In ‘The Case of the Noble Kidnapping’ Albert Moriarty (the older brother) is seen at work in the War Office, where the problem of a new kind of opium being smuggled into the country is causing concern. When William James is kidnapped on arriving in London, could there be a connection between Albert’s investigation and the case the brothers dealt with in Durham? A fiendish plan is forming in the young professor’s mind and he reveals it as soon as he can to his brothers and his accomplices, Sebastian Moran and Fred Pollock: “To push London into the depths of hell…and turn it into a city of crime!”
The brothers then embark on the maiden voyage of the luxury passenger ship Noahtic sailing from South Hampton (sic) where another nobleman, Count Blitz Enders, is behaving obnoxiously. It seems that he has a sinister reputation as a hunter who goes after human prey for sport on his vast estates. Could he be the Moriarty brothers’ next target? But there’s another person of interest on board; a dark-haired and somewhat eccentric young man, whom William spies amusing some young ladies by guessing the occupation of other passengers – with astonishing accuracy. A lively exchange ensues between the two men as both make deductions about each other. When a murder is committed on board, there he is again, the dark-haired young man. As the murderer flees, he tells the onboard policemen, “I’m more interested in the dead body than that bloke.” On disembarking, the perspicacious fellow engages William in conversation about the victim, the crime and the murderer, declaring confidently, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” No prizes, dear readers, after that quotation from Arthur Conan Doyle, for guessing the identity of the dark-haired sleuth: it is, indeed, the young Sherlock Holmes. Has he deduced who was really behind the elaborate set-up staged on board to reveal Count Enders’ crimes?
However, Sherlock has more pressing domestic matters to attend to; he needs someone to share the rent of his rooms in 221b Baker Street as his landlady, the young and pretty Miss Hudson, is about to kick him out into the street if he doesn’t pay his rent. After several potential candidates turn out to be worse than useless, a young doctor, recently returned from the war in Afghanistan, arrives… And just in time!
In Volume 2 of Moriarty the Patriot it’s when long-awaited Sherlock Holmes finally makes his appearance that the problems with the manga’s underlying theme increase – and just when I’d hoped that they’d settle down. It’s not easy, granted, to come up with a ‘different’ yet convincing take on the pipe-smoking detective, his faithful companion and chronicler Dr John Watson, and his doughty landlady Mrs Hudson, but somehow, this version is trying too hard in some respects and not hard enough in others. Most of Chapter 7 ‘A Study in “S” Act 1′ is played for comedic effect but really isn’t very funny at all; the younger trio at Baker Street are painted in very broad brushstrokes with no subtlety in their conversation. It’s down to mangaka Hikaru Miyoshi to keep us interested in the characters with well-drawn facial reactions and body language (and the fact that all the younger cast members, male and female are very attractive to look at).
Plot-wise, Ryosuke Takeuchi’s scenario keeps coming back to the underlying theme of the manga: the Moriarty brothers believe that the aristocratic upper class in Great Britain is oppressing the poor underclasses and must be destroyed. It’s unsubtle and isn’t gaining any greater complexity as the story continues. The creation of MI6, with Albert at the helm, codenamed ‘Em’ is another anachronism (all these historical inaccuracies are part, I suspect, of a little joke on the part of the author who seems to delight in mixing Conan Doyle’s characters with others from popular twentieth century fiction <cough> Bond <cough>).
Another aspect of the translation for VIZ Media that I really don’t like is the way Holmes’s speech is rendered. Granted, William observes that, “While you obviously originally hail from Oxbridge, you choose to speak with a Cockney accent,” to which Holmes responds, “How’d ya know?” and, “I like ya, mate!” I can’t comment with any authority about what the original Japanese does here (or any of the other embarrassingly awful panels where Holmes speaks Mockney, “Ain’t today just lovely?”) For me, the French translation by Patrick Honnoré gets it right in not trying to render Sherlock’s dialogue with any kind of accent at all; William has told us that Sherlock’s faking a Cockney accent, we accept it and move on, without being annoyed by constant ‘reminders’.
The main bonus at the end is the light-hearted Louis the Depressed Part 2 in which stargazy pie makes an appearance (at least they got their research right for that!).
If you’ve been following the TV anime, you’ll know that it’s moved far past these chapters and the predominantly dark tone of the series has managed to obscure the more clunky moments of the manga. (On purpose?) No sign of MI6 so far!