What They Say:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is an unusual show. This first episode reminds me most of Ryohgo Narita’s work, especially Durarara. Rather than focusing on one central character or plot point, this episode is more about introducing the city of Hakata and the various players in it. There’s a cross-dressing hitman, a PI investigating the murder of a detective, the corrupt mayor covering for his homicidal son, the mayor’s secretary who’s also a hitwoman, and a young hitman recently transferred from the aptly named Red Rum Inc. There’s also rumors of a mysterious hitman who kills hitmen, but so far he’s only rumors.
With so many players involved, the anime doesn’t waste any time in introducing them and giving a general sense of who they are. The rapid pace and sheer number of characters makes it a little hard to keep track of who’s who, but that should get easier as it goes on. For now, this is enough to give us a feel for every character, even if none of them have a ton of depth yet. The most interesting one so far is Lin Xianming, the cross-dressing hitman. His job may be killing people, and he doesn’t have any problems doing so, but there seems to be more to him than that. There are some vague implications that he’s only a hitman out of necessity, and a flashback about being separated from his sister seems to confirm that. It’s not much, but it’s the most depth any character has so far and it certainly makes me want to know more. The way it handles his cross-dressing is also somewhat unusual for anime. Anime tends to depict cross-dressers as flamboyantly gay stereotypes, but Lin is never framed that way. He’s just a guy who goes around dressed as a girl because he wants to. He behaves like a straightforward hitman, and the only explanation he gives for his attire is that it’s a hobby he likes doing. Whether this is going to come back as an important character trait or just be a background detail, it’s an interesting touch that makes Ramens stand out a bit more among its peers.
Perhaps the biggest strength of the episode is the atmosphere it sets up. Hakata is depicted as a bustling city full of bright lights and dark shadows, the sort of city where anything can happen and usually does. All of the outdoor scenes have a kind of energy to them that helps sell the city as the kind of place where three percent of the population is hitmen. Satelight’s animation isn’t as impressive, but it’s perfectly serviceable and more than enough to give the setting a strong personality. The jazz-focused soundtrack also helps contribute to the energetic nature of Hakata.
Even though the plot hasn’t moved much so far, Ramens is off to an interesting start. Between the bustling city and the colorful cast of rogues, Ramens has a lot of personality. Most of the cast hasn’t interacted yet, but Lin’s meeting with Banba, the PI, at the end of the episode seems to indicate that their stories are going to start intersecting. With everything centered around the detective’s murder, I’m curious to see how Ramens ties its various plotlines and Chekhov’s Guns together. It has potential to be a fun ensemble cast in the same vein as Durarara, or a complete mess. Either way, it’s off to a solid start.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll