I love detectives and have ever since I was really little. For a long time I wanted to be a detective when I grew up; that is, until I figured out that my romantic version of a detective didn’t exist anymore, if it ever really had. I still love detective fiction of all kinds. And this includes a little show called Detective Conan, known in the states as Case Closed. The manga for Detective Conan has been running for a long time.
It’s a show about murder and crime, but it’s for kids. My elementary students love it, but it’s a tough sell in America. Someone dies in almost every episode, so it seems very violent to American audiences. It’s not overly gory or bloody, but it’s a serious show. The story revolves around a high school student named Shinichi Kudo. He’s a talented and observant detective and is already consulting with the police on cases. But that all changes one day when he witnesses an exchange run by a dangerous crime syndicate. Before he even has time to think about what he’s seeing, he is struck from behind and given an experimental poison that should be untraceable. But instead of killing him, like it was supposed to, it shrinks his body down to the size of a first grader.
The crime syndicate thinks that he is dead, so he takes on the alias of Conan Edogawa in order to try to investigate them and eventually reverse the drug’s effects. Conan of course comes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. Edogawa comes from the Japanese author Edogawa Rampo (which was a pen name inspired by Edgar Allen Poe) who is considered to be the father of the modern mystery story in Japan.
Of course, a first grader can’t exactly just show up at crime scenes and expect to be taken seriously, so he devises a way to live with his friend and love interest Ran Mori. Her father is a private investigator, which allows him access to crime scenes. Conan soon discovers that even though he still has his mature mind, no one takes him seriously due to his size. So even if he solved a crime, he’d be told to be quiet and leave the grownups to do their jobs. Even if he can find the criminal and confront them, he is a tiny child who is easily beaten.
So he has his scientist friend, one of the few people who know his true identity, make him some nifty gadgets to help him compensate for his decreased strength and size. Two of his most used gadgets are a watch that contains tiny stun darts and a bowtie that allows him to change his voice to sound like other people. Although Ran’s father is an investigator, he isn’t a very good one, so it’s usually up to Conan to connect the dots for the final reveal. Conan stuns him and then hides and lays out the evidence in his voice. Thus Mr. Mori’s reputation goes up and grants him, and Conan, access to bigger and bigger cases.
Every year around Golden Week, which is a week in May where three national holidays fall close together, a new Detective Conan movie comes out. I have seen all three of the movies that have come out since I’ve been in Japan. This year marked the 15th movie to make its way to the big screen. Sadly, the 15th was by far the worst of the three I’ve seen here. The previous two movies featured important side characters to the series and had big stakes. This movie lacked either of those.
|Movie 13: The Raven Chaser|
Let’s compare the villains of the movies. In both the previous two, we know fairly early on who we are up against, but they are too powerful to take down. In the 13th movie Conan was chased up Tokyo Tower while being shot at from a helicopter. In the 14th movie he got a bit too cheeky with the big bad, who promptly picked him up and threw him out of the window of the blimp (which is probably my favorite Conan moment ever, click the link and watch it!). Both were shocking and showed that we were dealing with someone who meant business. This movie had a dude with a hunting rifle and a stun gun. Who could not hit Conan at fairly close range. He also blew up a dam, which I guess was a big deal, but he was a very standard crazy dude who tries to kill Conan when he gets caught and not some evil mastermind who could be a real threat.
|Movie 14: The Lost Ship in the Sky|
Also the Junior Detective Boys played far too large of a role. Conan has a group of first grade friends, to help with his cover so everyone doesn’t think he’s the most antisocial child ever one assumes, who fancy themselves detectives as well. They occasionally “help” Conan on his cases. Far more often they just hang around and say childlike things that sometimes help Conan figure stuff out. I understand that they will always be in these movies. Children, who these movies are really for, cannot picture themselves as Conan who is really a high school student. But they can picture themselves as one of his friends. But in this movie they were around the entire time and were mostly doing trivial, useless things, like crashing snowmobiles. They work best as side characters and this movie had them front and center.
It wasn’t a bad movie, but it was really lacking in the things I have come to expect from a Conan movie. It just felt like a really long episode and not a movie. There wasn’t anything special about the villain or the setting or the crime. It was just another crime that Conan happens to be around for and solves.
|Movie 15: Quarter of Silence|
One final note that I find interesting is that every Conan movie has an English title as kind of a subtitle/translation of the Japanese name. The movies I have seen in order were, The Raven Chaser, The Lost Ship in the Sky, and Quarter of Silence. What’s really interesting about this is that it seems like the creators come up with the English title first and then translate it into Japanese, often with certain parts of the title pronounced unlike they normally are in kanji and pronounced instead like the English word. So for example, the title of the most recent movie, Quarter of Silence, looks like this in kanji: 沈黙の15分. This would normally be pronounced Chinmoku no Jyuugofun but it pronounced here as Chinmoku no Kuootaa (which is about as close as you can get to quarter with Japanese syllables). On a lot of the movie merchandise only the English title is listed, which makes the English teacher in me very happy.