Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace – 02

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To borrow a thoroughly overused phrase: WTF did I just watch?

I have pretty much no idea how to take this episode of Game of Laplace, which was surely one of the oddest 22 minutes of anime I’ve seen in a very long time.  There are a lot of puzzling aspects to this show that pop into mind after that ep – was it intended to be taken at least semi-seriously, or was it flat-out satire?  Was it brilliant or a trainwreck?  Frankly I don’t know what the hell to make of it, but that has me curious to stick around for at least a little while.

It’s no small merit that Ranpo Kitan is if nothing else thoroughly not generic, and absolutely not boring.  But both the resolution of the “human chair” murder case and the means used to exposit it were way, way out there.  I mean, you had stuff like the comic autopsy (which may be the first slapstick autopsy I’ve ever seen) which featured a hilarious Kappei Yamaguchi as Shitai-kun (“Corpsey”).  Yamaguchi also featured as an “expert” talking about “game brain” in the equally hilarious TV news segment which preceded the autopsy, which ruthlessly skewered extremists on both sides of the juvenile violent crime before turning on the apathetic and ill-informed Japanese public with a brief stop on the upcoming VAT (Value Added Tax) increase.

That news spoof was top-notch satire, but sandwiching it on either side is bizarre and almost inexplicable stuff like that autopsy, and the details about the crime in question.  The resolution to the murder case hinges on the teacher being a pedophile who’s switched his allegiance from girls (most recently his true killer, Hoshino) to boys (or one boy, anyway) and his victims being “glad” to have been turned into human chairs by him.  I don’t know enough detail and Ranpo’s original version to know how much detail in terms of motive and circumstance has been preserved, but there’s a pretty big suspension of disbelief required here, especially for that second part.  I’d also question why, even if the victims were supposedly willing, no one would have connected them to the teacher previously, but hey – suspension of disbelief, right?

Again, all this makes me wonder how seriously we were intended to take this case and this series.  And it makes me suspect strongly that in the Kishi/Uezu version anyway, the mysteries themselves are less the point than the character study of Akechi and especially Kobayashi.  Kobayashi is a very disturbed little boy – he takes his teacher’s prurient interest in him completely in-stride, seems not at all bothered either by being a suspect in a murder (which is at least explicable if you assume he knew he was more bait than suspect), or by the details of the murders themselves.  This is all a game to him (maybe the inferred meaning of the title), and the only enemy he seems to fear is boredom.

All that makes Kobayashi interesting, but pretty hard to identify with as a protagonist.  And the anime Akechi has revealed little of himself yet – he’s a bit of a troll and a lot of a genius, but does this young man have any moral compass, or is he as much in it for the thrills as Kobayashi?  Hashiba certainly seems the most “normal” member of the trio in that his reactions to the bizarre and terrifying are at least recognizable, though it’s clear the main driving force for his character is that he’s in love with Kobayashi himself.  And Kobayashi seems fully aware of it, coquettishly leading Hashiba on as he makes use of him in his own machinations.

There’s a lot of other strange stuff happening too, like pretty much everything about the new teacher Hanabashi – she of the suspicious scars on her wrists and the extraneous nekomimi.  The moment when she sees the truth of what’s under the lining of sensei’s chair and proceeds to jump through a closed window is every bit as bizarrely placed as the autopsy bit, maybe more so, and again makes me question with just what intentions Kishi and Ueze are approaching the material.  At this point I’m stumped – interested, certainly, but utterly at a loss.  Let’s see if the next case begins to shed any light on Ranpo Kitan’s true identity – that’s the real mystery here.

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  1. A

    I did like the wacky autopsy bit, and Hanabashi jumping through the window was to me absolutely hilarious.
    Occurs to me that what we're getting here, rather than straight but updated adaptations, is more a loosely based homage, mashing up various themes.

    Eroticism, grotesquerie, and the nonsensical.

    Works for me.

  2. S

    Not 100% happy with the episode since the murder mystery was pretty unbelievable (and so quickly resolved). I rather like my mysteries to be believable and solvable for the audience (this one failed at least on the former), hopefully the next one is better.

    I feel like I've seen the MC type many times before. Feeling dead, mindset of a killer, genius, emotionally detached, but that's what the synopsis is telling me he is. What I see in his interactions and reactions doesn't believably portray that at all. He just feels off, unreal and boring.

