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Anime Review: Ayatsuri Sakon aka Puppet Master Sakon

Based on the manga series Karakurizōshi Ayatsuri Sakon written by Masaru Miyazaki!

Ayatsuri Sakon puppet-master-sakon-3If you love a good murder mystery anime, definitely check out Ayatsuri Sakon otherwise known as “Puppet Master Sakon.” Despite its airing in 1999, this anime continues to be one of my favorites even today.

Ayatsuri Sakon follows a young man named Sakon Tachibana. Sakon hails from a family famous for Bunraku, which is a traditional form of Japanese puppet theatre. Despite being the grandson of the great Bunraku master, Tachibana Zaemon, Sakon manages to remain a humble and thoughtful person. He’s also painfully shy, barely uttering a word on his own. Besides being a masterful ventriloquist, Sakon possesses one other major talent: his skills of observation, which make him a much sought after amateur detective.

Standout Aspects of the Show

The first unique aspect of the anime is the importance of the puppet Ukon. Ukon is a Bunraku puppet that is said to be over 100 years old (given the fact that he is said to have been made in 1870, I assume that means the series was set in the 1970s or 1980s). He is childlike in voice and immature in behavior, with beautiful red hair and a youthful demeanor.

Ukon is important because he counterbalances the shy, almost withdrawn Sakon. Sakon doesn’t seem to have much of a voice of his own, or self-confidence, so Ukon allows him to boldly express himself.

There are recurring characters seen from time to time, mostly Sakon’s police officer Aunt Kaoruko. Kaoruko is a talented policewoman who dreams of finding a handsome man to marry. She often gets into hilarious confrontations with Sakon’s puppet, Ukon.

One of the things I really appreciated about the show is that it touched on the sexism that a woman like Kaoruko faces because of her position. It’s the first anime I’ve seen that actually touched on how women in nontraditional work roles often face discrimination and pressure to conform to gender norms and roles.

Ayatsuri Sakon puppet-master-sakon-2

The Mystery Aspect

Let’s say you’re a successful company that routinely advertises your service. It’s logical to rely on a newspaper circular to get the word out about how good you are. Sakon somehow gets around without much advertising, leading me to wonder how his skills as a detective became so respected or honed. This isn’t touched on in the series as far as I can tell, making me wish there were some sort of prequel anime available. I’d love an explanation of how Sakon became such a talented amateur detective.

I wouldn’t even attribute Sakon’s ability to solve cases to “word-of-mouth” advertising. He literally just happens to be in the right place at the right time for much of the anime. In this case, I have a bit of trouble suspending disbelief. I can understand it happening a few times, but practically every time? It probably would have been better if there was more emphasis on word-of-mouth knowledge of his abilities and he were asked for his helped by strangers more often (his aunt has asked his help).

The actual mystery aspect of the show is pretty good. It allows you to observe certain individuals, gather clues, and try and figure out on your own who the guilty party or parties are.

There are some violent deaths, but it’s not too gory much of the time (also the effects are somewhat “dated” when compared to other anime).

It’s not a very hard mystery anime to follow as certain scenarios, such as the “locked-room,” are repeated in the series. In fact, it might get a little boring for more skilled mystery solving watchers.

Even so, the manner in which Sakon reveals the truth at the heart of the mystery combines his talent for ventriloquism (which even includes impersonating the voices of other people) with his detective skills in a truly special way and is typically the climax of each mystery.

While there are some flaws here and there, overall Ayatsuri Sakon is a charming mystery anime that allows you to try your own skills as a detective. It’s easy to follow to the point of predictable, but remains a pleasant experience for anyone who enjoys anime.

The complete 26 episodes of Ayatsuri Sakon are available on Ebay (But be sure to double-check the region code before you buy.  US region code is 1 and UK region code is 2. The region code 0 means the DVD will play in any region.)

Ayatsuri Sakon puppet-master-sakon-1

Image sources: soundlesswind.tumblr.com & abandonedfactory.wordpress.com

Author Profile:

Kayla Matthews is a Diverse Japan blogger, anime nerd and Japanese cultural enthusiast. You can check out her productivity blog at ProductivityTheory.com and follow her on Google+ and Twitter @KaylaEMatthews to get updates on her latest posts!

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DVD Review: Another Complete Collection (2012)

Anime Review: Hakuoki

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