Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge – 06

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Its defenders and detractors would agree about very little when it comes to Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge, but one thing they’d both probably stipulate to is that it’s one weird show.  But in some ways it may in fact be the most unusual I’ve ever covered.

Little did I realize that the very first words I wrote about Dansai Bunri would prove so prophetic:

Based on what I’ve been reading today, this may be another series where my take and the mass opinion are two ships passing in the night.

I don’t know the exact number of anime that I’ve blogged on this site and RC over the last few years – it’s a lot – but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one that’s prompted so much hostile reaction against positive posts.  Negative posts, yes.  I’m quite used to getting vehemently attacked by fans of shows I don’t like and, if the show is popular enough – as the feedback to Shingeki no Kyojin will attest to – even shows I give mostly positive feedback to if the feedback has any hint of criticism.  I don’t recall another show that’s brought the site such bile for having the temerity to like a series too much, though.  It’s certainly no surprise that a show like Crime Edge should split the audience, but I’ve been surprised by how many people get their knickers in a twist because I consider it one of the two best shows of the season.

Truth be told, I don’t give a rat’s ass whether other people like the shows I like – I’m used to falling for commercial failures when it comes to anime (though of course it’s nice to occasionally love a show that’s popular and sells like hotcakes).  But I do find it genuinely fascinating to ponder just what it is about Dansai Bunri particularly that seems to make so many people angry about not just the show itself, but that a few other people love it.  I mean, there’s plenty of anime for all tastes – I may not be thrilled about the number of idol tie-in series and Nisio Isin sequels of sequels that sell like crazy, but I leave the fans of those shows to their own devices for the most part.  If I really hate a show (see Sasami-san for a recent example) I say so in the First Impressions post and, unless someone asks me about it, I wash my hands of it.

In any event we’re six episodes into Crime Edge, and sure as hell no one who hates it is going to change their minds now.  Happily, I don’t think too many of us that love it are going to either, because it isn’t going anywhere – this is still the most stylish and fascinating series of the Spring.  And it may just sell a few copies too, judging by the stalker points (aptly named, in this case) which seem to predict it just may not be the colossal SSY-level failure I expected, but only a middling one.  This episode may have been the most disturbing of the series in terms of violence – not for how graphic it was, but for how existentially jarring – but it was nevertheless full of genuine moments, too, which I think is a big part of the success of the series.

Contrast is an awfully important element in narrative entertainment like movies, TV and books, and anime is certainly no exception.  What Crime Edge is able to do is vary the emotional and tonal pitch of the narrative at the drop of a hat – every episode so far has had a wide range of shades, from outright comedy to genuine horror to tragedy and romance.  The brutal moments are that much more effective because the series isn’t an uninterrupted, draining and relentless fetishizing of depravity and hopelessness.  The ugliness of the story is contrasted not just with the relationship between Iwai and Kiri, but with the beauty of the visuals and music – beautiful in an abstract sense when terrible things are being shown with brilliant style and flair, and in a literal sense when we see moments like last week’s scene of Kiri and Iwai surrounded by a cloud of fireflies, or this week’s panorama of stars under which they danced in the ED. 

As odd as Crime Edge is, I have seen it compared to Nazo no Kanojo X – both as a compliment and an insult (that show divided viewers too) – and I think there’s something to that in the sense that the plot is premised on some very absurd conceits, yet uses them to reveal emotional truth.  The comparison only goes so far – Crime Edge is an even more far-out premise than MGX, and more focused on the larger plot – but there’s a fearless iconoclastic quality to the writing and direction in both series that strongly appeals to me.  The current arc is perhaps the most outlandish and disturbing yet, and Romeo and Ruka perhaps the most distasteful (certainly the most unsightly) of all the Author-Instead combos.  And they had a surprise in store – turns out that their S & M act was a front.  Not that they aren’t an S & M-driven pair, but it’s Ruka who’s the real “S” and the Author – her Killing Good being the “Pet Whip”, which uses the “Domestic Whipping” power to turn its recipients into her slaves.

The S & M aspect of Ruka’s act, really is a cover – this is really all about power (though you may feel that’s really all most S & M is about).  It’s a massive ego trip on the part of a girl who wasn’t as popular as she thought she should be, lost the big role in the school play as a result, and dedicated her life to getting revenge on the world for daring not to adore her.  For a cornered Iwai what she faces is undeniably a terrifying scenario, but there’s no self-pity and wetting herself – nor though is there any rush of superpowers.  She’s outmatched but defiant through her tears, and the worst part for her is that Kiri is lost to her, seemingly as broken to Ruka’s will as the others.  Yet Kiri is of a different order than the others, and perhaps even to the other Authors – his will is stronger, and it’s when Iwai in her darkest moments calls him a dummy and says she hates him that he snaps to his senses with extreme prejudice.

