"I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth."

--Ursula K. Leguin

November 2009



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Meitantei Conan

All right, here is the actual review of Detective Conan domestically published as Case Closed.

The genre of the series is murder mystery, but the setting is, shall we say, unusual. Our hero starts out as a high school student and detective and, like many murder mystery detectives, has lots of brains, amazing powers of observation, unreasonable amounts of knowledge about the details of fields he has never worked in, quite a lot of luck, and a predilection for formal wear. His name is Kudou Shinichi.

The story takes an immediate hard left turn, however, when Shinichi pursues some likely looking wrongdoers down a dark alley (as one does) and is caught by them and poisoned. Instead of dying, his body de-ages to that of a seven year old. Not much time is spent on the shock of this, as he makes the transition quickly to the knowledge that he must hide out and not let those who did this know that he survived while he tries to track them down in hopes of getting the knowledge to reverse the condition. So he winds up installed as, basically, a foster child in the house of his classmate, friend and secret crush Mouri Ran, whose father just happens to be an ex-cop and lame-duck detective. His new name is Edogawa Conan, after the author of Sherlock Holmes

All this is more or less the scene setting for the next seven hundred issues (and still going).

Most of the series is very episodic, in a murder-of-the-week sort of way. The death and detection is enlivened by Shinichi/Conan's need to present his deductions through the adults around him since no one will listen to a second grader. Woven through and around the detective action is the daily life of Conan, Ran, Conan's friends in second grade, his and Ran's friends from Osaka, their friends on the police force, and more friends who are spoilers and will not be specifically named. This interpersonal action moves very slowly, which I found interesting. Shinichi's daily life moves at the pace of daily life and relationships of all sorts take time to develop--but develop they do.

There is also a third plot line: the metaplot dealing with the people who poisoned Shinichi and his search for them. This runs underneath the murder-of-the-week and the daily life, surfacing every now and then in sudden and usually explosive ways only to submerge again. The most highly colored and dramatic of the characters appear as part of this plot, and I found myself hungry for more of it, which may be the point.

If you enjoy murder mysteries, you will most likely enjoy this manga. If you find yourself reading for the metaplot, you will likely end up skimming through the murder-of-the-week issues.

For myself, the thing that kept me from making a "greatest hits" collection, detailing only the metaplot issues and letting the rest go, is the daily life thread. I'm especially fond of the the complexity of the women's characterization. Ran, for example, makes herself silly over Shinichi repeatedly and leaps tall conclusions in a single bound, but she's also the karate champ who breaks down doors and apprehends fleeing criminals, and Conan has no hesitation in yelling for "Ran-neechan" to grab that dangerous killer coming toward her. Their friend Sonoko is a rich-girl fluffhead concerned with nothing but boys and she winds up with a boyfriend who is stoic and traditional and overbearing and constantly tells her that she needs to dress more appropriately or people will take advantage of her--and while she is absolutely gooey over his general manliness, she ignores him completely and keeps on dressing as fashionably as she pleases. I am especially fond of Ai, who constantly gives Conan what-for and keeps him trimmed down to size, which is a bit of a job. And, of course, there's the police detective Satou who... well, that would be telling.

As a grace note, there are also guest appearances of characters from one of Aoyama's other manga, Kaitou Kid, which provides a change of pace while Conan matches wits with a phantom thief cum stage magician. Neither of them exactly win those matches, which keeps them interesting.

All in all, I would call this an engaging series, though the murders-of-the-week thread may wear a bit for those who are not actual murder mystery fans.