The Scent of Sherlock Holmes: RAI and Miyazaki on the trail of the great detective

The Scent of Sherlock Holmes: RAI and Miyazaki on the trail of the great detective

The Scent of Sherlock Holmes

Porca mènta. If you have just read these two words with a strong Piedmontese accent, imagining a shady figure elegantly dressed in white, it means two things: you had a childhood embellished with one of the best animated series of the early 80s. The reported exclamation, in fact, belongs to Professor Moriarty, nemesis of the most famous private investigator in history, but in its canine declination, created by a certain Hayao Miyazaki as part of a cult animated series: The nose of Sherlock Holmes. A serial animation masterpiece that debuted on November 6, 1984 on the RAI networks, demonstrating how the national broadcaster had understood the importance of Japanese animation. But at the same time, proof of how this awareness was badly exploited.

How is it possible, then, that Sherlock Holmes' nose is still remembered by a generation of enthusiasts today? Simply because, like every work of the master Miyazaki, his creation was an example of an animated story, thanks to a compelling urban construction and an animation rich in nuances. For the viewer, even if at a young age, that visual spectacle was more than enough to become passionate about what, not surprisingly, in the initials written by Giampaolo Zavallone was presented as a friend for you too.

The Scent of Sherlock Holmes and the invasion of Japanese animation

The genesis of The Scent of Sherlock Holmes takes us back to the era of the explosion of Japanese animation in Italy. In fact, at the end of the 1970s, local broadcasters began to broadcast Japanese animated products, from the famous robots to stories of a different nature, such as Conan, the boy of the future. A distinctive feature of these stories was a different approach to dialogue with the young spectator, who were offered new narrative ideas, treated with a vision that created a critical awareness in the viewer. A feature that can be seen in animated series such as Heidi, where relying on Johanna Spyri's novel dated 1880, a strong and 'adult' narrative is offered.

The success of these cartoons was a revelation for the market local, so much so that at the top of RAI it immediately came to mind to capitalize on this artistic revolution in the animation sector. In 1981, in via Mazzini it was thought that the ideal would be to combine two studios, one Italian and one Japanese, to create a joint production, which knows how to exploit the new Japanese style that suits young viewers so much and the Italian narrative tradition. Reason why RAI relies at home on the Rever studio of brothers Marco and Gina Pagot, daughters of Nino Pagot, who in collaboration with his brother Toni had delighted the children of the previous decade with two historical chapters of Italian animation: Calimero and Grisù , the little dragon who wanted to be a firefighter. It is Marco Pagot himself who recounts the genesis of Shelock Holmes' Il Scent in the volume of Elettra Dafne Infante, Vita da Cartoni:

In 1978, the then director of Raiuno Luciano Scaffa, decides that to bring new Italian ideas around the world, the only way is to create co-productions with the most powerful market of the moment, which was the Japanese market. He then chooses a series of Italian projects and takes them to Japan. Among these there is a project I prepared, called 'Sherlock Holmes' nose', which arouses some interest. The Japanese company, Tokyo Movie Shinsha [TMS] decides that this will be the project they are ready to invest in and decides who will be the director for the Japanese side, who will have to collaborate with me on the creation of this project. The director is Hayao Miyazaki.

For the rising sun, Tokio Movie Shinsha is identified, better known as TMS, an animation studio that has launched itself on the international market, where it has made itself known with another animated cartoon that has become a cult, Inspector Gadget.

TMS saw in the young Hayao Miyazaki the right person to give life to Sherlock Holmes' nose. Fresh from the poor success of his debut animated film, Lupine III - Il Castello di Cagliostro, Miyazaki accepts the role of animation teacher at TMS, to which he occasionally lends his work as an animator under the pseudonym of Tereki Tsutomi. In 1981 he was chosen to give life to the design of this anthropomorphic world, a first aspect that did not seem to be to Miyazaki's liking. In fact, the Maestro was not at all convinced of the choice, which he tried to frustrate in every way, only to surrender to requests from Italy, considering that in RAI they saw in this potential a strength, mindful of the success of similar productions, such as Willy Fog's world tour, where the famous character of Jules Verne had lion features. The firmness of RAI finally imposed itself on Miyazaki's reticence, who would have wanted at least one human character, identified by him as the governess, Miss Hudson, who in his ideas should also have been the real protagonist.

The realization of the the first two episodes was characterized by these contrasts, which saw Marco Pagot act as peacemaker. In the end, Miyazaki made the first episodes with his usual care and his undoubted talent for the following year, 1982, but as he prepares to make the next two chapters of the adventures of the very well detective comes the stop to the work, imposed from a lawsuit of Conan Doyle's heirs. In addition to this legal detail, RAI also realizes how the production costs of this animated series are quite high, which leads to a review of the company's commitment. The curtain seems to fall for The Smell of Sherlock Holmes, but an unexpected ally comes to the rescue: Nausicaa in the valley of the wind.

