Review for DRAMAtical Murder Complete Season
I get to go into a series completely cold once more. I usually love it when that happens, as I’ve haven’t been primed by hype, by reputation, or by fan fervour. I know absolutely nothing about DRAMAtical Murder, and could be forgiven for expecting an overtly theatrical killer, pursued by a rumpled police lieutenant asking after ‘just one more thing’, but animated. I doubt it’s going to be that though, only now I’m in the mood to watch an episode of Columbo instead. By the same token, because I’ve never heard of DRAMAtical Murder before, it could be that it’s just not worth hearing about.
The island of Midorojima is the venue for a grand experiment. The Platinum Jail concept is a domed utopia where residents can live idyllic dream-like lives. However to build Platinum Jail, half of the residents of Midorojima were forcibly evicted. Aoba lives among them in the old district, sharing a home with his grandmother Tae, and working at the Junk Shop Mediocrity. It’s a pleasant life, although he doesn’t partake of the usual youth activities of gangs and the online VR Rhyme battles. Then one day, Aoba is forced to participate in a Rhyme battle.
Twelve episodes of DRAMAtical Murder plus the OVA are presented in this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Manga Entertainment (although the logo on the disc is Animatsu). I only got to see the two Blu-ray check discs for this review.
DRAMAtical Murder gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer across 2 Blu-ray discs. It’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to modern anime and Sentai’s authoring. The image is clear and sharp, with no noticeable compression artefacts or aliasing, presenting the animation in a smooth and fluid way. There is a smidge of digital banding, mostly prevalent during scene transitions. The animation itself is a mixed bag. The world designs are detailed and rich, especially the contrast between Platinum Jail and the old city outside. The character designs too take into account viewer expectations, delivering a cast of pretty young men of elegant stature, wearing their personalities on their proverbial sleeves. Although Aoba’s hairstyle sends shivers down my spine, an indication of what the mullet might have evolved into had it not become extinct in the eighties. The problem with this show is the animation, or rather the lack of it. Its production values are in the design, and it seems that not a lot of money was left over to make those designs move. There is far more stillness in this show than I expect in anime, and there are plenty of corners cut, even action scenes missing whole frames. It’s not a very animated anime.
The images in this review were kindly supplied by Manga Entertainment.
You have DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese tracks, with subtitles and signs locked to the appropriate audio. The Japanese is the way to go here, given the alternative of a half-hearted Sentai English dub. The dialogue is clear, the actors suited to their character archetypes, and the subtitles are accurately timed and are free of typos. The action comes across well, and this cyberpunk future world gets adequate sound design. As for the theme songs and the incidental music, I am most certainly not a fan.
The discs present their content with static menus, and each episode is followed by a translated English credit reel.
The extras on disc 2 comprise the textless opening, 5 textless closings, and trailers for Samurai Jam Bakumatsu Rock, Captain Earth, ARGEVOLLEN, and Nobunaga the Fool.
DRAMAtical Murder made me brush up on the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as you could say that it isn’t as described. Certainly there’s no murder in it. There’s also no drama either, although you could say that’s a matter of opinion. It’s based on a BL videogame, BL meaning Boys Love, and other than the OVA episode, and one platonic kiss in episode 3, there’s no element of homosexuality to the anime series. The OVA episode’s portrayal of intimate male relationships is hardly going to advance the cause of equality and civil rights either, opting for the crass, exploitative and downright nasty (it’s basically a compilation of the death scenes from the game, a series of what-ifs, and adds nothing to the main storyline)
I gave it my best shot, really I did, watching and waiting during the first half of the show for something to happen, anything that might get the plot moving, reveal what this show was actually about, other than showing a bunch of pretty boy characters being all moody. By the time the plot did actually start ticking over, it was too late, the show had lost me. I spent a good four episodes falling asleep during the run time, and then waking up, skipping back, and trying to remain awake the second time around. By the final three episodes, I had given up completely. If I fell asleep, I was staying asleep, this show be damned, so I’m not totally sure what this show is actually about.
DRAMAtical Murder is as dull as dishwater, with characterisations to match. Except for the protagonist Aoba, who’s suffering from amnesia and multiple personality disorder, so he winds up with all the personality that everyone else lacks, and he also manages to be both uke and seme at the same time. And even with this comparative surfeit of personality, he’s still about as interesting as a blank wall.
You have this future world, a veritable utopia called Platinum Jail crowding out the have-nots into the old quarter of the city, which is basically everyone else. In the old quarter, the youth resort to either Ribs, the gang battles over turf fought with graffiti and colours and tattoos and the occasional rumble, and then there’s Rhyme, the online battles that take place in a VR overlay that appears in designated locations in the city (a stupid idea if it happens in the middle of a main road), and Aoba wants no part of this, he’d much rather have a simple life working at the local junk shop, nursing his headaches and ignoring his amnesia. Of course because of his amnesia, he doesn’t know that he has mad Rhyme skills, and it turns out, eventually, around episode six, that people have been lying to him about who he actually is.
The first few episodes are spent exploring the city, the characters, and lingering on the main character designs so that the target audience gets the appropriate level of squee. It’s well past the halfway point that we get to the meat of the story, that the man behind Platinum Jail is a megalomaniac after world domination, and he really does mean to control the world when it comes to well-behaved and pliant, brainwashed citizens. But one of Aoba’s secret skills is the ability to mind meld, which sets them on a collision course as the story finally moves to Platinum Jail itself. If the first few episodes are spent introducing the characters, the second half of the series starts with a handful of episodes that sees Aoba diving into his friends’ minds to help them through their particular traumas. It’s only the last couple of episodes that actually get to the meat of the story.
DRAMAtical Murder could have been good. It had the premise for something interesting, a future cyberpunk world, an interesting use of AI (the Allmate cybernetic pets), delinquent gangs, VR games, and a plot for world domination, but it wastes its time in unfulfilling fan service, is weighed down by leaden direction, squanders its characters, and suffers from abysmal scripting. And then it’s got an OVA full of rape and death. But I can attest that DRAMAtical Murder’s a great cure for insomnia!