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Old 2012-05-09, 19:03   Link #1
Marcus H.
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Question What Makes an Anime Series Deserving To Be Called a Mystery Anime?

I think that with Hyou-ka airing right now, it's time to ask this question on Mystery anime.

Last year, a mystery anime called Gosick finishes its 24-episode air. It was a bumpy ride for many, and it was dropped by some before Episode 12 due to "lacking the mystery". Well, I can't blame them, there are some mysteries that relied solely on Victorica's Fountain of Wisdom, which at times can be called as a Deus Ex Machina.

Also, it turns out that the story is more character-driven than mystery-driven.

I haven't watched Hyou-ka, but I think it's also going to suffer from the same criticisms as Gosick as I think it's going for the same approach: weak mysteries with more pronounced character development.

With these [Mystery] anime considered as [not Mystery] anime, which anime series truly have what it takes to be called a Mystery anime? Is there a certain criteria for it? Does one have to throw character development out of the window (see Detective Conan's inability to solve the very first case on Episode 1)? And would those not suited to the criteria be dismissed as [not Mystery] anime?
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Old 2012-05-09, 19:10   Link #2
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Well, my only guess is if the series ends and leaves the viewers cluesless (suspense) then it may be a Mystery Anime. Going deeper, my ideal mystery anime involves riddles and puzzles that triggers a mood to the characters (eg. Another). Something that includes unexplained deaths (eg. Detective Conan). Mystery animes are portrait as dark leaving views asking what and who all throughout the show.
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Old 2012-05-09, 20:16   Link #3
SeijiSensei
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I'd consider these shows to fall into the mystery genre. None of these questions are spoilers. They're all issues raised in the early episodes.

Shion no Ou - Who murdered Shion's parents?

Ghost Hound - Who kidnapped Tarou and his sister?

Dennou Coil - Why did Kanna die?

Planetes - Who are the terrorists? Are we at risk?

Baccano! - Who are all those people on the Flying Pussyfoot, and what are they up to?

Mouryou no Hako - A young woman goes missing after an accident. Where is she? Is she alive? What about that man on the train carrying a box with a girl's apparently alive head inside?

Bakeneko/Mononoke - Each story arc concerns the origin of a mononoke, something that can only be determined by answering three questions about the nature of the beast. Once those questions are resolved, it becomes possible to slay the demon.

Yakushiji Ryoko no Kaiki Jikenbo - Various mysteries confront Ryoko in her duties as the head of the "Supernatural Division" of the Tokyo Police

Monster has many features of a mystery, though we know who the villain is from the outset.

Nijuu Mensou no Musume has some mystery features as well, particularly what has become of Nijuu Mensou himself. The anime and manga are based on the works of "Edogawa Rampo," the pen-name of Japan's most famous mystery author. Chizuko and her two friends form a group they call the "Detective Girls."

These shows vary in the degree to which their mysteries are, in fact, mysterious.
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Old 2012-05-09, 20:28   Link #4
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For me at least a good mystery must have intrigue! Despite how in Monster we were showed who the villian was, there was still a great deal of intrigue since this story did take place right after the "wall" came down, plus a great many characters were introduced that kept you wandering how they were connected with Johan.
While its not requisit, a good mystery should keep the villian a mystery till the dectective finds him/her/them.
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Old 2012-05-09, 20:39   Link #5
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They're not mutually exclusive. Kamisama no Memochou was focused largely on the characters and other silly stuff but it actually had mystery and plot and shit. Whether it worked or not is another issue, but it definitely pronounced its purpose.

It needs to drive the show somehow. Even Okami Kakushi and Chaos;head are mysteries, for example.

Hyou-ka I don't consider it a story much less a mystery, so it's hard for me to be fair
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Old 2012-05-09, 20:49   Link #6
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I think that SeijiSensei is on the right track.

In a true Mystery show, the mystery drives the plot. The show is either about one specific question (like the ones that SeijiSensei listed) or if the show is more episodic, each episode is centered around its own particular question.


With this in mind, I think that a really good, recent example of a Mystery show was Un-Go. In the early going, each episode centered around a mystery, typically of a "Whodunnit?" nature. Later on, you had story-arcs that spread across multiple episodes, with each arc dedicated to certain mysteries.

The mysteries of Un-Go were arguably of variable quality (in the sense of how difficult they were for the viewer to figure out), but the mystery was consistently "front and center" in the content of each episode. Sure, it was still a character-driven show in many respects, but many of the key characters themselves had an inherent passion for solving mysteries.


