The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

The Daughter of Twenty Faces

Title: The Daughter of Twenty Faces aka Nijuu Mensou no Musume aka Chiko, Heiress of the Phantom Thief
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Bones/Telecom Animation Film
Format: 22 episodes
Dates: 13 Apr 2008 – 28 Sep 2008

Synopsis: Twenty Faces is a master thief and a master of disguise. With his own airship and the help of his gang, he targets famous heirlooms, but he’s not motivated by profit. His job, as he describes it, is to take treasures from pigs, and one of his most recent acquisitions is Mikamo Chizuko, which he took from her evil step-parents while stealing their family gemstone, the Anastasia Ruby.

The Highlights
Story: Strong at first, but is damaged by a few major flaws.
Characters: Strong at first; Twenty Faces becomes a bit of a jerk.
Action: Well choreographed; the fights are exciting, but some sequences are over-the-top.
Music: Both the OP and ED themes have off-putting quirks.
Dialogue: Hopefully I won’t have to hear Hirano Aya say “ojisan” again soon.

Even his name, Twenty Faces, implies that he’s a multifaceted character, and Nijuu Mensou no Musume (or whichever one of its other twenty names you wish to call it) is a multifaceted anime… but in some ways, that works against it. Part detective story, part alternate history, part sci-fi, Nijuu Mensou no Musume owes as much to Lupin III as it does to Batman and Robin Hood and, obviously, the original novels by Edogawa Rampo in which Kaiju Nijuu Mensou first appeared. This anime starts off very strong, but a few key flaws make the second half of the story rather difficult to buy into.

The first part of the series follows Chiko and Twenty Faces’ gang on their various heists, but the strength of these episodes are just how balanced they are. The action sequences are exciting and well choreographed, but the early episodes are surprisingly meticulous and come with lots of upbeat moments sprinkled with a few rather subdued, somber ones. The characters do a lot of talking, but the main ones say the most with body language and facial expressions. Twenty Faces shows the features of someone who is world-worn, but his actions suggest he’s a noble idealist, while Chiko soaks up everything around her like activated carbon. Her ability to do almost everything perfectly makes her Mary Sue-ish, but this is a small price to pay for a strong female lead.

Unfortunately the story weakens in the latter half. I apologize for the moderate spoilers, but it’s otherwise impossible to describe my biggest gripe of this anime: Twenty Faces cheats death far too often. There are two problems with this. First, the repetition makes it stale and predictable. But, more importantly, once we know Twenty Faces has this propensity, it’s hard to care about his well-being, since whenever it looks like his life is threatened, one’s first suspicion is that he’s probably alright. Each time he comes back from several episodes of the show pretending he’s dead, it’s a bit like the boy crying “wolf”: no one’s exactly surprised or impressed.

Another problem is that an important plot point, the entire reason why Twenty Faces has left Chiko in a position where she’s a target to their enemies, makes no sense. Most of the second half of the story probably wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for a decision by Twenty Faces that, in hindsight, seems uncharacteristically careless. The series tries its best to wallpaper over it by embedding it into an elaborate mystery, but the fact remains that it fails logical scrutiny.

That doesn’t make the latter part a complete write-off, as there are numerous very exciting and intense moments, particularly one scarily believable depiction of mob mentality. A lot of the antagonists that appear seem to take a leaf from the Batman-style rogue scientist, and the series makes numerous points about the consequences of mixing war and technology. The animation is of a quality expected of Bones, and while the music is decent, one has to question the wisdom of putting gawky sound effects in the OP sequence (or tacky Engrish in the ED). Similarly, while the voice acting is good, if there’s a limit to the number of times I can stand to hear Hirano Aya say “ojisan”, this series has well and truly surpassed it. Nijuu Mensou no Musume is ultimately a decent crime caper, but it’s a tad disappointing given the exciting quality of the first few episodes.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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