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Elementary Sherlock-San: 'Moriarty The Patriot' And Japanese Spins On The World's Greatest Detective.

The world of Sherlock Holmes has long held a fascination for many people in Japan. It's perhaps part of an overall fascination with traditional British culture, which with its rigid class system, emphasis on manners and ceremonial occasions has many parallels with their own. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works have inspired Japanese creators in animation, comics, literature and video games to create works of their own, whether loosely inspired or drawing directly on the original stories. Moriarty The Patriot, which has a manga and anime coming out this October, is just one in a long line of Doyle inspired works.

There have been fairly straight adaptations in manga form, including most famously to western audiences one based on the BBC's modern-day Benedict Cumberbatch starring Sherlock. There have been some that have relocated to the modern-day, or futuristic settings. There are manga that turn the great detective into an android (I Am Sherlock) or reincarnated as someone's pet dog (Sherlock Bones). 

Volume one of Moriarty The Patriot comes to English from Viz Media on October 6. This series, however, is one with a twist and as the name indicates, it focusses not on Sherlock, but his notorious nemesis Moriarty.

But rather than the cunning and cruel villain of many Doyle and Doyle inspired stories past, this Moriarty is a younger and much kinder hearted soul. The manga was first serialised in Jump Square magazine in Japan in August 2016 and is written by Ryosuke Takeuchi and illustrated by Hikaru Miyoshi. 

YUKOKU NO MORIARTY © 2016 by Ryosuke Takeuchi, Hikaru Miyoshi/SHUEISHA Inc

Takeuchi takes us back to Moriarty's younger years and explores what might have turned him into the villain that he later became.  This version of Moriarty is, in fact, a young orphan who grew to loathe the Arsitrocracy and the rigid British class system that kept them in power and began to dream of bringing it all to the ground and making a society that is equal. The oldest son of the high-status Moriarty family, who shares his hatred for the system convinces his father (who is either a Count or a Lord, the series is a little inconsistent on that) to adopt the boy and his sickly brother.

YUKOKU NO MORIARTY © 2016 by Ryosuke Takeuchi, Hikaru Miyoshi/SHUEISHA Inc

The way the young orphans are treated by the rest of their adopted 'family' and even their servants only causes that hatred to grow to the degree that he hatches a plot. Burning the mansion to the ground he assumes the identity of the younger brother of the family becoming William James Moriarty.

William's genius sees him attend University at 16 and by the unprecedently young age of 21 is a maths professor. The young, charismatic polymath seems every inch the model British Gentleman. Nobody would suspect him of being a secret criminal consultant. Using his position in society, he is able to help out the downtrodden and take down corrupt and greedy members of the nobility. But of course, his plans see him come into conflict with one consultant detective by the name of Sherlock Holmes, who is every inch his equal.

This is a genuinely novel approach to the material, suggesting that Moriarty actually had noble intentions and was driven by a sense of justice (even if his methods are questionable). From this angle, Sherlock is viewed as a defender of the status quo, an instrument of the corrupt system. Although the perspective has changed the Moriarty versus Sherlock dynamic is essentially unchanged, making it oddly true to the original.

The anime adaptation is produced by the world-renowned Production IG and began airing on October 3, 2020. The series will be simulcast in English by Funimation.

Takeuchi and Miyoshi's series is in good company. Studio Ghibli founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata worked on the Japanese/Italian co-production 1984 Sherlock Hound, which followed the adventures of Holmes and Watson and recast everyone as anthropomorphic dogs. Due to production issues, Miyazaki only directed six episodes of the show, but they're pure Miyazaki magic. They feature an obsession with flight, exciting chases and prototypes of many other of the director's staples. It also added a strong female character to the mix.  Mrs Hudson, Holmes' venerable housekeeper, usually depicted as an older lady is aged down considerably and turned into a plucky, independent Miyazaki heroine. It's not a surprise to learn that Miyazki envisioned a series with her as the main character- and that could have made for an even more memorable show.

In 2010, JC Staff finally gave us an answer to the age-old question "what if Sherlock Holmes was four cute anime girls?" And who among us can say they've never wondered that?! Tantei Opera Milky Holmes features the pink-haired Sherlock Shellingford and three of her friends, who are all students of the Holmes Academy and form the famous detective team, Milky Holmes.

Milky Holmes

The Production IG series Case File no221: Kabukicho meanwhile relocated Holmes to contemporary Tokyo and recast Holmes, Watson and Moriarty as teens, and saw Sherlock take on Jack The Ripper. 

One of Japan's biggest anime franchise also took inspiration from the iconic detective- and took its name from his creator. Detective Conan  (known in the US as Case Closed)  features a genius detective trapped in the body of a small boy. The series would eventually do a full-on Sherlock homage in the sixth movie spin-off Phantom Of Baker Street.

Conan Doyle's contemporary Maurice LeBlanc created gentleman thief Arsene Lupin,  the original inspiration for Monkey Punch's manga Lupin III. So inevitably, Lupin junior would eventually come into contact with a descendent of the detective and met Sherlock Holmes III in the second Lupin TV series. Back in the day, Conan Doyle refused LeBlanc's request for permission to pen a Holmes vs Lupin story, leading to LeBlanc writing it anyway, but starring a thinly veiled version of Homes (Herlock Sholmes- no, really) being humiliated by the wily thief.  Ironically, years later the LeBlanc estate tried to stop the Monkey Punch series from using the Lupin name. Eventually a TV movie- unrelated to the TMS series- would see Arsene Lupin (the first) go up against the 'real' Holmes in anime form. Lupin III has also appeared in two crossover movies with Detective Conan.

Sherlock's combination of massive intellect but zero social skills has become the template for not just Conan but many who came after him. Surely there's more than a hint of Sherlock to Death Note's master detective, L? And in his rivalry with Light Yagami, there's definitely echoes of Holmes and Moriarty. The basement-bound genius detective Himuro of Tadashi Agi's manga Remote is Holmes to Kurumi's Watson in a mini-skirt.

Even outside anime and manga, there have been adaptations of various kinds. There's even a Sherlock Holmes puppet show on NHK and HBO Asia and Hulu Japan aired a gender-swapped, modernised version, Miss Sherlock. Conan Doyle's creation is beloved the world over, but based on the number of series it inspired, it seems clear that they particularly struck a chord with Japanese audiences. And with Moriarty The Patriot set to be one of the hot shows of the season, that's not likely to change anytime soon.

The Moriarty The Patriot manga is available from Viz Media from October 6, and the anime will air on Funimation Now from October 3.