The long tradition of the eccentric detective continues. This time, it’s a young girl who lives alone in an apartment, subsisting on nothing but Doctor Pepper and noodle-less ramen, and surrounded by stuffed animals and high-end computer equipment she couldn’t possibly afford.
So, what is a NEET? NEET is an acronym for Not Employed, being Educated, or in Training, coined by the Japanese government to describe the growing segment of disaffected youth in their society. The media quickly latched on, turning NEETs into the new group that everyone should be afraid of/hate (not unlike illegal immigrants, welfare queens, tea partiers, etc.), when they were really just the natural outcome of a bad economy.
Anyway, Heaven’s Memo Pad seeks to casts the NEET not as a lazy slacker, but as a noble bohemian. A rebel living his/her life by his/her own rules. But in doing so, it largely skirts the issues. For one thing, all the so-called NEETs of the series aren’t actually NEETs at all. They all work for this detective agency (and most of them have other jobs or studies). Granted, we never see Alice, the shut-in who runs the agency, taking money for their work, but a poorly run business is still a business. In the end, it seems like the creator just took a popular topic from the nightly news and shoehorned it into an unrelated story.
The good news, though, is that that unrelated story is quite good. Heaven’s Memo Pad is ultimately a great mystery series, where the motivation isn’t to capture a criminal, but to reveal the truth. We often know, almost from the start, what the crime is and who committed it. Alice’s mission, then, is to determine why it happened. As Alice says several times in the series, a NEET detective speaks the dead, either to punish the living, or relieve them. She does this by reading the ‘memo pad’ of the title, all the information about everyone that is left behind on the world and the net when a person is gone.
The mysteries are of a refreshingly adult nature. It’s not a graphic series, of course; but we’re not dealing with stolen lunch money or missing puppies. People are hurt badly, but more importantly, the emotional effects of that hurt are presented in a complex and believable way. That’s the true mark of an ‘adult’ series; it’s one that doesn’t exist in the protective bubble where everything makes sense and ends justly.
Although a large part of Heaven’s Memo Pad‘s identity is built upon a rather shallow marketing ploy, what lies beneath is a solid and satisfying mystery series. Despite starring a cast of teenagers, it avoids the anime cliches inherent with such characters. It’s hard-boiled, not hard candy.
The 12 episodes of the series are spread across two discs, with English and Japanese audio and removable subtitles. Credits and titles are left in their original Japanese.