The Summer 2021 Preview Guide
The Detective Is Already Dead
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Detective Is Already Dead ?
What is this?
The story centers around Kimihiko Kimizuka, a third-year high school student and former assistant of a detective named Siesta. He made Siesta's acquaintance three years ago, 10,000 meters above the ground in a hijacked plane. The two went on one death-defying adventure after another for three years that eventually ended with Siesta's untimely death. Left alone, Kimihiko tries his best to reintegrate himself back into a normal life.
How was the first episode?
The Detective Is Already Dead feels like it was generated by an algorithm, or by one of those writing bots fed an endless supply of non-isekai light novels. You've got the unfortunate and unfortunately bland male main character alternating between flirting, getting bossed around by, and trading barbs with the female love interest. You've got the “mysteries” that really don't make any sense. You have the school festival setpieces… It all made sense when I looked up the author and found the wikipedia article stating that his primary influences are Oreimo, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, and How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. I wouldn't be shocked to find out he's a fan of Jun Maeda either.
I understand why they chose to make the premiere double-length, as Kimi and Siesta had two cases to get through before the big reveal that Siesta died on the way to her home planet; however, I do not think it was a good decision. The two cases they get through are completely separate and it just doesn't make sense to have them joined up together, turning what could have been a breezy-but-forgettable half-hour into a 45-minute slog. I can see a world where it would work, but two major things are stopping that from happening. One is that the dialogue is terribly overwritten, in the way that high school light novels that are so proud of themselves for being witty tend to be. The other is that, despite the rather wrought dialogue, Kimi and Siesta have no charisma as protagonists. There is nothing about them that sets them apart.
There's a sense of incongruity that pervades the whole premiere, and it's not just because of the two episodes stitched together into one. Much of it feels like a poorly-written procedural (I groaned out loud when Siesta announced she was able to solve the mystery because she knew the answer going in), but then there's a speculative aspect tacked on. It's not enough to just have mysteries; there are also cyborgs (incorrectly translated as “android”) and blood bullets, because of course. The latter half of the episode has a laughable anti-drug message, as a bunch of teenagers are being turned into zombies by… basically Adderall?
The one area where The Detective Is Already Dead deserves credit is that it's one of the best-looking shows of the season so far, roughly on par with RE-MAIN and slightly below The Case Study of Vanitas. The animation is sharp and attractive enough that even with the generic character designs, every frame looks bright and well-composed. As goofy as the story is, it gives way to some truly striking action sequences.
The Detective Is Already Dead is already a dud, but has enough to it that I won't actively try to steer anyone away if it's more to their taste.
Let's get this out of the way at the start: I'm truly impressed by how good-looking The Detective Is Already Dead is, especially in the big fight scene of episode one. I also love how the character design of our white-haired detective looks when done in this high contrast style. However, as good as they are, the visuals in this anime are the icing, not the cake—and I'm not sure whether the cake is delicious or not.
This first, double-length episode is all about introducing our heroine. Between the mystery on the plane and the one at the school, it's clear the show is trying everything it can to make us fall in love with her—mainly so that her death will hurt us like it hurt the main character.
The thing is, she's a walking trope—the “manic pixy dream girl” trope, to be exact. She's the epitome of a quirky girl who doesn't see the world the same as everyone else and seems born for no other reason than to drag our depressed male lead into the adventure of his life. I mean, her name is literally “Siesta” (“nap” in Spanish) which makes it feel like the creators are not even trying to hide what she is.
In fact, her nature is so “magical” that it made me question the reality of what is portrayed in the anime itself. Not only does she have super deductive reasoning skills but something akin to super speed or teleportation as well (given how suddenly she appears and disappears in the fight on the plane). Then there are her magical tools—like the key that can open any lock or the shoes that let her fly out of a three-story window.
Of course, she's not the only surreal aspect of the story, which range from big things like a monster torn right out of the pages of Parasyte to little details like a flintlock rifle, which, even split into two pieces, wouldn't fit into the case it comes out of. Even having the bad luck to always get caught up in criminal activities feels more than a little like a superpower when you think about it.
