Anime Review: Holmes of Kyoto
Invoking the name of Sherlock Holmes sets a lot of expectations for a series. It sets the expectations that your series is going to be a mystery series, where the way the mysteries will be solved will be through the detective using deductive reasoning and through keen powers of observation – and also that the detective will have an audience-perspective sidekick who is intelligent and perceptive, but not as much as the detective. Holmes of Kyoto is, occasionally, that. However, just as much of the time, it’s a relationship drama, and not necessarily a well-executed relationship drama.
The show follows Aoi Mashiro, a college student attending university in Kyoto in order to get away from her drama she ran into in her High School life. While in town, where she’s trying to get one of her late grandfather’s antiques appraised, at the antique store she goes to she ends up meeting the son of the owner – Kyotaka Yagashira – known as “Holmes” both based on the kanji that make up his name and for his keen powers of observation. After becoming intrigued with him, and him with her appreciation of antiques, Aoi ends up working at the shop part time as an apprentice appraiser as well.
Now, when I read the premise of this series, it really caught my interest. I like mysteries, and one of my favorite mystery series (aside from Sherlock Holmes itself) is Johnathan Gash’s Lovejoy series. The Lovejoy series not only presents interesting mysteries based around the antique world but also gets into some interesting and educational commentary about caring for and appreciating antiques. I had hoped for something somewhat similar – after all, when you get a manga or anime that prominently features a topic as a part of the plot (fermentation in Moyashimon, making anime in Shirobako or video games in New Game) then the work will end up going into a dive into that field, educating the viewer somewhat on the topic
This show gets into neither of those. On the antique side, we don’t go into the fine detail of antique appreciation and various works of art – no close-ups on the pottery to show the fine detail that makes this work so appreciated beyond its age. We just see the works sitting on a table at a distance, and are told about them in a single line of dialog. Never showing and barely telling. On the mystery side, only a handful of real mysteries come up in the show, and only a couple of times do things get serious – and one of those occasions on the last episode – it does so through the threat of sexual assault on Aoi, which is tonally inconsistent with the rest of the work.
While Kyotaka does get a Moriarty-esque rival, the forger Enshou, he only shows up for about 3-4 episodes over the course of the series, and the plot arc of their conflict is not concluded by the end of the series. Indeed, nothing is really concluded. Yes, mysteries are solved within the episode that they are introduced, but the other plots – the burgeoning romance between Aoi and Kyotaka, the rivalry between Enshou and Kyotaka – advance but never really reach a stopping place. Indeed, the romance between Aoi and Kyotaka reaches a point where Aoi has admitted to herself that she’s in love with Kyotaka, but doesn’t progress from there.
Had the series received a second season, I’d cut the show more slack for this ending. Indeed, if the novels the show was based on had some sort of English release, I could reasonably refer you to those to get some sort of progression to the story. However, none of those options are available. Consequently, unless at some point in the future the series gets a second season, or the novels are brought to the states, I recommend skipping it.
In case you do decide to see it, Holmes of Kyoto is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll.
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