First Impressions: Muhyo & Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation (EP 1)

It’s been a long time coming, but the anime adaptation of Muhyo & Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation (Muhyo To Roji No Mahouritsu Soudan Jimusho) made its debut as part of the Summer Anime 2018 season lineup in early August.

Created by Nishi Yoshiyuki, Muhyo & Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation (Muhyo To Roji No Mahouritsu Soudan Jimusho) was originally serialized in Weekly Shounen Jump from November 2004 to March 2008.

The manga is complete with eighteen volumes and totaling 159 chapters of Muhyo and Roji’s adventure. It was published in English by Viz Media from October 2007 to August 2010.

Japanese Animation Studio, Studio Deen is in charge of the anime series that will span twelve episodes. On Crunchyroll, the series is currently at four episodes.

I remember reading the first chapter of the original source ten years ago or so (and it is the only chapter I’ve read from the series), and the first episode definitely follows it well.

Or, as well as my long-term memory’s ability to recall details anyway.

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Do you wanna build a snowman? ᒄ₍⁽ˆ⁰ˆ⁾₎ᒃ♪♬

The short opening scene teases the audience of a larger over-arching plot hidden beneath its simplistic story. As a shounen anime, the episode follows a particular structure. The story introduces its key characters before tackling the supernatural issue by introducing the paranormal creature of the day and solving the issue through applying magical laws to punish it.

The pacing of the first episode’s story was quick, moving from one scene to the next with little transition. For example, after the introduction of the series’ protagonists, Muhyo and Roji and their client, Rie, the scene jumps to the train rushing past the screen in Hashiki Station after Rie mentions a specific location (Track 5) in a shaky voice.

The flow of Rie’s flashback of her past relationship with her best friend Tae is no exception. The animation used during the sequence is minimal, using montage to showcase unique events where the characters appear as cutouts pasted upon pastel coloured backgrounds textured with bubbles. Visually, it emphasizes how the two best friends were alone yet happy together in a world that they perceived to have rejected them. As a storytelling element, it did its job by showing rather than using voice-over to explain everything.

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I’m not gonna lie. I did (kinda) ship them when I was younger and felt those feels slap me in the face watching this montage.

The comedic parts of the episode were mainly used to showcase Muhyo and Roji’s relationship dynamic and their personalities. The nature of the comedy is typical of the shounen genre which uses exaggerated facial expressions which transforms their faces into super-deformed versions with little details emphasizing emotions.

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From the get-go, the audience can clearly see the power dynamics between the two protagonists.

For instance, Roji’s face has tiny lines drawn through his eyes and the tear leaking out from his eyes signify his distress. Animating the facial expressions of the two protagonists in this scene within speech bubbles was a fun way to represent how Muhyo is Roji’s superior (a.k.a boss) in their relationship.

Most shounen anime these days present an underdog protagonist who grows into their role as a hero or an energetic lead diving into their big adventure.

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It’s the Brain and Pinky.

Seeing a duo is always refreshing when they have distinct personalities and have character designs that compliment one another. Muhyo is associated with darker colours, donning a dark cloak and possessing large cat-like eyes. Roji’s large warm eyes are softer compared to Muhyo’s and has bright blonde hair that sticks out in all locations makes him Muhyo’s complementary opposite.

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#RIPIncognitoShades

Muhyo is an executioner, the highest ranked user of magical law, who is blunt, cold and does as he pleases without any hint of remorse for abusing Roji, his assistant. With the amount of power and knowledge he possesses, it’s no wonder Muhyo can be a dick.

As his foil, Roji is a second-class secretary, the lowest ranked user of magical law, who is sentimental, sensitive and a scaredy-cat, but who can blame him?

Their relationship dynamic clearly represents their respective roles and is a pretty classic comedic duo relationship. One character is subservient to the other. One character appears to be more perfect compared to the other who always seems to fail at the tasks they’re given. With this kind of dynamic, it almost makes me wait in anticipation for slapstick comedy, but I sincerely hope their relationship doesn’t go down that path, just because I want to see more character development and palpable flaws in relation to their development.

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The fog or ectoplasm adds and heightens the creepy factor.

The horror aspect of the story is done well. To add suspense, the animation would shake the camera slightly in the scene, creating a sense of unease when a character speaks or is standing alone on-screen. The colour palette utilized for the horror scenes is a blend of purples and blues to make the atmosphere creepy, dark and cold (not just because the scene takes place in the middle of the night).

The designs of the supernatural creatures is super eerie to look at. They are definitely not something I’d like to lock eyes with in the dark.

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It’s leaving me with some Inuyasha Episode 1 feels.

There is something inherently disturbing about centipedes and multi-legged creatures. Paired with glowing red eyes, pale white skin and a single light to reveal portions of the ghost’s body and eyes, it is something straight out of your worst  nightmares. #Where_Is_My_Bug_Spray

The artstyle stays true to the original source with the extremely large eyes (reminiscent of Margaret Keane’s style), but the animation isn’t as impressive as it could have been and some scenes could have varied in camera shots and angles to make the visuals more interesting.

I do think that the art of the episode shines most with the extreme close-ups. In the flashback montage, Tae’s facial expression of heartbreak is palpable with her hand outstretched and tears pooling from her expressive eyes.

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This is heartwrenching. ಥ_ಥ

The voice acting was pretty good as it gave the scenes more emotional depth and edge to static looking images. I have to give props to Murase Ayumu for his work as Muhyo in the first episode. I’m used to hearing his voice as a bright genki shounen anime protagonist, particularly a certain orange-haired volleyball player from a certain volleyball sports anime. Murase decided to adopt a quieter, deeper and more sinister voice to bring Muhyo to life and I live for it.

Hayashi Yuu surprised me as Roji because I’m familiar with his voice work as another character from the same volleyball sports anime, so it was great to hear Hayashi switch from a senpai into a kohai. I don’t know if I liked his voice but I felt like Hayashi captured Roji’s teenage boy shyness.

In terms of the theme songs, I am in love with the ending theme, Hotohashiru by ORESAMA. I like the band’s funky 80s electronic pop sound. It is the kind of music that makes your body move along to the beat. And if you haven’t already, you should definitely check out the music video because it’s amazing.

I think that the timing of the Muhyo and Roji anime was pretty random, just because I don’t think I ever thought it would come out and never personally wondered if it was going to be animated. I wasn’t a big fan of the original work but it is a decent shounen title. I enjoyed Murase’s voicework as Muhyo and that the voice work definitely helped out the animation in spots where it could have been more polished and interesting.

I do think I’ll be following the series because I didn’t have the interest in it the first time, but I’m willing to check out the next episodes to see its progression.

For an anime like Muhyo and Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation to come out after nearly a decade since its original source’s completion, what completed manga series do you want to see animated? Let me know down below!  

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