Case file n°221 : Kabukicho – Anime Preview
Synopsis: In Kabukicho, the home of Tokyo’s famous red-light district, neon lights shine brightly but they harbor Tokyo’s darkest evils. Mrs. Hudson runs a tenement where seven strange but colorful individuals reside — including the detective, Sherlock Holmes. The stage is set for Sherlock when a bizarre murder occurs involving Jack the Ripper! (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: If nothing else was to be said about Kabukicho, potential audiences should at least know that the series is undoubtedly and supremely unique. Kabukicho offers up a bizarre, Japanified take on the beloved character of Sherlock Holmes, making it easily this season’s most unique title thanks to a mix of quirky comedy and the more typical mystery/thriller atmosphere one would expect with a character like Holmes at its center.
Linny: Now whether this quirky interpretation of Sherlock Holmes is actually any good is an entirely different matter in and of itself. From the show kicking events off in a drag bar full of people with western names and looks to the detectives being made to compete with each other to be the first to solve a murder mystery and receive monetary prizes, Kabukicho is indeed a very unusual and loose reinvention of well known and iconic fictional characters. Seeing some of the detectives go so far as to play dirty to get a leg up on the investigation makes the show feel all the more competitive and there’s a solid vein of comedy running through the series culminating with Sherlock ending up incapacitated from a car accident in the middle of his monologue. This chaotic mix of various elements and tone is what makes it hard to put a finger on just how good or bad the show is. There’s so much going on that there’s going to be things you like and things you dislike and the rapid pace of the episode makes it difficult to cling onto either.
Tom: The trouble Kabukicho suffers from is I don’t think it’s managed to meld both its more quirky aspects and serious murder mystery together as well as it could. On the one hand Sherlock’s penchant for explaining the case via the Rakugo, one man, storytelling style is interesting. It’s a singularly Japanese convention and helps to make this feel like a more original take on the character. That said, Kabukicho’s other avenues of comedy vary wildly, sometimes dipping straight into uncomfortable gags that portray members of the LGBTQ community in a poor and stereotypical light. This episode features a prominent LGBTQ character, Hudson-jin, who invades Watson’s personal space on multiple occasions, even outright groping him at one point. It’s not uncommon in media to play into “gay panic” like this; that non-heterosexual individuals, particularly men, are quick to put the moves on you and that makes these sequences the most difficult to swallow.
Linny: Even if you can overlook the more troublesome aspects of Kabukicho’s comedy, there still isn’t enough in this episode to give it a resounding recommendation by any means. If you weren’t intrigued by the premise, you’re probably better off not watching. However, if you find yourself generally favouring and enjoying detective/murder mystery shows and are curious about the rather out there twists the show has put upon its cast, it may be worth trying the first episode for the sole sake of its quirkiness.
Tom: Kabukicho has my attention, but not for all the right reasons. I wanted to recommend the series as I’m intrigued by this attempt to produce a more quirky, Japanified version of Sherlock Holmes, Rakugo and all. But the way the show skirts with LGBTQ characters in this first episode alone gives me pause. It’s also such a weird production, bouncing between quirky, often bizarre and outrageous comedy and it’s more standard mystery tone that it’s tough to get a read on exactly where this will try to go as the season continues. I’d say maybe give Kabukicho a look in but be aware of its more uncomfortable, or just plain odd, missteps.
Case File n°221 : Kabukicho is available for streaming via Funimation.