Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Young Miss Holmes
Crystal “Christie” Margaret Hope is the daughter of the great Sherlock Holmes' sister, though she bears more than a passing resemblance to her detective uncle. With her parents in India, Christie is left under the care of the household staff, more specifically maids Annmarie and Nora and her Great Dane Nelson. With little to do and less respect for what's expected of a Victorian young lady, Christie visits her uncle Sherlock and helps he and Dr. Watson with their cases – whether they want her to or not.
The world has a love affair with Sherlock Holmes. Whether you prefer him as Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey Jr., or as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote him, it is difficult to disavow any knowledge of that estimable, albeit unusual, gentleman. Japan is certainly not exempt from the hero worship of Doyle's fictitious detective, with tributes ranging from the silly Milky Holmes to this, Kaoru Shintani's mostly canonical addition to the ever-expanding Holmes mythos.
Crystal Hope, presumably named in reference to the famed Crystal Palace of Victorian London, is the daughter not of Mycroft, the established sibling of Sherlock, but rather of an invented sister who married into the nobility. At age ten she is fully capable of attending Oxford University and spends most of her time reading over the tomes in her father's library, as well as any government notices that come to the house in his absence. Despite her fondness for knowledge, she continuously skips meetings with her tutor, proclaiming that the woman's lessons are “boring.” Instead she sets her remarkable mental acuity to solving mysteries, preferably alongside her famous uncle and his assistant. The people most upset by this are Dr. Watson and handmaid Annmarie, neither of whom feel that investigation is a proper activity for a noble young lady. Christie doesn't let that bother her, and she has a staunch ally in Nora, an uneducated housemaid who helps Annmarie look after Christie. Nora's background isn't entirely certain – her accent is clearly meant to be either lower class or Irish and she has some unusual skills for a maid, which serve to make her intriguing. Rounding out the cast are Christie's governess, who comes in midway through the first of the two volumes collected in this omnibus edition, a wise young woman whose demure design and intelligent demeanor provide a nice counterpoint to the other characters, and Nelson, Christie's Great Dane, whom she occasionally rides like a horse.
Overall, Shintani's adherence to the original novels is easily seen. Christie and Sherlock,whether working together or apart, solve the cases with impossible rapidity and then go back and explain the clues that the average reader, or even the reader with a yen for mysteries, would not have noticed, or even had the opportunity to. Christie shares her uncle's dry outlook on life, although she lacks some of his less reputable habits. Unfortunately this often makes her seem far older than her ten years, and in fact until her age is mentioned midway through the book, readers could be forgiven for thinking that she was closer to twelve or thirteen. The way that she is drawn does not help this – Shintani can't seem to decide upon a height for her, at times giving her nearly chibi proportions, and her figure's development varies greatly as well. While this could depend upon whether or not she is wearing a corset, typically girls under fourteen were not subjected to the garments, giving her design more of an unsettled feel. On the other hand, women's clothing also seems to run the gamut between the 1860s and the 1890s in terms of sleeves, skirt widths, and furbelows and girls are often shown wearing women's clothing, a fact only remarkable because the Victorians were some of the first to dress children as such, rather than as miniature adults. This feels a bit off simply because the rest of the period detail, not to mention the Holmesian details, are so well done. Buildings are sumptuously drawn, carriages period-appropriate, and even units of measure are in keeping with the times. Overall the feeling of Sherlock Holmes' England is remarkably well presented, even if the women's attire and Christie's age are not.
For most of the book, Christie and Sherlock solve their cases in tandem, with either Christie helping her uncle or directly competing with him to solve it first. The final case in the book has Christie filling in for Sherlock while he is away at Brighton on another job. One interesting mystery involves a crossover with Dance in the Vampire Bund, and Mina Tepes fits seamlessly into Christie's world, even if the supernatural elements do not at first appear to be a good fit. The story is easily understood even by those who are unfamiliar with Mina's own story, and an epilogue to it at the end of the volume is drawn by both Shintani and Vampire Bund's Nozomu Tamaki. Shintani's own art is very much of a period: the 1970s. However its unfashionable style should be tempered by the fact that he does it very well, from the instantly recognizable characters (Sherlock has a clear look of his 1980s actor) to the small details, such as the tone on Christie's eyes to indicate the shadow of her luxuriant lashes.
Young Miss Holmes (or Christie High Tension as it was originally known) is a fun entry into the world of Sherlock Holmes tributes. Distinctly Japanese in its decision to cast a cute young girl as the great detective's sometime-partner, it nevertheless embraces Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's world and manages to present a recognizable version of it. While mystery buffs more accustomed to clues being dropped for us armchair sleuths to find will be a little frustrated with the mystery aspects, fans of all things Holmes should enjoy a master mangaka's take on Victorian London and her mysteries.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B+
+ Fairly faithful to Holmesian literature in general and the period, detailed art, interesting characters. Crossover with Dance in the Vampire Bund is nicely executed.
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