Pyschic Detective Yakumo Overview:
Yakumo is a university student who pretty much just wants to be left alone however it is rumoured that he is a psychic.
Haruka believes her friend has been possessed after they went into a supposedly haunted building and asks Yakumo for help. Even after that case is solved, Haruka continues to involve herself with the unsociable Yakumo and learns more about his particular gift and his tragic past.
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Psychic Detective Yakumo Review:
Pyschic Detective Yakumo is a show that should be a lot better than it actually is. I really enjoy watching this show but know that if asked I wouldn’t recommend it as a must watch. It’s the odd curiosity piece that you recommend to someone who claims they’ve seen it all and you know they have a thing for psychic detectives.
However much like Kiznaiver and several other anime that have had pretty cool premises and established plots I am curious about, Yakumo never really capitalises on its strengths and the lacklustre conclusion does little to really leave you feeling all that keen on jumping back into a rewatch.
So let’s start with the concept.
It’s fantastic. Yakumo sees the spirits of the dead and they aren’t monsters or overly chatty, sarcastic guys reeling off one-liners for comedic effect. They aren’t, for the most part, particularly concerned with the living at all and a lot of their interactions are incidental or are acts of convenience (living people in wrong place at wrong time).
And Yakumo, while he can see these ghosts and talk with them, isn’t particularly keen to do so (due to a general apathy about life in general) and he isn’t a ghost buster or super-powered human. He can see ghosts but unless they choose to move on, there isn’t a whole lot he can do about them.
The way the show treats life, death, and the spirits of the dead is generally very respectful and it is all constructed in a very matter-of-fact manner. It isn’t trying to sensationalize the hauntings and it doesn’t try to tug your heart-strings for the sake of a cheap emotional rise.
While there is a clear message in the show about the value of life and living, death is not seen as the ultimate tragedy either. Characters confront death (both natural and unnatural) almost every episode and it seldom feels cheap.
As a character, Yakumo is interesting. Yeah, he has the typical tragic childhood and absent parents of anime protagonists everywhere and he has the lazy and disconnected attitude toward things that is becoming more and more common amongst anime protagonists (social disconnect is becoming a much bigger issue after all), but he feels like a real character in the way he slowly responds to Haruka and the Gotou and the other characters who try to draw him out of his shell.
Haruka, doesn’t fare so well, as she seems entirely in the story for plot convenience, which is a shame given so much of the story is filtered through Haruka’s perception and at times she shows some genuine spunk as a character.
However, all to often someone needs to act as a catalyst for Yakumo to change and to drag him out of his room. When she isn’t serving that role, she is the dumb assistant asking questions so the audience can have explanations, and she also plays the obligatory innocent bystander and victim at times.
That isn’t to say she doesn’t have some good moments, but her character is inconsistent and her motivation for continuing to interact with Yakumo is never all that clear.
Gotou, as the police detective with marital problems, is interesting as is Yakumo’s uncle, Isshin. These two kind of substitute father figures play different roles and represent different ideals in Yaumo’s life. I found this a nice touch as at least it gave Yakumo a lot of ground in between to find his own path, and the glaring flaws of both of these characters meant they didn’t feel like they existed only to be that mentor figure.
The villains of the piece, Nanase and Yakumo’s father, are menacing and have interesting stories, though their actual plot and goal seems a little too doomed to failure to have ever been considered all that much of a threat. Still, they work well in the background for most of the series and certainly step up their activities at the necessary time to lead to a climax and resolution. Though someone needs to take that taser away from Nanase.
Also, the actual final confrontation was somewhat less than thrilling with the mystery behind these two figures being much more engaging than the actual answers. Oh well.
So, with an interesting concept and some quite solid characters, why isn’t the show as good as it sounds like it could be? Three main problems:
Firstly pacing: Individual episodes of this series tend to focus on their own story, until the midway point where it becomes a little more serialised, but some of these episodes drag, or rather inconsequential parts seem far too long whereas the resolution or conflict is rushed over.
Also, we don’t really get enough time with any of the characters. They are solid enough and we learn enough about them to know who they are but we don’t spend long enough with any of them to really connect the way we need to for the final few episodes to have the appropriate impact.
