Yami no Matsuei
Attention! This here be shounen-ai, stuffed full of brooding and doomed bishounen who are strongly drawn to one another. So those who cannot abide such things should look elsewhere. However anyone with the capability to tolerate this style heavy material might well find this an interesting series with enough content to intrigue.
The story takes place in an office full of hard-bitten professional detectives. These are the guys who get the really tough cases, the ones were the death was so mysterious that the only explanation seems to be the supernatural. The cases where mortal authorities are left baffled and helpless. Thus it's just as well that these guys are not mortal authorities, being in fact re-born spirits working for the office of lost souls in Hades. And when a spirit goes missing, dying an unnatural death, it's their job to find the one responsible.
Although the detective we follow seems a touch more interested in finding the best desserts Earth has to offer. Known as the `sugar glutton of Hades' his relaxed manner and human appetites have made him infamous in the department. Which is why he ends up with a cursed, troubled and psychically sensitive young boy as his partner...no one else would take either of them. But it turns out he's a little bit more than he looks, capable of powerful magic and loyal to his partner, the two find themselves coming to depend on one another. Unfortunately their opponent, who controls powerful evil magics, also seems to be interested in them.
Now, as I mentioned, it has some shounen-Ai elements to it. The style is aggressive. Lots of tall, thin and attractive men with lingering fan service shots (although how the cosmic chickens fit into it I don't know). There's an easy going charm to the lead, while the wounded, vulnerable and `spiky' nature of the youth (he's also attractive) is a perfect complement. Even the villain seems to have some sort of complex love hate relationship between the two of them that may even be more important than his `evil and diabolical' (tm) plan. And just in case you don't get it the intro and closing animation sequences make it all fairly obvious.
On the positive side it's not just shounen-ai focused. The story contains a fair sense of mystery, of threat and of morbid and unhealthy passions. Both of the leads are essentially troubled souls with some reason why they could not make it to heaven. Meanwhile their opponent clearly has supernatural powers, a casually evil nature and a willingness to do anything that is required to get what he desires. And even when he's not around the stories are going to focus around unnatural deaths and the dark edge of the super-natural. It's actually quite interesting stuff.
And it is also able to take advantage of some of the elements of this genre. There is a focus on character, on phrase and expression in their interaction, and on atmosphere. As a result some of the scenes are quite potent and memorable. In addition it all has a strong, perhaps somewhat overly strong, sense of style that binds it all together. Even better the stories are in `arcs' meaning one story occupies the first three episodes. And story threads are being laid that extend beyond this. This material gains from having both the power of `scene' and style as well as the existence of a strong sense of story.
The production is not actually huge budget, but it does a good job with what it has. The character designs, being quite complex, don't always move as well as might be liked, but they always succeed in capturing the essence of the action. Likewise the various magic and supernatural elements have a strong sense of design in their appearance and style in how they are represented. Thus while their appearance and action is as much symbolic as real action it does work. There's also some subtle computer support in places, and some nice scene and atmosphere work. The voices are a touch too similar for my liking, though still good. The music is fairly minimal and the opening and closing tracks Japanese rock vocal stuff which seems overly `rough' for the art that goes with it.
At this time none of my regular sources have a review for this title. However i'm sure that the shounen-ai fandom are all over it.