Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok Vol. #1 (also w/box) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, October 18, 2005
This preview was done using a promotional disc from ADV Films that did not contain things such as menus, extras or packaging.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain
Some very new takes on some very old characters.
Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok began its life as a serialized manga published in Shonen Gangan under the name, Mythical Detective Loki. The title was lengthened to the final Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok after the property was relocated to Comic Blade magazine. The television series based on the original manga ran for 26 episodes in 2003.
When I first learned of Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok, I found the aspect of the cultural fusion of Norse mythology with a Japanese perspective to be very intriguing. While I didn't know precisely what to expect with this very unique combination, I was surprised at what I got.
Very loosely based on Norse mythology (in which Loki finds himself exiled to Midgard-our human realm, or Japan in this case-in the body of a child, and a number of other famous Norse characters are recreated here as well, as teenagers), this series is a sort of fusion between those mythological characters and the boy detective genre. The plot follows Loki, who has established the Enjaku Detective agency, which appears to handle more occult-oriented cases. Apparently, Loki has been judged by Odin and exiled to this realm and placed in the somewhat limiting form of a child. He is accompanied by his faithful servant Yamino (who has a penchant for sending away for mail-order junk and seems genuinely surprised when it breaks) and later, Mayura Daidoji, an energetic, if somewhat clumsy high school girl who manages to force her way in to Loki's life. As the story progresses, Thor, seemingly a teenage boy called Narugami, who must continually find gainful employment in any number of strange, ironic part-time jobs as a means of supporting himself in this strange new world, carries a wooden sword version of Mjollnir rather than the classic hammer, and Heimdall, a one-eyed teenager with a serious axe to grind, make appearances and promise to be pivotal characters in the series. Each of these Norse transplants also has special abilities, though theirs do not seem as limited by their youthful exteriors as Loki.
The cases handled by Loki's detective agency in these episodes serve more as plot devices for establishing character than anything else. The case featured in the first episode deals with a doll filled with evil. The doll, having lost its original owner (its "sister", as it says) in a fire twenty years ago, attempts to lure Mayura in to its trap, blindly seeking revenge for having been abandoned for all those years. This case introduces the three primary characters (Loki, Yamino and Mayura) and establishes this humorous group dynamic for future episodes.
The second episode introduces the viewer to Narugami/Thor as Loki seeks to solve a case of a possessed suit of armor in Mayura's high school. This episode suggests Thor has been sent to kill Loki, though the reason is left unclear. However, he decides not to follow what is apparently Odin's edict and instead forms a loose alliance with Loki and company.
Episode three, the final in this review, features a case of serious issues at the zoo. It seems the birds of prey have been attacking visitors to the aviary. The woman in charge, obviously troubled by this, has enlisted the aid of Loki's detective agency. It is at this point Heimdall makes his appearance. He has been using his abilities to influence minds as a means of controlling the birds, hoping to draw Loki in to his trap. Unlike Narugami/Thor (who also makes an appearance in yet another humorous part-time job), Heimdall is not nearly as likeable and much more willing to kill Loki and anyone who gets in the way. I'm curious where the Heimdall threat will lead in future episodes, as Narugami/Thor suggests in one scene that killing a god brings with it a heavy price (though it seems it was Odin himself who made the order, which raises further questions.)
After viewing the first three episodes, I was still a bit in the dark about many of the story's main plot points. It has not yet been revealed as to why Loki has been exiled to Midgard, or why he's been forced in to the body of a child. This doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, as I think a great deal of this series' charm may likely rest in unraveling these mysteries. But a little more explanation or at least some indication as to what is going on and why certain characters have been sent to this realm to kill Loki could have gone a long way toward establishing some genuine foreshadowing, and thereby better hooking an audience.
And while Loki comes across as very capable in handling the issues that arise, I don't feel these earlier episodes give a genuine idea of who he is. I can't help but to think choosing the exiled Norse god of mischief as the lead character must have some future bearing on his actions and personality, but I definitely haven't seen it yet. To this point, Loki has been too brooding, too conflicted. It is my hope this will change as the story progresses.