In the end, I can't help but wonder if anything we see is real—including Siesta. Perhaps Kimi is just a lonely middle school kid lost in his own pretend world. That would explain why, instead of having clever twists and misdirections, the mysteries are solved off-screen before the inciting incident even occurs and the bad guys always confess to their crimes when caught. It seems like sloppy writing—unless it's supposed to be coming from the imagination of a 12-15 year old kid.
So if the creators are trying to hint that everything we see is a childhood delusion, then they've done a great job, and I'd give this episode four-and-a-half stars. If, however, everything we see is supposed to be taken at face value then I'd give this two stars. Since I can't yet know which is the correct interpretation, let's split the difference for the final grade.
Well, that was excruciating.
It would be unfair and inaccurate to say The Detective Is Already Dead is the worst premiere I've seen so far. At the very least is has the slick production values necessary to make it more watchable than a few of its peers by default. But in terms of how much I disliked watching something? This premiere swept everything else off the floor within its first 10 minutes.
There's a school of writing in light novels – or at least their anime adaptations – that constantly mistakes wordiness and self-aware snark as cleverness. Characters will take a hundred words where ten would suffice. Every plot beat has to be accompanied with a self-aware or pithy comment from the characters. Any exchange of dialogue will derail into the cast commenting on what the last person said until the conversation swallows its own tail. It's an altogether frustrating and misguided style of writing that only serves to make every single character feel artificial or drag out stories well beyond their limit, and it is slathered over every single word of this premiere. A character brings up the urban legend of Hanako-san? Better have our heroine blithely comment on how tired that story beat is before the audience can! Our protagonists seem to be having a weirdly mundane date? Better have both of them mention, out loud, how this is just like a romantic comedy anime! In isolation those beats are merely annoying, but in aggregate they're miserable and it never stops.
That would be a pretty big deal-breaker on its own, but DeadTective also has a plot that's as messy and contrived as its scripting. First of all, having your detective's ethos be that she just already figured out the mystery before the story started is one of the worst approaches I've ever seen to writing a “genius” character. While that's a great goal for an actual detective, it's a terrible way to write a mystery as it turns every future story into a tedious waiting game where our lead already knows everything and is just waiting for the right moment to explain it all to her sidekick. And that's before we even get to the random and out-of-place “android” they fight on a plane, or how Siesta apparently has unexplained magic blood, or a special key that can unlock any door. It's a hodgepodge of ideas that would take a truly eccentric and confident writer like Ryohgo Narita to make work, and that skill just isn't present here.
There are a few bright spots, at least, even if they have nothing to do with the writing. As you'd expect, Siesta had a very nice design, and I actually really like her dress. There's a slick, eye-catching fight midway through that looks really nice, and is easily the highlight of the episode. The background detail that they keep ordering delivery from a place called Pizza Boots made me chuckle. But none of that could counteract how anathema this entire premiere was for me. People with more patience for this dialogue, or who just really want to see a cute anime girl solve mysteries without trying, might find something to salvage in all this. For my money, I'll be happy to bury this detective six feet under for the rest of the season.
Man, if The Detective Is Already Dead didn't have one of the strangest premieres I've seen in a good while. As is often the case with these double-length episodes, what we really get is two episodes awkwardly smushed together into one. The first half introduces us to our protagonist, Kimihiko Kimizuka, an orphan who has lived alone his whole life and wants nothing more than a normal, everyday existence. This desire is often hamstrung by the fact that the universe just seems to love throwing the weirdest shit his way; he stumbles onto back alley drug deals, discovers crime scenes, and now finds himself on an airplane being hijacked by a cyborg terrorist with a monstrous set of tentacles growing out of his face. That's when the titular detective Siesta recruits Kimihiko to be her Watson, which in this case amounts to him tossing her a ridiculous gun that he accidentally snuck onboard the plane, which Sieta uses to shoot the evil cyborg with a bullet made out of her own blood.
Oh, and our two main characters are apparently meant to be 14 years old, which might somehow be the most ridiculous thing that we've been presented with so far. I haven't even gotten to the second part of the episode, which involves Siesta shacking up in Kimihiko's apartment and recruiting him to investigate a bunch of reports of the urban legend Hanako-san being sighted at his middle school. This actually turns out to be the result of an underground drug ring being run at the school for the various sports teams, where the dealers dress in creepy rabbit outfits, and Siesta puts on a wedding dress and takes Kimihiko flying with her super special Detective Shoes.
