It’s always interesting to see a Japanese take on a very Western construct – in this case the detective story in the Doyle/Christie tradition. BONES understands the genre well, and their effort has all the right parts in all the right places – but like so many times when West meets anime the final product is distinctly Japanese. In this case I think it comes from the characters, though most of the characters are in fact European. This series is to Holmes and Marple what “Engrish” is to English – in a good way.
It’s a concern when the mystery is the weakest part of a mystery series, and from my perspective that’s certainly the case so far. The first plot wasn’t offensively bad, certainly, at least not so much to overshadow what was great about the arc (more on that shortly). But it was pretty predictable – I think most of us knew Julie was the culprit. It also had a few holes that were never really filled – did Julie know that Ned was “the hunting dog”, or not? More than anything, it lacked that exhilarating thrill of watching the great mind work as it reduced the puzzle to a solution, as well as the graceful elegance of a perfectly constructed mystery. There were some nice twists here – the WW I tie-in for one. I’d thought the horrifying night on the “Queen Berry” in 1914 to have been some sort of rich man’s game or social experiment, but it was actually a part of a prophecy tied-in to the outbreak of the “War to End All Wars” (ha!). And I didn’t see where the connection to the old fortuneteller’s murder would come from though, to be fair, it would have been almost impossible to do so without foreknowledge.
But for all that, it still worked quite well for me and it really boils down to the characters. Specifically, I love the chemistry between Victorique and Kazuya. Aoi Yuki and Takuya Eguchi (ably filling in for the great Irinu Miyu) are really in a nice groove here. This is Aoi’s best work since Kure-nai – it’s a delicious part and she nails Victorique’s bemused arrogance and underlying frailty. These two are opposite in almost every way – European and Japanese, blonde and dark, logical and emotional, intellectual and physical. That opposition makes them a fun pair to watch, with Victorique verbally leading Kazuya around by the nose but always with an underlying sense of affection. His motivations seem simple and straightforward, but you can see that Kazuya is a bit of a puzzle to Victorique with his Japanese way of thinking.
Of course, the revelation about Victorique’s past puts a different spin on the entire story, including the relationship between the main characters. This gives them something in common – neither is the favored child in their family. Victorique turns out to be the illegitimate half-sister of Inspector Grevil – he of the corkscrew hair – her mother having been the mistress of a Duke (their father). Hidden away in a mansion she’s dealt with a life as a virtual prisoner stoically. Kazuya reacted to his situation be rebelling against his family’s traditions, by concentrating on studying and exceeding his brothers in that regard, and fleeing to a foreign land. He has a chip on his shoulder, and I suspect his way of dealing with his life will influence Victorique, especially in respect to her stoically allowing her half-brother to bask in the glory of her uncredited genius.
The verdict through one mystery and three episodes is largely positive – this is flawed, but full of virtue. It looks and sounds great as you would expect, and a great chemistry between leads is a huge asset for a series. If the mysteries rise to that level, the show could become a classic.