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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

MISS SHERLOCK


MISS SHERLOCK
I’ve always been intrigued by the number of times Sherlock Holmes continues to be resurrected since he and Moriarty went over the Reichenbach Falls. With an ever evolving compendium of literary, theatre, film, and television reiterations, Sherlock never seems to go out of style. 

Guinness World Records, in fact, claims Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed fictional character on film and TV—played over 254 times by more than 75 different actors. Not being a purist, I’m more than happy to give each new Holmesian appearance at least a curious, non-judgmental, once over. 

Of the more recent Sherlocks, I’ve enjoyed all three of the major forays—Robert Downey, Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes movies, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock (at least the first two seasons), and Jonny Lee Miller’s turn as Sherlock in Elementary

In my opinion, Elementary is the best of the trio, as it has overcome the Herculean task of shooting twenty-four reasonably high level episodes for each of its six seasons on network television. Elementary should also be given high marks for keeping the essence of Sherlock Holmes intact while allowing the character to recognize his inherent flaws and fight to make Doyle’s creation a better person.

Elementary gives us a more human Sherlock, one with whom we can more find a more personal connection than we have been allowed before. We ache to see him struggle, as we ache when we see others close to us struggle. This is great storytelling, which adds to the Sherlockian mystique rather than simply mimicking it. 

I find less satisfaction in many of the Sherlock Holmes pastiche novels. These often pale by comparison to the original tales. At worst, they show a complete lack of understanding for the material. However, starting with A Study In Charlotte, Brittany Cavallaro’s trio of Y/A books featuring Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes—the modern teen descendants of the original Holmes and Watson—have kept me entertained enough to hope for another sequel.

A distaff Sherlock Holmes is not an original idea. Sherlock has appeared as everything from a dog to an alien and all incarnations in between. However, I was intrigued when HBO Asia announced plans for an Asian female version of Sherlock Holmes for the series Miss Holmes. In this Sherlockian reimagining, both Sherlock and Watson are female and have traded Victorian London for present-day Tokyo.

The original Sherlock Holmes stories are well known in Japan. There have also been several other Japanese translations of the character, including an anime titled Sherlock Hound and a weekly manga called Detective Conan, which was made into a popular TV series.


Billed as The most beautiful Sherlock ever, when this latest Japanese take on Sherlock premiered, I jumped online and quickly tracked down the eight episode first season—complete with English subtitles. As I was prepossessed to like Miss Sherlock, I was able to overlook a number of early episode shortcomings while still finding a lot to like.

By episode four, however, the series began to find a stronger footing and a sure direction. I became slightly obsessed with the series, binge watching the final episodes.

There is a delicate Japaneseness about Miss Sherlock, which is both charming and fascinating. I’ve seen this before. While the popular Miss Fisher Mysteries are set in Australia in the 1920’s, they capture the same delicate charm and addictive nuances.

Yuko Takeuchi plays Miss Sherlock with an awareness of her blunt temperament. She uses this controlled insensitivity to hide her secret identity as the Queen of Impatience. She sees her impatience as an uncontrollable flaw—or at least, a flaw she is disinclined to control. Therefore, she chooses to use blunt narcissisim as a Kabuki mask. Her enemies cannot use her raging impatience against her if they are unable to discern it.

In person, Takeuchi doesn’t speak with the same rapid-fire intrusiveness of Miss Sherlock. Asked about the challenges of the role, Takeuchi claimed the hardest part was the sheer number of lines she needed to memorize to play this motor-mouthed version of the detective.

The soft calm of Shihori Kanjiya as Dr. Wato Tachibana (aka: Wato San—which is pushing the envelope hard) alleviates the bad-tempered Sherlock by bringing a sweet innocence to her character. She also possesses an endearing immaturity we haven't seen before from other actors in the role. As a surgeon recently returned from a voluntary, yet grueling, medical mission to Syria, Wato-san is faced with her own demons, which Miss Sherlock tends to purposely aggravate and makes no effort to understand.

Standing in for Inspector Lestrade, Ken'ichi Takitô's Inspector Reimon is by turns suitably deferential and protective of Sherlock. He realizes she is his most valuable crime solving asset—despite his assistant, Sergeant Shibata (Tomoya Nakamura), long suffering frustration.

