The scene is Steam City, a London-ish city which represents an entire civilization run by coal and steam power. Because of steam, the city is sometimes covered in a mist. Villains take advantage of the steamy mist to hide and execute their evil plans. Only a few dare venture into what's beyond the steamy mist. They are known as the Steam Detectives: Narutaki (and his convertible all-purpose pistol), his nurse-assistant Lingling, and his Megamaton robot Gohliki.
Mostly episodic, but with recurring villains whos story arcs are fleshed out over the entire series. The plot is serviceable, in that you know everyones motivations, and can follow the events well. Most episodes establish their own setting/characters, the villain makes his move, and Narutaki tries to stop him.
The name suggests it's a detective show, but it's more like a cop drama because Narutaki takes a very hands-on approach to catching the criminals himself while his robot Goriki fights the criminals robots. There is some detective work, but the focus of the show is definitely the confrontations between Narutaki and the criminals
art that lends itself well to the steampunk theme. Heavy use of muted and earthy colours. The animation is of very respectable quality for the 90s, there's never any derp moments.
The soundtrack for this anime is it's high point. Alot of jazzy themes, many of which include vocals. They always very appropriately fit whatever scene they're played in. I had to download the soundtrack so I could listen to it more.
Narutaki and the villains are all unique and very well developed. Everyone else is a bit bland. Especially the characters who only appear for 1 or 2 episodes. They're just introduced to set up the episodes plot.
It's no masterpiece, but it is very engaging. You finish one episode and want to go to the next right away. Although it is somewhat carried by the music.
I highly recommend it if you enjoyed any of the games in Liar Softs steampunk visual novel series as they share a very similar plot structure.
Steam Detectives seems to be largely forgotten by the anime viewing fanbase. Not because it’s bad by any stretch, since it seems to have a relatively small fanbase that enjoy it, but rather because it just never really stood out among the other anime coming out at the time. Especially considering that a lot of classic anime were coming out at the time, such as Cowboy Bebop and Serial Experiments Lain, along with popular cultural juggernauts such as Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, and Sailor Moon.
Steam City is a city where the only fuel source is coal, and the only way to produce energy is a
steam engine, thus all technological advancement involved coal in some capacity. As a result, the city is often covered in a mist, and many criminals use it to their advantage. These same advancements in technology has also given rise to Megamatons, large steam-powered robots.
Our main character is Narutaki, a young detective who is also considered a child prodigy, who protects the city from various criminals, along with with his nurse-assistant Ling Ling, and his Megamaton robot named Gihliki.
The series has a lot going for it. It’s a steampunk detective show with an atmospheric noir theme to it, with a Sherlock Holmes influence, and it even has a few large robots that add some character to the series. Even the soundtrack is pretty decent. If anything, it feels like the younger brother of The Big O.
It’s very clearly aimed at a younger audience with it’s simple characters and plot, but it never feels insulting or like it’s talking down to it’s audience. There are reoccurring plot and characters throughout the show that actually lead to an actual conclusion and the series doesn’t really half-ass anything. The manga series that this is based on (which I actually recommend for the younger reading audience if they've taken an interest in this) was actually written by Kia Asamiya for his son, which I can respect.
Steam Detectives might have been passed over a lot of people who were watching one of the numerous more popular shows at the time, but it’s something that I think a few people could go back and watch and enjoy on some level, and I think that more than a few kids in the intended age rage might get something out of this series.