I’ve really loved all three episodes of Crime Edge, each in a slightly different way. There’s so much about this series that’s exceptional, but one thing that especially stands out is that there’s nothing whatsoever conventional about it. From the visuals to the music to the voice work to the story, this is a series that isn’t concerned about doing things the normal way, but rather doing them its own way. Studio Gokumi is a studio that’s stamped itself as one to watch, with the makings of a signature style – but Dansai Bunri takes it to another level. This show has style coming out its ears.
All of the elements that I enjoyed in the first two eps are present in this one, but where this week’s effort stands out is that it was a masterwork of suspense and genuinely scary. It’s already clear that this series is going to be pretty merciless when it comes to its characters – this is going to be a dark ride, and there doesn’t seem likely to be any character armor on display, even for Kiri and Iwai. Yet in spite of that, it finds moments of black comedy even in frightening and disturbing situations – a rare ability for any series, anime or otherwise. The sense of danger, that anything could happen to anyone, is always present – but so is the genuine experience of enjoying what we’re watching.
While last week’s cliffhanger set up the dangerous nature of this episode, it started innocently enough – with a trip to the salon of classmate Misumi Kashiko (Yasuno Kiyono). Or rather, that of her family, as Kashiko seems disinterested in carrying on the family trade despite the fervent wishes of her mother. Kashiko spends her time modeling when her mother isn’t forcing her to practice on hapless classmates like Naruto Kotarou (Shimazaki Nobunaga, giving us a reunion of the Tari Tari boys). Kashiko seems to be a Muggle, as there’s no evidence she’s connected to any cursed goods – but she does immediately notice the strangeness of Iwai-chan’s hair, which she says is like a baby’s. All hair ages, she says, even that of a child like herself – but that doesn’t seem to apply to Iwai. Kashiko’s role in the premise is still TBD but she makes a good (almost) first impression with her poorly hidden delight when Iwai and Kiri call her beautiful.
The hair-cutting aspect of this series reveals another element this week. With Kiri’s fascination with cutting and Iwai’s unique ability, he can try out new hairstyles on her endlessly – we saw a new one here, in fact. While that might take some explaining at school it does offer the delightful prospect of the fantastic designers behind Dansai Bunri getting to cosplay their female lead’s hairstyle every episode. But there are more immediate concerns to worry about, with the escaped Author and his hammer on the loose. Yamane tells Kiri that it’s likely the killer has become a “soulless man” – someone who lacked an Instead and as a result completely succumbed to the evil of his killing goods – and is thus killing randomly, rather than seeking out the Queen in order to free himself of his curse.
In point of fact, of course, the killer and his hammer show up at Iwai’s house that very night – making it a very good thing Kiri-kun chose to stay with her. There are fascinating questions here – starting with whether Yamane intentionally misled Kiri and if so, why. There seems little question that the killer – though he comes off as pretty demented – intended to head straight for Iwai. The scenes in her mansion after he cuts the power are straight out of a horror film, but like everything in this series gorgeously drawn and animated. And the eventual confrontation between Kiri and Hammer-man is a thing of grisly beauty – once again switching to monochrome when Kiri falls under the influence of his killing goods.
As with so much in this show, we’re not led to exactly what we’re supposed to believe. There’s no question that Kiri changes when he picks up his killing goods with intent to do mayhem, but he seems never to lose sight of the fact that he’s doing so to protect the one he loves. And in point of fact he doesn’t kill Hammer-man – we’re told later by Houko that he’s dead, but that it was a suicide by hanging. So though Kiri expresses a willingness to follow in the footsteps of his ancestor in order to protect Iwai, he still hasn’t killed anyone and seems quite connected to reality. “I want my heart to be strong like an iron scissors. And my soul to fear nothing.” It’s a statement that lends itself to open interpretation, and leaves a cloud of ambiguity hanging over the character (quite intentionally).
At the center of everything remains the relationship between Kiri-kun and Iwai-chan, and it’s one of the strangest and most powerful in anime for a long time. The awkwardness between them as he stays at her house is totally believable and normal, and it’s juxtaposed with so many strange and edgy moments – like the scene where she flees into his arms, naked, after the power is cut. Kiri strokes her hair, an odd smile on his face, and it seems for a moment that for Iwai her cursed kami is an erogenous zone. Then there’s the moment when, in fleeing from the Hammer-man, a terrified Iwai wets herself, and Kiri is the soul of compassion and love – comforting and consoling her even as his own potential death is bearing down on him. They’re a remarkable pair, wonderful together as a unique and mystifying couple – and I can’t wait to see more of them.
When a series looks as fantastic as Dansai Bunri does, it’s tempting to let that overshadow everything else, Yet there’s no element to the series so far that isn’t exceptional, right down to the music. It’s a series of singular vision, and I love everything about it so far – the unconventional acting style not the least. Yet there’s no denying that it’s the visuals that grab you first, and this truly is an astonishingly beautiful series. I noted the TTGL connection in my post on the premiere, and it’s no less obvious, but Crime Edge isn’t a visual clone of that show – it’s very much a style unto itself. We don’t see a marriage of character design, backgrounds, cinematography and fluid animation like this very often. It’s hard to see how Gokumi can possibly maintain the animation quality and detail at this level for the entire run, but there’s so much talent on display here that I suspect the show will always look great even if those aspects become inconsistent. If you’re on the fence with this series I urge you to give it a try for any of the myriad reasons I’ve discussed – it really is that special a show.