The Pretty Boy Detective Club is founded on three rules: be pretty, be a boy, and be a detective. Only in this week’s episode, something revolutionary happened. President Sotoin Manabu revealed a fourth rule. And this rule completely transforms the series’ definition of beauty—and just maybe, mine and yours too.
Up to this point, Pretty Boy Detective Club seems to be winking playfully at the popular saying that beauty is only skin deep. The character designs and animation are pretty in that sparkly Shaft kind of way, with monumental white spaces, copious background statuary and dazzlingly bright-eyed, well-coiffed youthfulness. But the fourth rule unlocks a surprising depth to this bishounen world.
The fourth rule is: be a team. Which makes sense, because this is a Club, after all. But it goes deeper than that and pretty soon it’s clear that this final rule is the one that all the other rules hang on.
It all comes together near the end of the episode, as Dojima Mayumi is approached by the villainous Rei and offered a payout in exchange for her silence about what she has seen. The terms are rather ambiguous, but the implication is that the clients Rei represents can make Dojima’s dream of becoming an astronaut come true.
She turns the offer down decisively, not because she wants to tell anyone—she’s already made it clear, in confirming the Club’s confidentiality policy, that she does not want word of this to spread. She’s happy to remain silent. Instead, she declares in no uncertain terms that to accept the bribe would not be a beautiful way to live.
But what does this mean, exactly?
Dojima is quoting President Sotoin’s favourite phrase here, which he declared most recently with gallant exuberance earlier in the episode as he refused to save his own life at the cost of abandoning Dojima to Rei and the kidnappers. As it transpires, he had already set in motion an elaborate scheme, relying on the other members of the Club, to rescue Dojima (and himself) and capture the villains. So the implication of his statement is not simply that saving himself at another’s expense is not beautiful, but also that taking matters into his own hands and failing to trust in his team to come through would not be beautiful.
Dojima recalls this scene as she explains her decision about the bribe. It is her inspiration, implying that in her mind, the two situations are the same. Which they are, in that both pit the benefit of one against the fellowship of the team. It would not be beautiful for her dream to come true through her selfish pursuit of her own interests, by accepting a bribe and abandoning the aid of the Club. Just so, it would not be beautiful for her alone to benefit when it was the entire Club that solved the case.
She could have justified her decision without speaking about beauty though. Maybe it would even have made more sense to have told Rei, “That’s not right, it’s not moral!” or “I can’t be bought, I want nothing to do with you!” But her exclamation holding beauty up as her primary value shows just how much she has changed in her time spent with the Club members. Whereas before she snapped in anger when Sotoin remarked on the beauty of her eyes, voiced her resentment when Sosaku the Artist’s make-over made her look quite attractive, and even deemed Sotoin to be an idiot for choosing the “beautiful way of life” and not saving himself earlier in the episode—now she embraces the call to beauty.
This realization of the value of beauty is life-changing for Dojima. It gives her new purpose, just as her former dream exhales its last gasp. She petitions to join the Club so that she might learn what it is to live beautifully. What is more, if foreshadowing is a thing (and it is), this new purpose, walked out as a member of the team, is going to grant her much greater meaningfulness and joy than her ten long, lonely years of chasing her childhood dream on her own.
It will be something that enables her to step into the fullness of her special gifting as well (ahem, remember? her eyes are beautiful), just as it has done for the boys. Because you see, the announcement of the fourth rule suddenly clarifies what it is that makes each boy’s particular form of beauty so very beautiful. Hyota the Adonis’s legs are beautiful because they power his ability to cycle to the rescue of Dojima (in episode 2) and serve as the courier vital to Sotoin’s plan to foil the villains (in episode 3). Fukuroi the Epicurean’s delectable Chinese cuisine is beautiful because it nourishes the famished Hyota, following his exhaustive feats of sacrificial cycling. Nagahiro the Orator’s voice is beautiful not for its rich seductiveness, but for its imitative power, used to lull the kidnappers into a trap in order to free Adonis, Sotoin and Dojima. Meanwhile, Sotoin’s superior sense of aesthetics is grounded in value for community and unequaled vision—inspiring him to bring the Club together in the first place, conceive of a solution to Dojima’s troubles, and ultimately recognise Dojima’s potential as a new Club member despite her, you know, not being a boy. (Sosaku the Artist was basically on standby this episode, so he’s still a question mark at this point.)
In Western culture, we tend to apply an individualistic lens to our values. We speak of beauty as a state of being: something internal—inner beauty; and authentic—being true to yourself. It’s something you achieve as you find yourself, or make peace with yourself and who you are; or something that nature possesses innately, not being plagued by insecurity and the tendency to front, as are human beings. These are helpful insights.
But Pretty Boy Detective Club is proposing something quite different. The beauty of the Club members is active—saving a friend; it is transformative—inspiring a new dream, new hope, new purpose; and it is powerful for the forging of community. It comes to light most clearly in that fourth rule: be a team.
This isn’t a functional definition though, where beauty only has value if it accomplishes something. Rather, beauty accomplishes much because it has value. That is to say, because the Club members recognize the worth of living a beautiful life, they achieve outlandishly grand feats together, seemingly naturally. That is living beautifully.
What if we had such a value for beauty? Is such a thing even biblical?
A few (wonderful) books I read lately would say that it is. But that sadly, we have largely lost sight of the beauty of the gospel in a quest to make it relevant and marketable. In trying to make the gospel accomplish great things, or in trying to achieve great things ourselves “for the sake of the gospel”, we often cut beauty out of the conversation, adopting a functional approach so that outputs and impacts are easier to tally. Because beauty takes time, and sometimes it’s messy along the way. It’s unpredictable, uncontrollable, and it also requires trust, as Sotoin demonstrates.
But what does scripture actually say about beauty?
Here I’m reminded of probably the most familiar verse to reference beauty, from the Messiah’s introduction passage in Isaiah 61, where it says that he gives us “beauty for ashes”. This is part of a fairly long sequence of exchanges that the Messiah makes, to our benefit: freedom for imprisonment and captivity; wholeness for woundedness; hope for oppression; joy for sorrow; and beauty for ashes. Beauty is meant to be part of our daily lives as healed, restored children of God. But that’s not all: these blessings from the Messiah are not the end game, but rather only the beginning. They are preparatory, laying the groundwork for the most powerful exchange of all, as broken, defeated people become strong as oak trees, reclaim their agency and rebuild the ruined cities, repairing what has been broken about the world for generations. (Isaiah 61:1-4)
Beauty strengthens. It restores. It is part of our birthright, our inheritance—not just as individuals, but as communities, nations, and as humanity, drawing us together. Beauty equips us to dream and then walk those dreams out. It is a vital part of creation—and what good news that is!
I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t much considered this side of beauty before: its natural fruitfulness, its empowerment, and most of all, its ability to foster community. It took a team of Pretty Boy Detectives to open my eyes.