The once peaceful city-state of Lisvalletta has found itself beset by a dangerous new drug called Anthem. The side effects of the drug allow the user to enter a state of Overdrive, wherein they mutate into superpowered beasts with inhuman abilities. With the police powerless to stop this new threat, the responsibility falls upon the Special Crime Investigation Unit SEVEN-O. To offset the dangers of this work, the investigators work under the patented "Double Decker" system, which requires them to team up in "buddy cop" pairs.
As a child, average police officer Kirill Vrubel fantasized about being a hero who would save his school from a random terrorist attack. His chance to be a hero arrives when his landlady blackmails him into searching for her lost cat. Upon arriving and falling asleep in an abandoned warehouse, Kirill finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation involving an Anthem user. By teaming up with SEVEN-O detective Douglas "Doug" Bilingam, Kirill earns his spot as the newest member of SEVEN-O. Now, with the help of this secret organization, he may finally achieve his dream of becoming a hero.
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.
If you come to this show expecting a sequel, or at least a spiritual successor to Tiger & Bunny, return whence you came. The overly smug narrator and the direction will try to convince you otherwise, but this is not the show that you were looking for.
My main gripes with Double Decker are threefold:
- The genre shift
- The needlessly complicated sci-fi elements
- And the fact that everything has to be a plottwist
The first point is pretty self-explanatory. If you go into the sequel of a samurai show after it has been advertised as the new samurai show, but for some reason they changed the setting
to a modern day highschool drama where only one character is a major samurai fanboy, you'd be disappointed too. Now the genre switch from superhero to supernatural detectives isn't too big. Especially when they kept some key similarities. Both shows are set in an ambiguously America-inspired world. The heroes in Tiger & Bunny work for agencies with strict rules, almost like a police department. Both shows feature a fujoshi-baiting buddy cop duo as the main characters with a quirky support cast on the side. And they also fight criminals who abuse superpowers in a rigid Monster of the Week format. Wow, it's almost like they're not so different after all, huh?
But that's exactly the problem. The fact that they changed the concept from superheroes to regular cops, but still had to incorporate the supernatural aspects, forces them to waste a lot of time on introducing stupid gadgets and technology that only serves the purpose of Monsters of the Week or Deus Ex Machinas, rather than intriguing you by exploring how this technology would change society. Most of the time they don't even explain the technology - in fact one of the main plotpoints is that nobody knows how anything really works. At that point it might just be magic or regular superpowers. So if they had just set the story in the same world as Tiger & Bunny where the audience accepts that some people have superpowers, it would've worked much better, even if the plot only focusses on regular cops (as opposed to superheroes).
Some of the supernatural contrivances are extremely stupid. And just like with their audience's expectations, Double Decker is VERY aware of that. The most obvious indicator for that is the obnoxious narrator who constantly lampshades how stupid or convenient some of the events are, as if that made them okay somehow. But some events don't need a narrator to rub the show's overbearing attitude in your face that "you totally thought we'd play out this old stereotypical plot for the entire 20 minutes, but lol psyche we tricked you". A twist at the end of a story arc, isn't bad at all. But Double Decker throws around twists at any moment of any episode for minor and major things alike. There's a limit on how often you can do this before turning into a parody, and unfortunately Double Decker crosses that line and just keeps driving while pretending to be serious.
If this doesn't discourage you from wasting your time on a show that's just milking your leftover goodwill from a better show, at least let me warn you that the plottwist which kicks off the final arc is David Cage levels of stupid. And I'm not talking Detroit era Cage. I mean Indigo Prophecy era Cage.