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Trickster Part 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

The path to catching Twenty Faces is long and perilous (and just a bit dull).

What They Say:
Kensuke is an adrenaline junky and member of the Boy’s Detectives’ Club. Always ready to jump into action, he stumbles upon a mysterious boy named Kobayashi who can’t die. Together, they face danger known as the villain Twenty Faces.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series has a decent mix of action pieces in it with explosions, gunfights, and other moments such as robots run amuck, and that’s handled well through both mixes while the English dub gets a bit more bass and impact. The dialogue side of it for both are pretty similar with a standard approach to placement with some depth from time to time. It’s a kind of conventional show in a lot of ways and it hits some decent notes along the way as it unfolds. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by TMS Entertainment and Shin-Ei Animation, the show has a bright and colorful look to it with some fluid animation in the bigger sequences that looks quite good. The near-future setting for it works well for giving the familiar characters something new to work in while still being familiar. The designs are solid and the character animation stands out nicely while the backgrounds are well-done without going over the top. Everything has a clean and solid feel to it with no visible noise in the solid color fields or in the backgrounds while also avoiding line noise during the higher motion sequences. It’s a clean and problem-free encoding of a show that has a decent look to it.

The packaging design for this release gives us the slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the two formats on hinges here while also include an o-card. The o-card replicates the artwork from the case rather than something different and it looks good, but not terribly different as the illustration style doesn’t stand out more with the higher cardstock. The covers use the first main key visual of our two leads amid the city at night so there’s a lot of good blues and whites here to give it light and the character designs are decent, though Kensuke looks just a bit off with his pose. The back cover reuses the front cover, which is rare, but drops a large block across it with the breakdown of the premise and the extras included. The bottom has the dual format technical grid that lists both of them cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included but we do get the logo used repeatedly on the reverse side of the cover.

The menu design is another area where things take a minimal effort kind of turn, though it works in its favor here, as the back screen just has the logo written large across it along the top. Within the logo we get clips from the show playing, though they’re difficult to discern and instead just offer up movement more than anything else. The navigation stripe along the bottom doubles as the pop-up menu as well as we get the standard selections with a white font that’s easy to navigate and move about in. Setup is a breeze and everything worked without problem.

The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Anime series based on the work of Edogawa Ranpo have been coming out somewhat regularly for the last few years and I continue to struggle with them. I like mystery and detective works – particularly in live action – and get a kick out of things like Case Closed and the Kindaichi stories, at least in manga form for the latter. But the Edogawa Ranpo material just feels like it never lands well. This series, which ran for two cour, kicked off in the fall of 2016 with Masahiro Mukai directing it based on the series composition from Erika Yoshida. The show has some decent animation behind it and shifting it to a near-future to throw a few technological wonders into it is a superficial way of trying to present it as something new when it’s mostly the same.

The premise is that it follows the members of the Boy Detectives Club that Akechi has put together. Akechi is a famous adult detective himself and the kids provide some new ways of looking at things and being able to key in on some things he might miss himself. The group he has is decent with Kensuke being the thrillseeker type that’s really good at seeing things for what they are. We get Ryou, the senior member that’s a paraplegic in a wheelchair who is the thinker of the group but gets into the field plenty often and without problems. And we get Makoto, the only girl in it that’s on the computer side of things since she’s something of a shut-in that doesn’t go out on the missions. So, you basically have Kensuke going into things and with Akechi sometimes. Plus they get some help or wrap-up thanks to Nao, the police officer that keeps things moving smoothly between Akechi and the police in general.

The series also brings in Kobayashi, a kind of unknown quantity here that Kensuke befriends after a spirited chase in the first episode. Kobayashi isn’t keen on being a part of the club but has some use to them because he’s got some crazy supernatural abilities. What we mostly see here is that there’s a 30cm invisible sphere around him that keeps him separate from the world as it can slice or kill someone that gets too close. That makes him problematic early on but Kensuke made a deal with him to help him. The problem for the others is that the deal is that Kobayashi wants to die because he’s essentially a trapped immortal in this stage. But until Kensuke can figure that out he’ll befriend him and Kobayashi will become a solid member of the team that can destroy walls easily or causes all sorts of other useful mischiefs.

The main focus of the series is the ever familiar Twenty Faces character, the criminal mastermind who is working all sorts of plans that Akechi is duty bound to stop. The two have been going at it for quite some time and it’s the approach of layers upon layers of plans to achieve the real goal, which at one point involves Kensuke’s older brother being drawn in and setting Kensuke against Akechi because of it. The problem is that the mysteries never feel fully realized and the larger goal of TWenty Faces never comes across in this first half of the series in a way that makes sense. Admittedly, this is par for the course with past adaptations of these characters so it’s not exactly unfamiliar. The mysteries aren’t memorable at all here and they serve more to bring Kobayashi into the fold and to show how the gang works together more than anything else – and that’s by design. But it keeps it from feeling like you’re fully invested in the property because there isn’t any real tension to events.

In Summary:
With this iteration of Ranpo’s works, it’s made clear that I really do need to just avoid them in the future. While I’ll finish out the series with the back half I’m now firmly in the camp that the style simply doesn’t appeal to me and the various adaptations haven’t found a hook to make it work. When you get some very different creative teams working on it over the years and none of it connects, you just have to make that realization. Funimation’s release here is fairly standard but it also feels a bit slimmed down in approach with the cover using the same artwork on both sides, the minimalist menu, and just that sense of getting it done more than anything else. Mystery shows are hard to sell to American audiences unfortunately and shows like this don’t make that any easier.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 12th, 2017
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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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