「人間椅子(後編)」 (Ningen Isu (Kouhen))
“The Human Chair (Part II)”
To borrow a thoroughly overused phrase: WTF did I just watch?
I have pretty much no idea how to take this episode of Game of Laplace, which was surely one of the oddest 22 minutes of anime I’ve seen in a very long time. There are a lot of puzzling aspects to this show that pop into mind after that ep – was it intended to be taken at least semi-seriously, or was it flat-out satire? Was it brilliant or a trainwreck? Frankly I don’t know what the hell to make of it, but that has me curious to stick around for at least a little while.
It’s no small merit that Ranpo Kitan is if nothing else thoroughly not generic, and absolutely not boring. But both the resolution of the “human chair” murder case and the means used to exposit it were way, way out there. I mean, you had stuff like the comic autopsy (which may be the first slapstick autopsy I’ve ever seen) which featured a hilariousKappei Yamaguchias Shitai-kun (“Corpsey”). Yamaguchi also featured as an “expert” talking about “game brain” in the equally hilarious TV news segment which preceded the autopsy, which ruthlessly skewered extremists on both sides of the juvenile violent crime before turning on the apathetic and ill-informed Japanese public with a brief stop on the upcoming VAT (Value Added Tax) increase.
That news spoof was top-notch satire, but sandwiching it on either side is bizarre and almost inexplicable stuff like that autopsy, and the details about the crime in question. The resolution to the murder case hinges on the teacher being a pedophile who’s switched his allegiance from girls (most recently his true killer, Hoshino) to boys (or one boy, anyway) and his victims being “glad” to have been turned into human chairs by him. I don’t know enough detail and Ranpo’s original version to know how much detail in terms of motive and circumstance has been preserved, but there’s a pretty big suspension of disbelief required here, especially for that second part. I’d also question why, even if the victims were supposedly willing, no one would have connected them to the teacher previously, but hey – suspension of disbelief, right?
Again, all this makes me wonder how seriously we were intended to take this case and this series. And it makes me suspect strongly that in the Kishi/Uezu version anyway, the mysteries themselves are less the point than the character study of Akechi and especially Kobayashi. Kobayashi is a very disturbed little boy – he takes his teacher’s prurient interest in him completely in-stride, seems not at all bothered either by being a suspect in a murder (which is at least explicable if you assume he knew he was more bait than suspect), or by the details of the murders themselves. This is all a game to him (maybe the inferred meaning of the title), and the only enemy he seems to fear is boredom.
All that makes Kobayashi interesting, but pretty hard to identify with as a protagonist. And the anime Akechi has revealed little of himself yet – he’s a bit of a troll and a lot of a genius, but does this young man have any moral compass, or is he as much in it for the thrills as Kobayashi? Hashiba certainly seems the most “normal” member of the trio in that his reactions to the bizarre and terrifying are at least recognizable, though it’s clear the main driving force for his character is that he’s in love with Kobayashi himself. And Kobayashi seems fully aware of it, coquettishly leading Hashiba on as he makes use of him in his own machinations.
There’s a lot of other strange stuff happening too, like pretty much everything about the new teacher Hanabashi – she of the suspicious scars on her wrists and the extraneous nekomimi. The moment when she sees the truth of what’s under the lining of sensei’s chair and proceeds to jump through a closed window is every bit as bizarrely placed as the autopsy bit, maybe more so, and again makes me question with just what intentions Kishi and Ueze are approaching the material. At this point I’m stumped – interested, certainly, but utterly at a loss. Let’s see if the next case begins to shed any light on Ranpo Kitan’s true identity – that’s the real mystery here..