The second chance for The Smell of Sherlock Holmes

When Miyazaki is prepares to launch into the world of animation on the big screen, there are only two episodes made of The Smell of Sherlock Holmes. The TMS decides to revise these two chapters and propose them to the spectators of Nausicaa in the valley of the wind, before the screening of the film. The success of Miyazaki's film pushes the master to abandon serial production to devote himself to feature films, but TMS does not give up and after finding sponsors who support it, launches into the production of the other 20 planned episodes of the series.

The Scent of Sherlock Holmes is therefore presented both in Japan (Meitatii Hōmuzu) and in Italy, and its international diffusion is also evaluated with the title of Sherlock Hound, in order to play between the sense of hound and the appearance canine of the characters. If in Japan the series is successful, the passage on RAI networks starting from 6 November 1984 is less profitable, due to a wicked choice to break the episodes into five-minute shorts, designed to cover the programming of a week. As if that were not enough, RAI, including Miyazaki's talent, decided in the same year to dub Nausicaa in the valley of the wind without authorization, arousing the anger of Miyazaki, who would require that none of his films be translated and presented on the Italian market. Choice maintained until Disney buys the rights for the foreign market of Studio Ghibli, the production company of Miyazaki, at the time of the release of Princess Mononoke, a move made to avoid a dangerous overlap with a film from the Mickey Mouse house out in the same period, Pocahontas. So if in Italy we were able to enjoy Miyazaki's art, we must take a bow to Disney.

But how did Sherlock Holmes' Smell become a cult, despite all these adversities? Certainly thanks to the art of Miyazaki, who has been able to infuse the concept of this series with both his well-known, obsessive attention to detail, and insert all the basic themes dear to him, from the passion for aircraft to the criticism of the established order. . But we should not overlook the splendid work done by our local workers who were able, during the dubbing phase, to infuse Il Scent of Sherlock Holmes with a unique personality, despite the fact that RAI has heavily worked a shear in censoring and radically modifying some scenes, not accepting some ideas from Japan. A classic example is the transformation of the curtain of suicide out of desperation by Lestrade who intends to throw himself from Big Ben after yet another mockery by Moriarty, transformed into a careless slip, where he invokes the help of his men.

Appearance deeply rooted in the adaptation of Japanese productions in our country, that of censorship, but which in The Scent of Sherlock Holmes is mitigated thanks to the incredible genius of figures like Mauro Bosco, who gives his Moriarty an unforgettable Piedmontese accent, exploited to the fullest in characterizing the historic nemesis of the Baker Street detective with a series of jargon and even humming tunes, to the point that the voice actor must be credited with having given his Moriarty an unattainable comic caliber. Not least were the other voice actors of the cartoon, who captured the nuances of the British aplomb for their characters, but the slang characterization of Moriarty, made up of funny expressions (shut up, San Tommaso from four biscuits) and that unforgettable slut mènta remain one of the tributes to our dubbing tradition. Like the excellent work of Enzo Consoli, voice of Lestrade, but who in the world of dubbing is also remembered for being Leonard Bones McCoy in Star Trek, Koichi Zenigata in the third series of Lupine and Captain Deis in the first edition of Conan the boy of the future.

The legacy of The Scent of Sherlock Holmes

The Scent of Sherlock Holmes, despite the bad management of the RAI, however, became a particularly popular product also in Italy. To demonstrate this appreciation of the Italian public, a comic version was also made in Il Giornalino, which from 1984 to 1988 offers adventures written by Toni Pagot and drawn by famous names, such as Carlo Perogatt Peroni. Contrary to the animated series, Holmes' character is brought closer to the paper original, often haughty and haughty, and the funny Moriarty takes on a more treacherous and malignant tone.

But also Hayao Miyazaki, however disappointed in the behavior RAI in the production of Il Scent di Sherlock Holmes, has a debt of gratitude towards this production. In fact, it is thanks to this Italian-Japanese collaboration that he meets Marco Pagot, with whom he establishes a friendship that persists even after the production of The Smell of Sherlock Holmes and which will be useful to Miyazaki when, years later, he will make Porco Rosso. It is Pagot, in fact, who sends the Japanese master material on the Milan of the Fascist years, with hundreds of references on the Italian and Slavic coast locations seen in the film, an essential contribution that Miayazaki pays homage by baptizing his protagonist with the name of his Italian friend. , Marco Pagot. Homage initially misunderstood by Pagot, who only after seeing Porco Rosso appreciates the gesture.

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