anime

Sherlock Hound – Episode 2


Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I thought we’d continue our journey through Sherlock Hound, that beautiful collaboration between TMS Entertainment and the Italian public broadcasting corporation RAI. So far, Sherlock Hound’s inviting aesthetic and measured storytelling have felt akin to the legendary World Masterpiece Theater productions, and with good reason – many of Sherlock Hound’s key staff members also worked on WMT productions, including scriptwriter Yoshihisa Araki, storyboarder Seiji Okuda, and of course, director Hayao Miyazaki. The late ‘70s and early ‘80s were an incredibly fertile time period in anime production, as a new generation of master artists brought to life a diverse selection of world literature.

So far, Sherlock Hound seems a tad more fantastical than its WMT contemporaries, embracing elements of science fiction and action-adventure that seem more specifically up Miyazaki’s alley. That’s all fine by me; I’m happy to season my Arthur Conan Doyle with a hearty dash of Lupin the Third, and perhaps even a garnish of Future Boy Conan. Speaking of which, episode two was actually directed by Keiji Hayakawa, who served as assistant director under Miyazaki on the Conan film, so I imagine we’ve got more high-flying adventures in short order. Let’s get to it!

Episode 2

All these opening sequences feel so strongly reminiscent of Miyazaki’s early film work – these car chases are extremely Lupin, while the sequence of soldiers piling on top of a submarine could easily have been cribbed from Porco Rosso. I’m really enjoying getting so much context for Miyazaki’s film work – he’s one of the most common gateway directors for getting people into anime, but his Ghibli output is the only work that’s easily available, and thus often feels isolated from the career that led directly to it

And beyond that context, it’s also just delightful to learn there’s so much more top shelf Miyazaki and Takahata work to pour through! It was a dark day when I finally ran through all their Ghibli productions, so exploring shows like this and Anne of Green Gables has in a very meaningful way reinvigorated my curiosity about anime, and demonstrated there are still many great works I haven’t seen

“The Evil Genius, Professor Moriarty.” And of course, any self-respecting hero needs a proper nemesis. Moriarty wasn’t introduced until far into Doyle’s original stories – in fact, he didn’t appear until The Final Problem, the story where Doyle actually “killed off” Holmes by plunging him over a waterfall, so tired was he of his most successful creation. But Sherlock Hound’s more dramatic, action-adventure stylings have greater need for a genuine villain, and so here he is right at the beginning

In truth, Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are a fairly dry bunch, generally heavy on exposition, with their payoff resting in Holmes’ fantastical explanation of how he arrived at some implausible solution. Only a scant handful of the original stories would even parse as “adventures” to modern audiences, like the uncharacteristically propulsive Hound of the Baskervilles. As such, Sherlock Hound will presumably take a very loose approach to adapting them, most likely just cribbing characters and solutions to specific puzzles

Professor Moriarty’s accommodations are just as messy as Holmes’ own, serving as an excellent way to draw an immediate parallel between the two characters. Apparently he even sleeps in his top hat and monocle

And he receives his mail by way of an ingenious tube/tread combination. Given Holmes’ and Moriarty’s genius was generally expressed through exposition and explanation, I like how Sherlock Hound is reimagining both of them as brilliant tinkerers, letting their mechanical devices visually express their intelligence

The Crown of Mazalin is being held at Banker Sampton’s mansion. Time for a scheme!

A clear villain will also presumably provide this show with a sense of continuity and momentum, things that Doyle’s independent stories had little need for

Very confident direction so far. I like these shots that introduce us to the ball – rather than a clear establishing shot of the ballroom, we’re drawn immediately into the action through shots that frame us as joining in the dance line, or spinning among the dancers’ feet

It seems like Moriarty is making use of the same two stooges from the first episode. Doyle’s stories were conspicuously lacking in stooges, but for an animated children’s show with a lot of physical comedy, they’re practically essential

Yeah, lots of dynamic compositions here, like this shot of a thief’s shadow through a curtain, followed by a perspective shot as his hands reach out from the frame. Keiji Hayakawa storyboarded this episode along with directing it, and it seems he’s a fan of these compositions that draw the viewer directly into the on-screen action, almost making them complicit with its dramatic events

Sampton’s son Zeal is discovered at the scene of the crime

Zeal is suspected, and flees. And thus our mystery is set: only Sampton and his son knew the location of the room key, so how did a thief get in?

