Remember when you were little and your parents left you alone in the house? You got out that giant mixing bowl and threw ALL of your favorite foods into it: pizza bites, pretzels, ice cream, chocolate and strawberry syrup, whipped cream, and cookie dough. Face it, it tasted awful. That, ladies and gentlemen is kind of what Tantei Opera Milky Holmes is--an ill-considered, pandering clusterfuck of moe.
Tantei Opera Milky Holmes is an excuse to name some high school students after famous fictional detectives and have them do cute things. But there's also a kind of plot. At the series outset, the four heroines form a detective team called Milky Holmes based out of the prestigious Holmes Detective Academy. The quartet's powerful "Toys" (what the world calls super powers) make them more than a match for any Gentleman Thief (the super-powered villains) they confront. But, when a tragic event sees them stripped of their toys the girls lose their lush accommodations and face expulsion from school. Of course, the team will not sit idly by and watch their lives go to waste. They're determined to get their powers back... After they eat some snacks. And take in a lost kitten. And go shopping. When the anime goes off the rails frequently and with alacrity it tries your patience. By the end of the show, both the half-hearted attempts to advance the plot and the 'fun antics' wear on your last nerve.
Now, a series need not actually be about anything. K-On! focuses about as much on music as does a bowl of your favorite cereal, and Ninja Nonsense has much more "Nonsense" than Ninjutsu, but the presence in this show of an actual villain (Arsene) and an actual conflict (the loss of Milky Holmes' powers and their impending expulsion) implies some kind of narrative that never materializes. Instead, we watch the cute girls act stupid and continue to be rewarded. If the gags and the characters were stronger, maybe some of this weakness could be ignored. It certainly works for Hayate no Gotoku!! where the meandering non-plot gets critical help from the personable characters and consistent use of parody. Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, by contrast, on the whole feels like a crazy bait-and-switch, as it can't hold onto any particular plot point for long. While the girls are in school on probation, they don't attend class, follow the rules, or even seem to be suffering all that much (beyond having to share a bed--THE HORROR!).
Tantei Opera Milky Holmes has some cute characters who get tragically sub-par treatment at the hands of their animators. J.C. Staff has a solid reputation for delivering visual flourish (Toradora! and even co-airing Otome Youkai Zakuro are good examples) and none of that talent appears anywhere near this title. Most of the action plays out like a flip-book, with characters moving from one pose to another without going through any intermediate steps. Which of course is only when the anime chooses to show action instead of hiding it behind a closed door, off screen, or in a large dust cloud. That the backgrounds are half-decent acts mostly as a poke in the eye.
Thankfully, Tantei Opera Milky Holmes is slightly easier on the ears than it is on the eyes. The show features a serviceable J-Pop OP (Seikai wa Hitotsu! Janai!!) and an anthemic ED (Honnou no DOUBT), which in isolation make the work seem better than the rest of its production values. Similarly, the rest of the OST manages to complement the series' meandering moe sensibilities without offending anyone.
If only the voice acting didn't present such a mixed bag. Satomi Akesaka modulates between the sexy Arsene and the reserved Henriette with admirable aplomb, giving each personality an appropriate and sonorous voice and Hiro Shimono (Rat) and Takuma Terashima (Stone River) turn in workmanlike performances to round out the antagonists. But Suzuko Mimori's Sherlock puts nearly all that effort to waste. The seiyuu shoots for Aki Toyosaki, but doesn't lay on the silky saccharine required to prevent her charge from becoming a shrill brat. Every third time she opens her mouth to complain or spout some optimistic drivel you'll want to strangle her and put a fork in your ear.
Not that one-note characters aren't good fun. Many people love Excalibur (Soul Eater), for example. But they need to be seasoning, not the main course. Tantei Opera Milky Holmes serves up a full plate of similar actors and then expects you to eat the whole thing with gusto. When Sherlock surrounds herself with friends who have less spice than a digestive, she becomes impossible to love in spite of her flaws. In Penguin Musume Heart, for example, Kujira provides Penguin an opportunity to showcase the pathetic otaku's hidden depths of character. This anime's lead, on the other hand, gets no such help from her supporting cast. The delusional Cordelia and the callous calorie vacuum, Nero, serve mainly to show how poorly the detective does at choosing her friends. Keeping such weak company, none of these girls grow at all over the course of the series, which even a show like Lucky Star will tell you is not the way to go.
In this meal, even the villains, who generally do well as confectionery riffs turn stale quickly. The shrill antics of Twenty as he strips off his clothes in every single appearance and the overblown chiding of Stone River feel like much more of the same when compared so frequently to Elly's crippling shyness or Sherlock's terminal clumsiness. Given the show's non-plot, the unappetizing buffet of people on display here ruins the anime outright.
There are good kinds of brain rot, but Milky Holmes is none of them. Without a keen sense of plot, direction or anything resembling an attention span, it can't hold onto its straight bits long enough to set up any jokes properly, and its atrocious appearance totters treacherously close to eye-rape. Don't be fooled by the cute character designs or harmless, slice-of-life plot. J.C. Staff has served the animated equivalent of table scraps. Stand up and demand a meal.
It is the Age of the Great Detectives. Gentleman thieves seek to steal the world's treasures with the aid of their superpowers called "Toys", while the forces of justice use their own Toys to try and stop them. Trained by Opera Kobayashi, the young Sherlock Shellingford, Nero Yuzurizaki, Hercule Barton, and Cordelia Glauca are the top students at Holmes Academy and members of the famous detective team Milky Holmes. But when a run in with the nefarious gentleman thief Arsene robs them of their Toys, the group's charmed life comes quickly to an end, banished to a squalid attic in one of the academy's dorms. Unfazed, but still hungry and shamed, the girls fight to regain their powers, their old life of luxury, and their status as the world's most famous detectives.
These days I load up on comedy, slice-of-life, and horror shows, but I'll watch almost anything that sports a good voice cast, an interesting story, or looks particularly pretty. I tend to relate anime I review to other shows I've seen, because that's just how my mind works. Whether my warped view on a particular show totally misses the mark or you believe I've hit the nail on the head, I'd love to hear from you and welcome feedback and intelligent discussion of just how wrong I might be.