The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Psychic Detective Yakumo

Title: Psychic Detective Yakumo aka Shinrei Tantei Yakumo
Genre: Drama/Horror
Company: Bee Train
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 3 Oct 2010 – 26 Dec 2010

Synopsis: Saito Yakumo has psychic powers which he can use to see dead people and pilfer unsuspecting gamblers out of their money.  After a graduation party, Ozawa Haruka and a group of her friends go to an abandoned school building on a test of courage, but one of them becomes possessed by souls of the dead and two of the others inexplicably kill themselves a few days later.  Haruka asks for Yakumo’s help, but the reluctant Yakumo is only prepared to offer his services for a fee.

The Highlights
Characters: Bland and unsympathetic.
Mystery: How can we engage with it, if we can’t get behind the characters?
Pacing: Improves towards the end, but the early episodes are repetitive and pointless.
Episodic stories: How often does Haruka need to be saved?
Dialogue: Stilted; the banter between Yakumo and Haruka feels like a chore.

Are there any two words in the anime vernacular that incite apathy quicker than “Bee Train”?  The studio has seemingly mastered the ho-hum mystery thriller, producing a long line of series that are questionably written and horrendously paced, and Psychic Detective Yakumo upholds the proud tradition.  Its problematic, repetitive script aside, Psychic Detective Yakumo’s biggest problem are the characters.  Mysteries create for themselves an array of questions to answer before the end, but I think the two most pertinent ones are always “who are these people” and “why do I care”?  I was unsatisfied by Psychic Detective Yakumo’s answer to both of these questions.

Now, I certainly agree the second half of the series is significantly better than the first half, but this is where the damage is done.  The pacing, episodic stories and character interactions of the first half of the show are so mundane, and all positively feed into each other to create an experience intent on adding lead weights to your eyelids.  The early episodes mostly follow a similar formula: Haruka enters Yakumo’s clubroom to inform him of a supernatural possession incident involving a friend; Yakumo heads her off with a couple of put downs, which she usually reacts to either blankly or with mild indignation; they investigate together, sometimes with Detective Gotou and Ishii, both generally contributing nothing, but the later coming off as even more useless than the former, before Haruka gets in some situation that requires her to be saved, Yakumo convinces the ghost to leave and they all have a chuckle at the end.

When the mysteries aren’t predictable, they’re drab.  But almost all of Psychic Detective Yakumo’s problems can be traced to the fact that the characters don’t give us a reason to care about them, and this goes for the main characters just as much as it goes for the episodic once-and-done ones.  Yakumo is stoic while Haruka is slow … both are dull.  The characters involved in police work are so defined by their job that they don’t feel genuine, with the exception of Ishii, who’s too cowardly to be sympathetic.  The bad guys are so completely wrapped in mystery for the first half of the series, I was left wondering what motivates them to even bother breathing, and even after their plans are revealed, they come off as barely rational.  It basically leaves only Isshin as the only remotely likable character, and he barely does anything for most of the show.

It’s one thing to tolerate a really lackluster first half of a series if the second half is rewarding, but Psychic Detective Yakumo’s second half is mediocre at best, with only a small handful of truly absorbing moments.  I really couldn’t find a reason to care about what happened to the characters (except for Isshin) because I couldn’t find a tangible connection.  Yakumo and Haruka are completely defined by their pasts, even at the end.  Here’s my question: what do these two want to do with their futures?  Perhaps if the show made an attempt to answer that, it might have been more engaging.

The Rating: 4

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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