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