While exploring the backstories of the other detectives featured within this loose Sherlock Holmes adaptation had been something I was longing for ever since the anime’s earliest moments, the poor quality of the last few episodes, in particular, last week’s episode, have made me careful what I wish for. I even noted my fear that such expository filler episodes would continue for the foreseeable future during my review of the series last week. Hence, I was admittedly rather relieved to see the story of Case File nº221: Kabukicho episode 7 return the focus to Sherlock himself, as he tries to solve a mystery related to a missing USB drive owned by the Shinjuku mayor.
This week, another interesting side character from the original Sherlock Holmes stories has been introduced into the world of this modern adaptation. Case File nº221: Kabukicho Episode 7 introduces us to Mycroft Holmes, the equally-intelligent and influential brother to Sherlock, taking a role in this story as the Shinjuku mayor’s top secretary. While unfortunately, he does not receive as much character development as I would like considering his relation to Sherlock, it is he who requests the services of the detectives of Bar Pipecat in order to solve this latest mystery. The reason for his visit is to help retrieve a missing memory stick belonging to the city’s mayor, having been stolen in his sleep two weeks prior. The identity of the criminal is known, and the goal of this mission is to find the memory stick she stole and return it, since the data found within it can’t be made public under any circumstances.
Following the relatively mediocre or non-existence cases of recent weeks, alongside the lack of stakes necessary to drive the mystery forwards and keep viewers engaged, this episode is a major improvement. What helps to make this mystery interesting is the role of the supposed culprit cited by Mycroft during the case briefing, Irene Adler. While they were cited as the likely culprit who stole the memory drive, far from being a search for them, they take an active role within the mystery and obstruct attempts to recover the drive. The game of cat and mouse that soon ensues between them helps the episode to stand on its own within the series.
Another key character this week is the sex doll manufacturer Godfrey Norton, sex dolls which in the end have large importance to the case being solved. The house is being used to store some new models that he has produced, and the way in which they’re integrated into the mystery itself elevates what could be a childish comedic insertion into the mystery to something that adds to the episode as a whole. While the inclusion feels admittedly contrived, it ties into Case File nº221: Kabukicho‘s setting and its infamous red-light district in this way, episode 7 becoming a rare case of the anime utilizing its setting to elevate the mystery being solved.
Norton’s inclusion as a sex doll manufacturer is also a marked improvement over the original story this episode is presumably based upon, A Scandal in Bohemia, a story which concludes with Norton fleeing the country with Irene to avoid Sherlock’s investigation yet frustrates due to the character’s unimportance prior to this. At least here, with the character’s more important role within the mystery on display through his business, their role in the anime’s mystery is more satisfying.
It also helps that scenes involving the sex dolls are the highlight of the episode, from Dr. Watson’s critique of where they lack realism to other areas of the episode as well. Between this and the active role of Irene, it’s a change of pace which, unlike recent weeks, not only works but takes the series’ wider plot forwards.
However, while this element of the episode is a marked improvement over the low bar set in recent weeks, it’s the sign of things to come which elevates the episode into one of the better stories from the series to date.
The Sherlock Connection
Many key characters from the original Sherlock Holmes mysteries are introduced for the very first time this week, sowing the seeds and building upon the intrigue already set between Moriarty and Sherlock with characters who can contribute to this conflict in future episodes.
Take Sherlock’s brother for example. Their introduction here makes it likely that they will make more prominent appearances in future episodes, which could change the dynamic of later capers if the influence they wield is utilized to aid or impede Sherlock in future endeavors. Their introduction this week paints them as someone who cares for their brother in spite of his apparent so-far-unexplained resentment towards them.
Even more interesting is the person he works for, Sebastian Moran, the current mayor of Shinjuku. Within the original novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sebastian is introduced as one of the most dangerous men in London, a role that Case File nº221: Kabukicho looks set to embrace considering the cloud of mystery and suspicion surrounding their brief on-screen appearance at the very beginning of episode 7.
When compared to Moriarty, Moran possesses a sinister aura that no other character embodies in quite the same way within the anime. Instilled within the audience is a sense of fear by their appearance, one which I imagine will only grow as we learn more about their role within Shinjuku.
Then you have Irene. They only appeared as a one-off character in the original novels, however, subsequent adaptations have often increased the character’s importance to Sherlock, even painting her as a romantic interest to Sherlock in some interpretations. While there’s no indication the character is certain to feature beyond this week’s mystery, there is a hint of romantic intrigue that could keep the character around beyond this self-contained story.
Case File nº221: Kabukicho Episode 7: Showcasing a Path Forward?
Episode 7 of Case File nº221: Kabukicho is a return to form for this inconsistent series. At times intriguing, at others offensive, the potential has always existed throughout the series for something more. This week feels like an attempt to deliver on this potential and a path forward for the series, introducing new characters and refocusing the story behind Sherlock, even if the pacing is odd at times and the episode as a whole is far from perfect.
There’s still the potential for error here going forward, don’t get me wrong. I feel the pacing of the series as a whole is still rather questionable at times, and I don’t fully understand what motivates some of the recurring characters despite being a significant way into the series at this point. Although there is a lot that could go wrong going forwards and I am still far from convinced that the anime will reach its potential after multiple missteps in its brief runtime so far, episode 7 is a return to form for Case File nº221: Kabukicho in terms of its mystery while also building upon the seeds of a wider narrative dotted into the series so far. After the low quality of the last few episodes, I’ll accept that.
Case File nº221: Kabukicho is currently streaming on Funimation.