There have been many cases of stolen songs happening among the idols in Yokohama District recently. Even super idol Marine Amagi's hit song "Kiseki no Uta" was taken away. At the request of Marine, the Milky Holmes team starts investigating the case.
Milky Holmes TD is what you call a "step in the right direction". Unfortunately, the season that preceded it was three steps in the wrong direction. Sure, we're back to a full-episode format instead of just 12 minutes, but TD still didn't entirely succeed in fixing the shift in style caused by Futari Wa. The shortcomings of the latter don't go completely unaddressed, but aren't really amended as much as they could've been.
Looking back, what was it that about Futari Wa that caused the entire franchise to gravitate away from its major charm points? The new heroines- The Feathers- being boring, the old heroines-
the Milky Holmes- becoming boring as collateral damage, and the production staff- presumably a bunch of drunk Japanese businessmen- did not seem very drunk at all. Futari Wa had precisely zero of the high-tension & impact comedy that's the key appeal to this franchise and instead went for a more "serious" route. The results of that approach were very surprising to "literally nobody ever".
But lo and behold, Milky Holmes TD threw The Feathers out of the limelight and placed the Milky Holmes back as the main leads. Callooh! Callay! Moreover, extended studies performed by experts such as myself in laboratories such as my parents' basement had already deduced that the entertainment factor of a Milky Holmes series is directly proportional to the uselessness of the titular detectives. In the first and second seasons, the four girls' deduction and crime-solving skills were based less on the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe and more on the likes of "grasshoppers" and "dead goldfish". They were oafs, but they were adorable oafs. They need to be oafs. That's what they're good at. And in TD, this is for the most part intact. They have their Toys back and are regarded as professional detectives, but their actions still have that aura of lunacy around them and I wouldn't trust them to carry my shopping bags from one aisle to another. To add on to this, even the few appearances The Feathers make are a significant step up from their debut. Why, if this was their first appearance I'd even be rooting for a spin-off series starring them. Haha… hah. Hm.
Well, so far so good. Milky a go-go, right?
Now, the plot (there is one, for better or for worse) is that the Milkies are hired to help an… idol? Yeah, this season's about idols. Roll with it; the Milkies' voice actresses are essentially an idol unit anyway. The problem here, though, is that the particular idol the Milkies are in charge of helping makes The Feathers look like Mr. fucking Bean. This sentient black hole hellbent on sucking any traces of fun surrounding it answers to the name "Marine".
Marine is a super-popular idol who specializes in mediocrity. One day, during one of her concerts, the troll dolls who supply Marine with the gift of "BEING ABLE TO SING" get stolen and scattered, building up a "villain of the week" routine where the loveable Milkies and the lov… and Marine corner some shady character, and compete against them in a Stand user-esque confrontation. The weekly troll doll is then retrieved; rinse and repeat for 12 episodes. As you might have guessed, this is the season's key appeal and the source of most of the gags. Framing the actually decently amusing (if not constricted) individual hijinks the group gets into in search of troll dolls is the main plot, which revolves primarily around Marine's relationships and her past.
Evidently, one of the head honchos among the drunk businessmen in charge of the franchise was vehemently against the idea that TD would be completely stripped down of half-baked attempts at a serious plotline (I'd pin this blame on Hiroshi Nishikiori, the new director of Milky Holmes as of Futari Wa and TD, but I'd much rather keep imagining nameless drunk businessmen). Paradoxically, the franchise he's working on is one in which a guy once tried to take over the world with the power of lard, meaning there's only so much you can do to make the audience take it seriously. This fact, however, did little to stop our brave alcoholic trooper. Almost every single appearance in which newcomer Marine appears includes an inexplicable attempt to dampen the otherwise upbeat tempo of the episodes. Ever heard of a "comic relief"? Well, Marine is a tragic relief. Her interactions with the characters around her, particularly the main four, are stunningly out of place. In fact, the only characters with whom Marine has a chemistry that seems remotely natural are other newcomers to TD, such as her fellow idols. This raises several important questions: why? What's the point of including these characters to begin with? To what end was this attempt at a musical drama created? Are the Milky Holmes really not entertaining enough on their own? If idols fans are really that much of a necessary niche to appease, couldn't they have at least chosen to make the Milky Holmes idols? Shit, they're the ones who sing the majority of the insert songs. I'd go as far as to say that the songs performed by the fantastic four are better than the ones by Marine (Emi Nitta). So are the performances by Kokoro (Yoshino Nanjo). This is quite a meaningful compliment, too, since I consider the soundtrack to overall be one of the strongest parts of the season. All things considered, then, what is the point in Marine being a character at all?
Unfortunately, there's yet even another characterization problem- this one with the Milky Holmes themselves. Sure, they're relatively incompetent oafs, and as previously established, this is a good thing. On the other hand, it's… forced. This mostly takes form in the lack of personality differences between the four: in seasons 1 & 2, they were all insane doofs, but each had her own special way of expressing that, whereas in TD (and Futari Wa, and Alternative), all four are essentially the same character in a different color scheme and with a different tone of voice. The studio had the basic understanding of what is needed to make the Milky Holmes likeable (read: what made the first two seasons as good as they were), but did not go the extra mile to implement anything BEYOND the absolute basics.
The individual "monster-of-the-week" confrontations are moderately entertaining, a lot of the running gags of the franchise are acknowledged, and Kokoro exists and is exactly what you would expect her to be (which is important, because Kokoro is the safety net in case the Milky Holmes aren't being funny enough). And yet, TD was still not a worthwhile (belated) successor to Dai 2 Maku. What would it have taken? Removing Marine and her cohorts from the plot, or otherwise replacing them with a cast more appropriate for Milky Holmes? That would've been a start, but then, other characters need retooling as well, as does the direction of the comedy in itself. The comedy being there at all is an absolutely welcome change from Futari Wa, but a lot more needs to be done. Rather, a lot LESS needs to be done, and the tried-and-true formula of the earlier seasons should really be given another shot- yes, even at the expense of variety.
Will Milky Holmes even continue on to a fifth season? Who knows? It's soul-crushing to admit, but honestly, I'm not very confident about having this franchise fulfill my cravings for a wild, zany comedy about four girls with a pink-haired lead voiced by Suzuko Mimori anymore.
For those expecting more of Season 1 and 2, prepare for disappointment. For those who enjoyed the more light hearted Futari Wa Milky Holmes, I'd say the same. This anime is a sort of compromise between the poorly received FWMH and the original two seasons, and it generally fails on all accounts.
The main girls have been relegated to daily cameos, with their personalities merging into one. Everything that made them individual characters has been forgotten, and they've basically been flanderized. Arsene and the original phantom thieves, and the genius 4 (other than Kokoro) are not in this, and the main character is a new
face, an idol who also has the same toys. What follows is an incoherent mess that lacks the charm of the original series but brings nothing new either.
I feel like a lot of the original writers left, and what remains cannot remember what made Milky Holmes popular in the first place. The new characters are mostly charmless, and the old ones are different and seem forced.
From what I understand, unlike the general free-form 'anything goes' scripting of the original 2 series, this one was more tightly scripted. Watching it feels less like the seiyuu having fun with their roles, and more like a bad attempt at a magical girl parody.