Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace Review

Based off the works of Edogawa Rampo, the writer known for playing a huge role in the development of Japanese mystery fiction, Ranpo Kitan hits the gates with quite the shoes to fill. However with a team behind it with little mystery work under their belt, can this title do Edogawa’s work justice?

e1rampokitan10Synopsis
Kobayashi has always found life boring and often viewed dreams as reality and reality as dreams. Things change however after he wakes up in his classroom with a bloody saw in hand and the corpse of his home room teacher nearby.

Now framed for a murder, he’s given the chance by a 17-year-old genius named Akechi to solve the murder in an attempt to become part of an elite class of detective children who are allowed many freedoms. Including something that peaks Kobayashi’s interest; to solve mysterious cases.

Story
Opening up, Ranpo Kitan is a simple story of elite young investigators solving mysteries that the police cannot. This transitions into a series of murder cases that e1rampokitan03ultimately open the doors to the main theme, Twenty Faces.

The Twenty Faces case is simply its label for vigilantes that the kid geniuses have to stop due to their obvious murderous intent in the face of exacting justice outside of the justice system. It’s a solid setup, but never really strays far from the norm.

Even still, the cases are relatively grim and often painful to hear unfold. Now and then managing to really tug at heart-strings and moral disgust. Though it becomes problematic when most of the stories remain just that, a story.

That’s because Ranpo Kitan isn’t so much a puzzle solving mystery, it’s more like an animated storybook. Often the characters just stand on a fabricated stage and tell everything that happened, rather than rely on the viewer to try to piece things e1rampokitan07together or spend time building any sort of suspense. So to go into Ranpo Kitan expecting anything to be pieced together is a mistake.

Easily one of the more frustrating aspects of the series comes in its rollercoaster of storytelling. It starts strong, then falls into monotony, then it hits a solid point before falling once again to monotony. It never hits its stride or keeps a solid pacing of interesting storytelling. Providing probably 3 solid stories and leaving the rest to boring elements that have no substance.

One of its key elements to the main plot line even fails to deliver a cohesive connection to the actions of the characters. Claiming some sort of formula the characters created has some sort of effect on the world. Yet it never defines just how that is supposed to interface with people. It’s silly and almost feels useless to the e1rampokitan11world. Which is telling as they spent a substantial time dealing with it.

It also doesn’t help that none of the characters are relatable, realistic, entertaining, or likable. They are either monotone, emotionless, psychotic, or .. for one character .. passing bodily fluids every scene they are in. There’s never an explanation for why they are the way they are outside of one main character.

Animation
Visually Ranpo Kitan is a mixed bag. Taking on Lerche’s similar artstyles that almost mimic Assassination Classroom, it almost seems like an offshoot to the series. The two interesting aspects in Ranpo Kitan however are the nice use of dark atmosphere and symbolism in side characters.

e1rampokitan05More often than not, any side characters are portrayed by either blank silhouettes or puppets. For a few brief moments, this seemed very clever and often gave hints as to which characters had meaning to the investigation or were tools to a bigger plot. Except, it turns out that most of this is rather over-praising and the tool almost seems to turn to lazy work instead. Never amounting to much.

Verdict
Ranpo Kitan is definitely a nice change of pace for most anime titles these days. Offering a dark and often disturbing look into the realm of murder and mystery that’s rare. However due to its writing, pacing, and lack of care, it seems to be lost in the dark. With everything told to the viewer by seemingly boring characters, one e1rampokitan06could gather more from an audio book than what’s offered here.

That’s not to say Ranpo Kitan is void of any entertainment, as it has a few promising arcs within its offerings. It’s just something that will be easily forgotten and lacking a full series of solid moments to appreciate.  Leaving the question as to if this is a sign of the times for Edogawa’s work, or just a misuse of quality material.  As I can’t claim to be a scholar in his work, all I’m left to decide is that it was the later.

Want to check it out? Funimation has licensed distribution and it is currently streaming on Funimation.com!

THUMBS DOWN!

REVIEW VERDICT:
Disappointment

Goods:

  • Good dark theme
  • Shocking moments

Bads:

  • Poor characters
  • No puzzle solving mystery
  • Glorified audio book
  • Unutilized symbolism and styles
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Co-Founder of OtakuSpirit.com and Co-Host of the OtakuSpirit Animecast. A huge fan of anime since the early 1990s, consuming over 800 shows. While he's late to the collecting scene, he's found a lot of joy in filling his DVD/Blu-ray collection as well as collecting figures. Once a week, he posts unboxing and feature videos on anime goods to YouTube.