Monday, August 17, 2015

Konnichiwa, Mr. Elementary!

(Possible spoilers. Stop at any time.)

It's hard for the average American to understand the anime culture of Japanese television. I sure don't get it. Buy, ya know, you really don't have to understand why something exists to appreciate it. Most great art is like that.

In a discussion with friends this evening, the subject of popular anime came up, and on the list, as we discussed some we'd seen and enjoyed and those we hadn't seen, a show called Death Note came up. I didn't learn more than the name, and that it was "a little dark," so when I found a little time on my hands when I got home, I pulled it up on Netflix.

The premise, in the first 22-minute episode, was simple, supernatural, and well laid out: A good student comes upon a notebook that will cause the death of anyone whose name is written within it. And he decides that he can use it. Not a bad little premise, and one stripped bare for its short run time. A live action American show would have added a goofball best friend and an unrequited love interest and padded it out to double the twenty-two minute run time. This, however, was rather simple and elegant in its lack of such stock trappings.

So, supernatural show, you wonder . . . what does it have to do with Sherlock Holmes?

The second episode, which I immediately watched after the first, laid down the central conflict for the show. The greatest detective in the world takes an interest in the mysterious deaths caused by the notebook. Is the greatest detective in the world Sherlock Holmes?

Well, no. Because if he was named "Sherlock Holmes," and someone wrote that name in the notebook, he'd be dead, right?

No, in Death Note, the greatest detective in the world is named "L," and the one person who can contact him is named "Watari."  Close enough for me.

But "L" having a Watson isn't just what makes him the Sherlock of his universe. He's a clever fellow, and after watching the first two episodes of this show, I'm eagerly awaiting the battle of wits to come.

Just after watching forty-four minutes of what many in this country would dismiss as "a cartoon."

Yet a cartoon that gets right much of what a lot of shows with live actors just can't seem to pull together. Not sure where the show goes from here, good, bad, or indifferent, but I'm looking forward to finding out. There are those who like to say "any Sherlock is good Sherlock," but I've always stuck with "anyone as good as Sherlock is good Sherlock." I don't need the name, just the spirit.

And I think I've happily found that spirit once more. Your mileage may vary, but, hey, it's your mileage. Go where you like, and I shall as well.

This season, following Death Note for a time.


  1. Rumor is that CBS is already planning an American version of Death Note titled "Elementary School Notebook", with L being voiced by Ryan Gosling and Watari being voiced by Rachel McAdams. Robert Doherty must surely be behind this.

  2. I actually started reading this manga pretty recently, and I was delighted to find a Sherlock and Watson in it. :D

  3. I read the Death Note graphic novel, so I'll be interested in what you think. I thought it was a real mind-bender of a story.

    The fellows behind it also did a series called "Bakuman," which tells the story of two high schoolers who team up to write manga. This is part of a genre that tells a "Rocky"-type story set in a particular profession, with a dollop of insider information to make you feel you're inside the subculture. I bought the 20-volume series and have read it several times.

  4. Hey, sorry for the off-topic post, but I've been looking everywhere for a way to send you a message, Brad: just a quick note on your chronology. You have "Man With the Twisted Lip" as happening in 1889 based on an erroneous date of "Friday, June 21." I just happened to be rereading the story, and Watson actually states the date as Friday, June 19, which would make 1885 far more likely.

    1. You must not have clicked on my link explaining why I put that one on Friday, June 21st. Watson tells us it was 1889 at the story's start -- when he was at home, writing at his leisure. The confusion comes when he's discussing weekday and date in the drug den with an opium addict, so his "Friday, June 19th" becomes less reliable than his "June, '89." Many a chronologist tends to go with that year over others for similar reasons.

      Sometimes Watson makes you decide which Watson you trust more.