However, there are many aspects of the story I absolutely adore. Mayura is incredibly cute in her naïve endeavors to discover the mystical mysteries she's certain are around her, all the while completely oblivious to just who some of her new friends truly are. How long she will retain this cuteness in her naiveté remains to be seen, but it doesn't come across as cliché in the first three episodes.
But Mayura isn't the only character handled well in this endearing vision. I truly enjoyed the fact that Narugami/Thor has to work a number of part-time odd jobs in order to pay the rent and survive in our realm. Overall, this series seems to have a really nice and very smart sense of humor winding throughout. The creators appear to know their version of these characters very well and seem to revel in the new opportunities presented, attempting to balance between the more serious storylines of genuine manifestations of evil, while never missing an opportunity to explore this new vision with humorous irony.
For instance, in the first episode, as Loki sits in his study, contemplatively awaiting a client he is certain will come, we cut to Mayura standing outside the gates of his mansion, seemingly considering calling on the services of this strange detective agency. The doorbell rings and Loki announces triumphantly that the client he has been predicting has come. When Yamino returns to the study announcing it was only a shipment of mushrooms he ordered, while Majura has continued on her way, Loki is genuinely stunned his predictions were not accurate (the camera catches only the lower half of his face, his mouth hanging open in shock.) In another episode, Thor's valiant entrance as he saves the girl from a purse snatcher is followed by the revelation he's actually on duty pulling a food cart, the name of which translates to "Lightning Noodles". These are only a few examples of the keen sense of humor found in Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok.
For the most part, the sound work and voice acting are very nicely done. I was very pleased with the casting and how the characters were brought to life through the actors. However, Loki, as voiced by Shannon Emmerick, occasionally comes across as a bit stiff or even emotionally subdued. While this could be largely credited to the script and how the creators are planning on developing Loki's character, I had hoped for a bit more. As the god of mischief set loose in Midgar, I was hoping to see a bit more of that reflected in the character and the way he speaks. Again, though, this could be largely an issue of creative direction, but it certainly stands out.
I found the art to be very acceptable, though I was troubled over the repeated use of recycled art and static images. In the first episode, the moody snapshots and more artistic camera angles and effects (i.e. grainy images used as a means of enhancing the aspect of evil shrouding certain objects and events) actually worked well for the ambience of that piece, though admittedly the first episode was much darker than those that followed. However, it disappointed me to find these more artistic measures seemingly forgotten in the subsequent episodes.
Probably my biggest complaint with the art and animation rests primarily with the abundant use of static images and a general lack of action animation. While I certainly understand the issues of the medium, I would have liked to have seen the action scenes handled with a little more energy.
However, I did enjoy the color palettes, particularly those found in the first episode. There are a lot of crisp oranges and crimsons, as well as deep, foreboding blues. I was also very fond of the spectral green used when the doll reveals the evil inside.
Beyond all this, however, is the series' opening, which is very powerful. Featuring a moody, almost languid theme song that winds its way throughout the brief animated clips, the sound is at once haunting and hopeful. The visuals, in tones of primarly gray and somber blues, are splashed with some brilliant colors and a number of different animation styles that really stand out. I was very impressed with the opening.
The character designs are somewhat standard with Mayura being perhaps the most so in her school uniform. Narugami/Thor and Heimdall are slightly more unique. Narugami/Thor is dressed in something akin to a school uniform, which he always wears, even under his many part-time job uniforms, though the green color makes him stand out a bit (his school color is blue.) Heimdall is very interesting, adorned in long purple hair (combed to cover his missing right eye), he is dressed somewhat more like the average teenager in the series, though he does sport large gauntlets. Loki and Yamino appear more influenced by Victorian fashion than any of the others, dressed in suits more common to that period. And while I'm not certain of the reason behind that decision, I actually think it works very nicely for the characters.
Whether or not Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok will appeal to you will likely be determined largely by what you're looking for in your anime. If you're looking for a great deal of action, I'd suggest this title may not necessarily appeal to you. However, if you're looking for some very intelligent humor, an interesting and endearing cast, a plot with a great deal of potential, and are willing to forgo high levels of animated action, Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok may be a very nice fit for.
34" Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115 watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: N/A
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok