Psychic Detective Yakumo Review

This is review number three hundred and thirty five. This anime is part of the Fall 2010 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Psychic Detective Yakumo or Shinrei Tantei Yakumo. It’s a thirteen episode anime about some stuff involving ghosts, and there’s also a hot guy in it. I mostly rant in this review though, so let’s just read on.

Story

So this anime is about a guy named Yakumo Saito that takes on supernatural cases for money. A girl named Haruka Ozawa asks for his assistance on a case, and she’s been hooked by his charms ever since. She now visits with more supernatural cases, but she has to wait in line because Yakumo is also the “go-to” guy of a detective that deals with weird cases as well. Some of the cases connects though, and most involves Yakumo and his dark past. Shadows of the pasts are now back to get Yakumo, and he’ll have to rely on others to help him get through this problem.

Taking the Pants Off

This is one of those rare anime I wanted to re-watch to get a better sense of why I hate it exactly. I don’t re-watch anime, and it’s an unshakeable rule of mine. Ok, I broke it here but I rarely do that. This is the reason why I don’t belong to any raging fan base, and why I don’t identify with a lot of other anime fanatics. This is also how I can keep my impartial stance on things. I might like it, but I won’t go on twitter to hound anyone that dislikes it. It’s not a healthy hobby, but I’m going off topic. Psychic Detective Yakumo is an anime I thought is pretty bad. When I saw it back in 2010, I was in a big anime binge trying to clear fifty one anime in two months. I achieved that record, but keep in mind that I was also jobless at the time. It was a sad moment in life for me, but I remember this anime from 2010 because it was just so bad. It stood out as potentially another great Ghost Hunt show but it devolved into sh*t halfway through. I wasn’t a reviewer then, so I didn’t mind bad anime at the time. I just locked up my hatred for the show then moved on. Five years later and here we are, my path crosses with this anime one more time. Re-watching bring forth memories of my miserable life, but also big reasons why I hated this anime. It was boring and the dialogue is a bit retarded. The show is character driven, as in it relies heavily on the characters to drive the show, but they were bad cardboard cutouts with no real personality to make them special. It’s also a mystery show, but the pacing is so cringe-worthy that I think it numbed me back in 2010. I’ll explain that later on, but here’s the crazy part. This is a novel anime.

As a general rule, which is now destroyed by this anime, novel adapted shows are the best kind of anime. Shiki, Shin Sekai Yori, Uchouten Kazoku, The Tatami Galaxy and Mouryou no Hako can prove that rule as a fact. Novel adapted show is wonderfully sophisticated, and there is always a need for the director to try and capture the vision of the author as close as possible. You always get a feeling that the director read the actual novel, fell in love with it, and now tried his best to capture the experience he felt while reading the book. They all badly lag in the middle though, but the payoff you can get in most novel anime is something you’ll never get in any other kind of adaptation. The thought provoking message of Shiki, the commentary on society in Shin Sekai Yori, the narrative that can make anybody cry in Uchouten Kazoku, the bright lesson of pursuing life in Tatami Galaxy and the “goblin” stuck in my head thanks to Mouryou no Hako still stays with me, because novels are that good of a medium. The narrative is rich that you’re guaranteed to get something worthwhile in the end. Yet Psychic Detective Yakumo is that gawd damn outlying data. It’s a novel anime that truly sucks. Why? Why is it the only notable one that sucked? Now this is my opinion, because I strongly believe that novel adaptations are superior, but I think this anime sucked thanks to this:

