Oh boy, my first Nison-in review. This outta be…difficult.
Pretty Boy Detective Club rules: 1) Be beautiful. 2) Be a boy. 3) Be a detective. On the eve of Mayumi Dojima’s 14th birthday, the girl looks up at the sky searching for a star that she had witnessed 10 years ago but has struggled to find since. On the same night, a haughty young boy in a detective’s outfit comes up to her and offers his aid to find the star that she’s been so dedicated to find. This boy’s name is Soutouin Manabu, the president of the ‘Pretty Boy Detective Club’ where in their school of Yubiwa academy, is a club comprised of multiple ‘pretty boys’ who solve mysteries beautifully.
Up until now, I haven’t really talked about any Nison-in works because a) they’re seeped in a lot of double meaning phrases that are quite difficult if you don’t know Japanese, and b) because his narratives are very…peculiar in both their presentation and execution. In terms of what Bishounen Tanteidan brings to the table, what we end up getting is a set of episodes that’re divided into four or so arcs, each focusing on a different mystery that seems both extraordinary and very out there in terms of the scale or topic that’s being talked about at the time. And these ain’t some small case mysteries either. No, this show includes stuff like assassins, government projects, and kidnapping the entire school body. Definitely not topics or plotlines you would expect from a show about a school detective show. Which I think lends to part of the problem of why the show ends up faltering on its storytelling.
From a thematic perspective, the show is about the carefree time in childhood where imagination runs wild and the world is often more fantastical than it really is. As a result, the tone of Bishounen Tanteidan is exceedingly whimsical with a lot of pompous flair given the outlandish nature of a lot of the stories that the show ends up giving us. However, presentation can only get you so far. Because it’s Nison-in’s writing style, most of what ends up happening in the show is told, not shown. And in a detective show where the supposed crimes happen off-screen, the result ends up being a lot of suspension of disbelief needed in order to follow along the plotline in any reasonable manner. The end product of this creates a show that feels more like a series of rabbits being pulled out of a hat as many, many key plot points or mystery solving elements get brought out of essentially thin air and personally brought me out of the experience because half of the stuff the show brings up sometimes makes absolutely no sense, but it goes along with it anyway cause that’s the thread we’re gonna be following now I guess.
Another detriment to this style also comes at the cost of the show not being very cohesive as turning away for a brief second can easily lose one’s place in the show because the narrative is so seeped in dialogue and monologues that missing even a bit of it could make audiences miss some crucial information; I know it did for me. That and both the scene and topic changes that happen in the show are often times so drastic that it feels like whiplash when the first part of the mystery falls onto part two.
All of this comes to a head when the mysteries all just sort of…end. Story conclusions I feel isn’t one of Nison-in’s strong points, and it really shows here where sometimes it doesn’t feel like anything really happened from the start of the arc to the end. There really isn’t anything tangible that seems to have been solved at the end of these arcs, with very few if any lasting effects on the characters as a result of the actions that they took prior to the arc’s ending. The show ends up feeling unsatisfactory to watch as a result, which I think sums up Bishounen Tanteidan very well: unsatisfactory. For all of the flair and pompousness the show flaunts, nothing really sticks from this narrative as everything resets back to square one at the end of the arc. The show ending pretty unceremoniously too doesn’t really help its case either as it just further proves some previous points on top of making it seem like nothing really matters. No narrative weight means nothing really ends up mattering, and for all of the charisma that this show tries to exude, it’s disappointing that it ended up this way.
Aside from her special eyes, Mayumi Dojima is honestly not that remarkable of a character. True, her character arc is centered around becoming a member of the Bishounen Tanteidan, but then there’re these other, later traits that we’re told about that really don’t make much sense in the end. Quite frankly her only notable character trait is her relationship with the other members of the club, and she kind of becomes less interesting as a result because there’s not that much to her.
