Holmes of Kyoto, Vol. 1

By Mai Mochizuki and Shizu Yamauchi. Released in Japan by Futabasha. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Minna Lin.

Sometimes you read a light novel because you want adventure, action, and isekai teens slowly amassing a harem. But there are times (most times, I will admit) when that is not what you want. Sometimes you want a book that is the equivalent of curling up in an overstuffed armchair on a sunny winter afternoon, tea and biscuits at your side (British variety or Southern variety, your choice). This new series is absolutely that kind of book. The author admits in the afterword that she wanted to write a series of “light mystery” stories with no murders, and that’s what we get here, with some perplexing (and not so perplexing) challenges for our leads. More that that, though, this book is a love letter to Kyoto, taking the time to walk us around its most famous spots. It was written 6 months after the author moved there so as to keep that “newcomer” feel, and it succeeds admirably, as its lead, Aoi, is also a newcomer to the area.

Aoi has been in Kyoto for about six months, enough so that she’s not entirely new, but not enough that she isn’t dazzled by the sights. She’s dealing with heartbreak, as her boyfriend broke up with her remotely and is now seeing her best friend. She wants to earn train money to go back where she used to live to confront them, so tries to sell some of her family antiques. At the shop, though, she meets Holmes, aka Kiyotaka, the son of the owner and possessed with an amazing talent for observation… as well as an ability to tell real antiques from fakes. Aoi, as it turns out, has similar unpolished talent, and so, after talking her out of her train ride, she ends up working at the shop. Together they solve antique-related mysteries and grow closer – she’s clearly falling for him. But what about her past relationships – and his own?

I was reminded, oddly enough, of In/Spectre while reading this, which has a similar feel of “we solve mysteries while also having a romance that’s mostly one-sided” to it. There’s no supernatural content here, though, and Holmes of Kyoto is far more relaxed about it. As for the romance, given that Aoi is still in high school, I’m content with it being on the back burner – indeed, the series is 15+ volumes in Japan, so I think the mystery is definitely the more important part. That said, Aoi and Holmes bond as good friends almost immediately, even as she blushes and notes his handsomeness to us. The mysteries themselves are not all that hard to solve – I guessed one solution almost immediately – but they’re entertaining to read and the characters are fun. And there is a lot of discussion of both antiques and Kyoto – at times this feels more like a travelogue than a mystery series, and you know what? I’m fine with that as well.

Basically, if I had one word to sum up this series it would be nice. It’s a comforting read, worth saving for when you’re feeling down.

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