A Manga Review: Case Closed/Detective Conan
Case Closed/Detective Conan is possibly the most famous of all Japanese detective manga, Conan himself being used to promote crime awareness in Japan and the manga being sold all around the world. The manga began running in January 1994, and Gosho Aoyama has continued pumping out material for almost 20 years. There has been more than 850 chapters, and more than 700 episodes of the anime, plus films, live action series and specials. So here is a summary of the plot, and some of my thoughts on it.
Becoming a Child
When our story begins, Shinichi Kudo is a high school student doubling as a detective, and he is at the top of his game, helping the police and getting front pages, and letting his fame go to his head. His childhood friend/love interest Ran is less trilled, mostly because Shinichi is having a constant torn in the foot for her father Kogori Mori, who is also a detective, but drunk and incompetent.
This changes, however, when Shinichi after a murder investigation finds two suspicious characters dressed in black, and follows them. They ambush him, however, and gives him a drug designed to kill him. Here we need some suspension of our disbelief, because the killer drug mysteriously turns him into a child instead. Shinichi visits his neighbor, professor Agasa, and they decide that Shinichi needs to go undercover for some time to avoid his would-be killers. 19 years later, and the jig still is not up. They also decide he should stay with Ran and his father, so that Shinichi can get news about crimes and hopefully find some that leads to the black men, nicknamed the Black Organization.
So Shinichi takes the name Conan Edogawa, comes up with an excuse to move in with Ran, starts solving cases Kogoro gets, and lets the washed up detective take the credit. For this purpose he has several gadgets given to him by Agasa, most importantly stunning darts and a device which lets him imitate voices. Using these he delivers the solution to crimes as Kogoro. There are also several other characters, the detective boys(one of them is a girl), a group of children Conan knows which also solves crimes, Heiji, a high school detective matching Shinichi, just to name a few.
Status Quo is Achieved
The story is from this point mostly episodic, with only a few furthering the story or introducing new recurring characters. Most of the time we get a simple murder, occasionally other crimes, spread out over a few chapters. Shinichi and his unknowing assistants(Ran and Kogori or the detective boys) are given a case, or often they will randomly come over a murder, the latter happening disturbingly often. Conan has to collect clues, often inconvenienced by no one taking him seriously and that he has to hide his identity. Suspects are found, in the later stories it seems to almost always be three of them. Conan, often by a sudden insight provoked by someones random comments, solves the crime, and delivers the solution to the police in a way so that they will not suspect him of having given it. Kogoro is often used as a medium here. The case is closed, the suspect confesses, revealing the motive, and Conan and his moves on, often with some philosophical comment, to new murders.
The murders are similar to the classic Golden age mysteries, from the early 20th century. Closed room murders are often used, and I think pretty much all of the classical solutions are used, for example the using of ice as a weapon, which then melts. There are also often traps and devices used, and figuring them out can be an important clue. Another thing common for Case Closed are the dying messages, which may alienate people not speaking Japanese. The dying messages left by the victims often contains plays on words or Japanese characters having to be assembled correctly.
We get some more plot, though. They meet the person who made the drug, and befriend her. I will not reveal who she is, but she is one of my favorite characters. We do learn some more about the Black Organization, and the FBI and CIA is also revealed to be involved.
The Good and the Bad
The strong points of the manga are its classical mysteries and its tone, which may have made it so popular. There are some humor where it fits, and the mysteries are of that classical nature that I know I often look for. The designs are nice and fitting for the story. If I may point to my own favorite episodes, though, they would have to be the Kaito Kid ones. Kaito Kid is a previous creation of Aoyama, a teenage thief specializing in jewels. An exception to the rule, these stories do not have murders, but rather the intellectual fight between detective and thief. I can not recommend these enough.
There are weaker points, though, most of which can be summed up with the word: repetitive. The stories are really formulaic, and the problem of Conan revealing his identity has been done to death. The same goes for his romance with Ran, which can not be fulfilled until the end of the series. Aoyama has used up all the faces he has, so many characters look alike, and some of the solutions to the murders are also really similar, not to mention the overuse of dying messages. It must be difficult to come up with new ideas for 20 years. The story is also moving so slowly, and there is no end in sight. There is very little progression, and little character development, even for the main characters. Rather, they often learn the same lesson again and again.
Despite this, I would recommend this manga. At least read some chapters, check out Kaito Kid and some of the important plot points.I would perhaps not recommend reading or watching it all, because of the manga's repetitive nature, but I would recommend reading some part of it, and then stopping before it gets too boring. Detective Conan is famous for a reason.