Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace ?
As I watched this final episode of Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace, two lines from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's “The Princess” kept running through my head: “I seem'd to move among a world of ghosts,/And feel myself the shadow of a dream.” While Tennyson is not one of the English authors known to have influenced Edogawa Rampo, there's still something about the conclusion to this show that fits with Tennyson's lines – in Akechi's inability to forget Namikoshi, in Namikoshi's own torment, and in Kobayashi's view of the world as being made up of shadows rather than people, almost all of the major players in this episode could be said to feel like shadows in a ghostly world. Each of them is haunted, and what haunts them also holds them back.
Named for a 1926 short story (so short we'd actually call it flash fiction today), “The Daydream” as an episode functions as a microcosm of Edogawa's works. While it's relationship to the original story, about a man who hears a murderer confess in town but is the only person present who realizes that the murderer is telling the truth, isn't especially close, particularly since as Namikoshi goes on everyone does in fact realize that he's being totally truthful about who will die and when, it does manage to encapsulate a lot of the other tales earlier episodes are based on in a pastiche of recognizable themes. The sense of disconnect from reality that plagues so many of Edogawa's characters is present specifically in Namikoshi and Kobayashi, as is the idea of friendship as the strongest form of love, particularly when it is between two men. (Edogawa actually has a whole essay on this and homoerotic relationships, “Confessions of Rampo.”) Perhaps the most present of his works, however, is the original Black Lizard novella, where hero and villain have a close, almost intimate relationship. (Edogawa often conflated heroes and villains in his work, referring to both as “protagonists.”) Namikoshi is the one person we really see Akechi care about deeply, the only one he feels linked to emotionally. His failure to save him the first time and to prevent the rise of Twenty Faces initially has been his personal ghost, and this is the relationship at the heart of the show.
It does make sense, as does its resolution. Since his introduction in the first novel of the Boy Detectives series, Twenty Faces has been painted as Akechi's ultimate nemesis, the one who not only got away, but keeps getting away. Using Hashiba and Kobayashi as a parallel relationship, Ranpo Kitan takes this last episode to illustrate the importance of their friendship, but also how even that cannot save everyone. This is where The Black Lizard comes back into the picture: Akechi's attraction to and admiration for the lady criminal cannot save her life, just as his love and guilt can't really save Namikoshi, who in a sense died years ago. With Hashiba and Kobayashi, the roles are to a degree reversed – it was Hashiba who was picked on and alone, but he becomes the savior figure to Kobayashi's emotionally distant character. Even more interesting is the relationship between Kagami and Nakamura, assuming you interpret their final scene the same way I did.
So when you come down to it, does Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace work as a series? “The Daydream” does do a decent job of wrapping the show up while implying that Akechi himself continues to solve cases with Hashiba and Kobayashi, which is important to the Edogawa Rampo mythos and the legacy of the characters, even if it only partially resolves the Twenty Faces issue. But the series as a whole doesn't quite pull itself together as well as it could. It is visually fascinating and interesting to watch, yes, but the dearth of English-language versions (and general lack of easy availability) of Edogawa's works makes fully understanding Ranpo Kitan difficult. In that sense, this isn't a great adaptation or introduction to Japan's most influential mystery writer because it relies too much on knowledge of the originals. But if you know Edogawa's works or can get copies (Amazon does have most of them, and interlibrary loan is a wonderful thing), this is a good companion to them, and a chance for us to move among the ghosts of Edogawa's world and see the shadows of his dreams.
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is currently streaming on Funimation.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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