REVIEW: Double Decker! Doug & Kirill (Episode 1-3)

Double Decker! Doug and Kirill | ダグ&キリル (Episode 1-3)
Release: 2018

When I started this blog, one of the anime I wanted to rewatch and critically assign gay points to was Tiger and Bunny. Before I could get around to it, Double Decker came crashing majestically into view. By the same studio and rumored to be set in the same universe, Double Decker is a spiritual successor, if not literal sequel, to the colorful, cartoonish crime-and-cape comedy and a hot tip says this time, it’s gay. Um, gayer.

So crank up the jazz and grab your donuts because we are going full frontal buddy-cop. Move over, vigilante superheroes, because we bought these gainfully employed protagonists with our own damn tax money. Meet Kirill, the aspiring hero whom no one, not even the narrator, takes seriously, and Doug, the standoffish hyper-intelligent veteran detective who misses the killshot in the first three minutes of the show. Add a sparkling posse of lady detectives, at least some of whom are possibly lesbians and-

Wait, are we shooting for both BL and GL here? Aw man, this really is a double-decker!

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Guns are always dick jokes

Let’s crank up Episode 1. Okay, so, this cool sonuvabitch:

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..is not your MC.

It’s actually Kirill Vrubel, a young police constable possessing marginal talent, a girly face, and moxie for days. His stubbornness and tendency to abandon orders on an investigative whim mean he is this damn close to being fired. But all he needs is one lucky chance to be a hero, and he gets it when one day, he stumbles into a warehouse where a trigger-happy terrorist has guns, hostages, and drug-induced evil superpowers.

Lurking in the back, Kirill runs into another agent on the case, Doug Billingham of the “Seven-O” special criminal investigation unit, who explains the terrorist in question is suspected of using a monster-morphing drug called “Anthem”, which his agency aims to eradicate. Doug instructs Kirill to cause a distraction while he takes care of shit. Kirill’s go-to distraction is Naked Time Traveler.

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You don’t truly know what kind of man you are until someone tells you to cause a distraction.

Anyway, that works. The baddie begins to morph a la the Anthem drug, at which point Doug has the jurisdiction to blast him with his antidote gun, which I guess is like mashing the B-button when a Pokemon is evolving.

Somehow, the whole clumsily-executed debacle earns Kirill a transfer to the enigmatic Seven-O unit, where he meets a prismatic team of agents, who work in pairs called “Double Deckers” to investigate and arrest Anthem users. And Kirill’s new partner is, you guessed it, Doug, whose previous partner had the courtesy to die pre-series.

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Things get bumpy in Episode 2 when Kirill’s new boss, Travis Murphy, redacts Kirill’s employment, saying he hired him by mistake. Time to break out a fresh can of genre trope, where the detective gambles his job for one week to prove himself. Travis gives this the thumbs up, so Doug and Kirill naturally wait until the last minute to crack a case of Anthem-smuggling. When a prison-break leads to a number of violent convicts escaping, Kirill fails to do anything of much importance, and it’s Doug who again dismantles an Anthem user. But Travis decides to keep Kirill around anyway, presumably for the lols.

Diving into episode 3, Kirill is absolutely determined to win Doug’s interest and put the “buddy” in “buddy-cop”. But another investigation of a factory worker union gone wrong fails to win him any hero points, and as before, Doug does all the heavy lifting. Still, Doug gives Kirill his own custom gun in his signature purple at the end of the episode, and if that’s not how detectives flirt, then only the gods know how they do it.

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IS IT GAY: ??/10 (BUT PROBABLY AT LEAST A 6)

I don’t know, captain. We’re only three episodes in, but here’s what I’ve got to report. Let’s hold off on Kirill and Doug for now, and turn our attention to Exhibit A.

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In Episode 2, Doug and Kirill’s first surveillance mission for potential Anthem users reaches a dead end when they are stuck spying on a bickering gay couple. “It’s just two boyfriends screaming at each other and throwing stuff,” Kirill says, exasperated.  The fact that the couple is two men isn’t the punchline of a joke, and it’s not even remarked upon as anything unusual. This kind of casual inclusion thus either serves to promote the normalization of gay couples (nice!), or prepare the audience to more actively consider the possibility of gay relationships within its narrative (niiiice!).

