The Spring 2020 Anime Preview Guide
The Millionaire Detective - Balance: Unlimited
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Millionaire Detective - Balance: UNLIMITED ?
What is this?
Haru Kato was once counted among the elite First Division of the Metropolitan City Police, but after getting booted down to the basement to work with the Modern Crime Prevention Task Force, life has been awfully boring. Everything changes one day, though, when a case involving a potential political assassination brings the newest and strangest arrival to the MCPTF: Daisuke Kambe, an aloof and reckless inspector who also happens to be insanely rich. With the help of his seemingly unlimited funds and an Artificial Intelligence/personal butler named HEUSC, Inspector Kambe intends to bring his own brand of stylish and dangerous police work to the city, paying off whatever damage is left in his wake. Like it or not, Haru is going to have to bid goodbye to his tedious life and figure out how how to be partners with this eccentric investigator.
How was the first episode?
Stylish police and detective dramas are a key component of the overall anime landscape, and this season's Millionaire Detective is looking to be a particularly sharp one. Centered on a detective whose superpower is Infinite Money, Millionaire Detective's premiere possesses energy and humor to spare, along with a confident fusion of classic and modern detective tropes. This is absolutely one of the shows to watch out for this season.
Daisuke Kambe is Millionaire Detective's titular millionaire, though his financial resources actually seem pretty much infinite at this point. The show understands that “infinite money” isn't a particularly relatable power, and Kambe himself is not a particularly sympathetic man - he's a smug, self-satisfied jerk, the kind of character you love to hate, and a unique twist on the classic Holmesian “unlikable master sleuth.” Many of this episode's funniest moments emerged from the inherent contrast between the straight-laced behavior of Kato, the true believer in justice, and the absurd overreach of Kambe, who was happy to shut down entire segments of the city so he'd get to push a car off a bridge.
This episode maintained a sharp sense of deadpan humor throughout, mining comedy not just out of Kato and Kambe's differences, but also the charming ineptitude of the criminals they were chasing, and even the music score itself. Millionaire Detective's score is all big-band flourishes and jazz riffs intended to ape the style of classic detective dramas, establishing a tone with one foot in '40s noir and one foot in present-day police procedurals. But more than just setting the tone of the production, that score often facilitated its best jokes, offering a wild chorus of horn fanfare whenever Kambe pulled off a particularly outrageous stunt. The overall result is a production that feels not just stylish and aesthetically cohesive, but purposeful in its every attribute; Kato and Kambe's personalities create natural comedic tension, which is further amplified by the show's tongue-in-cheek action setpieces and playful visual and sound design choices.
All in all, Millionaire Detective stands as one of the season's strongest premieres, with its closing “costs incurred in this episode” chart offering a promise of much misguided mayhem to come. If you have any fondness for detective or cop dramas, this one comes highly recommended.
This anime series is based on a novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui, who has had two of his other novels adapted into anime movies: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Paprika. The source material for this one was originally published in the mid-'70s, and while the tech level present has clearly been updated for modern times, that may partly explain why the concept doesn't quite work in the way I think it was probably intended to.
The big problem for me is that Daisuke Kanbe comes across less as a cool, sophisticated guy and more as a complete jerk who has enough money to do what he wants without having to be concerned about the consequences. In other words, he's like the ultimate example of an uber-entitled person. Nothing characterizes that better than the scene where he's pushing his way through traffic in his high-class car; he's so wealthy that he can just reimburse everyone double afterward, so why does he care about what damage he does and what laws he breaks along the way.
Yeah, I'm fully aware that this was probably supposed to be funny, but that whole sequence left a sour taste in my mouth that I couldn't get over for the rest of the episode. The series is theoretically supposed to be about this rich guy stepping in and using his money to solve crimes in unconventional ways, but what he does after that seems more about how he can just bully his way through everything with money. These kind of characters actually aren't all that unusual in anime series, but usually they're either evil bad guys or joke characters, so I'm not sure how that will work as a co-protagonist. At least the other guy that he's pairing up with seems like a more reasonable and reliable fellow, and the notion of him deliberately joining a team of rejects from other departments has some interesting possibilities. The other thing that bugged me were the two thieves, though because of the way that sequence ended. Up until that point they were fine; believable characters, good interactions and dialog byplay, and them accidentally robbing a high-class chocolate rather than jewelry story somehow seemed fitting. However, the end of the episode showed no indication that they actually got arrested. Remember, one of them shot a person (even if it did turn out to just be a paint gun), and the consequences for that are not trivial.
The technical merits aren't bad and the episode is put together pretty well, and I do like both the opener and closer, but the issues I had with the episode kept me from appreciating it more.
The opening credits of The Millionaire Detective's first episode tell you everything you ought to expect from the tone of this series. In between scenes of our heroes Haru and Daisuke putting the beatdown on some bad guys and presumably solving crimes, we get copious shots of sparkling booze, flashy watches, bitchin' cars, and tons of lady butts. If the imagery plus the jazzy soundtrack weren't enough to clue you in, the opening even pays not-so-subtle homage to the famous “gun barrel sequence” you can find in every James Bond movie. Though it takes awhile to get going, it eventually becomes clear that the aim for this series is to be a mix between an anime police procedural and a sexy Bond-esque caper.
Or maybe “Stark-esque” is a better term, because for all of his bespoke style and cool-headed approach to defusing bombs and chasing down would-be-bank robbers, Daisuke Kambe resembles the Marvel billionaire-playboy-philanthropist more than Britain's Sexiest Spy, though he is lacking in Tony Stark's charm and obvious humanity. In fact, I don't think Haru would disagree in the assessment that the MCPTF's newest inspector is damn near a sociopath: He rams through priceless antique cars without a care in the world, almost runs down a mother and her child with his own fancy car, nearly causes a couple of young punks with criminal ambitions to explode alongside a bomb that was intended for a Middle Eastern prince, and even lets Haru himself plummet off a drawbridge from a height that easily could have been fatal.
Throughout the episode, we see that his usual course of action is just to pay off the damages with his AI butler and oodles of cash; forget “Millionaire Detective” — for the premise of this series to be sustainable, Daisuke would indeed need to possess a net worth of approximately infinity dollars. When Haru goes in to sock Daisuke in the face in the premiere's final shot, you immediately empathize with him, and thus the stage is set for a compelling partnership. Whether or not Daisuke can demonstrate even a modicum of common sense and empathy will determine how engaging that partnership proves to be in the long run.
I really liked this premiere, even if the storytelling was sloppier than I would have like, and the mostly excellent production was stymied by some obvious shortcuts and cheap sound effects. CloverWorks' penchant for appealing character designs and bright visuals is very present here, and even side characters like the two chocolate store thieves and Haru's pervy office friend were entertaining in their own right. If the show ends up being no more than a shallow exercise in mythologizing the sociopathic 1%, The Millionaire Detective will end up as a real disappointment, but there's a lot of untapped potential here just waiting to be explored if the show plays its cards right.
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