Coming from Lerche in Summer 2015, Ranpo Kitan Game of Laplace started off looking like a mystery anime. But did it end up being something remarkable in this regard or did it fail miserably at being anything mysterious? And if so, could there be another value to it?
Simply put, Game Of Laplace is a terrible mystery anime. The half-baked treatment the mysteries get speaks for itself – they’re not interesting enough. In the first murder case, you can see how they prove random girl X’s guilty based on one little sentence no one could have possibly picked up. It’s as if the staff doesn’t even care about the mysteries at all. But that’s probably all part of the plan as Game Of Laplace doesn’t exactly want to be a mystery anyway – it ends up showing something quite different from what was expected of it at first. Using the mystery part as a setting, Game Of Laplace mainly talks about the poor justice system in a theoretical Japan, its consequences if left as is, and society in general.
This different direction first becomes apparent when they reveal that one murder was committed by the detective, Kagami, under the name Twenty Faces. Now what was his story? Kagami started as a junior to Nakamura and had a strong sense of justice. Not long after he started his job, he started catching criminals. One after the other he caught many wrongdoers. But to his dismay, many of the criminals he caught were released, some on bail, some due to lack of evidence, some because they were deemed mentally unstable. Yet Kagami did not falter, as he continued arresting criminals; which saw him getting promoted to a rank higher than that of Nakamura who’d started before him.
One specific criminal was caught by Kagami around three times for pretty much the same crime, but each time he was released since he’d spent time in a psychiatric hospital. Kagami would arrest that man each time, but he would be roaming free soon after. The criminal got fed up of getting arrested again and again and so decided to get his revenge. He targeted Kagami’s imouto and killed her. This is the breaking point for Kagami. A criminal whom he had arrested on numerous occasions ended up committing the same crime again and this time it personally affects Kagami. The very law which was supposed to protect the citizens failed miserably here. The police is utterly useless when it comes to curbing crimes and this reality hits Kagami hard, which is why the disappointed man turns to Twenty Faces for justice.
Kagami’s story shows how flawed the system is. Why is someone who has been convicted many times freed after each arrest? Why isn’t this person being punished for their crimes? Just because he visited the psychiatrist once, does it mean that he should be left free in exchange of some therapy after each arrest? If a person is getting arrested for almost the same crime again and again, doesn’t it mean that the psychiatric solution isn’t working? This is all because the law is full of loopholes. That man, along with the many other criminals Kagami caught, escaped punishment thanks to these flaws in the system.
How was Kagami lured in to be arrested? They used the big fat pedophile as bait. Akechi, with help from Kobayashi, had arrested the big ball of fat red-handed, but even then, he was set free with lack of evidence being the reason given to the public. While his release was all part of the plan to capture Twenty Faces, it shows that if you are influential enough or have some strong contacts in the police, you can release a convict for whatever reason you want. It should have been impossible for the pedophile to escape justice especially with a reason like “lack of evidence”; but nothing is impossible if one is influential enough.
Who helped Akechi during this case and other cases? A prisoner going by the name of Black Lizard. Black Lizard isn’t a lizard, but a female prisoner with sadomasochistic inclinations, who is bound by wires and behind bars. Akechi goes to talk to her to gather information with regards to different cases, about where the crime took place, about the supposed people involved and so on and so forth. But this isn’t something a prisoner should be doing. How is a prisoner providing a detective information? This is all possible thanks to the messed up system – Black Lizard maintained her contacts with the outside world even after being bound behind bars.
After seeing all these flaws, we can go back to wondering about the origins of “Twenty Faces” It all started when a young boy named Namikoshi decided to derive some sort of formula to predict the future. And why exactly is he doing this? Namikoshi had been living a miserable life even though he was too smart for his age. People didn’t treat him like a fellow human being – he was bullied at school to the point that he was beaten up on a daily basis, his teachers turned a blind eye to all this torture and his parents didn’t even care about him at all. He came across Akechi who turned out to be the only one who could understand whatever Namikoshi was doing and appreciate his work. The end result of the time they spent together deriving the formula is Twenty Faces.
Namikoshi had realized that the system was flawed. He set out to change society. People tend to ignore something wrong going on. The formula derived is their solution to this problem: it gives people the power they need. Namikoshi has experienced these problems first hand. Teachers are supposed to help you out when you’re in need and not ignore you, they’re supposed to do something about the children who are bullying others, they are supposed to keep a peaceful environment in class. But did the teachers do anything for him? Did anyone else come to his help for that matter? Did the bullies get punished for their wrongdoings? When Akechi finds out about what happens to Namikoshi everyday, he beats up the bullies in class, along with the sensei. The bullies deserved it, but so did the teacher, because he was as guilty as the bullies for not stopping them. While being in a position of authority, he was approving of their actions with his silence.
