The Fall 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit
How would you rate episode 1 of
Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit ?
What is this?
Nine years ago, Seiji Nanatsuki was caught up in what would become known as an infamous terrorist attack. He was rescued by a police officer, which inspired him to become one himself. Now a rookie cop, he finds himself caught up in a bank robbery, along with a second off-duty officer, one Shiori Ichinose. He further winds up as one of the hostages taken when the bank robbers flee in an armored vehicle. While Shiori's special unit works from the outside, Seiji takes action from the inside, leading to a final confrontation on a bridge. Afterwards Seiji is reassigned to the branch of misfits who resolved the case in their own over-the-top way: the Metropolitan Police Special Duty Department Special Crime Investigation Unit Section 7, aka Special 7. Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit is an anime-original series which streams on Funimation at 9 a.m. on Sundays.
How was the first episode?
Last season prolific seiyuu Kenjiro Tsuda lent his rumbling voice to (among other roles) the cop Kei Matoba in Cop Craft. This season he uses the exact same voice, and more or less the same delivery style, in another cop role: that of the charismatic Shiori in Special 7. Frankly, I think the performance fit Kei Matoba better.
That aside, Special 7 is otherwise off to a fairly standard start as a “band of misfit cops” show. I couldn't help but be reminded on a few occasions of this past spring's Midnight Occult Civil Servants, especially in the way the fresh-faced rookie get immersed in the extraordinary right away, but this show ultimately has a very different tone and looks like it will have a much more action-oriented focus; after all, the one adult female character is using a sword to slice through automatic-fire sprays of bullets at one point and a hole does get blown in a bridge right before that. The personnel introduced so far are also a fairly standard array: there's a sword specialist, a sniper, a tech specialist who uses drones and claims to be a ninja, a prim and proper guy who's only shown driving a car here but apparently has the nickname “Analyzer” (they all have nicknames), the much-put-upon boss, and Shiori, the “face” guy whose nickname is “Charisma.” Seiji fits into that scheme neatly as the rookie, whose nickname will apparently be “Rookie,” and thus make the group's nickname fit bitt.
The one significant twist here is that this isn't a perfectly normal world; elves, dwarves, and vampires all openly exist. Though they were once in conflict, they now live harmoniously in a modern era which looks exactly like ours (if you ignore the occasional elf ears and vampire fangs, of course). Despite that, the first episode shows no hint of magic or the supernatural or, really, of any indicator that the alternate races are having any substantial effect on society, though that could, admittedly, just be a detail that the first episode did not have time to explore. If future episodes don't delve into this more than this twist won't amount to much. There are vague hints that Seiji might be special because of his involvement in the terrorist attack, but nothing firm about that yet.
Though the production tries to spruce things up with a jazzy musical score, this series doesn't do enough in its visuals, character design, or storytelling to distinguish itself yet. It's not bad, but based on first episode comparison alone, I can't see this one being the sleeper success that Midnight Occult Civil Servants was.
Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit puts me vaguely in mind of Midnight Occult Civil Service, only with a less intriguing first episode. (It also puts me vaguely in mind of breakfast cereal.) Like that other show, this one appears to center on a world where fantasy creatures coexist with humans, something that warrants the formation of a special police unit dedicated to taking them out. Or perhaps just the officers of Special 7 are unique, because the crime in question this time looks like it was perpetrated by regular old greedy humans, while the cops counted a vampire and an elf among their ranks. Whichever.
That's not a bad premise, although I don't feel like this introductory episode makes the most of it. It leans much more on the talky side of things, which isn't a terrific choice when trying to make the case that people should watch your show. The set up also feels just a touch too standard: rookie detective Seiji is just super excited to be a cop and can't restrain himself from getting himself involved in a crime he just happens to be around for. Naturally he's got some sort of amazing cop abilities, which include dodging bullets fired directly at his chest. Or did he? Given what he survived as a middle schooler, I'm also willing to believe that he has supernatural powers rather than awesome cop skills. And that's something that needs to come clear (and it can be a slow reveal) as the story progresses.
It's how the story moves forward from here that's going to be important, especially since this episode felt a lot like a prologue. While I'm not wild about the character designs, it otherwise looks decent, and the characters are intriguing, especially the vampire lady with the sword. There's also a sort of fun naming device going on, where characters have numbers in their names – Seiji's last name has “seven,” then there's also “Ichinose” (1) and “Nijo” (2). Simply put, I think this has potential in the supernatural cop genre, and if it doesn't take too long to reveal more about the story's world, I think it could be worthwhile.
Urban fantasy stories, and specifically stories about cops attempting to police fantastical versions of the present, are a pretty common trend in anime - heck, Cop Craft just finished airing a few days ago. Special 7 clocks in as the latest entry in the subgenre, and focuses on Seiji Nanatsuki, a new detective who swiftly finds himself wrapped up in a tense hostage situation. Caught in a bank robbery that ends up involving both the ominous “Nine” and the police's secret Special 7 unit, this premiere stands as a very fine example of the form, possessing strong narrative fundamentals that indicate this series could really have some legs.
The first thing that stuck out to me about Special 7 was that it doesn't take place in a world where fantasy exists on the outskirts of society; instead, we're introduced to a version of the present where elves, vampires, and various other fantastical creatures have already been fully integrated into humanity's daily life. Not only does this make Special 7's world feel a bit more distinctive than the usual “fantasy lurks in the shadows” conceit, it also means this episode doesn't have to waste any time introducing Seiji to the supernatural - it's free to immediately barrel forward on its own narrative adventure.
That strength leads into this episode's other narrative assets; its snappy pacing, mastery of in-episode hooks, and understanding of what makes policework dramatically interesting. Seiji is introduced to the mysterious older officer Shiori Ichinose during the course of an active bank robbery, with the tension of the situation adding a sense of dramatic momentum to the initial development of their relationship. From there, the episode shifts quickly through coherent dramatic setpieces, as Seiji is taken hostage in an armored van, and Shiori works to stop the robbers from the outside. There's always a clear sense of narrative stakes and building tension, and Shiori's policework convincingly demonstrates he's an intelligent, experienced officer. Being “smart” in anime is often conveyed more as a superpower than an intellectual asset - instead, Shiori's intelligence is conveyed through substantive beats like his rapid analysis of the bankrobbers, and his breakdown of potential van-stopping plans.
Special 7's aesthetic execution is less impressive than its writing, though still perfectly serviceable. I enjoyed the show's stylish opening sequence, as well as its use of filters to create a sort of faded, almost newspaper-esque look for its backgrounds. There's not too much fluid animation, but the direction kept energy high throughout, and the limited use of CG was well-masked by the layouts.
All in all, Special 7 counts as a very strong entry in a fairly crowded genre. Seiji and Shiori are pretty classic rookie and veteran archetypes, but this episode was able to sell their individuality through its convincing dialogue, and kept its tension high from start to finish. If you're looking for a police drama this season, Special 7 seems like an excellent choice.
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