Monday, August 13, 2012

Anime Review: Clamp School Detectives

I'm quite behind on getting this review up, I finished the series right before all the spring shows finished airing so it got pushed back quite a bit) but considering this is a more obscure work of Clamp's I don't think anyone minded too much. Actually, not only is the manga a more obscure work of theirs (although it was published by TokyoPop), it was only two or three volumes long yet this series is two cour, much longer and I'd say it has a lot of filler in it except, well, there aren't many episodes that wouldn't be called filler here. 

Clamp School Detectives

Summary: The Elementary School Student Council at the Clamp School wields an enormous amount of power, although generally it’s three members (the ultra rich Nokoru, ninja-like Suoh, and cheerful gentleman thief Akira) don’t let that go to their heads.

The Good: The show is at it’s best when it’s doing something silly and it knows it’s silly (such as the play episode) and, odd as it sounds, once the love interests for Suoh and Akira show up (Nagisa and Utako respectively) the show gets better and is at it’s most entertaining. The girls are interesting, and once you get over the age difference* they make pretty cute couples as well. For people who are already avid fans of CLAMP’s other work it’s fun to spot crossovers and references within the show (mostly from Miyuki-chan in Wonderland and Dukylon School Defenders, although the setting here would later cross over with X/1999) but they never become so important that it would distract a newcomer to the 'verse.

The Bad: This show has some incredibly uneven pacing, possibly as a result of the show being a 26 episode adaptation of a three volume manga (the crossovers from Dukylon and Man of Many Faces don't add that much material in). The first eight episodes are the weakest and the last arc isn’t much better; funny enough it’s when the girls appear that the series seems to pick up and when they have a smaller role in the last arc (really the only true arc of the series, there are one or two two-parters but nearly everything else is a stand-alone episode) that the show slows down again. It's odd considering they’re supporting characters at best, not show-driving characters, but I guess for a character driven show you really need all the characters you can get so that there are simply more to interact with each other.

The Audio: The show got a dub only a few years ago from a small studio called Costal Carolina (who hasn’t done much work over the years, I think this is their most recent work and it’s from 2008) and it’s surprisingly solid for a show that features three young boys as the main characters (not to dismiss US of the voice actors, but I very rarely find the “young boy voice” convincingly done in English). It’s certainly listenable and I liked it just a bit more than the Japanese, I saw about half the show in English and half in Japanese so for once I can make that comparison! Other than that, the opening theme rather infectious but the rest of the music didn’t leave a strong impression on me.  

The Visuals: Like many shows from the 90s, I wasn’t too crazy on the visuals when I first saw the show but once I saw the re-mastered version I was impressed (sadly I could only find a crappy, not-remastered image that worked for this review). The lines were crisp, there was no glow (before it was impossible to make out half of the opening because of the glow), and the colors were amazingly bright, I’m always amazed when I see just how bright the show actually was. So, once I saw the good version of the show, everything looked pretty nice from the backgrounds to the character designs (I’m more fond of Clamp’s uber-shojo style than their noodle-people style) and, while the character designs do date the show I don’t see that as problem when recommending it to people.

In the end, I think I would have liked this show much more if it had been 13 episodes long and simply cut out a lot of stuff. There's no real plot to the show, and when it gets the closest to that it drags and has a facepalm worthy resolution, so it wouldn't be hard to cut a lot of stuff and still leave the episodes where the characters get some development and the funniest episodes (like that play one) still in. And if you want to watch it yourself, it's not streaming legally anywhere online that I could find but the DVD collection is easily available online.   

*I just tried to pretend it wasn’t so big and, considering how mature Nagisa and Utako were that was easy to do, plus compared to Cardcaptor Sakura this is nothing....