Case Closed 38

January 11, 2012

Gosho Aoyama – Viz – 2011 – 74+ volumes

The cover to this volume shocked me a little bit! Conan appears to be wearing chaps with no pants, bikini briefs, and a vest with no shirt. He’s dressed like a little fujoshi cowboy, and throwing the horns. Again, Conan, who is in first grade. I was really confused, until I read the author notes that explained he was wearing the outfit of Aoyama’s favorite wrestler as a kid. Then I was relieved. Still… it’s a little scary.

Anyway, wrestling is one of the stories in this book! The star is Wolf Face, a lucha libre wrestler and all-around nice guy. He’s framed for murder, and Conan has to figure out why someone would want people to think that Wolf Face would kill his smarmy rival. There’s damning video footage, but it’s all about the mask. Also, this is a Sleeping Moore mystery, so we get a bonus at the beginning when we see Richard taping a promo, questioning what the big deal is about wrestling, then screaming his lungs out cheering during a match. Excellent.

There were two fairly decent mysteries, one was the conclusion to the story from last volume, where Conan is trying to set up the Black Organization while simultaneously catching some unrelated murderers-at-large. His traps for the Black Organization are rather devious. Predictably, this doesn’t really get him anywhere, but the climax where he hides in a locker while the Black Organization thugs search for the “sly fox” that set them up is pretty fantastic.

The last case in the book is a Harley/Kazuha mystery where the two are caught by bad guys, and Conan, Rachael, and Detective Moore have to find them. Actually, Rachael and Detective Moore aren’t really privy to the situation, and it’s Conan that solves the crime without them this time, though they do help him investigate when Harley and Kazuha don’t show up for a visit. It’s a fairly exciting mystery, with Harley and Kazuha tied up in an attic, with Conan periodically coming back to the door of the house and interrogating the suspect, but satisfied every time that Harley and Kazuha aren’t there.

Another mystery is one dealing with a stolen ancient scroll and Hina dolls. This one’s neat too, if only because I’ve never read a story that explained the symbolism behind Hina dolls this well before.

Basically, it’s another volume of Case Closed. Again, I enjoy this series in a very sitcom-y way, where I love reading the mysteries and watching the characters do their thing. I just criticized Otomen for having no forward momentum, and Case Closed is definitely guilty of this, but on the other hand, Otomen is a romance, and a romance with no movement always feels a little bad. I love Case Closed though, and it’s maintained the same quality for all its one-shot mysteries since volume one. I imagine I’ll keep picking up volumes until it ends, whenever that is. There are at least 35 more volumes after this, though, so it’s hard to say when that will be.

Case Closed 37

August 9, 2011

Gosho Aoyama – Viz – 2011 – 72+ volumes

To make up for the recent number of stories featuring Harley and the Detective Boys, Aoyama rewards my patience with a story all about Richard Moore. Detective Moore really is my favorite.

But first, we resolve the bomber case from last time. It goes down just about the way you expect. It’s obvious where the bomb is planted, so no surprises there, and the clue on the bomb Conan was deactivating was also obvious, but linking the English word to the Japanese place name (a place name I had forgotten, no less) escaped me. And Sato and Takagi get to do their thing as well. Sato took things a little further than I was expecting, which is nice, but otherwise the police angle was just about what you’d expect.

Second is the Detective Moore case. He gets invited to host a mystery drama, starring an old school friend of his. While he’s on set, a cast member is murdered (which seems to happen wherever he goes now), and Detective Moore has to solve the case. And when I say Detective Moore, I mean that Conan is out of his sleepy-time darts and Detective Moore has to solve the case. He’s not stupid, and I’m glad he gets to do stories like this from time to time. The case itself wasn’t that interesting, but I didn’t care too much since I was otherwise blinded by joy at Moore getting a serious role.

I love that, even during a story where he gets to be more than a rowdy background character, his interaction with Conan stays the same. He just slaps him around for digging around crime scenes and considers him a general nuisance. It makes you wonder what his opinions of the strange boy staying at his house are, or if he bothers to think about him at all. His insight into the parental mindframe in this story also makes you wonder what he’d think if he knew that Conan was really Jimmy, and harbored a huge crush on his daughter.