72

It’s the live action adaptation, the very first one to adapt the novel. I urge you to watch a scene of it in youtube. Here, try this link. Notice the dialogue, the cardboard staleness of the characters, and the general atmosphere of the show feeling so awkward? This is mainly my problem with live actions. They try to capture the feel of something, but the actors still say the lines in a weird memorized fashion that often ruins the whole thing for me. But, the actors are hot. That’s basically the main hook of live actions, get a popular and handsome actor then give him a notable role. It’ll print money. The success of the 2006 live action eventually created buzz for the franchise. It spurred more novels and two different manga, then it had an anime adaptation in 2010. The general atmosphere of the live action I bothered mentioning? This is something the anime wanted to capture as well. There’s no other way around it. Someone loved the live action, and then demanded an anime based on the live action. The result is staggering bland, awkward and an awful anime adaptation that landed on our lap. Some of you will argue though, that the anime version is actually good. I bet your main reason is because our main character is hot, like a piece of toast melting butter. Well, yeah, he is hot. He is supposed to be hot, because the live action’s main appeal is basically the exact same thing: a hot actor. He has wooden acting skill he can rub together to create fire, but he’s still a very handsome actor. The anime needed to have the same dynamic and a hot main character as well. Oh boy, how I wish to be back in 2010 and just lock up all my hatred for shows I didn’t like. Unfortunately, I’m three years doing this sh*t so let’s just keep moving.

Psychic Detective Yakumo 01.mkv_snapshot_06.07_[2015.10.31_16.32.02]

This anime had a clunky beginning, and you can also spot the major flaw in the first episode. The opening misleads you into thinking this anime is another Ghost Hunt, but the story convinces you otherwise. Hey, remember Ghost Hunt? It’s a light novel anime by JC Staff that aired back in 2006. It’s not scary, but the mysteries are nicely executed and the characters are charming. Even in a scene of a freaky ghost climbing out of a bath tub full of blood, the relationships of the characters can turn any scary sh*t into something very endearing to watch. This is basically the main pitch of Psychic Detective Yakumo as well. Haruka is trying to be friendly with a cold Yakumo, and the dynamic is reminiscent of two cute couples in a JDrama. See, I’m not even kidding about the live action crap. Anyways, the first episode featured a really crappy detective story about a guy murdering people. It’s really not good, but you’ll mostly stay with the anime because of two things: the potential it has to be scarier than Ghost Hunt and sticking around to see if Yakumo ever reciprocate Haruka’s love. Ending the first episode on a burning building is also a nice touch, since it encourages you to watch more. The anime crumbles some more as you progress though. Anyways, this anime has three plot points. It’s also divided into four chapters, but let’s do this one step at a time.

The first plot point is about Haruka and Yakumo. In the first half, the show basically just wants the two to develop a wonderful chemistry with each other. As the show progresses, people in Yakumo’s life approves of Haruka because she can thaw the cold heart of this handsome bastard. Yakumo also gradually accepts Haruka’s existence, and slowly opens up to her. It’s not much but this plot point plays a big part in the second half of the anime when the relationship threaten to be split apart by the main antagonist. The dynamic is basically the same in every episode though: Haruka just knocks in Yakumo’s door and then tags along with him on his ghost hunting adventures. The two characters never really establish anything meaningful in the first half, because of the bad storytelling, but the anime still thrust them into the second half. The whole focus of the anime is also a mess. It’s a detective anime, but it also focuses on the second plot point: the supernatural aspect of the show.

The second plot point focuses on the ghosts and the scary hauntings in the anime. This is probably the only thing from the novel that I can discern, because the concept is quite unique. Yakumo sees ghosts, but he claims in the first episode that they can never hurt people. Ghosts are just leftover emotional remains of a human, and Yakumo mostly deals with them by parlaying with them. He asks what will get them to move on, then he goes out to help the ghost then the spirit will happily pass on. He believes this is the only way to deal with them, and he disapproves of exorcisms that don’t even acknowledge the side of the ghosts. It’s a really wonderful concept because the show opens with contrast first showing us the scary ghosts haunting people, but its revealed later on that they aren’t actually all that bad. There are still some bad spirits though, but most of them are misunderstood. They are still human despite leaving the realm of the mortals, and their feelings still remain. Underneath all the scary sh*t is a human soul that needs help, and this anime nicely delivers this message through the second plot point. Ghosts cannot harm humans, and it’s mostly humans that hurt other humans. In a world of evil, ghosts aren’t that bad compared to the evil things human do to each other. It’s a powerful idea the show wonderfully presents to us, but the thing is a bit muddled thanks to the first plot point. They’re kinda two opposite things, and the anime has a hard time balancing them. The second plot point’s idea is often ruined because it focuses too much on the first plot point’s goal. Unfortunately, the show also can’t properly execute the first plot point that well. This is a problem, because the third plot point is a lot more complicated than the other plot points.

