(Also referred to as Sherlock Hound.)
This is the earliest anime I’ve seen to date. Debuting in 1984, Sherlock Hound seems to be one of those “rare gems” from many people’s childhoods. It’s appropriate, as this show is directed at kids, under the guise of “all ages.” In reality, though, it’s for kids. There is no doubt in my mind that this show is directed to kids because nothing in this show would give a functioning adult any reason to continue past ten episodes.
This is the run-down for Sherlock Hound: it had a great start. It showcased exactly what you’re getting into and even went beyond my expectations and developed the characters in subtle ways, while mixing the formula of each episode to make them all interesting in their own way. Even for a kids show, it had this level of maturity and grace that made it so amusing to watch. It was serious, but not so serious as to think that comedy is misplaced. The storylines were interesting and had a unique flavor due to the U.K. setting. It had everything going for it.
As early as episode seven, the anime began showing foreboding signs of accepted mediocrity. Sadly, it began to draw a course into mindless repetition. It set the sails straight into a ferocious whirlpool, where the tides carried the show around and around, seeing the same sights and sounds with each full circle.
Here’s the blueprint:
- A setting is established.
- Moriarty—the main antagonist—and his goons establish a conflict.
- Sherlock Holmes and Ben Watson discover the conflict.
- Holmes figures out everything in a matter of minutes.
- Holmes and co. give chase to Moriarty.
- Moriarty is defeated/escapes.
- Resolution to the conflict.
Even before episode seven, this anime was not great as a mystery or suspense flick. It’s more of an action/adventure, as mysteries are painfully dull. It’s a manner of coincidences and typical clues that only Holmes would notice. Maybe the police force should use more magnifying glasses. It has a lot more emphasis on the chase scenes between Holmes and Moriarty or the police force and Moriarty or… well, you understand. Many scenes showcase weaponry such as guns and canes, and vehicular combat of the most absurd kinds. Where does Moriarty get the motivation to construct a mechanical pterodactyl? Where does he get the resources? Who’s to say? It’s a funny show.
Putting the focus back onto my original point, episode seven all the way through to episode twenty-four is a game of “Watch me paint different houses green.” The foundation of each episode is different, with different settings, items being focused on, and characters, but the execution is thoroughly similar each time. Refer back to my blueprint to see how each episode goes, and then imagine sitting through eighteen episodes of that, with little to no variety to characters’ depth, personalities, or importance. I will give the series props for staying consistent, but in this case, it made the series an absolute chore to watch, or else I likely would’ve had this anime and entry finished yesterday. It’s not that the structure of these episodes are bad or that, on their own, they’d come across as mediocre. It’s just watching the same thing over and over that kills me. Would it kill them to do something a little different every once in a while?
Another thing that may irk some viewers is the lack of a proper ending. Spoilers or not, Sherlock Hound does not have a proper ending. The final episode doesn’t feel like a final episode, but another episode in a long chain of similar episodes. There is no sort of resolution or long-standing conflict that needs a two or three-part chronology to be handled by series’ end. It ends just like it begins, with Holmes solving a mystery and the sun setting upon another day in his life. No drama, no intrigue. An ending like the wind, which continues to blow without any desired destination.
The characters that make up the show are something of a crap shoot. In the beginning, they showed a lot of character, a lot of depth, and a lot of amusing interaction with one another. As the series continued, they became one-dimensional and otherwise bland. Even Moriarty, the cliché evil genius of the anime, showed some charm and chivalry in one of the earliest episodes, only to become the butt of each episode’s joke like, well, a show geared towards little kids. It’s disappointing to me, as someone who is no longer a little kid, to see a show try and become something simple in order to commit to a certain audience, despite showing that they can entertain even the most cynical adults. It has a wacky charm to it, no doubt, but after a while the shtick becomes old, and it became old by episode ten. Only sixteen episodes to go! If I really had to choose a favorite, it would likely be Mrs. Hudson, the landlady for Holmes and Watson, as she has a little flexibility to the character. Even so, by series’ end she seems to become known for two things: aeronautics and housekeeping. A typical female trait and a not-so-typical female trait to balance out the almost blatant sexist stereotype she’s presented as.
Animation is the drawing point here. Yes, the anime is old and crippled by choppy designs and a very dull color palette. That’s how anime used to be. Even so, there’s a nice emphasis on fast-paced movements and wacky character reactions which make the show incredibly charming to watch simply for the sake of movement. This show, made in 1984, has better animation than many anime I’ve seen made after it. While some character designs are crudely simplistic (see: Holmes and Mrs. Hudson in her maid attire), characters are pretty distinguishable from one another (except “beautiful” females) and I find myself really fond of Moriarty and Watson’s designs. Unfortunately, I did find one incredibly blatant animation mishap in the beginning of episode thirteen. If you want to take a quick peek at that, I guarantee it’d be worth it. Even so, the animation is pretty solid in most episodes, with future episodes sort of becoming lazy with its characters’ movements.
It’s a kids show. That’s its biggest fault. It remains simplistic and doesn’t take many chances likely due to no insistence that they need to. It’s a show that had potential but cannot escape the clutches of easy-going formulas. It is a damn shame that this show couldn’t be catered to older audiences, as even for a kids show, I believe there’s a lot more here to be explored than, say, Dragon Ball. As it is now, perhaps I should’ve watched the show as a kid and enjoyed it without my critical senses chiming in. It certainly wouldn’t have given me such a sour vibe whenever I think of the name as it does now. It’s always the ones that could’ve been good that hurt the most upon finishing.
Personal Score: C-
Critical Score: C
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.