Aug 27, 2015
Beobachter (All reviews)
An old favorite from late 1990s, this is a solid murder-solving ventriloquist show and a particularly memorable representation of its genre.

The show comprised of eight murder cases, presented in separate story arcs that last for 3-4 episodes each. It's very similar structural-wise with Kindaichi Shounen, which also shared a number of familiar whoddunit tropes between them; seemingly impossible scene of crime, multiple victims, tragic and elaborate backstory, etc. While none of the ideas or solutions for the murder themselves is particularly mind-blowing, it’s still plenty engrossing for the most part. The show also subscribes to the fair play rule and very generous with clues for audience who wanted to play along…

…a tad too generous, perhaps. The murderers tend to be really easy to figure out, as the show really like to shove visual lead-on and backstory information in your face that makes it painfully obvious, especially in later cases. Heck, a certain case/arc practically spoiled itself through its title alone! While I certainly prefer a predictable but fair mystery over ones that pulled off unfair solutions out of thin air, this could still be a problem—especially when we’ve figured out the murderer way ahead of the curve and had to wait impatiently while the characters are still busy freaking out. Luckily, Ayatsuri Sakon also has plenty of supporting elements that helped mitigate this.

For one, Sakon is a great detective character. Paired up with his ventriloquist puppet/channeling medium/bratty alter ego Ukon, these two provided the most unique Holmes-Watson dynamic I’ve ever seen. Watching Sakon develops and interacts with various recurring characters is very intriguing, as the show gradually reveals more of his personality and background between cases, especially during the second half of the series. Bunraku (the art of Japanese puppetry performance) itself is a prominent theme throughout the story, with a lot of screen time intertwined with Sakon’s development and depicting the culture surrounding it, which lend a distinct flavor and personality beyond your typical “genius boy solves murder” basic set-up.

Speaking of flavor, the show is very effective atmospherically, exuding an air of chilling mysticism in-between development of suspense, poignant character moments, and amusing banter between its main characters. While the animation is probably on par with what you expect from its time, the character models (drawn by the renowned Takeshi Obata) also meshed pretty well with the overall themes. What I really love, however, is the music: the soundtrack is terrific, with an array of background tunes that always solidified the mood, as well as OP + ED combination that not only very fitting, but also featured great vocals and ranked among my all-time favorites.

A thoroughly niche show, Ayatsuri Sakon probably appealed the most to those who are already card-carrying member of murder mystery fan club. But, if you’re interested in Japanese puppetry culture or just like good character drama/tragedy in general, it’s also good enough reason to give this an extended look.