The third plot point is about the mystery aspect of the anime. Yakumo and the gang are involved with solving murders, unsolved cases and other unusual things with the help of Yakumo’s eye. This plot point is mostly about trying to find answers to questions, and the show is pretty horrible at it. It doesn’t really know how to properly tell a mystery story, so the timing is always off. In the first episode, Yakumo checks the haunted house Haruka entered then pin points a teacher as the culprit. The teacher is introduced three minutes earlier, and Yakumo suddenly deducts that he is doing the murders. He then searches the area, and then finds proof against the teacher casually placed in a grove near the crime scene. Yakumo didn’t answer any big questions like how the teacher is killing his victims. He just had a hunch, searched the place and then solved the case. A kid that grew up watching Detective Conan can do better. In fact, it isn’t fun. Most mystery anime gives the audience a puzzle to solve like destroying a suspect’s alibi or finding the trick to the complicated murder or reading the cryptic dying message of the victim. This anime doesn’t have anything for the audience, and it just runs on auto. The mystery is now dull and badly predictable, with a lead that somehow uncovers clues by himself. There’s one about him discovering the video doesn’t have train sounds despite being near the train tracks, but this information is only revealed after Yakumo leaves for the house. Another character solved it as well, and the audience is just left out of it. It’s no fun. It gets worse in the second half as well, but I think the anime is trying to use the mystery as a plot device. Answering the questions isn’t as important as learning the motivation behind it. The show wants to focus on the vulnerable characters and create a gripping character driven anime. It makes sense because the show wants you to understand Yakumo as well. Sadly, the anime can’t properly do this.

Let’s call it auto-pilot storytelling. The story calls for Yakumo to fall for Haruka, creating a bond with her. The show is supposed to put in the work to create meaningful dialogue that’ll get Yakumo to fall for Haruka. Auto-pilot storytelling doesn’t do the leg work. It phones it in, and lazily just present scenes that’ll lead to the point where the relationship is needed. The result is a horrible story devoid of feeling, effort and just genuine good-ness to really care for it. This is the major flaw of Psychic Detective Yakumo. It’s supposed to be a character driven show that tells how humans are scarier than ghosts. The killers, the victims and the ghosts are supposed to embody different characteristics that drive the main point of the show home, but then pulls a 360 when it’s revealed that no one is truly evil and circumstances drives them to do stupid things. A good example is the second chapter where a dad drowns young girls so her daughter can be resurrected. The killer’s point of view is purely on getting her daughter back, desperate and devoid of logic. The victim’s point of view is that they’re young girls about to lose their life because an idiot wants to drown them illustrating the evil-ness of the killer. The ghost helps the young girls in their suffering though, by possessing them and drowning for them thus illustrating that ghosts might be scary, but they’re as caring as humans. It leads to the killer realizing he’s done an irreversible mistake, illustrating that humans are imperfect creatures that can be driven mad by their emotions. It’s a very wonderful concept this anime possesses, but the auto-pilot storytelling kills the beautiful message it’s supposed to deliver. It shows the killer killing, the victims dying, the ghost helping, and the killer repenting but it’s done in such a subdued manner than any real emotion is lacking in the scenes. How are you supposed to be convinced that a killer is repentant of his actions? The show doesn’t put the effort to truly make us care. It just happens and then it moves on. It’s not supposed to. You’re supposed to be distraught over the events of the story, reinforced by the amazing character driven story. Seeing this father drowning girls the same age as his daughter, robbing other fathers of their daughters, to foolish bring back his own is supposed to ruin your mind. The auto-pilot storytelling robs us of this amazing experience, and it slowly ruins the anime as you keep on watching.

