Shelf Life Trickster Part 2
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
I had never heard of it until I saw Theron's review a few days ago, but Reborn as a Vending Machine, Now I Wander the Dungeon is now one of my favorite ridiculous light novel titles. I may have to give it a read just to see where it goes with that premise. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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Trickster part 2
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Shelf Life Reviews
The first half of Trickster was a perfectly fine soft science-fiction mystery show, but it didn't leave much of an impact in the weeks after I finished it. After refreshing my memory a bit, I was ready to dive into part 2, and I'll go ahead and get the good news out of the way first: I enjoyed part 2 of Trickster more than part 1. Not significantly more, mind you – this is still a flawed and inconsistent series even in its best moments. Still, whether it's because the show simply became increasingly comfortable with its plotting and character development, or if it's just because I just happened to be in the right head space for it, Trickster goes out on a slightly stronger note than what it began with.
A big part of that, I think, is the fact that The Boy Detective's Club has to deal with conflict that is more substantial than just being messed with by Twenty Faces – Kensuke's betrayal has hit everyone hard, and watching each of the characters deal with the new status quo in their own ways makes the cast a bit more engaging. None of the characters are ever as interesting or well-developed as Kensuke, Yoshio, and Kogoro, but there's at least a sense of stakes that comes along with their shifting relationships. There are a couple of new characters introduced in this half of the season, with the most notable being Tasuku Yamune, the Detective's Club fanboy-turned-member, and Hide, a boisterous joker whose group of self-styled hooligans become a complicated presence in Kensuke's life. None of the new cast members are revolutionary or anything, but adding just that much more texture to the cast's dynamic is another of this set's welcome contributions.
Kogoro and Yoshio also have additional screen time to work with in this half of the story; the former's difficult history with Twenty Faces is finally explored, while Yoshio finally gains some headway on the “figuring out how to die” business. I will admit that I'm of two minds regarding Yoshio's development – I was surprisingly engaged with the borderline romantic affection that he and Kensuke develop for one another, and I ended up appreciating how their “healthier” relationship serves as a direct foil to what Kogoro and Kensuke have going on. On the other hand, the ultimate explanation for Yoshio's power, and the way the show handles the “gifts” of characters like Yoshio and Twenty Faces, ends up feeling half-baked. The “solution” to Yoshio's problem ends up being such a ham-fisted and corny plot device that I couldn't help but roll my eyes when it came up, and the show never does much with it beyond that.
The Kogoro and Twenty Faces stuff is an equally mixed bag. The escalation of their conflict does make the last arc of the series significantly more interesting than what came before it on the level of being pure entertainment, but it also suffers from Trickster's problems with weak, cliched writing. Even with Gackt giving his all in the performance, Twenty Faces never rises above being much more than a wannabe-Joker, a nebulous embodiment of fatal attraction and a fetishistic revelry in chaos. It isn't terribly done, but it is lacking in the creative ingenuity needed to make Twenty Faces a truly compelling villain.
If there's anything about Trickster's execution that cannot be sugar-coated, though, it's the series' production values, which are middling at best, and just plain ugly a lot of the time. This isn't a Higurashi situation, where the show looks so bad that it truly hinders the show, but it does make it hard for a science-fiction mystery thriller to be truly effective when everything looks so flat and uninspired. I'd even be able to forgive the stiff animation and frequently off-model art if the direction were creative and inspired, but that sadly isn't the case. Even in the show's final episodes, which pick up the slack considerably, the editing and shot composition of even the most important scenes are merely mediocre.
As far as Funimation's Blu-Ray/DVD Combo set is concerned, it's the same exact setup as the first half of the season. There are no extras outside of the textless OP/EDs, as well as a code for a digital copy of the episodes to watch on the Funimation site. The English dub is also unchanged from last time, an inferior product overall, though not without its own charms. Seeing as it's going to cost about $100 to own the entire series, it would have been nice for the set to include a commentary or two, or perhaps some physical goodies, but it remains a perfectly competent product all the same.
Overall, Trickster is a tough series to wholeheartedly recommend. I love the idea of a sci-fi themed update to a classic set of mystery stories, but this particular show is just too sloppily put together to be consistently enjoyable. The back half of this 24-episode run rounds out some of the first half's flaws a good deal, but it also brings along its own shortcomings and disappointments. If you're dying to watch some vaguely shippable teenagers run around and solve mysteries together, Trickster might be worth a shot, but the series isn't likely to remain in anyone's memory for longer than it takes to watch it.
That wraps things up for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember to send your Shelf Obsessed entries to [email protected]!
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