I'll give the show this: It sure does look really nice! Studio ENGI really pulls out all of the stops for some sequences, especially the big airplane fight scene in the first half. I'm also usually a sucker for shows that try to mix various tones and moods, so I appreciate the grand ambitions of The Detective is Already Dead, and I could see the show becoming really addictive if its story ends up panning out. This premiere, though? It really didn't work for me. Almost everything about it just raised a lot of questions and concerns that the episode never seemed very interested in addressing. I'm sure there's some sort of twisty reveal coming for Kimihiko's vague backstory and Sieta's obviously obfuscated motives, but that doesn't excuse how circular, confusing, and awkward their dialogue was for most of the episode. Then there's the way the show handles the detective work that you'd think would be central to its plots: In both of the premiere's “mysteries”, everything boils down to rote action sequences, only for Siesta to explain that she actually knew the answers behind the android terrorist and the middle-schooler drug deals well in advance, and the only reason she needs Kimihiko around is to act as some kind of catalyst to get the bizarre snowball rolling in the first place.
At least, I think that's what happened? Honestly, the show seems awfully impressed with how it shifts from a Liam Neeson action movie ripoff to a spooky mystery to a teen rom-com, but it never really does anything meaningful with those abrupt tonal shifts, and it forgets to tell a compelling story in the meantime. I don't know, maybe this is a case of me just not “getting” what The Detective is Already Dead is supposed to be about, but whatever the show is trying to do, I'm not at all convinced that it is working.
With a title like The Detective Is Already Dead, I found that I spent most of the double-length premiere simply waiting for great detective Siesta to die. That's a grim way to watch any show, and I wouldn't say that I was “rewarded” when the episode eventually did what it says on the tin. But I also wouldn't say that I felt an overwhelming sense of loss at the revelation that Siesta had died off-screen at some point between middle and high schools, and that does feel like a bit of a problem. I presume that the series opened with this lengthy episode in order to introduce us to Siesta and Kimihiko's relationship and his feelings for her, just to make us feel sad when she eventually dies (or possibly to pull a Sixth Sense and reveal that she was dead all along, although I discarded that notion pretty quickly), so to feel next to nothing would appear to be a failure of storytelling.
Unless, of course, that was never the point at all. We almost never really see what happens to the Watsons after their Sherlocks have really died, so we couldn't say if, in most cases, they go on to become great detectives themselves. After all, they've apprenticed under the best that their storyworlds have to offer. So Siesta's death may be less about Kimihiko grieving her and more about him having learned to be the great detective himself, with Siesta's death forming the catalyst. If that's true, I wouldn't love her being reduced to a cure-all for Kimihiko's disaster magnet tendencies, but at least the nonevent of her passing would make more sense.
It probably isn't fair to say that most of this episode feels like a nonevent. The first half, wherein Siesta and Kimihiko meet and take on Bat, a member of the evil android-making organization SPES on a plane, is actually quite good. Even if we discount the beautiful animation when Siesta makes her final assault on Bat, the story itself does a good job of introducing the characters and the world. Bat's goofy ear tentacles take things down a notch, but the rest of it is exciting and a little metafictional in terms of how Siesta sees herself and her role. But when they return to Japan and Siesta starts letting herself into Kimihiko's apartment, and he launches into his sad orphan spiel, and then they end up at his school festival, things feel much more mundane. It isn't bad, but it isn't as good as the episode's first half.
And now Siesta and her Gothic Lolita dresses are gone. Judging by the theme song, there are more than enough girls waiting to take her place with Kimihiko, but beyond that I'm not quite sure where this could be going. I could see a ghost story, certainly (although that breaks Knox's Commandments and probably Van Dine's as well), but it could also turn into Mystery Lite with Harem, which doesn't sound quite as appealing. If nothing else, it's worth a second episode now that the title has come true. I'm not sure I'll like the answer, but I do want to know what happens when The Detective Is Already Dead.
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