One thing can be said for sure about Kiri – he’s certainly badass with that scissors in his hand.  He’s gentle with Iwai but though he’s resisted killing anyone – quite intentionally, for certain – he’s not remotely sentimental about doing serious damage to his opponents.  Kiri hasn’t started a fight yet – every act of violence has been self-defense (or Iwai-defense) – but they’ve been bloody affairs and this one was no exception (the slicing of Romeo’s cheek was especially brutal).  The sepia-toned look of the action sequences may or may not appeal to you, but the choreography and animation in this scenes is really stunning – Crime Edge is not first an action series, but it delivers big-time in the moments where it’s called for.  Kiri is able to best Ruka and Romeo (and her slaves) with ease, but even so the tables turn against him when Seigi shows up with his Book of Judgment – originally intended to use against Ruka, who Seigi had tried to goad into killing The Queen – but which he’s only too happy to use against Kiri for seeming to enjoy the fight too much.  It’s only the unexpected intervention of Yamane and Kozakura that seems to save his neck.

The epilogue is an interesting one.  Iwai inadvertently (probably) does the most cruel thing she can do to the egomaniacal Ruka, showing pity for her – I’m not wholly in agreement with the sympathetic tone of the flashback sequence with Ruka and Romeo, but I don’t doubt that she’s shown to be entirely pathetic. Seigi and the Byouinzaka sisters remain wild cards in the story, especially Yamane, who seems on the verge of psychopathic breakdown at any time yet is also clearly developing unfamiliar feelings of attachment to Kiri and Iwai.  And as for them, they get their moment in the sun – or rather, under the stars – too late for the class stargazing outing but happier, probably, to be doing so on their own.  Last week’s disaster between them was partly miscommunication in that Iwai was indeed thinking of asking him to watch the stars with her, but there’s no doubt he’s still in a much more advanced place than she in the relationship.  It’s understandable – socially, she’s basically a toddler – though I suspect it will continue to prove frustrating for him.  If you feel nothing for Iwai and Kiri as a couple, I suspect this series could still be fascinating intellectually for you but never more than that.  For me, it’s the poignant pull of their relationship that takes Crime Edge beyond the intellectual exercise and makes it an emotionally compelling one as well.  It provides the necessary contrast – the counterpart to the depravity and violence that surrounds them.

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ED3 Sequence: “Glass no Mikazuki (硝子の三日月)” by Kotori Koiwai

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21 comments

  1. f

    Despite the fact that I did not like this series at all, I'm really quite happy about how you're so positive about it! Really, I think people produce their best writing when it's about something they like – that's why I enjoy reading your posts even when I don't necessarily enjoy the series. And I don't understand why people should be upset over someone else ENJOYING something. Put in those terms, it seems a little sadistic, right?

    So please keep up the good work and don't let the negative comments get to you! ^^

  2. You're breaking my heart, but thanks for the kind words anyway!

  3. H

    Perhaps a lot of the comparison to MGX (which I think is a pretty good comparison as well) is because it's about people having a relationship on their own terms, in what seems at first blush to be a direction that's out of the plane of normal relationships, yet contains the same essential elements that all relationships do.

    Perhaps the only thing I felt was a little 'off' in this episode was the double usage by Iwai of the "I said something unambiguous, but I didn't really mean it that way" excuse. It's understandable that she doesn't have a lot of experience with other people, but I really hope that they don't continue to use that as a device to walk back strife between Iwai and Kiri, because it's just too facile.

  4. S

    I think that the palm of "most hated show that you praised" goes to Eureka Seven AO.

    As for Dansai Bunri, I don't hate it but I do think that you are vastly overestimating its merits. More than MGX, it reminds me of C^3, another show about weird fetishes and bizarre killing instruments which belongs firmly in the "average" category IMHO.

    In this episode I think they fell into the shounen trope of trying to give a sad backstory to the villain of the week. Also, I wish that they showed what happened to the cursed whip. They couldn't possibly leave it in the Author's hands, right…?

  5. H

    I've only watched 3 or so episodes of C^3 (a couple months ago), but I didn't get nearly the same feeling from it that I do from Crime Edge. Perhaps I didn't get far enough in to the parts where whoever was trying to kill Fear, but that show felt a lot more like an iffy harem show with dark undertones. It's a show that I intend to come back to, but it's not nearly as interesting as Crime Edge.

    I think they have to leave the Pet Whip with Ruka, because haven't they described separation from killing goods like that as something that causes the person to go (more) insane, or die?

  6. E

    They are different. I dropped C^3 at episode at episode 10 myself. I agree with Highway there. C^3 feels more like a crappy harem show, hence why I stopped watching despite there are only two episode left. I can't really sympathize with the dark past of this Fear (or Fiya, or whatever). It's too abstract. What came out strong is the harem element instead:
    -glasses big breasted girl
    -bondage girl
    -hairdresser loli
    Even the opponents are all females.

  7. K

    AO was hated on general anime sites but it has its dedicated fanbase.

