Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace ?
Before this week's episode aired, I got my hands on a copy of Edogawa Rampo's Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which I hadn't read since middle school, and I can now safely say that this is a much more interesting show if Edogawa's works are fresh in your mind. Even if you aren't about to go read any of his books, this week still makes a case for Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace starting to get its feet under it, and the reveal at the last minute makes the previous three episodes feel much more worth it.
This week's story is based on Edogawa's The Fiend with Twenty Faces, a character perhaps often remembered as CLAMP's parodic Man of Many Faces. It's been three years since the Fiend last showed up in Akechi's life, and the general assumption is that this is a copycat using the Fiend's name in order to commit murders. These aren't just any murders, however: Twenty Masks is putting killers the police couldn't convict in the ground. While this isn't an unusual conceit by any means – manga readers may recall a similar theme in the recently finished Judge – the return of at least the man's name is enough to really throw Akechi off-balance and his gruesome crime scenes are fascinating the public...and Kobayashi, who looks a little too eagerly at the crime photos. None of this stops Akechi from successfully finding the criminal, however, with a little help from a not-quite-mysterious thief named the Black Lizard. Honestly, it's the final moments that make this episode, pulling one character's actions in this and the previous three together in ways that we'll presumably learn next week. It's in hindsight that we can see the clues for what they are, although some of us had our suspicions beforehand.
Less successful this week is the character of the Black Lizard, who presumably is meant to be humorous fanservice. She's a dominatrix with a decided masochistic bent, and apparently one of her fetishes is holding her pee until Akechi, uh...stimulates her to let it out with his rudeness? It's a low point in the episode, less because of her humiliation, because she clearly gets off on that and more due to the fact that she's just not adding much, and if that medical examiner has to stick around, I rather hope we don't see much of her. Both of these characters also are at odds with Edogawa's aesthetic, which favors subtlety of both plot and character over these louder insertions. Yes, his work needs to be updated for this particular iteration of the story, but it would be nice if it still maintained the tone he's known for. What also might be a little off-putting to some viewers is Hashiba's increasing attraction to Kobayashi, which is definitely becoming more pronounced. If BL isn't an issue for you, it doesn't really disrupt the show (and there's a little bit of that sensibility between Akechi and Kobayashi in the stories), but I could see how it would feel out of place to some viewers.
The idea of a character who is excited by violent crime, like Kobayashi, and one who is driven to kill for his own reasons, like Twenty Faces, are both very present in Edogawa's works, so it isn't all that surprising to see that they're both here in this episode. What's more interesting is what their presence implies for the overarching story, and with this episode, we now know that there probably is one. This plus the strong ending of this episode indicate that this might be a better show that it started as; we'll find out next week.
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is currently streaming on Funimation.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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