Heavens Memo Pad Collection [DVD]
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All 12 episodes of the Japanese anime about the operatives who work for a very unusual detective agency. Loner high school student Narumi Fujishima (voice of Yoshitsugu Matsuoka) finds himself in a whole new world of intrigue when he's introduced to fellow recluse Alice (Yui Ogura). Living and working out of Room 308 of a multi-tenanted building, Alice runs the NEET Detective Agency (young people Not Employed, being Educated or in Training). Recruiting Narumi as her assistant, and with the help of a group of NEET detectives to do her leg work, expert hacker Alice investigates a range of cases involving gangs, thieves and drug lords, all without leaving the sanctuary of her office. The episodes are: 'The Two Or Three Things I Know About Her', 'You and the Travel Bag', 'What I Can Do for Those Two', 'A Full Account On Hanamaru's Soup', 'He Knows About Me', 'It Seems Like I'll Lose', 'All I Can Do', 'I Don't Believe in Fate', 'That Summer's 21st Ball', 'About You', 'Fragments of Me' and 'About You, Me and Her'.
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The key thing that enticed me from the box description is the involvement of NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training) which in real life is an unfortunate situation some young Japanese men and women (and their families) have ended up in. It's a recurring theme in a few shows I have seen such as Welcome to the N.H.K and Eden of The East. Heaven's Memopad brings these characters to centre stage but paints them in a much more favourable light (oddly as one is a brawler with police connections and another a gigolo with a network of female informants). Perhaps the characters are victim of circumstance but there is a family-like bond between the NEETs that I found extremely engaging. With this as a basis the stories invariably take a crime/detective slant tackling difficult subjects such as the yakuza, prostitution and drugs. There are a couple of lighter arcs for some balance focussing on sport and family as well.
The main characters are Alice, a 'NEET Detective' and Narumi, a high school teenager who becomes caught up in one of the former's cases. Where at first he is a canvas/mirror that facilitates the story telling and introduction of other characters (Gang Leader 'The Fourth' and Ramen shop owner 'Min' are some of my favourites) he later develops in very interesting ways becoming a beacon for Alice but also a troubled teenager dealing guilt, loss and regret. I really felt there was an excellent development arc for Narumi's character showing how the events of the story shape him for better and worse. The majority of story arcs are told over multiple episodes giving enough time to flesh things out and give you time to understand each character's motivations.
The show is often time very amusing; some moments verge into the crass with typical anime tropes such as the male obsession with cleavage creeping in once or twice. Most of the characters seem to have a great deal of insight into this so thankfully it does not become too cringeworthy. Alice's relationship with Narumi often brings a few joyful laughs with a little sister-big brother relationship developing. The serious tone of The Fourth can also lend itself to humour very well and the task force of the three NEETs working for Alice are also great at bringing a light hearted moment along.
Beyond the story it is a very tightly animated series with an emphasis on high production value. Every scene clearly has involved a lot of thought with varied characters, backdrops and environments. The music is equally charming and I have found myself sitting on the DVD title screen for extended periods listening to the opening theme 'Kamisama no Memochou'. The soundtrack is reiterated throughout the episodes and so comes familiarity with the tone of particular scenes.
Coming to the end I have the same feeling as with all great books, tv shows, games and anime; I wish there was a bit more! That said I was introduced to memorable characters and some fantastic story arcs. The story does not really seem to need lengthening just for the case of making more episodes and what is there is really all of a high quality. I hope you enjoy this experience as much as I did!
Some have said the cover is misleading of the content, but it's accurate, just maybe drawn to appeal more to a female audience. Maybe they do not buy enough anime, they think?
'Heaven's Memo Pad' ('Kami-sama no Memo-chou') is an entertaining detective story that has some very interesting characters as well as some nice emotional moments here and there. The twelve episode anime sees Narumi and his new friends at the NEET Detective Agency deal with four cases with a couple of comedic breather episodes as well. The series is quite dialogue heavy and there are many very nice character moments throughout.
The first case takes up the feature length first episodes and sees the group investigating teenage prostitution. It is an interesting episode and a very good introduction to the story and characters.
Episodes two and three see a young Thai girl called Meo look to the Agency to help find her father who went missing leaving her nothing but a bag filled with money. This case was quite an entertaining case with some very nice moments and a good resolution.
Episode four is the first comedy breather episode that focuses on Min, the ramen shop owner as she deals with a difficult customer and a strange intruder. This is a very funny episodes that also allows reveals some of Min's background.
The next case is the longest in the series, taking up episodes five to eight as is probably my favourite part of the series. The arc sees the Narumi help the Hirasaka Group set up a concert only for the group to come under attack after the return of a ghost from the past. This is a very good arc as the Hirasaka Group is probably one of my favourite parts of the series and the plot has some interesting twists (some of which I guessed but some I didn't).
Episode nine is another breather episode and this time it sees the group having to play a game of baseball against the yakuza to keep one of their favourite game arcades open. This is a very entertaining episode with many funny scenes throughout.
Episodes ten to twelve covers the final case in the series that sees the group investigate the appearance of a new and dangerous drug on the streets and the reappearance of Ayaka's brother. This is another very good arc and is easily the most emotional part of the series with many sad moments.
The animation of the series is good, as is the English dub as there are no performances that I disliked, although I felt it was a little odd that while they kept the term sempai, they translated the term kouhai. The original Japanese is included as well of course and is the default language. I did have a little trouble with the subtitles for writing disappearing too fast forcing me to rewind and pause. On the other hand there were some explanatory subtitles for some of the various Japanese terms used.
Overall I greatly enjoyed this series and would recommend it to any fan of more slower paced anime. I feel the series easily deserves around four and a half stars.
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