The Detective Is Already Dead
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 4 of
The Detective Is Already Dead ?
So I'll start the review of this week's The Detective Is Already Dead with the positive: The actual mystery-solving does, in fact, make sense this time! Kinda! If you squint! That is, Kimihiko is revealed to have deduced what's really going on with the story of Yui's sapphire heist, and he does so using observations and a train of thought in a way that feels like something an actual human being would do. It's even based on details that were ostensibly available to the audience as clues for them to figure out for themselves! It's almost a frustrating testament to how decently that element of the series could have worked had they just utilized it more effectively in all the preceding episodes. I even appreciate the medium-based irony to the observations: Sure, it technically makes sense that Yui shouldn't have been able to handle herself as effectively without the use of her left eye, but we here in the audience are so accustomed to anime bullshit glossing over that kind of thing that we wouldn't really have considered it!
Of course, the Dead-tective show getting one over on us naturally just turns out to be in service of deploying its own very specific flavors of anime bullshit. I mean at this point, we were all already coming up with our own absurd theories about what the actual deal with Yui's eye was (I'll admit I was firmly in camp "She had an eye transplant from Siesta"), so it actually being another stray cybernetic implant almost feels tame compared to the other possibilities. And as mentioned, it does make sense with the information we were previously given. As well, the emotional element tied into the artificial eye (its outlandish seeing-through-stuff superpowers aside) is kind of effective. Making clear how and why the eye is special to Yui also provides an understandable reason for why she was keeping it covered, even if the way it ties into her dead-parents backstory isn't exactly the freshest fictional exercise.
Dead Detective in general has been operating on that odd wavelength of exceedingly standard, if effective, emotional character beats delivered with some of the most buck-wild plot and world-building swerves they can concoct. Keeping us reminded of the existence of those kinds of cybernetic body parts is done, for instance, by revealing that Kimihiko apparently got Bat out of jail to serve as his chauffeur and used his robo-ear hearing powers to find an enemy operative in the crowded concert venue. That's a unique, tense situation for a detective to deal with in a series like this, but it's resolved with that bizarre order of information revelation that just makes us question why Kimihiko didn't think to shout inquiries at Bat sooner. Also, and perhaps I'm just being nitpicky after the show asked me to pay attention to how much depth perception a cartoon idol girl was demonstrating, but the location of the crossbow sniper as revealed ends up seeming incredibly obvious, and I'm also fairly certain that putting a bolt through her eye would definitely have killed her instead of just taking out the eye.
We're four episodes in though, so I feel like at this point you've either settled into Dead Detective for the long haul or noped out of its eccentric storytelling predilections. And the show's still able to demonstrate a skill for depicting these kinds of tense thriller situations surrounded by the rest of the weirdness. Kimihiko saving Yui from getting crossbowed through the skull at the last second is a well-timed moment, and I'm hardly going to be uninterested in the follow up interrogation scene where he and the eye-dol pull guns on each other. That's also the part of the episode where he breaks down the actual mystery plot, and if so much of that exposition is accomplished through Nagisa asking successive questions that make clear she had no earthly clue what was going on through all of this, well, at least that makes two of us.
No, for all my gawking at the bizarre swerves fueling the action in this week's episode, my real biggest criticism is in the contrivances of motive that get the characters where they are by the end of all this – that is, the motives of the writer, not the characters themselves. Everything about Yui's setup – from being pressured to try to assassinate Kimihiko and Nagisa to her being befriended by them as a resolution for that – exists at the behest of reinforcing the enemy organization known as SPES as the sole architect of every issue our dear dead detectives have dealt with thus far. Even the personal meaning of Yui's artificial eye is secondary to its cyborg superpower status conspiring to unite her with Kimihiko's growing harem of heroines against this nebulous threat that seems to mostly function as a convenient outlet for all this nominally-mysterious action. Not that I'm expecting exceptionally nuanced or clever writing from Dead Detective at this point; it's all too clear what I signed up for. But I wish it could manage to not be so obvious about it for at least one week.
Still, it's all here to round Yui into the cast, who I do like. And the show demonstrates it can be functional in performing that task while also weaving in a little honest-to-god mystery writing with this episode, so amongst all my comically overblown befuddlement with the series, I can also admit I'm having a good time. The end of this week's episode teases the addition of another member of Kimihiko's detective polycule, jarringly named 'Char', who is apparently previously associated with both Kimihiko and Siesta in their days together. Do forgive Funimation's translations here by the way, as they seem to have misheard Char referring to Siesta as 'Ma'am' and rendered it as 'Mom' instead, resulting in a double-take that would have been even stronger had I not seen this exact subtitle issue pop up previously in my anime-watching history. The whole bit is a microcosm of the experience propelling me through Dead Detective so far: even as I know it's not technically 'good', I certainly haven't been bored while watching it.
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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