And then we have…the rest of the club. True, I could separate Manabu from the others, but at the end of the day, the club itself feels like an entity with 5 different flavors of eye candy. True, they all have surface level traits like the bad boy, the school president, the track star, and the artist, but there really isn’t much else too them because none of the interactions they have mean very much at the end of the day. They definitely fulfill their own niches, especially with how each of them is sort of featured in one or more of the arcs, but at the end of the day, they’re not really that much more than the whole that they end up creating.
As a final note, the side characters in this show are way more interesting than they really should be. In true Nison-in fashion, entire background and settings are completely barren of even mob characters, making the show look significantly more empty than it really should be. But in place of that, the show hones onto a small handful of side characters that they feature since each arc has like one or two new characters that have some form of importance to the story at the time. Personally I find these side members to be way more interesting than the main cast, but true to the story, they all feel eccentric but rather empty since they all only have like one important scene in an entire arc and because everything is told, not shown, the whole scheme falls apart because we haven’t really seen anyone do anything up until that point. And sometimes it feels like the show just writes in some random motivation even though we’ve never seen anything to indicate what they’re talking about.
Well, thanks Shaft for bringing out the big guns again. Given the fact that Shaft and Nison-in now have basically a married couple relationship, the kind of quality that Bishounen Tanteidon got on both an art and animation perspective is both amazing and not surprising in the slightest. While there aren’t that many headtilts, the rest of Shaft’s flair from the poses to the extravagantly detailed backgrounds are top notch and add more to the lavish aesthetics that the show tries to flaunt. On the topic of character designs, the ones for the side characters are really nice and I lament not being able to see them more often because they stand out a lot especially in respect to the main cast who all practically wear the same thing.
A fun thing I did enjoy as well from an aesthetics perspective is the numerous other artstyles that the show utilized. I feel like the showrunners did this kind of stuff ‘just because’, which if that is the reason, I respect that. Definitely shows off the kind of budget this show had, but is definitely one of those creative liberties I like being used to its full potential.
Sumiya’s “Shake and Shake” is exactly the kind of song that I expected from a show like this, and I really could not be happier with the song choice. Bombastic, cheerful, and energetic, the song encapsulates the kind of flair and flaunting the show tries to show off, doing it all to a really nicely animated opening sequence that again shows the kind of budget that this show had. Personally I find this to be a really memorable song that screams the Bishounen Tanteidan. The EDs are both less memorable by comparison, which is kind of unfortunate because there’re two of them, but neither are as well produced as the opening. As a side note, the ost for this series is really dramatic. Which again, really helps sells the overdramatic flair that the show is really going for.
Given the married nature of what Shaft and Nison-in can do when combined, especially when Akiyuki Shinbou is added to the mix, I expected this show to blow me out of the water and be a small bite of quality to its goliath brother, the Monogatari series. I was very wrong. And I feel sad that I was wrong on this one.
Because so much of the story is told through events that happen off-screen, nothing tangible actually happens when our main band of characters learns of the event, and at the end of the arc, nothing comes of it as a result. The show being all style no substance ends up creating something that feels wholly unsatisfying and hollow to watch, and it’s unfortunate that the ‘tell don’t show’ style of writing that Nison-in relies on created such a dud. True, the childhood freedom that the show uses as its thematic is present throughout the show (if you look hard enough), but because that stuff is so hard to find, what I ended up focusing on more was the outlandish plots of assassins, gambling, and secret government projects, which aren’t necessarily things that I thought I would be a feature in this show about middle school detectives.
And it’s because of that that I feel like this show misses the mark and ends up creating wild plots as a way to capture the audience. What’s being shown and what’s being said feel like completely different stories, and nothing that’s being presented makes much sense. My guess is that this show requires multiple watches in order to make sense, and even then, the small semblances of additional understanding that can come from watching the show multiple times I don’t think justify the narrative being as janky as it is. So while the show does have a lot of extraordinary charisma associated with the three rules that the Bishounen Tanteidan abides by, there’s not a lot else to this show, and as such, I wouldn’t really recommend this show for a watch. Indeed the aesthetics make the show look very pretty, but it’s all pretty meaningless if there’s nothing interesting to go along with the nice visuals.