This is review number three hundred and sixty six. This anime is part of the Summer 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Dramatical Murder. It’s a twelve episode anime about a guy having sex with a lot of people. Well, not really but he did in the game. Anyways, let’s read on.
The anime follows Aoba Seragaki as he lives his life in the island of Midorijima. One day, some shady people start causing trouble for him and they even tried to hurt his grandmother. Aoba has no choice but to confront the man behind all of this madness. He journey inside the resort, Platinum Jail, in hopes of ending all the craziness that is following him.
Taking the Pants Off
It’s a BL visual novel anime. Yay. I’ve only ever reviewed one, and I honestly think one is enough. It’s called Togainu no Chi, and it’s a really awful anime. It’s one of the first works done by a fairly young A-1 Pictures studio, and it’s also the very first game produced by a company called Nitro+Chiral. The game company has apparently built a legacy around dudes having sex while also wanting to kill each other. It is passion interpreted two ways, and it’s executed in a manner that’ll make you want more. Dramatical Murder is also a Nitro+Chiral release, and it bears the same elements that made Togainu no Chi famous. It has a lot of gay sex, and it has a lot of disturbing scenes. I hear the bad endings in Dramatical Murder are graphic, and it’s weird considering how colorful the game is. This can only mean that Nitro+Chiral has mastered the art of f*cked up graphic storytelling, and they’re so good that one of the harmless characters can turn into a limb ripping psychopath by the end of the story. Good for them. When I entered the gates of hell that contained the plots and playthroughs of Togainu no Chi, my jaw literally dropped. I was hypnotized by the artwork though, and the voices of the characters are just too enchanting to resist. I also learned that BL visual novel is something that caters to my taste, so I’m definitely going to hell after I die. Anyways, I am skeptical with the anime version of Dramatical Murder. After all, it’s a visual novel adaptation.
Shows that originated from visual novels are often very bad. The routes are too complicated, the characters become one dimensional, and the sex scenes are gutted out. The things that make the VN a unique experience cannot be carried over to the anime. In my experience, a VN anime only has a 30% chance of success. Take Togainu no Chi for example. Poor A-1 Pictures had no idea how to properly present a story mainly centered around guys killing each other while also having hardcore sex on the side. No one can really adapt the VN and truly give it justice. It’s just designed to fail, and you can’t really blame the studios. A-1 Pictures tried to make a salvageable story out of the BL visual novel, but it’s just impossible. I thought Dramatical Murder would fall in the same pit as its predecessor. If it has the same elements as Togainu no Chi, then we’re all f*cked. This cannot end well, but thank the yaoi gawds, this anime is actually OK. It’s not really good. It’s OK. The story is decent, and it captured the main gist of the game without turning bad. If you’ve played the game, then I think the familiar world and scenes of the anime will be to your liking. If you haven’t played the game, this anime can be boring but it does have some decent pay off. The BL is hinted and actually acknowledge, the show has a clear story to tell and the characters were represented decently. It’s enough to convince you to play the actual game, and I believe that is really the true goal of a VN anime. It salutes the fan base for enjoying all the hardcore gay sex, and it entices viewers to play the game and be shocked to see the hardcore gay sex. Really, this is all a VN anime can do and I think Dramatical Murder did its job decently.
Before I start the review, I will be damned if I don’t post pictures of the sex scenes in the game. This is an element the anime left out, and viewers should understand why they can’t appear in the show. Luckily, this is a very popular game so finding the sex scenes aren’t that hard. For Togainu no Chi, I had to watch youtube clips to get screenshots of those nasty acts. For Dramatical Murder, you can drop by tumblr to enjoy it. I took these pictures from a blog called Dramaticalmurderconfessions, and I would’ve linked the pics to their site but tumblr often screws up the link when it gets too much bandwidth of something. Anyways, the tumblr site is full of things like this:
That’s enough gay sex to give you an idea of what the game is about. Let’s now talk about the anime. It follows a guy named Aoba Seragaki and the different encounters he has with people. In the game, an island is bought by a guy named Toue and he built a resort in it called Platinum Jail. The residents of the island are then shoved to a poor part of the city. Toue apparently want Aoba for some reason, and our main character is not going down without a fight. He enters Platinum Jail and, depending on who you’re with, has hardcore sex with some dudes before the game ends. The story is a bit complicated, but the game has four routes to play. When you infiltrate the resort, you follow the route of the person you’re with. The goal is to finish his route or story, but the game also has a route reserved for Aoba. Yes, he has his own route and no, you can’t f*ck yourself. Littered throughout the sex filled routes are details about Aoba regarding his past or his personality or his ties with Toue himself. It won’t become clear until you finish all four routes and then play the true ending route. This route reveals Aoba’s route, and it completes the game full circle. For viewers who aren’t familiar with the game, then the story is a bit hard to follow. In the anime, the background about Toue and his resort is never established. The show just starts with Aoba meeting with different handsome people.
