Irene Adler is dead, and Sherlock is no closer to finding Jack the Ripper, the person responsible for their death and the murders of many other people within Kabukicho. Case File nº221: Kabukicho episode 10 starts with the characters at rock bottom, with seemingly no hope in sight of solving the mystery behind these serial murders which have plagued the city.
The last few episodes of the anime have refocused the anime from an episodic exploration of various well-known stories from the original Sherlock Holmes stories with modern takes on the formula and shifted it to a position which allows it to fulfill its potential as a suspenseful mystery anime which reinterprets the characters within a Shinjuku setting. This transition has been far from smooth, with the sudden tonal shift bringing forgotten plot points to the surface often feeling disorganized while pacing issues hinder the anime’s ability to build up tension for some key moments, such as the finale of last week’s episode.
This week, with the murder of one of the main cast making the stakes of this case much more personal for all involved, Case File nº221: Kabukicho episode 10 is a showcase of what the series has the potential to be, albeit with one major caveat.
The circumstances which brought the murder home relate to the USB drive originally stolen from Shinjuku mayor Sebastian Moran and held in the possession of Irene Adler. With the contents still unknown yet clearly being of interest to both the mayor and, for reasons unknown, Jack the Ripper themselves, keeping the drive safe for long enough to decrypt its contents has now come at the cost of the lives of both Irene and her close friend introduced in episode 8.
This allows the anime to truly deliver on its mystery for the first time in the series so far. While I’ve praised the anime in the past for certain one-off episodes which were able to provide short, entertaining mysteries that were satisfying to watch, such as episode 2, even these suffered from tonal dissonance and pacing issues which prevented me as a viewer becoming fully invested in the events going on. Occasionally this would come from providing too much information to the audience which made the case too obvious, or it could be that the use of rakugo by Sherlock to explain his deductive reasoning could feel out of place when placed alongside a gruesome murder.
In many ways, these earlier episodes suggests there is a sense of emotional detachment from the realities of the situation by Sherlock as he enjoys solving the mysteries without considering the lives of the victims behind them. The death of Irene, who despite Sherlock having only known them for a brief time had become much closer to Sherlock than many other people in his life, makes this murder much more personal for him and leaves him in visible anguish which helps to make his character a lot more relatable while changing the dynamics of the main cast in unique and interesting ways. Sherlock has purpose and determination more than ever to catch Jack, and his change in attitude takes things in a more serious direction thanks to his importance to the story.
Thanks to this change of heart, Case File nº221: Kabukicho episode 10 introduces a serious side to the anime we’ve arguably not yet seen throughout the remainder of the series to date. The issue, however, is the introduction of the supernatural which threatens to take this all away.
Irene: Gone But Not Forgotten
Although the idea of ghosts had been toyed with in some author interpretations of the classic detective, and although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself was at least intrigued by the idea of the supernatural, the original Sherlock Holmes stories had always remained firmly rooted in a scientific logic which denied the existence of supernatural beings. If Sherlock was going to solve a murder, it would be primarily through the collection of evidence, clues and witness testimony, as any detective should strive for. Detective reasoning, not chance, wins the day, after all.
This is why the decision by Case File nº221: Kabukicho episode 10 to at least toy with the idea of the supernatural not only feels out of place within its role of adaptation but also within the world of this new interpretation of the story, as well. Of course, the anime has no requirement to hold itself to the same limitations as the original works from over a century ago, yet to deviate in such a manner feels unusual when placed against both the original story and its anime reinterpretation. Even the most eccentric of cases throughout this series had a reasonable explanation behind them, one which made sense to the point of occasionally being a little too easy to solve as a passive viewer of the show.
The case of Jack the Ripper had hit an impasse this week. Sherlock was resolute and determined yet answers were not forthcoming, while investigations elsewhere provided no answers to what was going on. That’s where the ghost of Irene Adler comes in.
Whether their ghost is real or a figment of the imagination is unclear, yet their intervention casts suspicion towards a person who would otherwise not be within the realm of suspicion at such an early point. Whether their ghost is real or not, this intervention steps over the unwritten logical rule that underpins detective mystery as a genre and threatens to ruin the experience.
The intervention of supernatural elements within Case File nº221: Kabukicho episode 10 not only feels hamfisted and unnecessary, the fact it was introduced as seemingly the only way to progress the mystery forwards makes for a dissatisfying experience. It is important for a good mystery to avoid being overtly simplistic while also remaining logical and interesting to solve, encouraging viewers to work through their own deductive reasoning alongside the detective in order to solve the case using the information provided. The very best stories succeed at this, and it’s what made the original Sherlock Holmes stories as revered as they were.
Here, the reference to the supernatural burns it all down, meaning that despite the rest of the episode remaining an intriguing and tense affair, and in spite of Irene’s ghost not laying out all the answers to the viewers and the cast, their intervention messes with the investigative flow of the story itself. This is made worse by the fact that this is a story that’s been building for multiple weeks at this point in some rather interesting ways. The intervention is unnecessary and, in my view, hinders the episode as a whole.
Case File nº221: Kabukicho Episode 10: Otherworldly Orchestrations
While my view on the intervention of the supernatural is negative, episode 11 of Case File nº221: Kabukicho isn’t a bad episode overall. Especially in scenes involving Dr. Watson, as we learn more of his past, we gain greater insight into them that only helps strengthen their connections to the viewer and to the remaining cast.
The issue for me is this otherworldly influence. While it doesn’t solve any plot threads during this week’s episode, it forces insight into areas of the story better left untouched, as their involvement makes clear what would be more satisfying to piece together in stages as things developed further. My hope is that this ends up being a singular, one-off occurrence. My fear is that it is not.
Case File nº221: Kabukicho is currently streaming on Funimation.