First Impressions – Fuuto Tantei

I have no idea why Fuuto Tantei premiered so late.  It’s scheduled to run for 12 episodes, which would carry it over well into the fall season.  In the end I suppose it doesn’t matter, it’s just that oddity for its own sake always leaps out at me.  In any event I went into this premiere with very little idea what to expect, having almost no experience with- well, any of it.  I know this series is based on a similarly-named manga, which is in turn based on a live-action called Kamen Rider W, which is itself something like the 11th incarnation of the original Kamen Rider tokusatsu franchise.  And I pretty much know bupkis about any of them.

With all that said, I liked it.  Quite a bit, actually.  Studio KAI is another entity largely unknown to me – they’ve lead-produced a couple of series but mostly worked in background roles, and it’s a similar story with director Kabashima Yousuke (quite experienced as an animator but in the big chair for the first time).  The look here is that sort of “old school with CGI” melange which has become a style in its own right, and it works.  I might have guessed this was Sunrise if I hadn’t know better.   American-style detective stories through a manga lens are always potentially interesting if done well, and this was done pretty well.

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to follow the plot here with no context, and I definitely get the sense I was tripping over Easter eggs I didn’t know were there.  I may not know who Pops was, but clearly he was the lead dude at the Narumi Detective Agency who died in action and handed the baton (and the fedora) to Hidari Shoutarou (Yoshimasa Hosoya).  The boss of the agency is Akiko (Komatsu Mikako) – maybe she’s Pops’ daughter?  Shoutarou’s partner is Philip (Uchiyama Kouki).  And of course there’s a tokusatsu element to this – at some point I expect Shoutarou and Philip to be in costume, as Pops certainly was.

The other key figure here is a “witch” named Tokime (Sekine Akira), who goes around stealing money, clothes, and hearts.  There’s talk of a “memory” which is obviously tied into the sci-fi side of the mythology in some way I’m expected to know, and she seemingly has the ability to transport herself and her pursuers to some bizarro version of the city of Fuuto where the story takes place.  Shoutarou is determined to solve the case on his own but the intellectual Philip is certain he’ll be needed at some point (he is).  And from the talk of “two halves” I imagine we’re going to be getting some gattai action here before too long,

Retro detective stories with a sci-fi twist have been an anime staple almost since the beginning, and Fuuto Tantei approaches the genre with very sure footing.  The cast are all very accomplished actors who understand the importance of rhythm and timing with this kind of dialogue.  That said, Yoshimasa struck me as an odd fit for Shoutarou, who gives the impression of a bit of poser – Yoshimasa sounds more like the “hard-boiled” guy Shoutarou thinks he is than the guy he actually is.  That small niggle aside, though, this all worked very well even having little knowledge of the Kamen Rider universe.  Fuuto PI got off to a late start, but more important is the fact that it was a good one.