What They Say:
Nothing on Midorijima has been the same since the powerful Toue Konzern forced the original population into the Old Residential District and converted the rest od the island into the exclusive resort, Platinum Jail. Despite thar, Aoba Seragaki has tried to build a normal life for himself, working part-time in a junk shop and hanging out with his friends and his A.I. “pet” AllMate, Ren. But when Aoba is drawn into the shady underworld that surrounds the popular virtual game Rhyme, the universe that he thought he knew falls apart. If déjà vu describes the sensation of experiencing something that you think you may have done before, what is it called when other people seem to recognize you for doing thinks that you don’t remember doing? All Aoba knows is that there are gaps in his memory, people are disappearing, and a secret buried in his own mind may be the only keys to revelation in DRAMATICAL MURDER!
There’s a lot going on in the audio department with DRAMAtical Murder, but it’s not busy. Sound is important to the premise in the anime, and from dialogue, to music, to sound effects, the whole thing is pretty clean. Actually, the only thing I didn’t like in the audio of this series was the opening credits, and the most often used ending credits, but that was just the kind of music that was used. I found it chafing. It only appears once, that I can remember, in the actual episodes, though, and a lot of the other closing animation sequences have music I really enjoyed.
I don’t have anything bad to say about DRAMAtical Murder’s visual content. This anime is pretty. The animation is clean, the colors are sharp and clear, and it’s clear that the artists were aiming for the “pretty” aesthetic. There’s a lot going on with colors, but, again, it generally doesn’t seem busy.
As is common with Sentai Filmworks, the case is starndard sized with a double-sided hinged disc holder, with a third disc secured to the back of the case. The cover art is attractive and doesn’t put too much focus on any one character in the front, showcasing the protagonist, Aoba, and all of his… romantic interests. The back is nice and clean, with a cool color scheme that matches Aoba’s wardrobe, and a handful of screenshots from the series. It’s not too busy, but it isn’t too busy either.
Simple and straightforward, the menu consists of an episode list, language selection, and special features—which only involve previews for other Sentai Filmworks titles on the first disc, though every disc has clean opening and closing animations.
There isn’t a lot in the way of extra with this series, but if you are a fan of opening and closing animations, like me, it does offer the clean opening and closing animations. For this series, that is kind of cool, since a few of the episodes have their own unique closing animation and music.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Inconsistent, unsettling, and at times confusing, DRAMAtical Murder has a pretty bumpy start. For the first three episodes the viewer suffers through pretty much nothing but cheesy intros and cheap boy-love baiting. There are some hooks that eventually tie to the plot, but for the most part, there’s nothing substantial to the early episodes. All three of them could be rolled into one with the removal of a lot of pointless character interactions, and then we might have a substantial introduction to the series. Instead, every time it seems like a plot might be picked up, we are thrown into another fan service interaction that actually detracts from any attempt the series might have been making at engaging the viewers in a functional story.
It isn’t until the last episode of the first disc, and the first episode of the second disc, that the series starts taking itself seriously, and finally we begin to be engaged in a plot. If you can hold on that long, then it might be worth watching DRAMAtical Murder for a bit of entertainment, but be warned, the plot does have some holes—and it still takes a lot longer to get anything done than it should. Every time the plot begins to move forward we have to slow down and explore the interactions between Aoba (the protagonist) and his friends and allies.
While we are on the topic of Aoba and his friends, let’s take a minute to acknowledge their part in the series. Aoba is a primarily submissive personality who both stands alone, and yet is connected to every important organization in the new residential area of the island the story takes place on. To counteract Aoba’s generally submissive streak, he has a deep, dark, secret side—later identified as his ”desire”—who is much more dominant and self-assured. As is common with a split personality situation like this, Aoba has a lot of gaps in his memory that aren’t explained until hurriedly somewhere near the end of the series.
Aoba’s full-time companion is his A.I. pet, a fluffy, adorable little dog whose tongue is always sticking out. Ren isn’t just a typical AllMate, though, even if he doesn’t seem to be any different from any of the others seen in the series until the very end. As it turns out, he’s actually a part of Aoba, or he was, and when Aoba lost parts of his memory he uploaded himself into the AllMate. Now he’s madly in love with Aoba, though he believes his feeling to be unrequited. All of this becomes the focus of one of the latest episodes of the series as Aoba interacts with a humanoid version of Ren inside of his own mind. We’ll get back to that, though. I promise.
Aoba’s childhood friend is Koujaku, and for all of his hatred of Yakuza, he has that old guard yakuza look. From the scar across his face, to the tattoos on his… everywhere, to the kimono and sword on his back. I’ll be honest, out of the romantic interests beyond Ren, Koujaku was the one I was most invested in. There is a lot of back story between Aoba and Koujaku, and the memories that are revealed throughout the series help to define both characters. Still, Koujaku is just what he is meant to be, the childhood protector stereo-type.
A few other key players are Noiz, the player of a virtual game called Rhyme who won’t let Aoba be until he rematches with him, Clear, a mysterious gas mask-wearing fellow who insists that Aoba is his Master, and Mink, the strong, quiet, violent type who kidnaps Aoba, then helps him find his grandmother just so he can demand a favor in return later.
