The debate over style versus substance is an extensive one. However, I’ve always defended that the two go hand-in-hand. Style can be the vehicle by which a viewer is made privy to the substance lying beneath. But how much can style carry a story before it’s time to put in the work and write a story worth remembering? Many shows start with strong premieres that aren’t necessarily exciting for their stories, but the stylish introductions to the world and the principle cast. In walks The Millionaire Detective: Balance Unlimited.
That isn’t to say that the stories themselves aren’t well-written, but the creative teams put their best foot forward in hooking the audience, as any team should. If anything can be said about The Millionaire Detective: Balance Unlimited, it is that it starts with serious style. Only two episodes were aired back in spring before it was delayed on account of the pandemic. Upon finally getting around to watching it, I realized there was no way in hell I wasn’t gonna talk about it. With its return set for July 30, now is a better time than ever to catch up if you missed the hype train the first time around.
Based on the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui (author of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Paprika), Millionaire Detective follows Haru Katou, a detective who fell from grace and was transferred to the Modern Crime Prevention Headquarters. His department is a joke that isn’t taken seriously by the rest of the force. That is, until the assignment of a new detective.
Daisuke Kanbe of the wealthy Kanbe family decided to join the police after receiving specialized training in England. Despite having his pick of any division, he chooses Haru’s. As soon as he enters the scene, his unique skill set and approach to crime-fighting become apparent.
Kanbe will use his wealth in whatever ways necessary to solve a case, paying for damages, buying information, or even purchasing entire pieces of infrastructure. With seemingly unlimited funds and limitless technology, he appears as a Bruce Wayne-type figure, pushing the envelope of how much can be solved with money.
On the other side, Katou finds his reliance on money to solve problems to be despicable, believing in a stricter ethic for how detectives should uphold the law. The two clash, but find themselves joined as partners to solve numerous cases over the planned 11 episodes.
The premiere cuts between the two converging protagonists’ routines on the day of a bombing plot. The juxtaposition of the two leads set up an exciting tone, as Katou’s routine feels quirky and somewhat sedated while Kanbe’s arrival in Tokyo is like the arrival of royalty. Musically, it feels like the opening act of a film.
In fact, the music has to be what I’m most excited about for this series. Yugo Kanno’s work on shows like JoJo and Batman Ninja added entirely new dimensions to those works that were fundamental to my enjoyment of them. The synergy of rock and jazz found in his work and even his more epic orchestral pieces place him a step above most composers.
As soon as Kanbe and Katou meet, they don’t necessarily work together in the first episode. Their paths collide, they both express their philosophies and methods through action rather than words, and then at the end, they finally have their first real introduction. I enjoy that they didn’t even necessarily interact too much beyond Katou asking him who the hell he was and what he was about.
Having the two leads act so independently while still approaching the same goal conveys the extent of their extreme specialties while showing what they have to offer the other. Even if one or the other doesn’t realize it at first, they need each other.
I’m underwhelmed with Katou as a character at the moment. He’s your typical demoted police protagonist and I have a feeling I know exactly where his story will go. We’ll have either exposition or a flashback showing what exactly happened to get him demoted, and he’ll slowly gain back the trust and kindness of his old team.
I hope I’m wrong, or, more accurately, I hope the story’s presentation gives the character enough nuance to be above the stereotypical setup. It will hinge on how well he gels with Kanbe, who at the start seems to be very passive towards him, almost as if he isn’t there. He has respect for his skills, but he doesn’t engage with him or bring him in on his master plans for solving cases either.
Touching on the performances, Katou is voiced by voice acting superstar Mamoru Miyano. I’m happy the community has fallen in love with Miyano as much as it has, but I think I love him more in his wackier roles such as Dazai from Bungo Stray Dogs. Granted, my issue is more with the character than Miyano’s expectedly competent performance.
Kanbe’s voice actor is an interesting case, to say the least. Yuusuke Oonuki has performed in several dramas, but his role as Kanbe is his first-ever anime role, according to MAL at least. Given the character’s personality, there isn’t much I can say yet about Oonuki’s performance, though with the help of the artwork and character design, he is appreciably charming enough for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.
My biggest concern is that the show won’t be able to match the same energy of the premiere, which admittedly is something a lot of shows have trouble with. But when the style can’t help, that’s when you need the substance to carry the story, and I’m hopeful it can.
I get the sense that I might enjoy this show for similar reasons to Lord El Melloi II’s Case Files from last year. In my review of that show over on my blog, I praised how every episode seemed to introduce cool, new kinds of magic and world-building elements that made the writing nerd in me light up with excitement. Millionaire Detective has a similar kind of episodic fun – Kanbe’s frivolous spending.
Kanbe is quite literally Batman, except if he just joined the police instead of becoming a vigilante. He uses his money in so many ways beyond damage payments and bribes. He also has access to tons of technology, from helicopters to rocket launchers to missile delivery systems. Every single episode ends with a count of how much money was spent throughout that case. The show is fully aware of how cool Kanbe is and I love it.
This show is directed by Tomohiko Itou. That name was unfamiliar to me, but after watching these first two episodes and enjoying them so much, I was convinced I’d seen his work elsewhere. Sure enough, he is the director for Erased, as well as Sword Art Online I, II, and Ordinal Scale.
Now, I might not enjoy SAO too much, but the show is nothing if not pretty and filled with cool moments that, if nothing, grabbed me enough to get me to watch each aforementioned entry in that series. Plus, Erased, despite the poor ending, was directed wonderfully (at least in my opinion. I understand it’s a contentious topic).
Even if CloverWorks hasn’t been cranking out masterpieces, I’ll still give them credit and say they’ve been on my radar in a positive way more than ever recently. Fate/Grand Order: Babylonia may have been one of the best-looking TV anime I have ever seen. Promised Neverland was my happiest binge of last year and my friends can’t stop recommending Bunny Girl Senpai to me.
The Millionaire Detective: Balance Unlimited had a solid premiere and a decent second episode. While I usually like a good ole’ fashioned three-episode test, I’m pretty sold on this one. This show’s aesthetic is right up my alley and I’m always in the mood for more crime dramas, even if this one has a more cartoony premise behind it. No doubt about it, this show is worth waiting for.
The Millionaire Detective: Balance Unlimited is available for legal streaming through FunimationNow. The show returns with episode 3 on July 30th.
For more of my writing, check out my review of BNA: Brand New Animal.