Anime Review: DRAMAtical Murder Complete Season (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 12.02.2017

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DRAMAtical Murder Complete Season (UK Rating: 15)

Based on a BL visual novel game (BL being short for "Boys' Love," also known as Yaoi), DRAMAtical Murder sees protagonist Aoba have his home ripped away from him before being dragged into a shady underworld around gang wars and VR battles, all while being romanced by all the new men in his life. This complete collection is available from 13th February, courtesy of Manga Entertainment.

There is somewhat of a story here, but it's not a very good one. Aoba Seragaki lives on a small man-made island in Tokyo, which suddenly gets purchased by a mega-rich entrepreneur. He uses the island to build a huge amusement park known as Platinum Jail and forces the old residents of the island - Aoba and his friends included - to a slum area. The island has gangs around two different games, firstly there is "Ribsteez" where gangs of tattooed kids fight in the street and tag their territory, and then there is "Rhyme," a virtual reality battle game that's slowly taking over the old fashion Ribsteez.

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DRAMAtical Murder is immediately identifiable as being adapted from a romantic visual novel, setting Aoba up in the usual role to be surrounded and wooed by numerous pretty (bishi) boys. The first episodes introduce a veritable smorgasbord of trope characters, which obviously each account for a different route for Aoba. There's Aoba's childhood friend Koujaku, a Robsteez gang leader, and head of a Yakuza family, a hacker called Noiz who has no sense of pain (the token tsundere), Clear is a Yandere weirdo who wears a gas mask and calls Aoba "Master" and, finally, there is Mink, a redeemable bad boy/bad guy who is the last survivor of a Native American tribe slaughtered by the same entrepreneur who built Platinum Jail. There are plenty of supporting characters, too, but most are forgettable other than the AI animals known as "Allmate." These cute characters with their deadpan attitudes are one of the few positives in the show.

The story that plays out through the series sees Aoba suffering from amnesia and dragged into a confrontation against the Touen group who bought the island. Suddenly, there's mind control, genetic experimentations, split personalities, and an awful lot of silliness. Like many other games based on a visual novel, DRAMAtical Murder tries to force in every romance route from the game into one story, with each romanceable character of the cast given some time in the first half of the season to build a relationship with Aoba, and then in the second half of the show they each receive a single episode to play out their route from the game and essentially have a date with Aoba.

It's difficult to see just who this adaptation was made for. It's not the type of subtle series for fans to ship their own pairings, nor is it loyal to the game. In fact, it's very, very different to what was in the game. To be frank, the game was rather… graphic. Not just in the sexual scenes (although there are plenty of those) but there are some extreme blood and guts moments in the bad endings (if you're feeling brave, go Google Clear's bad ending, and then wash your eyes out with bleach). The anime never shows any real romance other than perhaps a kiss made in jest, and instead limits itself to the usual compromising situations - for example, Aoba tenderly holding Clear's face or having his face far too close to Noise's face as applies a bandage to Noise's hand - but honestly there's nothing here over what would be found in Free!.

On the presentation front the show looks good, at least. The character designs, in particular, are fantastic. This is filled with individual and truly stylish designs, and it's easy to see why there's so much merchandise of characters like Aoba and Koujaku. The animation is decent, too, although the studio that made this has since disappeared, having only ever created this and the first season of Hamatora - this was its last work… The audio here is appalling, right from the start with the terrible opening music filled with strange Engrish, like "Peel a boy. So good." There is dual audio, too, but, honestly, the English dub is so bad that you're better off pretending it doesn't exist. A quick look at the cast names reveals more of a "Who's that?" than a "Who's who." The English voice actors do not match with their characters at all, and deliver reliably mediocre and stilted performance throughout the entire season. The Japanese, thankfully, is a lot better, but it isn't enough to redeem the show.

Rated 2 out of 10

Very Bad

A mediocre story in these types of games is occasionally forgivable - the players aren't always there for the story - but in an anime adaptation that strips out all the adult or graphic content, the story is all that's left and here that story is terrible. Again, it's baffling who DRAMAtical Murder was made for. The creators manage to alienate every potential audience and the only positive aspects the show really has are the character designs and the odd moment.

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