As it turns out, the first six episodes of the anime actually covers the common route of the game. In visual novels, before you chase down a character to f*ck, you go through an introductory chapter that tells you the available routes and the possible stories they contain. It’s like a free roam mode before the story mode, and the first six episodes are actually dedicated to this free roam mode. This means that all of it actually came from the game. Isn’t that nice? Most VN have short common routes, but it looks like Dramatical Murder has enough to fill six episodes.
Anyways, nothing makes sense in the first six episodes. Aoba really just talk to a lot of people and they all give out different exposition dumps to Aoba. In the anime, you have to feel out the status quo first focusing on Aoba’s interaction with people. A Narrator could’ve easily covered this, but sticking to the game means exploring the island on your own. Ok, so there’s a resort and the characters are in this slum area. In these slums, there are gangs called “Ribs” and they all fight for territory. A new trend is gaining popularity in the island though. A game called “Rhyme”, where people fight each other in a virtual playing field, is becoming popular among the Ribs of the island. Some reject it, but others embrace the game. Anyways, a rumor is spreading in the island that some of the gamers are “Spirited Away”. They disappear, or they come back but they’re just mindless zombies now. Apparently, Aoba has some ties with the game. He used to play it, but he doesn’t remember it. He doesn’t remember much of his past because of convenient amnesia, but it looks like he has ties with even more dangerous people. A shady ribs group called “Morphine” starts pursuing Aoba and kidnapping his pink haired grandmother. This urges Aoba to confront the man he thinks is behind everything. The resort owner himself, Toue, but the man has already made his move. He has sent an invitation to Aoba himself to attend the tenth anniversary of the resort. Aoba just want all of this craziness to stop, so he decided to take the offer. That’s the main gist of the first six episodes, or the common route of the game. It’s confusing, but it’s also boring because the story isn’t the only thing introduced in the common route.
A good VN anime is boring. I know this for a fact, because majority of them really just carry over the dialogue and the scenes in the game. It lacks the heart and the intention of the scene. The common route of the anime is stretched because it needed to fit the interactions with the guys you can conquer. Some episodes feature Aoba just walking in a street, meeting a guy, talking to him and then walking some more to talk to another guy and so on. It lacks direction, and the scenes with the guys don’t really build into anything interesting. I honestly do not know what is happening in the first six episodes, and it made me lost motivation on finishing the anime. I was close to dropping the anime, but I mostly hang on because I do like the different guys presented as routes. They’re all eccentric in their own way, and the scenes where they all gather in one room just seem like obvious fan service for the viewers that I actually enjoy. The biggest hurdle for the first half though is our main character himself. Aoba is as directionless as the story, and this is really a pre-packaged downside to a VN adaptation. In the game, you control Aoba and the choices he makes. You’ll interact with a dude when you wish it, and that’s an element of the game the anime cannot carry over. So Aoba talks to everyone, but he just talks for the sake of it. He doesn’t establish a relationship with them, and the dialogue heavy scenes also don’t contribute to the overall story. It just happens, and the audience is forced to watch it.
Things somehow pick up in the second part though. Episode seven to twelve features ALL the routes and their potential story. In the game, one guy joins you to Platinum Jail. In the anime, everyone takes a turn with Aoba like the human bathroom that he is. Episode seven features the red haired samurai’s route, the eight features the pierced guy, the ninth is about the guy with a gas mask, the tenth features the obvious dominating type, the eleventh features Aoba’s route and the final episode features the true ending. If you played the game, you’ll actually appreciate how the anime ordered the routes. In the game, you play it in the same order to get a better idea of the story leading to the true ending. At first you’ll think that the episodes somehow lack focus and it’s a practice of short sighted storytelling, but it’s actually the complete opposite. The episodes somehow feel cohesive, and it’s able to give us a gist of the routes in the game. They obviously look confusing, but the episodes are all standalone and they do make sense by themselves. It lacks the BL element, but the anime also makes up for that.
The anime somehow hints the existence of the BL, but it obviously can’t present them. Just look at those damn confessionals! They try to keep the spirit of the game though by giving us odd lines that will really make you feel suspect. “I’m inside you” feels like it is part of the actual story, but I doubt the game ever said that. If it did, the anime really wanted that in there. If it can’t feature two dudes porking, then it’ll do its best to suggest that it is an integral part of the story. It really is, because Aoba’s relationship with the route intensifies as you endure the hardships in Platinum Jail. The best part is that Aoba is the uke, submissive partner, in all the routes and the dialogue increasingly becomes intimate as you progress to the game. Even in the bad endings, Aoba falls hard for the guy and he craves for the BL stuff. This cannot happen in the anime, so they go for the next best thing. They set Aoba up as this caring “friend” that somehow solves the internal conflict within the characters. How does he do this? He f*cks them. No, actually the second half introduces us to his special power called Scrap.
