3 Episode Rule is a series in which I watch the first three episodes of a new anime and decide whether to stick with it or drop it based on those three episodes alone.
Man, where have all these anime been all year? I’ve been bemoaning how sparse the offerings have been all year and now the fall season seems like the quarter that just keeps on giving. And once again I’m here; thankful I forgot to cancel that Funimation subscription six months ago.
Moriarty the Patriot is an anime based on the manga by Ryōsuke Takeuchi and illustrated by Hikaru Miyoshi, inspired by the stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The twist in the tale being that this story is focusing on the formative years of Sherlock Holmes classic nemesis: Professor James Moriarty.
It’s funny, in Conan Doyle’s original writings, Moriarty was only a character that appeared once, and even then is was never really “seen” by the reader. As the Holmes stories were written from the perspective of his assistant Doctor Watson, because the Doctor never met Moriarty, neither did the audience. Everything we knew about it came from the mouth of Holmes himself.
And yet, that’s not stopped the many interpretations of the stories over the years to include Professor Moriarty in all kinds of different ways, always magnifying him into more and more of an anti-Sherlock, giving him powers deduction and intelligence compatible, and sometimes even greater than the great consulting detective himself.
Which is true of this anime as well, introducing us to a William James Moriarty who is, even as a child; intelligent, calculating and far ahead of everyone else around him. The main difference being that while this Moriarty continues to be a sociopathic criminal with a penchant for murder and manipulation, he differs in that he is doing it all for the good of the country of Great Britain. Hence the Patriot in the title.
England has always been a country with a clear class divide, but it may have been no more pronounced than it was in the late 1800s, during the industrial revolution, and that’s the crux of the setting in this story. While the first episode acts as an introduction to Moriarty; his code and his methods, the following two-episode flashback to a time before he was a Moriarty at all and how he went from being a nobody to a nobleman.
We meet both William and his younger brother Louis through the eyes of Albert Moriarty, the eldest son of a noble house and the only member of his family who seems to have a shred of humanity and empathy about him. While his parents and younger brother are self-obsessed, elitist scumbags, Albert spends his time at orphanages, reading and teaching the children.
It’s there he meets William and becomes obsessed with him, despite his young age he has startling intelligence and gives advice to everyone around him for both money and food in return. Through his observations, Albert eventually comes to realise that William is advising criminals the best methods for stealing from nobles and grooming the other orphans to despise the evil ruling class.
Rather than be threatened though, he feels admiration for the fellow boy. Thus he invites the two brothers into his home, thanks to his father’s desperate desire for clout amongst his rich peers. Adopting the children seemed like it was destined, although the rest of the family quickly tire of them and want them out. Seeing the horrible ways his family behave and treat those they deem below them, Albert becomes twisted and stops seeing his own family as people.
Thus he commits himself to William’s ideals and helps in orchestrating the “perfect crime”, stabbing his brother, burning down his family home and killing everyone inside, making it all look like an accident. Leaving himself as the only surviving Moriarty, and telling their rescuers that William and Louis are his younger brothers.
It’s a cool little intro the characters, but what really hooked me on this series was the first episode. Something of a condensed Sherlock Holmes-style mystery; the adult William, Albert and Louis (who is now acting as his brother’s personal butler/ninja) track down a nobleman who has been torturing and then butchering the children of tradesmen in the streets of London.
Using his powers of deduction and reason, William is able to narrow down the culprit through the commonality between the victims and use the odd victim out to pinpoint a time and place where a man of noble birth must have been to see such a lowborn boy and decide to murder him. Once encountering the man, he uses his powers of deduction on the man, whose terrible poker face gives him away right away.
It’s a classic Sherlock Holmes-style mystery condenses down to less than 20 minutes. It’s the kind of sharp, concise storytelling I have a lot of time for. The twist in the tale being that, while Sherlock would have delivered the man into the hands of Inspector Lestrade, Moriarty does something a little different. Instead, Albert helps in orchestrating the abduction of the murderer and putting him in front of the grieving father of one of the murdered boys.
All which culminates in an especially moody, foggy and gothic scene in which the man takes vengeance out on the nobleman who killed his child. Taking one step further towards balancing the social scales that Moriarty seems so focused on accomplishing.
I may be a little biased, but I always love watching anime set in Britain, they’ve got this picturesque, romantic way of portraying the country. But they’re also not afraid to shy away from the bloody history of the country as well as the damning social class divide that has always existed. I also love the stories of Sherlock Holmes, reading through many of them as a younger lad. So this really does seem like a match made in heaven.
Verdict: An unquestionable desire to continue watching this
As hilarious as it is to see a series show the original illustration of Professor Moriarty in a wrap-around segment, and then immediately cut to a cult of anime pretty boys in that same role, I am enamoured with this series. It’s a show that is obviously taking more than a surface level of inspiration from the writing style and tone of the original writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Drawing very obvious parallels between how Moriarty behaves and operates and the classic aspects of Sherlock Holmes character himself.
Moriarty describes himself as a “Crime Consultant” in the same way Holmes refers to himself as a “Consulting Detective”. However the core of the character, as much as the anime makes him into a much more likeable character, is still there. He might be getting portrayed as some kind of avenging angel, but at the same time he’s still a sociopathic murderer and criminal mastermind.
When the series does turn to murder, the show itself takes a turn, sometimes soaking the very screen itself in blood-red while other times washing out all of the colours except for the vivid, fixated eyes of the killers and their victims. It’s moody, it’s gothic and it’s blood-soaked, while also being magnetic, relatable and appealing to some of our own darker fantasies.
If it continues down this path of telling twisted versions of Sherlock Holmes-style mysteries, then I’m going to be 100% on board for the duration of this season and the second half that’s due to air next April. And I anticipate how the series will interpret the eventual meeting between Moriarty and their version of Sherlock Holmes himself. In all his pretty anime boy glory.