The city state of Lisvalletta. Two suns rise above this city, and the people here live peaceful lives, but in the shadows, crime and illegal drugs run rampant. Among them is the dangerous, highly lethal drug "Anthem" which casts a dark shadow over the city. The SEVEN-O Special Crime Investigation Unit specializes in cracking down on Anthem. This unit operates in two-man "buddy" teams in what's called the "Double Decker System" to tackle the problem. Doug Billingham is a seasoned investigator, and joining him is Kirill Vrubel, whose abilities are mysterious and unknown.
There is always that one show, every season, that many people just sleep on. For Double Decker! Doug & Kirill’s case, it is one of those shows. Just like High Score Girl, Double Decker has turned out to be quite the gem after flying under the radar, and definitely an underrated title for the Fall season. This is Sunrise’s version of Rush Hour, a ‘cop-versus-crime’ action-comedy with impeccable timing and absurdity in its humour. Like Lee and Carter, the main protagonists are the total opposites to each other, there isn’t much they share in common, which is a good thing in this setting. Because, when
the unconventional duo is together on screen, lots of the tomfoolery and hilarity ensue to follow thanks to the clashing of their differences and strong personalities.
Kirill Vrubel grew up dreaming of becoming a hero, he didn’t want to be an ordinary cop. As the story kicks off, an opportunity presents itself as he finally gets his chance when he stumbles into a hostage situation. Luckily for him, he has a fateful encounter with Doug Billingham, an agent of the investigation unit SEVEN-O. Doug comes up with a plan for Kirill to have that moment. Shortly after, Kirill becomes the newest recruit to the investigation unit and he becomes Doug’s partner. The detectives of SEVEN-O are tasked with hunting down users of the body-mutating drug called, Anthem, an extreme substance that has been plaguing the streets of the city-state of Lisvalletta. As straightforward as that sounds, what makes the story so interesting and fun is that the plot is progressive, there are new developments and twists in almost every episode that eventually they all tie to the main plot. And when you have fun characters with the addition of great comedy, it makes the experience all the more, better.
The detectives of SEVEN-O are very interesting, different and distinctive, especially in their designs. Kirill is impulsive, cocky, and dense. Very contrasting with his Doug’s cooler personality who is the most experienced member of the investigation unit. Doug is a skilled professional in the field but also displays a laid-back, deadpan demeanour. The chemistry between the two is the main selling point of Double Decker; they discover an almost instinctive synchronization that allows them to rest into their peak energy while easily batting back and forth the ball of interaction. Hello, banter! It’s so great that it lifts simple exchanges of dialogue or action beyond the status of basic information and into “entertainment.” The supporting cast is great and very fun as well that play important roles and contribute to the goofy slapstick and gags. Especially the Narrator, I count him as one because he plays the biggest part besides Doug and Kirill. There is a bit of breaking the fourth wall here and the Narrator doesn’t overplay his role so every time he’s injected into a scene, expect a good laugh.
The worldbuilding is surprisingly well done, all the characters are squarely operating within the world's rules. A lot of intriguing themes are conveyed and it’s also interesting how this futuristic steampunk world functions—from the law enforcement, government, politics, military and the criminal world. The Ezperanza are a powerful Anthem-related criminal organization and the main antagonists of the series. The way the gang is designed, and the methods they use to operate and take action results in counterbalancing the goofiness and absurdity in the show's humour. It does a great job of implementing the darker elements without making them artificially darker or feel out of place. It executes the irreverent fun aspect as well as proving that this series can do serious, and be taken seriously as a crime story. One thing I wished is that it references Tiger & Bunny a lot more since Double Decker is sort of a spin-off and exists within the same world. And just like its predecessor, it has the markings that separate itself from most anime titles; an adult cast, diverse character designs and personalities, a goofy sense of humour, and unexpected turn of events that make for great reveals.
Talented staff usually create great anime and prove to be quite versatile in its storytelling style. And what usually follows is great visuals. Sunrise is at the helm of Double Decker and they put a lot of heart into the art, layouts and designs. The characters are very stylistic and each character as their own eccentric trait. The female characters, most notable Deana and Max are superbly designed, every bit of detail from their hair, to the clothes they wear, oozes with a swagger that matches their charismatic persona. The background art is as great as the shot composition and framing. The animation shows that director Jouji Furuta and his team have a great understanding in timing and space, and breaking down the barrier between reality and fiction that immerse us as the audience into the fiction world of Double Decker. Even the use of CG, although, admittedly, there are moments where it becomes an eyesore but its consistently solid enough and even has amazing moments—especially car chase scenes that involve Doug’s personal vehicle, which is a modified sports car resembling a DeLorean DMC-12 that is loaded with gadgets and is able to assume a high-speed mode.
