Sherlock Hound: Complete and Unabridged (DVD)

Sherlock Hound: Complete and Unabridged is a 6-DVD box set that contains the complete 1984-85 TV anime series in Japanese and English soundtracks. Discotek Media secured the rights from previous owner, Manga Entertainment, earlier this year. This series began production at the Telecom studio for TMS, directed by Hayao Miyazaki and helmed by such animation luminaries as Yoshifumi Kondo, Kazuhide Tomaga,  Nobuo Tomizawa, Kyoto Tanaka, and Nizo Yamamoto.  You may recognize this team (sans Miyazaki) as the ones who created the famous 1984 Nemo pilot film, one of the all-time great anime masterpieces.

Sherlock Hound was conceived as a fun, lighthearted romp, aiming back to the goofy cartoon chaos of Animal Treasure Island. It's style feels very similar to Lupin III and Future Boy Conan, which makes sense since most of the top animators were involved on those projects. This series never tried to change the world, just have a lot of fun with cartoon Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, and a lot of thrilling car chases that exist purely for its own sake.

As we all know, the Sherlock Hound (Meitantai Holmes, or "Famous Detective Holmes," in Japan, the same title given to Arthur Conan Doyle's stories) series was produced in 1981, but mothballed after only six episodes were completed, due to disputes with the Doyle estate.  For Miyazaki, this was another setback during a time of many setbacks.  Future Boy Conan and Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro failed to become hits, and the Lupin III "red jacket" TV series had ended its successful run. A number of animation projects, including an early draft of My Neighbor Totoro, and a radically different Princess Mononoke, were stuck in the image board stage.  Hayao Miyazaki was unable to find work as an animation director.

The final blow came in 1983, when Miyazaki joined a Japanese delegation headed by Isao Takahata, and including Yasuo Otsuka and Yoshifumi Kondo, to the United States as part of the infamous "Little Nemo" film project.  Both Takahata and Miyazaki walked away without any success,* and Miyazaki returned home feeling deeply dejected and defeated. His nearly 20-year career in animation was all but finished. And so he returned to his first love, Japanese manga comics, and began crafting a monthly adventure serial titled, "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind."

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure if Sherlock Hound is available or not.  There is little to no press coverage, no publicity, no reviews, no hype whatsoever. The box set is currently listed on the Discotek website for "pre-order" status, yet gives a release date of October 23, 2014. I shall have to investigate a little further.

I do enjoy the cover design for this newest Sherlock Hound, although it's nearly identical to the old Manga design. Discotek is probably using the same source, which means the show merely exchanged hands. Both Japanese and English language soundtracks are included, which is very helpful. As for extra features, I'm not aware if this box set has anything.  This may be a bare-bones release, which would be very unfortunate, if true.

What I'd really like to see is a single-disc release of just the original 1981 Miyazaki-directed episodes. The latter 1984-85 episodes aren't nearly as good, in my opinion, nor were the animators anywhere near as skilled as that legendary Telecom crew.  But I'm sure most kids won't mind. This is a fun after-school cartoon, with slapstick gags and car chases.  Just the perfect thing to take your mind off your homework for a little while.

Every Miyazaki fan owes it to themselves to have Sherlock Hound in their library.  I highly recommend purchasing a copy from Discotek, and put it on the shelf next to Lupin and Horus.

(*There is a bright moment in Miyazaki's 1983 visit to California. It was on this trip that he met a young Disney animator named John Lasseter, who was experimenting with the new frontier of computer animation. This new friendship would pay off handsomely for Miyazaki, and Studio Ghibli, decades later.)

1 comment:

Chris Sobieniak said...

But I'm sure most kids won't mind. This is a fun after-school cartoon, with slapstick gags and car chases. Just the perfect thing to take your mind off your homework for a little while.

Certainly is that type of show. Any network in the 80's could've aired this one while I was in school but it never happened. I noticed though HBO did air some movie compilation at one point around '83/84 but that's about it.

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