Domain of Murder

Some titles come with a bunch of baggage already attached. After reading the review of this title over at THEM Anime Reviews, I was intrigued, considering how much they absolutely hated it. Being a friend of the group, I was expecting the worst. Domain of Murder certainly isn't the best show out there by a long shot, but I actually found it an intriguing drama at times--when I could overlook a couple of annoying plot points that nearly wreck the whole thing. Domain of Murder also contains some bad animation work and a dopey true title of "Hello Hedgehog". So why did I like it? I'm not even sure I can tell you why, but I did get my $5 worth.

Goro (also known as the Hedgehog) works for a firm as a private investigator. He is called in on a case by Sayako Toyama, a woman who believes that a murder suspect in the news is actually her husband. Goro works to track him down, following his trail back to the site of the murder, a small pub that's all but closed since the violence ensued. The proprietor, Mama, gives Goro a few clues as to his whereabouts and reveals a dark secret--Tsuyoshi Toyama has never been the same since he made a terrible decision in the aftermath of a car crash, a decision that saved his son but killed his young daughter. The third anniversary of the accident is coming up, and Toyama's gone over the edge, as he plans to reunite his family a way that will spell certain doom. It's up to Goro, Mama, and a Tokyo cop who was Toyama's best childhood friend to stop the madness before it consumes even more victims.

On the surface, this show has faults galore. The animation is substandard in a few spots where there's absolutely no inbetweening whatsoever--an object goes from somebody's hand to the floor without any cells showing the drop! The art style is also unusual, trying to go for a more realistic tone but creating characters that just aren't all that attractive to look at. The budget for this one is bare.

The other side is that there are a few logical holes that some viewers won't get past. One is extremely major--the accident that the plot revolves around. We see where the car skids off the road, then falls several hundred feet into a gorge. But then, when we think they're all hosed, we find out that all three of them were somehow able to get out of the car and hold onto a root branch before the car went over. It's a continuity error that smacks you in the face. If you can dismiss it, the other issues won't bother you much, as they aren't nearly as blatant. This show is not put together perfectly, by any stretch. (And it couldn't have done very well--the "Hello Hedgehog" title was supposed to connect a series of OVAs that obviously were never made.)

I have a hard time, with all that being said, explaining why I liked the show at all. I've certainly beaten up shows like Emblem of Gude with similar plot holes, and the animation here is junk. Really, though, it's the whole piece together that somehow appeals to me. I liked that we had a real-world detective story, and I liked seeing bits of Japan in a rather typical light, rather than through the madcap lens we so often look through. For the continuity errors, I somehow was rapt at the situation facing Toyama. Here's a character who is not evil personified, just a man who's lost his way after experiencing a tragedy all of us hope we'll never face. The evil he does is more from his mental state than his actual person, and I was torn by his character as a result. The mother's desire to save both her husband and son is understandable and tragic. What I liked, I suppose, was that this show actually made me feel something. That doesn't often happen with most anime, though the best shows do it even better.

As a critic trusted to tell potential audiences how they would react to this piece, I am of two minds. One side of me wants to tell you not to bother because of the show's faults. At the same time, though, I like this show against my better judgment. It's not first rate entertainment. However, for a B-grade thriller, it is better than a lot of the colorful anime pap out there vying for your dollar. Final word? Rent first.

Domain of Murder -- violence, brief nudity, disturbing storyline involving the death of children -- B