「橋の上の踊り子」 (Hashi no Ue no Odoriko)
“The Dancer on the Bridge”
It’s no secret that I was a bit anxious about Yuukoku no Moriarty’s long-term prospects after Episode 4. It was pretty much a rehash of the premiere – though I suppose since that was anime-original that’s not totally out of line. That anxiety got all the deeper after I found out there was a lot of important context missing from the adaptation of last week’s story – the kind of stuff that might have elevated it above the simplistic revenge porn storyline it ended up being. Choices like that worry you, because they don’t usually happen in a vacuum.
I wouldn’t say this week’s outing allayed those concerns, but it was certainly better. The execution was better and the overall premise was more interesting, and that’s all good. But it was still more or less the same formula – murder the rich scoundrel who’s profiting off the class system. One of the victims was himself an aristocrat this week, which at least changed up the dynamic a bit. But ultimately this was a premise we’ve already seen twice, just a snappier version of last week’s take on it.
The victimized aristocrat in question is Lucian, a young playboy who’s one of James’ students at the University of Durham. His friend and roommate Tate is covering for him, but James involves himself anyway when the lad doesn’t show up for class three days in a row. If we assume James had no idea there was a potential case here and was just being a busybody, he has one hell of a radar for trouble. I wouldn’t think a kid blowing off college classes was that much more unusual in the Victorian age, so think is asking a fair bit of coincidence.
The school administrator, Dudley Bale, tries to talk James out of interfering, but of course that only piques his interest further. It turns out Lucian was in love with a barmaid named Frida, who jumped into the river and drowned for no good reason. The trail leads back to a mysterious “fixer” who broke up Frida and Lucian, and of course that fixer turns out to be Bale. His racket is luring young nobles into the opium dens he runs on the side, getting them into trouble, and then collecting hush money to cover it up.
From here you know where it’s going and how it’s going to end, since the rest of the episode is on repeat structurally. The interesting additions are the arrival of two Doyle characters – Colonel Sebastian Moran and Fred Porlock. Moran was a Holmes villain, a decorated army sharpshooter gone bad, and Warnock a Moriarty associate who specialized in information gathering. When Moriarty asked Louis to make the call to London I initially thought he was calling in Holmes and Watson – which may have been exactly the intended reaction – but no. Not yet, anyway.
For me, Holmes and Watson can’t arrive too soon. Everything here was just fine, but Yuukoku no Moriarty’s formula could already use some shaking up. Feeling a little stale after only five episodes isn’t a great sign, but the fact is that the series is only tapping into a tiny fraction of the potential in its basic premise. Whether that’s a good thing (loads of upside to be mined) or a bad one (is it good enough to tap into it?) depends on your outlook I suppose.