Millionaire Detective: Balance Unlimited is the anime series about a co-protagonist who buy anything except a break for their show. It’s a show that came out the year that officers from Minneapolis Police Department murdered George Floyd, leading to a new wave of Black Lives Matter protests that not only spanned not just the United States, but Japan as well. It’s a show that got postponed for a cour due to production difficulties from COVID-19. Consequently, as a part of that, it’s a series that wrapped up its season just in time for the officers who murdered Breanna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky to not face charges for their actions. And it’s about a co-protagonist who uses their astronomical, Nagi Sanzenin levels of wealth to get away with breaking the law under the auspices of having a badge.
The premise is one that, last year, or two years ago, I would probably have watched with minimal hemming and hawing. Millionaire Detective follows two detectives from City Desk of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, Haru Katou is a long time member of the MPD who was part of the more prestigious Division 1, before being transferred to the City Desk after an unspecified incident in the past. And then there’s Daisuke Kambei, heir to a spectacularly wealthy multinational corporation that puts him in the global 1 percent, and who appears to have basically bought his way into a post at the City Desk for an unspecified reason, which is expanded on later in the series.
Haru tries to be a very good cop, doing solid investigative work, with a strong sense of empathy, not only for the victims of the cases he’s investigating but also trying to understand the suspects as well. Daisuke’s main tool is a metaphorical hammer, and he views every problem as a nail, and Daisuke’s metaphorical hammer is his
penis bank account. There is no problem he won’t throw money at. Together, they fight crime.
Again, if I watched this in 2015, I would probably have been down for it. Even in 2018 I might have really eaten this up. Here, I enjoyed it a little, but the overall context in which I was watching it, one which the creators of the show could not have anticipated, but which cannot be avoided, impacted my enjoyment.
Now, the original novels that Millionaire Detective was based on were written in the ’70s, while this show tries to update the premise to the 21st century with… varying success. Probably the most ham-handed example of this is the show-runners basically shoving a whole bunch of Marvel Cinematic Universe references into the show, all around Daisuke. Daisuke has an AI Butler like Tony Stark and JARVIS.
Later on, the MCU references shift into a bunch of heavy Black Panther references, from Daisuke’s nanotech not-Vibranium suit, the bad guy’s enforcer’s wrist-mounted pulse gun that’s clearly modeled after Klaw’s unit, to the fact that the ultimate McGuffin in the film is, basically, not-Vibranium.
It all feels like the writers went, when adapting a novel or series of novels that’s almost 50 years old, when trying to modernize them for the present day, looked about the amount of work that would come from modernizing in their own way, and instead decided to rip a whole bunch of stuff out of the MCU instead.
Otherwise, the animation is fine, the acting is okay, all of that is done fairly well. It’s just the story never quite works out. The story tries to give Daisuke a character arc where he’s learning to check his privilege, but it sticks an epilogue on the story that scuttles that. It ties the demonstration of Haru getting over the issues that lead to him leaving Division 1 over him being able to fire his gun again, when being a police officer in the MPD who carries a gun is, from what I gather, fairly rare, and considering that the issues that people are protesting right now as part of Black Lives Matter include the overuse of firearms by police officers, especially in cases involving Black people.
I can’t particularly recommend the show. It’s an okay show – I’ve seen worse, even this season (Gibiate in particular) – but it’s not something I feel I can recommend at the moment.
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