What They Say:
Middle school life was dull for the intelligent and charismatic Kobayashi, until the day he was framed for his homeroom teacher’s murder. After the event drew the media’s attention, an infamous high school detective inserted himself into the investigation. Brooding and brilliant, Akechi quickly cleared Kobayashi’s name and took the inquisitive young student on as his assistant. But for every case they closed, two more seemed to open in its place.
The streets were alive with whispers of one deadly name, Twenty Faces–a legendary murderer who killed criminals in the name of justice. With cryptic clues leading the way, Kobayashi and Akechi began following the trail of bodies left by the prolific killer. But will they be able to stop him before countless innocent people, inspired by his deranged cause, start following his lead?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in stereo along with a newly created English language dub that got the 5.1 treatment, both of which were done using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that does work more of a dialogue based approach with some moody moments throughout to add to the atmosphere and the end result is a pretty good one with what it does. There are a few big moments here and there where it gets creative and these are well done but it’s not the main focus. Both mixes handle the dialogue well as it unfolds with some good placement from time to time and occasionally a bit of depth in some of the more creative sequences. This is a solid mix all around and the opening and closing sequences bump it up nicely with more warmth thanks to their design.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and two on the second. Animated by Lerche, the show has a really nice design to it where it works with a lot of dark colors and darkened rooms to add to the atmosphere which results in some striking sequences because of the pops of color we do get. The detail within the characters is pretty good all around and there are some really nicely done backgrounds that play to the color design in a good way that makes it feel rich. The encoding brings it all to life very well with clean and solid colors, even among the murkier elements we get in some of these darkened rooms from time to time, resulting in a show that’s well captured and will please fans of it that want something better than the streaming encoding level.
The packaging for this release works the standard approach of a standard sized Blu-ray case with an o-card that has some really nice pop to it because of the cardstock. The difference this time around as that the o-card has a different piece of artwork than the case as the o-card uses the key visual of the main trio with the butterflies floating about and the splashes of color amid the darkness that makes it pretty alluring looking with all the detail. The case artwork itself works from the Japanese release where we get an off-white background with two of the leads together in illustration style that’s subdued and appealing, especially with the simple logo across it. The back of the o-card goes for the white background and uses the case artwork in black and white form along the right while the left breaks down the concept well while also including the extras that are in the set. The technical grid breaks everything down cleanly and clearly and the case itself works the same design, albeit with the drink that populates the show instead of the character artwork. The reverse side of the case artwork brings us a great two-panel spread of the two main opposing characters of the series with some great color design to it.
The extras for this release are a bit basic but we do get some welcome ones. The traditional extras are here with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as the original promos advertising it prior to its Japanese broadcast. For English language fans, the sixth episode gets a solid commentary track from the cast to talk about the episode itself and the show in a larger context.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Rampo Kitan: Game of LaPlace is an interesting project just in what it’s trying to bring about as it’s definitely a work that’s trying to honor its origins. The series came at the same time as the 50th anniversary of Edogawa Ranpo’s death back in 1965 as it works with the familiar mysteries and murders that populated many of his works. They’re well-known in a lot of circles outside of Japan because of their place in history, but they’re not terribly familiar for a lot of anime fans. I’ve had a passing familiarity with Ranpo over the last few years with various nods towards his works but it’s not something that has any great meaning for me. So, going into this series that Lerche put together under the talented direction of Seiji Kishi and composition by Makoto Uezu, I was interested but wary.
Japanese stories of murder and their mysteries are fairly distinct and I’ve certainly seen a lot over the years, just from Case Closed alone never mind a whole host of other series that work them. I’m not against mystery shows as there are some creative ones, but I’ve found myself running more toward things like the short run British/Welsh type series or the rare American productions like Longmire and the sort where a good deal of what’s introduced is the setting and the mood of the people. What Game of Laplace works is far more familiar for anime fans as it digs into the big city murders while having the detectives involved being the teenage or middle school geniuses. That has its moments and I do appreciate that it appeals to a younger set that can be drawn into such shows since they are definitely fairly niche these days, but it’s also something we’ve seen far too often and there’s nothing really unique here to latch onto.
The show focuses on the main character of Kogoro Akechi, a super-talented genius detective with special license from the government that allows him to operate in ways that most others would not because of his skills. He’s moody and kind of a loner which means we have to attached some more outgoing characters for the viewer to latch onto. That comes in the form of Kobayashi, a middle school student that’s pretty talented himself while also being fairly immune to the horrors of the murders he sees. Kobayashi also provides our minor female element for the show as he’s very feminine looking, which causes problems from time to time. Kobayashi also comes with a best friend named Hashiba who has a wealthy family background and is kind of guarded and against Akechi because he just seems him as spoiled and able to do anything he pleases, which is amusing considering Hashiba’s own background.
The show works a range of different kinds of murders and mysteries in its first few episodes in order to show how this group works together and how they end up with Akechi and his unusual home, which means there’s nothing terribly original to be had here. Where it starts to shift a bit more is that we get some interesting murders that revolve around a seemingly “old enemy” of Akechi’s with the Man of Twenty Faces, an opponent of Akechi’s that he dealt with in junior high himself only to find it being reinvented here by someone else. That offers up some interesting pieces to the past as it progresses with Akechi and his own friend Namikoshi. But the problem comes in that it’s stretched out over the eleven episodes and there’s no real tension to it or sense of connection to any of the characters, making it a very superficial show that’s visually appealing but little more than that because we don’t know these characters truly beyond investigating murders.
And that’s really what makes this harder to work with because there’s so little connection for the viewer. Akechi himself doesn’t offer up much to really dig into and with his being three years older than the other main character just reinforces that. While I enjoy a number of series with middle school students, and even elementary school age students, shows that are this serious rarely work well because there’s so little to them in terms of experience and actual material within their lives. And when there is a lot going on it just feels forced. These kids are all largely ciphers beyond their core one or two line descriptions as they’re mostly just focused on the mysteries. And that can sometimes work, which is why I enjoy the simplicity of a one-off Case Closed episode, but the minor sprawl of the stories here that’s made more important than they feel just reduces the impact of everything.
While there are some great visuals to be had in the series and the encoding of it does it all justice, Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace is a show that’s going to be a very niche one for folks. Murder mystery material definitely has its place and there are some neat ideas here at times it lacks the necessary component of strong leading characters to make it engaging. And even without that it lacks the kind of real intensity and drama needed to let it work beyond them like some shows can do. Funimation has definitely put together a very good release here so that fans of it will be thrilled at what their Rampo Kitan love will bring them, and I totally get why it works for them, but it simply doesn’t maintain enough interest from almost the start in some ways because you can see the simple threads at work with the cast and how the motivations will feel shallow because of it.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 06 Commentary, Promo Video, Commercials, Textless Songs
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 13th, 2016
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.