Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace-Complete Series (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 8-Mar-2017

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Trailer-Start-up trailers on each disc
Audio Commentary-US voice cast on Episode 6
Trailer-Series trailer
TV Spots-x 5
Trailer-x 6 for other anime and live action films
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 252:03 (Case: 275)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Seiji Kishi
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Rie Takahashi / Jill Harris
Daiki Yamashita / Justin Briner
Takahiro Sakurai / Eric Vale
Katsuyuki Konishi / J. Michael Tatum
Cho / Mark Stoddard
Takehito Koyasu / Sonny Strait
Yoko Hikasa / Mallorie Rodak
Case ?
RPI ? Music Masaru Yokoyama


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during the end titles of Episode 11

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Girlish looking Kobayashi (voiced by Rie Takahashi / Jill Harris) is an intelligent but bored 13 year old student whose life changes dramatically when he is found one morning in the classroom with a bloody hacksaw in his hand and the dismembered body of his teacher nearby. Although his best and only friend, the staid Hashiba (Daiki Yamashita / Justin Briner), cannot believe Kobayashi is guilty, the police led by Superintendent Kagami (Katsuyuki Konishi / J. Michael Tatum) and his assistant Nakamura (Cho / Mark Stoddard) are not so sure. Also arriving at the scene is the brilliant 17 year old special boy detective Akechi (Takahiro Sakurai / Eric Vale) who believes that Kobayashi has been framed. Kobayashi, for the first time, has been jolted out of his boredom and asks Akechi to take him on as his apprentice. Akechi will only agree if Kobayashi is able to find the real killer. When Kobayashi succeeds, he and Hashiba join Akechi in assisting the police. The remaining episodes in this series mainly concern a vigilante known as Twenty Faces who kills criminals who have escaped the justice system; he was stopped 3 years ago but a succession of copycat vigilantes have appeared taxing the resolve of Akechi, who knows far more about Twenty Faces than he is prepared to let on. Other characters who reappear during the episodes include the gentleman thief and master of disguises Shadow-Man (Takehito Koyasu / Sonny Strait) and the exuberant imprisoned master criminal with a thing for Akechi, Black Lizard (Yoko Hikasa / Mallorie Rodak).

     Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace is an anime series based on the stories of Rampo Edogawa who died in 1965. Rampo, who was influenced by Western mystery writers including Poe and Conan Doyle, may well be considered the father of Japanese mystery writing and his stories, novellas and articles have remained in print, been used in films and TV and translated into English. Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace was made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rampo’s death; it uses his characters and his stories, updated to the present; this is detective mystery but with a very Japanese bent towards the macabre and grotesque, such as the serial killer who dismembers his victims and arranges them to be chairs! I have read reviewers who say that knowledge of Rampo’s works is an advantage to understanding the anime; this may be so but I can say, however, that I have not read Rampo but I generally followed and thoroughly enjoyed Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace.

     Indeed, judged on its own merits Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace is an excellent anime series. The story lines are strong, with comments about ethics, the nature of the society, greed and corruption, wealth and power, the weakness of the justice system and the morality of vigilante justice. The show is also very funny in places with digs at TV news reports, so-called expert talking heads and reality TV, while Episode 6 A Glimpse into Hell is very funny indeed involving a cat, a baby, terrorists and a bobby-trapped man. But there is also a sadness and poignancy underlying the series as terrible crimes are committed and innocent people, including children, are killed. Most of the principal, and a few of the subsidiary, characters are well rounded, with the enigmatic Akechi a very interesting creation.

     Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace also looks different to other anime. Many scenes feature merely the outline of characters, a bit like shadow puppets but in grey or pastel green, pink or blue. Other scenes are framed as if the action is taking place on a stage, with characters picked out in a spotlight talking directly to the audience. The opening sequence, with everything in grey and white except for a bright yellow butterfly, is also very striking; this is the first appearance of the butterfly motif which recurs throughout the series as precognition and the butterfly effect are themes central to the anime. However, the butterfly is but one example of many where colours and images are used in interesting ways.

     The innovative framing, contrasting colours and impressive images of Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace combine with the story to grab, and hold, your interest. The eleven episodes were shown on Japanese TV between July and September 2015. Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace Complete Series contains the eleven episodes on two Blu-rays. Unfortunately, I can find no indication that a second series is expected.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the original broadcast ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     As noted in the review this is an impressive anime presentation, utilising unusual framing devices and innovative use of grey scale and contrast colours. Elsewhere colours are deep and rich although they are not glossy or vibrant, resulting in a muted matt palate; Akechi’s red quarters are a typical example. The lines are clean and close-ups detailed, blacks and shadow detail are fine.

     I did not notice any marks or artefacts.

     It is anime so lip synchronisation is approximate in either audio track.

    The English subtitles are in American English in a clear white font. The subtitles are burnt in when the Japanese dub is selected so cannot be removed for Japanese speakers. I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors although on a number of occasions the subtitles contained a lot of lines and flashed by very quickly.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is the usual Funimation choices; Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 or English TrueHD 5.1. I listened primarily to the Japanese and picked a couple of episodes to listen to the English dub (the audio can only be changed by returning to the main menu, not on the fly).

     This anime is not action packed so does not require a heavy aural presence. Dialogue is clear in either audio track. The Japanese is only 2.0 but it is surround encoded so the rears featured music, voices and some ambient effects. The English dub is more enveloping, although not greatly so, and I found the English voice cast more generic and lacking in intensity compared to the Japanese. Subwoofer use is minimal and the English is recorded at a lower level than the Japanese.

     The score by Masaru Yokoyama is excellent, frequently utilising a single piano to heighten the mood, dramatic at other times. The closing song Crescent Moon by Sayuri is addictive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Disc 1

     On start-up a trailer for Death Parade (1:56) plays which cannot be selected from the menu.

Commentary – Episode 6

     US voice cast members Eric Vale, Justin Briner, Jill Harris and Sonny Strait (the voices of Akechi, Hashiba, Kobayashi and Shadow-Man) sit together and watch the episode, sort of. This is a typical inane Funimation commentary; they do not talk about the show but they make jokes, laugh and chat about nothing in particular, except themselves and balloons. More pointless than usual.

Disc 2

     On start-up a trailer for The Future Diary (1:24) plays which cannot be selected from the menu.

Promo Video (1:48)

     An advance trailer for the series.

Commercials (1:55)

     Five TV Spots for the series and Blu-Ray / DVD release.

Textless Opening Song “Speed and Friction” (1:32)

     The opening song without the credits.

Textless Closing Song “Crescent Moon” (1:31)

     The closing song without the credits.

Trailers (7:27)

     Trailers for

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Our local release of Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace Complete Series is the same as the Region A US release and has the FBI anti-piracy warning, although that release adds DVDs of the series.

Summary

     Whether you are familiar with the works of Rampo Edogawa or not Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace is an excellent anime series with strong, complex stories, innovative framing and imagery and a stunning colour design. If you are looking for something a bit different this is definitively worth seeking out.

     The video is impressive, the audio good although the original Japanese audio is only 2.0. The extras are minor but are the same as available in the US.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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