Sherlock Holmes and the novelizations and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have always filled my life in different shapes and media adaptations. From the Sherlock who is an overly cocky, but jaw-dropping expert on criminology, criminal history and chemistry in the original novels, or the cunning expertise and meticulous memory palace using Benedikt Cumberbatch and even in more abstract forms our beloved Detective Conan. All these Sherlock incarnates connect one thing, the ability to solve every case with precision.
Kabukichou Sherlock is majorly different. The story caught my interest because it dared to add the "comedy" genre into the mix. A mix of murder and slap-stick comedy might sound like a terrible mix of genres that cancel each other out, but bear with me. This time it will surprise you even more.
Kabukichou Sherlock is a mystery show set in a district of Japan that is mostly known from the Yakuza Series in form of Kamurocho. In fact, Kabukichou is one of Tokyo's centers of crime and nightclubs which has its own allure thats hard to describe. In this story our journey into Kabukichou introduces us to a dozen of wacky and eccentric characters which are connected to the Sherlock origin story by namesake, but not so much by the original role setup. In Kabukichou crime is ubiquitous and Sherlock has to solve them together with his lesser helpful squad of acquaintances.
Is Kabukichou Sherlock in any way comparable to the originals? Besides of a rearrangement of characters it isn't. The main character Sherlock, while able to solve cases really sucks as a detective. The clues are presented to him on a silver platter and he always feels smarter than the audience despite not making much an effort. He presents the solutions to the cases in old japanese style of storytelling - Rakugo. Rakugo usually involves a dialogue between two characters which perform comical or sometimes sentimental stories and act them out. In all honesty, Sherlocks Rakugo sucks really hard, but it gives him comedic relief.
People familiar with the original might be put off now, because the comedic relief in Doyles novels came more from the imbeciles in the police force or Watson himself. For me this was an interesting subversion of the original story. It also made clear to me that this adaptation shouldn't be treated as seriously.
And god I was so wrong: What starts off as a smirky comedy about the wacky life in Kabukichou and all the chaos that goes on there slowly takes up pace and introduces us to one? of the overarching plots. Jack the Ripper is causing harm in Kabukichou by killing women and displaying them in artsy styles. This is a stylistic device of noir stories to connect the gruesome with the arts. In another subplot they are after a specific mcguffin that is connected to the Sherlock group and wanders through the hands of different characters which then become targets.
As Jack the ripper makes their entry into the story the pace gradually adds up until there is actually a sense of dread lingering over the characters because they have been undermined and the culprit is among them. Believe me, this show actually picks up pace and becomes brutal at times.
This mystery then spiral out of control as the story throws red herring after red herring to mislead the audience. We begin going through the people close to Sherlock and investigate their behaviour and quickly we get invested into finding the culprit before the narrative tells us. In typical Sherlock Holmes fashion there I can only quote one thing: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
There are a handfull of characters worth mentioning. We have Sherlock, Watson, Fuyuto Kyôgoku, James Moriarty, Mary & Lucy Morstan, Michel Belmont and Mrs. Hudson in the main group. All characters have either unique looks or personalities that coincide but not overlap with the original source materials.
I advise you not to assume the traditional roles in this adaptation. Sherlock isn't always the good guy and Moriarty isn't diametrally opposite to him. Also Watson isn't always a sidekick and useless. Detach yourself from your expectations, everything can happen in Kabukichou.
When we first hear the opening we might feel we took a detour to the jazzclub. This perfectly underlines the setting in Kabukichou. The lyrics of the song aren't even really deduceable without looking at the lyrics but it just somehow just wants to make you dance without knowing what is said. This is especially true for this show. You are just along for the ride but mostly don't know whats going on. It's just entertaining. The video for the opening also drags us on a wild ride through the streets of Kabukichou while showing the different characters. In a sense you could take this anime as a snapshot of life in wacky kabukichou and it works fine.
The artstyle isn't special and the show would've profited from being more stylized. Instead it feels like they put thought into the looks of the characters but not so much into the world. Kabukichou while being introduced as this wacky place where everything can happen looks rather bland and like every normal city street. But a lot of the action is going on in the side streets which gives it a sense of uncannyness and that there could be danger looming everywhere. The show is also pretty dark, as in not much lighting is used. The bar where all the squad gathers greatly contrasts that with bright colors and it feels like a safe haven from the happenings in the town.
While I honestly did not enjoy the first episodes of this anime because I just didn't think Sherlock lived up to my standards both in wittyness and wits as soon the pace picks up and an actual threat is involved I was waiting for a new episode every week to find out whether my suspicions about specific characters were true or not. Safe to say this anime managed to surprise me multiple times. I wouldn't say the writing is great, but its salvageable and true to the intention of the show.
Beyond the middlepart around ep8-11 I was hooked ultimately and so will you. But since the story is rather slow and the first cases just introduce the mannerisms of this colorful cast of characters people will drop the show before it gets good.
Overall I would say if you are here for a faithful adaptation of the source material you are wrong. This show doesn't apply for that. If you are a fan of being led around by a narrative and fooled by red herrings and like to solve mysteries then you are definitely right here. Kabukichou Sherlock is a wacky show and I'd call it an acquired taste.
But as soon you get used to it it turns into a wild ride with colorful characters and manifold possibilities in the chaos that is Kabukichou.
Thanks for coming to my TedTalk. 7.5/10 but rather 8.