Dropped: Kabukichou Sherlock – Case Closed

This was a tough one, but as we always say, when you know you’re done with a show, you just know. Sherlock seems content to continue its lighthearted and zany cases-of-the-week while, meanwhile, a teenager is in prison for murdering a monster who tore out and ate his invalid twin sister’s reproductive organs.

The tonal dissonance has grown too intense. I can’t enjoy the new cases while I know Moriarty is being abused behind bars. I realize there’s no getting around the fact he committed a murder himself, but he deserved a break. Sherlock shoulders some of the responsibility for getting a child and a victim so involved in the case, but when it came time to deal with the culprit, he lost control.

Even if Sherlock reckons with that failure and Moriarty is given early release, the show’s fast-and-loose attitude towards narrative seriousness has poisoned my emotional investment in the show beyond repair. It was a decent enough first cour; I just wish the show had ended with one.—Preston

Kabukichou Sherlock – 13 – Holes in Their Hearts

A dreary pall of despair is immediately cast on the second half of Kabukicho Sherlock as Watson, Sherlock, and Mrs. Hudson visit James in prison. He’s trying to keep a brave face, but there are clear signs he’s receiving beatings from other inmates.

It’s gut-wrenching to see such a bright kid of such potential to help people behind bars, but he doesn’t try to run away from the fact he chose to murder Jack, and this was the consequence.

Mycroft pays a visit to Holmes’ house and thoroughly examines it, while a client-of-the-week arrives with a murder case. As Sherlock starts to unravel the case on the spot, Watson is happy his friend is able to stay busy.

Mycroft tells Watson how Holmes left his accomplished family for Kabukichou because he was missing something very profound at home. It was a void he was able to at least partially fill in his new role as detective and performer of mystery-solving rakugo.

It turns out that rakugo was James’ idea, suggested to Sherlock soon after the two met quite by chance (the fact that Sherlock’s brother was James’ father’s secretary for five years was mere coincidence). When his mother took her life and even before losing his twin sister to Jack, James had a similarly large hole in his heart that Kabukichou and the people in it managed to fill.

Now he feels alone again, as his attackers in prison grow more brazen and one of his protectors being beaten half to death and being released early. It’s just a horrible situation all around. No matter how many cases Sherlock solves, as long as James is in prison (and danger) the emptiness and despair will always creep back into the spaces between the cases.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 12 – One for the Cats

As one could have reliably predicted, Sherlock ends it’s first half by following up its most serious, hard-hitting, emotional episodes with one of its weakest, a calm after the storm, if you will. All of the detectives are feeling down since Moriarty was hauled away for murder, but Mrs. Hudson has a new case for them: Pipe the Cat is missing and possibly catnapped. The reactions of the detectives mirror my own enthusiasm for the case.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cats, especially comically huge ones like Pipe, but watching the detectives chase after him wasn’t particularly thrilling, nor is Sherlock’s innovative solution to catching him: a trail of strawberries. The detectives and Irregulars celebrate the retun of Pipe with a big party that raises everyone’s spirits somewhat, and while Irene leaves Sherlock’s life, Watson becomes his official assistant. With Jack gone, I wonder what overarching case will occupy the second half—and if Moriarty ever gets out of prison.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 11 – Hiding in Plain Sight

Before returning to the alley, Kabukichou Sherlock goes back to the night of poor Alex Moran’s murder. James visits her in her room, planning to help her sneak out of the house to meet his friends at the Detective House. We learn “Moriarty” is just a nickname for the East Side.

On the West Side, he’s James Moran, son of the Ward Mayor and Alex’s twin brother. James is delayed by their father (who is hosting a Christmas party), and by the time he catches up in the tunnel between West and East, Alex is already dead. From that night, James swore the murderer would pay.

Back to the alley, where Irene reveals she indeed faked her death. She, James and Sherlock get Watson caught up. When it was determined Jack wanted the USB, they let him believe Irene succumbed to her injuries, then used Watson as a “hook” to bait him.

Kyougoku Fuyuto is the one who tried to get the drive from Watson, and Sherlock intentionally frayed their friendship so that Watson would be more likely to steal it. But Kyougoku isn’t Jack, nor was he willingly working on his behalf.

For the rest of the reveal, Sherlock breaks out his rakugo routine, this time on the stage at Bar Pipecat. He doesn’t have to get far into his story before one detective after another realize how Kyougoku was compromised by love, fed Peyote, and manipulated by the real Jack, turn around to find that Maki-chan, who had been sitting at the bar, has vanished.

Sherlock continues his rakugo while he and Watson race to the spot where they believe they’ll run into Maki-chan, who is, in fact, Jack. A psychopath who murdered and took what he himself desperately wanted, but didn’t have: female reproductive organs.

