Summer is over, and the best shows have been selected already but in every season there is always a hidden gem or turd that needs to be exposed and talked about. A ride as wild as Samurai Flamenco, prepare your cross and prayers because it is going to get weird. Hidden behind a synopsis that downplays the craziness this show carries and with a source material mostly unknown until the adaptation, it’s time to talk about a marvelous schlockfest, Vatican Miracle Examiner.
About the show
Vatican Miracle Examiner (バチカン奇跡調査官) is an adaptation of an ongoing light novel (13 volumes published so far). Anime was announced on December 2016, and consisted of twelve episodes, 24 minutes each.
The story follows two men, Hiraga Josef Kou and Roberto Nicholas, who work for the mysterious organization The Seat of the Saints, an element of the Vatican dedicated to investigating alleged miracles; during their work, they usually find themselves involved in mysterious murder cases, on which they often end up investigating,
Eventually their route meets with Galdoune, an ancient organization that secretely aims to control the Vatican and since the Middle Ages is involved in obscure alchemic and scientific experiments in search of a way to reach immortality.
I had my doubts with this show when I saw the first episode, I mocked it and thought it was going to be a fujoshi’s wet dream mixed with miserable mysteries to pretend they have a story. I was completely wrong. Many shows develop an overall premise which will be uncovered during the entire airing of the anime, but here, on episode three, we got all the clues already and even when it was revealed what the mystery was, you could not believe it. Vatican Miracle Examiner breaks all prejudgments one can have about it. There are not same-sex pairings, the show treats its religious influences seriously and the mysteries are well presented although their resolutions can require to suspend your disbelief more than usual.
The main premise of the show is worthy of any 80s low budget production. Something that is not often seen on anime that is not shonen is schlock. Plots so over the top that defy any reason and catch the viewer out of their comfort zone. Now, this does not mean all the shows that pull this sort of thing are good (See Kanojo Flag) but those who manage to, are the ones who live in the memories of people and become legends. The mysteries range from Nazis to ancient Occult societies, murders, genetic engineering and demonic possessions. The pace of the show will not let you rest with the details and clues the main characters uncover during the show, but even when you think you got it, the show pulls a crazier explanation that you could ever imagine. This kind of campy mystery anime should always at least two steps ahead of the audience otherwise it gets boring and people would stop watching it.
Another point that makes Vatican Miracle Examiner shine over other shows is its art direction. A show this weird can only have a unique style and it accomplish this. The show heavily relies on intense colors that contrast with its Gothic aesthetic. One scene could portray a beautiful medieval church and the next one an intense rainbow Jesus figure is the focus of attention. When our characters are confronted by what seems to be the arch villain of the show, the camera changes into a fisheye focus and dutch camera angles. I think this is the first time I see something like this in any animation, kind of unsettling but it works in the context of the show.
Being an over the top Anime comes with its flaws. There is an overarching plot in the show that is related to all the mysteries but is weak compared to the insanity of the individual cases. I would love to see more episodic cases instead of trying to mix one with another. Don’t expect redemption or complex arcs with the characters, they ended almost similar to how they started. No mystery defy their faith or questioned their beliefs, and the side characters are completely forgettable which is a shame, the show has enough material to explore the relationships and the machinations behind every mystery.
Don’t be fooled by the description Vatican Miracle Examiner is one of those rare shows that will capture your attention even if sometimes gets too silly for its own good. I recommend watching it, give it a chance when you want a show that does not fit with the current criteria of LN adaptations. Anime is available where anime is.