Norse Code: Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok

Face of a child, powers of a god.

He could end the world or save it.

I’ve been watching Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok for so many weeks now that I can hardly believe it’s over. Everything must end, though, especially this series, since Ragnarok is actually the end of the world in Norse mythology. In fact, that was my main draw to today’s show: getting to see anime versions of the gods of Asgard in action. It never quite turned into the series I was hoping it would (see my First Impressions for details) but it was still a worthwhile watch.

Meet Loki, a god, and Mayura, a girl with the power to say “Another strange mystery!” more annoyingly than anyone else on Asgard or Earth.

Loki, Norse god of mischief, has been exiled to Earth in the form of a child. He’s not quite sure why Odin (ruler of the Norse gods) has a vendetta against him, but he wants to return to Asgard (the realm of the gods) as well as his original form quite badly. The only way he can do this is by gathering evil energy (though what exactly he’s supposed to do with all that evil energy, we don’t know) so he opens a paranormal detective agency along with his trusty manservant Yamino. While solving a case involving an evil doll he meets Mayura, a teenager who is obsessed with mysteries and the paranormal. She begins hanging out with Loki (despite his initial objections) and tries to help solve cases, though more often than not she gets captured or is just in the way. Mayura doesn’t realize that Loki is a god despite all of the strange and magical things that happen when he’s around, proving she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. Throughout the series more gods show up, some with the intention of helping Loki, others trying to kill him. It seems like just about everyone in Asgard is either in love with him or wants him dead. Either way, they all get into many escapades as the series progresses and Loki gets closer to the truth about who is the one actually thirsting for vengeance.

“Check out my super cool weapon Yamino! Wait, what do you mean you’re not impressed? I don’t care if you’ve seen me wield it a thousand times, you will be awed by it or you’ll taste my clichéd wrath!”

Let’s start with the good: the animation itself is excellent for a series that’s nearly a decade old, which one would expect with Studio Deen. It’s a little bright and cartoony in comparison to other works such as Hell Girl or Vampire Knight, almost as though Studio Deen were producing a typical American Saturday morning cartoon, yet even so the quality is apparent. The opening theme is great, and while the closing theme suffers from some shaky vocals, it’s still quite catchy. The idea of the story is an interesting blend of culture: Norse gods solving occult crimes in modern-day Japan makes for some amusing scenes. However (and here we get to the bad) the story overall never really took off. It was a series of similar plotlines, and even when new gods were introduced they were just blended into the background of another form episode the next time. The second half of the series was better than the first in that we finally had some established conflict within the plot, but it was still never riveting entertainment due to reliance on the same old story patterns. In that regard, Loki’s weapon transformation scene was never outrageously cool to begin with, and after seeing it in nearly every single episode I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. It became stale and predictable, which is a shame given that the subject matter had such potential.

Yamino silently wills Mayura to stab herself in the eye as the audience cheers uproariously.

I could have better dealt with the formulaic episodes if the characters had been well-developed and interesting, but they weren’t. Loki as a child was bland and aloof in a partial-tsundere way and only became interesting when he transformed back into his original form. Those episodes were my favourites, but they were far and few between. Yamino had two episodes of not being the cheerful manservant and was otherwise relegated to only having the quirk of overspending on home shopping to make him lovable. Mayura was, for lack of a better term, a complete idiot and did nothing but detract from the show. Even her shrill voice was annoying. The other gods each had their own eccentricity such as Thor’s obsession with part-time jobs, Freyr’s obsession with cheap food, and Freyja’s obsession with, well, Loki. However, there was little else to each character other than her or his one definable trait, hence they were impossible to connect with, which kept me as a viewer from getting truly engrossed in the story.

Loki’s true form. “Better luck next time, lol!”

As a fan of Norse mythology and paranormal anime I was really looking forward to this series, but it never blossomed into the dark, rich tale that I was hoping for. That’s not to say that there’s no merit here: it’s a unique depiction of Loki, to be sure. He’s certainly much more accessible (and even sort of lovable) compared to other portrayals of the god of mischief found in stories such as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Marvel’s Thor, or even the original Norse mythology. According to good ol’ Wikipedia the manga is much darker than the anime, which leads me to believe that perhaps the manga is better, or at least that it lives up to the tempting potential displayed in the gothic opening credits of the anime. Even so, something kept me watching week after week. Admittedly I’m harsher when reviewing a series that I’m really looking forward to since it’s easier to be pleasantly surprised when your expectations are low. Mine were rather high for this one, but had I gone in blind (or just not raised my expectations based on the references to Norse mythology in the title) I might have written a glowing review of a relatively light, enjoyable fantasy anime. Even though Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok didn’t quite deliver on its promise of dark intrigue and ancient godly battles, it’s still worth watching, especially if you adore the Norse gods like I do.

