Stories that reimagine the villain as the hero are always intriguing to me, so Moriarty the Patriot, which follows the exploits of Sherlock Holmes’ most famous foe, immediately caught my interest. This manga, created by Ryousuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi, paints a more complicated picture of the title character then the nefarious lord of criminals that appeared in the original Sherlock Holmes stories, but it doesn’t exactly make him a good guy either.
When Albert, the eldest son and heir of Count Moriarty, takes in a pair of orphaned brothers in order to help with the youngest’s medical needs, the two are treated with disdain and cruelty by both of Albert’s parents, his younger brother, William, and the staff of the Moriarty estate, who all resent having children of such low status in their midst. Both Albert and his new adopted brothers have nothing but contempt for the hierarchical nature of the society that they live in and they conspire together to burn down the manor, killing Albert’s parents, William and all of the staff. This allows Albert to take control of his family’s estate and for the ingenious older orphan brother to assume the identity of William James Moriarty. Now, with his immense intellect and the power and authority granted to him as a member of the peerage, William seeks to remold his unjust society into a more equitable and fair one… by any means necessary.
Moriarty the Patriot opens with a glimpse of the climatic confrontation between Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls – the place where Moriarty meets his doom. The manga then flashes back to when Moriarty was a child and shows us how he assumed the identity of William James Moriarty. Sherlock doesn’t show up again in this volume, but this little tease has me very excited for his eventual arrival as Moriarty’s nemesis.
After Moriarty and his accomplices burn down their manor house and murder everyone inside, the story flashes forward several year. Moriarty has graduated at a young age and is now working as a university professor and as a consultant on the side. With the help of his younger brother, Louis, and Albert, who has pledged his wealth and influence to their cause, Moriarty takes on cases from members of the poor underclass who have been wronged by those in power and exacts revenge on their behalf. He’s like a Victorian era Robin Hood who murders the rich instead of stealing from them!
Moriarty’s intelligence and strong ideals make him a compelling character, even if his methods are questionable. Many of the nobles or wealthy people that he goes after are truly vile and abusive, so I can’t say that I feel too badly about their grisly demises, but some of the deaths that he’s responsible for are harder to justify. The original William may have been a psychopath, but he was also a child when he was murdered and there were a number of working-class servants who perished in the fire that killed Albert’s family. The servants that we saw were certainly jerks who were as devoted to the class system as their masters, but I’m not sure that they all deserved to die. While this version of the Moriarty character may be working towards noble ends, he is still a merciless criminal, making him more of an anti-hero then a conventional hero. Despite this, watching his schemes come together can be very satisfying and I’ll admit that I enjoyed seeing some of these nobles receive their just desserts.
An entertaining series with an unconventional lead character, this first volume of Moriarty the Patriot was an exciting read and I’m interested to see where this series goes. Will Moriarty be defeated by Sherlock Holmes, like in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original story? Or will he find a way to out-wit the famous detective in this version? I can’t wait to find out! This is a bit darker then your standard shounen series, but I’d recommend giving it a shot.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
For more information on this manga, visit Viz Media’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Is anyone planning to check out the new anime adaptation that’s debuting soon? Let me know in the comments!
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