The score isn’t memorable apart from a very selective few tracks, its mainly jazzy beats and synth pop. I think the OP and ED are excellent and fit well within the themes of the series. "Stereo to Monologue” by Kirisame Undertaker is an excellent song choice to open each episode with, its energetic and lively and the visuals are amazing, pay close attention to the background art, especially the architecture. "Buntline Special" by VickeBlanka is my favourite track in Double Decker and this makes it one of the best ED’s of the Fall season. A rock anthem that's packed with attitude. The voice casting for each character is spot on. The underrated Satoshi Mikami as Doug, upcoming talent in Kouhei Amasaki as Kirill and Saori Hayami as the fierce Deanna del Rio—whose is known for her wide range, are standouts. I also can’t forget the legendary Koyama Rikiya as the head of SEVEN-O, Travis “Boss” Murphy and the Narrator. This doesn’t go to say the rest aren’t good, they are all excellent. Sound effects is another thing to appreciate.
I wish more people could give this show a chance, it's criminally underrated for all the wrong reasons. This is definitely the hidden gem of the season, it’s the type of anime that the fandom hopes for when wanting something different and refreshing but always seem to flock to the same old series that are hyped by mainstream public figures and publications. Combining a gritty cop drama with an absurdist sci-fi cop satire produces excellence, and that is essentially what Double Decker is—an overperformer.
I can’t really imagine a society in our world today without laws. Hell, I can’t even begin to fandom what would happen if the police force disappeared in my neighborhood. As a police story, Double Decker runs with a plot that managed to capture the essence of crime fighting. I’m not going to lie, this show made me realize that sometimes, we can make the simplest ideas and turn it into a blockbuster.
As an anime original, Double Decker may look familiar especially those who have experienced a show in the past known as ‘Tiger & Bunny’. Produced by studio Sunrise, it didn’t take long to
realize the familiar character designs by Masakazu Katsura. Even after all these years, it feels like his talent never left us with these T&B aesthetics. I would also assume the setting of the show takes place in the same universe although that’s not clear. Regardless, watching Double Decker is a profound experience that I did not regret.
Initially, the first few episodes introduces us to the main character cast. The most prominent characters consists of the SEVEN-O Special Crime Investigation. It shouldn’t take long for viewers to understand the experience level between investigator Doug Bilingham and rookie cop Kirill Vrubel. To me, they are like Batman and Robin. In other words, Doug plays the role of an action hero while Kirill presents himself as a sidekick. I don’t want to undermine Kirill’s credibility because he does have some potential. However, my impression of his character in the beginning was not enthusiastic. He lacks experience and often ends up being the butt monkey for feminine jokes. It doesn’t help that he looks like a bishounen rather than a cop. This is an antithesis to his partner Doug as he looks much more mature, experienced, and always gets the job done. There’s a lack of chemistry in the beginning due to their conflicting personalities. However, the two does get along on a professional level and Kirill begins to learn more on the job.
Joining them includes Deana, Katherine, Maxine, Yuri, Travis, Sophie, and Apple. Each of them play a different role that compliments the team overall. For instance, Deana’s sniper skills is valuable during missions that targets dangerous individuals. Yuri possesses computer skills that provides intelligence to the team. Apple is in charge of maintaining the team’s equipment and works well with technology. You get the idea. In order to fight crime, it’s definitely important to establish character roles so this show managed to get that point across from the start. On individual levels, each character has also personalities that sometimes clashes with one another. Because let’s not forget one thing, it’s not always easy for everyone to get along on such a dangerous job. Being part of a crime fighting force is not easy when you have a group known as the Esperanza who deals with a powerful drug known as the “Anthem”.
That actually takes to the core plot of the story. Initially, I had thought the show would involve monster of the week format episodes. The plot evolves more and more as conspiracies, corruption, and the dark side of Lisvaletta is revealed. Esperanza also begins to show to the world more of their dark ambitions that clashes with law enforcement. To me, Double Decker managed to make its antagonists marketable as an international threat in their world. Slowly but surely, their sinister plans come together that really throws off SEVEN from their ordinary cases. Speaking of cases though, I regrettably admit that most of them aren’t as executed as I had anticipated. Most of them uses recycled ideas such as investigating clues, following up on leads, tracking down the suspect, and bringing them to justice. If you’re familiar with media like Batman or even Spiderman, you can probably get a sense of these cases are like. Not to mention, the criminals they deal with often resort to using dangerous chemicals and experimentations. It’s only later in the show we how far the plot deepens to test the limits of our crime fighters.