Once Sherlock’s explanations make it impossible to continue his “Maki-chan” persona, Jack cracks, revealing his true voice and sick, twisted personality. Sherlock makes sure to catch his ravings on a voice recorder, wrapping up the case with a nice neat bow.

Only it seems Jack won’t get to face a trial by jury, as James can’t stop himself from slitting his throat. Mind you, Jack tries to fight the compulsion for revenge, but the final provocation from Jack was that he ate the part he cut out of Alex, as was his M.O.

By murdering Jack in cold blood, James no doubt faces criminal charges for murder himself, unless of course the assembled witnesses to the crime all agree it was a justified killing. I’m leaning towards him spending at least some time behind bars.

I honestly didn’t suspect Maki-chan in the least…until the scene of her in bed with Kyougoku. What at first looked like a virgin having his first ride was actually the effects of the Peyote, while Maki-chan’s brief smirk of satisfaction was a sign something else was afoot.

That said, it wasn’t until Sherlock’s rakugo began that I realized Kyougoku was being used by Jack, and the pieces began to fall snugly and satisfyingly into place. Very nicely done.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 10 – The War They Left for Us

John Watson is haunted by the death of Irene Adler. He’s constantly looking at his forearm which she grasped with her blood-soaked hand. The blood was washed away, but he can still feel it on his skin. She tried to tell him something, but all we heard was “Jack.”

Ever since then, Watson is visited upon by a ghost—the ghost of Irene. We see her body in the morgue, so the show is pretty insistent that she is, in fact, dead. Her ghost seems to imply Moriarty did it, and Sherlock is next, but Sherlock just wants to be alone.

We spend the whole episode all swept up in Watson’s suspicions, which might just curdle into paranoia by the time he’s openly accusing Moriarty of being Jack the Ripper. Moriarty laughs it off and then shares the joke with the whole gang, but we share Watson’s continued gut feeling that something is not quite right about Moriarty.

Even when Watson chases Moriarty, who is following Sherlock and even pulls a knife menacingly, it’s Watson whom Sherlock begins to suspect. He told Moriarty about Irene’s hideout, because he believed and still believes the kid can be trusted. Compared to him, Watson is a stranger. Still raw from the loss of Irene, Sherlock banishes Watson from his sight..

While sharing another drink at the bar (Watson drinks a lot this week, adding to his unreliability), Kyougoku Fuyuto proposes a way for Watson to get back into Holmes’ good graces: unlock the USB drive and find the proof about Jack’s identity. The first warning sign is that Fuyuto “knows someone” who can crack the password, so all Watson has to do is steal it from Sherlock and give it to him.

Perhaps sobering up a bit in the process of finding the drive (Sherlock hid it in a baggie in a can of peaches), Watson also gets cold feet about handing over the drive, but Fuyuto insists…with a knife. Turns out Fuyuto is obsessed with being the one to catch Jack, perhaps out of a need to prove to Maki that he’s worth marrying? In any case, a struggle ensues, interrupted by Moriarty and Sherlock, the latter of whom thanks Watson.

Was the whole plan to expose Fuyuto’s true colors? Is Irene really dead, or was her death faked to draw out Jack? Like Watson this week, I thought I was on to something about Moriarty, but now…I’m not so sure about anything!

Kabukichou Sherlock – 09 – Not Who They Seem

Irene has a target on her back now courtesy of Jack, who wants the egg USB drive back. It’s decided that she should stay with Sherlock for the time being for her own safety, which means Watson has to move out.

The episode plays on Sherlock’s obvious attraction to Irene, as well as Irene’s general fitness as a domestic partner—she even gets him to eat ordinary food! She also has fun teasing him, because apparently when it comes to women Sherlock is thirteen years old.

The same goes for Kyougoku, who his head-over-heels in love with Maki-chan and has a plan to woo her that’s straight out of a middle-schooler’s mind.  He places her on an impossibly high pedestal and showers her with gifts, including a diamond ring to hold her hand, but all Maki-chan wants is a boyfriend with whom to go on ordinary dates.

Maki gets her wish, and they eventually end up in a hotel, where Kyougoku presumably learns Maki’s secret down below. The outcome of this particular plot is ambiguous and not particularly compelling. That the success of Kyougoku’s plan somehow inspires Watson to serve as a lookout for Irene (once Sherlock’s place is ransacked and they move her to a former yakuza hideout)—it’s a bit thin, motivation-wise.

Much is made this week about him having nothing to do, which makes you wonder whether he’ll ever bring up his case with Sherlock, or if it’s a running gag that he never will. Matters are made worse by the fact Watson is terrible at keeping Irene safe. On her first night in the theater, she gets stabbed, while Sherlock runs after a decoy. He’s not even a good doctor, as he fails to administer any kind of first aid, but just kneels beside her, gawking.