Now that we have the cast, in place, let’s move on to plot. Deep, I mean deep, into the series, we finally learn that Toue Tatsuo, the developer of an elite resort by the name of Platinum Jail (What? Who doesn’t see that going horribly awry?), is actually using a virtual fighting game named Rhyme to test out his mind control research. He is also using Platinum Jail for his experiments—and anyone who didn’t see that coming probably deserves it. However, he needs Aoba to complete his plan, since Aoba’s voice holds the power to control the people around him.
Aoba, of course, wants nothing to do with that idea, and he and his friends decide to break into Platinum Jail and give Toue the what-for. Except, that very same night, Aoba, Koujaku, Noiz, and Clear all receive invitations to Platinum Jail. And what do they do? They go, of course. They waltz right in, and then they are surprised when they are attacked again and again by the people who make them weakest. This, of course, gives Aoba the chance to slip inside of each of his friends’ heads and confront them, while learning more about them. Aoba all but professes his love for each of his friends in return. It’s a good thing he has a lot of love to give, but I wonder how much they all really want to share him.
Anyway, moving on. Finally, three or four episodes later, we get to the climax of the story as Mink busts in and demands that Aoba go with him to the heart of Platinum Jail, and that he downloads a program into Ren that will probably break him. Aoba, after some argument, finally concedes, and off they go. Thank you, Mink, for finally moving us along toward climax again—not that climax, you pervs.
It’s nice that when Aoba slips into Mink’s head, Mink doesn’t give in to Aoba’s affection, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t fall prey to his power later. Actually, Aoba manage to “fix” Mink on accident, allowing him to defy Toue’s mind control when they face off against him. An here is where the holes in this plot begin to show up again.
First, it seems that Toue has Aoba’s twin brother, Sei, who also has the power of mind control, but through his eyes rather than his voice. Sure, Sei’s powers are weakening, but Toue has already modified himself with the mond control powers, he doesn’t beed Aoba at all. He just wants him. After a confrontation between Mink and Toue, Mink and Aoba split up. This gives time for Aoba to commune with Ren. I mean, himself. I mean… Ren.
Long story short, although Ren was originally a part of Aoba’s personality, his ability to reason, he is now his own being. This isn’t any more ridiculous than the A.I. Clear who gains a heart (And by heart, I mean soul) by choosing to make Aoba his Master of his own free will. If we let one slide, we have to let the other slide. Anyway, Ren confesses that he can no longer live with the agony of his unrequited feelings for Aoba, and Aoba assures him that they are, indeed, requited.
And we jump abruptly back to plot. Toue, who Aoba just ran away from, would like to meet with him, and Aoba, ever the people pleaser, obliges. This leads to a Rhyme fight, which will decide who, of the two, has the stronger ability to control others. Aoba, of course, wins, and runs on to find his brother, Sei. As he runs past Toue, the villain of our story commits suicide—and not only does no one care, they don’t evens seem to notice the report of his very stylish golden pistol.
And here we are, at the resolution of our story. Aoba’s brother wants to be set free, and though Aoba doesn’t want to do it, he obliges. Then, he complies with Sei’s last wish, accepting his “desire”, the other part of himself who, up until now, has done nothing but demand he “destroy” pretty much anyone and everyone he confronts, including his friends. Aoba explains this away as the other half of him just trying to get his attention, but this is one of many questionable tie-ups.
Questionable tie-up number two? Everyone escapes, everyone is safe, but when Aoba pulls his AllMate from his back, it no longer speaks. Ren is gone, and the AllMate barks. Apparantly, this is all that AllMates are supposed to do, act like normal animals—except all of the other AllMates attached to his friends and acquaintances speak so… What?
Aoba is heartbroken, but as he tells us what everyone else is doing, he seems to be pretty okay. Right up until he gets phone call that his brother, Sei, is in the hospital. He rushes there to find that it is not Sei waiting for him, but Ren in Sei’s body. Yay! Happy ending! (Take that as you will.) Aoba not only has his normal life back, and his lover, but he also has his brother back. His lover in his brother’s… body.
Hey, everyone has their kink. And don’t worry, If DRAMAtical Murder hasn’t hit yours in the last 12 episodes, you’ve still got the OVA…
If you value the romantic buzz you get from the later half of this series, viewer beware… don’t watch the OVA. Just don’t. Now, if you prefer the feelings that a disturbing, and sometimes confusing, mixture of softcore porn and violence induces, carry on. With everything from just non-consensual handjobs and oral—yes, I said just, keep reading—to two, count them two, scenes involving dismemberment, and even some were-dog love, this episode is jam packed with bloody boy-on-boy love. There is no romance here, unless you consider carrying your lover’s shrunken head in your pocket romantic. (This doesn’t actually happen, but it is pretty much what I figure follows one particular scene.) However, there’s a lot of Aoba getting his rocks off, whether he wants to or not.
Seriously, a little warning about tone change would have been nice.
DRAMAtical Murder starts out pretty silly, but if you can make it through the first disc it picks up an acceptable amount of plot, rather than just taunting, teasing, cheap boy-love thrills. The relationships Aoba has with his friends and allies are all explored in more depth, and Aoba himself becomes a more solid character, but if you value your sanity, or any kind of warm and fuzzies, don’t go on to the OVA. Then again, if you like dark, bloody, disturbing, romance destroying visuals then go right on ahead.
English Dolby Digital 2.0, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles, Clean Opening & Closing Animation
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A+
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 24th, 2015
Running Time: 352 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
HP 15z-af100 laptop with AMD R2 Graphics, Super Multi DVD burner, DTS Studio Sound, and earbuds.