Web series are cult–y. I know this because whenever I try to explain their otherworldly appeal to the average, wholesome member of society, I end up sounding like Saturday Night Live’s Stefon Meyers—king of the obscure—or the upperclassman gate–keeper to your favorite on–campus club. Without the blockbuster marketing budgets of prime time television or feature film, most digital series’ popularity is gleaned through extreme googling and tight–lipped word of mouth. That’s at least how I stumbled upon an episode of Anime Crimes Division, a web series from the minds of Crunchy Roll and Rocket Jump that double–fists on the ‘cult–y’ by mixing the digital series world with the most pervasive set pieces of anime subculture, and the hilarious, crime–fighting appeal of Brooklyn Nine Nine. Like sleeping through the oven timer on steaming twitter beef, or endeavoring to describe a meme to your mom, web series tend to belong to that section of internet culture whose value is depleted by untimely explanation. But for the noobs among us, here's an intro to an unbeatable web series.
“In Neo Otaku City there are two kinds of people: those who know the Sailor Moon theme song in the original Japanese…and those who don’t belong here.”
This opening to the first of three ten minute episodes in Anime Crimes Division’s debut season effectively sets the inviolable tone for the entire project. When Detective Furaya, hard–boiled and nursing a Pocky habit, is forced to take on his newly minted partner—the rookie Detective Diesel, their mismatch of skill and relative involvement in the anime community cause embarrassment, facepalming and chaos to ensue. Beyond serving as a catalyst for hilarity, however, Detective Diesel also functions as a way into the story for many viewers who, just like her, are learning that the anime world extends far beyond Digimon. Through Diesel, with each new episode viewers get to learn a new phrase, identify a new artifact, and weigh in on the conversations and politics of a world nestled comfortably inside of our own—with 100 percent of the "hahas" and none of the public shame!
But Anime Crimes Division is more than learning the difference between Subbers versus Dubbers, meeps and MMORPGs—titles you may or may not recognize from anime calling cards. Other jokes like the delayed syncing of subtitles, "name that Pokémon!" gags and a grueling inquiry into which Yuri on Ice character has the "juiciest butt" need no explanation. With a hilarious script that layers jokes for the anime–lover and amateur alike, melodramatic acting and Diesel to stumble through the ensuing hijinks on our behalf, what’s not to love?
What’s perhaps most compelling about Anime Crimes Division and the other passion project web series scattered around the internet is that, by not beholding to the standards and biases of mainstream programming, incredibly diverse stories and characters are not only possible; they’re essential. There’s a special kind of person who follows a buried subreddit down a one–way rabbit hole, and they’re usually looking for a distinctly different world on the other side. But their (often lengthy) journey to find soul–affirming content hardly makes their stories less "relatable" than an ex chemistry teacher turned meth cooker, or a world where dragons are weapons of war.
Though at first Anime Crimes Division’s universal appeal may appear unquantifiable, its value as a meeting ground to amplify fringed voices without silencing others cannot be understated. It’s a function that every once shiny Pokémon appearance a comedy of this medium and caliber can muster. And hey, if it really isn’t for you, there’s definitely a web series that is. When you know, you know. You know?
Season 1 of Anime Crimes Division is streaming free on YouTube.