This series was a rare thing for me: an anime that proved to be a disappointment. Maybe I’ve just been lucky with my choices up until now, or maybe the world of anime really does have a remarkably impressive hit rate, but virtually everything I’ve watched I have ended up enjoying. I didn’t dislike Heaven’s Memo Pad as such, but I didn’t particularly like it much either.
The premise sounded fascinating: a bunch of “Neet” youngsters (for those who aren’t familiar with the term, that stands for “not in employment, education or training”) working for a detective agency run by a shut-in girl. Alice is supposed to be one of those kids who can’t face real life and never set foot outside their own room, which is apparently not an uncommon problem in Japan. Alice is a genius, and sits amongst dozens of computer screens, solving crimes using her amazing intelligence and computer hacking skills, while her team of drop-outs do the leg work on the streets for her.
Pretty soon the format runs into a few problems, starting with Alice herself. She is an odd portrayal of a shut-in girl, very bossy, self-assured and arrogant and quite hard to warm to as one of the main characters. Being agoraphobic must be a debilitating condition, but this is a flippant representation of the issue. On a few occasions Alice emerges into the real world, with no repercussions, every bit as self-assured as ever.
Alice’s team generally consist of unmemorable characters, and the main protagonist, Narumi, makes little impact. There is an attempt at a romantic sub-plot with his love interest Ayaka, but it is neglected for most of the series and ends up being too little too late for this fan of the soppy romance genre.
As for the individual detective stories, I found them generally convoluted and hard to follow. Some of them take place over a few episodes, and didn’t really hold my attention. 12 episodes was plenty enough. It was a shame, because towards the end there was a taste of what this series could achieve, with one of the main characters falling victim to a tragedy. It was still not a brilliant storyline, but the last couple of episodes were at least a lot more dramatic and gripping. It took me to about the ninth or tenth episode before I really felt keen to get onto the next episode and find out what happens next. It also didn’t help that the animation is little more than competent. I do look for some beauty in the animation, and found little here, but then again the inner city setting isn’t going to help in that respect. The scenes I enjoyed most tended to be the quiet ones set on the school roof, where Ayaka and Narumi tend their flowers for the school gardening club.
There are certainly a few things the series does really well. There is some interesting exploration of the complex relationships between male friends, particularly those who exist within a gang culture where they might need to lay their life on the line for their “brother”, and also some examination of how those relationships can break down and turn tragically sour. Running through the series is a strong anti-drugs message, and the series never pulls its punches in showing the destruction caused to human lives. On the other hand, it occasionally comes dangerously close to glorifying gang culture.
I don’t regret watching Heaven’s Memo Pad, but I’m not bothered by the lack of a second season either. In fact, if one existed I’m not sure if I would watch it, despite the promise shown by the last couple of episodes. The world of anime is such an embarrassment of riches that there’s no need to spend time on a series that is just OK. RP