We don’t normally see a crime thriller anime built around a grittier realistic world. Often it revolves around kid detectives or absurd scenarios, never really grounded in for the most part tales that are able to go to places they should go to. Hello Hedgehog: Domain of Murder in that regard is a complete rarity. We are dumped into a world where humans react to situations without a soft hand to hold it back from the reality of the situation. Yes murder does happen in shows like Detective Conan, but it never truly deals with harsher situations and psychological states that border terrifyingly real that one would never think it would happen.
The story revolves around a missing husband who was found three years later shooting a mafia member as well as his girlfriend at the time. His wife asks for help from a private eye detective agency to find out where he is. Goro Nanase now goes down the trail of this deranged man who seemingly is losing his mind to guilt as he let his daughter die before disappearing. We delve more into the husband, Tsuyoshi Toyama, and his psychological state about how he feels regarding the incident and how it has torn apart his family. That part of the story is certainly the most interesting section of this 50 minute OVA, yet there is more to it than just the family.
Goro must search for the husband, and that does take up about half of the runtime. Goro meets with a bar owner, Mama, and gets close to her in order to find out what happened. This is where the short film meanders and certainly gets slow especially with it taking time to build up both characters plus the friend of the husband, the police investigator Yamagishi. Yamagishi is what helps to bring this story back to the meat of it all and certainly is what helps to both give a tertiary opinion to what is happening. Not so much a cop who must do his job, but as a friend who is going off the books to help Tsuyoshi. There are one-note characters, but thankfully they never focus on them and that would only pad out the runtime if they shoved in exposition about them.
The section with Mama is weird, but necessary in finding out about Tsuyoshi while he was away and how he finally snapped after three long years. Parts of the film feel unnecessary, like one nude scene that is quite clichéd, and the animation quality wavers from solid (especially with snow) to just plain unrecognizable (WITH THE SAME SNOW). Studio Deen did this and it shows due to how mixed a lot of their past works were with me, this one is no different in the animation department. The jazzy music however really helps to set a classical noire-esque type of private eye story even if the PI is more laidback and charming rather than stern and broken. It certainly is more a product of its time more than anything as the original manga, this case was taken from, started in 1980.
It certainly is one of the more unique experiences in anime, especially since this was only one of the many stories within the series of Hello Hedgehog and one of the few realistic crime stories done. It may be a slow burn to start off with and at times near the end a tad bit too schmaltzy, Domain of Murder really manages to stand out as an overlooked classic. The characters are interesting and you really do feel terrible for the father even though what he does is despicable. While the consistency of the quality wavers in and out at times, Domain of Murder reels you into a scenario that forces you to question morality in certain situations.
Hopefully some of you decide to find and watch this gem somewhere, because it is far too overlooked. Is there a classic crime story that you think is often overlooked? Put it down in the comments below and have a good day. I am hopefully going to get back on track shortly with my seasonal round up of Spring as well as tackling some other little things I have been working on.