Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace ?
Any time there's a two-part storyline in a show, particularly a mystery series, the risk exists that part one will be entirely set up. That pretty much holds true for this week's Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace, with the caveat that it gets better as it goes on. So while this week's episode is set up, it also does a good job of whetting the appetite for what is to come.
Based on Edogawa Rampo's novella Strange Tale of Panorama Island (yes, generally written without an article before it), the story continues the overarching plot about Twenty Faces, the name used by Kogami when he committed his crimes and by no fewer than thirteen others since. Number fourteen isn't long in coming, but unlike the others, this one sends a note: Twenty Faces challenges Akechi and the police department, saying that they'll never be able to solve this impossible crime. Naturally Akechi won't take this lying down, even when he learns that not only has the crime been committed already, it took place on an island off of Ise. Opting to leave Kobayashi and Hashiba out of it (it's exam week, plus he really doesn't seem to feel like dealing with them), Akechi and Nakamura head off to Panorama Island.
Reading the original novella is kind of like reading a nightmare, and that feeling carries over into the visuals for this episode. Panorama Island, billed as an adult theme park (and it looks like both meanings of the word “adult” apply), is carnivalesque in the extreme: all bright colors, mad whirling, and realistic mannequins in improbable places. The murder victims are the two men who created the park, whose names are lifted directly from the novella. Since we're seeing through Akechi's eyes instead of Kobayashi's, insignificant characters are perceived as jointed wooden artist's models until they become more important, which says something about how Akechi views the world...as does his almost literal theatre of the mind. While there has always been a stage quality to parts of the show, when Akechi is thinking about something, he actually sees himself as a spectator at a show, which is a crucial part of many of Edogawa's stories. As a demonstration of how much Kobayashi has become a fixture in his life, he even sees the two boys sitting in adjacent chairs, Kobayashi munching on popcorn as if he's really at the movies. It almost feels as if Akechi's sense of reality is skewed, like he distances himself from the world in order to solve crimes. Could this have anything to do with his constant headache and the pills he's always taking? (Or is he just unable to buy Excedrin and is making do with caffeine and aspirin?) This rare glimpse into his point of view feels worth paying attention to, particularly who makes their way into his thoughts. Early in the episode Black Lizard mentions how they've solved crimes together in the past...what was that past, and is it possible that it led to her current state? That feels possible, especially since she's so very firmly entrenched in his mind.
Unfortunately Black Lizard's peeing habit, presumably meant to be funny or titillating, really doesn't fit with the rest of the episode, or the general aesthetic of the show, and it can really spoil the atmosphere during scenes where she's present. Likewise the medical examiner feels particularly out of place in this carnivalesque episode, although she's fairly steeped in carnivalism herself, since she uses gruesome death to put on a silly show-within-the-show. Usually she fits in a bit better than she does here, though.
The episode ends before Akechi can really figure anything out, or at least let us know that he has, and I will be interested to see who is named as villain. (I do have one theory from the novella, but no confirmation in the episode.) One thing is for certain, though: this tale of Panorama Island is certainly strange. In this show, that can only be a good thing.
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is currently streaming on Funimation.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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