(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.