The Daughter of Twenty Faces
It is a few years after World War II, a world still torn by the scars of the war, while crowds throng around black and white televisions for news of the phantom thief, The Man of Twenty Faces.
Young, orphaned heiress Chizuko Mikamo wants to be anywhere but where she is, trapped in her house with a distant aunt and uncle, her only respite from the outside world being the mystery novels she reads. She realizes that she is being poisoned by her aunt for her family fortune, but her faithful butler turns out to be none other than the legendary thief Twenty Faces himself.
Though demonized by the press, Twenty Faces himself is a super-intelligent rogue with a deep sense of honor. She joins his clan of her own volition, being nicknamed "Chiko" by the various other members of the group, and over the next two years, she learns the skills necessary to not just survive, but hold her own and even excel as a clan member in her own right. However, this idyllic existence eventually comes to an end, and Twenty Faces disappears.
With the help of a new group of friends, the adventurous Chiko must become a detective in order to find out the truth about the whereabouts of her mentor and savior, while avoiding the threats coming from her own home.
After having taken a long break from anime viewing, it's really great to come back to something like this. The Daughter of Twenty Faces may not break a whole lot of new ground, what with its "sudden revelation" style of mystery storytenning, but it is still a whole lot of fun.
For the first few episodes, the spotlight is clearly on The Man of Twenty Faces, played with calm confidence by Yuya Ichida (Dr. Franken Stein, Soul Eater). For being a "dreaded thief", he is exhorts his band to never take lives, instead acting like a globetrotting 1950s Robin Hood, or like good old Lupin III, but with ten times more disguises and ten times less lechery. Twenty Faces is effectively a detective on the wrong side of the law, using his keen cognitive skills and the talents of his cohorts to break down each and every situation the gang finds itself in.
Chiko watches him intently, and it's neat to see her go from sheltered rich girl to acrobatic, quick-witted sidekick, to imminent star of the team, all the while learning from each of the Twenty Faces crew. You also get to know all the different clan members, but as the opening sequence hints that Twenty Faces disappears, it makes sense that the clan might not last, either. After episode six, the emphasis of the series clearly shifts to Chiko herself, as she begins her own quest for truth. Chiko is an intensely intelligent and incredibly likable character, played with great poise and spirit by superstar seiyuu Aya Hirano. (If you don't know her by now, you haven't been paying attention.) When Chiko finally gets home, she gets a new posse, starting with her classmate, the spoiled detective fangirl Shunka Koito, played with a good deal of fun by Rina Sato, previously noted for Negi Springfield from Negima!.
This being a BONES production, the animation tends to be decent, though it's clear that most of the skilled animation is focused on spotlighting Chiko, while other characters are often relegated to speed lines. Character designs are rather retro, and generally in keeping with the 1950s-era setting. There's the occasional bits of silliness involving supposed artifacts from the war (the enormous battletank fortress in the second episode being one example), but given that this is an adventure series, such things are forgivable. Fan service would be out of place given the setting, so it's mercifully nonexistent. (Considering that Chiko is only twelve at the onset of the series, this is also a blessing.) The music isn't intended to be overtly impressive, but the combination of the light rock opening and jazz background tracks works pretty well.
The plot, as I have implied before, takes a couple of really wild swings, and after the end of the first arc, there is what amounts to a sea change in the pacing of the storyline. After all that globetrotting, it seems odd for everything to be stuck in Japan again, but at the same time, each episode leaves you on the edge what's going to happen next. That being said, this series is almost exclusively story-driven, and does a good job of keeping audiences chomping at the bit to see what happens next week. Sure, there are more than a few cliches, and arguably, Twenty Faces himself is sort of incredibly archetypal and kind of ridiculous, but the whole thing is executed with so much style and skill that you really generally don't care.
All in all, The Daughter of Twenty Faces is the kind of well-executed show that reminds me why I got into anime in the first place. There's not a whiff of "moe", and no cynicism, and it may not even have the best animation or true depth to its mysteries. But it has a likable lead and if you allow yourself to buy into the whole "thief with a heart of gold" concept to begin with, you'll have a lot of fun with this show. Not to mention that Chiko could honestly mop the floor with any random dozen moe girls -- there really ought to be more anime characters like this.
As Twenty Faces says, "Watch, listen, and think for yourself." That's good advice, right there.
If you can forgive some subpar animation choices and handle the whole modern day Robin Hood trope with a straight face, or if you really, really like Aya Hirano (and I wouldn't blame you), add a star and call it a day. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Recommended for teens and up due to onscreen violence and character deaths. A fair amount of violence is threatened upon children (for example Chiko being poisoned by her own aunt), which may not sit well with some.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (10/22)
The Daughter of Twenty Faces © 2008 Shinji Ohara / Media Factory / Daughter of Twenty Faces Production Committee
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