The left eye of darkness.
What They Say:
Haruka Ozawa’s sophomore year is getting seriously scary. One of her friends is possessed, another has committed suicide, and Haruka could be next. She has a real talent for digging up secrets, but some killers won’t hesitate to kill again to keep those same secrets safely buried. So, how does Haruka get out of this potentially lethal dead end?
She’ll have to convince Yakumo Saito, an enigmatic student born with a mysterious red eye that allows him to see and communicate with the dead, to team up with her. Will Haruka be able to solve the ultimate in dead case files with Yakumo’s help? Or will they end up in cold storage themselves?
The only language track available was Japanese DTS-HD 2.0. English subtitles are provided for non-Japanese speakers. As far as the quality of the audio goes, I think it was fine, but whenever I watch a sub-only title, I tend to focus more on what I’m seeing than what I’m hearing. Those with better ears or the ability to split their concentration may find fault, but I think it’s fine.
Each episode is encoded in 1080p High Definition in 16×9 aspect ratio. The animation is crisp and clear with no discernable issues.
The front cover features the eponymous Yakumo and his friend and co-protagonist, Haruka Ozawa standing in the college club room Yakumo appropriated under false pretenses. The spine also features Yakumo and Ozawa, this time as bookends to the title. The back follows the standard format with the story synopsis taking up the majority of real estate. It’s flanked by various characters from the show and screenshots. Beneath it lies the cast and crew credits and DVD specifications.
The menu follows the same basic design for 99% of animes on the shelf right now. A picture featuring the lead characters takes up the majority of screen real estate while an episode list pokes in from the righthand side. The series’ main title plays in full once and then the menu goes silent. As far as menus go, it’s perfectly serviceable, if uninspired.
The Blu-Ray comes with the standard clean openings and closings and trailers.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yakumo Saito carries a heavy past and a heavy burden. Born with heterochromia, Yakumo’s right eye is green, and his left eye is red. It’s this red eye that serves as the cause of all his burdens. With it he can see spirits, and he uses this gift—sarcastically, grouchily—to help them move on to the next world. Haunted by the tragedies of his past, Yakumo closes himself off from the rest of the world, interacting only begrudgingly with other people. His life changes when Haruka Ozawa enters his world.
Haruka comes to Yakumo because she heard of his psychic abilities. Her friends went playing in an abandoned house and her friend, Miki, became possessed. She hopes that Yakumo can exercise the spirit, but he explains that that’s not what he does. He simply talks and listens to them.
The two form an uneasy friendship. Although both are mutually attracted to the other, Yakumo’s guarded attitude makes it difficult for her to get in or for him to drop his defenses. Together, the two solve mysteries around their city and soon become enmeshed in a larger mystery related to Yakumo’s parentage and a murder case many years ago.
While the mystery is quite satisfying and engaging, what makes Psychic Detective Yakumo work is the quality of the supporting cast. Along with Yakumo and Haruka, we get Gotou, a middle-aged detective and grouch who often solicits Yakumo’s help with cases; Yuutarou Ishii, Gotou’s second and fan of the supernatural (until he actually encounters it, that is); Makoto Hijikata, a reporter whose investigations lead her deeper and deeper into Yakumo’s world; and Nao and Isshin Saito, Yakumo’s cousin and uncle, respectively. Each character offers something rich to the story and help Yakumo along in his character arc.
I also enjoyed the rules established in this series. Ghosts cannot physically affect the corporeal world—they can only possess, influence, and manipulate us. The show treats them as more than just monsters, and Yakumo displays a subtle compassion when interacting with them, making a nice change of pace from Western representations of spirits.
Although the work takes place in urban sprawl (I want to say Tokyo, but I’m not sure), in terms of atmosphere, it’s all Gothic. The show’s color palette strays towards black and grays, and even brighter colors like greens and blues appear muted. This helps establish the world in which Yakumo lives: dark, shaded, and muted, as if straddling the line between the living and the dead doesn’t allow him to see either fully. This Gothic atmosphere goes well with the noir tone of the story. Gothicism and noir historically work very well together and this show is no exception.
The strong atmosphere and characters do most of the heavy lifting in the series. The plot itself is interesting, but it leaves quite a few questions. If you don’t want a big reveal spoiled, then skip down to the “Summary.” We learn roughly halfway through the story that the “Big Bad”—to use Buffy terms—is his father. His father kidnapped Yakumo’s mother and held her captive for several weeks. She managed to escape and discovered she was pregnant. She tried to put the past behind her and raise her son with all the love and affection she could muster, but his father came back on the scene and pushed her into trying to kill Yakumo. It seems this is all part of his master plan. He desires to isolate Yakumo and sour his soul with hatred and despair. If this happens, then the father can fully possess the son—something that show established as being impossible.
So far, so good, right? That’s pretty straightforward. However, when examined, it poses several problems. First, the show makes it clear that ghosts cannot physically interact with the material world, so his father had to be alive when he kidnapped Yakumo’s mother. Yet the story makes it seem like he’s been a ghost for quite some time, so there’s either a mistranslation here or they story breaks its own rules. Second, how does his father know that this will work? He possesses two red eyes, so we can assume that he also sees spirits, so does this mean he also studied them? Has his entire life been spent working towards achieving this sort of immortality? Also, Yakumo’s father seems to far more potent than any other spirit they encounter. Is this a result of his red eyes or something else?
Yakumo’s father seems to be running the long game, but his motivations and history are practically nonexistent, making him more of a plot contrivance than a fully-realized antagonist. This does drag down the show for me, and it could have easily been fixed. Again, the series gets the tone and the supporting cast right, so there’s no reason why it couldn’t have made the antagonist clearer and more understandable.
Although I do possess a major issue with the plot, I did enjoy Psychic Detective Yakumo. The atmosphere and the supporting characters make up for the weakness in the plot, and it’s a show well worth your time if you’re a fan of supernatural and mysteries. Dr. Josh gives this a….
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B-
Released By:Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 30th, 2014
Running Time:325 Minutes
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection