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December 14, 2012 / Bradley

12 Days of Anime: Milky Holmes and the Case of the Oddest Cartoon

12 Days of Anime is a project about anime in 2012 spanning not only tens of blogs but millions of potential universes and timelines. In one such universe, the profundities written here brought about peace in the Middle East. In this world, I just write about Milky Holmes again.

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If you blog about anime, you should be taking risks. I use that term loosely, since the worst that could happen to a blogger is you blow sixty bucks on a set of DVDs you don’t like, and considering that anime is such a remarkably cheap hobby, you probably didn’t spend any money at all. So taking risks should come naturally. Oddities should perk you up, anything that doesn’t fit the mold you thought it would slide into should get you curious. But since much of anime fandom is simply indulging in things we already know we’re gonna like, much of blogging follows that same pattern. It’s a shame. We should make more time for oddities like Milky Holmes 2.

“Oddity” is the safest term to describe Bushiroad’s second installment in their “moe game to moe cartoon” franchise. I can’t tell how much of it is parody, because it takes its storyline about moe detectives retrieving their memories and their Toys in the hopes of redeeming themselves in the eyes of their School Administrators Who Are Also Secretly Thieves very seriously. It’s certainly a comedy, but it’s tapping into a part of cartoon comedy we normally associate with Western humor- it’s gross, extreme, and thoroughly bonkers. It’s more Rin and Stimpy than K-On! It delights in being stupid for no other reason than stupid is funny. And it has a good poker face- some episodes are clearly farce, and others, well, it’s hard to tell. This wasn’t as true in the first series- it more or less played its concept out as you’d think it would and kept the humor silly, but well within reason. No birds shitting in the faces of moe girls as they peek outside a moving train, no grotesque Golgo 13 parody, no Agatha Christie running off with her true love on the back of a great white whale, no Lard Boy conquering the Earth with his Lard powers, and nobody will eat charred chicken pulled from the remains of a burning farm. Its refusal to fit cleanly into any of my pre-defined notions of what anime comedy is supposed to be like is a big reason why I can’t forget it. And I can’t say it’s “parody” or “satire,” though it certainly tries to do both in its own, clumsy way. Besides, “parody” is an over-used excuse for weak cartoon humor.

I also won’t say it’s skillfully done. It’s certainly not well animated, the story and characters aren’t particularly engaging, and its wit doesn’t rise much above what I’d expect from a slightly deranged high schooler in a Creative Writing class. It’s a kind of silly pointlessness that turns people off quickly when the humor has no real bite or substance. It just seems to exist because it can. I’m perfectly fine with that- structure is overrated in cartoons anyway. This is a poorly made funhouse mirror of high concept moe comedy, but that it exists at all is kinda amazing. It goes to great lengths to make all of its characters, including its cute girl cast and oddball villains, grotesquely stupid and unappealing. How is that supposed to sell character goods? I like to think it isn’t. I like to think that the folks involved in this got really, really tired of generic moe tropes and tried to make the characters as weird and ugly as possible. But who knows? I haven’t  been able to find any interviews to back this up.

Tantei-Opera-Milky-Holmes-Dai-2-Maku-tantei-opera-milky-holmes-29633554-640-360In fact, I find Milky Holmes 2 an incredibly difficult anime to recommend responsibly. I would think most anime fans should give it a pass, if only because there’s better stuff out there. For the truly hardcore- presumably the people who would read this blog in the first place- you would get a “maybe.” Because there’s additional hurdles to get over- not only is comedy inherently personal and difficult to recommend to people unless you really know their tastes, I also have to remember that Milky Holmes 2 assumes you remember the characters and story from a prequel most sane people- including myself- have never and should never see. Recommending this is almost a guaranteed failure.

So don’t watch Milky Holmes 2. Instead, I recommend you find your own Milky Holmes- some oddity of entertainment that gets to you, even when no one else understands or likes it. There’s a weird sense of ownership that comes with it- it’s your experience with your cartoon/movie/album/concert/television series, dammit, and nobody can ever take that away from you. And you like it on your own terms, some of which you can explain, and some of which you may not be able to yet. In a world with thousands of experts to tell you exactly what to watch and why you should watch it, define for yourself what makes something entertaining. And if you can’t define it, that’s okay too.

Just whatever you do, don’t call it a “guilty pleasure.” We all know that’s a lie high schoolers tell. Don’t you dare sell yourself short like that.

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11 Comments

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  1. flawfinder / Dec 14 2012 10:16 pm

    Milky Holmes is one of the most awesome moe shows to ever exist and I will hear no different.

  2. Thomas (@ABCBTom) / Dec 14 2012 10:40 pm

    I deeply love this series. It’s almost been a year since Milky Holmes 2 came out and I still have the same level of enthusiasm for the series, which is very rare. It’s really hard to figure out what the appeal is, since the girls are all so annoying, but there’s a very real affection there. Even for Nero. I’d love a license and a dub, but that is tragically unlikely. I’ll just have to settle for that third season that will have to eventually come. Keep hope alive.

  3. kViN (@Yuyucow) / Dec 14 2012 10:43 pm

    I’m gonna grab you by the collar, force you to watch the first season and make sure you enjoy every second of it. Or rather, every second past the first three episodes, which are rather weak and almost made people believe that Milky Holmes would be a dull, sane show. Past that point it’s non-stop crazy awesomeness just like the best episodes of S2, just in a more consistent fashion. The series’ script it’s much tighter, a controlled madness unlike the second season’s aimless adventures. While it was just an excuse to see them doing stupid crap, the story advanced as they tried to get their powers back. S2 hand lacks that direction, which makes it get a bit stale towards the middle. Hell, they even had to use “Cordelia’s delusions make everyone go crazy” as the premise of multiple episodes because they had no idea what to do. The last arc is as great as the first episodes were so overall I still love it, but it just feels weaker as a whole.
    That said, THE issue with S2 is the blatant joke recycling (done good in some cases, like Kokoro-chan’s… everything), which doesn’t quite affect you since you started with that. So maybe we’ll be exact opposites once you watch the first season… because you will, right?

    • Bradley / Dec 15 2012 1:47 am

      Maybe. I’ll add it to the “to watch” list. Do you have any idea how long that list is, though?

      No, it’s longer than that.

  4. Shinmaru / Dec 14 2012 10:44 pm

    I’m definitely giving Milky Holmes a try sooner or later. I’m all for that brand of insanity!

  5. Landon / Dec 14 2012 11:10 pm

    Milky Holmes is either a accidental masterpiece like Ed Wood’s creations, or the greatest screw you directed at fandom since both endings of Evangelion. Either way, yeah, I think it’s brilliant.

  6. krizzlybear / Dec 14 2012 11:12 pm

    Loved season 1, couldn’t get past the awkward first few episodes of season 2, but that day will come.

  7. Dop / Dec 14 2012 11:27 pm

    The “God of Lard” sequence towards the end of season 2 is quite simply the single most batshit insane piece of anime I’ve seen this year.
    I have never heard the word “Lard” uttered quite so often within a 20odd minute period.

  8. kadian1364 / Dec 18 2012 8:54 pm

    I’ve heard of Milky Holmes via the hyperbolic ravings of a few fans whose tastes are often antithetical to mine, so maybe I’ll be excused for not leaping on the bandwagon sooner. This post, however, has convinced me to give it a longer shake. So yeah, thanks for making my To Watch list longer, ass!

    • Bradley / Dec 18 2012 10:00 pm

      For what it’s worth, I’ve convinced a fair number of folks to try Milky Holmes. None of them survived the first episode. Good luck, sir!

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