He somehow has the ability to go inside the minds of people and he can plant suggestions in their heads. This is the power the player needs to solve the internal conflict within the routes, and this aids to the ending you’ll get. If you can save them from themselves then you get a good ending, but if you screw up then the story turns batsh*t graphic. In Clear’s route, if you fail to save him then he’ll turn evil. He’ll then imprison Aoba, cut off his limbs and eyes, and then have him act as his personal doll forever and ever. This guy:
He does this:
Aoba even ends the scene by saying that he doesn’t care what happens to him as long as Clear is happy. And it’s f*cking awesome. I think the bright colors are really intended to screw with the players. Oh look at all the pretty shades of blue. I hope the blood isn’t as colorful when I reach a bad ending. Anyways, Aoba achieves a good ending in all the episodes. The thing I like about the anime is that it’s able to present all the details of each route that contributes to the true ending. Aoba’s mysterious powers, the special twist regarding his personality, his ties with Toue and everything else is covered by the anime. It’s badly rushed, but it’s good enough to reach the 30% to be considered good. This culminates in the true ending that is confusing as f*ck, but it is enough to give us a sense of the visual novel. I don’t expect the anime to truly be good, but it’s able to really give us a gist of the game. From the common route to the individual routes all the way to the true ending, the anime has gone beyond what is expected to really capture what Dramatical Murder is about. It’s missing the blood and the sex, but the main idea of the game and each route is somehow represented decently. I honestly want to play the game now because of the anime, but I’m stopping myself because I don’t want people to know I like BL visual novels. I’m really going to hell for this.
The characters are all one dimensional, and you can’t really expect much. If you flesh them out then it requires presenting their routes. You can’t do that, because the routes feature sex in them. Some of their personality transformation comes from their intimate sessions with Aoba, and it’s better to be one dimensional. Aoba himself is pretty bad though. He can’t stick to one personality. He’ll be a reliable hero for the common route, but he is supposed to turn submissive for the individual routes. This happens because he’s penetrated by the routes, and he slowly falls for them. Uh, yeah, we can’t have him penetrated in the anime. With this process gone, Aoba is now a cardboard cutout just jumping form one scene to another. He did a lot in the second half though. He saved someone from getting tattooed, watched someone stab himself in the head, infiltrate a building with a thug, reunited with his bloodline and even realized his dog is actually a shirtless hottie. Yes, one of the routes is his dog and he f*cks him too. Despite all the twists and turns though, Aoba doesn’t really contribute anything to the scenes. He just appears in them, and he mostly just do bland things for the sake of moving the story forward. Personal emotional journey? None here. Personal conflict tackled and resolved? Nope. Hot sex with hot guys? Sadly, no. Personal growth as an individual? No. He does nothing, and he is nothing. He’s a true blank slate a player can control with a joystick. He’s so bad that his dog has more personality than him. To be fair, VN anime leads suck in general so it’s not really a deal breaker. BroCon has an awful lead, but people love that anime to death.
The different routes are all interesting. The show gave us the gist of their story, so you’ll really grow to like one of them. It’s a shame that the BL is gutted out though. Some of the elements of their routes are actually more meaningful with the BL element. For example, Noiz cannot feel pain. In the anime, he cuts himself and he doesn’t care. In the game, Aoba is giving him a blow job and Noiz requests Aoba to bite him. Do you see the amount of potential taken out from the anime? Just from that line, I love Noiz already. The routes don’t do much in the anime though. Just like Aoba, they just stand there and the events in the show don’t really affect them. I do appreciate how they were kept in the loop throughout the anime. There are some scenes where all routes are present, and the show really wants to utilize them in any available fluff scene they can be crammed in. I like that aspect of the anime. Even though it’s designed to be a forced adaptation, it still tries to service the fans of the game. I feel like the people behind this anime understands the spirit of the game, and they want to really make the fans happy. They’re putting effort in this filth, and I really appreciate it. They could’ve done the same thing A-1 Pictures did with Togainu no Chi and just get through all of it as fast as possible, but the studio really tried to make the anime work. This is a boring and confusing show, but I really do feel effort is put in it.