Secondly, the quality: This is not a pretty anime. And yes, with the subject matter, it was always going to be relatively dark with a subdued colour palette, but everything about this anime just seems unpolished. The backgrounds, character designs and the action. Even the opening of Psychic Detective Yakumo is just kind of dull.
And finally the Luke, I Am Your Father moment. Okay, they don’t go so far as to replicate the scene with Yakumo screaming ‘no’ but it’s one of those shows where the bad guy is actually the father and maybe the uncle knew that all along and just conveniently didn’t tell anyone until it was too late, etc, etc. And while this by itself isn’t a deal breaker and it actually makes a great deal of sense as to why any of the events in the show actually occur, it still feels like slack writing.
Should you watch this show? Honestly, if you like murder and mystery with the occasional supernatural element and you don’t mind a slower moving plot, you will probably quite enjoy this show. I know I find it very relaxing to watch Yakumo and crew resolve the various problems and help the dead pass on. However, if you are new to anime or if you are looking for something really exciting, you are probably better off passing on Psychic Detective Yakumo.
Images from: Psychic Detective Yakumo. Dir. T Kurokawa. Bee Train. 2010.
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10 thoughts on “Psychic Detective Yakumo Series Review – The Dead Might Speak”
Blast from the past. 2010 was pretty much the first year I watched anime as it aired. I remember picking up Yakumo because it was a Beetrain show, and I’d liked most of their shows to date (especially Noir and .hack//sign). I remember sort of liking the show but ultimately being disappointed. If I’m not mistaken, Beetrain would only make one show after that: Hyougemono, a brilliant show about a Samurai aesthet, which was so unpopular, that it took years for even the fansubs to finish it. I miss Beetrain.
In any case, I remember absolutely nothing about the show itself. I’m not sure I would have recognised any images if Yakumo wasn’t in it. Actually, I probably wouldn’t have recognised images even if Yakumo was in it. I don’t really feel like revisiting the show, to be honest. I’m more nostalgic for the time it aired and for the studio. The show itself is pretty forgettable for me, as I demonstrated by forgetting it so thoroughly. (I read your review and still couldn’t remember the referenced plot beats; that’s fairly rare for me. Stuff like that usually jogs my memory. I’m positive I finished the show, though.)
This was definitely a case where the show had some potential but never quite got there. It was very watchable but as you said, not overly memorable. I do however find if a comforting binge watch when I’m just wanting to tune out the world.
I thought I was the only person who watched this show! It never seemed to come up in conversation anywhere and has never had a UK home media release.
A decent show I felt but what bothered me was how Haruka wore the same clothes every episode; this isn’t a comedy where you can getaway with this. Tch! 😛
I know. And her outfit was just kind of odd and she never once changed it.
But I do feel this anime deserves a little more love. It isn’t brilliant but it’s definitely watchable.
I actually liked this series, but that may be because I’m a sucker for those ‘psychic detective’ shows. As far as Haruka goes, she reminds me of the main female lead in Ghost Hunt, though I had nothing against her as a character. It was just that she felt mostly useless.
At least the lead in Ghost Hunt had a fairly consistent personality. Haruka never really felt like a solid character.
Huh, never actually heard of this show before so that’s kind of a treat. From the sound of it, your review seems pretty comprehensive in how it talks about the show’s appeals as well as its obvious missteps and shortcomings. Doesn’t sound like it’s up my ally but I do find the prospect of the dead spirits and their interaction with humans being incidental rather than something malicious. Sounds like a case of one ‘living’ thing intruding upon the space of another through no fault of their own and this has always been a really compelling theme for me *cough cough Mushishi cough*. Thanks for the review!
I’ve always been surprised that this actually got a DVD release in Australia given how few people seem to know about it. No English dub though that I’ve been able to find.
I enjoyed your review!
This sounds like serious version of Mob Psycho 100, never seen the anime so I can’t really compare the animation.
It always irks me when the show cannot decide to be episodic or have an overarching arc. The only time that went well was in Steins;Gate, and that can be argued that it was to build up the last arc in the end.