If I wanted, I could copy the review I wrote about last week’s episode and call it a day. Case File nº221: Kabukicho episode 6 has many of the same issues as that episode, where a change in perspective has the potential to not only put a new character in the spotlight but to help us gain a deeper understanding of the supporting cast, yet in the end disappoints due to messy pacing and uninteresting story threads. While I would like to say that lessons were learned from the mistakes made in last week’s exploration of Mary and Lucy Morstan, in the end, it doubles down on that episode’s worst aspect for what is, unfortunately, one of the weakest episodes of the show to date.
Leaving Crime Behind
The issues I’ve had both last week and this week mostly come down to the wider structure of the series more than anything else. Case File nº221: Kabukicho has a substantial supporting cast who should have their character development interwoven into the wider series structure, with their own personalities becoming intertwined with the mysteries being solved in order for us to care about these characters more. This week, there’s no mystery to solve. In fact, this is the first episode within which Sherlock doesn’t do rakugo, and his presence is basically non-existent.
The point of Case File nº221: Kabukicho episode 6 is to place the focus on Kobayashi Kotaro. Having originally been a criminal before heading onto the straight and narrow and starting life anew as a detective, his past comes back to haunt him and threatens the children he cares for after a former colleague, Sugimoto, tries to get revenge on Kobayashi for being the reason he had recently served time in prison. This time appears to have impacted him mentally, as he wildly attacks without reason and is often found wildly flailing his body and arms in order to fight against the sun in the sky. In place of a mystery to solve, this episode establishes a connection between Kobayashi and a group of kids we’ve occasionally crossed paths with so far, a young, ragtag group of pickpocketers willing to scam those uninitiated to the harsh realities of life in Kabukicho. Over the course of the episode, we see them interact and care for one another, while also learning what inspired Kobayashi to leave his criminal life behind. While there may be no mystery to uncover this week, the episode does attempt to ramp up the stakes of the events transpiring on screen, with a cat and mouse game featuring both Kobayashi and Sugimoto searching for this group of kids, currently unaware that their lives are potentially in danger if Sugimoto is the one to stumble upon their location first.
Time and Care
The issue with this episode is the (unreasonable) expectation that the audience should care about a group of characters who, up until this point, had only featured on the screen for just a few minutes between them. In fact, before viewing this episode, although I did at least recognize Kobayashi, I was unable to remember their name, and even now would not be able to tell you the names of any of the kids he has befriended without rewatching the episode. Suddenly, from having barely featured in the show up until this point, the anime expects the audience to become emotionally invested into Kobayashi’s story of redemption about how he pulled himself away from the criminal underground through hard work and a pure heart.
Most of the supporting cast of Case File nº221: Kabukicho, even 6 episodes in, remains a complete mystery to the audience (if you would pardon the pun). While knowledge of the original Sherlock Holmes stories can help viewers to infer an understanding on some of these characters, not only should this not be necessary but it is nothing more than an assumption that these characters will continue to resemble their original inspirations in spite of the change in scenery. It isn’t an assumption without merit, as though changes have been made Sherlock Holmes himself alongside his assistant Dr. Watson do resemble their British counterparts, while the newfound knowledge learned about Mary and Lucy Morstan last week proved that their origin story closely followed the story told in ‘The Sign of the Four’ from the original novel stories, with only minor changes other than the expected contextual changes to factor in the modern Tokyo setting.
The truth is, in spite of their worldwide recognition, many would struggle to recall specifics about the many short stories and novels created about the fictional detective because the idea of Sherlock Holmes has long outgrown the stories from which he originated from. Regardless, background knowledge should not be required to understand who these characters are.
That’s why I’m genuinely happy that the creators of the anime have chosen to further explore these side characters and give them more time in the spotlight. Even though we are currently unsure how relevant they will be to the overarching narrative if the characters are going to feature in the anime going forward we need to understand more about them. However, creating one-off stories before we even know who these characters are is not the way to go about this character exploration. Why are we supposed to care about the redemption of Kobayashi when we don’t even know who they are or have a reason to care about their personality or wellbeing? Had they assisted Sherlock in solving a previous mystery prior to this episode we may have cared more about the events transpiring on screen, yet that isn’t what happened here. Even when lives were at stake, the episode gave me little reason to care.
Case File nº221: Kabukicho Episode 6: Why?
While this anime has left me feeling both angry and intrigued over the last few weeks, episode 6 of Case File nº221: Kabukicho is one of the weakest episodes of the series so far because it’s the first episode which left me feeling nothing at all. It’s difficult to even argue I disliked the episode because to dislike the episode would require a level of emotional investment into the events that transpired that I just didn’t have.
With the origin stories of three of our side characters having been flashed out over the last two weeks, it would be reasonable to assume that we will face more of the same for another few weeks to come. The intrigue established at the end of episode 4 has been extinguished by the two episodes which have followed, and my worry now in terms of quality is that things could get worse before they get better.
Case File nº221: Kabukicho Is currently streaming on Funimation.