Holmes of Kyoto
Episodes 1-2

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Holmes of Kyoto ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Holmes of Kyoto ?

If I had to pick a mystery sub-genre to describe the charming first two episodes of Holmes of Kyoto, I would have to go with “cozy.” Not in the sense that the detective is a preternaturally gifted old lady or there's an amusing animal, but more in that the crimes aren't terribly pressing and the setting is as much a character as any of the people. It's mystery at its most laid-back, and the fact that Kiyotaka is more like Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adds to the somewhat soothing quality of the show.

The story revolves around the three-fold relationship between high school girl Aoi, young antiques appraiser Kiyotaka, and the shop they both work in, Kure. Aoi has moved to Kyoto relatively recently, and she met Kiyotaka while she was in the throes of betrayal: her long-distance boyfriend and her best friend recently started dating. Reeling, she ends up making the spectacularly bad decision to sell some of her family's antiques so she can go back to her old town and yell at them in person; Kiyotaka calmly points out that this is a terrible plan. More than that, he does so in a way that helps her to put things in perspective – he doesn't moralize, he doesn't belittle her, he just talks to her in a way that makes her feel better. After that day, Aoi begins working at Kure, and she comes to realize that Kiyotaka is more than just an antiquities expert – he's also the local problem solver, the “Holmes” of the shopping area. If there's a mystery or a problem, Kiyotaka's the guy to go to, even if his nickname is more the result of two characters in his name than his detective skills.

Episode one is primarily for set-up purposes, although it does also feature a mystery and the introduction of what might be the ultimate bad guy for the season. The story deals with a counterfeit pottery tea bowl, and while it doesn't take up the entirety of the plot (which is also busy introducing Aoi and her background), it does showcase Kiyotaka's breadth and depth of knowledge about antique ceramics. The would-be defrauder has chosen Kure for his scheme because Kiyotaka is so young, only in his early twenties. Like many a cozy detective before him, however, Kiyotaka proves no where near as innocent as he appears.

Episode two seems as if it is setting up the way the rest of the series will run. This case involves a specific Kyoto festival and the selection of a local young woman to be the “saio-dai,” a stand-in for the saio, a specific priestess of royal blood. As you might guess, this is a very big deal, and trouble arises when the woman chosen for the role begins receiving threatening letters. The solution – that it was the girl herself and her younger sister – isn't all that hard to figure out from the clues presented, which is a major bonus in a mystery story in my estimation. (I am a firm believer that mysteries should be solvable by the reader/viewer.) What's more interesting is the reasons why and how they relate back to Aoi. As I mentioned, when we first meet her, she's grappling with the betrayal of her boyfriend and best friend, and generally speaking she's given up on the idea of trusting anyone who isn't Kiyotaka, who at least was upfront with her about being a nasty Kyoto guy. The chosen saio-dai is on the opposite side of this issue: she wants to be friends with two other young women she used to hang out with before.

At first this sounds pretty logical, or at least understandable, but then we remember that her younger sister Kaori said that these girls were never her friends; they were bullies she thought liked her. Given the way they're behaving now that they're in college, that's not hard to see, and while Saori may lament losing them, it's pretty clear that she really is better off without them. She can't seem to see that, though, which is basically where Aoi was when she met Kiyotaka – wanting continued contact with people who betrayed her. But where Saori hasn't learned her lesson, Aoi learned it too well, and is now unwilling to make friends at all. That's where Kaori comes in: she sent the threatening letter because she was worried about the family's finances, yes, but also because she was afraid that the bullies might try to start up again if Saori was the saio-dai. She's trying to protect everyone, while Saori is just throwing herself headlong into more pain. When Aoi recognizes what Kaori is doing, she remembers that there are good friends out there too – and she begins to make an effort.

Holmes of Kyoto is working toward a winning formula, with episodic mysteries that advance the overall plot and characters. Slowly adding new people to the story at the rate of a couple an episode also looks like a plan that will work, and Kiyotaka's lessons, be they on Kyoto culture or antique tea bowls, are nicely integrated into the story so that it doesn't feel like a random info dump. This is a shaping up to a low-key good time, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Rating: B

Holmes of Kyoto is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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