Ran Itô portrays the show’s Mrs. Hudson, Kimie Hatano, with a certain ditzy personality, which hides her iron fist in a velvet glove.

The whole  production is wrapped up in a shiny package  of sharp directing  tied with a red ribbon of scenic cinematography, which shrewdly emulate the same pacing, shot choice, and color palate of other recent mainstream Sherlock productions. There is also a compelling soundtrack to complement the whole production.

Listening closely, you quickly realize the Miss Sherlock intro and underlying music are the perfect Japanese translation of Hans Zimmer's Sherlock Holmes movie scores and the incidental music from Elementary and Sherlock. Beyond the soundtrack, there are other clear influences from both Elementary and Sherlock, but this gives a comfortable familiarity to offset Miss Sherlock’s unique Japanese sensibilities.


As a nod to its Sherlockian origins, Miss Sherlock’s backstory includes being raised in Britain and graduating from Cambridge University. But Miss Sherlock also finds its own originality in Japanese cultural differences, including taking into account Japan’s strict policies toward drugs and weapons. And to make sure the viewer is aware of the Tokyo local, there are often lingering camera shots of Japanese food and the Tokyo cityscape.

Trading Sherlock’s traditional violin for a cello, Miss Sherlock appears to have much more affection for her older brother—Secretary to the Prime Minister, Kento Futaba—than Sherlock ever did for Mycroft. Faced with the dull routine of existence, Miss Sherlock releases her inner chocoholic rather than a 7% solution of cocaine (another nod to Japan’s strict drug laws).

With some of the blame owed to the lack of nuanced English subtitling, the writing in the early episodes is somewhat pedestrian. In the first few episodes, the mysteries are clever and inventive at the onset, but quickly fizzle without truly being able to tax Sherlock's superior crime solving abilities. However, this flaw begins to mitigate with episode four as the series takes a more deadly turn prior to the entrance of Akira Moriwaki—Miss Sherlock’s very own Moriarty.

Miss Sherlock hasn't yet risen to the level of 'don't miss' television, but it certainly deserves your attention...

MISS SHERLOCK SEASON ONE

EPISODE ONE
THE FIRST CASE 

Wato Tachibana has just returned to Japan from Syria. Her mentor suddenly dies after his stomach explodes at the airport. Consulting detective Miss Sherlock is on the case.

EPISODE TWO
SACHIKO'S MUSTACHE

A vandal draws a mustache on Sachiko, a famous painting by Saneatsu Kishida. The owner of the painting, Mariko Maibara, approaches Sherlock for help.

EPISODE THREE
LILY OF THE VALLEY

Dr. Hiroshi Watanuki is tortured to get information regarding his top-secret research on a fear-erasing drug. Reiko Haitani's identity is stolen by a recruiter looking to gain entry into a pharmaceuticals laboratory.

EPISODE FOUR
THE WAKASUGI FAMILY CURSE

Sakura Wakasugi is found sucking her daughter’s blood, and her family suspects a curse is behind her behavior. Wato visits an exhibit by war photographer Toru Moriya.

EPISODE FIVE
THE MISSING BRIDE

Risa Mashima suddenly go missing after her picture-perfect wedding ceremony. Wato learns from Dr. Irikawa that her flashbacks are a symptom of PTSD.

EPISODE SIX
STELLA MARIS

Yuichi Takayama receives a severed ear in the mail from an unknown sender. Sherlock gets closer to understanding the truth behind Stella Maris.

EPISODE SEVEN
STOLEN VIRUS

While on the run from the police, Sherlock races against time to stop Akira Moriwaki from infecting Tokyo with a deadly virus.

EPISODE EIGHT
THE DOCK

After Toru’s death, Wato relies on Dr.Irikawa. Sherlock tries to keep the design for a nuclear warhead from falling into Akira Moriwaki’s hands.



1 comment:

  1. First of all, it is SO nice to see great words written about ELEMENTARY. Have loved this show from day one and it just continues to get better. These last few episodes have some really good moments: Joan and her mom; Sherlock and Marcus; Sherlock even getting into pranking the captain.

    As for MISS SHERLOCK, I'm always game for a reinterpretation and I was already planning on seeking it out. Looking forward to it.

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