be one of THOSE anime isn’t it?… awesome!” I had no idea that the protag was a male until after the OP, and I have an immensely powerful trap radar. By the end of the show, I was left both impressed by the quality of said show, and also not being able to see Kobayashi as anything but a female character.

    After watching Aoharu x Kikanjuu with it’s opposite situation, I can’t see that character as a female either, lol. Some really powerful traps this season, and some really good shows too.

  3. I thought they were going to solve this case in a single episode, but I’m glad they didn’t. Shows the complexity of the case with the added layer of a murderer murdering another murderer. I love incidents like these because the person that murdered the teacher can be even more mentally unstable than the teacher is for having a certain “hobby”. Those individuals that think they’re killing for the greater good are just as scary as the people that kill “for fun” (or who knows, maybe the teacher was targeting people too).

    The setup for this show reminds me a lot of crime dramas on Western television so the dismembered bodies and “public display” doesn’t bother me that much… (I think Psycho-Pass also had quite a few cases where bodies were publicly displayed). I’m more interested in the actual psychoanalysis that Akechi does on the killer to find out who he (or she) is. The display that the murderer made with the teacher’s body was obvious – I thought it was a cry for attention or recognition. The fact that Akechi mentioned that and even limited it on TV/media was a sign that I’m going to like this kid. Kobayashi… not so much. He will require a lot more growing on me.

  4. Mystery horror anime, perhaps more so than most any other genre, and much to my continued frustration, would seem to always get the short end of the stick almost every season. Most of the time they just aren’t that good (still looking at you, Another) and others just suck (Corpse Party, anyone?). The last truly great one was Higurashi, which came out just under ten years ago.

    Credit where credit is due however; for a first episode, Laplace has certainly merited itself. And though there was a lot to like here (the animation and music of particular note), it was the characters that really stood out and carried the show, which is how it should be.

    They’re all twisted and broken in their own special ways, and yet they’re so genuine about themselves that you’re led into easily believing it. Kobayashi in particular stand out as a particular bright spot in this. Too many others would try justifying his seemingly sociopathic behavior with a tragic backstory or some such nonsense to have him come off as sympathetic. Not here; that’s the way he is because that’s just the way he is.

    Great stuff all around. Next episode please. 🙂

    Ryan Ashfyre
      1. Already have, though I’d put Shiki moreso into the horror column than mystery. Not to say that any mystery show has to lean more on Sherlockian-esque elements to qualify as such – like this season’s Laplace obviously does – but Shiki is akin to Death Note in that it was more a deconstruction of the horror genre than anything else.

        Ryan Ashfyre
    1. sorry, new to commenting here so i didn’t know how to reply directly to your reply, but fair point. i didn’t read your comment very well oops p: it’s a shame umineko’s anime didn’t do the vn justice, that is a horror-mystery masterpiece

  5. Weird levels of perversion here, hell, MC overflows in emotion as getting in love with the idea of bloody abnormal crimes to solve, he is visibly overwhelmed by excitement at ~19:05 of the episode.
    Anyway, I hated the greying out of background people, everything else is very good.

    1. I can see why you wouldn’t have liked it, but the greying out does serve as an important distillation of Kobayashi’s view of the world, those whose existences he even recognizes and those who could die at a moment’s notice and he wouldn’t even bat an eye over.

      Ryan Ashfyre
      1. Yeah, I like the greying out of the characters for that exact reason (Kobayashi’s POV). Although admittedly the first time I saw it I wondered if I was hallucinating….

    2. Weird levels of perversion here, hell, MC overflows in emotion as getting in love with the idea of bloody abnormal crimes to solve, she is visibly overwhelmed by excitement at ~19:05 of the episode.

      Fixed your comment

  6. It was just me that saw the cut marks in the new teacher wrists when she was holding Kobayashi’s hands? She may be end up being more than a moe blob
    I was suspecting that the MC was a trap at the moment that i saw that he was wearing pants in place of a skirt like the girls usually do and i don’t really know how to react to it yet, it doesn’t seem fitting to me a trap MC in a show like this.

    1. The pants are there to tell you that he’s just an effeminate-looking guy, not a girl.

      @guardian enzo: How did you miss it lol, her hands were literally the first parts of her body to be shown – a good few seconds before Kobayashi looked up and the rest of her body was shown.

  7. Lerche, Kishi Seiji and MC trap! Same combination as Ansatsu Kyoushitsu. I’m quite hooked onto this series already, can’t wait to see hows it goes from here.

