Throughout the course of the year, I often pick up series that I wouldn’t normally for the sole purpose of filling out the entry information here on Anime Planet. It’s an interesting experiment as I never know what I’m going to find. Occasionally I stumble across a real gem, sometimes I fall face first into a pile of donkey dung, but most series, like Shinrei Tantei Yakumo, leave me with a distinct feeling of “meh”.
Yakumo is a young man with a mysterious red eye that allows him to see and communicate with the dead. Despite being aloof and disinterested, he takes on various paranormal cases and uses his talents to solve mysteries, bringing wrongdoers to justice. However, the supernatural detective soon finds himself the target of a sinister duo that plan to fill his heart with hatred and despair. Along with his new acquaintance, Haruka, and police inspector Gotou, Yakumo attempts to discover the pair’s nefarious scheme and put a stop to their evildoings.
The opening episodes do little more that set the scene and appease the monster-of-the-week gods. At this point the series awkwardly tacks on hints of an ongoing conspiracy. While they raise hopes for the direction of the plot, these ham-fisted attempts feel more like a desperate bid for the viewer’s attention. Thankfully, this subsides quickly; the central narrative becomes more prevalent over time and is in full swing by the mid-section. Unfortunately, the promised “plotline” turns out to be more like hyping up the new roller coaster at a local theme park, only to arrive and find that it’s closed for maintenance; it’s there but isn’t worth the anticipation.
Split into smaller arcs, each depicting the next stage in the investigation, Shinrei Tantei Yakumo uses each twist and turn to keep the pace up. However, as with any segmented show, certain plotlines are bound to be more engaging than others. Without a doubt, the piece focusing on Yakumo’s past is the strongest of the anime. With plenty of intrigue, supernatural mystery and a definite sense of danger, this section comes to a satisfying climax. Regrettably, the main and final arc fails to live up to its predecessor and the series finale goes out with more of a mumble that a resounding bang.
When it comes to creating any animation, the size of the budget is vital to the overall quality. Therefore, I can only deduce (and hope) that Shinrei Tantei Yakumo didn’t have much to work with. With awkward posturing and a lack of consistently fluid movement the series disappoints – especially considering this is a 2010 anime, and many of the classic shorts from the 1930s demonstrate smoother and more impressive motion for the time.
That being said, the series does utilise some well-drawn props and backgrounds. Small details such as the markings and lock mechanism on an SD memory card and added textures to natural surroundings make the Shinrei Tantei Yakumo universe more realistic and greatly enhance its visuals.
Shinrei Tantei Yakumo’s soundtrack is unforgivably cheesy. Electronic beats during investigative sequences and the occasional electric guitar riff for “maximum impactz!11” meld with corny piano or orchestral tunes for the quieter moments between Yakumo and Haruka. Not only do the songs fail to impress on a basic level, but at times they feel misplaced within the scene. Often tracks accompanying mundane actions are too dramatic for what’s occurring onscreen – and that someone decided that ninety percent of the anime should have some supplementary melody, makes the incidental music all the more intrusive. All together, the anime’s score sounds like a low-budget straight-to-video crime thriller from the nineties, as if someone went to the store cupboard of stock background music and grabbed anything with the word “suspense” scribbled on it.
The show’s voice cast is average. From Isshin’s soft and kind inflections to Gotou’s gruff mannerisms, each seiyuu does a reasonable job of injecting emotion into their character – or completely avoiding it in the case of Yakumo.
The combination of a gifted yet sultry and antisocial protagonist with the irritatingly “nice” and interfering do-gooder female attempting to melt his icy exterior has been done to death. As much as I’d like to say that Shinrei Tantei Yakumo revitalises this tired convention by putting a fresh spin on it, it doesn’t. Instead it’s taken this stereotype, dusted off the cobwebs and flogged it for thirteen episodes in the hopes that we’ll find this worthwhile viewing. Even Bleach’s attempt at getting big-bosomed bint Orihime to pierce through Ulquiorra’s cold and stoic shell is more engaging – and when Tite Kubo outperforms you, your plot device must be woefully dull.
Luckily, it’s not all bad: while Gotou doesn’t stray far from the laid-back yet determined cop with distaste for authority, he proves much more interesting to watch than his co-stars. His rough and ready nature, argumentative streak and varied interactions with those around him make the determined detective inherently likeable and ultimately all the more endearing.
Riddled with an inconsistent plot, lacklustre animation and a corny soundtrack, Shinrei Tantei Yakumo never quite manages to engage the audience. With an intriguing premise I wanted to be glued to the screen, yet somehow flicking to the next episode became a chore.
Saitou Yakumo is a young man with a very special gift: he can see the souls of the dead and communicate with them. When the aloof student isn’t duping his fellow classmates out of their money with fake card tricks, he takes on paranormal cases that pique his interest. Making use of his unique abilities, logical mind and his contacts within the police, Yakumo strives to solve each supernatural case he takes on and bring those responsible to justice. But when the youthful detective becomes the target of a sinister duo can he get to the bottom of their scheme before he is dragged into a world of darkness and hatred?
While I like a variety of different genres, if you give me comedy or slice of life, I'm bound to be happy – and if it's dark humour, all the better! I'll review whatever takes my fancy at the time, and whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, feel free to drop me a line.