Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace ?
One thing Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace has been consistently good at is making changes to the original stories of the late great Edogawa Ranpo while still leaving the source material recognizable. This second half of the adaptation of Strange Tale of Panorama Island continues that, but it also sort of cheaps out in its reimagining of the crimes described in the novella – if you've read the book, there's a good chance that you figured out who this iteration of Twenty Faces was. Basically what the episodes did was reverse the roles of victim and villain (more or less – the victims were still very nasty fellows), while still playing with the idea of stealing someone's identity. Originally Hitomi stole Komoda's identity after his death before toying with the man's wife, Chiyoko, whom he eventually kills. Here both Hitomi and Komoda are together in their stealing of Chiyoko's sense of self, using her body to create the numerous naked mannequins that make up their adult panorama-based theme park. It's a more subtle theft than in the original, but it preys on Chiyoko's soul in a very understandable way, which is probably the best done part of this adaptation. Sometimes, it suggests, identity theft isn't just taking over someone's credit cards.
Unfortunately the scarcity of named characters in the book made it pretty much a forgone conclusion who our Twenty Faces would be, which is a major flaw in the ointment for a murder mystery. Luckily the second half of the episode switches to something totally different and quite important – the reason why Akechi is a detective at all and his vendetta against Twenty Faces. The answers lie in his middle school years (again, making sense, because middle school is basically hell) and a friend of his whom he could not save. This Twenty Faces origin story is unique to the anime as far as I know, and seems to be here to give the show its subtitle, “Game of Laplace.” “Laplace” refers to a math equation known as a partial differential equation that involves multivariable functions, and in the case of Akechi's past, it created the Fiend. He's been pushing himself ever since, trying to crush the monster he inadvertently helped to create, which explains why he's so blasé about any other case he gets. But he's quick to tell us that he's not doing this because he's getting revenge for his friend, who died in the creation of the Fiend – once someone's dead, there's no point doing anything for them, he feels. This goes back to the very idea of Ranpo Kitan's incarnation of The Fiend With Twenty Faces – everyone who dons the mask of the name is doing so to avenge someone else. Is it truly pointless? If it gives them peace and removes a monster from the streets, that's hard to say. But Akechi and Hashiba both feel very strongly that it is better to save the living than the dead, a view which is not espoused by many of the other characters we've met so far.
Despite the simplicity of figuring out who the killer is in the first half of the episode, this is a really well put together show. The case on Panorama Island feeds directly into Akechi's tale of his middle school experience and has direct parallels with everything else that's been going on in the series thus far. The imagery is haunting, from the thousands of Chiyokos on the island to the swirling formulas in the flashback, all of which organically flows into the ending theme. (Have I mentioned how great the ending theme is yet?) The use of an insert song, nearly wordless, in the flashback sets the mood beautifully, making this a stand-out episode in terms of composition if not entirely in plot.
Is it right to want justice for the dead? If Akechi kills himself in his mission to bring down the Fiend created by the equation, what will Nakamura, Hashiba, and Kobayashi do? These are questions raised this week that look as if they will inform the remainder of the series...so keep your eyes and ears open to see how things progress.
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is currently streaming on Funimation.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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