The relationship between Yakumo and Haruka is supposed to be a bit hot and cold. Nothing is supposed to be ever said, but a mutual understanding is formed through every scene they are in. Yakumo slowly accepting Haruka into his life is supposed to be a slow gradual transition that the audience should’ve felt the more the scenes suggest they’ve become closer. It’s brought about by the dialogue between other characters, the soft smile they give while the other’s back is turned and the genuine fondness they express when they aren’t around each other. This is ruined by the auto-pilot storytelling. Instead of putting effort in the dialogue, the show just give characters lines like: “Hey, Yakumo has changed thanks to you Haruka. I can tell because we’re five episodes in the anime and he is supposed to change at this point in the story. Oh, we can’t really see it, but that’s why I’m saying this obvious line to help us catch on with what’s happening.” Lazy storytelling is the most disgusting thing you can ever do as a director and an anime company. To expect anime fans to just accept your sh*t is absolutely disgusting. Nothing makes me sick more than lazy storytelling. I can forgive bad storytelling and bad animation, but lazy storytelling is something that deserves to die. Psychic Detective Yakumo has the elements of a really gripping novel anime, and you ruined it by your lazy storytelling. Uchouten Kazoku put in the effort to adapt the novel to a tee, even though the first few chapters are confusing as f*ck, and it’s because it respects the original source so much that it doesn’t want to let it down. Yet Psychic Detective Yakumo existed and now I hate this world. There is no excuse for lazy storytelling, and absolutely no excuse to sully the beautiful potential of a novel.

I’m mad now, but let’s talk about the four chapters of this anime. Each has their own story, and it’s usually about a murder case spread through three or so episodes. The first chapter is basically an introduction phase where Yakumo takes on various cases given to him. I think its episode one to three where characters are introduced, the status quo is established and the plot points starts emerging. After that, the second chapter commences. It’s about the case of the drowning girls, and Yakumo is asked to track the killer down. He realizes some despicable monster is behind all this, and the monster is related to Yakumo. The drowning cases are just a part of the overall complicated scheme of the main antagonist designed to take Yakumo to the dark side. It’s a pretty stupid plan, because the whole thing honestly makes no sense, but the show is running with it. I think this is episode four to six, and then the second half commences where the show absolutely takes a plunge head first into concrete.

The second half features the remaining two chapters, but you’ll also notice that nothing has really been developed in the show’s run. No character development is smartly produced, relationships are awkward and the mysteries are just dumb. Yet the show has the gall to create a story with these three elements as its core. I’m sure the novel did it as well, but the auto-pilot storytelling kinda ruined everything. In the third chapter, a video of a ghost raises alarms for Yakumo. He ended up disappearing, characters connected to his “threads of fate” gather to find him and the ghost of his past tries to swallow him up. It’s rightfully character driven at this point, but the whole thing just feels retarded. There’s an episode of the other detective going “oh, woe is me because I can’t do anything right. Even though my comrade is kidnapped, a close friend is missing and a killer is on the loose, I’ll just slump here acting all negative. My character calls for me to be negative even though I’ve only been bland this entire time. I’m sure my scaredy-cat nature is supposed to create contrast with my strong heroic partner, and it ultimately define me, but I’ll never really develop enough for this to matter so I’ll just give up. But when Haruka starts to slap me, I’ll suddenly bounce back and become a detective that my job requirement describes me as. Even though I could’ve just skipped the whole forced narrative of being a negative nancy, I’ll still wait for Haruka to slap me. It’s better that way.” Good gawd, I’ve never seen such a stupid narrative in my entire time as TPAB and I’ve f*cking reviewed worst shows than this anime.

