Buried Treasure
Domain of Murder

by Justin Sevakis, Mar 5th 2009

First, an apology -- due to preparations for Tokyo Anime Fair, Buried Treasure will be posted only sporadically throughout the month of March. Also, since I'm indescribably exhausted from said preparations, this week's entry will be a short one.


HELLO, HEDGEHOG: FILE 170 - THE DOMAIN OF MURDER

I'm pretty sure almost nobody in America knows anything about Hello, Hedgehog. A best-selling seinen manga series from Kenshi Hirogane (Human Crossing), the series followed the exploits of a private detective named Goro (nicknamed Hedgehog because of his unruly hair) as he travelled the country tracking down missing persons and the like. The series was from the early 80s, but for whatever reason a live action film was made in 1992, causing a resurgence. Around the same, time, a little one-shot OAV was made from one of the Hello, Hedgehog case files.

This particular case involves a woman who comes to Goro's office clutching a wanted poster. She wants Goro to find one man, accused of a yakuza murder and a kidnapping. The name he's listed under is different, but Mrs. Toyama insists that he is Tsuyoshi, her husband. "Find him. I have to talk to him before the police arrest him," she pleads. Unsure where to start, Goro goes off to Niigata to see what he can find out. His first stop is the bar in which the murder took place, where he meets the bar owner. She's not too happy about having yet another customer sniffing around looking for a crime scene.

Goro eventually wears down the bar owner, and just as he's about to get lucky with her, they discover a burglar sniffing around her apartment. Turns out the burgler is a police detective, and an old friend of Tsuyoshi Toyama. He wants to find out why his friend has gone rogue. Among other things, Goro learns of a horrible night the year before, where Toyama and his two kids were in a terrible accident, and had to make a choice no father should have to make. What he did that night cost him his daughter, and his sanity. But soon, he's going to make it all right in his mind... he's going to kill his son as well.

It's pretty rare to get a story like this in animated form. It has a lot in common with Hirogane's other anime, Human Crossing, in its close examination of everyday people in normal situations, and how they behave and bounce off of each other in Japanese society. As a detective story it's got a few holes (most notably, the absence of post-traumatic stress disorder in Toyama's son Keita) and a few things that just happen to work out too easily. But if you can forget that, it's a fun little yarn, and it sure gets the blood pumping in spots.

Some fans would call the artwork in the show ugly and cheap looking. I take exception to that. The character artwork isn't especially attractive (seinen manga designs seldom are). No, the beauty of this show is in its backgrounds, its locations. They're not flashy; they're Japan at its most mundane. For anime fans, who are used to having their realities heightened and their people romanticized, it's not particularly alluring. But, for those interested in realism in anime, the way Japan looks in this show is as realistic as I've seen from the era. Its humble linework is fitting for a story about the lower-middle class inhabitants that can never seem to catch a break.

I have no idea what prompted Central Park Media to license Domain of Murder way back in the mid 90s (I'm guessing it was part of a package deal, given the lack of love originally given to the show: it was only given a subtitled release in what is perhaps the lamest VHS box ever) Regardless, the show got a dub and a DVD in 2004, as CPM began scrambling for back catalog titles to release. It's the only show NYAV Post ever dubbed for CPM, and although it's not director Michael Sinterniklaas' best work (there's a few mangled pronunciations) it's easily one of CPM's better dubs. The English screenplay (by Jay Snyder) is surprisingly nuanced, and Goro (played by Sinterniklaas himself) is affable and smart sounding. Caroline Hellman is hilarious as the drunk Mama of the snack bar Goto questions.

Domain of Murder seems to be completely forgotten by just about everyone, and that's a shame. There's no mention of this OAV in the Japanese Wikipedia entry on Hello, Hedgehog, and few American fans ever saw this little known show. It's so rare that there's a realistic, adult suspense story that I can forgive the flaws. It's a little show that doesn't try for very much, but in what it attempts it mostly succeeds at. Despite the flaws, it is nonetheless worth watching.


Obscure-O-Meter™
A Abundant. Available anywhere that carries anime.
C Common. In print, and always available online.
R1 US release out of print, still in stock most places.
R2 US release out of print, not easy to find.
R3 Import only, but it has English on it.
R4 Import only. Fansubs commonly available.
R5 Import only, and out of print. Fansubs might be out there.
R6 Import long out of print. No fansubs are known to exist.
R7 Very rare. Limited import release or aired on TV with no video release. No fansubs known to exist.
R8 Never been on the market. Almost impossible to obtain.
Adapted from Soviet-Awards.com.

Where to get it:
The DVD was one of the later ones CPM issued, and it looks as good as can be expected of a 17-year-old video transfer. I worked on the subtitles of this one, and I must admit I might have gone a little nuts on the sign and cultural note translations... but having read some of dismissive reviews of the old VHS tape, maybe that extra bit of nuance helps a bit. At any rate, it's long out of print, but used DVDs show up on places like Amazon and Half.com for well under $10.

Screenshots ©1992 Kenji Hirogane/KODANSHA/Sony Music Entertainment.

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