The Human Chair (Part 1)「人間椅子(前編)」
Summer’s the season for mystery so combine this anime adaptation from the father of Japanese mystery fiction Edogawa Ranpo with my dearest voice actor Sakurai Takahiro AND an anime in the noitamina time belt = one happy happy akatsuki~ just look at this opening episode! Who doesn’t love a crime as gruesome and as mysterious as that of a human chair body dismemberment right?
I love mystery. And I love anime gore because it’s less real when depicted in this medium. This adaptation of Edogawa Ranpo’s strange tales (Kitan) for his 50th death anniversary for summer (season of summer ghost stories after all) seemed timely by FujiTV but it’s easy to get mystery done badly or just end up being distasteful. The last mystery anime I saw that involved students was Ono Daisuke‘s Shinrei Tantei Yakumo and I only got through that because I was in an OnoD phase at that time. Thankfully, Ranpo’s turned out to be a delicious mystery thriller from the very beginning even if Sakurai’s 17-year old genius detective Akechi Kogorou simply invites comparisons to Death Note‘s L. Remember that Akechi came first though!
This opening episode’s badass enough with its gruesome graphics and that mystery genre device of the one suspect not being able to remember the crime or being at the crime scene at all; remember this is an adaptation from a novel written loooong ago so while we’re numb to this sort of plot now, it was refreshing when first published. Now our main character here is trap of the season Kobayashi Yoshio (Takahashi Rie) who is very very bored with his present life. He’s evidently into mystery but regardless of how much he reads and watches, nothing’s engaging him as much as being at the centre of a very tricky mystery himself. He’s scarily enamoured with the genius of Akechi (nothing else so don’t go shipping anyone… yet) whom our first impression is someone who’s so not a teenager. Throw in Kobayashi’s friend and token straight man character Hashiba Souji (so nice to hear Yamashita Daiki in something else other than Log Horizon and Yowamushi) and it’s easy to see how the 3 boys’ dynamism should include angst, ego, pride, loyalty and surely some baka moments as they go about solving each mystery or perhaps just this one mystery. What’s intriguing already thus far is why Hashiba looks out for Kobayashi so much, why he hates his own family background, what pain is it that Akechi has that just wouldn’t subside, what’s with that flashback (did Akechi’s friend kill himself?) and lastly, is Kobayashi really more creepy than let on with his looks? And we’ve not even started on the crime itself. How did the murderer teacher himself get murdered? Who knew about his penchant for assembly DIY human chairs, enough to dismember him that way? Why seek attention that way? Ain’t all this jolly fun? Kobayashi sure thinks so as he comes truly alive.
I do like the effect on blanking out the other unnecessary background characters even though it’s more or less Shaft’s production signature. Perhaps though, it’s Kobayashi’s way of seeing the world – everyone’s just another blank until proven otherwise. For a 13 year old, he’s definitely not far from the usual mystery MC (i.e. near impossible personality in real life) but much remains to be seen because he’s just way too calm and scarily observant… As for Akechi, don’t bother asking why or how he has special permission from the Imperial Agency given to him as a genius detective recognised and consulted by the police, just take in all of Sakurai’s young-ish, aloof, standoffish yet cool and composed voice acting. It’s like listening to Psycho-pass‘ Makishima’s younger and less cynical version.
Production-wise Ranpo’s director (Kishi Seiji) is behind Angel Beats (yay) but also Hamatora (nay) so… fingers crossed. The script writer (Uezu Makoto) though, is experienced as series composer as well so that’s a safe bet on pacing. Yokoyama Masaru’s delivered beautifully even before the OP started so high expectations there what with having delivered great OSTs with Nobunaga Concerto and KimiUso, not to mention his works for Japanese doramas! The OP by amazarashi (last heard in ED of Tokyo Ghoul √A) is as warped as they’re famous for since their lyrics this time around involve dog bones in the garden, vomiting blood and umm, bronchitis… safe to say I’m not a fan but they sure set the mood for strange with this OP, so weirded out am I that I don’t even want to include screenshots of the OP. Sayuri does a nice ED though I’m equally creeped out by the ED sequence so again, am not going to include any screenshots :p