The nature of this arc (which has felt interminably long) in The Detective Is Already Dead has necessitated a lot of its tone revolving around prompting us to go “Is this it?” at every dangerous situation that got within spitting distance of Siesta. The forgone conclusion nature of the detective’s titular situation means we’re braced for the inevitable to occur, so Siesta’s eventual death is less about being a shocking in-story occurrence and more about seeing how the situation is going to be constructed to contextualize where Kimihiko (and any other characters) were in terms of development when it happened. Even without that baked-in foreknowledge though, this week’s episode would make it very apparent to any half-aware audience members that a major character death was on the table, with the dialogue and interactions between Kimihiko and Siesta on the way to this ‘Final Battle’ raising so many obvious death flags as they do. This, as they say, is it.
Of course, this is still Dead-tective, so even if the core conceit of the series had always been leading to this point in one way or another, the anime still comes ill-equipped to properly stick the landing. Just to start, I cannot believe we’ve still never been given a proper introduction for Char. This one picks up from the flash-forward which was the only time we’d properly seen her before anyway, leaving us knowing she’s here and having a general idea of her connection with Kimihiko and Siesta. But in the end, her entire job in this storyline amounts to having a motorcycle so Kimihiko could get between points A and B in time for Siesta-relevant plot points. I understand that the anime is presenting events in a different order from what the source novels did, and that could be a fine adaptational choice. But when a casualty of that choice is the proper introduction of a major character, it ends up feeling like a miscalculation, making the anime come off more like a supplemental promotion for people already familiar with the source material than a self-sufficient version of the franchise on its own.
The Char situation is an admittedly minor one, but it’s an example of how skewed the priorities on this show are overall, and how they come to a head with this major episode. This one also delivers the big reveal of the true villainous nature of SPES and…well, after cyborgs, werewolves, and shape-shifters, I suppose I really should have expected aliens next, but for some reason I guess I was hoping for a modicum of restraint. As with so many other elements in this series’ shotgun approach to world-building, it feels like something dropped in for the sake of itself, an escalation necessitated simply by the finale-level scale of this point of the story. To Dead-tective‘s credit, this is pretty in line with the late-game final-boss upsets of those classic-style superhero shows I compared it to a while back, jibing with the fantasy-world projection it’s providing to its audience. But at this point, when the story has much more pertinent matters to focus on, it comes off as pure distraction, a complication barfed out at the last second just so that the villains’ actions make a modicum of sense. They faintly gesture at the higher concept of species-centric survivalist notions before Kimihiko nopes out of there for the real plot after about thirty seconds, leaving the whole thing a shrug of an overcomplication.
So how does Siesta’s last dance shake out then? After multiple moments for expressions of remaining regrets, declarations of what the characters will do if they get through this, and one last chemistry-filled spat between Kimihiko and Siesta just to make sure we Get It, the ultimate delivery of the detective’s death is…just OK. Having her go out fighting Hel is a more soundly set-up, thematically-aligned narrative choice than having anything to do with SPES’s alien-plant boss, anyway, though that factor also lets some sweet monster vines interfere in the battle and spice up what would otherwise be a fairly plain field the duel takes place in. And there is a noticeable pick-up in the animation quality for that fight, and if any part of the series deserved it, it was this. But presentational upticks and conceptually-effective setups can only take things so far, less so when they don’t follow through on either of those. After arranging her as a plot device for an emotional connection at this final stage of the story, the writing of Hel throws one more wrench into her conception by revealing that the Alicia side of her existence is actually the ‘original’ one, the base on which Hel emerged from as a ‘Secondary Secret Personality’ as a reaction to torture. It comes off like the story trying to assure us that the rescue of Alicia is a categorical good, pursuing as Siesta and Kimihiko are not the shadow of a potential friend and ally, but a genuinely innocent person who just happens to be piloted by a secondary evil at the behest of the overarching bad guys. They’d already sold us on the connection the two shared with Alicia, so this just feels like a technical qualification.
The other element of Siesta’s idealistic grappling with Hel is more interesting, with the detective challenging the villain’s loyalty to SPES as borne out of a desire for some kind of fatherly love, in spite of it coming from a genocidal space plant. There’s something to be said for the base idea of desperate people turning to ‘evil’ groups for the sake of acceptance, which also ties into the depiction of Siesta and Kimihiko’s close companionship spinning out of an original incidental connection of convenience. Following through on what we already know from the future stories, Dead-tective has ideas it wants to explore vis a vis the compounding connections with others we make, and the difference those have when made for the sake of helping people, versus those that simply selfishly use others. It makes for a clear idealistic distinction between Siesta and Hel as the two fight, which only produces an even more anticlimactic feeling when another need for sudden shock rears its head to actually kill Siesta in a way mostly unrelated to that clash.
I’m not sure what the motivation was to have the kaiju from three episodes ago (which hadn’t been seen or even alluded to until now) be the thing to randomly appear and score the momentous kill on Siesta. That’s a problem with the original story itself, obviously, but the way the anime opts to present it does it no favors. Virtually every element of this event is cut in awkward, indistinct ways. Siesta jumps in front of the kaiju, and we cut away to Char’s reactionary sense of something being wrong in place of seeing the moment the big beastie actually kills the detective. It gets unceremoniously offed by Hel seconds later, and Siesta’s just down. Then there’s a vaguely-blocked sequence of Hel carving her heart out, and we’re simply told Siesta is gone with little impact spent on the actual occurrence. It’s a bizarre sequence of directorial choices that places the onus of communicating the tragedy of Siesta’s death not on simply letting the audience react to it, but instead on Kimihiko’s vengeful declarations to Hel and his own internal montage reflecting on the life he’d lived with the detective up until this point. Kimihiko is the other protagonist of this show and the self-insert through which the audience views the story of Siesta’s character, sure, but in that respect it still comes off as misplaced to suddenly focus on him as a person when this should have been the moment our emotions were the most synched with his own. In other words, they don’t need to spend all their time telling us how sad Kimihiko is about Siesta dying, since if they’d done their job right, we’d immediately know how sad that would make him.
Maybe I was giving Dead Detective too much credit to think that it would at least depict the event of its own title with a higher level of execution than it had gotten me used to. Instead, we’re barely left reeling with the same ‘What just happened’ feeling that Kimihiko suddenly wakes up to with this episode’s confoundingly continuing cliffhanger conclusion. It’s a car-crash of compounding events that ends up messily distracting from a momentous occasion the story’s very existence hyped us up for. Much of it is mostly OK, and the final delivery can charitably described as ‘functional’, but after everything it took to get there, landing the way it ultimately did is one of the biggest indicators yet of how poorly the Dead Detective anime was equipped to handle its own material.
The Detective Is Already Dead is currently streaming on
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.