Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace ?
The themes are beginning to come together. This episode, based on a story not available in English translation, feels very much like it is guiding towards the series' finale as it throws butterflies, dominoes, and Twenty Faces at us in an artistic flurry of imagery and plot. The latter works better than the former, with this being one of the most visually interesting episodes thus far (closely rivaled by the first half of “Panorama Island”). Primarily decked out in shades of blood red and bruise purple, the gold of the butterflies or the gleam of Kobayashi's eyes stand out starkly, as does the use of white spatters in the background. It's very chaotic, but feels purposeful, making for a very striking half hour.
The plot picks up from where we left off, with Akechi working madly to solve Namikoshi's riddle of an algorithm. Kobayashi quickly becomes obsessed with his work, to the point where he stops going to school in order to stay in Akechi's office and help/observe him. Hashiba doesn't see this as a good plan, and he spends a lot of time fretting about how this will affect Kobayashi. Taking him to task, however, proves ineffective – in doing so, he renders himself unworthy of Kobayashi's attention.
This is probably one the most telling moments of the episode, and I really did hesitate to mention it due to its surprise value, but it's also a potentially major piece of the puzzle. There's always been something just a little...off about Kobayashi, from the way he sees others to his glee at working with Akechi and the police to solve gruesome crimes. When Akechi receives notice of the next Twenty Faces attack, the digitized voice on the phone tells him that there are more Twenty Faces than he knows and that they are everywhere – in classrooms, offices, police stations...and right beside him. That last one could be viewed as resolved by the episode's end, but that really feels as if it might be a red herring. Why drop such a bomb on Akechi only to make it not worth solving? Perhaps I'm giving the show too much credit, but a misdirection at this point would be right up Edogawa Rampo's alley, and I highly suspect that that's what's going on here. Plus the revealed villain almost feels too easy – the character may not be one that we'd thought of in that light, but it sure isn't much of a stretch to get there. On that note, maybe the show has tried too hard to set Kobayashi up as a potential Twenty Faces, and it will be revealed to be Nakamura or Hashiba instead. After the trick with Kagami, I think it might be unwise to get too complacent at this point. (Plus there's the final shot of the ending theme to think about.)
Another point worth examining this episode is when Kobayashi notes that Akechi never thinks of himself, but rather of the world existing around his own existence rather than seeing himself as a part of it. This sets up a sort of parallel between Kobayashi and Akechi, as we can interpret Kobayashi's viewpoint as being an observer of life who simply didn't find it all that interesting while Akechi sees himself as outside the world but driven to fix it. In simpler terms, Akechi wants to be a part of things somehow, while Kobayashi often can't be bothered. While both have changed over the course of the show, those appear to be their default positions, which I suspect will come to a head as Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace reaches its conclusion.
In terms of visuals and foreshadowing, this is a really great episode. It brings pieces together and starts to show us how they might fit while drowning us in melancholy scenery and stage views that feel ever more distant. In terms of actual plot, this isn't the greatest, although that may simply be because the original story isn't accessible. (But if you absolutely need to have read the original works to get the series, that says to me that there's something wrong with the adaptation.) One thing is for certain, though: things are coming to a head and only Akechi or Twenty Faces will be left standing at the end.
May the best man win.
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is currently streaming on Funimation.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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