A common theme in animes. Kids acting without guidance or parental supervision.
Anime for children often places emphasis on law and discipline, either through enforcement by parental figures or as the object of cathartic defiance by naughty protagonists. Yasuji Murata's Taro's Steamtrain (Taro-san no Kisha, 1929) showed its protagonist desperately, and largely unsuccessfully, attempting to keep control of an unruly group of passengers, allegorizing an adult's plight by putting a child in a parent's position for comedic effect.
Many children's anime protagonists exist in a dreamworld without parents, adopting an orphan status that may initially be played as tragedy, but can also be exploited as an excuse for an unsupervised existence. Many enjoy an officially "free" orphan status but with parental figures somewhere close at hand, such as the numerous professor-mentors in anime from Astro Boy to Conan the boy Detective (aka Case Closed), the mysterious stranger who offers help in Candy Candy, the latchkey children whose parents work long hours away from home-even in a different city-or the impossibly accommodating bases to be found in every Pokémon town, where children are welcomed, fed, and cared for, and then sent back out into the world to have more fun. This condition in anime has not always been used without comment-Hippo and Thomas allegorized the parent-child relationship as that of a kindly, indulgent giant and a constantly scheming, ungrateful freeloader, much to the amusement of any parents who found the time to look in. Not all anime iconoclasm is as obvious as that found in the bratty behavior of Crayon Shin-chan. Bad guys in cartoons the world over are often given dialogue with a vocabulary at least a couple of years older than of the target audience, thereby giving the subliminal impression of a bullying elder sibling or evil parent. However, in anime made specifically for children, it would be counterproductive for producers to sanction bad behavior without retribution. Consequently, many anime protagonists are heroes working to enforce a greater good-employees or heirs of an individual or organization dedicated to the defeat of evil.
Such trends in anime have led to many crime-related serials, in which protagonists hunt down evildoers, or solve crimes by means of deduction. The Naughty Detectives (1968) may not have appeared in anime until relatively late in the 20th century, but drew on a tradition of crime-solving kids dating back to the early 20th-century works of Ranpo Edogawa. The works of Arthur Conan Doyle have been as influential on anime crime fighters as those of his contemporary Jules Verne were on science fiction-we not only have the adventures of Sherlock Hound, but also the Doyle-inspired Conan the Boy Detective (aka Case Closed). Note, however, that the Casebook of Charlotte Holmes, in its original Japanese form, was far less closely related to the works of Doyle than its English title implies.
Japan's own detective tradition, the torimono-cho, entertained readers with tales of samurai-era detectives, like those found in 808 Districts. Some of these, such as the undercover authority figures of Manga Mito Komon and Samurai Gold, were remade for the anime audience in a fantasy or science fiction format. Three of the most famous were controversially remodeled for an anime audience without the consent of the original creators' estates-a descendant of the superefficient Heiji Zenigata was cast as a dogged, incompetent detective in the long-running Lupin III, whose title character was descended from famous fictional French thief Arsène Lupin, while the grandson of Kosuke Kindaichi would chase criminals in the Young Kindaichi Files.
Anime detective dramas and cop shows often search for a gimmick designed to separate them from the "mainstream," although with the occasional rare exception of one-shots like Domain of Murder, there is no crime "mainstream" within the anime medium itself-anime is instead competing directly with live-action. Consequently, crime anime will search, in much the same way as Erotica and Pornography, for areas within the live-action genre that can be more easily served by animation. Science fiction is perhaps the most obvious, with the Knight Sabers in Bubblegum Crisis and the AD Police, although anime also offers fantasy crime fighters, such as the cast of Sailor Moon. Shows like Sukeban Deka (see alsoDE) flirt with the erotic potential of "bad girls," in which a fallen heroine is offered the chance of redemption through working for the police; Cyber City Oedo 808 plays the same redemptive game without the gender-loaded subtext. You're Under Arrest had little "new" to offer except a self-conscious cuteness, perhaps explaining why it was so easily adapted for live-action. Rarer explorations within the detective genre include Fake, which replays the clichés of the detective drama with a homosexual cast.
Japanese live-action police dramas are reluctant to deal with the issue of a cop on the edge or the wrong side of the law-the hard-bitten, borderline criminal cop of The Shield (2002) all too often mutating in Japan into the sanitized rule-benders of live-action serials like Unfair (2006). However, while the Japanese mainstream generally insists that its cops are good-hearted, anime can push the envelope in new directions, either with science fictional satire of bad policing like Dominion or Angel Cop, or by pinning all the blame on foreigners, as with Mad Bull 34.
The perennial emphasis on science fiction in anime often puts it several years ahead of live-action cop shows in its treatment of new crimes. Hacking, identity theft, and computer viruses are old news in the anime world and continue to be innovatively explored in Ghost in the Shell and its spin-offs. Perhaps the best crime show in anime, however, remains Patlabor, whose robotic supporting cast represents an excellent use of the animated medium over its live-action competitors, while its TV running time permitted long story arcs in which petty infractions gradually escalate into major felonies, and eventually massive governmental conspiracies. For those who want a more traditional sleuthing, there is always Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, continuing the long tradition in Japanese television of detectives hunting down the truth to make us all feel safer.