Friday, 4 February 2011

Anime Review - Suteki Tantei Labyrinth



Even the setting sun will not hide the poor wardrobe choice
As explained in my Asura Cryin review, a series that packs in too many genres is destined to fail. Thinking a lesson had been learned, and no show would attempt the impossible again, I was surprised by the first episode of Suteki Tantei Labyrinth. Just to give you an idea of what to expect (and how over the top it is), prepare yourself for: middle school slice-of-life, 12 year-old detective, mystery, scantily clad fighting “dolls”, martial artist police, futuristic Tokyo, a “blood curse”, supernatural elements, fan service, murder and to top it all off, the obligatory misplaced humorous episodes.

With the mystery genre being a bit of a secret pleasure for me, any show involving the word “Tantei” is virtually a must watch – hence why this show found its way onto my to-do list. After just the first twenty minutes, I find myself scratching my head; interspersed with a group of middle school students investigating a haunted house were scenes of scantily clad women fighting each other under the control of a mysterious man. It almost feels as if there are two completely different shows messily blended together in a rollercoaster ride of fun-filled investigations and dreary fillers.

Mean, moody and plain annoying.
Introducing the blonde haired and blue eyed protagonist, child detective Mayuki, a firm step is taken toward a “mystery of the week” show which lasts for approximately half of the episodes. Whilst not terrible, the leaps of logic taken in cracking some of the seemingly impossible murders requires more than a little faith. The second half of the show seems to consist mainly of flashbacks and a conclusion to the hinted dark past of our hero and those closest to him. Sadly, it makes very little sense and although is wrapped up over a couple of episodes, feels as if nothing was really succinctly answered leaving a bitter taste in the show’s aftermath.



Divine Punishment, maybe. But what a view...
Easily the strongest part of the show, the animation is some of the best I have seen recently. The characters remain well drawn and gorgeous throughout, whilst the scenery is a superb view of a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. CG is used throughout to great effect, but areas of traditional artwork maintain a creepy atmosphere when called for. However, what is a letdown for this section is the unnecessary use of fan-service. Strapping up the busty “dolls” in bandages and letting that pass as an outfit may be acceptable for an ecchi show, but even as an ecchi aficionado I feel that the demographic has been poorly identified for this series.



Buy two busty female, and get a manly man free!
Somehow pulling in big hitting names such as Romi Park, Marina Inoue and Junichi Suwabe, the vocal cast of Suteki Tantei Labyrinth is nothing if not impressive. The latter especially turns up his sex factor to an eleven, whilst Hatsumi’s voice actress delivers equal servings of ditzy and adorable. Unfortunately, the childish tones of Mayuki do grate as the series progresses and could even be classed as condescending during moments of his detective enlightenment.

The opening track is a fun, indie pop tune that wouldn’t seem out of place in the current UK music market. The closing audio slips down the scale, reverberating with the tone of a misplaced love ballad that would sit comfortably in a cheap candlelit restaurant in the wrong end of town. This disparity matches the confused tone of the show and could well help put off potential viewers.



Mayuki goes super Sayan to solve mysteries
Bursting at the seams with cliché characters, there is no apology for the predictable nature afforded to each personality. Mayuki is the adorable orphan you will want to throttle by the final episode, whilst the delectable Seiran is cornered into the knight in white armour who dashes to the rescue at the last minute numerous times. For me, the divide between likeable and murder-able was predefined by the ages and the annoyance was something to be grown out of.


Err... yeah....

Seemingly added purely for fan-service, the female cast are valued for their curves over their brains. Hatsumi is frankly a terrible maid who would be sacked in the current economic climate, and yet she is revered by the rest of the household as practically a member of the family. Sanae is the curvaceous older sister whose unnatural crush on the wealthy protagonist sits in the realms of creepy. Out of the rather large character list, one plus point is that the histories and motivations of each in the main group are well explored and motivations well fleshed out. Well, all but the two superfluous cops that serve no purpose other than to act as chaperones for the excitable kids.


The obligatory swimsuit shot.
Lacking the fun of Detective Academy Q or the loveable cast of Majin Tantei Neuro, Suteki Tantei Labyrinth is an overreaching failure in so many ways. Be it the maelstrom of genres packed into the story or the frankly dislikeable main character, moments of potential are rapidly lost and forgotten. There is a reason for a lack of bubbling excitement behind this title, and unfortunately it is not because it is a hidden gem.

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