HBO Asia's 'Miss Sherlock' dishes up female Japanese versions of iconic crime-solving duo

Teng Yong Ping
·Lifestyle Editor
Yuko Takeuchi as Sherlock in “Miss Sherlock”. (Photo: HBO Asia)
Yuko Takeuchi as Sherlock in “Miss Sherlock”. (Photo: HBO Asia)

Are you a fan of the British crime show Sherlock but can’t wait for another couple of years before new episodes from season five come out? Well, fret not, because another series based on the famous sleuth is now showing on HBO Asia and Hulu – but the twist is that it features female versions of Sherlock and Watson and is set in Japan.

Miss Sherlock began airing on 27 April, and the first two episodes of the eight-part series have seen the detective solve mysteries in Tokyo involving death by exploding stomach and an art vandal.

The show’s version of Sherlock Holmes was born in England but returns to Japan, helping the police solve bizarre and difficult cases as an investigation consultant. She is joined by Dr Wato Tachibana – the show’s stand-in for trusty sidekick John Watson – a surgeon who has returned from a medical mission in Syria.

Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore had the chance to sit down with two actors from the show during its Asian press junket in Taipei to get their thoughts on the novel re-imagining of the classic character – Yuko Takeuchi, who plays Sherlock, and Yukiyoshi Ozawa, who plays Sherlock’s older brother, Kento Futaba, executive secretary to the prime minister.

Comparisons with Western Sherlocks?

The Japanese Sherlock is reminiscent of the protagonist in the British series that made actor Benedict Cumberbatch a household name – highly intelligent with superb observation and reasoning skills, but cold and emotionally detached.

So how does making Sherlock a woman make her different from the Sherlocks that came before?

Speaking in Japanese, the 38-year-old Takeuchi said, “I’m not so conscious about acting as a female character. Sherlock (in Miss Sherlock) is a very special character, so I have to be a totally different person.”

As for comparisons between the Japanese and British series, Takeuchi said she avoided watching the BBC series as she didn’t want to be influenced by the show. “I wanted to concentrate on my role, so I didn’t want to watch the whole series of Sherlock – but I will do so, maybe next year,” she said.

As for Ozawa, 43, he believes the Japanese series is very different from Western dramas or movies based on the iconic detective.

“The main character is changed to female, Watson is changed to female and the setting is present-day Tokyo, so for me there’s no comparison with other shows,” Ozawa said.

Yukiyoshi Ozawa (left) as Kento Futaba and Yuko Takeuchi as Sherlock in “Miss Sherlock”. (Photo: HBO Asia)
Yukiyoshi Ozawa (left) as Kento Futaba and Yuko Takeuchi as Sherlock in “Miss Sherlock”. (Photo: HBO Asia)

Relationships between characters

Miss Sherlock’s equivalent of Watson is played by 32-year-old Shihori Kanjiya. There is a precedent for a female Asian Watson: Lucy Liu’s character Dr Joan Watson in the American TV series Elementary. But Miss Sherlock is the first show to make both central characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle women.

“I think there’s a special chemistry between the two female characters,” said Takeuchi. “Their emotions towards each other are more intense because they’re female.”

The actress added that the two characters complement each other in their crime-solving escapades. “There are some things that Watson cannot do or Sherlock cannot do. When they are together, they can resolve these drawbacks,” she said.

What about the relationship between Sherlock and her brother Futaba?

Takeuchi says Futaba is a very strong source of support for Sherlock, whose parents died in a plane accident when the siblings were children.

However, Ozawa, who describes his character as “a very kind of mean and nasty person”, says Sherlock and Futaba are two very intelligent siblings with a love-hate relationship. “Kento wants to help Sherlock but he doesn’t want to help her like 100 per cent, because they are competing with each other at a high level.”

So what can viewers expect from the series as a whole?

Ozawa says Miss Sherlock is a “very thrilling and fast-paced” show. As for Takeuchi, she doesn’t mind people comparing the series to previous incarnations as long as they like the show; indeed, she hopes viewers will have fun finding homages to the original stories.

Miss Sherlock airs on HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601) on Fridays at 9am and 9pm and can be streamed on HBO Go. It is also available on HBO On Demand (StarHub TV Ch 602).

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