Sherlock Bones, Volume 1

Sherlock Bones, Volume 1Author: Yuma Ando
Illustrator: Yuki Sato

U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781612624440
Released: September 2013
Original release: 2012

Sherlock Bones is currently a seven-volume manga series written by Yuma Ando and illustrated by Yuki Sato. The first volume was originally released in Japan in 2012 while the English-language edition was published by Kodansha Comics in 2013. I didn’t realize it at first, but I was already familiar with Sato and Ando’s previous works in English. Sato is the creator of Yokai Doctor and Ando (one of many pen names used by Shin Kibayashi) worked on Bloody Monday and Drops of God. More thematically relevant, Ando was one of the original creators of The Kindaichi Case Files. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is a well-loved and well-known detective worldwide and this is no exception in Japan. Sherlock Bones is only one Japanese work among many that is directly inspired by Doyle’s stories. I was vaguely curious about the series when it was licensed, but it wasn’t high on my list of manga to acquire. Happily, Kodansha sent me a review copy of Sherlock Bones, Volume 1, so I was able to give the series a try sooner rather than later.

When Takeru Wajima adopted a puppy from the local animal shelter, he had no idea what he was getting into. Most new pet owners have to worry about things like house and obedience training, but Takeru has an entirely different problem to deal with—Sherdog is the reincarnation of none other than the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes. Oh, and Sherdog can speak (at least to Takeru, that is) and he is certain that his new owner is the reincarnation of his dear friend and faithful assistant Dr. John H. Watson. It’s not as if the two of them go out looking for mysteries to solve, but Sherdog and Takeru seem to be drawn into criminal investigations. When one of Takeru’s classmates is killed, and Sherdog is the only witness to the crime, they must find a way to prove the guilt of the murderer. Sherdog may have the brains to determine a solution, but it will be up to Takeru to do all of the legwork. After all, who else would belive, let alone understand, a dog.

I’ll admit, I was more than a little skeptical going into Sherlock Bones. I thought that the premise—Sherlock Holmes reincarnated as an adorable puppy—would be silly at best. And it is silly, but it also ends up being a good deal of fun. I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed the first volume of Sherlock Bones. Its mix of goofiness and seriousness is entertaining even if it is rather ridiculous. So far, though, it seems to work. There’s Sherdog himself—appalled that he’s a canine, though on occasion he will deign to use it to his advantage—and then there’s Takeru, who seems to be a good kid even if he’s understandably a bit befuddled by the whole situation and less than convinced that he’s Watson’s reincarnation. I also like that the entire Wajima family is made up of police officers and investigators—father, mother, and sister—so Takeru’s poking around into various criminal goings-on doesn’t seem too out-of-place.

As for the central case in Sherlock Bones, Volume 1, the mystery doesn’t lie within who killed the unfortunate student. Even why the murder took place can be fairly easily deduced. The trick is in how the culprit establishes an alibi and then carries out the deed. In part this is where Sato’s artwork plays an important role—the major clues that help Sherdog and Takeru crack the cases in Sherlock Bones, Volume 1 can be found right there on the page even before they solve the mysteries, waiting for observant readers to notice. I appreciate this sort of potential for engagement in the mystery fiction that I read, and so was happy to see it included in Sherlock Bones. Granted, not all of the clues are revealed in this way, especially when things like color come into play, but overall I was pleased with how the story and art worked together to form a cohesive whole. Sherlock Bones was a pleasant surprise for me and I look forward to reading more of the series.

Thank you to Kodansha for providing a copy of Sherlock Bones, Volume 1 for review.

My Week in Manga: April 11-April 17, 2011

My News and Reviews

Probably just about everyone already knows about this but if not I’m sorry to break the news: Tokyopop is shutting down its North American publishing division. Tokyopop wasn’t my favorite manga publisher, but this still saddens me deeply. I’m especially frustrated because it seems like as soon as I got really interested and passionate about something (in this case, manga) the entire industry tanks. Tokyopop is not the first manga publisher to go under but it is one of the biggest. I believe the news was first broke by The Beat on Friday—End of an era: Tokyopop shutting down US publishing division. Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic also has a great write up and index of related posts from around the web—A Few Thoughts About TOKYOPOP.

As for me, this past week I posted two reviews. The first was for Osamu Dazai’s very potent novel No Longer Human. Vertical will be releasing Usamaru Furuya’s manga adaptation of the novel later this year which I’m looking forward to reading. I also reviewed Death Note, Volume 9: Contact, making it my first in-depth manga review for April. There are only three more volumes in the series to go, and I’m interested in seeing how things turn out. Also, a reminder that the Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast begins next week. I’ll be reading nothing but Rumiko Takahashi manga, watching InuYasha streaming on Netflix, giving away the first two volumes of Ranma 1/2, and reviewing in-depth the first volume of Mermaid Saga. It should be a good time.

Quick Takes

Princess Princess, Volume 1 by Mikiyo Tsuda. Princess Princess isn’t really a boys’ love manga, although it certainly has the potential and setup. The first volume was actually a bit better than I expected it to be, but I didn’t find it to be particularly outstanding. In an elite all-boys school, a few attractive first year students are selected to act as “Princesses,” becoming idols of the school and acting as a sort of cross-dressing cheerleader. Kouno is basically in it for the fringe benefits, Yutaka was forced into it, and Shihoudani seems to have come to actually enjoy it. Apparently, characters from Tsuda’s other works cross-over with Princess Princess but I haven’t actually read any of those involved.

X-Day, Volumes 1-2 by Setona Mizushiro. Polaris, 11, Mr. Money, and Jangalian first came together in a chatroom. Frustrated and fed up with life at their school, they decide to make it disappear, fantasizing and planning how to blow it up. I never got a really good handle on exactly who all of these characters were. I think that is somewhat the point, though. There are a few intense glimpses into their personal lives, but mostly the four of them are private people. Others, even those in their select group (at least to begin with), don’t realize or understand the depth of their personal struggles. But the four of them become a much needed support group for one other. Also included is an unrelated sidestory “The Last Supper.”

Yokai Doctor, Volumes 1-3 by Yuki Sato. I have recently developed a particular fondness for yokai, so I was looking forward to reading Yokai Doctor. I liked the premise—a boy raised by yokai reenters the human world while continuing to act and care for the yokai as their doctor with the granddaughter of an exorcist as his assistant. But, it’s just…boring and disappointing. The yokai, while cute, are generic. The constant boob jokes are tedious rather than amusing. Things start to get a bit more interesting plotwise and artwise in the third volume, but probably not enough for me to pursue the rest of the series if it’s released in English.

Your & My Secret, Volumes 1-3 by Ai Morinaga. I have mixed feelings about Your & My Secret. It seems as though Morinaga can’t quite decide whether to go for the comedy, the melodrama, or to address the gender issues involved more seriously. The excuse for Akira and Momoi’s personality/body/gender swap is a bit silly, but at least watching how everyone deals with it is interesting even if it is often extremely unfortunate. I feel bad for Akira since no one seems willing to recognize or care about how horribly he’s feeling about the whole situation. Also, why is it that every school festival must have a performance of Romeo and Juliet?