By Mai Mochizuki and Shizu Yamauchi. Released in Japan by Futabasha. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Minna Lin.
One of the better things about this series is the way that it makes you look at art. And by art I don’t just mean paintings and sculptures, but also anything that is crafted with a purpose. In this book we see several times what it means to be a real artist, the sacrifices and mental anguish that sometimes need to be suffered to achieve this, and also the fact that imitations cannot, no matter how hard they try, get completely into the artist’s head. This is not to say that imitations are always invaluable – there’s a lithograph in this story that impresses everyone even though it’s merely a copy – but that it is very hard to keep the emotions of what you are doing while also thinking “hrm, he used to paint his ears like THIS”, etc. Holmes is very good at this sort of thing, and Aoi is starting to get better at it as well. Unfortunately for Holmes, Aoi – and indeed everyone else around him – have trouble seeing HIS heart.
After a brief prologue in which Holmes indirectly helps his father think of a subject to write about, we get three main stories here. In the first, Holmes and Aoi go to a Kabuki show, only to run into theatrical intrigue when the show’s star is threatened, both via letter and later on the stage itself. In the second story Holmes meets up with his ex-girlfriend, now engaged, who worries that her fiancee is lying to her about ending his relationship with his former girlfriend. And in the final story, Holmes and Aoi attend his grandfather’s birthday party, and a treasure hunt arranged by the family ends up being a lot of fun… until a surprise guest shows up. Throughout all these stories, of course, Holmes is making deductions and solving crimes, as well as showing off his well-trained eye for antiques. He’s a terrific guy. Unfortunately, Aoi suffers from a major case of low self-esteem, and so is convinced that he sees her as just a friend – clearly not true, as the reader knows.
Honestly, I am content with Aoi feeling like this, at least until she’s out of high school. The bigger question (OK, not really) is whether they become a triple rather than a couple, as every single time they have an outing they seem to run into Akihito, who ends up accompanying them. This is the funniest part of the book, and it’s amusing to see Holmes’ growing frustration, but the three really do have a great chemistry as a team. The mysteries themselves are also well-done, and the author has promised not to dip into more serious crimes like murder, so the stakes are low enough that the book is a relaxing read. Indeed, I was thrown off by the first story, where I incorrectly guessed the culprit. That said, like a lot of mystery books of this sort, I don’t think the books are written to have the audience guess before the detective, but to show off the detective’s awesomeness.
If you’re looking for a book about romance, I’d look elsewhere, but for a fun series of mysteries, Holmes of Kyoto is hard to beat.