  8. I got a Psycho Pass / Assassination Classroom feel for this right away !

    BTW there is a big Pyschp Pass connection with Takahiro SAKURAI who played Shogo Makishima then he voiced Kunato in Sidonia . I am impressed!

    And yes Lerche did Assassination Classroom so it’s a interssting start!

    I liked it and should be fun to watch! Already have two good mysteries / crime shows for summer > I am so happy!

  9. Ugh, obvious shota ai bait is obvious. The character design for the MC kinda disgusts me to be honest, with his exaggerated prominent butt and hips. “Lerchs’s trying to update the material for today’s anime audience”, ugh, please don’t sully Ranpo’s name. This really detracts me from liking the anime.

    1. As one who watched this episode three times over, I can say dispassionately and without any bias that Kobayashi’s “exaggerated prominent butt and hips” never caught my attention even once, so mayhaps either you’re paying too much attention or I’m not paying enough. Just looks like your average effeminate character as far as I’m concerned.

      Ryan Ashfyre
  10. I’m gonna be blunt when I say, despite how good this show looks in terms of plot, character, music and animation, I’m equally excited for all the pretty boys. With the constant barrage of moe blobs and bishoujos in EVERY show EVER season, it’s nice to have the occasional male heavy story.

    1. Seems similar to a basketball otaku suddenly having a chance to play with the NBA stars.

      Kobayashi is a mystery otaku and finds himself in a murder case and meets a real detective.
      He is thrilled.

      Thats how I see it 😛
      If theres more to his past maybe we can know why he behaves like so.

  11. Nice! Fushigi~mystery!!!

    Yup, very loosely adapted from Ranpo’s story, seems to only use the words “Human Chair” for this case. Doesn’t work like Kindaichi with the list of suspects already in play.

    Will the cases be stand alone or could it be possible for everything to tie together in the end?

    Loose things that popup on my mind, Sakura Wars when I think about Imperial Household Agency and Hell Girl somehow.

    The first words about the world is dream and dream is world. The surreal?
    I suppose that will be the thing of this anime.
    Will things slowly become like Utena?
    That little theater style conversation reminds me of Utena.

    Besides the characters that were introduced in the episode, in the opening and offcial site theres 3(or 4) more:

    Kurotokage – A female theif from the special crimal cell “Shinjuku Prison”. First class information collection abilities. Sadistic and has a queen-like demenor. (One more line about her and Akechi, too deep for my JP skills)

    Kageotoko – An eccentric kaitou and young girls lover, always wears a paper bag over his head. No one knows his true face.

    Minami and Corpse-kun – Coroner and partner.

    Just hope the show stays grounded and believable.

    1. Yes, and that Akechi’s friend in the flash back…
      Is he of importance?

      Akachi’s drive of being a detective?
      Hope Akachi is not from some special school like thos in Zankyou no Terror.

      Will that friend be the main mastermind antagonist?

    2. If those characters in the official site are the regulars then the rest could be disposable?

      So could the suicidal nekomimi sensei be the culprit?
      Probably wrong here 😛

      Akechi’s medicine…wonder what is his past.

      The key to the mystery is the past.

      Thinking too much about it 😛
      Finally got a nice show this season for me.

  12. For some reason, when I first skipped through an unsubbed version of this first episode, I did not realize that Kobayashi was wearing a boys uniform. I could’ve sworn I saw him wearing a skirt.

    Now Kobayashi reminds me of Tsubasa (following page) from Girls Saurus DX.

  13. What I didn’t understand:

    – If Kobyashi was supposed to have JUST murdered the teacher, caught red-handed with a weapon in his hand, when there is blood spatter sprayed across the wall, shouldn’t he be covered in the teacher’s blood?

    – But since he wasn’t, why wasn’t this lack of blood stains or any forensic evidence to link him to a very messy crime scene pointed out immediately as a reason for probably clearing him?

    1. Because sadly:

      1. I agree, there should be, but there isn’t. Perhaps the investigators were too incompetent to notice.

      2. Most people, including investigators, do not know the correct legal procedures. Perhaps the author suffers from this deficiency as well.

      And in addition, the thought of accusing someone without a formal judgment, as many other students did, is utterly disgusting.

  14. Great opening and closing credits.

    But is it really at all realistic that with a brutal killer on the loose and killing at school, and most likely either a teacher or possibly one or more students, a school for young kids would be allowed to remain open, at least without visible on-site security?


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