In 19th century Britain, Professor William James Moriarty witnesses the cruelty of the nobility against the working class and begins to devise a plan to destroy the class system. Moonlighting as a crimes consultant for the abused and mistreated, Moriarty works with his brothers Louis and Albert to help common folk exact their revenge on corrupt nobles. Their vengeful path puts Moriarty on a direct collision course with consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, and the criminal mastermind begins testing Holmes to see how the detective could fit into his plans for revolution.
Moriarty the Patriot – Part 1 is an anime that takes great delight in playing around in the sandbox of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, with a focus on (and recontextualisation of) Holme’s arch enemy Professor James Moriarty. This release of Part 1 contains the first 11 episodes of the series (although a misprint on the second disc will attempt to convince you there are 13) adapted by Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell, Haikyu!!) from the manga of the same name by Ryōsuke Takeuchi.
Moriarty the Patriot – Part 1 is an ongoing story of vengeance against an unjust class system with teeth. The series sets a great tone from the first episode, using a colour palette of blood reds and stark shadows in key moments to create a horrific gothic atmosphere to kick off the show’s initial mystery. From there, the series dives into one puzzle after another as Moriarty and his gang of murder pals (this is how I referred to them in my notes) investigate unsolved killings of working-class people and take out members of the nobility who cause suffering for those around them, with both activities frequently overlapping in the series.
From its inception, Moriarty the Patriot – Part 1 is refreshing in its frankness, with a compelling premise steeped in vengeance and murder, full of bloody gothic visuals and elaborate mysteries that usually end in Moriarty orchestrating a situation where a noble bites it. This creates a really engaging atmosphere with a palpable sense of wickedness and danger, elevating a show that could have just been comprised of simple whodunit mysteries into a series with personalised and tangible stakes that has a lot to say about those who abuse their positions of power.
As mentioned previously, Moriarty the Patriot – Part 1 is not so much an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes stories, but the result of taking Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters and concepts and shaking them around a bit, adding a healthy dose of class system loathing and focusing on the recontextualised background and motivations of Professor Moriarty. In the past I’ve alluded to disliking anime adaptations of works in the public domain because they often don’t have anything compelling of their own going on or have nothing to say about the work they are derived from. It often feels like series based on these works or that reference them only do so for the quick and easy brand recognition, with Alice and Wonderland adaptations (I’m looking at you, Alice and Zoroku) being particularly heinous in my experience.
Moriarty the Patriot – Part 1 does not feel like that kind of anime, instead it is a retelling that is genuinely interested in exploring existing characters from different angles and developing a different scenario and set of motivations that sees Professor Moriarty and consulting detective Holmes go head-to-head. There’s a lot of good build up before Moriarty and Sherlock even cross paths in the series, with Moriarty the Patriot – Part 1 taking the time to establish its core premise and focus on a handful of mysteries and murder heists before the duo share the screen. When the two do eventually meet, there is an infectious sense of rivalry and playfulness as they hit it off immediately by undertaking a friendly competition showing off their powers of observation and wits. Or to use the classic adage – Moriarty and Sherlock meet, and game recognises game. They both have excellent chemistry in the series, and the anime has a lot of energy whenever they are on screen together as their dynamic fluctuates between acquaintances to friendly rivals to something adjacent to friendship, all while Moriarty tries to manipulate their interactions to fit into his grand plans. It’s a fun spin on the classic characters, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying this interpretation.
Moriarty the Patriot – Part 1 is a refreshing and compelling twist on the Sherlock Holmes stories, focusing on the exploits of Professor Moriarty and chock full of mystery, vengeance, and murder. I thoroughly enjoyed what Part 1 had to offer and am keen to see where this reimagining takes the characters next.
A review copy was provided by Crunchyroll to the author for the purpose of this review.
© Ryosuke Takeuchi, Hikaru Miyoshi / SHUEISHA, Moriarty Project 2020