Why You Should Watch…Dramatical Murder

I haven’t blogged much about anime specifically, during Second Hand September (I haven’t blogged much about anything, honestly, but that’s a different story!). It was tough to think of any anime that might link with the theme. But then some off-hand comments I made about ‘Carole & Tuesday’ reminding me of ‘Dramatical Murder’ led me to re-watch the series and look at what’s happening in the world of DMMD fanfiction, and I figured that its junk-shop setting and its themes of re-setting and making new might actually make it a good fit for this month’s Second Hand September posts.

If you’ve heard of DMMD but never watched the series or played the game, chances are you know it as ‘that weird BL dating game’. And you wouldn’t be too far out. The visual novel, by Nitro+Chiral, is a bit far out compared to standard dating sims, even though it has the same basic structure of selecting from a harem of colour-coded bishounen and pursuing different character-routes to get good or bad endings. The good endings nearly all involve some fairly explicit sex, the bad endings are horrifically extreme, and the overall plot is so much more than just a harem romance. It’s on a similar level to ‘Steins:Gate’ in terms of its sci-fi plot and its focus on one person struggling to save the world by saving individual people.

The anime, not too surprisingly, takes out the BL elements of the story. But that still leaves an intriguing cyberpunk plot, some delightfully deep emotional moments, and a killer soundtrack.

In terms of set-up and plot, we follow Seragaki Aoba, a young man living on the island of Midorijima, which is divided into the Old Town and Platinum Jail, a walled-off leisure-world with super-fancy tech, open only to the wealthy. Platinum Jail is owned and run by Toue, and its construction displaced many of the island’s residents, leaving them living in relatively poor conditions right next door to this futuristic paradise. 

Aoba works in a junk shop selling second-hand tech, and frequently gets telephone calls from customers who, for some reason, simply want to hear his voice. He finds it weird, but also knows that using his voice in a certain way can persuade customers to buy stuff they don’t need, which is good for business so he just goes with it. He has no family other than his grandmother and his robot-dog, Ren (also known as an All-Mate, the name given to the personal electronic assistants that most of the residents of Midorijima own). 

The main pastime for young people on Midorijima is a VR game known as Rib, and there are whole gangs devoted to playing Rib and a newer game, Rhyme. Although the gangs are territorial, they often work to take care of their communities and aren’t especially violent. Aoba’s best friend, Koujaku, is leader of one such gang (and also for some reason a highly sought-after hairstylist with no salon to call his own – he just announces impromptu pop-up salons wherever he feels like it). 

Aoba has no interest in playing Rib or Rhyme, but one day gets dragged into a game of Rhyme against his will. Rhyme is basically a VR combat game where players use their All-Mates to fight: Ren, usually a cute little terrier, is a big beefy bishounen in the VR world, and despite not being a Rhyme player, suddenly Aoba finds that he and Ren can not only play but beat their unknown opponent.

Still with me? Good, because all this is still episode one.

Aoba starts collecting a small harem of odd men. Along with Koujaku, there’s Noiz, a computer wizkid, Clear, who wears a gasmask and doesn’t know what doors are for, and Mink, a deep-voiced mystery man who tells Aoba he carries the scent of death. When Aoba’s grandmother is kidnapped, his harem come together to help rescue her and uncover a secret plot to use Platinum Jail’s advanced tech to control people’s minds. Oh, and did I mention Aoba can feel pain in his hair? That’s a thing.

There’s also Aoba’s secret suppressed identity and his ability to re-set people’s minds and free them of their inner demons. And, since it’s a harem-plot from a game with several character routes, each guy has his own back-story which requires Aoba to use his powers to rescue them from some deep-seated trauma.

It’s…a bit of a trip.

Oh, Trip and Virus! They’re two shady guys Aoba is somehow friends with who pop up now and then for inexplicable and totally innocent reasons just because they like Aoba.

Yeah. It’s a lot. 

I watched it several years ago, when I was fairly new to Crunchyroll and was generally just browsing for anything that caught my eye. I recalled the name from seeing it mentioned in various fic communities, and went in expecting more BL than anything else. I think at the time I was slightly disappointed that the BL content had been removed, but found myself enjoying the plot anyway, enough for me to seek out an English patch for the game. Like a lot of visual novel adaptations, a lot of background information about the supporting characters gets cut, which is kind of a shame – Noiz and Clear become a lot more sympathetic when you get to see them hanging around Aoba more, and while Mink actually becomes a lot more problematic in the game (he rapes Aoba in an attempt to bring out his latent powers, whereas the anime just has him hit Aoba a bit), his backstory makes a little bit more sense with more time to focus on it. 

Being a BL harem-type story, it does feature a largely male cast, although Aoba’s grandmother Tae is pretty badass, being a retired neuroscience researcher and being the only one who can get Aoba’s harem to behave themselves around each other.

If you’re really into it, then the game (or a Let’s Play) is worth seeking out, as the supporting cast and the plot as a whole do benefit from having the time to spend getting to know everyone. If not, then it’s worth at least taking time to think a little about each person’s backstory and how deeply they’re afflicted by their situations – Noiz, for example, is completely unable to feel physical sensations except for with his mouth, so gaming is the closest he can get to feeling pain or pleasure, and Clear has been told he must never show his face in public because it’s so hideous, even though he’s never actually seen his own face and can’t compare it to anyone’s. 

Casting-wise, the only big name on the list is Hino Satoshi as Noiz, although it does feature Nakazawa Masatomo, recently heard in ‘Given’ as Haruki. I’d also recommend seeking out the music of Goatbed, who were responsible for the opening and closing music as well as the soundtrack for the game – there’s some awesome dreamy electronica and the opening theme is a total earworm.

Don’t let its weird reputation put you off. The plot, while sometimes a little hurried because of the nature of the adaptation, still touches on some deep issues like mind control and the question of what makes someone human. And if you want to see the grizzly bad endings, they were adapted into an OVA so if you’re desperate you can still see Aoba turned into a living doll or trapped in an endless painful nightmare world.

Have you seen DMMD already? How did it compare with the visual novel? Have you been inspired to watch any of the shows I’ve featured in these ‘Why You Should Watch…’ posts? Tell me in the comments!

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