Anyway, he goes back to comic relief in the next story, when he’s hired to find a missing software programmer. He finds him, all right, and the man is – SURPRISE! – dead in his hotel room. Sleeping Moore solves the case once again. I love that, in the world of Detective Conan, crimes of passion are still elaborately set up to erase all evidence contrary to the idea that the death was accidental.

What’s most interesting about that case is that the man is possibly linked to the Black Organization. Actually, that’s not interesting at all, because I dislike the Black Organization plots. Which is a shame, because that’s the actual plot of the series. All the same, it doesn’t come up that often, so I at least read a little closer when we get stories like this.

This computer programmer was linked to the Black Organization somehow, and Conan rushes through the case in order to get a look at the man’s diary to see if there are any clues about the members and their activities. In the next case, the diary yields many clues, and Conan and Agasa find out that there might be most of a program for the Black Organization available in the programmer’s vacation home. Along the way, there’s all sorts of reports of a jewel heist going on, so that happens too, and the volume ends on a cliffhanger where it’s obvious Conan somehow has the upper hand.

But I still love it. I love every page. Again, probably not for everyone, since the stories are mostly one-shots and fairly repetitive, but I can’t get enough of these silly mystery plot devices and the silly characters. What can I say? I’m a fan for life.

Case Closed 36

July 20, 2011

Gosho Aoyama – Viz – 2010 – 72+ volumes

The first story in this book, the “Emissary of Guso” story that carried over from last volume, features Conan, Rachael, Harley, and Kazuha stuck on an island with a murderer and a small group of people that “couldn’t have done it.” It’s a nice, long case, and it takes a satisfying amount of time to unravel and finally pin down all the clues, since the first set excludes everyone on the island save Harley and Conan.

I wanna say it’s a bit more serious-minded than usual, but this isn’t the first serial murder that comes as a result of thieves in-fighting or whatever, so I can’t say that. It is a bit more involved than the average case though, since it does go into the history of the town’s mayor and an expensive artifact. It’s a good one, although there’s not enough Richard Moore being drunk elsewhere for my taste.

The next story is even longer and more involved, though. It’s almost three cases wrapped together, all about a bomber from the past who comes back to cause problems in the present. This one is sorta a detective boys story, but it’s mostly about Conan working with the police department, specifically Detective Akagi. Detective Sato is also a major player, not just because of the implied romance between them, but because she has past experience with the bomber. The story starts with a soccer victory parade getting bombed, and there are a few chapters covering how that was done and what the intent was. This bombing was feared to be related to an earlier case where a detective was lost three years ago. That case is related to us, along with the fact that the detective that was lost in it was a man that Sato was fond of. This bombing happened on the anniversary of that one, but it turns out that incident is related, since the Tokyo Police get a bomb threat that reads exactly like the case from three years ago. While trying to solve the riddle left by the bomber, Detective Akagi and Conan find themselves in a bad spot when they apparently have to blow themselves up in order to prevent another bomb being triggered in an area with a lot of people.

And that’s a cliffhanger. It’s a pretty epic case, and I think it’s been awhile since we’ve seen anything quite this involved. The clues make sense, and while knowledge of the city of Tokyo is required for the reader to follow the clues on their own, there isn’t really anything held back that feels like cheating, as sometimes happens when Conan reveals how he figured things out. Plus, the story is even a little romantic since we get to see Detective Sato’s feelings for both the heroic detective from three years ago and Detective Akagi.

