Intersections between Kuroshitsuji and Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Speckled Band”.
Is your soul ready? Don’t let this post take it away, because we’re talking about demons today. I’m such in a poet mood I unconsciously did create a rhyme, how remarkable. Anyhow, I suppose you all know who Sherlock Holmes is. Indeed, his appearance in more than fifty stories has made him the most famous detective in the world. If you’d like to know more about the stories of Baker street and its inhabitants, I suggest you a look to Baker Street Wikia to have a sense of the universe you are approaching. Moreover, if you are curious about the stories themselves, here you go a complete list of the Sherlock Holmes Short Stories and Novels. If I were to summarize Doyle’s Holmes in a few words they would be: dark Victorians, swapped identities, irreverent genius, and great entertainment.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s most popular literary character is so loved that has crossed the Old Continent’s boundaries, arriving to Japan as well. And which is one of the most spread Japanese artistic forms lately? Mangas and animes. Mr.Holmes has become a star in them as well. In Yana Toboso’s amazingly gothic Victorian-themed manga Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler in English), Sherlock Holmes is present as much as his author.
To begin with, Kurishitsuji is a manga series developed by Yana Toboso about a child (Ciel Phantomhive) who sells his soul to a Devil (Sebastian), who will become his butler, in order to avenge the hideous things that happened to him and his family in a very grim and supernaturally-driven Victorian London. As the series is made of different adventures (arcs), which involve numerous tankobons (volumes), each story is fully developed in detail, and deals with very different topics, from Sherlock Holmes to cricket. Yes, cricket. In this case, the very figure of Arthur Conan Doyle is present throughout the “Phantomhive Manor Murders Arc”, which starts from volume 9. In this adventure, Ciel and Sebastian have to face an incredible mystery which regards a series of obscure murders in the Phantomvhive Manor. Arthur Conan Doyle appears as one of the characters involved in the mystery, as his real self, an optician who writes and reads detective stories. Moreover, he will not only help in the resolution of the case (the Sherlock Holmes of the story being Ciel and Sebastian), but also discover even more about the dark and terrifying nature of Ciel and Sebastian, this case also serving as an imaginary “prequel” to the creation of “The Speckled band”.
The thread which connects every murder in the manor is the same of Doyle’s inhis Sherlock Holmes story “The Speckled band”, a snake. I’m not gonna tell you in which way though, because I already spoiled too much. Anyway, both the manga and the story have in common a very strong dark touch, which is present throughout the whole narrative. In “The Speckled Band”, auditory sensations are enhanced so that in the description of murders tension is evoked more easily (“‘Because during the last few nights I have always, about three in the morning, heard a low, clear whistle. I am a light sleeper, and it has awakened me. I cannot tell where it came from perhaps from the next room, perhaps from the lawn.'”), whereas in Kuroshitsuji the visual traits of the murders, cured in every minimum detail, give the story a deep dramatic atmoshpere.
From Kuroshitsuji Wikia, here you go a couple of scans from the manga:
This all adds to the fact that the influence which Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes stories have deeply influenced the imaginary of detective stories all over the world no matter how different the cultures of the readers. Moreover, Toboso gave a very fascinating interpretation of the world of Sherlock Holmes in such a way that she made it her own, adapting the late 19th century British narrative to a contemporary Japanese new form of art.