Rating: ★★★ Check it out for the fleeting mythological references, stay for the dreamy glimpses of adult Loki.

First Impressions: Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok

Gothic mystery collides with Norse legend

when Loki’s on the case.

I was pretty stoked to check out Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok simply based on my love of Norse legends, and episode one did indeed turn out to be a worthwhile venture.

Creepy doll iz watching u. Run, Mayura, run!

We open with a creepy doll in an abandoned clock tower. Well, actually we open with some cool artwork in the credits, complete with scenes of night, floating feathers, and other bits of gothic imagery such as the moon and a spiderweb, not to mention a pretty rockin’ theme song. Then we get to the doll, immediately after which we meet Mayura, a teen with a love of the paranormal. After hearing about the haunted clock tower she skips school in order to investigate. What she finds is said creepy doll, laughing and floating above her head. Mayura starts to run away, but after thinking about all the fame and fortune this doll could bring her, she instead takes it home. (Always a bad idea to take home creepy dolls from haunted places, imho.) Her dad has just helped a businessman exorcise his bad karma when he notices that Mayura is home. (That’s all that we see of dad in this episode. Bye dad!) Mayura is in her room when a black cat jumps through her window, picks up the doll in its mouth, and runs away. She immediately runs outside to look for the doll.

Mayura: "OMG, Loki, you're so kawaii!!! You'd be perfect for my cosplay. I'll be Lizzie, and you'll be Ciel!" Loki: death stare.

Then we switch over to a boy and his butler lamenting the lack of business for their agency. (Hey, I know this song and dance!) Flash back to Mayura: in the midst of her search she finds a detective agency. Lured inside by the dreamy guy doing yard work whom she assumes is the detective, Mayura is instantly creeped out by the spooky accoutrement in the building such as organs(?!?) in jars, tiki masks, and a snake. She makes her way down the hallway where she finally meets the detective in question, Loki, who appears to be a young boy. Mayura describes the doll, but her babbling manner causes Loki throw her out. Even so, Loki and his butler (named Yamino) set off in search of the paranormal evil that Loki sensed had come into contact with Mayura. They discover her looking for her doll near the clock tower. Yamino, using what looks like a tuning fork, grabs Loki and sets off at a run to find the supernatural source of power that he’s picked up. Mayura goes the other way and finds the doll.

Long story short (too late, I know) Loki and Yamino find an old woman who used to work at the manor next to the clock tower and she tells them that the place burned down and the little girl who owned the doll died in the fire. Loki realizes that Mayura is in danger and runs to her aid. Meanwhile Mayura went back to the top of the tower at the doll’s request (again she must have been wearing her bad idea jeans) but then the doll turns psycho and begins to attack her. Loki and Yamino burst in on the scene, Loki armed with a cool crescent moon staff thing, and the battle commences. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination, but you can probably guess the outcome.

Dreamy Yamino is dreamy. Note the pink sparkles, which no dreamy manservant should be without!

I liked this episode. It was a bit dated, which was obvious from some of the music and a few scenes of the artwork, but on the whole it seems to be holding up rather nicely. I like the characters and am interested to find out more of their stories, particularly Loki’s (and I want to see how close to Nordic legend the anime gets). The opening titles were much darker and more serious than the actual episode, but I have faith that the darkness will develop as the series continues. (I do love my gothic anime!) It’s kind of funny how when you begin watching anime you find something that seems totally unique and unlike anything else, then as you keep watching more and more series you see familiar tropes and character types take shape. The serious young man/boy paired with the charming butler/magical servant has popped up a couple of times now, and I see several similarities between this series and Black Butler besides just the two main characters. While I’m 99.9% sure that I’ll never find another anime pairing that I love as much as my dear Ciel and Sebastian, I enjoy getting a taste of my beloved Black Butler’s predecessors. Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok has some interesting elements to add to the anime mix, and I hope to see more of its darker details in the near future.

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