Seigi and Richard are back from England, but their journey has brought them a very different understanding of each other. That grows even more when Saul takes over the shop again while Richard is off on a long-distance sale. Saul, in a somewhat subtle attempt to provide Seigi with clarity on his job search, tells the young man how he initially met Richard, but whether knowing the Englishman’s history will actually help Seigi remains to be seen – especially when Seigi has the chance to reunite Richard with his Japanese governess.
The Case Files of Jeweler Richard is translated by T. Emerson.
The original plan was to resume reviewing the light novels for once they had passed the material covered by the anime because while the books go into more detail, the plot remains relatively the same. That changed with this volume; although the anime entirely cover its contents to a degree (the adaptation’s material will end in the next book of the series), this novel goes into significantly more detail in recounting Richard’s past in Sri Lanka.
Part of this is that the anime reordered some of the novels’ events. The episode about Richard in Sri Lanka comes before the episodes set in England, which is an okay choice. However, there’s much more significance to learning about Richard’s past after we are informed about his family troubles. We have a much firmer sense of what led him to act as he did and how Saul and Monica informed his life going forward. And it is much more striking to learn that Richard was once basically a conman after you know that he’s British nobility and such a stickler for honesty in the book’s present day.
Following the disaster with his grandfather’s will and his forced breakup with his girlfriend, Richard sought to get as far away from England as possible, eventually landing in Sri Lanka. There, under the name “Edward Baxter,” Richard began peddling gems, largely without knowing – or caring – whether or not the stones were authentic or even being sold under the correct names. This sloppiness is so unlike the nearly-thirty-year-old Richard of the main story as to be shocking. We’ve known that his past wasn’t pretty, but to read about him living in a run-down apartment and insouciantly selling stones is incredibly jarring. This younger Richard is someone very much on the edge of giving up, someone who appears to have lost all interest in anything, possibly including his survival and well-being. Nightmares plague him and give the impression that he’s willing to do almost anything to make them stop – or would, if it wasn’t too much trouble.
At the time of the flashback, Richard is only two years older than Seigi in the story’s present, and the difference between the two of them is equally stark. There’s always been a sense that Richard is trying to guide Seigi away from the same mistakes that he made, and to a true degree. When Saul takes Richard in, he asks him to “protect” a teenage girl living in his house, and in pursuit of that, Richard does make a couple of very Seigi-like moves, where he puts “justice” over his safety without truly thinking things through. But unlike Seigi, young Richard is bitter and lacks the social support system that largely drives Seigi’s acts of thoughtless kindness. Seigi has his estranged mother, his friendship with Tanimoto and others at school, and of course, Richard himself. On the other hand, Richard is alone in a foreign country with only Saul and Monica, neither of whom he feels he can rely on. When he learns that Monica was a victim of an acid attack from her in-laws back in India, who then retained ownership of her dowry, including a zircon tiara, he reacts with good intentions but reckless disregard for his well-being. He likely sees that as a danger for Seigi, should he ever lose his support, and given that Richard is a bit more socially savvy than Seigi, he may worry that when the younger man finally realizes that Tanimoto is somewhere on the aro/ace spectrums, it may push him to that place of darkness.
How Richard sees his relationship with Seigi is an important piece of the book, and indeed the series as a whole. At first, he seemed fairly cool towards the younger man, but as he got to know Seigi better, he began to take on more of what he likely thought was a Saul-like role with him. But when Seigi followed him to England out of concern in the previous volume, Richard’s feelings seemed to shift, and his backstory with Saul and Monica helps clarify why that is. Like Saul and his “daughter,” Seigi has now seen Richard at his least comfortable, and he’s made it obvious that he’s staying with him. This forces Richard to reassess and possibly to take Seigi’s off-hand but earnest declarations as more than just a case of foot-in-mouth disease.
For Seigi’s part, the looming threat of graduation casts a pall over his time at Richard’s store. He’s aware that he needs to find a full-time job, forcing him to consider that his time at the jewelry shop might be ending. This emotional quandary prompts Saul to reveal Richard’s past (at Richard’s behest), and it also implies a shift in the story going forward. Seigi’s not going to just be a college kid for much longer, which means that he has to really think about the path he had planned for his life, something Richard can relate to. The fact that Seigi finds the woman who taught Richard Japanese when he was a child also indicates a wrapping up of old griefs in preparation for moving forward, as does his acquaintance, who was twice foiled in love, finally finding it. We are on the cusp of a major shift in the plot, and this volume does an excellent job of preparing that.
Although there are enough little details that were overall left out from the anime, this is the first volume that I’d say you have to read if you want the full story. Its insight into Richard’s past is important to his character and relationships with others, and the author’s handling of Monica’s treatment at the hands of her in-laws doesn’t downplay it without turning the entire book into a political statement, something we’ve seen with its handling of LGBTQIA+ issues as well. It’s solid work and one that helps to lay the path for the series going forward.