The Detective is Already Dead Review: No Spoiler Warning on That Title?

Studio: ENGI

Director: Manabu Kurihara

Streaming on: Funimation

I have been an earnest fan of the classic detective stories for most of my life. My personal library is filled with the complete collections of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin, plus a lot of manga, but that’s not my point. I cannot overstate the appeal a good mystery has on me, or of the charismatic individuals who happen to excel in unraveling those enigmas.

Today’s review, the Detective is Already Dead, is not a piece of detective fiction, to my immeasurable disappointment. You might expect a nifty mystery thriller from a title like that, and you wouldn’t be completely wrong. Still, if you go into this with that expectation, you’re going to come away dissatisfied. I know I did; this was very nearly a negative review.

But the longer I thought about it, the less sense it made to get fussy that it wasn’t the precise type of anime I had wanted it to be. To properly appreciate art, you inevitably have to meet it on its level. The point of genre fiction is that you have expectations, and I wasn’t wrong to apply those expectations here, but I was applying them from the wrong genre. The Detective is Already Dead is actually an excellent romantic comedy, and a positively awful detective story.

So, throwing aside my preconceived notions of what this anime ought to be, I took a second look and found it held a lot more merit than I gave it credit for. It just so happens I’m a fan of romcoms as well, because I play both sides, so I always come out on top.

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Colored illustration from the light novel featuring Siesta and Kimihiko.

Ignore the title of this anime for now, because this entire double-length episode is just the prologue to the proper story. Our protagonist, Kimizuka Kimihiko, affectionately dubbed Kimi by our other lead, is a young man with a propensity for attracting danger in large quantities. By his own admission, he can’t walk down the street without getting involved in a drug deal, an ongoing investigation, or getting kidnapped and forced to traffic illegal contraband on an airplane.

Our unlucky hero somehow lucked his way onto a plane seat next to the illustrious legendary detective, Siesta. Far from the naptime that her name implies, she is an astute prodigy who arranged for the perpetually unfortunate Kimi to join her in her escapades. By her reasoning, a trouble magnet is a must-have quality in a sidekick, and the cases will start coming to her. In their first encounter, Kimi helps her foil a plane hijacking by the covert agent of a shadowy organization.

As much as Kimi would like to get back to his normal, trouble-prone life, his new boss is a pizza-loving gremlin who refuses to leave his house, hangs out with him constantly, and wears his clothes. It’s a good thing he isn’t supposed to be the smart one here, because it doesn’t take a detective to see that she likes you, bonehead. It’s just that she has a bad case of ‘can’t admit my feelings because then this anime would be way too short’.

After Siesta solves a string of disappearances at Kimi’s school, involving an amusing and adorable cosplaying sequence at the school festival, he agrees to work as her trouble magnet and sidekick. We almost get a confession, but instead Kimi skips the story ahead in time and informs the audience that the story is over. Why? Because the detective is already dead.

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A shot of Siesta in the midst of their fight on the plane.

I’m going to mix my usual order up and address the story and characters first; that is way too good of a hook to leave off on just so I can talk about how good the animation is. The best thing about The Detective is Already Dead is that it is first and foremost a well-written romantic comedy, and an action story after that. It doesn’t ignore the fights, but you can tell it’s most interested in Kimi and Siesta’s interactions.

Their chemistry drives the first episode, though you might guess it will have a hard time pulling that off for any subsequent installments, considering, y’know. The standoffish detective and stick-in-the-mud sidekick is hardly revolutionary, but the reason it works so well is that this isn’t a detective story. The writing doesn’t care about detective work, deductions, or any of it, it’s a romance above all else. And that means it works, because most detective stories are decidedly not romances, outside of the absurd amount of Sherlock fanfiction.

I was getting frustrated Siesta pick information that was inaccessible to the audience out of thin air, or performing superhuman feats like any normal anime character. However, it makes total sense when you consider that the writer doesn’t care if the mysteries are believable. It is just a platform from which they can write scenes building on Kimi and Siesta’s relationship.

