Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok may have only been in the States for a short while but it has actually been around in Japan for quite some time. The original manga started coming out in 1999 and since then it has enjoyed twelve volumes and a 26 episode animated series. Created by Sakura Kinoshita, who actually worked on Tactics, this anime is probably the weakest of her efforts in my opinion. The concept may be interesting and the characters are quirky enough to provide the fundamentals for a successful show but the execution of the program and plot simply fall short.
What disappoints about this series is the fact that it feels so familiar in many ways. For starters the characters fall into preset routines and feature stereotypical personalities. To be fair some do break the mold but there are some very one-dimensional characters in this anime and their relationships to each other feel awkward. Another area to find fault in is the lack of originality in the structure of the show. This is a boy detective series with a mythical sugarcoating. It is a tried and true genre that needs some spice to make it interesting and sadly the episodic nature of Loki doesn't do itself any favors. Despite these flaws, Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok still has an interesting premise and there are a few moments in between that make it worthwhile.
Typically when it comes to anime you see a very Japanese perspective of things. It's rather uncommon to find a show that explores other cultures and religions so it's pretty cool to see Kinoshita tackle Norse mythology. In Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok the show focuses on the Norse gods as they go through life here on Earth; well, Japan specifically.
At the center of everything is Loki (obviously) who finds himself trapped in the body of a young boy after being banished from the heavens by his father, Odin. Towards the beginning of the series and for much of the anime we don't really get a specific reason why Odin did such a thing. This particular plot develops as time goes on but it takes quite a while for the ball to get rolling. At any rate, Loki is a wizened adult/God/whatever you want to call him trying to make due on our planet in the body of a kid. What does he do? Well, he must have watched Case Closed and thought that was a good idea so he starts up a detective agency.
When the series starts a young Japanese school girl named Mayura comes knocking on Loki's door looking for his assistance. It would seem that Mayura is enamored with all things spiritual but she's rather inept in this particular area. It's kind of amusing because she's the daughter of a Shinto priest and appears to have not picked up any of her father's unique abilities. At any rate, Mayura is looking for a doll that she found and Loki decides to help her out because he can sense evil energy. That's kind of his thing early on and he possesses no real powers it seems aside from being able to sense evil. This changes as the show goes on and we learn more about the character but even so the action is kind of boring.
Other characters appear as well such as Loki's son Yamino who acts as the God's butler of sorts and has a love of all things mail order. He tends to tag along with Loki wherever he goes and Mayura seems to have a crush on him as well. Thor, God of Thunder, has been sent to Earth presumably to kill Loki but since then he has decided there wasn't much point. Instead Thor, or Naragumi as he's called here, tries to lead a normal life and make ends meet by going to school and working part time jobs for money. There's really no rhyme or reason for it all but it does present a rather light comical element within the structure of the show. Watching the character get dumped on constantly makes you feel for the guy but I suppose every anime needs a punching bag.
Other Norse gods such as Loki's puppy son Fenrir, his daughter Hel, Freya, Frey, and the Norn sisters all appear at some point during the program. They each play different roles but it's safe to say that Loki finds himself in the center of the action no matter what's going on. Throughout it all it seems that most of the Gods are out to kill Loki for whatever reason. Odin seems to just want the God of Mischief dead and characters such as the Norn sisters are more than happy to try their hand at offing the kid. This becomes a running plot towards the midpoint of the show and sadly it gets kind of tiresome after a while. The goofy dimwitted villains can't seem to get the job done and quite honestly their characters add very little to the program apart from some comic relief.
Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok is a show that simply seems content on muddling through from start to finish. There's not a lot of focus in the show and that's really the problem here. The episodic nature of the program simply doesn't work with the intriguing concept and I dare say that had this show featured a fluid plot structure and Loki wasn't a boy detective the end result would have been better for it. The involvement of the Norse gods and their lives here on Earth is definitely cool and has potential but Loki just doesn't capitalize on it. The mystery of why Odin sent Loki to Earth isn't explored until later and the amount of people that want Loki dead just feels out of place.
In the end Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok isn't necessarily a "bad" show thanks to a few highlights and a decent sense of humor. The problem here is that it's not the kind of show that leaves a long-lasting and overly positive impression. Once you finish watching it you'll undoubtedly move on to the next thing and forget most of what happened. Because of this you can consider the show a rental if you're looking for something to watch. Even then there are still better shows out there that deserve your time.
Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok hits DVD with its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. The picture quality here is relatively decent but there's very little about it that is outstanding. The image retains some vibrant colors, nice design, fluid animation, and evidence of a good compression rate. However there is some grain here and there and the picture has a soft quality to it that makes the show appear older than it is. All around we're not looking at a poor transfer but it's definitely not as sharp as it could have been.
Like many ADV releases, Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok offers Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1 soundtracks to choose from. As far as the dubbing quality is concerned I found the 2.0 Japanese suited my needs better than the English thanks to more natural dialogue. The English track offers some obnoxious voiceovers and a couple of characters aren't portrayed as well as one would hope. Technically speaking the 2.0 is less dynamic than the 5.1 but that's not saying very much to be honest. There's not much immersion to be had here and because of that the rear channels get only a light workout.
Lately ADV has been reissuing series with the bonus content from the original releases; let's hope this trend continues. Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok features a few noteworthy extras but for the most part they are relatively light in nature. We receive clean open and closing animations, art galleries, and text information about Norse mythology. Some interviews with the original Japanese voice cast are also included here and spread out across the entire series. All around there's not much here that's groundbreaking but it's nice to have bonus content all the same.
Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok is an unbalanced series that doesn't leave much of an impression on you. The Japanese take on the Norse gods is definitely cool and there are some likeable characters here but in the end it's simply too familiar and too flat to really stand out. The formulaic structure of the majority of the show doesn't help matters either and in the end this turns out to be a rather unassuming series. Rent it if you're interested but keep in mind that this show isn't an instant classic or anything.