Should You Watch Vatican Miracle Examiner?

Our Episode 1 Summer Anime 2017 Review
4
  • Anime
2017-07-07
vatican miracle examiner summer anime season 2017 episode 1 review
Vatican Miracle Examiner. (c) J.C. Staff

Within a few minutes of its opening, Vatican Miracle Examiner already has me skeptical. There’s the gloomy, dark colors that disguise an almost total lack of background work, the ill-considered choice of doing a fading transition to indicate dramatic slo-mo and instead indicating a low budget, the clumsy exposition from some kind of groundskeeper about how big the grounds are (you could just… show us) and the super-hokey horror violin music as a long-haired blonde floats in the air before a cross, both hands open and spilling blood as if through stigmata.

There’s narration in the opening, which reminds me of old favorite Yami no Matsuei, so I’ll forgive the fact that the show should be explain its own premise within itself. The opening itself features a lot of oh-so-spoopy background vocalizing and cross iconography, but is not horrible and sets up the show’s feel and energy competently.

We meet our two examiners, Hiraga Joseph Kou and Roberto Nicolas, when Nicolas enters Hiraga’s room to rouse him for a summons. We also learn about Hiraga’s little brother Ryota, who is 12 years old and suffers from bone cancer. Hiraga says he’d curse God if God was calling for Ryota’s soul, but he can’t, because like Job, he still has faith in God. It’s not even five minutes in and you guys are calling on Job and hauling out the cancer-ridden kid brother? Everybody relax.

There’s more clumsy exposition as Hiraga explains their own job to Nicolas: they report their findings to a panel of eighteen cardinals. Did we need to know the exact number of cardinals? Both love their work and believe in miracles. Was that not apparent enough? After the deft worldbuilding of Made in Abyss, I may be expecting too much from Vatican Miracle Examiner, but the premise is so fun I can’t help but hope for something a little less trite than what I’m getting.

Their first miracle to investigate is a virgin nun’s claim that she is pregnant with the child of God. Archbishop Saul also tasks them to find the other half of a tally counter that says “Rich”, a reference to the phrase “glory and riches” used by devil worshippers. The other half of the tally counter is apparently at the Church of Saint Rosario in South America, so the examiners fly out head out.

The Church of Saint Rosario has a boarding school attached, which Nicolas points out because he went to one too. We get a look at the kids, including a pretty long-haired blonde named Mario Lotte who is definitely the same floating blonde whose hands were bleeding in front of the cross. Meanwhile, our examiners meet a few of the local priests as organ music plays, because they haven’t hammered home the whole Catholic thing enough yet.  

Hiraga and Nicolas go to pray, where they admire the beautiful stained glass windows of the local church and eye a replica lance that looks suspiciously like one recently stolen from the British Museum. Afterwards, they meet the pure and honest-seeming Sister Dolores, who shows off her stigmata, which theatrically spew blood. She tells a story of the Angel Gabriel visiting her and telling her she was pregnant with God’s baby. She is in fact 12 weeks pregnant and her hymen is intact with no signs of restoration surgery, and she’s been at the church for three months and ten days.

The examiners are discussing the case outside of the hospital when Hiraga spots a woman holding a bundle that might be a baby, but has six white eyes and no face at all. They confirm the blood from Sister Dolores’ stigmata is human and matches her rare blood type. Then at dinner, we get yet another introduction to the fathers at the church, with yet more characters added to the cast, each of which has a subtitle on-screen with their full name and title. It’s really overwhelming.

In a moment of non-subtlety that made me laugh out loud, one of the fathers runs in late and the sultry Sister Dolores spears a sausage demonically and swallows it down with her ruby-red lips.

Later, the examiners discuss the church, which has a huge savings fund and has managed to construct a state-of-the-art hospital with “only” the money from donations and the boarding school. Something hinky’s definitely going on, they agree unnecessarily. In what’s later revealed to be a nightmare, Hiraga is taunted with the image of his brother Ryota, but a demon’s shadow is cast on the wall. Hiraga awakes just before one of the priests comes racing into the room to report a terrible incident: Father Klaus’ head has been smashed in as part of a demon-summoning ritual.  

The examiners interview the guard who found the body, who admits he saw a hooded figure running in the dark. The guard is certain it’s the kids from the boarding school, but at the father’s admonishment, he retracts his words. The other priests confirm the kids are in bed, the hospital is fine and there are no intruders, but the Father-in-Chief doesn’t want the police called, which he is creepily emphatic about.

At an assembly for the boarding school, the Father-in-Chief announces Father Klaus’ death. Just as one of the kids starts having some kind of a fit, the priest points out a miracle: the statue of the Virgin Mary is crying. The episode abruptly ends here and we’re launched into a closing theme which is just okay.

So as a supernatural gothic mystery anime, how does this measure up? Well, I like the character designs on our two examiners, but the background work and especially the background music leave much to be desired. There’s an overuse of scan shots that make me feel like I’m floating through space. The music gets corny and overbearing to the point of comedy; how are you going to top using Ave Maria as the background music for a perfectly sedate interview? The color palette is subdued and washed out, which makes sense for a gothic anime but is not exactly a treat for the eyes; the scene where the two examiners ogle a beautiful stained glass window came as a visual relief.

About the only part of this anime I truly enjoyed was the voice acting: Nicolas’ seiyuu is Junichi Suwabe, aka Victor from Yuri on Ice, while Hiraga is voiced by Nobuhiko Okamoto, who I cannot believe also voices Bakugo from My Hero Academia.

As for the mystery, it’s effective in the sense that I have no idea what’s going on. But I’m not especially interested in finding out. As someone who was raised Catholic, it’s pretty jarring to see so much holy iconography used to gird a mediocre anime and its tepid cast of characters. It happens a lot, but man does Vatican Miracle Examiner heap it on. We get it, you’re goth, y’all, but it’s just too much.

I’m really not interested in seeing more of Vatican Miracle Examiner, but are you? Vatican Miracle Examiner airs on Amazon’s Anime Strike on Fridays. Let us know if you’ll be adding it to your queue in our comments section below.  

 

REVIEW SUMMARY
Vatican Miracle Examiner
4
Should You Watch Vatican Miracle Examiner?
While the character design and premise is fun, this anime's clumsy exposition, overreliance on Catholic iconography and stumbling plot makes for a mystery we're not interested in solving.
  • Great Voice Acting
  • Appealing Character Design
  • Strong Sense Of Tone
  • Intrusive, Ridiculous Music
  • Over-The-Top Use Of Religious Iconography
  • Clumsy Exposition
  • Too Many Irrelevant Characters
  • Unappealing Background Art
  • Low-Budget Feel
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