Kabukichou Sherlock – 05 – Straight and Narrow Lady Lu

After last week’s dullness I’ll admit I was prepared to drop Sherlock after this fifth episode, but I’m pleased to say the quality improved greatly, thanks in part to a refocusing of the narrative upon the Morstan sisters. Rather than be separated, Lucy took Mary and ran away, making Kabukichou their home. It was and is a tough life, and there’s never enough money, but in exchange they got to remain a family.

We learn that Lucy has a soft spot for a particular aging sumo wrestler named Omiyama, and delivers some daifuku for him as a token of her esteem. Later, Mary asks Lucy for help paying tuition for a cram school to the tune of 2 million yen (~$37,000), so she gets a loan for the amount from yakuza Boss Kaneko, who warns that if she doesn’t pay it back in two weeks, she’ll have to work at one of his red light district businesses.

On her way home to give her beloved little sister the cash, Lucy and Moriarty encounter a large man in pink robes seemingly ready to jump off a balcony. Turns out he’s her favorite sumo wrestler’s attendant, Bunmaru, who got drunk, passed out, and lost the money meant to repair their team’s headquarters. The amount? Two million yen. She has to go back to Boss Kaneko and doubles her debt.

When Omiyama and Bunmaru come to the Pipecat to offer their heartfelt thanks, Sherlock, sitting at the bar, notices something. Later, Kaneko has a chat with Watson about Lucy, and he drags her to Sherlock, begging him to lend her money to pay the boss back. But Sherlock says there’s no need: the one who took Bunmaru’s two million hasn’t spent it yet. He explains in rakugo form, but Lucy only has to hear the part about the daifuku putting you to sleep before running off to confront Omiyama.

Lucy’s regard for Omiyama goes back to the day she and Mary arrive in Kabukichou, when some bad men were about to abduct Mary, and Lucy was too small to fight them off. Mary is rescued by Omiyama, who leaves Lucy with a bit of advice: stay on the straight and narrow and you’ll do fine here.

Fast forward to the present, and Omiyama is facing demotion and retirement…so he drugged the daifuku Bunmaru ate so he could steal the two million repair fund and use it to fix matches.

Lucy tries to fight Omiyama to no avail, then exposes his crime, and he is contrite. Clearly moved by Lucy’s ability to stay on the straight and narrow all this time like he advised years ago, he accepts retirement and returns the cash to his attendant.

Lucy doesn’t take that cash back, even though it’s owed. Instead, she goes to work for Boss Kaneko. When Mary hears about this she’s distraught and busts her way into the business, but it turns out to be nothing too untoward: Lucy just had to dress up in drag and be a lot for the “Stud Farm” auction, where she’s naturally a sensation.

In the end, the “tuition” Mary wanted wasn’t for classes at all, but a beautiful dress she wanted and which she ends up wearing to the auction. In that regard, this episode doesn’t make Mary look that great (especially if Lucy ended up having to do something worse to pay back the boss), but demonstrates Lucy’s incurable weak spot for her little sister, and her fierce commitment to her happiness.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 04 – Animals at the Public Bath

Moriarty lures Sherlock out of his filthy apartment to go to the public bath house with the promise of a rakugo performance later in the night; Watson is also invited, perhaps so the three can do a little bonding. Instead, Moriarty spends most of the time telling Watson what he’s doing wrong (there are a lot of rules and practices in a bath house, after all). Things start to get weird when Watson spots one animal-headed guy after another.

Turns out they’re members of a band that wears animal masks, and one of them is missing, which…I guess is the mystery here? The cold open shows two band members getting into an alteraction, and we eventually learn that “Pheasant” punched “Peach” (the missing guy), and wasn’t aware that he later died. “Dog” then hid the body, leaving “Baboon” the only band member who didn’t know about the body.

I have to say, there isn’t much for Sherlock to do here, and his Rakugo: Nude Variation and Watson’s fish out of water antics at the bath can’t really save this episode from being a bit of a snooze-fest. You’d hope with a show that features Sherlock would have more interesting mysteries, but right now they’re the least interesting part of the show, after the setting, colorful characters, and rakugo. Kabukicho remains a weird, cool place to spend time, but I hope some of that time is better spent in future episodes.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 03 – The Ghost Behind the Mirror

When Moriarty’s 16th birthday party is interrupted by the arrival of one Tanaka Pu, on the run from the police, Mrs. Hudson (a weird but clever adaptation of the original landlady character) hears him out.

When Lestrade arrives to arrest him for murdering his Uncle Cosmos, Hudson intervenes by bribing Lestrade and giving the assembled detectives a job: prove Pu’s innocence.

Sherlock and Watson visit Pu’s house and interview his mother, but Holmes is really there to get the measure of who Pu and his family are by studying their living space. Kyougoku Fuyuto is also on the case, mostly because he’s a huge fan of Pu’s uncle’s “legendary rocker” friend B-zou, who says every eighth word or so in English.

It’s nice to see another side of the usually very uptight Fuyuto, but when he insists Pu is indeed the murderer based on the preponderance of evidence, Sherlock voices his disagreement, and delivers an alternative possibility based on the information he’s gathered.