I was aghast when they were in the middle of chasing down the culprit behind the Hanako-san case, and they just completely cut away. In hindsight, though, it is only logical to cut away from a scene once you accomplished the primary purpose. You developed their relationship through their interactions, now that it’s over, go to the next scene that is going to build on that. That’s just basic screenwriting.

And like any good romance, they have genuine reasons for liking one another. Despite being easily flustered and frustrated with her antics, Kimi is a genuinely caring guy who goes out of his way for people, including gremlin detectives who squat in his clothes and house. On the other hand, Siesta embodies the kind of competence and control that Kimi has been missing his whole life. That kind of shared admiration for traits you don’t possess is an excellent way of writing a couple’s dynamics, because it’s not opposites that attract, it’s complements.

I have said a lot about the two of them here, but it’s better experienced in its adorably glory personality, so here’s your new romcom to watch, it just happens to be packaged as a completely different kind of anime. Now, onto the presentation!

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The two of them meeting on the airplane.

To get it out of the way, you’re going to get some of the best sakuga this summer out of the first episode of The Detective is Already Dead. The airplane fight at the climax of the first half is dynamic, featuring vibrant character animations and intense high-frame motion. It makes magnificent use of shading and lighting to sell the idea of Siesta bolting around the plane. There’s also some particularly good 3D tracking shots that help capture that sense of hurtling through the aisles.

My only complaint for the sequence is that the actual choreography of the fight isn’t anything special. It’s as simple as Kimi retrieving the suitcase, handing it off to Siesta, and her using its contents to wreck shop. Doesn’t matter, it was spectacularly done and I wasn’t expecting it from either a mystery or a romcom. Considering the relatively small body of work from both this director and studio, pulling this off was admirable.

Other than that, I don’t have too much to say; that’s the big action set-piece of the first episode and I try not to talk about anything that comes after. The title spoils enough of this show already, so I try to keep my reviews contained to the first episode, both to get it out quickly and to avoid accidentally spoiling anything later. Like I said, the cosplay-scene was well done, and the character animation sells the comedy and chemistry of the two leads well.

But, just for a moment, I want to say that the character design is unexpectedly well-done. Siesta is one thing, she is de facto best girl and a lot of care clearly went into her design. I was too harsh at first on Kimi’s design, since he looks like the average Japanese guy protagonist I’ve seen in every isekai anime. However, that was obviously on purpose.

I know because even the two-bit villain from the airplane was so smartly-conceived that I thought he would wind up being a recurring character. He might be, just because I wouldn’t want to waste that design either. Other than that, Nagisa, who you won’t see till later episodes, is a nice contrast to Siesta’s design. That’s purposeful, and I know one character with white hair and blue eyes against a character with black hair and red eyes is kind of design 101, so I don’t need to praise it excessively.

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I would say must protecc, but she’s already dead, so I have failed.

The Detective is Already Dead deserves your watch if you are interested in the best new romcom this season, or an excellent action joint, or anything in between. If you can get over your preconceptions like I had to, I can see why this is the most popular new show of the season. No disrespect to Slime Isekai or Dragon Maid, but this might take the season, if one of our upcoming review subjects doesn’t snag it.

Either way, I’m perfectly comfortable leaving the crown here, and like any good detective story, they have me clamoring for whatever comes next. I mean, they did go and kill best girl off in the first episode, but at least I was emotionally prepared for it. You have got to appreciate that level of honesty in advertisement.

Still, the story’s early stages, and as much as I enjoyed its first few outings, I’m not sure if I’m ready to award it my highest accolades. Reserving my right to go around and claim I knew this was anime of the decade all along, I’m giving The Detective is Already Dead a perfectly reasonable Entertaining Pleasing.

So what did you think of The Detective is Already Dead? You can tell me in the comments below, or maybe over on my Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku. Until next time, thanks for reading.

PleasingThe Detective is Already Dead

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