I've only seen the first two episodes of Hyouka, but my impression of it so far is that it approaches its mysteries as nice side-attractions to spice up the show a bit, and also perhaps to differentiate it some from other "school life" anime (I use the term "school life" for lack of a better term). There's nothing necessarily wrong with Hyouka's approach, but in a true Mystery show, the Mystery is front and center. You can tell this by how much time the characters spend focusing on the main mystery of the episode, and by how engaged they are by it.

In Un-Go, the mystery of the episode would take up the majority of the episode, if not virtually all of the episode in some cases. In Hyouka's first two episodes, the mysteries might take up a few minutes, if I had to guess.

Now, maybe Hyouka is just "warming up" here, so to speak, and will become more mystery-focused the deeper you go into it.


One final point - Keep in mind that a show can really be a true Mystery show, but also simply be bad at how it executes its mystery element. Deus Ex Machinas can indeed be a huge problem in mystery shows. While Mystery fans are used to their brilliant Sherlock Holmes-esque Detectives who cleverly deduce/uncover the truth, it shouldn't feel too magical. It's a thin line that can be hard to see, but it's there.
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Old 2012-05-09, 21:10   Link #7
Marcus H.
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Quote:
While Mystery fans are used to their brilliant Sherlock Holmes-esque Detectives who cleverly deduce/uncover the truth, it shouldn't feel too magical. It's a thin line that can be hard to see, but it's there.
This is probably what happened to the first arcs of Gosick that caused some of the fans to be disappointed.

Spoiler for details from Gosick:


Surprisingly, I haven't watched the series SeijiSensei mentioned (except Baccano!, which is in my To Watch list), and many of the supposed "mystery" anime in my list had too little mystery in it. Is it a lapse of judgment for certain [non-Mystery] series to be considered as mystery, then?
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Old 2012-05-09, 22:03   Link #8
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Adherence to the Knox Decalogue?

But seriously, "mystery" is one of those loosely defined genres. It often overlaps with other genres like suspense and horror. What Hyouka does differently is to combine it with a kind of slice-of-life feel (another loosely defined genre).

Anyway, for me, classifying a work as a "mystery" depends on a few things. Firstly, it must bring up a question that needs to be answered, but it doesn't stop there. Next, it should revolve its plot around answering the questions it brings up. And most importantly, it must actively engage its viewers in the pursuit for answers by leaving clues and such.

That's my take on the whole matter.
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Old 2012-05-10, 01:56   Link #9
SeijiSensei
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus H. View Post
Surprisingly, I haven't watched the series SeijiSensei mentioned (except Baccano!, which is in my To Watch list), and many of the supposed "mystery" anime in my list had too little mystery in it. Is it a lapse of judgment for certain [non-Mystery] series to be considered as mystery, then?
I'm surprised, too, Marcus. Some of those shows, like Dennou Coil and the Apothecary shows Bakeneko and Mononoke, routinely get high marks from reviewers. They're certainly in my all-time top-ten. The Apothecary shows have the most obvious mystery quality because each arc poses a specific problem for the Medicine Seller to solve and to do so he must answer the three questions about each mononoke's "form", "truth" and "reason" (using the Black-Sheep translation; Shinsen's is subtly different).

The mystery in Dennou Coil comes and goes throughout the show. In many episodes there's little concern about Kanna's fate or how the dennou ("cyber") world may or may not be endangering the physical one. The mystery aspects become more pronounced in the second half of the show.

Mouryou no Hako is probably the other strong candidate here if you're seeking a more traditional mystery since the main problems that require solving appear in the first episode and are resolved in the end. The final episode has a certain Agatha Christie quality with the various suspects all gathered together to hear the story the detective has unravelled.

Shion's parents are murdered at the very opening of the show so the mystery is placed before us from the outset. However it's not the only story line, nor I think the most rewarding. It moves in parallel with young Shion's development as a professional Shougi player. She's such a compelling character that I found myself caring less about figuring out who the murderer was and focusing more on her character development.
Spoiler for opinion about how things are resolved:

The terrorism plot in Planetes is also something of a sideshow in comparison to the main story which is a sci-fi slice-of-life with some romance. The mystery is resolved pretty well at the end, though.

Ghost Hound is an interesting show, but ultimately it's a bit of a mess. The mystery attached to Tarou's kidnapping motivates the story, but at heart it's more of a coming-of-age drama with a big dose of mysticism and some nods in the direction of neuroscience and psychiatry.

Ryoko starts off more of less as a monster-of-the-week show, though there's a stronger mystery thread in the second half. The show's real appeal is the witty script and the interplay of its two main characters, the rich and gorgeous Ryoko and her cautious male second-in-command Junichiro. Ryoko yearns to bed her subordinate, but he is either too obtuse to notice or too aware that it might have unfortunate consequences for his career. You've got to give Jun credit; I'm not sure I'd be able, or want, to resist Ryoko's stunning looks, smarts, and charm.