The studio in question is Studio NAZ. For some reason, this is the last show they produced. They’ve done Hamatora and Dramatical Murder. I actually like both shows, but I think they took a big hit handling these anime. Hamatora has a second season, but they’re only credited as an in between animation crew. Damn, they took a gamble and they clearly lost. I like this studio, because they’re clearly putting effort in their shows. It’s a shame people didn’t recognize their talents. They’re actually silent now, because all of their works are in 2014. What the hell happened to them? It seems they’re just getting by now doing assistant and in between animations, but I seriously hope they bounce back. There is talent here, and I’m sure people will soon realize that. This anime is directed by Kazuya Miura, and this is his first directorial work. He’s mostly done key animation in the past, and clearly he showed off his experiences here. The fight scenes are pretty great, but I feel sorry that his first work is a f*cking VN anime. Poor first time directors are often given the short end of the shaft. This is a shame, because he is able to make a decent VN anime. Most of them suck, but Dramatical Murder clearly isn’t one of them.
Sight and Sound
Honya Lala originally drew the designs for the game. It’s hard to track her down, because Nitro+ doesn’t feature her name in her works. Anyways, I love her designs. If you can draw hot naked guys, then I’ll love your work by default. Her proportions are pretty great, and she has great range. The characters might have the same built, but they all look unique thanks to the small details Honya tacks on to them. Aside from the outfit, their height and their facial features are all different. They actually resemble common VN tropes, like the dominant type and the tsundere type, but she is able to make them unique for the character. Her illustrations are also amazing. The sex scenes are amazing, and the simple scenes of Aoba in constant pleasure being felt up by one of the characters are wonderful to see. Honya has a way with body positions and body language that fits well with Nitro+’s visual storytelling style. After all, VN is simply moving texts and still images but the visuals are really so engaging that you’ll be instantly drawn to them. I also love the use of bright colors. They give off a “harmless” feel to them, and I think this is intentional given how dark the story can turn out. The outfits are a bit exaggerated and over the top, but I think this intentional as well. There’s so many clashing outfits that your eyes just wander as you gaze and overthink about them. One guy wears a red kimino, and he’s eating next to a guy with a gas mask on. What the hell? It’s the character design that makes Dramatical Murder distinct though, and Honya Lala should be given credit with how she gave the series its identity.
The animation is pretty good. Studio NAZ might be a small studio, but they don’t skip out on really delivering a solid anime experience. In the game, fight scenes are just sound effects of fists and stuff while the image zooms in and out. This is where Kazuya is truly a genius, because he is able to make a really smooth fight scene that compliments the anime. They’re paced decently, and the animation is top notch. Clear kicking someone across the room looks awesome, and Kazuya has that in his head while reading the gawddamn VN. Give him a medal. Even the intimate scenes are animated nicely. The characters don’t have sex, but the scenes of Aoba side by side or up close with another character are all presently wonderfully. It looks like they’re about to have sex, and yes, that’s how it should look. This is the fan service I’m talking about. The animation is so intricate that facial expressions and body positions are hinting that the characters are supposed to be kissing now. The fan service also covers those boring shots of Aoba just looking cute. I know it’s done intentional when he’s playing with his dog or when he’s sleeping. The shot is often too long, and Aoba often looks like a vulnerable uke ready to be taken. It’s these subtle hints that really make the anime special for me. The anime doesn’t shy away from the BL, and it even tries to slip them in from time to time.
The anime’s OP is “SLIP ON THE PUMPS” by GOATBED. I personally do not like the song. It’s a techno song, and the lyrics are barely audible. This is on purpose though, and I think the OP is supposed to be reminiscent of the game’s OP. The OP sequence even celebrates the transition to the anime format, and I love the little touches made in the sequence. The song is forgettable though, and it’s overpowered by the amazing OP sequence. I think you’ll focus more on the sequence than the song, to be honest. The anime has a lot of ED. In the second half, the characters would sing in the episode they’re featured in. I like all the ED songs, but I’ll focus on the main ED song. It’s “BOWIE KNIFE” by GOATBED. This is just an instrumental techno song. It’s forgettable as well, and it’s also overpowered by the ED sequence. It mostly just features the characters in still poses looking all cute and handsome. It ends with Aoba looking at the camera for some reason.
4/10 “It’s boring, but there is effort given if you can look past the gutted adaptation”
I don’t expect a lot from a VN anime. They are designed to be bad, and I’m sure fans of the VN would not like this anime. It took away the important elements of the game: the blood and the sex. If you can somehow accept that this anime only has a 30% of being good, then I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s boring, but there are some good scenes here and there. Is it good enough to watch the entire twelve episodes? No. But I think the experience isn’t all that bad. It’s inoffensive to me, and I’m fine with it. If you like BL and graphic scenes, then play the game. There’s an English version out for a long time now waiting for you. If you like shows featuring handsome characters, and I know a lot of you do, then give this show a try. It peaks at episode seven, so be patient with it. It has a pay off, but I’m sure it won’t be enough for some. Watch at your own risk, I guess.