The Game of Laplace: The Red Room
April 24, 2016 3 Comments
Few people probably watched Ranpo Kitan: The Game of Laplace last year, and I think that most of us came away with question marks over our heads. I had a bit of a go at examining some social trends that, to me, the creators appeared to be speaking to, but a few weeks later, I came across something that indicated that they had been one step ahead of me. From the official website, I present four of the core staff of the show talking about what they had been aiming for.
> To celebrate the September 17, 2015 finale of Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace, an event called “The Red Room” was held at Fuji TV’s Maruchi(March?) theatre on September 12.
On that day, the 10th and final episodes were shown, and were followed by a talk event with Director Kishi Seiji, Series Composer and scriptwriter Uezu Makoto, Animation Producer Higa Yuuji and noitaminA chief editor (producer) Mori Akitoshi. Because it was titled “The Red Room,” it was on a red sofa under red lights that these four creators spoke about the work in general, the final episode and what happened behind-the-scenes.
In truth, these four creators had come straight to the screening after working on the all night, bringing the hard disk with the final episodes on it. This represented perfectly the entire experience of making this anime, Uesu revealed: “We’ve never had so little time to work on a series—we made it only because we’ve gone all out right from the start of the year. It was a schedule that didn’t allow us to go back and redo anything at all.” Director Kishi added: “Despite that, we had to make sure there was no drop in quality, there was simply no time for us to be lost or in disagreement,” revealing the notebook they’d kept of ideas on how to complete the animation in such a short time.
This series was based on Edogawa Ranpo’s works, in which numerous incidents occur. However, Director Kishi pointed out that since current real-life incidents are so sensational, what they were really worried about was how they’d inspire the outrageousness and appeal that are characteristic of his works. Uezu stated that their frame of mind at the time was that “We’ve decided to make it a contemporary drama, but how should we go about it? We wanted to include in the imagery the shock tasted when we see in the news the kinds of incidents and crimes we get today.” Furthermore, Kishi observed, people who happen to be at the location or the crimes or incidents will take photos or videos, but by the following day, everyone would be walking there as if nothing had happened: that’s the kind of world we live in. In that sense, Uesu followed, “Rather than the incidents themselves, it’s the impact of the incidents spreading that is frightening. And that’s how we came up with the idea of a story of someone trying to use the butterfly effect to start a social revolution by providing the opportunity to do so using SNS (social network services?).” And so the creators introduced the idea at the core of the show: of a junior high school student trying to change the world by using the butterfly effect.
They then moved on to discussing the setting, which was based on Kabuki-chō in Shinjuku. Uesu and Kishi both love this area so much that they know it like the back of their hands: “Right down to the little backstreets, it was that easy.” (Everyone at the venue laughed at that.1) They requested that the music, too, was something that you might hear in the area during daylight hours. They even revealed the specific location in Kabuki-chō where they’d placed Akechi’s detective office.
Since September 12 was Kobayashi’s birthday, the discussion them moved on to him. Higa was the one who pushed for him to be somewhat androgynous. “In the original Ranpo stories, there are scenes where Kobayashi Boy crossdresses, and we didn’t have any heroines in the ‘Boy Detective Squad’ (in this work), so I wanted Kobayashi-kun to come across as the lone flower. In terms of his character design, we asked Morita to show us all of his work until now, and made a lot of specific requests.” And Takahashi Rie also exceeded all expectations in voicing him. In the recording session for the first episode, the staff were all stunned by her performance, which they had all reacted to by exclaiming “What a heartless little brat (laughter)! Perfect!”
The discussion then came to the BD/DVD extra for volume one, which is a drama CD that delves into Black Lizard’s past. Uezu noted that “There are many things in the world of Ranpo Kitan that we need to delve into: one of them being why Black Lizard likes Akechi so much. So we decided to write something about her in her youth.” Her original personally was apparently quite close to Kobayashi’s; the drama CD story shows how she and Akechi came to have the relationship that was depicted in the anime. “For some reason, we wanted to give Hikasa (Youko) a ‘normal’ role to work with.” (Laughter throughout the venue.)
And that was the last topic before the staff gave some some final comments for viewers who weren’t at the event and thus had yet to see the final episode. It was mostly the usual stuff, basically: ‘Please watch the final episode. Whether it pleases you, or leaves something of a scar, thank you for supporting us all the this way.’
For me, the most interesting thing about this event was finding out the theme that Rampo Kitan‘s creators had been trying to convey to their audience. Namely, that what’s really frightening today is what can be done through the misuse and abuse of SNS services. This is far more interesting and important than the theme that I’d assumed, which has already been touched on before, in shows like Psycho-Pass.
But what should I think about the fact that I was only able to see that theme after reading about “The Red Room” event? Is it because the creators failed at making it clear? Indeed, that the spread of rumours etc by SNS only came to the fore in the last two episodes meant that it didn’t really register as possible theme with me — I’d already decided what I thought Rampo Kitan was about. In contrast, a show that incorporated it throughout its episodes seems to have been far more successful at conveying its message to viewers.
However, another way to think about this is that this discrepancy actually demonstrates exactly why SNS services are so frightening: most of us have not realised that we are part of it. To me, one of the most shocking things about this presentation by Frances Larson was her revelation that spectators seeing someone about to commit suicide by jumping off a tall building tend to take photos of what they’re witnessing. Some even try to goad the person into taking that final leap. Yet when I think about what I have done when I’ve travelled—taking photos of ground zero in New York and also of WW2 sites, memorials and exhibits in Europe and Japan—it strikes me that what she described was just the logical next step.
Is there a debate to be had about this? Is this what the human desire for spectacle—which Edogawa Ranpo recognised and targeted in the first half of the 20th century—has developed into today? Should something be done about it, or do we just have to accept that this is human nature, propriety be damned? I have no answers myself…but it’s definitely food for thought.
- NB: Kabuki-chō is one of the red-light districts in Japan. ↩