Professor Munakata is a well-known manga character in Japan. Like a cross between Hercule Poirot and Indiana Jones, this portly hero investigates archaeological mysteries, bringing crooks to justice and returning stolen artefacts to their rightful owners.
To our knowledge, this adventure is the only story available in English. In it, Professor Munakata travels to London to visit the British Museum, simply to see its Japanese exhibits.
However, while he’s there, the standing stones of Stonehenge disappear overnight. How and why this has happened is a mystery to the British police, even when the perpetrator starts leaving subtle but deliberate clues around. Munakata can’t help but get involved, especially when someone breaks into his hotel room as he sleeps, deliberately leaving behind a clue as a challenge to the Professor’s investigative skills.
Have the stones been removed as retaliation for the British Empire’s historical plundering, many trophies from which are on display in the British Museum? It seems that way, but like all good detective mysteries, things aren’t always as they seem.
It’s an interesting story for the British Museum to publish. It paints an impressive vision of the museum’s history and collection, but it doesn’t shy away from the international controversy surrounding the ownership of some of its exhibits and how they came to be acquired.
While the tale turns into something of a ripping yarn, it’s a far-fetched adventure. Mystery stories are often at their best when the solutions are plausible. Here the unravelling of the crime is impressive but ultimately absurd. As a result there’s little chance of cleverly guessing the outcome.
If you fancy a fictional tour of the British Museum’s history and collections, or just want a detective comic with more archaeological relics than corpses, this is a uniquely focused blend of the genre that isn’t particularly well catered for. But it probably isn’t enough to get a wider comics audience clamouring for the translation of more Professor Munakata books.