The Detective Is Already Dead
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
The Detective Is Already Dead ?
Early on in this episode, we flash back to a conversation between Kimihiko and Siesta regarding how well the term 'Detective' actually applies to what they do. I can't help but see this as pushback by the author against critical assertions that The Detective Is Already Dead really wasn't terribly effective at telling an actual 'detective' story. As I've indicated before, I personally had since gotten over that particular point of pedantry, so it all mostly comes off as an unnecessary clarification at this stage. Especially when the best explanation the writing can muster is to simply have Siesta claim that she has her own definition of 'Detective' that more applies to the client-protecting secret-agent stylings she's performed so far. Well, case closed, as they've utterly convinced me with that airtight argument!
However, I mostly bring this up because in this week's episode, we find out that Siesta does resemble at least one other famous detective: Batman! No, no, stay with me here. Specifically I'm thinking of the memetically exaggerated impression of the Caped Crusader who rose to prominence around the mid-2000's, the version who could beat anybody and plan around anything. Siesta's defining trait that dragged any dalliances of detective work down in the show was always the idea that she pre-solved any mysteries before we even witnessed them beginning, and that's taken to its absolute nadir with the critical revelation at the heart of this episode. Yes, it turns out the titular event this entire series is centered on, the detective's death which we underwhelmingly finally glimpsed a couple episodes ago, was itself entirely within Siesta's calculations and orchestrated by her for everything in the story to arrive as it has at this point in time.
I'm not sure where I should even begin in coming to grips with any explanation for how Siesta pulled this off. Just getting to that revelation in the episode should have at least been an enjoyably refreshing blast of crazy, since the rest of the run really isn't anything special. Though in hindsight it's a little amusing to see that Kimihiko at least inherited Siesta's ridiculous planning prowess as his scheme to rescue Nagisa involves just having Yui procure a speedboat with a big cushion on it. Where does he get all those wonderful toys? But the rest of the confrontation with Chameleon, in his giant monster-chameleon form because of course, is just excessively weighed down by the anime's inability to depict any sort of spectacle. It has all the perfunctory energy of the final bad-guy fight at the end of a given Marvel movie, except those at least usually have nice-looking animation involved in them. This one is repeatedly stalled out by the long-winded dialogue of the oddly-talkative monster-Chameleon, and it climaxes with Fuubi throwing her lighter to ignite a big puddle of gas with some of the worst composited fire effects I've seen in a while.
But it's not like action had ever been Dead-tective's strong suit, I could deal with a mediocre boss-battle here towards the end of the series. But no, that's when the show comes out swinging with that positively bonkers new Siesta revelation. Even ignoring that she somehow predicted and planned around the fact that she would get killed by a kaiju and have her heart carved out by Hel to be implanted in herself, the real facepalm comes from the confirmation that Hel's body is in fact the person we now know as Nagisa, with Siesta's personality incubating in there to suppress her evil side and save Alicia's true persona until she could awaken herself. How many people you got in there!
I honestly should have seen that coming, lord knows the story foreshadowed it effectively enough, but it's not like I take issue with the concept purely from the angle of plausibility. Heck, thinking about it, this even retroactively justifies the insane way Kimihiko went about confirming the identity of Nagisa's heart way back when, as we now know said heart transplant was hardly a standard, professional medical procedure. That doesn't necessarily make the presentation of the plot point 'better' in retrospect, since it still fundamentally made no sense with no explanation offered to the audience for like ten episodes. It's like another angle of the author redefinding 'detective' for their own satisfaction this deep into the show. But from a purely mechanical standpoint, internal to the show, it does technically work and make everything from Nagisa's mysterious heart memories to Siesta's superpowered cyber blood make sense, or as much sense as anything else in this utterly bonkers narrative.
No, the main issue I take from this definitive development is how it undermines so much of what the characters were 'about' up to this point. Chief among these is Nagisa herself, of course, who's chronic-illness backstory that effectively fueled so much of her character before is revealed as a fabrication, with many of the issues we were otherwise just addressing up in smoke now that we know who and what she really is. Her worries about not 'being special' or finding something she could do to make up for the part of her life she lost isn't applicable in the face of this multi-personality identity crisis her and the three other people sharing her body are now wrapped up in. If this was always going to be the deal, it would have made more sense to tie Nagisa's development around issues reflective of those of Alicia, rather than inventing a whole other arc to go through the motions of until it was time to pull back the curtain.
Similarly, Siesta's virtual re-entry into the story (though I'll admit I have no idea how permanently she's going to stick around) works to undermine the more naturally-motivated closure that Kimihiko and Char were so appreciably working towards. This can't be a story effectively about people moving past the death of a loved one, carrying on her will, and acting as her 'legacy' of sorts if said dead person can just pop in at the most opportune time to resolve the biggest points of the plot for them. And yes, my dissatisfaction with this turn is especially exacerbated by how much I found myself enjoying Dead-tective's examination of all these characters centered on those issues in last week's episode. I don't know how many times now this show has made me think I've gotten a handle on things I can find to enjoy about it, only to surprise me with a roundhouse kick to the teeth a few moments later. Fool me once, and all that, I guess.
I can't say I expected better from Dead Detective, if only because I had no idea what to expect by this stage. Maybe shaking up the order of operations they depicted these plots in or reprioritizing for different kinds of character focus would have made things land better by this point. I honestly want to believe there was a way this bucketful of insane storytelling could have been presented that would fit the kind of entertainment value they seem to think they're going for. But what we've got is, plainly, a mess. It's a whiplash-inducing bout of flailing plot spaghetti that betrays some of the story's previous best efforts with what we're now well-aware are some of its worst writing impulses.
The Detective Is Already Dead is currently streaming on Funimation.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.
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