[My thoughts on Trickster. Warning for spoilers if you ever plan to watch this thing.]
I started watching Trickster with no expectations, having never really read any reviews on it, or even read up on its storyline. I didn’t know anything about the premise, the characters, or the conflict. One might think that not having any expectations would make it easier to swallow a story like this. Apparently not.
It wasn’t horrible from the get-go. I liked the first couple of episodes. Trickster seemed like an average anime – perfectly watchable, reasonably enjoyable and completely forgettable. We had a protagonist, Kobayashi, who couldn’t die no matter how hard he tried, a deuteragonist, Hanasaki, who seemed pretty upbeat and optimistic (even about helping to kill his new buddy), and the boss, Akechi, an all-knowing detective with an archenemy at his back. They weren’t charming but they seemed alright.
The idea of a detective club untangling the mysteries in the cases that they take on isn’t a novel concept by a long shot but it’s a tried and tested formula that works. I was trapped under the delusion that we were going to solve mysteries and explore the reason why Kobayashi had acquired the powers of a zombie and I was also quite certain that the story would flesh out themes like friendship and camaraderie between him and Hanasaki, eventually helping our undead hero find peace.
Of course what ensued was chaos coated liberally with angst. After the first couple of episodes, Trickster crash-lands into a pit of angst, and never quite makes it out. The deuteragonist, Hanasaki, who had initially been packaged as a ray of sunshine, makes a couple of ridiculous decisions, hopping on to the dark side before hopping back into the light. We watch as he systematically demonstrates how to make stupid life choices and spends the next ten episodes or so moping and drowning in self-pity.
Actually, the core problem with Trickster can be found right there – bad characterisation. The characters didn’t make sense. They weren’t people, they were plot devices. Hanasaki, who seemed kind and positive, turned stupid and negative in the blink of an eye. The rich guy who adopted him and then wanted him returned to the orphanage, transformed into a kind and loving father, just so that Hanasaki could feel worse about his stint in the dark side.
Let’s not forget Kobayashi. His undead powers are perfectly in tune with the needs of the episode – they work when the plot demands it, repelling bullets and the like with perfect efficacy, and don’t work when (again) the plot demands it, enabling him to be shot to move the story along. Then there’s Akechi who turns up at convenient moments to act relevant and suave. And the villain… he’s the icing on the cake.
Seriously if I have to pick any character from Trickster to pick at, it would be the villain – the Fiend with Twenty Faces. Nothing about him has any depth or sense – not his backstory, not his agenda and definitely not his massive spaceship-cum-satellite. His modus operandi for torture seems to be chaining up people in a dark room to let them spy on their social circle, while speaking to them in a half-assed attempt at brainwashing. It shouldn’t work, but it does so maybe everyone around him is stupid. And then there’s his creepy bromance with Akechi. Hearing them share a laugh at the end was possibly the worst moment of the entire show.
Right there, we have the second issue with Trickster – a pathetic plot. Things happen, yes, but they don’t seem to add up into a proper story. The entire thing is littered with loopholes, disconnections and lousy plot devices. For instance, the show sets up the conflict between Akechi and our spectacular villain from early on, even throwing in a backstory predictably involving a woman and betrayal. However, that conflict never goes anywhere and entire thing culminates in a classic kidnap-and-rescue, something that the Fiend with Twenty Faces could have done twenty times in the span of the show, given his influence and lack of other productive work.
As an added bonus, we get to watch this entire story play out with steadily declining animation quality. It is a bonus, because the awkward angles and movements were funny at times.
Altogether, for a show named Trickster, which has characters sensually cooing the word ‘thrill’ again and again, it was sorely lacking in both areas. If you have not watched this show, congratulations – you have saved precious time. If you have watched this show, well, feel free to share your experience.