Sunday, November 29, 2015

Let's talk about the anime "Magic Kaito 1412" and magic tricks

An anime that I didn't hear many people talking about while it was airing was Magic Kaito 1412. I'm still catching up with the show at the moment, but I want to mention a few things about it.

First off, Magic Kaito is a manga series by Gosho Aoyama, who also wrote Detective Conan and, indeed, Magic Kaito is set in the same universe. Occasionally in both the manga and the anime, characters from Detective Conan appear in Magic Kaito and (I believe) the other way round too. A few years back, there were some animated TV specials that were marketed as "Detective Conan Special" even the ones that didn't have any connection to the Detective Conan characters at all. The new series (with the 1412 suffix) has Conan and co appear every so many episodes, so this is not lost at all.

"Kaito Kid" is a phantom thief and, most importantly, a magician (I'm not going to go into the story, you've got Wikipedia for that). Rather than concentrating on the phantom thief elements like other shows might, Magic Kaito concentrates on the use of magic tricks, illusions, etc. As someone who spent a few years of their childhood learning magic tricks from people such as Dominic Wood along with various books, there's a certain attention to detail Magic Kaito 1412 has that I can really appreciate.

At the start of every episode, there's a stage with panning spotlights as Kaito introduces the episode with an (often cryptic) message about the heist/performance coming up. Not explaining what they're going to do, but a little thing to think about as the episode begins (a clue, perhaps). You're then usually introduced to the characters of the episode who typically have a jewel that Kaito is going to steal.

At some point in the first half of the episode, there's a discussion between Kaito and his uncle regarding how the plan will take place. Feasible entrances/exits, security systems, etc. This part is very carefully directed so that some things are either not mentioned out loud and instead shown on a computer screen directed away from the camera (I know it's anime, it's still a camera shut up) or are whispered so you can't hear it. So you have a vague idea on what they're planning, but not necessarily how they will do it. This is Stage Magic 101: let the audience know roughly what you're going to do, to build hype, interest and intrigue, but not everything about the trick because they will know A) what to expect, and B) where to look to try and figure out the trick. So you'd say "I'm going to make this elephant disappear" not "I'm going to make this elephant disappear behind this curtain with a spotlight behind it so you can see the elephant behind the curtain". There are some magicians/illusionists (there is debate about which word is appropriate) who are completely silent throughout a trick or routine and instead rely on gestures, props and music to create more of a visual spectacle.

Speaking of visual spectacles (other than the ones on my face, ba dum tschh), Magic Kaito continues its episode, usually finding out more about the characters who will have their gem stolen, etc. Eventually, the night of the heist arrives and Kaito makes a point of making a show out of them stealing the precious item, rather than taking it and leaving, because where's the fun in that? This is the natural combination of magicians and phantom thieves (occasionally referred to as "gentleman/lady thieves", e.g. Carmen Sandiego, Arsène Lupin, etc). There's usually something that goes wrong with Kaito's plan for whatever reason, occasionally caused by the interference of the aforementioned Detective Conan or accidentally by the bumbling police officers. It of course seems like Kaito's going to get caught or be forced to give up the heist, but he then surprises everyone, including the audience (us) with a backup plan (either thought of in advance or thought of there and then) that is often very clever and catches you off guard. There's never been a single episode where I've said "I saw that coming" when it comes to the main heist, and especially the backup plans.

The only downside is that Kaito has a tendancy to be quite childish when in school, particularly with the typical anime "girl who is childhood friend sits next to protag in school and blushes 24/7" thing going on (it is still an anime at the end of the day).

Oh, and there's occasional moments when a witch (in protag's class, obviously) uses real magic against Kaito's magic tricks and there's a whole real magic vs stage magic sub-plot going on occasionally, but that's really just cos the witch (Akako) is a fun character anyway and hella tsundere (even voiced by Eri Kitamura).

Perhaps I'm just getting nostalgia from my days of magic tricks as a kid, but this show is good fun and worth checking out.

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