In this adaptation of the famous Arthur Conan Doyle mystery series, Sherlock Hound is a private investigator working in Victorian-era London. With his boon companion, Watson, he embarks on a series of adventures over the course of investigating various crimes. Oh, yeah, and they're all cute anthropomorphic doggies.
Okay, let's say right now that this isn't the most serious series in the world. However, Sherlock Hound is a very entertaining show that has an appeal that reaches beyond the original mystery series by being accessible and light-hearted. The charming execution and wild steampunk chase scenes betray the influence of Miyazaki Hayao, who was the director for the first six episodes of this show (and a consultant for most of them), and his collaboration with the Italian animators Marco and Gi Pagot (who Miyazaki would later pay tribute to in Porco Rosso.
The style of the series is obviously early 1980s, owing a lot to Miyazaki's visual style (especially in the female characters). ("Hey, that's Clarisse, only with floppy doggie ears!") While the pacing and storytelling start off rather slow, subsequent episodes pick up steam (no pun intended), with fun (and harmless) action sequences, and a whole lot of fun characters. For example, in this version of the Holmes mysteries, Moriarty is less of a crazed mastermind than (to paraphrase his own words) "just a misguided soul who would've done better if he'd found the love of a good woman earlier on". Sherlock Hound is acted precisely how he should be, with class, and persistently wry humor. And Watson is absolutely adorable, and "so cute as a pudgy Scottie dog", according to our assistant editor. And the voices, especially in English, are exactly as they should be, though that should really be no surprise, as we will explain in a moment.
Technically, the animation has aged quite well. It compares favorably to contemporary animation, and doesn't seem terribly creaky most of the time. The landscapes and settings are well-rendered, and the usage of machinery, like airships and motorcars, is appropriately done and often very whimsical. The music is very understated, and neither emphasizes nor detracts from the title.
It will probably come as a surprise to many viewers that this show was initially a failure, and that it was originally intended not for the Japanese market, but for Europe. When the first few episodes were made in 1981, they received a rather lukewarm response - it wasn't until two episodes of this series were aired as a trailer in front of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in 1984 that support and funding for this project enabled it to complete its 26 episode run (with a different director, Mikuriya Kyosuke, for the remainder of the episodes). In fact, the fifth episode seems to have been created for the purpose of being a movie trailer, which is why Moriarty is surprised to "finally meet the famed Sherlock Holmes", despite having kidnapped Sherlock Hound's housemaid/secretary Ms. Watson in the previous installment.
One of the neat things about the Pioneer release of this series is the double-sided DVD. One side is Meitantei Holmes in Japanese, with English subtitles. You actually have to flip the DVD over to get Sherlock Hound in English. Why is this? Because there is an additional minute and a half of footage in episode in the *English* version of this series, so there is no way to do a bilingual overlay, due to the non-matching audio tracks. Of course, that means you should be doubly careful when handling this DVD!
But the important thing is that Sherlock Hound is a fun, character-driven delight which features some wonderful, if forgivably episodic storytelling. And while it starts a bit slow, the series is really worth the effort of going through the setup. This is a excellent starter series for children and newer anime fans who are interested in stuff beyond what's on Cartoon Network. Let Sherlock Hound take the wheel, and enjoy the ride!
Recommended Audience: Very small children wouldn't be able to follow the story, but otherwise, nothing objectionable to speak of. Recommended family viewing.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (6/26)
Sherlock Hound © 1981, 1984 RAI / TMS
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