Inspector Lestrade is on the case. Though Holmes has a blanket disdain for all police officers, he and Lestrade develop a genuine mutual respect over their original appearances. It’ll be interesting to see if this Lestrade follows that model, if he remains the more narratively-convenient bumbling detective, or if he becomes something of a Zenigata-like begrudging ally

It appears we’re some time now after Holmes’ and Watson’s first meeting, as Watson refers to him as “my best friend” and is certain he can solve any case

His driver is clearly Holmes himself – when Watson states “he can solve even the most difficult cases,” the driver replies that he hasn’t found any difficult cases. Two unalterable truths about Sherlock Holmes: the man loves a good disguise, but won’t let that get in the way of his enormous ego

Watson is immediately smitten with Holmes’ housekeeper

The dude simply cannot keep his suitcase closed. His sad collection of shirts and boxer briefs has fallen out three times already

Lestrade checks the far window of the safe room, confirming it opens to an inhospitable cliffside

Apparently Zeal has a fiancé that his father hates

Oh wow, such a beautiful street-side tableau as we jump back to the city. I adore the subtle variety of pinks and salmon hues used to color these apartment buildings, and the linework and shading are so distinct and full of personality. A shot like this doesn’t convey just narrative information, but also a sense of time, space, and mood, drawing us into the warm, sleepy atmosphere of London in the morning. Digital backgrounds are certainly easier to produce, but one look at a composition like this reveals just how much you’re losing in the bargain

We’re introduced to Ms. Shields, the fiancé in question, who has already conscripted Holmes

Lestrade is annoyed by Holmes’ intrusion on his investigation, which is more or less true to their original starting dynamic. Frankly, Holmes the person is almost impossible to like, even if he isn’t making you look like an idiot professionally

Holmes notes the door was forced, then finds a hair and footprints by the window. It’s interesting to see how the inherent nature of animation naturally changes the styles of investigation Holmes engages in. In Doyle’s material, there is almost no effort made to ensure the reader can follow along with Holmes’ deductions – rather than presenting genuinely solvable mysteries, Doyle would essentially have Holmes perform magic tricks of improbable deductive reasoning, letting the dazzling nature of his deductions serve as dramatic payoff. In live action, you could theoretically hide truths right out in the open, as the complexity of nearly any live-action shot would still to some extent conceal that information. But in animation, expository payoff isn’t really payoff at all, and it’s almost impossible to hide objects in clear view, so his investigations are proceeding in a significantly more straightforward and audience-parsable manner

The thieves escape with a preposterously convoluted garage door-opening mechanism, which exists purely to let the animators have more fun with mechanical animation

Though he’s understandably hostile to Holmes, Lestrade is most fundamentally a genuinely good cop. He smartly sets up a watch on Ms. Shields’ house, but agrees to cooperate with Holmes once Holmes claims he’s nearly solved the case

Holmes is characteristically unbothered as they wait on stakeout, lounging with his hat over his eyes, confident that the villain will be exactly where he predicted. Holmes in his element

And of course, everyone’s in their own steamboats with their own distinct little engines. If every episode of this show ends in a steampunk chase scene, I will be eating very well

What a generous sequence! So much ambitious mechanical movement, lots of flowing water, plentiful expression work and even an oar sword fight. With Moriarty showing up in his massive steamship, this is practically turning into a robot battle

And now his steamship has deployed two extendable arms to fight with, so yes, this is indeed a robot battle

With the crown at last returned, Holmes performs a final bro move of emphasizing how Ms. Shields actually saved Sampton’s son

And Done

Haha, what a generous episode! I was already feeling pretty spoiled by the first one, and then this episode just soared above and beyond, offering dynamic storyboards, gorgeous background art, and even a combined chase/battle finale. Reframing Moriarty as a master of mechanical gadgetry is a brilliant way to make his intelligence visually apparent, while also naturally facilitating this production’s celebration of Verne-style retro-futurism. Every way this production deviates from the original stories seems like a smart choice, positioning it in a distinguished tradition of anime crime capers, while still embracing what makes Doyle’s stories so enduringly compelling. I’m already eager for the next one!

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