Cop Craft: Anime Review

From Left - Tilarna and Kei

With the Summer 2019 anime season, while I enjoyed El Melloi II Case Files, I found it somewhat lacking as a mystery or detective series and had hoped that Cop Craft would make up for that. Cop Craft executes its Urban Fantasy Buddy-Cop story well from a narrative standpoint, but less so from an animation standpoint.

Cop Craft is based on a series of Light Novels written by Shoji Gatou, the author of Full Metal Panic, and illustrated by Range Murata, the character designer and artist behind Last Exile and Serial Experiments Lain. The series is set in the island State of Kariana Island, in the city of San Teresa. About 15 years prior to the start of the series, a magic gate opened between our world and the fantasy realm of Semania (with the people from that realm being called alternatively Semani or Semanians).

After some initial hostilities, relations between Earth and the Semani have settled down, complete with Semani immigrants coming to settle in San Teresa, with a slew of tensions coming off of that.

Cop Craft itself follows Kai Matoba, a vice detective in the San Teresa police department. When a drug bust goes horribly wrong due to the involvement of a kidnapped fairy that multiple gangs are after, Kei is partnered up with a magical knight from Semania, Tilarna Exedilica. Where Kei is a hard-boiled detective in the classic Chandler mold, Tilarna starts out, by comparison, as something of a Lawful Asshole Elven Paladin (or a Bladesinger, depending on which edition of D&D and how you interpret the character).

After this case resolves (I’m not going to spoil how), Tilarna decides she wants to stay in San Teresa and be Kei’s long term partner. Or, if you want the short form version – Cop Craft is Miami Vice meets Red Heat with Arnold’s character being from Toril instead of the Soviet Union and is an elf played by Summer Glau instead of being played by Arnie.

The world itself is fairly well thought out – for example, the Semani don’t have photography back home, so a plot involves smuggling ordinary, perfectly legal here pornography (i.e. Hustler, Penthouse, Playboy) through the Gate. Similarly, a supporting character in one of the episodes is a Semani immigrant who has gotten really into photography.

That said, the descriptions of the immigrant experience here are clearly from someone who doesn’t have much knowledge of the experience and how it exists in the US bureaucracy. For example, the San Teresa PD has no Semani translators on staff, we don’t see a Semani family insistent that their kids speak Semani at home. Most of the Semani we see speak (basically) English like natives, and have assimilated very well. Maybe this is executed better in the novel, but it doesn’t come up that much here. I don’t know how well this compares to Bright, but on the other hand, Bright was written by an American author, Cop Craft wasn’t.

However, all of those things are dependant on the source material. It’s up to the animation studio, Millepensee, to bring it to life. Unfortunately, that’s also where it all falls down. Now, most of your general cop procedural sequences are animated very well – Tilarna playing with Kei’s cat, conversation scenes, interrogations (which, from an animation standpoint, are very different from a regular conversation), etc.

It’s when we get to the action scenes where things fall apart. There are several major sword fights where we really lose all sense of geography. In the case of one of them, it’s in a subway tunnel, where the third rail can (and does) come into play. Consequently, from a choreography standpoint, we need to keep track of that rail – as it’s both an asset and a threat for our protagonist (along with incoming trains). Unfortunately, with how the scene is blocked, it becomes hard to keep track of, until out of the blue it’s back.

Ultimately, Cop Craft is a show that left me wishing the novels would get a US release, instead of hoping that the show got a second season (or if it did – it got animated by someone else).

Currently, Cop Craft is currently available for streaming from Funimation.

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