REVIEW: Gorgeous Aesthetics in Pretty Boy Detective Club

Season aired: Spring 2021

Number of episodes: 12

Genres: Drama, Comedy, Mystery, Supernatural

Thoughts: I knew whatever Pretty Boy Detective Club advertised itself to be, the story would be likely nothing like I’d expect. After all, this is the same author of the Monogatari series, and anyone who’s dipped their toes into the Monogatari series knows to throw all one’s expectations out of the window when it comes to his stories. Isin-sensei is famous for writing quirky narratives that take place at a mundane school with the strangest supernatural characters and powers, and Pretty Boy Detective Club falls right into his style. Needless to say, the anime entertained me to hell.

Mayumi Dojima is a girl with a dream — to find the bright star she had witnessed as a child. Because of that dream, she relentlessly pursued the idea of becoming an astronaut until she began to give up. Enter Manabu Sotoin, the leader of the Pretty Boy Detective Club. He offers his and his friends’ services to help her find that missing star, and soon Mayumi finds herself joining them. The rules are simple: be a boy, be a detective, and be beautiful.

It sounds like a wackier Ouran High School Host Club, and I find no better way to describe it. Mayumi, like Haruhi, dons boys’ clothes and a boy’s look to join the Pretty Boy Detective Club. However, unlike Haruhi, she doesn’t do it out of obligation. Rather, she had so much fun spending time with them that she requested to join the club, and she didn’t mind crossdressing or referring to herself as the other gender. However, unlike Ouran Highschool Host Club, I don’t think this anime is as accessible to the general audience.

Monologues

Isin-sensei has a particular style — long winded monologues, fast-paced narratives, supernatural elements that make very little sense in an otherwise strange but normal setting, and characters who are not in any shape or form realistic. This unique choice of storytelling spills over into the artistic narrative as well. The anime constantly switches between at least five different art forms, with sweeping dramatic music and over-the-top closeups with literal spotlights to boot. This style isn’t easy to get used to. I cannot name any other anime that resembles his works, and thanks to my previous exposure through the Monogatari series, I was able to follow along with Pretty Boy Detective Club easily and appreciated the storyboarding.

Some of my favorite moments occur when the art style abruptly shifts from the usual sparkly shōjo style to childlike crayon drawings. Sometimes, the art styles change before a scene even finishes to reflect the personalities of the different characters speaking. Additionally, the music successfully made me outright laugh before any dialogue occurred because of its playfulness and commitment to atmosphere. Scenes often change from serious to silly to mysterious in a matter of seconds, and the voice acting also adjusts with the tone without hesitation from the cast. It can be extraordinarily exhilarating. However, other viewers who haven’t had time to adjust to this particular narrative style will likely struggle with following along the quick paced dialogue and strange yet addicting constantly changing art.

The story, albeit intriguing and endlessly entertaining, is also not something that would be easily accessible. Considering the entire theme of the pretty boy detective club is around beauty and aesthetics, many of the stories circulate around that as well — namely exposing tainted beauties of society. Those include secret assassin societies, underground gambling circles, and mysterious paintings left behind by a forgotten teacher, while the final arc features an actual murder attempt during the school council elections. However, as fascinating as these conflicts sound, they also make little sense. For these stories, I have learned to simply disassociate and accept the crazy unrealism, but I can certainly understand why many wouldn’t be able to do so. Just like in art style and storytelling format, I had previous practice with the Monogatari series — and it took more than a full season to finally normalize it in my mind.

The only bond I truly felt Mayumi have

If I had to change one element of this insane series, I wished the interactions between characters happened more frequently. Because of the many inner and outer monologues, actual relationship building isn’t present. The most we see Mayumi interact with is “Delinquent-kun,” who acts as everyone’s personal chef and bodyguard. I absolutely adore it when they have conversations as natural chemistry sparks between them, and I only wished she could’ve done more of the same thing with the other boys. At the end of the series, it’s clear she cares a lot about the club members, but the only one I truly felt she had a bond with was Delinquent-kun.

However, the ending episode did reveal an actual theme to this rather randomly put together string of mysteries, and I ended up appreciating the series a lot more once that was revealed. At the end of the day, all the insanity, drama, and magical powers, whether frightening or enlightening, is simply a representation of your childhood days. Time passes by quickly, and we later see glimpses of all the characters as adults — working, living, resting methodically as any realistic person does, and seemingly detached from the adventures that had taken place during the course of the story. Pretty Boy Detective Club exists to remind everyone to make the most of your pre-adult days, as those days pass quickly. Whether the experience was terrifyingly supernatural or as beautifully magical as possible, you should cherish it regardless.

 

Rating

Plot: 7 (Multiplier 3.5)

Characters: 7 (Multiplier 3.5)

Voice acting: 7

Art/Animation: 9

Soundtrack: 8.5

FINAL SCORE: 73.5

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