What is Namikoshi’s reaction to this? At first nothing, mainly because he can’t do much, but after creating his formula, he does pretty much what Akechi did, except he takes things to the next level and silently kills each and every one of those bullies, delivering the justice he needed so much. This is the start of Twenty Faces – the supposed deliverer of justice.
Twenty Faces is all about delivering justice in the wrong way. Criminals who are escaping the law for whatever reason are punished in a way similar to the crime they committed in most cases, to teach them and other criminals a lesson. Before “delivering justice”, Twenty Faces would first announce who would be punished, where the punishment would happen, and when that person would be punished. This is done for two reasons: first to get attention, so that people know of the existence of someone who is doing what the police and judges ought to be doing. Second, to tell everyone that this person who is about to die is a bad person who is escaping the law and therefore should be punished, and that since the law enforcement agencies aren’t doing that, Twenty Faces is.
How does Namikoshi spread Twenty Faces? He burns himself alive in public. Now naturally there will be some investigation into Namikoshi’s life, who the kid is and what led him to supposedly commit suicide – usually the police does this, but even if they don’t do it, the media surely will. And what will they find after their investigation? The story of a young boy with many talents who was driven to the point of suicide because he was treated in the most awful way possible and no one came to his help, neither his teachers nor his parents. This was done to arouse the sympathies of the people, and to make them question the world they live in – whether things are going smoothly or if there is any need to do something. It is later revealed that Namikoshi didn’t die back then for unexplained reasons (which aren’t all that important anyway), so after faking his suicide, he continued killing people under the name of Twenty Faces, tricking people into believing that someone had taken over him after being deeply affected by his tragic story. And thus, the Twenty Faces phenomenon spreads throughout the city.
Later on, Namikoshi uses a similar method to strengthen Twenty Faces’ fame, as towards the end he has some people jump off a high-rise building. These people are all victims of the messed up system and don’t want to live anymore. Namikoshi first did this on a small-scale; now he’s going big to appeal to other cities of Japan. He already managed a strong grip in this one city alone so now it’s time to make other people aware of the presence of a means to deliver justice.
Twenty Faces isn’t just one person, he is basically the voice of the distraught citizens, the voice of the people who have lost faith in the system and want to see justice delivered. You can see how many people start supporting Namikoshi’s Twenty Faces – social medias get overflowed with sympathizers, and by the end, almost the whole city gets overtaken by Twenty Faces: the media, the police, everyone. All these people want things fixed, and Twenty Faces gives them just what they want: a way to stop all these evil deeds. And many of these sympathizers aren’t merely silent or verbal supporters, as they also give out their own “justice” by punishing those they deem criminals with the trademark Twenty Faces skull mask on.
All this shows something about society in general: people have a tendency to ignore what’s wrong for numerous reasons. They convince themselves that it isn’t affecting them, they think that they don’t have the power to stop it, or they fear that they might be ostracized for opposing. But it doesn’t mean that they approve of all these wrongdoings. People despise such things but they feel powerless and hence don’t do anything. These people are waiting for someone to come up with a way to stop the ongoing injustices. They want someone to show them a way to solve the problems in the system. And Twenty Faces shows them that way – he tells these people that they can do something about this, which gives them the power they need to stop those in the wrong. What Namikoshi wants is a society that stands up against something wrong, and he plans on achieving this through Twenty Faces.
The formula which Namikoshi derives isn’t anything worth spending your brain power on. You don’t necessarily need to know what the Chaos Theory or Laplace’s Demon are. The formula deriving thing is simply them showing Namikoshi and Akechi trying to figure out what they can do to change the way society thinks about wrongdoings. The “predicting the future” part can be dismissed as a simple plot device to bring the two parties together towards the end – they even play it off as a joke when Akechi solves the problem Namikoshi left in his formula and then predicts when telephone will ring. This, however, is one way of simplifying things – actually knowing what the Chaos Theory is may give a better understanding of how exactly Namikoshi is achieving what he is with Twenty Faces. But, as mentioned above, it isn’t necessary to know all that to get the message Game Of Laplace wants to convey.
Now, it doesn’t take a genius to tell that Namikoshi is in the wrong with his “solution” to the flawed system. Whether you like it or not, you can’t take the law into your own hands – you can’t go around like a self-proclaimed judge and give those you think are criminals the death penalty. That’s not how things are supposed to go as things can possibly take a wrong turn – the aftermath shows that wrong turn as people start using Twenty Faces to settle personal scores and to kill people who haven’t committed that big an offence. But doesn’t the ending with Akechi failing to curb the Twenty Faces epidemic support the aforementioned issues? The ending shows two things: Akechi’s mistake in his approach, and the failure of the ruling authority of the country.
