Vatican Miracle Examiner
Episode 9

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Vatican Miracle Examiner ?

Another week gone by, another miracle to examine! Amazon Strike decided to drop Vatican Miracle Examiner a full four days late this week, and while I have no clue why this happened, I'm going to go ahead and pretend that it's because VME just needed a little more time in the oven. That can only a be a good thing, because this turns out to be the least terrible episode of VME we've gotten since the first arc. It still isn't good, but it does feel much less bad, and that's especially worth something when this show has been in such a slump lately.

There are a few things that make this a halfway-decent episode of Vatican Miracle Examiner, the first of which being that the animation (or at least the animation direction) has taken a noticeable step up. While the movement itself is as limited and stiff as ever, the character models are much more consistent, and scenes are blocked in such a way as to mask the worst of the show's visual limitations. I'd say the general sense of style and color design is still too muddled and generic to be successful, but it isn't an eyesore either. The script is also a little less rickety and haphazard this week, as Hiraga and Roberto hole up in the small Italian village of Monte to investigate the miracle of a rainbow-glowing crucifix statue that beckons the trumpet of the Lord (this is much less cool than it sounds on paper). While the investigation itself is as plodding as ever, bogged down in boring discussions about old folktale books and such, the story moves with a pace that's both brisk and mostly coherent, which is more than can be said for the last few episodes. The writing remains very dumb, always trying desperately to sound smarter than it is, but it also keeps things moving quickly enough to avoid being grating.

All of that is small potatoes compared to the real draw of this new arc, however. As the cold open of the episode reveals (in inexplicable found-footage style, no less), there is a Satanic Renaissance-era clown stalking the outskirts of Monte, and he's using his giant scythe to chop up a whole bunch of people. He's known as The Decapitating Clown, because of course he is, and he actually happens to be the center of a local legend that the church has incorporated into its own art and architecture, because again, of course it does. This is the exact variety of earnest, naïve ridiculousness that Vatican Miracle Examiner has been missing ever since it blew up Hitler's psychotic son, and I'm glad to see even a hint of that atmosphere return. How any of this might tie into the missing Father Julia, the Psychedelic Jesus Statue, or the murdered albino boy that Roberto and Hiraga find is anyone's guess, and that's totally fine by me. We have a demonic murder jester taunting two priests from the Vatican while they try to figure out why a glowing rainbow Jesus makes weird sounds every morning. This is already entertainment gold.

Unfortunately, all of that clownish goodness only takes up about five minutes of the episode. The other twenty minutes follow the same pattern of having Roberto and Hiraga engage in nonsensical detective work based in the cheapest Da Vinci Code-esque mystery writing, which has proven to be the polar opposite of riveting television. Still, I found myself almost making sense of what was happening as the two priests bantered away the episode's runtime, which is the first time that's happened in weeks. Toss in the mysteriously hellish harlequin and some decent visuals, and you have the first episode of Vatican Miracle Examiner in a while that almost manages to resemble the vague echo of a good anime, which is its own kind of zany success.

Rating: C-

Vatican Miracle Examiner is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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