Then it just becomes laughable. I won’t even say a word. Let the characters explain the retarded-ness themselves.


What the hell is that? They mention the files doesn’t have anything in it, then he mentions a teacher he read in the files, but only after he discovers that a computer generated face resembles someone he knows, and only bothers to talk to the teacher after he saw the face. This is what the story devolved into. It is such lazy storytelling that it seriously makes my blood boil.

Anyways, the show crumbles afterwards. The climactic moment of the third chapter didn’t even make sense. One gun is apparently distributed throughout the cast, and it’s stupid. Take note that these are genius detectives yet they can’t even capture a f*cking duo. The third chapter also fleshes out the antagonists, but I don’t think it did any good. It’s supposed to gain sympathy from viewers, but the whole thing just felt dull. The final chapter is the biggest slap in the face for anyone watching. Apparently, the relationships and bonds formed throughout the series culminate in the last chapter. A character is diagnosed to die, and it’s supposed to be a very heart wrenching moment. It ties with the bad guys wanting to pull Yakumo into the dark side, and they takes advantage of this sad new by taking it a step too far. Emotions are supposed to drive the last chapter, but you can tell a genuine numbness from the characters. This is the effect of the auto-pilot storytelling. It reduces character into sad miserable one dimensional vomit, and the callousness of the show to expect emotion from the audience is just appalling.  You didn’t even try to improve the story, and yet you’re asking the audience to care. What kind of game are you playing here? It’s an absolute insult coming from such a terrible anime. I’m supposed to care that this guy died? Why? Who the hell is he? What has he contributed to the show? What actions made me want to care for him? You gave me the blandest piece of sh*t I’ve ever seen and now you expect me to care. No. This anime can rot in the idealist purgatory the novel is intended to have existed.

The characters are awful. Just awful. They were drained of any personality, and the show basically turned them into cardboard cutouts. I can feel the potential though, because the narrative is there. A hot guy hounded by his not-so-normal eye has grown distant of people, a girl finding the not-so-normal eye beautiful despite everyone else being freaked out by it, a detective married to his job and uses it as an excuse to avoid his wife and her barren womb, another detective easily freaked out and not really cut out for the job still upholding his duties because he believes in the system, the idea that there are always two sides to every coin, and a mother tortured to even hate his son are all amazing characters if the show really took the time to flesh them out. It can be done in twelve episodes, just look at Noragami, so it’s baffling that Psychic Detective Yakumo didn’t even try. It ignored the amazing potential the characters have.

I still blame the JDrama that made the franchise popular. After seeing so many sh*tty original screenplays and forced endings for ongoing manga, I have never seen something quite like Psychic Detective Yakumo. You can always feel if effort is given into something, and that’s why I never rate an anime a one because you still feel something, despite the show sucking hard in the end. This anime feels like a copy and paste attempt, but it left out the genuine emotions of the thing it copied from. Sure, the live action might be good and I bet the anime tried to capture the “good” of the live action as well. The end result is an insulting piece of sh*t that just sullies the spirit of a good narrative. I’ve seen O.Screenplays struggle with their over ambitious stories and I always let it slide. I always have fondness for flash animated shows that looks horrible, because there is also ambition in its purpose. This is the first time I’ve ever seen something phoned in, absolutely lazy in anything it did and I hate it. Bee Train is a pretty silent anime studio. They stopped releasing shows after 2011, but they’ve given us some solid sleeper hits. Requiem of a Phantom and Blade of the Immortal are underrated classics I urge everyone to try, but I think their bid to be different backfired on them for this anime. The “live action” anime has no chance of working, and Bee Train ultimately created a subtle train wreck no one even bothered to hate, until now because I really detest this anime. Tomoyuki Arikawa has had his hands in a lot of notable anime, including Guilty Crown and UN-GO. He notably directed Blade of the Immortals and Murder Princess, two anime I absolutely love, but I do notice that it’s good thanks of the original source and not because of the talented director. A lot of the shows he storyboard aren’t all that good, and I’d call his directing talents a fluke. Sure, there is some potential here but I think all of that is washed off when he directed this anime. There’s no talent here, and you can tell his time storyboarding didn’t help either.

