This is an anime series based on the manga by Sakura Kinoshita (Matantei Loki Ragnarok) and Kazuko Higashimiya. The manga had two volumes released by ADV a couple of years ago, but was dropped; Tokyopop acquired the license and retranslated and rereleased the first two volumes (v3 is due in December; the plot sounds like it might be eps 10-11, and ep12 is from v4).
The DVD uses (dub and sub) the same translated terms that ADV’s version of the manga did: goblin for tengu, demon for oni (Haruka is a demon-eating goblin), though they did get Sugino and Muu-chan’s genders correct. I think the Tokyopop translation uses tengu and oni and other such terms; I would much rather have the Japanese terms (with translator’s notes, if necessary) than a not-really-equivalent English term (though a quick poke at the internet shows goblin for tengu occasionally used; I really hate demon for youkai, but everyone uses it).
The art is OK. The character designs are in places very similar to Loki’s; I first heard of this series on a Loki fansite (something that I thought was Freyr and Loki was in fact Haruka and Kantarou). Suzu is an extra added girl who looks exactly like Reiya (but has a different personality); I don’t know why they felt the need to add a random girl to the cast (it’s possible she’s from later in the manga, though she was introduced in the first episode, which was completely different from the manga).
Overall, this series is OK; I will probably keep renting it, but don’t know if I care enough to buy it eventually. Haruka is a generic strong and silent bishonen, I don’t like Kantarou much (he is not a nice person), and the rest of the cast is vaguely annoying. So far there are hints of a plot somewhere, but it’s mostly generic monster-of-the-week episodes: something weird happens, Kantarou investigates and avoids work and hits on wealthy women, Haruka broods and protects Kantarou (or vice-versa), Youko worries about money, Suzu tags along, and occasionally Sugino and Muu-chan show up. The source of the disturbance is taken care of somehow (the disco exorcism theme is very out of place), and everyone goes home and maybe Kantarou writes an article about the relevant form of supernatural phenomenon. If I wasn’t somewhat interested in anime (or anything else) based on folklore/mythology, I wouldn’t have made it this far (it would have stayed in the bottom of my queue).
- 11. Will of the Winds – Part Two
- This didn’t make much sense to me; I watched v2 when it was released last September (2006), so I don’t remember much about Part One (this was released in January, but Netflix didn’t have it until recently). It had twins, one with more powers than the other, the powerful one was ill, people were dying, one or both were in love with Haruka. I thought the person responsible for the killing did not face enough consequences, but was glad that the plot did not take the easy way out (sacrifice as atonement).
- 12. Of Roses and Goblins
- Kantarou is hired by a wealthy and beautiful woman to find the source of the spirits infesting her house; Haruka and Youko are acting as servants. There are art-smugglers in the background, and beings who are interested in the demon-eating goblin. There are random philosophical musings about youkai/human relationships.
- 13. Woodland Nightmare
- A missing warship is found in a forest near Mount Fuji; the members of the military who found it start dying, and blame a demon-eating goblin. The military approaches Kantarou, and he goes to investigate with Haruka, suspecting a plot against Haruka (something happened before with the military, I think); Youko and Suzu follow, more people die, and the culprits have appeared before (it was indeed a trap). This was a decent episode (not so much of the parts that annoy me) and it was nice to see some semblance of plot.
- 14. The Woman Who Loved Books
- This focuses on Kantarou’s editor Reiko, her issues being a career woman in this era, her love of books, and the ability of objects to eventually acquire spirits. It was a bland episode; Reiko’s (extremely) mini-skirt annoys me (inappropriate for the time period). Kantarou used the events of this episode to fulfill his obligation to Reiko (he had an overdue manuscript).
- 15. The Fading Song of the Summer Cicadas
- The group goes to stay at a villa rented by Suzu’s father, but nobody is there at first. The wife of the owner (who Suzu remembered from a visit several years before) might be dead (the husband claims it was his fault, but Suzu met her and said she seemed real). Overall, this episode has a dream-like atmosphere (very soft, faded, occasionally black and white, sunset). If more of the show was like this episode (except for the random “comedic” interlude with Kantarou vs Sugino for the watermelons), I’d like the show more; this was weird and creepy and did not follow the generic episode plot.