This week’s episode is called “Twenty Faces” and it’s one that I have been waiting very eagerly for. The Fiend with Twenty Faces is a one of Edogawa Rampo’s stories, and features Akechi Kogorō’s archenemy and most famous adversary. Please note, this post shall not be spoiler-free.
I remember reading this a few years back and finding the examination of state versus citizens to be wholly fascinating. One of the things Rampo does—I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before and may mention it again in future musings—is to use detective fiction to talk about the problems that society faced during the 1920s and 1930s. Of those the most prevalent is this portrayal of how the local police are utterly useless without the people, or citizens around them. In every Rampo story that involves the police, they always have an outside source who inevitably leads them towards the culprit(s) of the crime.
In the episode “Twenty Faces,” we get to see this in two distinct ways. The first is the culprit themselves, Twenty Faces. In the anime, they hunt down and eliminate criminals that the police weren’t able to apprehend for whatever reason, and then Twenty Faces kills them in relation to the crimes they commit. However, in the original story, Twenty Faces was nothing more than a master of disguises and a master a thief, at least for the most part. Hence his name, “Twenty Faces.” They almost never hurt or killed anyone, and they always stole from the privileged.
Because they’re a radical vigilante in the anime, it replaces all of that commentary and lead-up regarding the ineptitude of the police force that is found in the book. It also helps to keep the episode consistent with previous segments, while also providing a unique twist to a fundamentally classic narrative. Rather than being a person who changes their appearance constantly to evade arrest, Twenty Faces refers more to the faces of the people that they’ve killed as a means of justice to society. Due to all of these aspects, I found this shift to be fantastic from an intellectual and literary perspective. It’s quite literally the essence of an “adaptation.”
Another nuance that I greatly appreciated in the segment was the commentary that it made on Akechi Kogorō constantly being the saviour of the police force and how he’s always the one solving crimes for them. It’s the right of the cops to resolve crimes, not for them to rely on others to do the work in their stead. This entire scene felt like a moment of contemporary defence against Edogawa’s known distaste for the police and the state. It was as if the anime wanted the audience to believe that they were either taking responsibility for the callousness exhibited amid an era that’s long gone, or that cops were mislabelled as being good-for-nothing when it’s a handful out of the a larger number of individuals who actually try to complete their work with diligence and determination. It’s another duality for sorts and works phenomenally here as a tribute or homage; a real treat for those who are more well-versed in the workings of Edogawa’s narrative thought processes.
The anime keeps tossing out tons of slight references and acknowledgements to the Kogorō stories in ways that keep on surprising me, and I’m really shocked that more people, especially fans of Edogawa’s work, don’t have a deeper appreciation for it.
One example is Kobayashi’s mate, Hashiba. The Hashiba family make their first appearance in The Fiend with Twenty Faces as one of the victims of this master crook. Sōji Hashiba is a young elementary kid who inevitably gets kidnapped by Twenty Faces when Sōji’s family fucks up a scheme that Twenty Faces had concocted, a goof that was set in place thanks to Sōji himself. In this episode, Hashiba even makes a tiny reference to it.
A second example would be Kobayashi himself. Initially it’s believed that Kobayashi is depicted as such a cutesy kid because it’s anime and cutesy characters are inevitable. Yet, Kobayashi was originally a cutesy boy of thirteen years age in the stories, whereas Kogorō is an older man with a wife at home. Technically Akechi Kogorō is the cutesy dude in this instance. Kobayashi being so young is also another prime example of Edogawa’s obsession with dichotomies.
Kobayashi is a young genius detective who is youthful and soft, or at times even dainty. He has this energetic excitement about solving crimes and a sweet glee when those culprits are caught; bubbly and quirky in his demeanour, particularly with his inquisitiveness. Kogorō, on the other hand, is older and scruffier. He’s quite reserved and remains quiet more often than not. Staying in the back and observing, asking questions only when necessary. His eccentricities are on a different spectrum than his apprentice’s. But this is also why they complement one another so damn well, and together they bring out the contrasts of the cases they work on or of the other characters around them.
To summarise my long, passionate prattling, Twenty Faces was a splendid episode. This entire series so far is just so damn glorious. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t considering using his for my thesis because there literally is a massive number of things to discuss and analyse here. While I talk about a lot of them, it’s only a fraction of everything that I could and want to discuss. Rampo Kitan is most assuredly heading into the direction of my favourites stack (which I may have also said last week; just shows you my adoration for it and we’re not even halfway through it yet).
Oh and before I sign off, I just wanted to say that seeing Black Lizard made me laugh a bit. That was one of Rampo’s stories that left quite an impression on me. So seeing that very brief reference to it was a bit endearing.
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace First Impressions (Episodes 1 & 2)
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace Episode 3
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