Holmes of Kyoto Volume 1 Review

Holmes of Kyoto:

Volume 1

Synopsis: The antique shop Kura can be found on Kyoto’s Teramachi Sanjo shopping street. High school girl Mashiro Aoi ends up with a part-time job at Kura after a chance meeting the owner’s grandson, Yagashira Kiyotaka. Together, she and Kiyotaka–the keen-minded “Holmes of Kyoto”–end up taking all kinds of strange requests that come to the shop! The popular novel and winner of the 4th Kyoto Book Grand Prix, is getting its long-awaited comic adaptation! (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)

Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

Holmes of Kyoto is part mystery, part romance, part art appreciation, part Kyoto appreciation, all served up with a generous heap of human drama. It opens with Chapter 0 where Aoi, our high school aged protagonist, comes to meet Kiyotaka, the titular ‘Holmes of Kyoto’ and find employment at the antique store run by his family. This introductory chapter is heavy on the human drama element as Kiyotaka quickly and correctly guesses that Aoi is trying to sell something that isn’t rightfully hers. Aoi then proceeds to spill about her heartbreak; finding out that her best friend and her ex-boyfriend began dating each other immediately after he’d broken up with her. The scrolls she brought to sell are indeed not hers but her grandfather’s. She intended to use the money from the sale to buy a ticket back to her hometown where her friend and ex-boyfriend live; so she could tell the two off. Kiyotaka then regales Aoi with a story about one of the scrolls, which leads to Aoi having an emotional breakthrough. The chapter wraps with Kiyotaka offering her employment at the store so she can more honestly earn her traveling funds and take the time to thoroughly consider her future actions. Chapter 0 is a solid example of how drama heavy Holmes of Kyoto actually is, even though it is mainly labeled and advertised as a mystery. Just as this chapter is centered on Aoi realizing her own mistakes and reaching a better emotional state, so are the other mysteries that Kiyotaka solves; with all manner of his subsequent clients coming to some kind of emotional catharsis or realization.

For example the next mystery is about an older mangaka who wishes to learn the meaning behind the antique and letter his father sent him shortly before passing away. The third and final mystery in this volume starts off feeling more sinister as it focuses on a young woman who has received threatening letters after being chosen to act as a crucial part in a popular local festival. Without spoiling too much, that more sinister atmosphere caves as the mystery culminates in an emotional resolution, ending with a family growing closer together, cementing just how strong the human drama element is. Despite the ‘Holmes’ in the title, you should be reading this series not for thrilling mental cat and mouse games but instead as a drama focused on weighty, emotional tales.

I don’t think this is how an employer should be talking to their subordinates.

To those wondering, yes, part of why it is called Holmes of Kyoto is in reference to Kiyotaka’s mystery solving skills. But the manga insists that its true origins is from his surname, Yagashira yet it offers no detailed explanation beyond that. However the anime adaptation (released in 2018) does explain it clearly and concisely so I would suggest watching the first episode if you’d like a more thorough explanation.

Being an adaptation of a light novel, Holmes of Kyoto has quite a few beefy chapters, a number of them coming in at 55 pages in length. Some mysteries can take up to 2 chapters to solve. While this gives the story plenty of freedom to establish and explore the emotional elements of the current mystery and its characters, Holmes of Kyoto is, as I mentioned above, part Kyoto appreciation. Quite a few pages are devoted to praising and explaining the many historical and cultural highlights and landmarks of the area. We get detailed explanations and history lessons about various architectures and customs around the city of Kyoto whenever our two leads are walking around town. These segments basically become Kyoto appreciation segments, which might be fun for readers curious about the area, but feel overbearing when counted atop all the other elements already competing for attention. And that touches on Holmes of Kyoto’s big issue: Too much competing content.

Thank you for the history lesson about my own name.

For example,let’s look at the antique appreciation. The series loves to praise and delve deep into numerous works of art; paintings, scrolls and even pottery. As someone who read all the way through the 25 chapters currently available on Crunchyroll, I would like to point out that the appraisal work and explanations can get a bit dramatic in their own way. When Kiyotaka is able to spot even near perfect fakes that deceived everyone else, he often launches into explanations about how this painting or work of art has no ‘soul’ compared to the original. The series tries very hard to uplift and project the passion and life these inanimate objects possess thanks to their creators and depending on your own appreciation for art, these segments could either feel laughably nonsensical or even egregiously try-hard in their effort to move you. If you picked the manga up for the dramatic flair in its story, you may instead find they add to the already hefty emotional weight.

Lastly, let us address the romance featured. It should come as no surprise that there’s an active chemistry between our two leads. In most manga with leads of the opposite gender, there is often a romantic angle and Holmes of Kyoto is no exception. For now, the attraction seems a lot more one sided with young Aoi often getting swept up in handsome college going Kiyotaka’s suave mannerisms and good looks. Kiyotaka, for his part and for the time being, seems to be more interested in teasing her and using her to help with his appraisals and mystery solving. Still, there’s no denying that the story is building up a potential romance between them or at the very least using the possibility of one to keep readers on the edge of their seats. It’s the least innovative side of Holmes of Kyoto but it doesn’t really take away much from the rest of the series’ appeal.

It’s hard being this perfect but someone’s gotta be the protagonist.

Altogether, Holmes of Kyoto is great for anyone seeking a drama filled story with a tinge of mystery to keep things exciting. If you often find yourself getting swept up in the emotions of characters, even in those of short, one-off stories, Holmes of Kyoto should entertain you with its tendency to have every mystery wrap up on deep emotional beat. Just keep in mind that you need to be open to the idea of impromptu history and art lessons jamming their way in whenever possible. Any resistance to that will likely make it impossible to sit through some of Holmes of Kyoto’s more lengthy chapters as they spend almost as much time praising and monologuing about said topics as is spent on the mystery and drama.


Holmes of Kyoto is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.

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