It isn’t until later, when Sherlock gives word that Irene has died of her injuries, that Watson realizes Moriarty—who was with Irene just before he arrived—shouldn’t have known where Irene was. Many clues in this and previous episodes point to Moriarty as Jack. I’m also not convinced Irene is really dead. Sherlock may just be saying that in earshot of Moriarty because he’s already pegged the kid as the culprit.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 08 – Adult Swim

Irene doesn’t know the password for the USB drive, so it seems like she and Sherlock will part ways for a time…only for her to end up at Bar Pipecat, ordering the other detectives to do chores and maintenance while Mrs. Hudson is laid up with a bad back (or as she calls it, “that time of the month”). When a new client comes in whose ex is trying to gain custody of their young daughter through blackmail, Irene decides to take the case, picking Watson as her partner.

When the girl’s mother suffers a fainting spell, Sherlock is left to babysit her, and while things start out rough at first (rice bowl with fried egg and a chocolate bar? NO GO) the two come to a sort of truce. Meanwhile Irene proves an astute investigator and gatherer of information, making more progress than all the other detectives and locating the blackmailer ex’s home, at the night swimming pool right next to the district’s famous Elephant.

Turns out the guy is a serial blackmailer, manipulator, and trafficker of underage women—a super bad dude. A woman Irene used to co-star with, who is also being blackmailed, ends up giving Irene the clue she needs to find the safe containing all of the compromising information, including the client’s.

At this point Sherlock joins the investigation (his rakugo is quickly dismissed by Irene as too slow), and the two end up sharing a tanning bed as a hiding spot, only for the blackmailer to be murdered by the actress in a crime of passion. Irene lets her get away, since she’s suffered enough, but when she returns to her hotel room, Irene finds the actress’s ear in a box. Jack the Ripper has apparently made Irene his next target.

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).

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 12 (Fin)

Its first season shows us the past, and most of its second season showed us the present. This week is all about the future, both of the Yakumo and Sukeroku names, the families connected to them, and of rakugo itself. In all cases, that future looks bright, thanks to the inspiration of those who came before.

First, we have a Shin in his late teens or early twenties, and he’s the spitting image of his grandfather Yakumo, even though they’re not related by blood…or are they? The resemblance is uncanny, Konatsu is committed to taking the truth to the grave, as is her prerogative.

In other news, Konatsu has become the first female rakugo performer in history, which is awesome, because it’s something we know she’s always wanted to do, and she’s also very very good at it (sadly though, we don’t get to see her perform).

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem her and Yotaro’s daughter (and Shin’s little sister) Koyuki is interested in following the path the rest of her family has walked, and is content to listen to them work their craft.

As far as Shin is concerned, Yotaro, now the Ninth Generation Yakumo, is his Dad—he helped raise him, after all. That is very clear in a quiet, private scene between the two. As it’s very possible he carries both the blood of Sukeroku and Yakumo, Shin seems to strike a nice balance between their two extreme styles. And the little boy Shin we’re accustomed to comes out when his dad encourages him before one of the biggest performances of his life.

That performance is part of the grand re-opening of the Uchikutei theater, which had burned down years ago but now has been completely rebuilt (only now, no doubt, is up to code). Seeing the new Yakumo IX on the stage with his wife and son (and Master Mangatsu) is a triumphant moment, and the full crowd suggests Yotaro has succeeded in restoring rakugo from the brink it was dangling from when Yakumo VIII died.

Now it’s a more inclusive, less stodgy, and more welcoming place, without sacrificing the things that made it unique. Even Konatsu realizes she was foolish in her earlier thinking that she’d upset some kind of “harmony” by entering the world of rakugo.

It must be that much more encouraging for Matsuda, the only character to inhabit all three timelines. He’s 95 and wheelchair-bound, but seems as warm and cheerful as ever.

After Shin opens with a very good performance that demonstrates why he will be an excellent Sukeroku and/or Yakumo one day, Yotaro performs “Shinigami”, a Yakumo VIII original, as a tribute. And what do you know, the old man visits him at the climax of his performance, leading me wondering momentarily if Yotaro had been taken to the far shore himself!

Thankfully, Yotaro is fine, and he and his family and friends celebrate after the show with a flower viewing by the riverside. Matsuda mentions how he saw his master to the far shore (apparently during a near-death experience of his own back then), and Higuchi waxes poetic on Yotaro’s contributions to helping prevent rakugo from dying with Yakumo.

Yotaro, however was never concerned that rakugo would go anywhere, with or without his help. It’s too good for that. And I tend to agree: various humans can argue over whether the art of rakugo is something that must be vigilantly protected from disappearing, like tending a delicate fire.

But fires can be rebuilt and reignited, and there will always be those who want to sit in an old theater (or a newly rebuilt theater) and hear someone tell a funny, raunchy, or moving story that will transport them somewhere else. Rakugo is eternal.