Sherlock Holmes’ Anime History, From Sherlock Hound to Moriarty the Patriot

Moriarty the Patriot is the latest anime based upon the sprawling mythos of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, but it's far from the first. Holmes has seen so many unusual and unique adaptations over the years that it's become engrained in classic anime imagery. Before watching Moriarty the Patriot, you might want to watch or reflect upon the earlier attempts to bring Sherlock Holmes to Japan -- some great, others less-than-stellar.

Sherlock Hound

One of the most memorable Holmes anime adaptations is Sherlock Hound, a 1984 anime series directed by none other than the legendary Hayao Miyazaki for the first six episodes. Legal disputes with the Doyle Estate put the series on hold, resulting in Kyosuke Mikuriya taking over while Miyazaki saw to the creation of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Studio Ghibli.

Continue scrolling to keep reading Click the button below to start this article in quick view.
milky holmes sherlock hound moriarty
Start now

Sherlock Hound exists in an alternate reality where steampunk technology reigns and people are anthropomorphic dogs. The dog versions of the characters are rather romanticized but generally faithful reimaginings -- though the usually matronly Mrs. Hudson is now young and sought after by bachelors. Moriarty is a brilliant but evil inventor here, responsible for much of the Jules Verne-esque technology seen throughout the series. This is an anime classic for a reason -- not just for its connection to the formation of Studio Ghibli, but also for being just an imaginative, creative remix of the Holmes lore.

Case File nº221: Kabukicho

Case File nº221: Kabukicho is a direct adaptation of Sherlock Holmes that premiered in 2019. Interestingly, Production I.G. animated this series as well as Moriarty the Patriot, so it seems the studio is betting big on the Holmes business. This series pits Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper, and features twists on the usual crew of Holmes regulars, including a sweet-faced younger Moriarty and gender non-conforming Mrs. Hudson.

The story is relocated from 19th Century London to modern-day Japan, with the story taking place in Shinjuku's seedy Kabukicho district. The series spends just as much time unraveling the mystery of this strange new world as it does diving into the regular investigations of the eccentric Sherlock Holmes.

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes

When people talk about anime adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes series, they often refer to Milky Holmes -- the anime where Sherlock Holmes is turned into a cute girl. It's a little more complicated than that, however. In an alternate future where Toys, people born with magical abilities, are common-place, a quartet of young girls open a detective agency named the Milky Holmes Detective Agency to solve the mystery and suppress evil Toys from wreaking havoc.

This sounds like your basic magical girl set-up, but what sets Milky Holmes apart is that the four main characters are each named after iconic detectives. Sherlock Shellingford, Nero Yuzurizaki, Hercule Barton and Cordelia Glauca are named after Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe (created by Rex Stout), Hercule Poirot (created by Agatha Christie) and Cordelia Gray (created by P.D. James). This turns Milky Holmes into essentially the wildest magical girl crack fanfiction ever created -- perhaps one of the reasons for its success.

Holmes of Kyoto

Starting as a 2015 light novel series, Holmes of Kyoto (or Kyōto Teramachi Sanjō no Holmes) centers not on the legendary Sherlock Holmes, but rather a high school girl named Aoi who starts working at an antique shop. There, she meets Kiyotaka, a grad student at Kyoto University, nicknamed "Holmes" due to his incredible deduction skills.

The series centers on the two going through melodrama surrounding the cast of expansive characters, with Kiyotaka managing the shop and sorting out counterfeit antiques. It is not a true adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes mythos, but very directly references it, showing the wide-reaching impact of the stories.

Lupin the Third: Part II

Lupin III is the grandson of Arsene Lupin, an iconic gentleman thief who, in his own stories, faced off against a copy of Sherlock Holmes. It seems no surprise that, years later, their grandchildren would meet. In the episode "The Great Detectives Take to the Sky," Lupin III faces off against Sherlock Holmes III. Sherlock resembles in this the classic Basil Rathbone version of Sherlock Holmes, with the deerstalker, violin playing, and pipe. In the episode, Sherlock Holmes is there investigating Lupin while the gentleman thief tries to steal Dracula's Tear. The episode "Find the Treasure of Lupin I" also features a different version of Sherlock Holmes III.

Detective Conan/Case Closed

Detective Conan is one of the most iconic anime of all time, and it owes its success to Sherlock Holmes. Beyond simply drawing from the aesthetics of Sherlock Holmes, Detective Conan follows in the tradition of the great mystery stories of the past. Pretty much the entire mystery genre is indebted to both Edgar Allan Poe's early mystery stories and Arthur Conan Doyle's detective, and Conan takes the latter influence very far.

Detective Conan takes the formula Doyle perfected, applies it to an original character and progresses with it to great success. It is misleading to say that Detective Conan is a Sherlock Holmes adaptation in the truest sense, but it's hard to argue that Detective Conan isn't in some way Japan's truest answer to Sherlock Holmes.

About The Author