Sight and Sound

Interestingly, there’ve been two versions of the designs. I think the first manga featured the live action Yakumo, and the later version is the Yakumo in the anime. Yes, both have existed and it’s weird because all the novels and the manga are written by the same author. He approved two different designs, and not just on Yakumo. The detective is younger in some versions while Haruka is the long haired jap beauty in the live action. The version in the anime is pretty decent. It’s not great, but it’s gritty like the live action. Yakumo is the only one that really stands out and that’s on purpose. There’s too many shots of him looking beautiful and it’s pretty f*cking intentional. I like Haruka’s design but it’s not really interesting. Pink hair is decent, but her personality could’ve made the design a lot more meaningful. The designs on the characters are actually pretty plain, save for some stand out parts here and there, and it’s mostly to capture a realistic feel for the show. They’re plain, but their personalities should’ve made up for everything else. Yakumo is hot though, so it’s all good. I’m sure his handsome face sunk a few ships at the course of the anime.

The animation is pretty below average. It’s not bad, because 2010 animation isn’t really all that good. Movements are limited, and the dull look cancels out the scary progression of the story, but nothing to really distract from the show. It still decently captured ghouls, scary ghosts and people with twisted expressions when being killed or killing people. This is where the director should’ve shined though. The one thing I wish this anime would have is jump scares, and there’s a lot of opportunity to do that. It also works in the favor of the show because the second plot point would’ve thrived if the show starts out scary. It’s really not hard to create a scary atmosphere. I mean, Yami Shibai had a worst animation than this show and the ending sequence still freaks me out. It’s all a matter of directing, really, and you can tell our director lacks talent for visual storytelling if he can’t nail a decent scary scene in this anime. I’ll give points to some facial expressions though, since they tell a lot more than anything the actual story provides. The calm look on the characters dying, the angry looks of the characters when their plan doesn’t work out, the blank expression on most murdered victims are all nicely done. Haruka’s expression when she looks at Yakumo is also pretty cute.

The anime’s OP is “Key -Phase 1-” by Jangled Cat (Daisuke Ono). He does a different version of the song in other episodes, but they’re mostly the same. They’re the same songs sung in different fashion by the same singer. Daisuke Ono is a popular voice actor, so I get the appeal. It’s basically about the anime as it tells of truth in darkness. The lyrics are pretty creepy though, and it kinda misled you into getting pumped for the actual anime. The same goes for the OP sequence. It’s absolutely thrilling and charming, but it’s different from the actual content of the anime. The anime’s ED is “Missing You” by Lisa Komine It’s a tender love song about two people being brought together by fate, and it’s actually my favorite part of the entire show. The song is solemn and sincere, as tells about two lovers being together. The ending sequence punctuates this with a really wonderful montage of Yakumo and Haruka meeting each other. It starts with unrelated photos slowly revealed as their parents, and the ED sequence just changes nuance every time more is revealed about it. It’s probably the most elaborate part of the show, and I really love it.

Overall Score

2/10 “The lazy storytelling and the cardboard cutout characters is just insulting to watch.”

There is potential here, but the show didn’t even try. It tried to draw strength from the characters, but it didn’t put effort into fleshing them out. It didn’t create any meaningful moments from its bountiful stories of the dead, and the detective work is laughable. If you like hot guys in your anime, and I know BroCon thrived on it despite having the same score as this anime, then here you go. If you respect good storytelling then for the love of gawd, don’t watch this. The payoff isn’t really all that good to sit through thirteen episodes, so I do not recommend it.

Thoughts~

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