The Millionaire Detective - Balance: UNLIMITED
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Millionaire Detective - Balance: UNLIMITED ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
The Millionaire Detective - Balance: UNLIMITED ?
Learning who the original author behind Millionaire Detective is in some ways explains a lot about the show. The book (and it's worth noting that both detective shows airing this season are based on full-out novels rather than light novels) is written by Yasutaka Tsutsui, who also authored the original books upon which the anime films Paprika and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time are based. (He also got himself into a lot of trouble with an ill-considered tweet back in 2017.) But perhaps even more telling is the fact that the novel was published in 1978, which definitely could have an impact on the way the story is told. In these first two episodes, that comes out in the sort of James Bond feel that the show has, both in the very deliberate nods to that franchise (check out the opening theme for that) and in terms of the Bond Babe vibe that the female characters have, especially Suzue Kambe, who is probably either Kambe's sister or wife. Honestly, the imagery could go either way, there. (Thanks for that, anime.)
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Bond franchise is schlocky fun, outdated in its ideas and characterizations but well-aware of that. While this show hasn't quite achieved a winking relationship with its own issues, it does seem to be headed in that direction. This comes across more clearly in the second episode, which ramps things up after an initial caper that's fun but nothing all that special: rather than pursuing a couple of two-bit criminals who get themselves in over their heads when they hijack a van with a bomb in it, the second episode deals with a yakuza drug ring that's resulted in one overdose death and is largely catering to the modeling and showbiz elites. Our straight man, Haru Kato, is determined to do everything by the book and bring in the model who's functioning as the Gondawara Group's dealer, but bored millionaire inventor/genius/spendthrift Daichi Kambe is all too ready to just toss cash at the problem until he can make it go away. There's no doubting that they're both invested in getting the drugs off the street; it's just that everything about their methods is distasteful to each other. Kambe doesn't seem to understand why Kato would use old-school methods like living out of his car for goodness knows how long, while Kato feels like Kambe is basically cheating at life – and, more importantly, at the job that Kato values.
The pair's odd couple dynamics are the source of much of the humor in the second episode, with Yūsuke Ōnuki's deadpan Kambe juxtaposing nicely with Mamoru Miyano's increasingly frenetic (and at times overtired) Kato, although it's hard to deny that the ludicrous number of random skills that both Kambes demonstrate over the course of the episode add to that, along with the less and less subtle hints that Kato needs a bath. The first episode primarily relies on the would-be crooks' general ineptitude for its humor, although there are some Bond-like aspects to Kambe's methods already, along with his totally-not-JARVIS robo-butler. The show seems to want to sell itself as a cop comedy, and it does that with moderate success in both episodes, although it's hampered by one inescapable fact:
Kambe is an unrepentant asshole.
Perhaps that isn't a totally fair statement at this point. The opening narration seems to imply that he was spoiled past the point of truly understanding other people, if only from the boredom of never having to really work for anything in his life. Throwing cash at a problem is how he was raised and it's what he's always done, so it feels normal to him, not like cheating. He's also not used to having a partner – he's got Suzue, but that's not quite the same thing as working with Kato, and it shows in the way he doesn't tell Kato about his plans for the party in episode two. When Kato shows up at his house after trailing Kozue, Kambe doesn't object to him being there and in fact takes the trouble to have (someone else make) dinner so that Kato gets some food, and at the end of the episode, it looks awfully as if Kambe has arranged for Kato to get to go to the international crime convention in Hong Kong. It's clumsy and doesn't necessarily come off as nice, but I think it might be intended to be. It may even be his way of helping Kato get really back on his feet after his demotion due to trauma.
Or he could just be an egotistical jerk who smashes into classic cars because he can afford to in both the literal and figurative senses. Hopefully it's the former, because otherwise the show could become a chore to watch as it goes on. But given the story's pedigree, there may be more reason to hope than not, and honestly knowing that the source material is from the 1970s makes me feel a little better about parts of it. I guess the only way to find out is to keep watching.
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