「はじめまして探偵諸君」 (Hajimemashite Tantei Shokun)
In a show about an excess of detectives I think there is one female detective shown on-screen. She has yet to have a spoken line. Every other female character we see in this pilot of Kabukicho Sherlock have been there only to be shamed, parodied, or killed.
You’d think there’d be some gender commentary here, but I don’t have one. Rather, I wanted to point out that it’s a relatively uncommon thing in anime to have such a sausage cast. In modern times anime has become relatively more comfortable with a female-heavy cast because of the otaku market, especially if the female cast can also maybe record some character songs, even form an idol group, have a radio show maybe. Rake in that multimedia dough. Even if not, there’s usually a balanced lineup because balance is pleasing. At least throw in a token female lead. I mean, even Free invented one. But Kabukicho Sherlock has other ideas for this pilot. It’s not male-centric because it’s a period piece, or because it’s a sports anime, or because it’s BL. It has, I think, simply very deliberately has cast men to be its women, partly because it wishes to be, above all, theatre. Let me try to explain.
So after a bit of work to set the scene, Kabukicho Sherlock opens with not its OP, but a risque musical number by a burly drag queen. I doubt this is some sort of outreach to the LGBTQ community, keeping in mind that homosexuality is still something of a fringe topic in Japan. Rather, Kabukicho Sherlock is trying to establish atmosphere. Anyone seen Cabaret? Were you reminded of Emcee’s opening number? Yeah, like that (except it doesn’t look like Kabukicho Sherlock has any tragedy in it). By establishing atmosphere above anything else so early it’s establishing what kind of show it is, and by establishing what kind of show it is it’s establishing what kind of Sherlock Holmes it has. Sherlock Holmes is by now a fictional archetype, and he had defined the detective genre. Detectives like Holmes and Poirot et al were all aloof gentlemen, polite but detached, plying their trade not for any monetary reward but purely for the thrill of the hunt. And that way they stayed until noir came along and hard-boiled the fictional detective. In the same way, Kabukicho Sherlock seeks to establish its own detective fiction by recasting Sherlock Holmes in something akin to rakugo.
Rakugo is a comedic Japanese theatre tradition superficially similar to a radio play, in which a short story is told by a single actor playing multiple parts. And so here we have a Sherlock Holmes who is still an eccentric yet brilliant detective but he’s just one of many in a cast full of exaggerated caricatures, each afforded little dignity, playing their roles in a grotesque tale that invariably ends in an off-colour punchline.
Well, this is just the first episode so perhaps I should refrain from making too many sweeping generalisations. Regardless, Kabukicho Sherlock is certainly interesting with its own absurd sense of flair, and I’ll say is worth us giving it a few more episodes to see what else it wishes to show us.