Aoi Mashiro is an ordinary high school girl with a not-so-ordinary part-time job at an antique shop named Kura. The owner of the shop is a famous appraiser of antiques, and Aoi works alongside his grandson, a young man named Kiyotaka ‘Holmes’ Yagashira. Despite Kiyotaka’s claims that the nickname comes from some clever wordplay on his surname, he clearly has the intelligence and skills of deduction to live up to the name ‘Holmes’.
A variety of people often ask Kiyotaka to help them solve problems they have, with the majority of the problems related to antiques. His vast knowledge on both Japanese and foreign antiques as well as his natural talent for deduction means that he is able to solve each problem very quickly. One day, he is challenged by a counterfeit artist by the name of Ensho, and the seemingly quiet yet fierce battle between the two geniuses begins. We also get to witness the slowly-changing relationship between the recently-heartbroken Aoi and Kiyotaka, the latter of whom seems to keep his distance from romantic relationships.
Holmes of Kyoto is an interesting fusion of mystery stories that have nothing to do with murders and a romance story set in Kyoto.
The anime is based on a manga called Kyoto Teramachi Sanjo no Holmes by Ichiha Akizuki, which is also based on a series of novels written by Mai Mochizuki. The novel series was first released on the user-generated novel publishing website ‘Everystar’ and proved so popular that it also began publication in paperback format by Futabasha in 2015. The novel was revised before publication, therefore the web version and the paperback version have many differences. In 2016, the novels won the Kyotobon Taisho, a book award for novels set in Kyoto. The novel has remained popular as a stylish mystery story without murder.
As the name suggests, Holmes of Kyoto is set in the city of Kyoto, which was the capital of Japan for over a millennium. Its mixture of traditional and modern Japanese culture, as well as its famous temples and beautiful scenery, make the spot very popular with tourists from both Japan and overseas. This has helped bring the anime adaptation to the attention of non-Japanese anime fans.
MANGA.TOKYO was honored to conduct an interview with the anime’s director Tokihiro Sasaki. We asked about the things he paid attention to when he was creating the anime, and what we should watch out for.
Could you tell us how you became the director of the anime?
The novel’s publisher Futabasha wanted to appeal to young women and came up with the idea of making this anime adaptation. I directed King’s Game The Animation, which was also based on a novel published by Futabasha and that led me to this directorial job.
It seems it would be difficult to adapt it into anime due to the lack of action.
When we announced the anime, a common reaction was that many people assumed it would actually get made into a live-action TV drama rather than an anime. It gave me the idea to incorporate some expressions which are closer to live action dramas.
The anime featured many real places in Kyoto. It also features real antiques as well. I guess you must have spent a lot of time researching background information.
I’m from eastern Japan, so I’m ashamed to say that Kyoto is only a school trip destination to me. I visited Kyoto a couple of times for research. I talked to the people involved and felt the atmosphere in Kyoto. As for the antiques, I resorted to books and the Internet, because there wasn’t much opportunity to see genuine antiques at the time. The company also prepared some books for me about the differences between genuine antiques and counterfeits.
We tend to think that it’s difficult to communicate with people from Kyoto. Would you say that is true?
Perhaps. However, there are people from Kyoto in Tokyo. Animation Studio Seven also has a staff member from Kyoto, so I asked him to check the images of the city. I also talked to Hitomi Ueda, who is the Kyoto dialect instructor. Many cast members are from Kyoto as well.
Kaito Ishikawa who portrays Kiyotaka isn’t a Kyoto local, is he? One of our writers wants to know: ‘What got Kaito Ishikawa (who is not from Kansai) to land the role of Kiyotaka? What does he bring to the role?’
As I often say during talk shows, Ishikawa is very intelligent and very skilled at using his voice. The sound crew said that he gives that same wicked impression as the ‘Kyoto Boy’ role that Kiyotaka fits. That’s the reason we asked him to play Kiyotaka. Obviously, regarding the Kyoto dialect and accent, he was under the strict supervision of Ueda whom I mentioned earlier.
What did you pay attention to when you were making the anime?