In his now-trademark rakugo style, Sherlock deduces that Uncle Cosmos isn’t dead at all, but faked his death as a murder committed by his nephew. The charred remains weren’t him, but his brother, Pu’s father. In fact, this whole time Cosmos has been hiding inside a mirror mounted above the bed in his penthouse.

It’s another fun and zany enough case, though somewhat predictable; I was pretty certain the murderer was either B-zou or a faked death situation, and I’m usually terrible at such predictions. Watson’s cold-open narration of the events that led to him seeking out Sherlock felt tacked-on and somewhat clumsy.

Now that they’re officially roommates, perhaps he’ll soon get a chance to bring up his case.  As for Moriarty’s pressed clovers and the giant moth he kills…I got nothing, though someone on a forum suggested they represent Jack the Ripper’s victims. All I know is, classic Moriarty (AKA Ratigan) is Holmes’ arch-nemesis.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 02 – A Star Isn’t Born

Another day, another case for Detective Row, a loose collective of private dicks like Sherlock who compete for jobs. Sherlock doesn’t let the fractured leg he suffered when Watson hit him with a car slow him down—though he does exploit Watson’s guilt (and need for his services, though the exact nature of his personal case is still not known) by essentially making him his servant.

This time it’s not murder-most-foul, but a case of a florist named Fujiko who fell victim to an apparent scam. She was convinced she was scouted by an idol agency for her distinctive symmetrical beauty marks, but after a week of strenuous training, the agent vanished without a trace on the day of her big audition.

Upon taking the case, Sherlock puts Watson to work cleaning his house, then puts on a disguise (that doesn’t fool any of his fellow detectives) and heads to the florist’s to meet Saori the part-timer who was watching the store while she was practicing for the idol audition.

There is loud music playing when he comes in, which he abruptly cuts off, after which there are strange banging noises. Saori comes out from the back room, her skirt covered in a strange powder. Sherlock later declares he’s found the culprit, but is furious when he learns one of his rivals, Mary Morstan, also knows…thanks to Watson.

Being from the West Side of Shinjuku, Watson is an easy mark, as evidenced when his wallet was stolen last week. But when he chats with the pretty Mary, she puts a bug in his clothes. That’s how she learns what Sherlock learns…and Sherlock tosses Watson out, warning him never to return.

Watson is almost victimized once again by a gang of little kids who know how to turn on the charm (and turn it right back off at the drop of a hat). He’s saved by the same high school-age lad who recovered his wallet, and a frequent visitor of Sherlock’s.

As for Sherlock, he manages to catch Saori and her accomplice, and when they ask how he knew, he has another one of his wonderful impromptu rakugo sessions, explaining how when Fujiko was off practicing for a non-existent audition, Saori hacked away at the wall between the florist…and the vault of pawn shop containing gold bars.

Sherlock didn’t account for a third thief in The Cobra showing up, but he’s bailed out thanks to the high school lad—whose name we later learn is none other than James Moriarty—telling Watson where Sherlock was. The bank rewards Sherlock a cool 20 million, on top of the million he got for uncovering Fujiko’s scammers. I’d say Watson earned a cut of that this week!

Kabukichou Sherlock – 01 (First Impressions) – Catching Cases in the Sleepless Town

What was originally a swamp grew into a thicket of neon lights, bars, clubs, hotels, and nightclubs, and in the middle of all this churning, chaotic humanity resides a detective agency.

Moving Sherlock Holmes‘ digs from London to Tokyo’s entertainment and red-light district is an inspired move, and having him one of a group of detectives competing to see who will catch Jack the Ripper first makes for an effective combination.

While I know who Sherlock is (as most people do), I have seen more adaptations of his work than read the actual Doyle books, from The Great Mouse Detective and Wishbone to the meh Robert Downey Jr. mini-franchise and the better BBC series starting Benedict Cumberbatch.

It’s nice to see a fairly radically different Holmes here. He’s still a brilliant eccentric with antisocial tendencies here, but the difference in the nice little details. For once, the fact characters have famous names doesn’t really detract from my absorption into the show.

Among the more surprising and amusing differences is Sherlock’s performative breakdown of a murder case that turns out not to involve Jack the Ripper, which takes the form of an impromptu rakugo show with an audience of only two: Dr. Watson (just arrived and already contributing with his medical knowledge) and a young lad whose name I didn’t get.

The fact that it’s not particularly good rakugo is immaterial; the content of the conclusions is what matters.

Sherlock lives in a characteristically messy flat above a drag bar, consumes baffling combinations of food and drinks (how about some fried rice with canned pears, or a glass of alcohol with chili oil?) and has at least two or three people in his head talking things through with him.

It’s fascinating to watch Watson first figure out which detective actually is Holmes, then see the droll, taciturn detective grow more and more lively as he draws closer to solving the case. He’s equally reckless in confronting the killer, yet it’s Watson, not the culprit, who hits him with his own car (thankfully a tiny Fiat).

There will be twenty-four episodes of Kabukichou Sherlock, and however the various cases they encounter are organized within those episodes, I’m confident in its ability to tell a compelling tale in each one of them, building towards something bigger (and yes, the inevitable clash with Moriarty).