There are no shortages of takes on Sherlock Holmes, but Ryosuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi’s Moriarty the Patriot takes an entirely new perspective on the character of Holmes’s arch-nemesis. It’s a darkly painted Victorian story of murderous class warfare.

The Moriarty in the title is actually a triumvirate. Volume 1 introduces us to three brothers: Albert James, William James, and Louis James Moriaty. Albert is the eldest and heir, but the younger two are not related by blood. They were orphans taken in by the wealthy family. Albert is the only truly altruistic Moriarty. His father, mother and younger brother are selfish, greedy, arrogant, and abhor the poor who clutter the streets of London. His father is only convinced to take the boys in for appearances sake.

The orphan boys attract Albert’s attention with their loyalty to each other. Louis is sickly but his brother displays a level of genius that amazes the adults around him. Although Albert convinces his father to take in the boys and to pay for Louis’ medical treatment, the pair are abused by every other person in the household, from Lady Moriarty to the stuffy butler, and even the housemaids. 

As for young William Moriarty, he shows a streak of viciousness in his treatment of the brothers that borders on psychotic. 

But the pair of orphans share a secret with Albert. Along with his genius, the boy who will become William Moriarty is charismatic and possessed by a dark purpose: the utter destruction of the unfair class system that has a stranglehold on English society. Albert, whose disgust with his class matches the boys’, makes a pact, sealed with murder.

Although they work as a team, William is obviously the leader—the REAL Moriarty. When we meet him next, he is a refined, educated young man who’s taken a position as a math professor. That’s just his side gig, however, as his real career is Crime Consultant. 

We see next to nothing of Sherlock Holmes in this first volume of the manga series, but he’s bound to make an appearance sooner or later. Until then, we are shown William’s skills at setting up crimes. He doesn’t stoop to just any crimes, and he doesn’t pull any triggers himself. He orchestrates crimes of revenge. And they all fall under the auspices of this overarching goal of toppling the aristocracy, who are portrayed as outright evil.

The manga will be more popular for its provocative subject matter than the art, which is fairly standard manga drawing (pretty boys, decent background work and clear-cut character design). From the cover with the lead character pointing a gun at his own head to the murders inside, this manga presents readers with the philosophical question of whether the killings are justified.

Moriarty sets up the deaths of British nobility with style and precision, serving up justice with zeal. The victims are all parodies of the exploitative nobility, causing nothing but death, pain and suffering to the people in their orbit. But does this make Moriarty a patriot? The Japanese title of the series is Yuukoku no Moriarty, with the Kanji loosely translated as “patriotism” meaning something more like “unhappy country.” Can a devious, meticulous genius right wrongs and bring egalitarianism to an inherently classist country? 

Recasting a villain as a hero works here. The character is still villainous. Moriarty excels at manipulation and coercion, making others dance to his tune.

Moriarty the Patriot falls under historical thriller and mystery genres and should appeal to those fans. Considering the murky, ethically challenged actions of the characters, the publisher rates this at Teens+. I’d recommend it for older teens in a library manga collection. If the subject matter makes you uncomfortable, this title would fit into an adult collection as well.

The first season of a well-produced anime series is currently streaming on Funimation, which may add to the notoriety, so the series may very well be worth picking up. It might appeal to readers of series like Tokyo Ghoul and Golden Kamuy. The second volume is due to be released in January 2021.

Moriarty the Patriot, vol. 1
By Ryosuke Takeuchi
Art by Hikaru Miyoshi
ISBN: 9781974717156
Viz Media, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: Teen+
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Character Traits: British
Creator Highlights: Japanese
Related to…: Book to Comic

  • Lisa P.

    | She/Her Library Associate in Youth Services


    Lisa is a library professional and part-time comic shop employee in Central Wisconsin.

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