Based on the BL Visual Novel from the developers of Togainu No Chi and animated by Studio NAZ, Dramatical Murder follows Aoba, a resident of the island of Midorijima, a privatised resort paradise where the residents have been forced to live in an old run-down residential district. As the virtual battle game Rhyme rises in popularity, people are vanishing and the reluctant Aoba is forcefully dragged into the Rhyme gang scene. Raised by his grandmother, Aoba also possesses a special ability and is able to psychically control people and mix his consciousness with theirs through his voice, which he uses to aid his friends and take the fight to the shady Toue Konzern, the nefarious company that privatised the island.
New characters are introduced on a per-episode basis, and often just get involved with Aoba because “reasons”. It doesn’t always make a lot of sense and feels a bit shoehorned in. I’m sure they all received plenty of time for characterisation in the game, but here it all falls apart a bit. The one exception is Koujaku, who stands out with a genuine backstory and relationship with Aoba (as does Clear to a lesser extent). But characters Mink and Noiz are just… there, with no real motivation to get Aoba involved in their endeavours.
Aoba’s power gives him the ability to either help or destroy people, and it comes with a split personality that is bent on the destructive side. The personalities are very clearly defined as the submissive and assertive sides of the character, and with the origin of this series I’m sure you can figure out what that means. The series has very interesting character designs, but unfortunately the show largely suffers from low-budget syndrome, so the characters are often poorly drawn, and background detail is scant, especially during wide shots.
For an anime based off a Boys Love game it’s remarkably void of any romance save for a few vaguely fan-servicey teases and one utterly sterile kiss. The source material was notoriously dark and gory but none of that has been incorporated until the final OVA episode, which goes through one by one the game’s “bad endings” for each character in a dream sequence. It’s startlingly different in tone and content from the series. Ultimately, Dramatical Murder is an interesting premise poorly realised, and a game with a following like this deserved better, as by all counts the game’s story, pacing and characterisations are vastly superior. The slow pace and boring story made it a bit of a chore up until episode seven, at which point the backstory and analysis of the characters finally make it a bit more interesting. It’s not terrible, but it’s not amazing either.