As Mochizuki and many of the series’ fans reside in Kyoto, I have to consider the atmosphere of the area and recreate the sentiments of the people who are living there. Kyoto has clearly defined seasons. It has outrageously hot summers and shivering cold winters. When I went to Kyoto in the winter, I felt a different level of chilliness compared to Tokyo. I paid extra attention to the backgrounds of the anime, especially to the expression of lights to create the atmosphere.
It can be said that Kyoto’s clearly defined four seasons make creating Kyoto atmosphere easier.
Unlike live-action movies, the expression of anime is to transform scenery into symbols. I was helped by Kyoto’s seasons. Pictures and information of Kyoto also helped me a lot.
Are there any parts that turned out better than you thought?
The episode director and the animation director often give me suggestions about how we can make the anime better. I always tend to follow suggestions made about the series composition. While following the storyline of the original novel one by one, we often combine two scenes into one. Other suggestions were to bring forward the appearance of Akihito and the other good-looking characters as they are popular among fans. Kenichi Yamashita, who was in charge of series composition, introduced Kiyotaka’s rival Ensho in Episode 1 [NB: he doesn’t appear in the novels until the second volume]. It had quite the impact and viewers loved it. He didn’t appear in Episode 2, so he was like the last boss of a game when he eventually appeared. He isn’t a violent villain, as he’s a counterfeit artist. However, he is definitely the most antagonistic character of the series.
Hideki Tonokatsu, who has solid experience in anime, is involved in this series as an assistant director. How do you share your workload with him?
As director, I don’t have much time at my desk at the studio as I’m always in some kind of meeting. I don’t have time to check every background, which is the most vital part of this anime. Tonokatsu helps me with his brilliant drawing skills. I also ask him to do advisory work like revising layouts, as he’s from the Kansai region and is very familiar with Kyoto. In general, Tonokatsu is an advisor who stays in the studio while I’m the one who is always out and about.
Who is your favorite character from the series?
That would be Akihito. He looks very flashy and has the air of a typical celebrity. However, Kiyotaka instantly sees through him and doesn’t give him the time of day. I think he’s a good guy.
The manga adaptation of Holmes of Kyoto begun its run since at the end of last year. Our writer Jennifer wants to know: ‘Is the anime based on the original novel or the manga?’
Our original agreement with Futabasha is that the anime would be based on the manga. The manga’s author Ichiha Akizuki and the manga magazine Action Comic are credited as original creators along with Mochizuki. However, the anime production started before the manga, because anime needs more preparation than the manga in general. In my mind, the anime is based on the manga. However, it’s practically based on the novel.
What is the best part of the anime as a mystery story?
As the tagline of the original novel says, it’s a ‘Mystery without Murder’. In ordinary mystery stories, someone is murdered and the detective works out who did it. No one dies in this anime, so viewers can relax as they watch.
Each episode in the anime is a self-contained story. One of our readers, tamargo_2000, asks if you would like a story that lasts longer than 20 minutes.
I’d love to create a longer story if we have a chance to make its second season and if there is a story which I feel needs two episodes.
What should we watch out for towards the end of the series?
Apart from the mysteries and focus on antiques, I’d like viewers to watch how the relationship between Aoi and Kiyotaka develops. I want this anime to depict detailed feelings and human interactions. The voice acting of the cast members also expresses the changes in the characters’ mind. Please pay attention to that.
Could you give a message to our readers?
Holmes of Kyoto is a mystery story with the stunning scenery of Kyoto as its backdrop. It depicts charming characters and their relationships. I would be very happy if viewers would become interested in Kyoto and actually visit the city. The work is rewarding, and I appreciate the cooperation from Wright Sho-kai, which is the antique cafe on which Kura was modeled. We couldn’t use all the chapters from the book due to the short running time of the anime. So, please check out the original novels and the manga adaptation if you can.
Born in 1986 in Higashi-Murayama, Tokyo. After working on Hamatora, Fairy Tail, and other works as an animation director, he began his career as an episode director. His made his debut as a director with Ojisan and Marshmallow. His other directorial works include My Wife is the Student Council President and King’s Game The Animation.