“In Neo Otaku City, there are two kinds of people. The kind of people that can recite the Sailor Moon theme song from memory in the original Japanese, and the kind that don’t belong there. When someone commits a crime against anime, they don’t call the police. They call: the Anime Crimes Division.”
From the very beginning, Anime Crimes Division separates itself from parody into a full-blown comedy web series more deserving of laughs than most stand up comedians. Our hard-hitting police force within Neo Otaku City strives to keep its citizens safe from a range of villains, such as Dakimakura thieves, plays-for-keeps card sharks, and Gundam model murderers. Sungwon Cho, also known as YouTuber ProZD, plays Joe Furaya, a gritty detective addicted to Pocky and Gundam models. He’s joined by his rookie partner Diesel, a Digimon-fangirl played by Riley Rose Critchlow. It’s a setup for the ages; the hard-beaten, jaded detective brought back from the edge by his up and comer partner who’s all too willing to do what it takes to save the both of them. Everything about them screams cliche, from each word Sungwon growls, to every time Riley quips a fact that’s just slightly off. And yet – it works. Their banter is cheesy and over the top but isn’t to a sickly point of embarrassment or boredom.
Each episode rounds out to roughly eight to ten minutes long, but is packed full of so many references it feels like an OVA. Each reference ebbs and flows into a cohesive and hilarious short that revels in its own absurdity, while managing to keep an actual plot line flowing. From the callback intro of classic anime, to the noir-esque, almost melancholic outro, the cast engages the audience through excellent writing and nods to anime past. And each one feels genuine – there’s no attempt at making it more serious or even upping the humor. It just is. Which is all the show seems to need to make it work. Some of the one-liners come at you so fast you might miss them, but that’s okay. There’s more coming at you. Anime Crimes Division is satire at its best, and an ode to everything we love about the medium.
Every episode is ripe with delicious Easter eggs — ones’ that everyone from the anime newbie to the hardened otaku will recognize. Each one is carefully thought through and planned, from the names of businesses to the crimes themselves. The first episode features some of the easier ones to catch, from gang wars between Subbers and Dubbers, to the force’s newest recruit from Little Police Academia. And, let’s not forget, the infamous Naruto run. It’s a nice way to ease the viewer into the show with obvious teasers and hints. If you miss one, there’s bound to be another that will follow close behind.
The second episode is where the show seems to really find itself, particularly within “Yu-Gi-Oh” references. Trap cards are activated, complete with Miranda rights written on them. There’s Pocky addictions instead of cigarettes, Ramune soda instead of beer, and Yubaba Boba to top it all off. The third episode is a personal favorite, complete with emotional punches and Gundam metaphors. There are callbacks to earlier hints in the show and more obscure references that are almost easy to miss. The fun use of flashbacks to show Joe’s past would make any anime aficionado swoon. It’s the third episode that really shows Anime Crimes Division is to be taken seriously (or as seriously as it wants). I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s by far the most impressive of the season.
What the show truly excels in, however, is the amount of love that it holds for anime. The community is no stranger to ridicule, with some shows more subject to harsh criticism than others. But what Anime Crimes Division manages to do is take these critiques and reform them with love. Rather than ignore silly moments and tropes within certain shows or fandoms, it embraces them. There’s a certain self-awareness at work- one that allows the viewer to take a ribbing in good faith. The show makes fun of things because they also love that thing. It’s why the show has proved itself to be one of the more clever series out there, and why it was a genius move for Crunchyroll to pick it up.
Anime Crimes Division is nothing short of a sweet, funny, and at moments, even tender celebration of anime and the driving passions behind it. It doesn’t shy away from the hilarity of fandoms, while keeping a respectful distance. It teases, but never mocks. The show fully embraces every awkward moment, every trope, every possible cringe, and they make it work in a way that only the beating heart of fandom could.