This is an awesome volume that has just about everything that makes this series great. Reading all these in a row has made me remember why I love this series so much. It may not have much in the way of a forward-moving plot, but the mysteries are always well-written and really addictive.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Case Closed 35

July 6, 2011

Gosho Aoyama – Viz – 2010 – 72+ volumes

It’s been so long since I read a volume of this series! This was a bad place to step back in. It’s good, but a little ridiculous. It’s a flashback to a trip that Jimmy and Rachael take to New York with Jimmy’s mom, and the mysteries just keep piling up one right after the other. After dealing with the plane ride stuff last volume, Jimmy meets with his mom and rides with her to a theater, where he gets to solve a murder. While taking a taxi to the hotel after that, he and Rachael run into an escaped serial killer. It’s easy to take these coincidences when there’s a break in the timeline, I suppose, but one right after the other? I’m not sure why that was triggering my “unlikely” meter so badly here. I suspend my disbelief about a lot of other things.

Anyway, the theater mystery was quite good. A handsome lead actor with at least four lovers is murdered as he is performing on-stage with all four women. Is it a sniper, or one of the women? The sniper seems like a red herring, but then again, it’s impossible for the women to have shot him, since the bullet trajectory was pointing down, and he’s such a tall man. The solution is a clever one, as always, and I liked the attention to the details of the stage and the work that went into describing the plot of the play they were performing, as well as the myth behind it.

The serial murder thing… the less said, the better.

The flashback was pretty great, too, since we got to see Jimmy as himself rather than the diminutive Conan. I took it for granted at the beginning of the volume, but stories like that only make the humiliation of Jimmy having to act Conan all the sweeter.

The next mystery was a good one too, where Conan, Rachael, and Detective Moore travel to a haunted house for no adequately explained reason, then listen to the ghost story from the point of view of the four residents of the building. There are symptoms of a haunting, all right. Surprisingly, the story wasn’t about Conan tackling the haunting events logically, but more about the different points of view from the people in the building. It was a pretty interesting take on this type of story. And the haunting symptoms were great, too. Especially the blood in the filthy toilet.

Next was a story about Conan’s elementary school classmates and Anita. I tend not to like these types of stories, but this one was about Mitch wandering off by himself and going to great lengths to get lost in the woods with a murderer on the loose. The murderer’s story, his reaction to Mitch, and Mitch’s reason for being there, were all fairly interesting.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t too much character-driven story in this volume. Case Closed is definitely not a series that exercises those muscles very often, but I enjoy it when it does. There’s a hint of it at the end of the New York flashback, but it doesn’t last for more than a few panels. I really like the characters though, especially the hilariously surly and apathetic Detective Moore. Any story where he’s left to his own devices, like the ghost story here, is bound to be entertaining.

Next volume starts with a language riddle. These always fall a little flat in translation, unfortunately, but I doubt it will keep me away for very long.

Also, the detective profile in the back of the volume was on Ellery Queen’s Drury Lane. I need to find a collection of those stories immediately.

Case Closed 34

September 12, 2010

Gosho Aoyama – Viz – 2010 – 69 volumes

Another couple years, and this series will pass Naruto and One Piece as the longest manga in English, even without a sped-up release schedule. On another tangential note, I always thought it was interesting that the photos on the front cover, behind the illustration, are different between the English and Japanese editions. Always the same subject matter, but for every volume I’ve checked, a different photo. It’s kind of cool that the work goes in to change that, but I’ve always wondered why.

But yes, this is still one of my favorites, and it pleases me to no end that it’s kept its 6-volumes-a-year schedule since… yikes, 2004? It must be more popular than I realize. It’s a little gory, but otherwise I always thought this would be good for kids who are advanced readers (like, in the 10-12 range, there is some pretty scary stuff). It’s always rated older, but I’m also one of the last people that should ever decide what to give to an actual kid. I wish I’d thought of this last week, because I could have written it up for the kid-friendly Manga Moveable Feast. Oh well.

What? The actual volume? All right. There is some work on the plot of the series in this volume, with Conan and Harley moving closer and closer to discovering the truth about Miss Jodie, and Miss Jodie suspecting Conan a little more every time they talk and are accidentally involved in cases where her neighbor plummets out of a window (see what I mean about being a bad judge of comics for kids?). The last chapter begins a flashback to a trip that Rachael and Jimmy took to New York with Jimmy’s mom, and Aoyama refers to it as the “New York chapters,” so I assume this will be a major story. Any story with grown-up Jimmy is okay by me, even if it is just a flashback. It calls attention to his situation a little more when that happens, something that’s pretty easy to gloss over otherwise.