It would be unfair to say this show is a poor man’s Tiger & Bunny to be honest. Double Decker works as a successor by using its character relationships to sell its story. We find out more about some of the main characters’ past too in order to understand them more. And while this show may be goofy at times, it manages to work well for its character partnerships. There are moments where I couldn’t help but feel attached to them. Make no mistake, you don’t need to understand law enforcement to watch this show or see Tiger & Bunny. In fact, jumping into Double Decker is perfectly fine with its playful humor and oddball set of characters. It still contains its emotional content as the main characters tackles on social issues. An elephant in the room also exists with the same gender relationships. However, it’s far off from a shounen-ai and works more as a buddy cop police tale.
You probably noticed that character designs in this show looks stylish with their looks. Some of them don’t even look like detectives or like they belong in the police force. An easy finger to point at is Kirill as he’s often made fun of for his feminine features. Sunrise managed to make Kirill into a comic relief in the beginning for his lackluster skills. It’s not until later that he becomes more useful to the team. But still, I do applaud the director and studio for recreating a society of these colorful characters. Not to mention, I feel the setting of Double Decker runs well with its technology concepts; namely the Anthem used by criminals and their consequences.
It’s been around 7 years since Tiger and Bunny made its premiere. This isn’t really an upgraded or downgraded version as Double Decker is fully a show of its own. What this anime managed to do is creating a story in this fictional society that makes us believe in. Here, we have characters that risks their lives to deal with criminals and showing the dark side of their society. Yet at the same time, it also shows how partnerships can truly be meaningful when the right people work together.
Double Decker has a strong enough start with ridiculous episodic adventures and a cast of lovable idiots, with an over-the-top narrator as a nice cherry on top. However, the comedy and characters that are the show's main selling points become less inspired toward the mid-point. An example would be that only a small portion of the characters get any kind of backstory, and the team-work they need to form as cop duos rarely gets any focus.
The action doesn't help in elevating the experience either, due to the odd mix of 2D and CGI animation that makes the action too clumsy to be enjoyed on
Double Decker’s greatest downfall however is the plot-twists. Comedies love to subvert expectations and go for the less expected outcome, which is great in exploring stories and characters. Doing something unexpected is however not enough in and of itself. Twists need to either be equally as fun or even more interesting than what you normally would've expected. It's the difference between 'playing' with expectations, and 'betraying' expectations. Examples would include rushing out answers to mysteries in anti-climactic ways, robbing characters of their agency by trivializing their goals, awkwardly changing genre from crime comedy to sci-fi action, among other things I won't mention to avoid spoilers.
Double Decker is ultimately a bumpy ride, not without its merits in the first half, but I can't recommend it due to untapped potential with the characters, a plot that becomes a train-wreck in the second half, and the comedy and action that fails to shine compared to other shows one could be watching.
That's the feeling I walked away from this anime with. It was pretty funny at times, it had lots of action, the characters were likable. But, it just has the feel of something you'll forget you saw a year from now.
If I could point to two things that make it feel more like a B-rate anime, it would be the fact that it never really felt like it had an identity of its own, but was trying to appear to. It looked like it was pulling from Tiger & Bunny (Without being nearly as good), and adding
aspects of Wizard Barristers and Samurai Flamenco into it. It didn't really seem to know what kind of anime it wanted to be which is why it started as a vice detective comedy, but ended up with space colonies and attacks on military bases. And while they properly explained the transition from back alley's to jet bombers, it just felt a bit too far fetched.
The second thing that hurt it was the needless pushing of the crossdresser agenda throughout the anime. I'm not the type to automatically hate on crossdressing in anime. I really enjoyed animes like Princess Jellyfish, Maria+Holic, Tokyo Godfathers and Gokudolls. But, if you're going to do it, do it well. Episodes like the one about Max's back story and prom was just stupid and out of place and brought the anime down. It seemed more like an agenda driven episode that was shoved into the middle of the anime, trying to convince kids to accept crossdressers than a strong attempt at a back story. While that was poor, the repeated mix ups with Kirill looking like a woman was actually funny. But, they even went too far with that and broke the logic. (MINOR SPOILER): If the whole time he doesn't like it when people mistake him for a woman, why would he ever dress up in a bride's gown? Logically, they would get Rookie to do that. They really wanted to hammer home the acceptance of cross dressing in this anime for some reason, but the attempts were ham-fisted and cringeworthy. But, mostly, they were completely unnecessary to the story.
Other than that, it's really not a bad anime. It's not a great anime, but it's not bad. The animation was mostly solid, although you could tell the parts where they mixed in some pretty mediocre looking 3D animation. If studios are going to do 3D animation, they need to make it look like Land of the Lustrous. Otherwise, it's just off putting. But, I think they'll get there in time. The soundtrack was cool, especially the ending theme song.
Overall, it's an entertaining anime. It's not a waste of your time to watch it. But, even though it will give off strong Tiger and Bunny vibes, don't expect Tiger and Bunny quality. It's just not there.