Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace ?
Spoiler Warning for the End of Episode 4 in This Review
Sometimes a solution is as satisfying as a mystery. This fifth episode of Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is about the answer to the mystery posed last week, when we discovered that Superintendent Kagami was Twenty Faces, the criminal killing those murderers the law allowed to go free. While those who had been paying close attention to the previous three episodes had probably already figured that out, the build up within his confession is a well-crafted combination of tense and sad...and in a way, not dissimilar to Batman's origin story. Instead of exciting bat-themed weaponry, however, Kagami's descent into vigilantism is marked by inevitable sadness and frustration, making this one of the more powerful stories thus far.
The title of this week's episode, “The Caterpillar,” comes from the title of a story that bears more than a passing resemblance to the dramatic conclusion of the episode. (Although it is worth mentioning that the sexual aspects of the original have been left out.) While the short story is about a man wounded in the war, the anime takes that theme and makes it into a metaphor for the war on crime that Kagami fights everyday at work. He is emotionally burdened by the fact that the legal system allows so many violent criminals to escape punishment by putting them in psychiatric hospitals for a few months before they are freed to commit the same crimes again. Violent offenders laugh in his face when he arrests them, saying that they've been down this road before and will soon be back on the streets, killing again. One criminal is offended by Kagami arresting him, seeing it as an interruption to his way of life that could be avoided. While he's not quite the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, it is this killer who serves as a catalyst.
If you've read the story, by the time we reach the moment of Kagami's break you've already figured out what's going to happen. More shocking is how the finale of the tale is carried over into how Kagami punishes the villain; it's a chilling moment, especially given his dead pan delivery of the revelation. Katsuyuki Konishi does a very good job of sounding as if he has simply given up during his narration, which more than anything gives us a clear picture of how the bright-eyed young policeman of two years ago fell to the depths where he is now. Kagami really carries the entire episode, with only a few other characters speaking, and in some ways this is what helps make “Caterpillar” stand out: previous weeks have been focused on Kobayashi, who is a less sympathetic and engaging character, and also allows for comic relief moments. Kagami's story is devoid of humor, making it more striking.
Rather than a stage play aesthetic, this week gives us a literal window into Kagami's mind and past actions. The story is framed by him sitting in interrogation in front of a large window, through which we pass in order to see the events he's narrating play out. It's quite effective and also provides a break from the oddly colored shapes and shadows we get when Kobayashi is the point-of-view character. An insert song is also used to good effect, but the most powerful moments come at the very end. As he is being taken away, Kagami comments to Akechi that even though he is done, Twenty Faces will never die. We see the truth of that carried out against the first few melodic lines of the ending theme, reminding us that a broken system spawns many cracks.
Sometimes a solution is as satisfying as a mystery. But sometimes it only leaves you with an emptiness as it points out that very few answers are as solid and finite as we'd hope.
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is currently streaming on Funimation.
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