Saturday, 11 January 2014

Sherlock Hound / Art of Holmes


 I have a soft spot for Sherlock Hound (名探偵ホームズ (Detective Holmes)).  It’s a lovely little series of exciting Victorian adventures, appealing canine character designs and beautiful background art… for 6 of its 26-episode run anyway.

Sherlock Hound was the last television series that Hayao Miyazaki worked on in the early 1980s.  He directed 6 good quality episodes before production was halted by Sherlock Holmes’ owners at Doyle estate, and by the time the issues were resolved Miyazaki had since moved on to making movies full time.  A gap of 20 episodes needed to be filled, and  so stepped up Kyosuke Mikuriya.  He was a promising director who’d previously been in charge of the well regarded Ulysses 31 but was sadly later fated to make crap like Legend of the Four/Dragon Kings.  The result was a varying bunch of episodes that by all measures do not hold up to the spark of the original run.

The Miyazaki episodes however were pretty well regarded at the time, with compiled versions being double billings with Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind and Laputa on the big screen.  Any and all printed material I’ve seen on the series has related specifically to Miyazaki’s work, and the artbook is no exception.  Sorry, but the rest of the series is largely ignored.

Despite being made before the studio even existed, Art of Holmes is published in same line as the regular Ghibli artbooks in Japan.  Hints at its troubled history are implied as all pre-production artwork depicts Sherlock as a floppy-eared hound, and not the tall cropped-eared character seen in the final work.   The rest of the cast evolve much more naturally inside the book (aside from Mrs. Hudson who spends a brief period as a human), but there is very little content on the final design of Sherlock.   This may come as a disappointment to those specifically wanting production artwork on Sherlock’s final design.

As a side note a similar instance occurs in the collected storyboards of Sherlock Hound.  The episode ‘A Small Client’ is sketched entirely with an unfamiliar long-eared protagonist, whereas the other 5 episodes have the familiar design.  Perhaps indicates the moment at which the alteration was made in the production?

Aside from that note this is a lovely artbook.  The book is divided into chapters labelled as Image Boards, Character Design, Backgrounds, Story and Animation Technique.  Pretty much everything is covered to some extent.  About half of the book’s content is dedicated to delicate watercolour sketches, with the rest used for either background studies or images from the final product.  There isn’t all that much text going on, so you get a lot of artwork within its sub-150 pages.  These days the book can prove a little difficult to find, so if the opportunity ever presents itself it’s very much recommended to fans of either the Hound or anyone into Miyazaki’s pre-Ghibli work.

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