Exhibit B: Recon also has pulled images of POSSIBLE YURI in the end credits song between two of the other Seven-O detectives, Max (“Boxer”) and Yuri (“Robot”), who lean into each other a split second before a kiss:

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So far, these ladies have been minor, but considering how the ED features the full spectrum of detectives, it might be safe to say that everyone – and their relationships – is going to get some screen time. The hot tip about possible gay might be referring specifically to Max and Yuri.

Finally, do we have the makings of a solid Kirill/Doug pairing? Jury’s still out, but if nothing else, there’s already fodder for ship-building. Kirill is enthusiastically interested in gaining Doug’s affection, both to prove his worth and out of a genuine admiration for Doug’s abilities. Kirill is particularly moved by Doug’s cynical yet earnest pep talks, which inspire him to be not just a fifteen-minute hero but someone that matters for longer. Doug himself has randomly commented on the appearance of men: he thoughtfully interjects in the middle of an unrelated conversation that Kirill “kind of looks like a girl” and randomly tells an ambulance driver he’s pretty handsome (the man in question had used Anthem to morph his appearance, which Doug had suspected, but the line elicits a gasp from Kirill anyway).

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FILM NOIR (WITHOUT ANY OF THE NOIR)

Double Decker plays on detective and crime-drama tropes, and its third-party narrator makes sure you realize most of the gags are intentional riffs of the genre. Whether it’s Kirill getting motivating advice from a random stranger in a bar, to a boss giving out ridiculous nicknames, and even the “Seven-O” (double-oh-seven?) name of the secret agency, Double Decker is here to have fun.

Of course, there’s something to be said about reaching too close to the alluring fires of parody, and you yourself start on fire. Is the routine duo of an aloof veteran and overeager newbie really a playful gag when it’s also the actual story? At some point, these elements may be too tightly incorporated for a nod and a wink to excuse tired tropes. The series hasn’t crossed that line yet, but this sort of humor does take caution.

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The cast is colorful, and it puts its leads at the wheel. Kirill, whose energy is so far carrying the series, may be a hyperactive goof, but he’s got real motivation: he grew up an orphan with his older sister, who has since mysteriously disappeared. On the flip side, Doug teeters between stoicism and eccentricity: cool-headed capability is coupled with conversational non sequitur and a cheesy catchphrase (“Time for your medicine!”).

On a visual level, Double Decker subverts the grim palette of crime thrillers by having enough color to make a unicorn vomit. It smears a dazzling rainbow inside thick Western-style comic lineart for an aesthetic so audacious it borders on hostility. It spares no expense in backgrounds and scene-building.

With that in mind, the musical themes are exactly what you would expect. Yes, there’s obviously jazz. The opening theme (“Stereo to Monologue” by Kirisame Undertaker) is more than serviceable, but the ending theme (“Buntline Special” by VickeBlanka) is one of the most fun I’ve heard in a long time.

SUB VS DUB

Double Decker is being simulcast and simuldubbed on Crunchyroll and Funimation. Both the English and Japanese audio are notably fabulous. In English, we get the very talented Micah Solusod (who you’ll know as that other over-the-top girly-looking boy, Russian Yuri of Yuri on Ice!!) and Ian Sinclair (who is probably in that one anime you love, dude’s got a portfolio) in the lead roles.

But the Japanese audio gives you Kirill’s Engrish-tastic catchphrase:

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ドントシンック!フィールソーグッド!

Kirill is 110% more everything in Japanese than in English, which to me makes him 110% more hilarious. If you find Kirill annoying as a character, though, he’s probably 110% more annoying in Japanese. Everyone’s entitled to their wrong opinions.

FINAL VERDICT

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This is a fun show even without the gay lure. I really enjoyed the first two episodes, though episode three started to sag a little, it didn’t lack for snappy humor. I think the narrative will improve once the exposition positions itself for a clearer overarching plot, because so far, the episodes haven’t done much except hash out Kirill and Doug’s dynamic – and even that is still murky. Nor has Kirill, our MC, advanced much in terms of growth or skillset. We need a larger nemesis to bring some direction to the chaos.

But so far, I’m totally along for the ride.

WHERE TO WATCH IT (LEGALLY): Funimation (dub), Crunchyroll (sub)

Next: Episode 4

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