Chiko Heiress of the Phantom Thief anime review

Chiko Heiress of the Phantom Thief anime review
Chiko, who had been leading a lonely life because of her parents death. Together with the Phantom Thief Nijū-Mensō (20-Faces), she sets out on a journey into the real world. She gradually changes as she encounters new friends and places. But strange events start happening revolving around the mystery of "Legacy of the 20-Faces". So Chiko has to move forward, regardless on how checkered her life will become.

After having taken a long break from anime viewing, it's really great to come back to something like this. The Daughter of Twenty Faces may not break a whole lot of new ground, what with its "sudden revelation" style of mystery storytenning, but it is still a whole lot of fun.

For the first few episodes, the spotlight is clearly on The Man of Twenty Faces, played with calm confidence by Yuya Ichida (Dr. Franken Stein, Soul Eater). For being a "dreaded thief", he is exhorts his band to never take lives, instead acting like a globetrotting 1950s Robin Hood, or like good old Lupin III, but with ten times more disguises and ten times less lechery. Twenty Faces is effectively a detective on the wrong side of the law, using his keen cognitive skills and the talents of his cohorts to break down each and every situation the gang finds itself in.

Chiko watches him intently, and it's neat to see her go from sheltered rich girl to acrobatic, quick-witted sidekick, to imminent star of the team, all the while learning from each of the Twenty Faces crew. You also get to know all the different clan members, but as the opening sequence hints that Twenty Faces disappears, it makes sense that the clan might not last, either. After episode six, the emphasis of the series clearly shifts to Chiko herself, as she begins her own quest for truth. Chiko is an intensely intelligent and incredibly likable character, played with great poise and spirit by superstar seiyuu Aya Hirano. (If you don't know her by now, you haven't been paying attention.) When Chiko finally gets home, she gets a new posse, starting with her classmate, the spoiled detective fangirl Shunka Koito, played with a good deal of fun by Rina Sato, previously noted for Negi Springfield from Negima!.

This being a BONES production, the animation tends to be decent, though it's clear that most of the skilled animation is focused on spotlighting Chiko, while other characters are often relegated to speed lines. Character designs are rather retro, and generally in keeping with the 1950s-era setting. There's the occasional bits of silliness involving supposed artifacts from the war (the enormous battletank fortress in the second episode being one example), but given that this is an adventure series, such things are forgivable. Fan service would be out of place given the setting, so it's mercifully nonexistent. (Considering that Chiko is only twelve at the onset of the series, this is also a blessing.) The music isn't intended to be overtly impressive, but the combination of the light rock opening and jazz background tracks works pretty well.

The plot, as I have implied before, takes a couple of really wild swings, and after the end of the first arc, there is what amounts to a sea change in the pacing of the storyline. After all that globetrotting, it seems odd for everything to be stuck in Japan again, but at the same time, each episode leaves you on the edge what's going to happen next. That being said, this series is almost exclusively story-driven, and does a good job of keeping audiences chomping at the bit to see what happens next week. Sure, there are more than a few cliches, and arguably, Twenty Faces himself is sort of incredibly archetypal and kind of ridiculous, but the whole thing is executed with so much style and skill that you really generally don't care.

All in all, The Daughter of Twenty Faces is the kind of well-executed show that reminds me why I got into anime in the first place. There's not a whiff of "moe", and no cynicism, and it may not even have the best animation or true depth to its mysteries. But it has a likable lead and if you allow yourself to buy into the whole "thief with a heart of gold" concept to begin with, you'll have a lot of fun with this show. Not to mention that Chiko could honestly mop the floor with any random dozen moe girls -- there really ought to be more anime characters like this.

Better than review, is a Trailer video of: Chiko Heiress of the Phantom Thief. Watch it now:
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