Akechi was doing the right thing – Twenty Faces needed to be stopped and he was doing just that. But he was a lone man. He didn’t have any supporters with him save for Nakamura who didn’t even have any control over the policemen turned Twenty Faces fans. Akechi should have asked for some help instead of trying to go solo. He didn’t ask Kobayashi for help which resulted in the latter switching sides and supporting Namikoshi’s cause. Akechi tried to bear it alone and thought that he could deal with it himself. He found himself responsible for Twenty Faces and, hence, he should be the one to put an end to it. This mindset led to his failure. But even then he did not lose hope as in the aftermath, he is still pursuing Twenty Faces cases and trying to find out what happened to Namikoshi whose body wasn’t recovered after falling down the building. And that is what really matters – Kagami gave up and ended up getting consumed by Twenty Faces, Akechi didn’t give up so there’s still hope that something might change. If Kagami had turned into someone like Akechi, it would have been much more beneficial for himself and everyone.
What really matters in the end is that you don’t give up – both Kagami and Akechi had a strong sense of justice and didn’t want crimes to go on unpunished, but Kagami gave up whereas Akechi didn’t. Even though their actions didn’t yield many positive results, Akechi still has chances of turning things around and stopping the evil that is Twenty Faces, whereas Kagami no longer has that chance since he gave up hope and joined the dark side. The contrast between Kagami giving up and Akechi’s unwavering resolve drives this point home.
Akechi tried to play his role, but only the government has the power to put an end to Twenty Faces completely – the entire system needs revamping and Akechi doesn’t have the power to do that. Even if he had stopped Namikoshi from falling it would have only given him a moral victory, it wouldn’t have solved the problem which started all this. Twenty Faces’ demands aren’t something unacceptable at all – they want to see justice delivered and since those responsible aren’t doing it, they’ve taken the task upon themselves. So if the laws are amended or at least a government representative comes out to assure the people that crimes won’t go unpunished, there won’t be much of a reason behind Twenty Faces’s existence anymore. But we don’t see any of that happen here. Either the government doesn’t care, or it is gaining something out of all this. Either way, the government isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. But none of this got any focus and was left to the viewer to infer. This point getting some spotlight would have worked out in favor of the anime.
In fact, while all that’s been mentioned above was shown quite nicely, this show wasn’t without its flaws. First there’s Kobayashi. He was presented as if he would be an important character given the first few episodes revolved around him while he helped Akechi – the first couple of episodes are all about him trying to clear his name after being framed for killing his teacher in a brutal way. He is a constant face throughout as he becomes Akechi’s assistant after solving the sensei murder case. He was shown as if he would have some major role in the story: be the one to put an end to Twenty Faces, or solve the formula after Namikoshi’s changes. But he does nothing of the sort and ends up being a completely useless character. It’s hard to find any purpose for him being here apart from service for the trap fetishists out there, but he could have done that while being a little bit more useful too.
Hashiba is in the same boat, but only because Kobayashi is so useless – if Kobayashi had a bigger role, then Hashiba could have been a more important character, but he is here only to show that he loves Kobayashi since he’s into traps. Their friendship also doesn’t play much of a role in making Akechi realize how important friends are or anything of the sort, because one reason behind stopping Namikoshi was that he didn’t want the latter to die as a result of his actions. Akechi did, however, see the determination with which Hashiba went to save Kobayashi, but that’s hardly anything worth noting, as Akechi was determined enough to save Namikoshi before too.
Apart from the caffeine addicted Akechi and, to an extent, Kagami, there is hardly an interesting character here – especially considering that they tried to show Kobayashi as being someone important but ended up making him into an uninteresting weirdo defined by his uselesness. We just can’t come to care about any of these people – not even Namikoshi, as his story didn’t quite pack the emotional punch it should have. They did manage to get their point through, but if they had worked a bit more on Kobayashi and the other characters, this could have turned out to be much better.
The visuals were quite good and employed a rather weird style full of symbolism. While Lerche succeeded in getting its point through by the end, most of the symbolism is seen flying right over our heads. It gets a bit frustrating when things start getting too confusing visually. Even though the main message is pretty straightforward, too much stuff which doesn’t seem to make much sense isn’t exactly a good thing.
The show has a rather weird sense of humor, with the funniest parts being autopsies of how Twenty Faces killed his victim – which goes to show just how seriously it took the mysteries. It also has a tendency to portray many of the crimes in a rather lighthearted manner by throwing in some jokes here and there while the mystery is being solved – which, again, points towards the fact that this isn’t your typical mystery anime.
Game Of Laplace is a rather underrated series mainly because people are expecting something else of it – and you have their rather misleading setting to blame. With the MC being a detective one would expect some interesting mysteries, and it disappointed in that regard. But taking into consideration its actual purpose, Game Of Laplace most certainly delivered.