Should You Watch 'Trickster'? Episode 1 Fall 2016 Anime Review

trickster key art
Trickster key art. (c) TMS Entertainment

“Everyone who’s ever lived has died” is part of the unbelievably trite opening monologue to fall 2016 anime Trickster , episode 1. Episode 1 of Trickster features the needless assault of a young girl for shock value, a silver-haired albino twelve-year-old floating through space and moaning about his death wish, and a zippy boy in an orange jumpsuit dashing about. No intricacy of plot or revelation of character feels is worth sitting through this level of youthful angst.

Trickster episode 1 also features a cute dog’s bloody death and a scruffy long-haired dude leering at his coworker’s breasts. And I mean leering , zooming in on her breasts while on a live video conversation, which I guess is supposed to be funny. It’s not. Edogawa Ranpo’s literary legacy – Trickster is based on his novels The Boys Detectives Club (1937) and The Fiend With Twenty Faces (1936) – deserves better.

The art style in Trickster is nothing special; the teenage boys and the adult woman look the same age (roughly 12), while the young girl looks even younger (maybe 9 or 10). Character design is bog-standard; scruffy Akechi might have walked out of any anime made after 1992 and if there’s one thing anime doesn’t lack, it’s angsty silver-haired boys with red eyes. The giant robots sprinkled throughout have some promise, but we don’t get to see enough of them to judge. The young girl’s outfit, which substitutes puffy bloomers and long socks for pants, is actively repulsive.

There’s two plots happening in Trickster episode 1. The first one involves Akechi chasing down “The Fiend With Twenty Faces,” a criminal whose crimes were not explained, but whose modus operandi is self-explanatory. Or perhaps not as self-explanatory as one might think, since on top of disappearing handily, he also sprinkles robots around the city to cause distractions while he’s doing whatever it is he’s doing. Presumably, the Fiend’s crimes, plans and goals will become clearer with time, but nothing in Trickster episode 1 even attempts to clarify anything.

Plot two involves the silver-haired kid with the death wish bonding with Zippy (not his real name), the bouncy kid in an orange jumpsuit who seems fascinated with the silver-haired kid’s mysterious power. But the silver-haired kid doesn’t do much aside from scream “stay away” and kill a cute dog (accidentally and he feels bad about it; whatever). He does go to the site of a fire to return something of Zippy’s and also wind up helping Zippy rescue one of the factory workers, an ingrate who has a fit over what a “monster” the silver-haired kid is.

Like everything else in this show, the factory worker’s fit doesn’t feel natural. The silver-haired kid’s endless death wish, presented with little context beyond “his cool power that makes him immortal is such a curse,” feels forced too. Zippy might be the most natural creature in this whole world of artifice, casually inviting the silver-haired kid into “The Boy Detectives’ Club” at the close of episode 1 with all the carefree attitude he’s clearly meant to have. (Whether it’s as endearing as it’s also meant to be? Jury’s out.)

Nothing about Trickster except for its literary inspiration (and Gackt voice-acting the Fiend) stands out. If cute boys are the draw, they need to be cuter. If plot is the draw, it needs to be tighter and more coherent straight from the get-go. If the bonds between characters are the draw, the characters need to be likable. Casual edgy death of an animal, casual edgy sexist leering, casual edgy sexual assault - I don’t find any of these things bode well for a production. Maybe Trickster just needs more than one episode to blossom, but I wouldn’t consider it a must-watch for fall anime season 2016.

Trickster is simulcast every Monday at 1:35 PM on Crunchyroll here. Are you watching? Have a different take? Feel free to talk Trickster in our comments section below.

 

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