Well, hello there been quite a month since my last review. Well for this time, I am talking about an anime I bought on a blind pick some time ago. I had heard some mostly positive things regarding it, so I decided to take the plunge and check it out. And I got to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Heaven’s Memo Pad (2011 TV Series)
Director: Katsushi Sakurabi
Writers: Seishi Minakami, Takayo Ikami and Yuniko Ayana
Studio: JC Staff
Narumi Fujishima is an ordinary if a bit wimpy high school student who is a bit bland and unassuming. But one day, he stumbles into a scene where a girl leaps out of a window after a tryst with an older man goes awry; context is everything. By way of Ayaka a female classmate of his, Narumi finds out about a group of NEET dudes consisting of a military otaku Minto, a pimp Hiro and a high school dropout Tetsu. They are lead by Alice, who is basically if Sherlock was a moe girl, a super genius and self-proclaimed NEET Detective. They have one objective: to solve cases brought to them by people seeking their unusual form of help, or to put into Alice’s own terms:
“There are only two professions in the whole world that give meaning to those who have died and what have been lost… They’re writers and detectives. Writers are the only ones able to revive what was lost through their visions. Detectives are the only ones able to dig up the grave and bring back lost information. But the information us detectives dig up is nothing more than the truth as recorded in Heaven’s Memo Pad. “
(Alice, Heaven’s Memo Pad Episode 1)
Together, Narumi explores a side of society and life that had been previously not known to him, and in the process grows into a wider world so to speak.
Now, what I like about Heaven’s Memo Pad is the quasi-anthology format the show uses for the stories it tells. It is very much episodic, but it all ties in nice and interesting ways. The 12 episodes have 4-5 stories, sometimes one episode or covers multiple episodes, but regardless it works well to tell the adventures of Narumi and Alice with her NEET Squad as they solve cases. That being said, this is a fairly grounded series. Mind you, some of the stuff Alice is able to do seems fantastical, but aside from that this could work very well in live action if I am being honest.
Granted, this show does have some quite heady stuff: teenage prostitution, street gangs and the covert war they wage, suicide, drug abuse etc but thankfully it is treated in an honest but gripping fashion which I appreciate. It can be quite ridiculous having a moe detective solving cases for people who are in particularly bad trouble. I like how the show deals with social issues it covers; that the solutions are never easy and sometimes it can lead to tragedy (see the final story arc for proof of that). Of course, the show tends to put the NEET (Not Employed, Education or Training) culture in a positive light without much commenting on how hard that lifestyle can be.
Now while Alice is the clear draw character due to the moe appeal, I find Narumi to be the more interesting character. He is the one that the stories affect the most personally, and we see over time him developing into a more capable and responsible person in a world seething with darkness. That’s not to say the rest of the cast is lacking, as most of the supporting cast (especially the NEET squad guys and some others like the tough woman and ramen shop owner Mayo as well as street gang leader The Fourth), it just that the episodic/mini story arc format doesn’t lend itself to those characters getting much in the way of development, much less consistent focus.
Luckily, as the show is a realistic and serious drama, the presentation is done in a similar fashion. Aside from the more flashy moments involving Alice and her Sherlockesque deductions, the show maintains a consistent look and feel in terms of animation which is something I can’t say too much regarding some anime. I like really must take note of the music by none other than Taku Iwasaki (ROD OVA and TV, Ben-To, Gurren Lagann, many other anime OSTs) and with this one he doesn’t disappoint, providing his usual eclectic mix of music ranging from smooth guitar bits to sorrowful yearning string music for the more serious moments.
Now, the English dub is another aspect of this show that it has going for it. Granted, its one that Steven Foster directed/co-wrote (with Jackie McClure) which at first had me going into this one a bit cautious due to his rather haphazard approach to dubbing. But I found Heaven’s Memo Pad to be a pleasant surprise. Of course, Foster stuffed the cast with SF regulars (Blake Shepard, Hilary Haag, Brittney Karbowski, Shelly Calene Black, Grey Ayres, David Matranga, etc) but here they do a very great job with the material. Foster, at least with this show, understands the material and works well with it to produce a dub that’s worth a listen only if to see where Foster is at when he’s working at his best, in my opinion.
Overall, Heaven’s Memo Pad offers a nice and compelling realistic drama that ventures into some territory not covered by much anime. It goes into the bleakness of life and comes out with a cautious sense of hope and optimism for the future. It’s probably one of the better LN Adaptations I have seen in some time, and considering the slew we have been getting that is saying something. In addition, this is a show that I can say yeah Steven Foster can be a good dub director when given the appropriate material. Highly recommended from yours truly.
Now, for April, seeing as we got “An American Past-Time” starting that month, I have decided to cover an anime that has it as the central focus…..
Til next time dear readers