Since When Is Moriarty the Hero? What You Need to Know About Moriarty the Patriot
Moriarty said EAT THE RICH!
If there’s any franchise that’s been told and retold through a variety of media it’s Sherlock Holmes, so it’s no surprise to see an anime take of the iconic detective (nor is it the first time). However, Moriarty the Patriot tells the story from the POV of Sherlock’s most noteworthy adversary … and … kiiiiinda gets you on his side, like, immediately.
Keep in mind that I’m not someone who is super knowledgeable about Sherlock lore, so no, I can’t tell you how faithful this is to any sort of canon material beyond “these characters are here and so is Baker Street.” I’m just an anime fan who likes a good mystery, especially with morally ambiguous characters who are right and should absolutely say it, so they do.
Basically, if you’re a fan of the aesthetic of series like Black Butler coupled with Death Note’s whole “yeah it’s wrong to kill people but he’s killing BAD people” motif then this series, arguably, takes it up a notch, for reasons I’m gonna break down right now.
(Also Moriarty, despite his wealth of intelligence, is nowhere near as condescending as Light Yagami, but we’ll get to that.)
The 19th century British Empire is an entire mess, rife with problematic aristocrats who delight in tormenting the lower class. The class system is set to work against the average citizen and the Moriarty brothers, who are part of an aristocratic family themselves, have decided to tear the unjust structure apart.
William James Moriarty (the middle brother/main protagonist) works as a professor by day but also works as a “crime consultant” who takes cases from those who have been wronged by the upper class. He and his brothers (Albert and Louis) work as a team, but their actions soon catch the attention of Sherlock Holmes, setting the stage for the ultimate battle of wits.
How Moriarty’s cases work
The basic formula goes a little something like this: one of the Moriarty brothers (usually Willaim) hears about a crime (usually murder). The crimes Moriarty takes on always involve the lower class, those who don’t have the means to seek justice. Though, honestly, even if they could their cries would go unheard because the culprits are always upper-class citizens who are either never suspected or who get away with it because they’re rich.
This ranges from “bored rich asshole kills children on his off day” to “gardener pleads with his boss to let him consult his doctor because his son is dying, but his boss is a rich asshole who’s worried that his gardener’s kid is gonna give him poor person cooties.”
Did I mention that the boss is rich because of his gardener’s hard work?
Once Willaim (with the help of his brothers) gets all the pieces together, he gets a hold of the wronged party and offers his services, making sure to point out how this, technically, would be seen as a crime even if they were the ones who were wronged! William doesn’t do the job unless if the grieving family wants him to, so basically, he asks for consent to rid the world of this particular brand of filth. If they agree then a plan is put into motion where the grieving party is able to come face to face with the aristocrat who killed their loved one.
Now here’s the kicker.
William isn’t the one who kills the target, the grieving family does. This can be as subtle as serving food that someone reacts poorly to, or as blunt as stabbing someone to death. Whatever the case, William makes sure all the evidence is cleaned up, and the family is able to get away with it.
The big picture
By episode 6 of the anime, we start to get to William’s main goal of complete societal upheaval by plunging Britain into an era of crime. This means that he needs to set up a vicious aristocrat in a way where his fellow peers catch him in the act of murder. More importantly, he needs to do this on a grand stage of sorts, something so big that word spreads throughout the country so that the lower class hears of it and begins to realize what aristocrats have been doing to them this whole time.
Every case before this has been leading up to this moment since William has been helping people on an individual basis (and the lower class are very much aware of where they stand), so it’s fitting that the target William chooses is someone who hunts the lower class for sport.
This figuratively AND literally illustrates what the rich think of the poor.
This is also the moment where Sherlock Holmes is introduced as he deduces that there’s a mastermind behind the curtain, and William is intrigued to see just how intelligent Holmes is and whether or not he is a worthy nemesis.
Why this works for me
Right off the bat, in a year like 2020, seeing a series where the entire theme is “eat the rich” speaks to me. The ones who are targeted throughout the series are beyond redemption, so it’s quite difficult to not take Moriarty’s side on this. It’s also interesting because he leaves it up to those who were wronged to strike the killing blow. He gives them the choice instead of going off on his own and doing it himself. He’s putting it in the hands of those who have been harmed instead of deciding for them.
This, to me, is where it differs from Death Note, which the series has been compared to since both protagonists are killing criminals.
On the surface, it differs because William’s targets are always aristocrats whereas Light Yagami’s targets were criminals no matter what their social standing was. It also differs because of William’s backstory (which I won’t spoil, but it starts in the second episode of the anime, and yes, you learn why they are Moriarty brothers). As you watch you realize that characters like Light made all the decisions alone, doing what he felt was best for society. Not only did he reach a point of using absolutely everyone around him (including family), but he reached a point where he started killing people who got in his way, evil AND good.
William, like Light, has his own opinion of what he feels is best for society (and I don’t think he’s wrong considering who his targets are), but he lets the ones he’s trying to help decide. He wants society to change for the benefit of the lower class while actually getting them involved, letting them have the final say on what happens. He also seems to care for his brothers, those who help them, and even the people he offers his services to.
Of course, since he is so morally ambiguous, this can change in an instant (it hasn’t yet, though). Still, you can easily say that Moriarty letting victims get vengeance is his way of covering his tracks. After all, he’s not killing these people. Also, there’s something to be said about how he just so happens to go to people who are in the middle of processing their grief. Emotional manipulation, thy name is Moriarty. Like, I dunno if he’d get such an eager response from someone who hadn’t just lost their child, you know? But hey, I said morally ambiguous for a reason.
I do kinda wonder what would happen if he approached someone who said no to his offer, or even asked for his services against someone who wasn’t obscenely wealthy.
I also enjoy this depiction of Sherlock very much. He’s very much the bumbling fool who you completely disregard … which is the entire point. He, like Moriarty, knows that he’s the smartest man in the room, so when they’re in the room together they do that thing where two attractive men in anime undress each other with their minds. You kinda get the feeling that when Sherlock finds out its Moriarty he’ll be delighted, even impressed, and maybe even gets where he’s coming from … but he’ll have an equally charismatic line of reasoning as to why you can’t bring about change by killing who you’ve deemed as bad.
There’s a line somewhere and Sherlock is gonna draw it in the sand.
You can catch Moriarty the Patriot on Sundays over at FUNimation. There are currently ten episodes available, all subtitled. There’s no word on there being a dub at the moment.
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