    Good catch with the Teacher's wrists, btw. I'll stick around for one more episode, but I'm leaning towards dropping it.

  3. S

    I am far more inclined towards the "trainwreck" side. I think this is one of those shows that try to be of two souls and end up being of neither one. It presented itself as a mystery show, and it set us up with some very familiar detective-y anime tropes (like the specially exempted high schooler genius acting as a detective, reminiscent of both Death Note and Detective Conan). But then it completely cheated on that side by giving us an effectively unsolvable case where the murderer was found thanks to either information not disclosed to the viewers or outrageous non-sequitur deductions which still magically turned out to be right ("the teacher called me for a meeting => I don't have any problems with my grades => clearly the teacher must be in love with me!"). And it tried hard to be some sort of twisted dark-humour grotesque nonsense show, failing at that too because of how seriously it took itself during most of its runtime. There simply was no undercurrent hinting at that grotesque side, it was like different scenes were made by different teams each unaware of the work by the other. It was a rather jarring spectacle to me.

  4. S

    I feel the " the teacher loves me" theory can be 'explained' by information not disclosed to the viewers (sigh), but one of the most jarring faults is how the class rep was able to identify that the culprit was in the classroom, but not who it was. Damnit he was looking for reactions, either he gets one from a specific person or no one. There's no need to catch the class mate red handed after that.

    The culprit being a class mate was a pretty standard guess, but I was thinking more of a vengeful vigilante than a snubbed girlfriend. Lovers wanting to become chairs is also so fucking out there that it's beyond ridiculous.

  5. g

    I have similar feeling like you. Absurd-like elements feel like the authors of the anime have thought they have to add some typical anime antics. And my main complain is they broke the rules about the mystery genre, where the audience have a chance to solve a case before an episode ends if they want to, because they have every elements of puzzles.
    I guess I wouldn't be so harsh about the absurd-like elements and they wouldn't be so annoying for me, if characters used a proper deduction, when there was only an one hint, although the weak one, IMO.

    About a motivation of the killer and his victims… well I could believe in this one, because I've heard about more bonkers cases IRL.

    I think I'll give it an one more episode, maybe two, if the anime follows the pattern and cases are divided on two parts and the second one is a solution.

  6. I have no disagreement with the argument that the solution to the mystery was far-fetched, and that the audience wasn't played fair with – and that's a major problem for me. I would say, though, that I thought Hashiba did catch Hoshino out by her reaction. But even if he did, they still need to force her to expose herself – one kid saying "She flinched!" isn't enough to close the case.

  7. m

    Maybe this is also an upgrade from the novels, since a standard 'present and solve the case' procedure weekly may have the risk of getting "tiring".
    I was thinking the police were playing a really small role in the investigations, and that gets a little disappointing. Still, I did love the cut-in into the news, it was hilarious.
    Also, I did find the motivations very strange though, like… why would anyone like getting butchered and dismembered? And knowing you are not the only one who is loved. I was thinking they might reveal why and how the sensei knew so much about the embalming processs… isn't that a difficult procedure?

  8. A

    I was reminded of that German cannibal case where apparently the victim consented to be killed and eaten.
    To use an old Yorkshire saying "There's nowt so queer as folk".

  9. S

    Well, one is one thing… but the dude apparently kept finding them. And weren't they jealous that they weren't even his first chair? "Honey, don't worry, she's nothing but a stool to me. You're going to be my one and only studio chair."

  10. D

    Theory: I believe that everything we are seeing is through the eye's/mind of Kobayashi. If you are boring and uninteresting you are a colorless blob. Even the scene of the phone reveal in the classroom is from the perspective of his mind. The outlandish stuff is not literal and just his interpretation of reality to make it interesting. The autopsy results were being explained to him by the officer, and he invented that image of the 'fun' autopsy.

    With all that said, it was a train wreck.

  11. K

    I just found myself in confusion and denial over Kobayashi's gender…

  12. L

    Well, by not taking this episode seriously, I found a very valuable lesson in life. Do not love a trap or else be killed.

    I am here hoping another Un-Go here but got a more retarded Danganronpa the Animation variant. Okay, since I don't drop an anime that I have watched so far, I am going to see it till the end and torture myself a bit.

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