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AKA: 二十面相の娘 (Nijuu Mensou no Musume), Chiko: Heiress of the Phantom Thief
Genre: Mystery adventure
Length: Television series, 22 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America
Content Rating: 15+ (violence, adult themes)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Ryoko's Case Files, Detective Conan
Notes: Based on the manga by Shinji Ohara, and based on characters created by Edogawa Rampo.
Rating:
 

The Daughter of Twenty Faces

Synopsis

Chiko has spent most of her life in the loveless care of her aunt and uncle, so when the famed thief Twenty Faces takes off with her and the family jewels, she welcomes the change. While her aunt and uncle plot to disinherit her, she adapts to her new life as one of Twenty Faces gang members, where she has finally found a surrogate family that accepts her. But Twenty Faces checkered past is catching up with him, and as the adopted daughter of the famed thief, many people are after her, seeking Twenty Faces mysterious legacy.

Review

What do you do when you know how a magician will do his tricks? Will you still watch him, even if the surprises dont surprise and the mystery is gone? Theres a good reason the best magicians dont bother pulling rabbits out of hats anymore, or try to entertain an audience by locking a nubile young girl in a box and stabbing it repeatedly with swords. Those tricks have been seen too many times in movies and television- even if you dont know how they pull them off, you still know how the trick will end, thus ruining the fun. The good magicians try to find ways to surprise with fresh tricks that they devise themselves to keep the audience on their toes, and the task gets harder as audiences get wiser to the tricks of the trade.

Watching The Daughter of Twenty Faces is like watching a magician with a charming personality that doesnt know many new trick. The series takes plenty of twists and turns to a rocky finale, and while I cant say I saw all of them coming, I can say that none of them surprised me. And this is a problem for a suspense series. But not all is lost- like the charming magician in my metaphor, Twenty Faces has plenty of strengths that pad out its weaknesses, making it an entertaining series whose fault is that doesnt live up to its ambitions.

The series is inspired by the writings of famed detective novelist Edogawa Rampo, who wrote very popular books for young children that seem to be the equivalent of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series in America. Twenty Faces is one of his most famous characters, and the anime trumpets him as the man whose real face no one has ever seen, and can fool any policeman and security team to steal any treasure. But when we actually meet him, he seems less Lupin and more James Bond- a suave, handsome man who charms almost everyone he meets. He might actually make a better politician than a thief. Like Robin Hood, everything he steals from the rich he returns to the poor, and of course, he also has a shady, secretive past. While hes enjoyable to watch, weve seen so many characters just like him before that he becomes a drab international man of mystery. Even worse is when the series takes weak stabs later on at questioning his moral standing, which is boring because the answer is never in any real doubt.

But Chiko is fascinated by him, and while I cant blame her, I think she is a much better character; a strong heroine in the tradition of Ghibli movies and World Classic Theater series, and she happens to get pretty good at kung fu to boot. Theres also the added bonus that in a time when every anime girl seems required to flash her panties, she never gives a hint of fanservice. (It says quite a lot about the state of the fandom when we get excited by what a character is not.) Shes also smart, and we know this not because everyone tells us shes smart, but because she shows it. Look, listen, and think for yourself, a personal motto of mine, is a lesson from Twenty Faces that she takes to heart, and it shows as the story develops. She does a lot to carry the series when nothing else will- not its dull quasi-steampunk setting or its uninspiring storyline. Shes also supported by a small gang of likeable, but familiar characters, my favorite of which was her arrogant best friend, Koito.

BONES has been a reliable studio for the last decade when it comes to quality anime, and they largely pull through in this series with solid animation, especially in a few action scenes. The series generally looks good up until the end, though youre going to have to rough out a few scenes where the animators rely on action lines and panning.

I like complexity in my anime, but I dont demand it from everything, only the ones that seem to want to be complex. Perhaps Im being too hard on the series familiarity, though, because if youre going to imitate something, World Masterpiece Theater is not a bad place to start. I could see how for many otaku, this could be the equivalent of comfort food, and that is by no means a bad thing. But it doesnt seem like much to ask for a series about detectives and thieves thats an homage to a revered mystery writer to not seem so straightforward.

Likeable, but uninspiring. Feel free to add a star, though, if youre a big fan of World Masterpiece Theater and detective storiesBradley Meek

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 (18/22)
The Daughter of Twenty Faces © 2008 Shinji Ohara / Media Factory / Daughter of Twenty Faces Production Committee