Moriarty the Patriot
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Moriarty the Patriot ?
If there was a time in Moriarty the Patriot when die-hard fans of the original Sherlock Holmes stories were going to take umbrage at the anime's variations, this would be it. This episode is part one of the “A Study in S” storyline, which is derived directly from the very first Sherlock Holmes story, 1887's A Study in Scarlet, and liberties have most definitely been taken. While it would be easy to sort of handwave away the idea that the episode and the original tale are closely related, the anime really makes that impossible, because for all of the other changes, this still fulfills one of the basic features of the 1887 piece: it introduces Sherlock Holmes to John Watson.
Of course, it also brings both Inspector Lestrade and Inspector Gregson, as well as Mrs. Hudson, into the tale, which happens in the original story, but that feels slightly less important here. It is worth noting that the anime retitles Holmes' landlady as “miss,” possibly to make it clear that she's young and unmarried without wanting to explain that “mrs” was used as a courtesy title for an unmarried woman in a position like landlady or housekeeper. That's less striking than how certain aspects of the case have been adjusted to better fit with the anime's version of Arthur Conan Doyle's world, perhaps most notably the fact that the word the murder victim spells out is no longer “rache” but “Sherlock.”
This is in service of one very specific goal: to establish Moriarty as the man behind all of the cases solved by Britain's only consulting detective. Moriarty was impressed (although not too impressed) by Holmes' work onboard the steamliner, and as he said previously, if he's going to be putting on a crime drama, the one character he absolutely has to have is a detective. By 1881 (when at least A Study in Scarlet takes place) detective fiction was coming into its own, with not only Edgar Allen Poe's C. Auguste Dupin taking cases in Paris, but also the likes of Wilkie Collins' Inspector Cuff and Dickens' Inspector Bucket well established. Moriarty would therefore be very much aware of the role the detective would play in the story he's creating for his own ends, especially since both Inspectors Bucket and Cuff were based on the real-life Scotland Yard detective Jack Whicher, who died in the summer of 1881. Therefore the victim is changed to a member of the nobility, the word written in blood is switched to the name of the man Moriarty hopes to press into unwitting service, and the method of death was a clumsy shooting rather than poison.
It works pretty well, all things considered, although the episode does rush through the source manga a bit. The dynamic duo of Holmes and Watson is well on its way to being established and Watson is suitably impressed by Holmes to lend credence to the idea that he might begin writing down their adventures together, which is something that will be interesting to see how Moriarty reacts to. The general feeling is that Moriarty (who actually doesn't show up until the very end of the episode) is feeling things out with Holmes, trying to decide if and how he can use the detective. That this Holmes is bubblier than any other incarnation of the character I can think of is a little odd, but there are still enough classic traits that it doesn't feel like a major problem – him discovering the guaic test (today largely used to find blood in stool) is a nice nod to the influence the character had on forensic science, although I'm not sure when that particular test was originally developed.
On the history front, I have noticed that almost every building the characters seem to go into has the same basic wallpaper pattern in different shades. It is close to an actual, popular Victorian wallpaper design in what's known as the Dresser Tradition (from Christopher Dresser, the designer), so at least there's that. Now if we could get some more fidelity in women's fashion (Miss Hudson appears to have no stockings or petticoats this week), that would be amazing. And if the next episode of this storyline slows the pace down a little? Even better.
Moriarty the Patriot is currently streaming on Funimation.
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