OP: “Unmei no Ori (運命の檻)” by Aimi
My great fear is that Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge is going to be the next great anime that no one watches. It’s definitely not going to suit everyone’s tastes – this is an unapologetically very strange series. The storyline is bizarre, the narrative style is unconventional and the look is dark and gothic despite a modern setting. It’s one of those series that’s hard to justify by singling out any one aspect of its presentation, but taken as a whole it totally works for me. There’s absolutely nothing like it.
Remarkably enough, as strange as the premiere was this show looks even weirder now that we have a little bit of a handle on what’s actually going on. Apparently the plot revolves around two curses, both of which in turn revolve around Iwai. Her ancestor was the first “Hair Queen” – like Iwai her hair could not be cut, and it was she who empowered the “killing goods”, the items such as Kiri’s scissors. They urge their owner to use them for murder, and their killing power is many times that of a normal item. Add to that the fact that the only way for an “Author” – one in possession of one such item – to free themselves from their curse is to kill the Hair Queen, and you have quite an explosive situation.
The first half of this episode is largely taken up with Yamane, the younger of the two Byouinzaka sisters. She’s completely unhinged at the sight of Iwai leaving her house to go to school (and she didn’t seem all that hinged to begin with) and that leads to her using her killing goods – a syringe her ancestor used to murder soldiers while working as a medic in WW II – in a seeming attempt on Iwai’s life. This is a gruesome and disturbing but gorgeously composed scene, mostly in shadow, as she injects Iwai before Kiri can slash her arm with his scissors in a spray of blood. After they duel he ends up in the infirmary, unconscious, and we see via flashback that Yamane has in fact already murdered both her parents.
Enter “Professor” Sumeragi Kanae (Yusa Kouji, a modern seiyuu legend) who introduces himself as Iwai’s guardian and proceeds to explain to Kiri why Yamane is injecting her sister with the syringe and licking the wounds. Unless they play out the act of murder, he tells Kiri, Authors will eventually snap and go on a killing spree – thus the use of “Insteads” to act as mock-victims for the pretend-murders. This is a pretty grisly premise, and the imagery is disturbing to match it, but the more we learn about Sumeragi the more disturbing he seems in his own right. He’s a proud pedophile who has “Lolicon Justice” written on his office whiteboard and seems to take a good deal of glee at the notion of undressing Iwai and performing mouth-to-mouth on her.
So in this episode we met a double-patricide and a pedophile, and those are the good guys – not to mention that the chief protagonist himself is a boy who seems fated to become a serial killer himself. Kiri’s role, Sumeragi tells him, is to look after Iwai and make sure none of the Authors looking to free themselves from the curse gets her – and it looks as if he’ll be getting some practice in the next episode. In the act of cutting Iwai’s hair (which grows back overnight) she can act as his Instead and stave off his madness for a while, in theory anyway. You don’t get plots much darker than that, yet in spite of all of it there remains something powerful and poignant about Kiri and Iwai’s relationship. His commitment to her and her adoration of him seem so genuine and utterly different from the shallow and cliched relationships at the center of most anime that in spite of all the darkness surrounding them, their scenes together are somehow warm and hopeful.
On top of all that, what really stands out about Crime Edge is just how beautiful it is. The music is spectacular start to finish, and in terms of the look this is one of the most stunning anime I’ve seen in years. The character designs are the best this season, the creativity in the direction is off the charts, the backgrounds are detailed and the animation smooth and fluid. Studio Gokumi has really outdone themselves here, and they’ve added a lovely OP and ED (I especially like the ED animation sequence) that feel totally suited to the material this week. I don’t imagine that Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge is going to be an easy series to watch, and I certainly don’t think it’s going to find a wide audience. But for those looking for something stylish, affecting and very different, this is one of the standouts of the year so far.
ED: “Kimi to Futari (君と二人)” by Karin Takahashi × Yurika Endo