Holmes of Kyoto
Aoi Mashiro has moved from her old hometown of Omiya, Saitama to Kyoto. Not only is she having a hard time fitting in, but she’s still mourning losing her former boyfriend and best friend in Omiya. Aoi heads into an antiques shop, Kura, and meets the handsome 22 year-old college graduate who works there, Kiyotaka Yagashira, nicknamed Holmes due to his impressive deduction/appraisal skills. She comes into said store to sell an old antique painting to pay for a trip back to Saitama to basically tell her friends to go to hell. However, he convinces her that maaaaaybe it’s not a great idea to sell generations-old antiques for petty shouting matches. Instead, Kiyotaka hires her to work at Kura after noticing she also has her own set of appraisal skills, and the series thereafter is about their solving mysteries in Kyoto.
This won’t be a long one, because this mystery anime, ironically, is one I don’t have much to say on.
Holmes of Kyoto is an episodic series that deals with Aoi and “nasty Kyoto boy” Kiyotaka solving mysteries and sometimes appraising antiques. It’s mostly self-contained, one episode stories mixed in with occasional slice-of-life elements and flashbacks. One thing I’ll give the show credit for is that a few of the characters do occasionally reappear in the series over its run (one even becomes friends with Aoi). Still, though, the routine format of “Kiyotaka goes to solve a mystery, Aoi comes along, they sometimes look at stuff, and Aoi/Kiyotaka develop a bit at episode’s end” starts to get old even before the twelve episodes are wrapped up. And while the premise of mixing in the appraising of Japanese paintings, tea sets, and furniture with a mystery angle might sound interesting at a glance - considering how detailed the art can get for these appraisal scenes - it really isn’t.
But still, at least the art in those scenes is pretty good. There are plenty of scenes involving antique Japanese paintings, cups, and other various items, along with the various local places in Kyoto. Holmes of Kyoto is very much a Japanese Japanese show, and the show makes no attempts to hide/undermine its Japanese roots. Characters constantly wear kimonos and robes, trips to shrines, temples, and old-fashioned Japanese homes are fairly common, and Kura itself is decorated with countless antique Japanese items. In a time where anime is becoming more mainstream with its locations to appeal to a larger worldwide demographic, it’s nice to see a Japanese show, well, embrace its own culture. The character designs are also pleasant enough, with Aoi herself having a very cute “good next door” look to her, even if the animation itself isn’t particularly great. This is a “talking heads” anime for sure.
Our two leads, Aoi and Kiyotaka, while decent enough characters, suffer a bit due to the way Holmes of Kyoto handles character development. The series shows us from the get-go that Aoi is sad, depressed, and lonely without her former friends, but even after her meeting Kiyotaka, this eats up more of her personality more than it should, making her seem needlessly wishy-washy. Even her main motivation in the series - waiting to tell off her former friends - is resolved less than halfway through the show, when Aoi re-encounters them again and shows us what true pieces of work they really are. After that, Aoi kinda feels lost in her own show; she spends the rest of the series either tagging along Kiyotaka like a puppy places, or moping about her life. Still, I will admit that her taking up appraising like Kiyotaka, and even helping him a few times in the series with her budding skill, is a definite highlight in Holmes of Kyoto, and helped make her a more palatable love interest than she otherwise would be.
Kiyotaka, meanwhile, is a bit harder to pin down. He’s introduced early on as a handsome, collected, friendly ladies’ man, but he can also be a bit of a snob and a jerk when he wants to be, even to Aoi unintentionally when being nice to her. (No wonder Aoi ends each episode with calling him nasty.) Still, he’s not without his own baggage; he has to deal with not only an irritating ex of his, but also a jerkass ex-monk/art bootlegger named Enshou. He’s the series’ closest thing to a villain, an irritating nuisance who likes to interrupt events, scam people, and/or rub salt in others’ wounds, depending on what flavor of douche he feels like being that day. (In one later episode he also presses Aoi into a wall as he confronts her. So extra bonus scummy points right there!) Otherwise, Kiyotaka spends most of the series showing off his detective skills that even Conan Edogawa would call bull on, with the occasional show of him being a bit of a pain in the ass.
For a series as character-driven as Holmes of Kyoto, its supporting cast is largely forgettable. There’s Akihito, a hammy but handsome actor who occasionally shows up in episodes and hangs out with Kiytoaka, despite their very light antagonistic relationship at times, while also crushing on various women. Rickyuu is an irritating brat who idolizes Kiyotaka and treats Aoi like dog crap in near every appearance he’s in. Kaori, a new friend of Aoi’s who is introduced in one early story, shows up a few times after her debut in the very few segments Aoi’s seen in school, but she is never really used all that much. And lastly there’s the manager of Kura, Kiyotaka’s father Takeshi, who likes to joke around a bit.
One rather annoying part of Holmes of Kyoto, beside its rather strained character development with its two leads, is that the show doesn’t really go anywhere after all is said and done. And that’s because the series doesn’t conclude so much as…stops. I noted that this a couple of years ago in my Tribe Cool Crew review, and I still feel the same now; I’m tired of anime ending with a second season hook. So what should be character development in the final episode for Aoi turns into a “well, maybe we’ll do that instead in season two teehee” cliffhanger copout instead. It’s anti-climatic, frustrating, and irritating. I really wish anime producers would stop pulling this crap.
Overall Holmes of Kyoto isn’t a bad show, but it’s largely forgettable. It has decent leads, but the side characters are either underutilized or obnoxious. The art is solid, but the animation is bare-bones. It has a lot of stories, but few of them are particularly engaging.
It’s mediocre, is what I’m saying.
Since Stig and I watched this show, I’ll let him offer a brief second opinion on this show;
Stig: This really should have been a shoe-in with me. I remember being annoyed enough when HaNaYaMaTa purported to be about some kind of Japanese traditional dance and then having none of that. Literally none. Or notable little, at least. Holmes of Kyoto, on the other hand, is thick with trivia about antiques and even sometimes the artists behind each piece of art. Even better, it gives a solid reason for Kiyotaka to loathe Enshou, the erstwhile high art bootlegger. And Aoi meeting with Kiyotaka and working in their antique shop puts a solid foundation on whatever relationship the show has in mind for them.
It all comes back to what one wants, I suppose. Do you want to see Aoi and Kiyotaka get together? Well, better pray for future seasons, then. (If the novel it's based on is even done yet.) Do you want to see where they're going with Enshou? Well.... they're still gearing up on that, I suppose. At least the episode-to-episode plots feels fairly solid, but that doesn't stop this show -- this season -- to feel more like a prologue of sorts, and there's no bigger indicator of that very thing than the very ending of the last episode. It's a decent show, but if this is all we get...
A somewhat cute mystery anime that, sadly, won’t leave a lasting impression on you once you finish watching it. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Should be fine for young teens and up. Nothing super objectionable, though a few of the stories deal with themes like death, family struggles, and sabotage.
Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll.com stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Holmes of Kyoto © 2018 Mai Mochizuki ·Ichiha Akizuki / DEF STUDIOS / Kyouto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes Production Committee
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