New Anime

Sherlock Hound – Episode 6

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I am utterly thrilled to be returning to Sherlock Hound, that shimmering jewel of ‘80s anime elevated by a rogue’s gallery of all-time artists and animators, including both Hayao Miyazaki and many of his eventual Ghibli compatriots. The show has so far provided a buffet of riches on both the aesthetic and narrative front, marrying playful animation and sumptuous background art to capers that jump-start Arthur Conan Doyle’s original material with a healthy dash of Lupinism, alongside an abiding love for convoluted mechanical contraptions. The adventures of Sherlock, Watson, and the perpetually amused Mrs. Hudson have been a delight so far, while simultaneously filling out one of the key gaps in my post-Toei, pre-Ghibli education on the scions of animation. Let’s see what madness this marvelous production team cook up next!

Episode 6

Ah, what a delight to return to the expressive clutter of Holmes’ apartment. In this era of simplified and often CG-facilitated background design, the sense of personality conveyed by this style of busy compositional work has been greatly constrained. Here, we see Holmes as one component of a much greater whole; his personality expands in all directions around him, while the detail and depth of the composition offers a cozy atmosphere you could easily sink into, properly setting the tone before his peace is interrupted by the troubles of the day

There is a rubbery buoyancy to Holmes and these police officers as they rush headlong through various action feats in the opening cuts, as if they’re perfectly aware this world operates according to cartoon logic, and they’re never actually in danger. I should check out the original Lupin one of these days, seeing this sort of playful action comedy articulated at such an accomplished level is so fun

It’d also be nice to see Yasuo Otsuka’s animation style under Hayao Miyazaki, divorced from the style of the Toei films

“Solve the Mystery of the Green Balloon”

A small boat bearing Moriarty’s minions chugs into London harbor under the cover of fog, the mastermind himself waiting dockside

But Inspector Lestrade has discovered his scheme! Love the animation of this pint-size flood of policemen all rushing down the stairs

The sequence carries on, reveling in the visual comedy of these munchkins tumbling over barrels or flipping off impromptu diving boards into the harbor. Even the episodes without Miyazaki’s own team are still brimming with playful character animation, and frequently driven less by narrative necessity than the visual appeal of some goofy concept like this

“I’ll catch you someday!” Much like Lupin’s Zenigata, Lestrade means this more literally than most police officers – Moriarty’s crimes are numerous and well-known, it’s just no one’s quick enough to physically grab him

Over at Holmes’ apartment, Watson’s busying himself helping Mrs. Hudson in the garden. That old ham

A green balloon floats down into the garden. Holmes realizes it has an acorn attached to its string, with a message concealed inside

It’s a cry for help, stating that the evil gang is on Dolphin Island

Sherlock’s canine snout means his eyes are all the more crucial for conveying his expressions, and they do an excellent job of articulating his tense curiosity here

Holmes next shows up boasting a bouquet of balloons and a crowd of children chasing them. Even in Doyle’s stories, Holmes had a gift for employing children as his on-the-ground scouts and informants. Adults are convoluted in their thinking and often frustratingly self-sabotaging; the logically-minded Holmes tended to find the clear thinking of children more appealing

Ooh, lovely night shot of the apartment, with the streetlamps lending the whole scene a cozy, otherworldly glow

“It’s been five hours.” “He’s still working.” Holmes always jumps between these two modes – totally indifferent lethargy (facilitated by a variety of controlled substances in the original stories), and monomaniacal focus on his latest case. Easy to see how his personality would influence many generations of future characters, from Dr. House to Batman

“Sorry, but go ahead without me.” Even I can relate to just ignoring calls that intrude on my work focus, until eventually replying with the most curt possible dismissal. I’m in my zone!

