Good morning, mates. I want to apologise that this week’s Ani Twit Watches segment is going up a day late. I suffered moderate heat exhaustion yesterday and was in no condition to properly share my musings on the week’s instalment of Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace. Before I dive in, I’d like to say that this is not a spoiler-free post, so please read with caution. Although I don’t name any culprits or major events at all, so it’s not chock full of spoilers either.
Episode three, called “The Shadow Man,” is about a case that revolves around a string of kidnappings occurring in the neighbourhood. One of the main suspects in the case is a man who is mysteriously known as The Shadow Man that also happens to be a master of disguise. This specific story is an adaptation of one of Edogawa Rampo’s original works.
One of the main elements of the anime that I continue to enjoy is the manner in which a case’s inner workings are revealed. It’s so adequately akin to how Edogawa’s tales tend to be set-up. For example, we have an introduction of the known facts for a case, then the reasoning comes into play (as to the motive and the execution of the actual crime), and lastly the conclusion once the culprit is caught.
In “The Shadow Man,” we see the facts as they’re laid out with the number of kidnappings that have occurred and a prime suspect who fits the bill. Then as Kobayashi volunteers to investigate, the reasoning unfolds with each step. Once the culprit is pulled into the spotlight, the truth about their crime is also highlighted, showing us that there is far more depth to what’s going on beyond whatever has been presumed thus far, and it almost always leads to highly contemplative themes in one way or another.
Because the segment followed Edogawa’s formula so fantastically, I found myself so captivated by the mystery of it all. At its core, this case is commentary on an element of Japanese society that is still quite relevant today: the distinction between having a perfect family and having perfect family values.
With The Shadow Man, we see a person who is intensely lonely. They look to young girls and idolise their innocence, their kindness, and the naivety that makes them so very compassionate. This is an aspect of youthfulness that is portrayed across many mediums of Japanese storytelling. When you are young and so full of life, you feel that you can conquer anything with the kindness of your heart. There hasn’t been an opportunity for life’s harsher experiences to drastically drain that sense of consideration and trusting nature out of a person yet.
While they view girls to be almost god-like, it’s for the very same reason that they cannot harm them. They respect them and wants to seem them flourish and grow with happiness and joy, never losing that sense of innocent that makes them (the girls) so remarkable.
On the flipside of that we have the culprit of the kidnappings. This person desires a family so strongly that they are willing to do whatever necessary to obtain it. They kidnap and they imprison young girls until the girls are either so filled with fright as to oblige to the culprit’s every whim, or until they themselves start to believe whatever roles they are forced to play; basically, falling victim to Stockholm Syndrome in a sense. If for whatever reason, they refuse to be the “doll” in this game of “house,” they then suffer an incredibly devastating consequence.
These two themes are also an allegory for a period of Japanese history where strong cultural differences were arising. We had a nation who was split down the middle in terms of modernising, which meant acclimating to more Western-influenced practises and ideals; and choosing to retain their uniquely Japanese identity and foregoing the influx of outside pressures that had bene arriving. One set of wants to preserve and nourish the innocence that already exists, hoping to keep it from being tainted from the exterior world. The other wants to force an idyllic existence that is perceived to be the perfect Utopia to what they had been fighting to achieve for decades. Which one is correct? Is one more or less harmful than the other?
These are a handful of facets that were a huge part of the political and socio-economical strife from Edogawa’s era, and the reason that he chose to write the stories that he did, The Shadow Man being no exception to that.
Another thing that I found to be marvellously depicted in this episode is Edogawa’s powerful fascination for doppelgangers, disguises, and a juxtaposition between light and dark, good and evil, that he believed most individuals harboured. We see that with The Shadow Man character quite blatantly, and again in those examinations of familyhood. This whole notion that individuals can walk around with a picture-perfect existence yet are hiding something malevolent and monstrous underneath (which is another bit of commentary on the oppression that Japanese people faced by the Imperial government in pre-war era).
Overall, excellent episode. Edogawa had a passion for evaluating human psyches that often led him to thoroughly dissect the extremes of what it means to be ugly. The pilot episode—“The Human Chair”—is an excellent example of that. It is so satisfying to see those inclinations in this tribute anime. Initially, I was curious as to whether the series would include adaptations of Edogawa Rampo’s original work or merely use this vast and brilliantly macabre narratives as an inspiration for fresh new takes in the modern world. Seeing a little bit of both, especially as the two collide, has been a pleasant surprise and I’m quite thrilled to discover what next week’s episode shall drop onto my plate.
You can watch Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace on Funimation in both subbed and dubbed versions.