There is no doubt in my mind that the creators of Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace (「乱歩奇譚 Game of Laplace」Ranpo’s Stories of Mystery: Game of Laplace) wanted to honor the works of Edogawa Ranpo, a thriller novelist and Japan’s answer to Arthur Conan Doyle and G.K. Chesterton (responsible for Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown respectively – although I believe the comparison should be more of the former). I personally am a fan of Edogawa myself: one of my prized books in my possession is a single collection of short stories translated into English, called Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination, where I also read The Human Chair. I also have another book called The Edogawa Ranpo Reader, which contains both fiction and non-fiction essays. And anyone who’s familiar with Meitantei Conan (「名探偵コナン」Detective Conan) would’ve already known who he is.
… Yeah I know you’re not here to read all that back-story. But four episodes and three cases in, I have a few thoughts and observations I’d like to share.
Ranpo Kitan attempts to tell a story that not only pleases hardcore thrill-seekers and crime-solvers, but also help those who may not be too used to the gore that seems to be characteristic of anime with similar themes. Anyone who reads Edogawa’s works knows what to expect. The committed crimes don’t end well and are certainly not pretty, but Ranpo Kitan tries to soften the impact with a touch of slapstick humor. They felt a little awkward at first, but it’s easy to get the hang of it, and you slowly start to appreciate the break in between.
Anime viewers and Edogawa readers are probably aware of the fact that this show is not a retelling of the novelist’s works, but a series original stories that are inspired by him. The only connection between the two are the title of the episodes (The Human Chair, Shadow Man, and The Fiend with Twenty Faces) and, to my knowledge, at least two characters. The protagonist Akechi is inspired by Akechi Kogoro – Edogawa’s fictional Japanese Sherlock Holmes – and the Black Lizard, who shares the same name as her original creation. Akechi is also possibly a stereotype of detectives who share the same eccentric genius behind their bizarre behavior. His home is just as messy as the BBC’s Sherlock.
What drives me crazy at the moment is the other protagonist, Kobayashi.
This brat drives me NUTS. For a 13-year-old, he has an unnatural appetite for the grim and the grotesque. He’s a boy on the cusp of puberty, but his feminine features, cute tone and polite use of words makes him a disturbing contrast with the realities of the dirty work in solving crimes. Yet his wide-eyed facade doesn’t conceal the fact that he’s very aware that he is attracting attention from pedophiles, his teachers, and probably his classmates, especially his best bud Hashiba….
I said earlier that Ranpo Kitan tries to keep things light-hearted at some parts of the show, didn’t I? Well this is probably where you’d get to your break:
Meet Minami and Shitai-kun (literally “Corpse-y”). As a medical examiner, she and her puppet-buddy share a short segment on the show called the “Three-Minute Shocker” (３分間ショッキング – but they really don’t last three minutes) where they demonstrate how the victim dies. Like a rabbit on steroids, Minami reenacts the murder and explains the resulting damages, while Baymax’s poor cousin gets strangled, dismembered, stabbed, minced… in every possible way. It’s strangely hypnotic and amusing to watch. Say what you want about her, but she seems to love her job a little too much…
My verdict so far – there is enough action and mystery in the show that has managed to keep my attention for the entire four episodes. It is well-paced, and the talent is well-picked. The music, which is composed by Yokohama Masaru (横山克), blends well with several key highlights that added to the climax at some points. The decision to pick amazarashi and sayuri for the opening and ending themes respectively couldn’t be any better as well. And while it’s not Psycho-Pass levels of thrills, if the original intent of Ranpo Kitan was to deflect the attention back to the original creator for whom this show is dedicated to, then I think it’s done a pretty wonderful job. I’m sure Edogawa-sensei would have appreciated it.