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Fantastic Detective Labyrinth Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Fantastic Detective Labyrinth
Fantastic Detective Labyrinth
The chosen one is a twelve year old boy. I bet nobody saw that coming.

What They Say:
Thirty years ago, Tokyo was destroyed in a massive earthquake. Most people have moved on to a new capital, Shinto, but a string of bizarre murders and supernatural events keep occurring in the ruins of the old city. The only one with the ability to see through to the heart of these mysteries is the enigmatic Mayuki Hyuga, a boy with extraordinary detective skills and powers that even he doesn’t yet understand. Together with his guardian and butler Seiran Shinano, Mayuki must not only help the police solve cases, but also uncover the secrets of his lineage.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release comes with just the original Japanese language track, which is in stereo and encoded at 192kbps. The show is one that plays to a simple forward soundstage design where it has a less than defined space overall and is simply taking up the full stage when you get down to it. There are a few minor moments when you may notice some directionality, but they’re few and far between and not all that needed. The show spends most of its time with dialogue based material, which can get ramped up a bit with some of it, and the action side of it goes for the leaner design so that it doesn’t have to stretch itself too much. It has some decent bits overall, but nothing that really stands out all that much. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2007 and 2008, the transfer for this twenty-five episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Spread across five discs, we get five episodes per disc, which gives it a decent bit of space to work with. It also helps that it’s animated by Studio Deen, and it has a very simple animation approach overall as it’s not filled with a lot of detail, goes for a soft color palette with some murky colors and generally feels like it’s a decade older than it is. The animation itself is decent as there are no issues to be had there and the encoding works well enough as there’s no cross coloration or splotches of macroblocking to be had with some of the murkier backgrounds. There’s some mild banding in a few areas due to how it’s animated and we get some line noise during a few of the panning sequences, mostly relegated to the backgrounds, but it’s noticeable enough. Colors are generally good and problem free, but it lacks any kind of pop or vibrancy to it because of its intentional design.

The packaging for this release is done in a litebox which means a standard sized DVD case with hinges inside to hold four of the five discs. It’s definitely a plus in terms of the amount of storage space it takes since it’s nice and compact. The cover design for this is something we don’t see too often as we get a sideways design with a great illustration image of the main cast spread across it. It’s a bit dark and fits the general color design of the show well, though perhaps a bit too dark in some ways. It’s definitely one that stands out though when you really take the time to look at it. The back cover gives us a look at a few of the main characters along the right, set against a dark blue night sky with a touch of Tokyo Tower there, while the left has a basic premise for the series. The discs features are clearly listed and we get a good selection of colorful shots from the show that play to both dark and light. The bottom gives us the standard technical grid that lists everything clearly and cleanly so you know what to expect from this release. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release works pretty well and has a nice touch of elegance and color pop to it. The layout is one that has different images of the cast along the left while the right is done in black with white text providing the navigation and the logo along the bottom. It’s got a good feeling overall in that regard as it looks proper in a sense while the character artwork to the left has some very good color and vibrancy with the images used and the backgrounds with primary colors. Submenus are minimal overall as there’s not much here and navigation is a breeze.

This release has a few extras to it with some standard pieces that are good to see, such as the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the inclusion of a few different commercials and promotional videos. It also comes with a Kannivalism Interview, which is… well, I’m not sure. It basically has a quick little thing that you’re supposed to watch, but it has a window in the bottom right with a woman in a yellow bathing suit bouncing up and down that distracts, which is part of the gag. I guess. Maybe?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Meito Manjō and illustrated by Seiji Wakayama, Fantastic Detective Labyrinth is a twenty-five episode series animated by Studio Deen. The original manga ran for just eight volumes and finished around the same time as the anime finished, though the anime only covers the first main arc of the series from what I can tell. The show originally aired back in the fall of 2007 and ran into 2008 so it’s been a series that wasn’t picked up for several years, nor was it one that was simulcast. In a way, that makes it a kind of unknown series, which you have to feel is kind of rare these days since so many shows get simulcast and are looked at in detail. So there’s an appeal in going back to a show that came out in a period where unless you were paying close attention to the Japanese broadcast side, which I was not, you can get some pleasant surprises.

