Even if you were only mildly entertained by the anime adaptation of Nanako Tsujimura‘s The case files of Jeweler Richard light novels, the manga is worth picking up. While the anime did a fine job of working with the story, the manga version shows that this is a work that may function better in writing, as it allows you to take things at whatever pace best enables you to absorb the nuances of the story. On the surface, this isn’t much more than an odd couple piece about an enthusiastic young man who rarely thinks before he speaks and a calm, collected jeweler, but if you look a little deeper, it’s more of a character study, as it explores both Seigi and Richard’s relationship and the way that Seigi understands the world around him.
The basic premise of the series is that Seigi rescues Richard from a group of drunks on the street. When he learns that Richard appraises jewelry and gemstones, he asks him to valuate a pink topaz ring he inherited from his grandmother. This leads to Richard offering Seigi a job at his shop (which only opens on weekends); from that point on the plot follows Seigi as he learns more about human nature through their attraction and attachment to jewelry under Richard’s occasionally reluctant tutelage. At one point Richard flat-out tells Seigi that the shop is not a social anthropology classroom, which nicely sums up his relationship with the other man – mostly willing to teach but not to the point where Seigi can’t figure things out for himself. Richard’s more interested in guiding Seigi’s learning rather than strictly imparting it whenever he has a question.
There’s a real sense that neither man quite knows how to define their relationship. Richard does at times strictly enforce the notion that they are solely employer and employee, but his tsundere tendencies often give the lie to that idea. Many of Richard’s strictures hide a desire to make sure that Seigi is all right – that he’s eating, taking care of his health, and other similar concerns. Seigi, for his part, seems to want to see Richard as a friend, something he feels the other man rebuffs, although he is at least marginally aware that his words can at times make Richard uncomfortable. Seigi’s biggest issue is that he suffers from foot-in-mouth disease, meaning that he rarely, if ever, thinks before he speaks and ends up saying things that can be misinterpreted. Mostly this pertains to his admiration of Richard’s good looks; he’s not shy about saying something and the same goes for when he admires something Richard has done. This causes Richard some embarrassment, although whether that’s because he wants Seigi to be hitting on him isn’t yet clear. Given Richard’s somewhat stiff and prickly personality it could just as easily be him feeling uncomfortable with a compliment; either way, Richard is far more aware of the censorious eyes of society than Seigi is.
Family and upbringing could very well factor into this, although we don’t know much about Richard’s background beyond him having a Sri Lankan grandmother. We know a lot more about Seigi’s family history with his larcenous grandmother and hard-working mother (no father figures in sight, which may factor in later on), and that does help to explain his general disinterest in social norms. After all, when the only way your grandmother could survive post-WWII was to pick pockets, it’s hard to put quite as much stock in what’s deemed “right” and “wrong.” While Seigi occasionally comes across as naïve, particularly where the potential of two men being in a romantic relationship is concerned, we do see him learning with each of the four stories across these two volumes, and that makes him feel much more natural as a character.
Per the artist’s notes, these two volumes of manga make up the complete storyline for the first of the original light novels. There are four “cases” across them – Seigi’s topaz ring, a ruby brooch, an amethyst, and a diamond engagement ring. Of them the ruby brooch story and the diamond engagement ring are the strongest, although all four do contribute equally to Seigi and Richard’s character growth. Interestingly enough, the way that they’re divided across the volumes means that each book opens with a sort of “background” case that looks into the bigger picture of why people buy jewelry and then a “lesson” case, where the background is applied to a specific human story. The main difference between the two types of case is in their focus – while both types involve Seigi learning something about both gems and their value, the latter type is more zeroed in on the subjective and emotional. In the first volume, Seigi’s grandmother stole the heirloom ring that turned out to have much more significance to the thief and her family than the original owner; this is supported by the young woman giving in to her internalized homophobia by thinking that the ruby brooch her male fiancé gave her determines both her worth as a purportedly straight woman and the value of a heteronormative relationship. The lesson here is that a jewel may have a monetary value assigned to it, but the emotional significance can make it utterly worthless – the woman’s relationship with her female partner turns out to be worth much more to her than the ruby, just as the victim of Seigi’s grandmother’s theft ends up richer in her personal life without the ring. In volume two, the interpretation of a gem’s symbolism becomes more valuable when it comes to someone’s own personal understanding of it versus the literal symbolism ascribed to the jewel, as we see when the bartender with the amethyst takes things too literally and the man with the diamond learns to make his own story with his gem.
Mika Akatsuki‘s art works very well to help showcase all of this, and it must be said that her blushing Richard is very sweet. Overall the books are well laid out and easy to read, and the use of chibi art occasionally helps to keep things on the light side when necessary, which, considering the heavy themes at play, is a plus. The woman Seigi has a crush on doesn’t add much to the story in these volumes, functioning more as an additional source of information than a character in her own right, but overall, these books do more right than wrong, and as long as you aren’t looking for the actual mystery implied by “case files,” it’s a good read.