Case Closed: Season Three
by Joseph Luster
February 23, 2009
Confession time: I used to be a non-believer in the power of Case Closed or, as it’s known in Japan, Detective Conan. I got my first glimpse of Gosho Aoyama’s manga many years ago, and the character designs turned me off from page one. I thought Conan looked about as generic as could be, and the whole thing struck me as baby’s first detective comic, aesthetically speaking. I started to see the light after reading the first volume, but it was still a dim appreciation that swayed back and forth between the complex murder plots therein being too absurd and enjoyably ridiculous.
Now, as evidenced by the fact that I happily burned through 27 episodes of Case Closed
‘s third season, I’m a much more wizened individual. The over-the-top cases have become charming, as has the just-like-clockwork method of solving them, and the steaming stew created by each individual element is justification enough for the fact that Conan
has been running on TV in Japan since 1996.
Shinichi (Jimmy in the English version) Kudo’s predicament first arose as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When he oversees a shady deal going down, the crooks take action and knock him out, drugging him in the process. When he wakes up, his young adult good looks are all gone, his body downsized like a carelessly cleaned sweater. Despite his new diminutive stature, Kudo vows to find the men behind his transformation and get his life back.
In the meantime, he goes by the name Conan Edogawa and lives, awkwardly enough, with his pseudo-girlfriend Ran and her father, the outrageously inept Detective Mori. Think of Conan as the both the Penny and Brain to Mori’s Inspector Gadget. Once the solution to a case is within his grasp, he knocks Mori out with a dart and uses a special bowtie gadget to mimic the detective’s voice. This technique guarantees a lot of notoriety for the detective and none for Conan, but the crime is solved all the same. All of this is helpfully set up at the beginning of the disc, so Case Closed is accessible to pretty much everyone, even if they’re using the third season as a gateway into Conan’s world.
I almost feel sorry for the little guy, personally, and that has nothing to do with the lack of public recognition for all of his hard work. It’s more that there’s always a crime to solve when he’s around, and it doesn’t seem like he can even go on vacation without running into a dead body and a string of devious clues. That’s where the formula of Case Closed lies, and it succeeds without ever attempting to disguise this fact. Conan and his companions confront peculiar circumstances, Conan spends most of the episode connecting the dots, and it all wraps up neatly as he publicly confronts the perp under the guise of Mori, allowing them a little bit of justification for their vile deeds.
What I said about the manga holds true here: the murders are by and large ridiculously executed crimes. One involves-and you’ll have to pardon the possibility of a few vague “spoilers”-a man murdered by a large steel girder. As it turns out, the girder was connected to a heavyweight security camera atop an adjacent building via a tight wire. When controlled remotely from the comfort of the guilty party’s office, the camera pivots and pulls the girder down on top of his enemy in the nick of time. No one would ever figure this crime out in real life because it’s INSANE.
At this point I can’t decide which part of the series I like more, the long-winded exposition that explains the crime or the apologetic confession afterwards that sheds light on the motive behind it. Everyone has a reason for what they did, and they often make their plight sympathetic without absolving them of anything. It’s rarely as simple as “this guy is my business competitor,” and usually leans more toward “this guy’s business is taking food away from my family’s table and I have a sick daughter in need of surgery and etc. etc” as the sob story keeps rolling.
Throughout the season, Conan gets a bit closer to finding the men that put him in this predicament in the first place, but his efforts are dashed at every turn. That’s the old carrot and stick of Case Closed, but it doesn’t really need this hook to keep the audience coming back. Sure, I’d love to see Conan eventually get his real body back, but with over 500 episodes floating around, I might be dead and gone before it all makes its way over here, if it even does. As it stands, I’m perfectly happy enjoying the addictive whodunnit mysteries, whether they’re in the form of scintillating two-parters or the usual single shots screaming bloody murder.
© Gosho Aoyama / Shogakukan * YTV * TMS