While on balance I didn’t find this episode of Housekishou Richard-shi no Nazo Kantei as interesting as the premiere, it was still notable in its way. There were subtle signs of it last week, but clearly this series is not a mass-produced model. It has a perspective on the world that’s highly unusual for anime, and a narrative style that’s equally distinct. I don’t know whether its episodic stories are going to be good enough to keep it compelling, but this is a good foundation to build on.
The first thing I noticed, oddly enough, was the sound of the grandfather clock in Richard’s office. It’s a constant presence throughout the episode (most of which takes place in said office) and a nice piece of detail work by the anime. You almost forget it’s there, but then you notice it again, and it adds a certain verisimilitude to the proceedings. Richard demonstrates his preternatural affinity for languages, and Seigi tries to learn how to make royal milk tea to his satisfaction.
I’m still not sure yet whether this is going to be a mystery series, or an observational life counseling one – perhaps it will be some of both. There’s not much mystery to the proceedings this week, which concern a young woman named Mami who drops off a ruby brooch for Richard to appraise (she has no interest in the diamonds surrounding it). There’s some inside the beltway stuff here about the heating of rubies and “pigeon’s blood” rubies, and the village in Myanmar where they’re mined, but this is clearly Mami’s story.
One element I quite liked here was the way Richard continued to become irritated every time Seigi overstepped his place, but never communicated it verbally. Seigi’s hero of justice side is seemingly a little stronger than Richard would like (the opposite of the tea) and the way he becomes emotionally involved in Mami’s case is pretty unprofessional. When her fiancee comes searching for her – having hired a detective to follow her – Seigi lets some information slip that I’m sure violates the assumption of privacy in the appraiser’s relationship with the client that’s implied at the very least.
The only thing we see Richard scolding Seigi for, though (apart from the tea) is for violating the terms of his employment – that is, not showing any form of discrimination. The prejudice Seigi shows is the subtle sort that’s generally not even thought of as racist in Japan – wondering if the Arab client got too hot in his native dress, and using the term “people like her” to refer to Mami’s pursuit of a same-sex relationship. That Richard is a foreigner is surely no coincidence in this context – I think that’s exactly the point. Unthinking prejudice born from ignorance rather than malice is pretty much the norm here, and it’s interesting to see a series so openly call attention to that.
In sum, there’s a lot here I like. This series comes as pretty smart, quite dignified and very humanistic based on the first two episodes. What we don’t know yet of course is the most basic variable of all, whether it’ll be entertaining enough – but my sense is that the writing is good enough to clear that hurdle. Only time will tell but things are off to a pretty solid start.