The balloons begin to descend after five hours and twelve minutes, giving Holmes a better idea as to how far the green balloon’s entreaty might have traveled

“Considering today’s pressure distribution, referencing wind direction and velocity against meteorological observation, I deduced that the balloon came from around here.” Alongside the purely logical deductions, Holmes stories often involve plenty of the more “magic of expertise” form of detective work, wherein his studies in chemistry or meteorology or whatnot are emphasized to arrive at a nearly magical result. And of course, this whole mystery relied on the grand coincidence that of all the gardens in London, this balloon would end up in Mrs. Hudson’s. Making a detective look supernaturally gifted frequently involves a lot of hiding the strings of narrative design that make their deductions seem so remarkable

Holmes commissions a seaplane to take him out to the balloon’s initial position. Gorgeous backgrounds for these cliffs by the sea, and I quite like how Mrs. Hudson’s white dress draws the eye to the center of the composition

Holmes and Watson land on Waymer Island, an isolated point bearing only a stone lighthouse. Sometimes I feel like it’d be quite nice to live that life, alone with my thoughts on a remote island somewhere

The lighthouse keeper claims there’ve been no visitors recently, but a balloon rising behind him puts the lie to his statements

God, just absolutely stunning backgrounds as the sun begins to set over the island

Briefly caught by a gang of thugs, our heroes wisely sneak out of the chaotic dust cloud prompted by their scuffle. I love how it’s just generally agreed that dust clouds like this prevent anyone from recognizing anyone else, and thus squads of goons will invariably end up beating on each other while the heroes crawl away

Nonetheless, our investigators are swiftly captured. Not Holmes’ proudest day

The young boy who’s been sending out balloons floats another one to their prison cell. In spite of Holmes being the hero, this series is doing an effective job of keeping younger characters the audience can presumably relate to central to its narratives, and heroic in their own ways

Moriarty lays out his plan for his goons: he intends to snuff out the lighthouse in order to make a cargo boat crash on the nearby reef, thus claiming the cargo for himself

“I filled the balloons with hydrogen I generated in an experiment.” Yep, this kid is like a young Holmes himself

I suppose if you live alone with your parents on an island like this, you really do need to find a particularly arresting hobby

“No chloroform or ether… hm…” Holmes, not everyone dabbles in chemistry largely to facilitate their semi-criminal capers and chemical addictions

A lovely looseness to the character art as the action picks up. Their movements are exaggerated and expressive, their forms contorting beyond their usual designs as they rush about the lighthouse. This is one of the great inherent powers of animation as an art form – using distortion of physical form to convey the felt experience of a moment, rather than its staid physical reality. It frankly depresses me that modern anime so frequently seems to prioritize recreation of cinematic realism over the embracing of animated exaggeration. If you want to work in live action, work in live action; animation is not some inferior form that can only hope to mimic physical reality as closely as possible, it is a distinct medium with its own distinct advantages

Chainsaw Man feels like a particularly egregious example of this trend: a highly accomplished production dedicated to a fundamentally bad idea

Some more great contortions from this boy Jack as he writhes in the saboteurs’ grip

Moriarty’s decoy lighthouse serves as the latest in this production’s parade of goofy inventions

Much like Lupin’s cars, Moriarty’s tugboat bucks and leaps in keeping with his own furious emotional turns. Always love a vehicle with this much personality – which is again something we’ve basically lost in the modern era, since such vehicles are now almost solely realized in CG

And yet again, both Moriarty and his pursuers have their vehicles entirely torn to pieces as they flee across the reef. These animators seem to have a lot of fun conveying all these fiddly mechanical parts exploding and scattering in the wind

And Done

Whew, what a generous production this is! I was a little concerned the animation might suffer now that we’ve left the first patch of Miyazaki-directed episodes, but I apparently shouldn’t have bothered. This episode was absolutely stuffed with fluid character acting and energetically realized action sequences, all set against gorgeous paintings of the English coastline. Moriarty remains the show’s most endearingly expressive character, but Lestrade and his men also offered plenty of highlights here, while Holmes held down the action front via his death-defying stunt piloting and faceoffs with Moriarty’s gang. Even a simple caper like this is a treat in the hands of such talented animators; Sherlock Hound is simply a joyous celebration of art in motion, demonstrating precisely what animation and only animation can accomplish.

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.

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