When Mithical first told me about Rampo Kitan and that we got a copy to review, my first thought was “That’s right up my alley!” I like horror, whether supernatural or realistic. Series with a creepy, suffocating atmosphere and a bit of mystery are just about my favourite thing (Junji Ito, anyone?)
That said, when I started watching it I realized Rampo Kitan definitely IS up my alley. The more I watched, however, the more I started to feel like it’s a weird store at the end of my alley that sells barely-legal porn and snuff videos, where the owner has 90% probability of being a murderer and you always feel a little bit uncomfortable even walking past. It’s up my ally, but not really anywhere I want to go.
With what should be all the makings of a great horror/mystery – morally ambiguous characters, grotesque crimes, a brilliant detective… – somehow it all just has gone very, very wrong. To start, Kobayashi is one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever experienced in anime. “It’s okay that you framed me for murder – it was fun to prove I’m innocent!” was the start of a happy-go-lucky naivety and/or apathy that just was impossible to empathize with at any point. It isn’t even interesting. There is absolutely nothing about Kobayashi that should make anyone care if he lives or dies or murders anyone. The most interesting character (definitely Kagami) really only has one episode and then no longer matters.
The first half of the series seems to be about mini-mysteries, while the second half focuses on a bigger story. Nothing really ever connects these plotlines together. Rampo Kitan attempts to be intense and edgy and dark, and succeeds on a topical level, but there’s nothing else there, really. Despite being fantastically set up to consider age-old questions about justice, the morality of revenge, and the law,
On a good note, the atmosphere was superb. Rampo Kitan does a great job of suffocating, dark shots and even huge, open, lonely scenes. When it comes to horror, visual discomfort is a great tool, and this is a series that uses it well. It’s just a shame that it couldn’t bring that same skill to the storyline. The art style is often a little strange, including scenes where unimportant characters are just the vague outlines of featureless people.
Just about the only thing this series left me interested in is the books they’re based off of.
As for the boxset, it’s your usual offering. Fans of the series will find decent image quality and some small extras like openings and endings and trailers, but there’s not much else to be had.