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Dramatical Murder – Review

by Anthony Sulwer

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DRAMAtical Murder might very well be one of the biggest surprises of the most recent summer season. Offering something completely different from the standard anime fare, DRAMAtical Murder infuses intriguing characters, a well-executed story, and utilizes every second of their initial twelve-episode run with a well paced, absorbing mystery.

Set on the fictional island of Midorijima, it is in the first episode, “Data_01_Login,” the audience is introduced to the central protagonist of the story, Aoba Seragaki. Aoba works at Junk Shop Mediocrity – a junk shop specializing in outdated electronics and nostalgia.

Though Aoba doesn’t play himself, the most popular online game in all of Midorijima is a game called, Rhyme. The game is so huge the entire island was privatized by the show’s main antagonist, Tatsuo Toue, and turned into a resort called, Platinum Jail. In the area where Platinum Jail was built, all of the residents were forced out and now live in the Old Residential District.

Aoba spends his evenings with his sassy, yet compunctious, grandmother, and his days working at Junk Shop Mediocrity with Ren, his Allmate. Practically everyone in the world of DRAMAtical Murder has an Allmate.

Allmates are artificially made beings that usually take the form of some kind of small animal. They have artificial intelligence and are most commonly used as a network tool, able to search the Internet for information or used as a fighting companion in the online world of Rhyme. Though they are only supposed to be tools, most everyone develops a familial attached to their Allmate, treating them as if they are close pets.

Aoba’s Allmate, Ren, takes the form of a dark blue Japanese Spitz in his artificially created form, and a human form in the world of Rhyme. Ren is wise, measured, and a loyal companion to Aoba, who in turns treats him as a beloved partner and necessity in his life. Without spoiling any important plot points, Ren becomes a vital part to Aoba’s story arc at the outcome of the first season.

The supporting cast of characters appears in the first six episodes of DRAMAtical Murder’s first season, then receive one full episode each over episodes seven through ten. Each is flamboyant in their own way, and each posses personality traits and criteria to be used in the final battle with Tatsuo Toue.

Most of the supporting cast members are leaders of gangs. Koujaku, one of Aoba’s childhood friends, is the leader of Benishigure, a Ribstiez group. Koujaku is one of the most prominent hairdressers in Midorijima and a good friend to Aoba. Covered in tattoos and scars, Koujaku is a softhearted, caring soul who has a very dark, tragic past involving the negative results of a painful tattooing process by a nefarious artist.

Mink, the leader of a Ribstiez group of former prison inmates called Scratch, is a Native American who had his entire tribe and family enslaved by Tatsuo Toue for their mystical abilities. Mink is a huge, hard, ultra-tough man who feels little empathy, using harsh violence to get his point across and getting people to do what he wants them to.

Noiz, in the leader and founder of Ruff Rabbit, is a high level hacker, and a broker of information. Noiz is, perhaps, the most interesting character in the entire series. Suffering from CIPA – a disorder which causes him to never feel pain or any other sense except for his mouth – Noiz spends as much time as he can in Rhyme because it is the closest he can get to feeling something. Disgraced by his family, Noiz bases everything on cold logic and has an immense detachment of his emotions. His centric episode, “Data_08_Reply,” is one of the single best episodes of the entire season, delving into his childhood and past, exploring the psychology of a truly fascinating character.

Rounding out the central cast of characters is Clear – a self-promoted protector of Aoba, to whom he refers to as, “Master.” Clear shows up very early in the series and appears to rescue Aoba from time to time. He dresses in all white, always carries a clear umbrella regardless of the weather, and also wears a gas mask he absolutely refuses to take off for any reason. “Data_09_Echt,” explores Clear’s origins and his need to protect Master.

Bringing together these five characters in the first nine episodes was masterfully done by first time, full-season director, Kazuya Miura. Upon first meeting many of them the audience is lead to believe they are all ‘bad’ in some way and out for their own, selfish means and motives. However, as each episode unfolds and we get each of these characters’ backstories, the result is an intriguing, well-told story that keeps the viewer easily segueing from one episode into the next.  Each episode in a direct lead in from the previous, making consuming the entire first season in one or two sittings an easy endeavor.

The only, seemingly oddly placed aspects of DRAMAtical Murder are the half dozen or so homoerotic scenes throughout the first season. They are not gratuitous or overt in anyway, and are only oddly placed because they seem to come out of nowhere and are not apropos of what is taking place in the scene; i.e. two male characters who suddenly profess feelings of deep respect and familiarity. After doing a little research on the show before writing this review, I did discover the anime series is based on a BL (Boy’s Love) PC game.

While the series may be based on a video game about homosexual relationships between young men marketed toward young, teenage Asian women (for every person, there is a genre… turn, turn, turn), the anime series itself only hints at these aspects as a nod to the source material. Everything about the anime series; from the crisp animation of these larger than life characters, to an underlying mystery that will keep the audience guessing until the end of the twelfth episode, DRAMAtical Murder is a series to be enjoyed by anyone who simply loves a fantastic, well executed show.

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Author: Anthony Sulwer

A freelance writer living in Denver, Colorado, Anthony fell in love with anime while working part time jobs at video stores in the 90s. Nights off were spent watching Akira, Ninja Scroll, Fist of the North Star, and anything else to appear in the small "Specialty" section of the large chain stores.

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Comments

  • http://myanimelist.net/profile/gamedoll Thani

    I’m currently watching it, a decent anime, love the retro feel to it.