English Dub Review: Double Decker! Doug & Kirill “Dancing! Academy Investigation!”

Keeping the marginalized at the margins.

Overview (Spoilers Below)

We begin the episode with a girl locking herself in her room. Her mother is begging her to come out, but she doesn’t listen. She looks at herself in a mirror and cuts off her nearly waist-length hair braid. Then the credits roll.

Back in the main story, Doug and Kirill are investigating a case of a woman who appears to have been poisoned. This is the third such case in only a few days, and all of the victims are students of Lisvaletta’s most prestigious private school. Doug, Kirill, Robot, and Boxer all want to take their investigation to the school, but Travis tells them that they will be under quite a few constraints this time around. It turns out, many of the bureaucrats with control over Seven-O’s budget and operations are alumni of the academy, and they don’t want its reputation tarnished.

So, with this in mind, the crew poses as drug awareness officers, looking to spread knowledge about the dangers of the anthem. At their first assembly, a young student storms the stage, demanding a boycott of the school prom. After a few interviews, we find that all but three of the school’s prom queen candidates were targeted by the poison. No one is taking the case lightly, but the proceedings have become intensely personal for Boxer.

She sets up a sting and catches the kid who’s been poisoning the others, and Robot reveals why she’s been so on edge. When Boxer was in high school, her best friend came out to her as a cross-dresser. Boxer cut off all of her hair, and they went to the prom together but were denied entry. The rejection hurt Boxer’s friend so badly that he turned to drugs, and disappeared.

Feeling horrible about the emotions this brought up, Kirill and the rest of Seven-O throw Boxer a party meant to replace the prom she never got to go to. While it doesn’t make up for everything, Boxer appreciates the gesture and has fun with the rest of the group.

Our Take

I want to believe that Double Decker has its heart in the right place. What’s the old saying? “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by ignorance.” I want to believe that including Kirill’s sister, and Derek, and Boxer’s childhood friend is a genuine, but misguided, attempt to include the groups of people who are not regularly seen in anime, but are starting to be recognized as more and more of the audience.

That last part is what makes me think otherwise, though. While Double Decker has gone out of its way to try to normalize cross-dressing, homosexual relationships, and possibly some transgender issues, it does so in such a performative manner, that I can’t help but wonder how much is out of the genuine beliefs of the creators, and how much is for my benefit.

I say this because I’ve seen this before. Often, characters in an author’s intersectional blind spot are included in the show but are kept away from the main premise of the show, in this case, the high concept cop drama. While Double Decker has both a cross-dressing character, a possibly transgender character (it’s not exactly clear), and a character of color, everyone currently in Seven-O is the same white/Japanese hybrid that all anime characters seem to be.

Again, kudos to the show for having these characters, but they’re often the subject of ridicule or jokes about their difference if they’re not outright fridged to give one of our detectives some motivation. Unfortunately, this was one of Double Decker’s best episodes yet, from a plot perspective. I liked the case of the week for once, and it gave us a little insight into Boxer and Robot’s partnership. Yet again, though, the reveal of what had to be sacrificed to give one of our leads the disposition they have is never worth the explanation.

Additionally, I am very confused about exactly what the gender identities of these potentially non-cisgender characters are. It seems as if Kirill’s sister is indeed his sister, as they use she/her pronouns when talking about her. Boxer’s friend, on the other hand, seems to be a cross-dresser/drag queen, as Robot still uses he/him pronouns to refer to him.

So, this could be a lot of things. 1) Robot could be misgendering Boxer’s friend, 2) there could be some kind of translation error, or what I think is most likely 3) the creators of the show didn’t really want to go too far into the weeds on this. And that’s a pity because diversity isn’t a checkbox. It’s a responsibility to not only represent, but represent accurately.

This just isn’t something I trust Double Decker to do with any kind of nuance. It’s the same issue that I’ve had for weeks with the show’s depiction of police work. Double Decker is all image. It knows it wants to have gunfights, and drug busts, and characters that don’t conform to the gender binary, but it doesn’t know what baggage those desires bring with them, and what duties the show now has to represent what they have decided to represent with care and dignity.

The show often makes assertions about its world but has no idea what the implications of those assertions are. The only two characters of color that we’ve seen thus far are Derek and Boxer’s friend. On a similar note, Derek is the only one who doesn’t know that Kirill’s sister was assigned male at birth. So, where do people of character come from in this universe? Are they Lisvaletta natives or are they from another country? Are they not expected to understand gender nonconformity? I think it’s at best disingenuous and at worst dangerous to create a world where the most understanding characters of intersectional issues are the envoys of the state, especially when the state they stand for (Japan) doesn’t even allow for same-sex marriages.

Score
3/10

Zach

Cartoon Philosopher

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