By Kaoru Shintani. Released in Japan as “Christie High Tension” by Media Factory, serialized in the magazine Comic Flapper. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
The second omnibus volume of Young Miss Holmes, I will admit, did not thrill me quite as much as the first. Shintani is starting to have more difficulty inserting Christie and company into the Holmes stories, and I suspect, given there’s 3 volumes (one omnibus) to go after this that he might veer off the canonical road soon. He also has that odd habit that most manga writers who started in the 70s and 80s do of inserting humor – usually quite low humor – at the oddest points, something he no doubt got from Tezuka (you can see traces of this in Adachi and Takahashi’s writing as well). That said, this is still a lot of fun, with Christie being incredibly precocious while avoiding cloying qualities, and some much needed backstory for her two maids.
The first half of the book is taken up with The Hound of the Baskervilles, quite possibly the most famous of the Holmes stories. There are no attempts to alter the outcome of the story such as we saw before, and it spins out (with much compression) as expected. As I noted above, we get lots of opportunities to see Christie be brilliant, making deductions and logical leaps. At the same time, though, she has the patience and drive of a 10-year-old girl, and her maids realize this – though they’re still not able to corral her very well. And, as Shintani knows what’s popular and what isn’t, we get some nice opportunities of seeing Nora using her whip, including a battle with the Hound (which doesn’t go well, but luckily she has an unseen rescuer.) And again, thankfully, Holmes arrives at the solution faster than anyone else, including Christie.
The second story adapted here is The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons, which has a solution that is obvious enough that Shintani can easily write Holmes out of the tale and have Christie solving everything. This also reintroduces Detective Dexter of Scotland Yard, who we briefly saw in Hound, and who pops up every now and then from now on. He has an immediate attraction to head maid Ann Marie, something Christie notes and is quick to take advantage of. Again, the case plays out much like the original, but makes for a nicely entertaining adaptation.
A brief short story, The Memories of Nora, follows, and is what it sounds like: an original story by Shintani showing Nora’s life to date and how she became a maid at the Hope Estate. It’s not a pleasant childhood to say the least (and has some annoying ‘evil gypsies’ stereotypes to boot), but lets us see that Nora has no regrets as to where she’s ended up.
The final Holmes story adapted for Christie is The Five Orange Pips. Wisely, Shintani leaves the main mystery to Holmes, if only so that Christie doesn’t have to feel responsible for the fallout. Christie’s plot rests with Ann Marie, who has a complete freakout when she hears about the pips. As with most modern North American readers, the solution is far more obvious these days – we know what KKK stands for – so the storyline concentrates on Ann Marie’s own tragic childhood, and her change from a sweet little child to an instrument of God’s vengeance (as Holmes rather awkwardly puts it).
I must note once again that Seven Seas’ All Ages rating for the book is entirely inappropriate, in my opinion. Leaving aside the brief non-sexual shots of underage nudity, there’s simply a giant pile of violence here, including lingering shots of corpses with their throats slit, as well as a young girl killing an entire mansion full of people. I get that ratings can sometimes drive sales, and that it’s very hard to sell books starring 10-year-old cuties to adults. But come on.
That said, I am very grateful to Seven Seas for bringing out this series, which is a fast-paced and fun mystery series with a cute and sharp as a whip protagonist, and can’t wait (though I will have to, as it’s not out till September 2013) for the conclusion. And note with amusement that even Christie herself has started to call her maids ‘Herculean’.