The Winter 2020 Anime Preview Guide
The Case Files of Jeweler Richard
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The case files of Jeweler Richard ?
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The case files of Jeweler Richard falls into one of my favorite categories of preview guide experience: the low-key palate cleanser. After a full day of premieres stuffed with indulgent fanservice and overwrought worldbuilding, it's always nice to close out the day with a show about antiquing, cafe management, or some other similarly mundane activity. And if you yourself are looking for a relatively peaceful, low-tension drama, Case Files feels like a fine example of the form.
This first episode introduces us to the titular jeweler Richard, along with his soon-to-be apprentice Seigi. Over the course of a mystery involving a sapphire ring handed down from Seigi's grandmother, Richard and Seigi develop a light but natural rapport, and dig into the extended history of Seigi's ring. The drama remains resolutely low-key throughout, with this episode's “climax” coming in the form of an extended conversation with the ring's elderly original owner. The emphasis here is not on danger, or even necessarily discovery - through the ring's story, Case Files lightly explores the strange coincidences of fate, how simple objects can have complex meanings, and the many forms justice can take.
Case Files' production values are so-so, but in this production's case, that's not necessarily a major handicap. Constructed as a series of thoughtful conversations between reserved adults, there was little that took place this episode that actually required fluid animation, and the relative stillness of the production served its calming intent quite well. Case Files' premiere felt like sitting down with a familiar mystery novel after a long day; it's far from this season's most dazzling production, but sometimes a peaceful mystery vignette starring a pair of thoughtful jewelers is exactly what you're looking for. If you're a fan of anime's more adult-oriented slice of life productions, Case Files looks like a fine pick.
The newest offering from the director of 2014's One Week Friends and 2016's Sweetness and Lightning is not the kind of series that's going to excite anyone. It is paced rather slowly, involves little action beyond characters talking to each other, does not have dynamic visuals, and shows no real sign of an ongoing plot. However, it does offer a human interest story, and based on the advertising blurb and the way the first episode sets up, I'm going to guess that such will be its standard procedure. Each episode will offer an independent tale about a person's history and actions and how those are connected to a piece of jewelry. In the process Richard and Seiki will use that as an opening to probe into the heart of the matter.
Concepts vaguely like this – where each human interest story has some kind of common element to it and a common investigator – have been done successfully before, and they are always low-key titles. That's why I am not concerned about the slow pacing or talky nature here. The twists in the mystery surrounding the ring make up for it; the grandmother being a pickpocket because of circumstances, and especially how the original owner reacts when Seiki tries to return the ring. (I suspected that the original owner was going to decline taking it back, but not for those reasons.) In all, it makes for a neat little story that I found involving enough; more than at least a couple of other shows that I've previewed this same day, anyway.
On the character side, the justice-minded Seiki has his own family complications to bring to the story, but more importantly, he provides a vibrant presence that the series desperately needs. That's because the weak point so far is the titular character. The portrayal of Richard is a clear attempt to fashion an elegant, refined man whose skills go beyond just jewelry, but somewhere along the line someone forgot to give him an actual personality. He's also too delicate-featured to truly be called a pretty boy, so the visual appeal isn't there, either. Still, he is at least credible as an expert in his field.
If you like little, compact stories with no greater ambitions than exploring human nature one case at a time then this series should work for you. Others probably won't find enough here to keep their interests.
This came very close to being a 2 because most of what the episode is is two guys talking. That's not thrilling viewing by any means, and the fact that much of it revolves around jewelry makes it less so for someone with zero interest in baubles (much to my parents' dismay), so if you don't like slowly-paced programs, this may not be the series for you. Ultimately it got that extra .5 because the backstory of the ring that the mystery revolves around is interesting, not so much in its literal meaning, but in the way it shows how single women were essentially powerless and trapped in the post-war period, no matter where they fell socio-economically. That Seigi's grandmother stole the ring because she had no other means of providing for her child as a single mother is heartbreaking enough; that the woman she stole it from saw it as a means of chaining her to a future she didn't want but couldn't refuse adds to the tragedy. The story carries a message that no matter how pretty it is, a gem is just a stone that can't really do anything, because it's people and how they use it that make the changes.
Apart from that subtext (some of which perhaps doesn't count as such because it's spoken aloud by one of the characters at one point), there doesn't seem to be much going on here. That concerns me in part because it's giving me some major Holmes of Kyoto vibes, and that show started out promising before boring me to tears. Neither Richard nor Seigi are especially dynamic as characters, and the overuse of Seigi's name with his heroic actions smacks of writing that isn't great with either symbolism or showing rather than telling. There also isn't much of a mystery to be solved; yes, we don't know the full story of the woman the ring was stolen from and Richard clearly has some sort of possibly strained backstory, but neither of those are played off as particularly compelling. It also has some very stiffly animated walking, and when walking is about all the action we get (well, young Granny runs at one point), that's really not acceptable.
If you're hard up for a non-supernatural mystery, this may be worth checking out, but otherwise, it's really very dull. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a series better read than watched.
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