    Why can't Enzo-senpai praise something he loves though? We might not see it that way, but art has a way of showing itself differently to each person who interacts with it. There's nothing really objective about analyzing and talking about art, and the same is for anime.

    Personally this is my second favorite series this season, and it's okay if everyone else hates it. I just don't see why those of us who like it should be attacked for doing so. I don't attack SAO fans, or Sasami fans. I just hope they have fun watching and interacting with their fandoms and I do the same with mine.

  8. M

    Right. And people can have their own opinions, but they don't have to call others stupid or crazy (You know who you are) for liking something they don't.

  9. Ao is probably the most valid contender though, Son Gohan is right about that. But I saw more general dissing of the show in other places that became hate-fests – it wasn't so much people coming here to beat on LiA for praising it. Valvrave is another example, but the dynamic is different because it's not like I praise that show to high heaven – it's just that people seem to love hating it.

    As to C3, I could hardly disagree more about that. I found that show to be predictable and cliched, routine and boring. If there are similarities to Crime Edge they're completely superficial to my way of thinking.

  10. d

    The show this most reminds me of is C^3. They both had a somewhat bizarre visual direction along with a strange setup involving fighting and bizarre sexualization. I like them both, although I prefer Crime Edge because the main female character in C^3 was really annoying.

  11. i

    I don't know. I like this show a lot, really, yet your stellar remark on it left me scratching my head.

    It's a very enjoyable show but have some obvious flaws. Seeing you speak so highly of it is kinda weird.

    That said, I still like it a lot and glad you enjoy it so much.

  12. R

    The only issue I have with this series is the same one I had with Kotoura:
    That bullying, attempted murder and all that are no big issues. Let us forgive and forget them immediatly and be all be friends with eachother.

  13. I don't necessarily feel that's been the case, certainly before this week. Part of it is that Kiri needs to avoid killing anyone lest he become what he fears he will, but he's injured the two foes he's gone against to the point where they were likely near death. I didn't see anyone in Kotoura-san getting their cheek sliced in half.

    I did find the flashback sequence this week to be too sympathetic, as I said in the post. I think it was designed to show that Ruka is more pathetic than evil, but it went too far in that direction.

  14. M

    Hahaha, honestly this episode was terrible bad(and Enzos again talks in a way like it was fantastic, crazy guy), i mean, this was the most laughable climax of the season…so many absurd flaws with the script and nonsense personality twists, i can't even count them. I admit, episode 3 climax wasn't so bad, it was "average", so i was expecting the series were gonna improve by time, unfortunately that wasn't the case. Things are getting more and more ridiculous as the time pass.

    Well, this was my last episode, a big level of disbelief(Enzo have a giant one and is funny since it only works for the series he falls in love with) is necessary to get to take the action scenes and dramas seriously in this serie so i am dropping it. Good luck to the ones who stay.

  15. S

    Thanks for blogging this series. I decided to give this series a shot and I'm enjoying every episode of it.

  16. M

    I really do like this show very much. The twist with Ruka being the author was unexpected, but quite honestly judging by her behavior last episode, it really shouldn't have been. Even the opening had a hint (The fact that Ruka appears after Romeo would implies she leads) Which I guess goes to show that Crime Edge isn't a show that treats you like an idiot. Yep! I love it!

  17. S

    My feelings towards this show are pretty muddled so far. I have no intention of dropping it, and I more or less enjoy it while watching it, but I just feel like it's really lacking something. I don't think it's a bad show, but I don't think I could ever call it better than just average. Of course that's just my opinion, I don't really see a problem with other people liking it more or less. Just ignore the hate.

  18. E

    While I like this show, it's certainly weird that the vice president started telling her enemies the story of her past, huh.

  19. h

    To me, there is no question. This is certainly the most spectacular shows of the season, and also one of the best. "The plot is premised on some very absurd conceits, yet uses them to reveal emotional truth." And indeed, what surprising depth and variety of emotional truths are subject to its unflinching gaze!

    No series is without flaws, but nitpicking such a character study in urges and desires, hope and despair, the logical and pathological, reveals only in the viewer that s/he does not appreciate the beauty cloaked wistfully in darkness, nor the ugliness loosely draped in beauty. Our leads embody these synergistically conflicting elements to the hilt, embracing them as they are forcibly interleaved into their daily affairs.

    If you look for it, there is even a poetic beauty to the madness, and not just in the choreography. The aura of mystery too is palpable in the identities and motivations of some of our more enigmatic and impenetrable supporting characters. Truly, this series seamlessly weds such a magnificent number of artistic and literary themes within its tapestry of rich characters and imagery, all attendant to an atmosphere at once both gothic and contemporary. To these extents, as far as my knowledge serves me, Dansai Bunri is without compare.

  20. Very artfully put, hoiut.

  21. R

    It's interesting how amongst the shower of generic anime that we have nowadays loots of people keep rejecting interesting and engaging shows like this one and many other, truly a sad sight.

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