The series is one that starts off with a potentially interesting background to it as thirty years prior, there was a massive earthquake known as the Great Fall which ended up destroying Tokyo. The capital ended being moved elsewhere and a lot of the central part of the city was closed off and deemed unsafe, fenced in and all. A lot of people stayed in the surrounding area, though at first you kind of get the impression that it’s just a makeshift kind of living there as opposed to… well, a normal smaller city alongside the crumbling remains of Tokyo. There’s all manner of businesses, schools and police as well and we see some of what they do in dealing with various events going on and some of the mysteries that stem from the ruins of the former capital. With everything fenced off, you can imagine a lot of scavenging going on, even thirty years later, but it’s not really dealt with that much.

Before even going into the show itself, I really have to take issue with it because it really does set the tone. It’s not made clear when the Great Fall took place in terms of a year, so it could be thirty years prior to 2006 when the book came out, or it could have happened in 2006 and we’re seeing a story in 2036. But regardless, the show has a severe lack of imagination based on the source material for presenting something solid in this regard. When we get a look at the time prior a few times, it looks identical to the present in the show. And the present in the show doesn’t feel like 2006 in terms of technology, nor 2036 in those terms. It’s a show that feels like it’s more in the late 80’s in a way, but even then it’s hard to pin down because it doesn’t do anything to really date itself in many of these areas. Without this context, the show feels like it takes place in a vacuum, when there should be some really interesting background aspects to all these ruins and the shift in how Japan would work because of it. They essentially ignore all of it and it’s a big red flag that things aren’t going to be thought through in a deep or engaging way here.

What the show wants to do is to follow the story of Mayuki, a twelve year old boy who was chosen as a baby by mysterious energies to be the true leader of the Hyuga clan. The clan, we learn, has stood outside of recorded history to guide and nudge Japan forward over the centuries through the shadows. Mayuki’s mother has been overseas due to an illness for many years and Mayuki doesn’t know his father. He leads a lonely life of sorts in the mansion he grew up in, attended by Seiran, a young man that grow up alongside him as his caretaker, and a maid named Hatsumi. He gets a little additional connection from others who took care of his family over the years, which he realizes through a group of elementary school students that head out to where his mansion is on a kind of dare since it’s a big bit of mystery. That trio, a girl named Minori and twins named Kota and Rakuto, end up becoming his first real friends when they realize he’s just a normal guy. But a normal guy with great deductive abilities, though they never really manifest themselves in a way that makes you believe it’s through genuine, full fledged knowledge like a Detective Conan. It’s more just a gift that allows him to do these things and assist the police through their various investigations into some of the mysteries of the area.

A lot of the first half is various little adventures that gets us to know the cast a bit, shows some of the area and provides some of the basic connections. There are no surprises here, though I was glad to see that as time went on that it wasn’t all about Mayuki and his elementary school chums adventures. Where things start to get a bit serious is that seeded along the way is that there is someone out there that’s kind of prodding Mayuki along for his own reasons. What we discover is that a man named Seiju, who has his own connection to Mayuki that is discovered towards the end, is attempting his own grand plan. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because his goals aren’t really verbalized or communicated well enough until towards the end when the show just kind of makes things up as it goes along in order to build the Hyuga clan and what they’re capable of in a grand way. Seiju provides the menace in the series and the regular proddings and attacks to get the results he’s after, making him the obligatory orchestrator of the incidents of the week, though some go for an episode or two. In the end though, it’s all about friendship and Mayuki realizing that he can overcome things because of it. Which you could pretty much guess from the first episode.

In Summary:
Fantastic Detective Labyrinth proved fairly underwhelming from the start once you realize that it’s not going to capitalize on its setting and trappings at all. Even more so when you realize that it’s playing it very bland and safe without taking a stand on what it is and what it can be. While there are shows that I enjoy where the leads are elementary school students with some fun abilities and adventures, things never gel together here in a way that makes the cast either compelling nor engaging. They have their moments where minorly interesting things happen, particularly when they cross the fences and head into the ruins, but even that feels half hearted. Overall though, the series feels like it falls largely because of a lack of imagination. It could have had a setting that stood apart, did some things that actually showed some thought went into the world building aspect. But instead, it went for the most basic of ideas. Maybe it just needed more shota shorts.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Kannivalism Interview, Clean Opening and Endings, Commercials, Promotional Videos

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Lucky Penny Entertainment
Release Date: January 6th, 2015
MSRP: $49.99
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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