Agatha Christie’s Great Detectives Poirot and Marple is a 39 episode anime series based on the writings of Agatha Christie. The series covers a variety of cases taken from Christie’s novels and short stories. As a fan of Agatha Christie, when I heard about this series it was pretty much a must-watch for me. Agatha Christie’s work still has immense popularity throughout the world and I enjoy seeing different screen adaptations of her writings, so seeing an anime adaptation was definitely a bit of a treat.
What makes this particular series unique is the introduction of 16 year old Mabel West, daughter of Raymond West and great-niece of Jane Marple. Mabel wants to become a detective and through certain circumstances becomes an assistant to Poirot and also spends some time with her aunt, Miss Marple. Mabel has a pet duck Oliver who goes with her almost everywhere in a basket. The creators wanted to make this series suitable for all ages, and I suppose including a younger character to be relatable for a younger audience can help in this regard (I have problems with this ideology but the scope of them is perhaps too large for an aside in a review), but I did think that Mabel and Oliver were the weakest part of the programme. The things that Mabel does during the series like living alone and working as a detective’s assistant seem unlikely for a 16 year old to do, and I would have expected her to be a somewhat older character, but at the same time, she’s very inexperienced when it comes to many things and carrying a pet duck around all the time is highly juvenile. Oliver himself seems to serve almost no purpose in the series except perhaps as an ice-breaker, as everyone is very taken with Mabel’s pet duck. I think to enjoy the series you just have to accept the addition of Mabel and Oliver as they are, and while I didn’t love their addition and would have been happy with a more traditional adaptation, I didn’t find them to detract from the charms of the series and grew somewhat accustomed to their characters throughout the course of the series.
Aside from the first couple of episodes establishing Mabel as Poirot’s assistant, the series is essentially episodic, although some of the novel adaptations are covered over 3 or 4 episodes. There’s no overarching plot or character development so you could definitely see any individual case without having seen prior cases.
There were some changes made to some of the cases in order for Mabel to be involved, and sometimes the cases were simplified somewhat (there were less characters or events introduced), but the overall conclusions were the same, and I think that the changes made sense in the light of the sort of series that was produced. Following the source material to the letter does not always make for a good adaptation, and I think that the series preserved the spirit of Poirot and Marple as detectives quite well. My favourite case covered was The ABC Murders, as I felt that it included the elements which made the original case enjoyable, and also I think that the variety of locations visited in the case helped give it a sense of action and keep the visuals interesting, but almost all the cases were quite charming.
The series’ visuals feature a fairly soft colour palette and minimal animation. Whilst Agatha Christie did write some books which were more adventure or action-oriented, Poirot and Marple’s cases are very dialogue heavy and mostly involve people sitting and conversing about different things. While scenes which have very little movement except for people talking and the occasional still pan aren’t especially dynamic, I don’t think that the limited animation is a detriment to the storytelling. Live action adaptations of Agatha Christie books are also fairly static, and while these obviously have the advantage of being able to capture more subtle body language of the actors, I still felt that the visuals were appropriate for the source material.
While the source material varied in publication date, in the series all the cases were set in the 1930s. I did notice some women wearing strapless evening wear, which was not in fashion at all during the 30s or preceding years, but generally the architecture, vehicles and clothing felt period-appropriate. I’m probably a bit more observant when it comes to these sorts of things than the average viewer. I enjoyed noticing little touches like the occasional Art Deco building interiors, sounds of the car engines and the fact that the characters all wore hats when going out. In general, the show created an excellent sense of time and place.
The soundtrack to me felt a bit limited. During the course of the series, there were only a few different tracks played in spite of the various locations that the characters found themselves in. The tracks in and of themselves felt thematically appropriate, but I would have enjoyed some more variety. I did grow really fond of the opening theme, Flower Bouquet for A Lucky Girl throughout the course of the show, both because of its lyrics and melody which felt reminiscent of 1930s music (although the opening theme did contain more modern instruments such as synthesiser, and also far more bass than would be captured in a recording from that time), and also because its calm, understated tune mirrored the calm, understated nature of the series.
Overall, I felt that while Great Detectives Poirot and Marple is not outstanding as an anime, it is an enjoyable and unique look at Agatha Christie’s works. The aspects which make it an anime (animation and sound) have some flaws, but the quality of the source material and the overall atmosphere shine through. I’d suggest that this series would be enjoyable for fans of Agatha Christie or classic detective stories in general.