Matantei Loki Ragnarok is the first installment of Hiroshi Watanabe’s “Mystical Detectives”-trilogy (along with Tactics and Suteki Tantei Labyrinth). Those who’ve read some of my earlier reviews about this guy’s work know what I think about him: he can be incredibly talented, but also incredibly stupid. Whenever I go into a series of his, I absolutely have no idea what to expect.
I actually watched an episode of Ragnarok before I started this blog, and I wasn’t that convinced. It seemed just like any other silly adventure series that had nothing but a group of characters, going on silly adventures. And here the danger of first impressions shows up again, because against all my expectations, this turned out to be a genuinely excellent series. It’s a bit silly at times and sometimes it leaves a few small questions unanswered, but oh boy. This series really delivers when it wants to.
Like I said, the ingredients are pretty formulaic. In fact, you can see a lot of parallels with Hiroshi Watanabe’s other shows: we have the mahou shounen, his butler. There’s the annoying female sidekick, the animal sidekick, the complete moron, the energetic guy who runs a lot of jobs. Yet, this series actually makes something out of it. The cliches are there, but really: the characterization is so damn good.
This again isn’t a show for everyone, because it’s another one of those series that has a lot of slice of life in it. You might think that this will devolve into a series where most of the time is spent on random mysteries, but those actually play a fairly small role. Much more important to this series is showing the characters interacting with each other, and just having fun on a daily basis. And it does so with creativity. Loki is actually a pretty likable male lead: he’s mature, despite his looks, and likes to tease others. The female side-kick does yell a lot, yet she’s not stereotypical enough to get annoying, and she has enough other sides to her than her constant “mystery!”-catchphrase.
Throughout the majority of its airtime this simply is an enjoyable, varied and sometimes silly slice-of-life/adventure series. There are a number of goofball characters, and therefore also a number of goofball episodes with a sense of humour that’s typical to Hiroshi Watanabe (no idea is stupid enough!). This series really sets itself apart in its final quarter, however. It’s astounding how much this series takes its time to fully develop its main characters AND villains. This series has a really heart-warming finale that made me rate this show much higher than I was originally planning to.
The animation is basic, but it’s being made up by the visuals themselves. The character-designs were done by one of the best character-designers in the business (she also did the character-designs for Ghost Hound, King of Bandits Jing and not to mention Jigoku Shoujo). The music, especially near the end, also manages to create a great atmosphere for this series.
I might be one of the very few in this, but I’ve really become a fan of Hiroshi Watanabe. It’s obviously not because he’s a consistently good director: Star Ocean Ex and Shining Tears X Wind were just terrible, and Suteki Tantei Labyrinth was a trainwreck (an incredibly fun trainwreck yes; but a trainwreck nonetheless). However, the thing with this guy is that he just keeps surprising me. No matter what kind of series he’s doing, every single one of his series have caught me off-guard and surprised me with a sense of creativity I truly did not expect. Whether it’s good or bad remains to be seen, though.