Posts with the “mystery” tag

Little birds can remember

Contention follows any Kyoto Animation production; adoration and scorn is heaped upon them as a studio as much as their output (or absence thereof). Hyouka is their next work after Nichijou (or the K-On! movie for chronology purists) and initially drew ire for its glacially sedate pace as well as one of the protagonist's aesthetic similarity to fan favourite Mio.

Following its own tempo, the series is content to plod determinedly along sometimes wallowing in the most pedestrian of storylines while others frolicking through names and motives with little care for foreshadowing or context. Ostensibly this is a mystery show with each case being either a one-shot or stretched out to three episodes or more. The former are the most forgettable and while the latter may comprise the bulk of the series, it isn't until well into the mid teens that characters begin to hit their stride.

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3 Episode Taste Test: Medaka Box

Medaka Box, despite sounding like the more amenable sister of Pandora's Box, is proof positive that you need a strong director to make the most of sharp writing. Coming from the same pen as Bakemono and Nisemonogatari it's hard to believe the protracted, laborious dialogue here could ever be transformed into the wit that his other two animated series showed.

By and large it's the same type of banter just presented by who has to be one of GAINAX's most uninspired directors - the one behind such meteoric duds as He Is My Master (shudder) and This Ugly Yet Beautiful World.

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The adage of "always leave the audience wanting more" is becoming increasingly apt for Studio Bones. Like with Bounen no Xam'd before it, Un-Go's creativity and, most of all, possibilities make the run-time almost criminally short. Especially when the concept - a detective revealing the truth of disparate then intertwined mysteries - has enough meat to last twice the petite eleven episodes.

it deals with contemporary issues through a very old-fashioned character and plot

This isn't to say it's rushed. The bite-sized opening mysteries are but a taster for the underlying one which stretches the entire latter half; unfortunately the format doesn't lend itself well to brevity. All too often the audience has to take events on faith and ride the story out rather than attempt to unravel the intrigue for themselves. Evidence is often scattered conspicuously around however the question of what the mystery is, often eludes just as much as the answer.

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One criticism that could never be levelled at Baccano! was that it was unoriginal. So too can this be applied to Durarara!! which defies its lacklustre predecessor by going full bore for a modern thriller with supernatural overtones, eking out some social commentary along the way. Featuring an expansive cast and set in the city-within-a-city, Ikebukuro, the series has an eye for the dramatic and though ostensibly the story is bifurcated, it covers a variety of stories that involve murder, urban gang conflict and domestic abuse through to a love triangle between school friends and a Russian sushi chef's desire for more business. It is a stunningly constructed series and though it has its stumbling points, by and large it demonstrates that with the difficulties of an involving story and an engaging cast down, everything else comes naturally.

despite his obvious knack for information gathering, his actions are limited to spitting into the maelstrom rather than orchestrating it

When Mikado arrives in Tokyo, his friend Masaomi shows him around Ikebukuro, and though he doesn't realise it, he is now deep within a world populated by an outlandishly strong bartender, a fox-like information broker, a Dullahan on a journey from Ireland to recover her missing head as well as a cornucopia of gang members, students, foreigners and all points in between. The effervescence the city enjoys though is soon ruptured by a brewing street war, leading the charge is the brutish Yellow Scarves who sprung up after the dissolution of the previous ruling gang, the Blue Squares; however a shadowy internet group called the Dollars have also made some headway. Meanwhile a violent sword wielding lunatic has antagonised the Black Rider and it seems someone wishes for all of this conflict to spill over. The city certainly has its share of miscreants but whether its cosmopolitan nature will survive the brewing trouble may just rest in Mikado's hands.

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Bygones: Otgoi Zoshi

First released: July 2004

Just like the taijitu that features so heavily in the plot, Otogi Zoshi is split into two parts with elements of its twin interspersed throughout. The tonal and aesthetic difference between the two parts is arresting, the first favouring a poised and atmospheric wander through a viciously feudal Japan, the latter a collection of modern mysteries scattered around Tokyo and sharing many similarities with the latest two Shin Megami Tensei: Persona video games. This division of themes and story promotes perseverance: if the initial tale of blades and intrigue doesn't engage, perhaps the dark and foreboding march across many of Tokyo's landmarks will. Conversely it threatens to alienate an audience that fell in love with the first story or losing them before the second begins. By and large it succeeds in crafting a compelling story with characters that, crucially, work across the gulf of a thousand years, however even with the guiding hand of Production I.G the series isn't without its flaws.

switching between schoolgirl prep and urban pop with pleasing regularity

The Heian era city of Edo is infected by discontent: famine and lawlessness plague the streets while the outlying lands are run by thieves and malcontents. Even the Emperor isn't immune: struck down by a debilitating illness and without long to live, his closest aides, advised by the mystic Abe no Seimei, send word to retrieve the magical magatama stones in order to save the capital. With the eldest son of the Minamoto household, Raiko, bedridden it is up to his sister Hikaru to undertake this task. Disguised as her brother and joined by her faithful bodyguard Tsuna, and eventually the womanising Usui, the enigmatic Urabe and freakishly strong Kintaro, the group hunts out the magatama against foes both weird and devious. On their return however, all is not as it seems and the Emperor's aides have ulterior plans for the magatama, although it will be Seimei whose actions will have the most far reaching consequences, the ramifications echoing a thousand years into the future.

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