Otaku USA Magazine
Returning Anime The Millionaire Detective Comes from a Familiar Source

Kanbe is back on the case in The Millionaire Detective

Anime is slowly but surely coming back to our screens — among them The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED, a fresh crime drama that made it two episodes before lockdown kicked in. The spendy sleuth has returned, picking up where he left off with Episode 3. But did you know his story hails from a familiar source?

The four Millionaire Detective books were first published in the 1970s by Yasutaka Tsutsui, an award-winning novelist who’s known less for detective stories than he is for science fiction and surrealism. And if his name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen at least one of the two hit anime films inspired by his work: Paprika and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, both released in 2006.

Satoshi Kon's Paprika, based on Tsutsui's 1993 novel.

Tsutsui is considered by many to be the basis of Japanese postmodern sci-fi. His works, often surreal and psychoanalytical, have won multiple awards over the years — though anime fans may well know him only through the film and manga adaptations of his work. Paprika has also embedded itself in the Western cultural consciousness: whether Christopher Nolan’s Inception was ripped off from, inspired by, or simply adjacent to the film will be the topic of anime op-eds for years to come.

That said, where does The Millionaire Detective stand in terms of Tsutsui’s style? It seems off-brand for the author, but there are still vague highlights of his love for psychoanalysis and overall strangeness.

The seemingly down-to-earth Millionaire Detective has one off-the-wall element.

At first glance, The Millionaire Detective is a police procedural with a fairly chill department, save for one guy. That guy, Daisuke Kanbe, is rolling in cash and uses it to solve all his problems. From bribing witnesses to buying crime scenes, he prefers to take the quick and easy route. No matter how his long-suffering partner Haru Kato feels about it.

In this 21st-century iteration of the 1970s story, Kanbe does everything with the help of HEUSC: an AI with eyes and control everywhere. Technically (and a little scarily), that’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility in 2020. The real clincher come in two words HEUSC says after completing any big-ticket job for Kanbe. The two words tacket to the title — “Balance: UNLIMITED.”

“Millionaire” might be a misnomer for Kanbe. He’s already spent himself out of that bracket in the first two episodes, as pointed out by the list of costs incurred at the end of each. But Kanbe spends without fear, because (apparently) he can never spend himself down to zero. He just has money forever. Why? How? That’s about as important as the setup of a gag anime, really: it gets us to our plot and that’s it.

But what happens when our Millionaire Detective never has to worry about tapping out? He’s never doing numbers in his head, simply shelling out enough yen at one go to achieve his results. And these results rely on the value others (you know, the rest of us) place on money. He shows himself not to understand the long-term effects his actions may take, but he’s well aware of the power of his resource. Even if that power means nothing to him personally. It may not be dream-bending or time travel, but it still makes you stop and think.

Kanbe cares exactly not at all.

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED is currently streaming on Funimation.

Kara Dennison

Kara Dennison is a writer, editor, and presenter with bylines at Crunchyroll, Sci-Fi Magazine, Sartorial Geek, and many others. Beyond the world of anime, she's a writer for Doctor Who expanded universe series including Iris Wildthyme and the City of the Saved, as well as an editor for the critically-acclaimed Black Archive series.