The first third of Nijuu Mensou no Musume ("Daughter of Twenty Faces") has no real mystery to it as it takes us through a number of capers by the master thief and his band. After he disappears there's more of a mystery focus. Twenty Faces was actually the Professor Moriarty character in Rampo's novels who is pursued by his Holmes, a detective named Akechi. Akechi appears from time to time in the anime to assist the "musume" Chizuko in her quest to locate the missing thief.
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Old 2012-05-10, 02:18   Link #10
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Ask yourself:

Is this series mysterious?



Of course, that's not the only criteria. Several series can be mysterious and still not be a mystery series. Some mystery solving has to be done by the characters too.
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Old 2012-05-10, 09:25   Link #11
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Considering my mystery series of choice is Detective Conan, I have rather high standards for things that try to classify themselves as a "detective" or "mystery" series. Basically, it needs to have solveable mysteries. Ones that are solveable via clues presented prior to the characters' deductions. And yeah, I don't consider suspense with an unknown element to be a mystery series. That's a suspense-<insert other element here, such as horror, slice of life, etc>.
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Old 2012-05-10, 11:04   Link #12
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I think a clear distinction should be made between murder mystery/detective story and mystery.

The first is a specific genre with a stricter definition as you require a main character that is or acts as the detective and whose main purpose is to expose the truth behind a crime.
Mystery in its general meaning includes a lot wider range of stories, that can (and often do) include supernatural and may not be necessarily focused on a particular mystery.

All the titles mentioned by SeijiSensei can be classified as Mystery or as having mystery elements, but only shows like Detective Conan can be considered "murder mystery" or "detective stories".
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Old 2012-05-10, 11:35   Link #13
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There's a difference between having questions in the plot that need to be resolved and being a mystery. If not, there would be no reason to exclude shows like Eureka Seven AO from being a mystery because there's the question of what happened to Ao's parents.

Also, Gosick was definitely a mystery, no matter what people like to say about it. You can argue against the quality of the mysteries, that's fine, but to say that the show didn't have any mysteries or didn't have it's plot moved by mysteries is ridiculous.
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Old 2012-05-10, 19:31   Link #14
Marcus H.
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^ Well, I'm just echoing the criticisms Gosick had throughout its run, but I personally have no problems with the cases involved.
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Old 2012-05-11, 00:56   Link #15
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The number one qualification: it must be mysterious.



*shot*

Okay, well, I'd consider any anime to be a mystery one if the plot revolves around questions which the characters try to solve. The answers SHOULD be hidden from the audience unless the audience is very perceptive.

*Any detective genre should automatically qualify.
*Not all horror anime are mysteries but quite a few of them seem to be so.
*Although Fushigi Yuugi literally translates to "Mysterious Play", I don't consider it to be mysterious at all.

Various Genres of Mystery Anime:

(Magical Girl) Princess Tutu, Madoka Magica
(Horror) Nightwalker, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni
(Shounen/Action) Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok, Spiral~Suiri No Kizuna, Detective Conan, Rozen Maiden, Gosick

Mystery Manga:
Zodiac P.I.
The Thirteenth is Friday?
^both of these are shoujo, believe it or not!
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Old 2012-05-15, 15:28   Link #16
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It's really not that difficult. If it revolves around a mystery that I would consider it of the mystery genre.
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Old 2012-05-15, 15:44   Link #17
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Hmm ... well, for me a "Mystery anime" in the sense of a genre definition usually involves actual detectives solving crimes. And in this sense Gosick (particularly when Victorique was being used by her half brother for solving cases), Kamisama no Memochou (here Alice is very much a private investigator) and Un-Go all fit the bill here.

But that does not mean that other genres cannot have elements of solving mysteries intertwined therein, like Hyouka does as a recent example.

Mystery anime to me is a much more specific categorization, whereas the mysterious is a very general story/background/etc. element that is present in any number of different genres, although many would agree that it varies greatly in it's effectiveness.

As to whether Hyouka could be called a "Mystery anime", I would tentatively say no, but with the understanding that for me Mystery anime involves outright detectives solving crimes. I would say, though, that unraveling mysteries is the main element of "activity" to the series. Overall, though, I think the main thrust of the series is something different ... but since that gets into spoiler material (and is admittedly only based on reading the first novel) I will stop there.
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Old 2012-06-02, 02:52   Link #18
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Steins;Gate should be the best basis to this.
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