The cases are pretty standard stuff. We see the end of the word-game escalator case from last volume (which, ultimately, did involve ways kanji were abbreviated by hand, but still had the neat English XXX puzzle), the aforementioned Conan/Harley/Jodie case where her neighbor falls from a high rise window, a case where a rowdy soccer fan was killed on a packed train (complete with asides about Anita feeling lonely as a traitor to the Black Organization), and a strange case where a man is poisoned in a Chinese restaurant while trying to hire Rachael for an action movie.

I did like the apartment case a lot, even if I do think Miss Jodie is a little creepy. It was the type of case where there wasn’t any elaborate setup or even any evidence, it turned out to be more of a mind game than anything. Also, Harley is easy to like, even when his appearance is too convenient, and he called Miss Jodie out on being creepy, so that’s all right.

The Chinese restaurant murder was, on the other hand, a pretty elaborate mystery involving false evidence and some pretty elaborate tricks. I was sure that at least one person would privately catch on to the fact that Conan was being a little too enthusiastic for his own good, but that didn’t happen, of course. Rachael hints at the New York chapters throughout this case, so we do get to see big Jimmy in little snippets before the New York stuff starts.

And yes, the New York story is one of the most exciting things to happen in awhile. I love reading these volumes, but I rarely actually look forward to the story, it’s more of a sitcom-type enjoyment. I am this time. It looks like it’ll be great, and maybe we’ll get to find out who Miss Jodie is.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Case Closed 33

August 6, 2010

Gosho Aoyama – Viz – 2010 – 69+ volumes

The volume opens with the rest of the case that focuses on the police side characters Takagi and Sato. It’s only two chapters here, and mostly just involves analyzing suspect descriptions and figuring out why it is they differ, and chasing out the red herrings. The final key, unfortunately, hinges on an archaic Japanese word for “green,” so we’re at a disadvantage when following along at home here. I was also disappointed that the robbery did not involve cross-dressing, like I hoped when one of the characters detailed the drag band he was a member of. Probably a red herring, but a strange detail to toss off and never bring up again.

The cover does have a blushing Conan against a photo of chocolate, so we can… safely deduce (ugh) that the main story involves Valentine’s Day. The characters, including Serena, take a trip into the mountains to make sure-to-win-him-over Valentine’s chocolate. Of course, a murder happens in the middle of a snowstorm, and complicating things is some strange photography, a ghost story, and an avalanche sealing the area off. I liked this one quite a bit, and the case does a good job of adding more and more complications as it progresses. I even picked up on the obscure key to it all before the end, which made me feel good, although the suspect and actual motivation is a little convoluted and I didn’t quite understand all of what was going on (The original avalanche? Would there really be fear about being found out about that? What was with the requested stabbing? Would that old woman really not notice something like that after four years?). It was a good one, and it also somehow failed to be romantic despite the theme. Ah, good old Case Closed.

There are some romantic hints, and some teases about the Black Organization and Miss Jodie show back up, but nothing major happens plot-wise. I’m still okay with that, since somehow the little mysteries are more than enough every time. I can’t believe this series is still so entertaining this far in.

There’s a strange case with the first graders next, where they have to figure out the murder of an unpleasant loan shark and whether the man with the solid alibi did it. The final one involves cryptography, a murder, and Miss Jodie, and carries over into the next volume. At first, I thought the man in the black-knit hat was supposed to be the criminal, but apparently it’s just a regular embezzler?

This is another case with a language puzzle, but I have a feeling Japanese might be a red herring in this case (I could be completely wrong, though). In a breath of fresh air, there is one language puzzle that works in favor of English-language readers, when Miss Jodie asks Rachael to figure out what the symbol “X” means as homework. While there are many meanings, Jodie and Serena tease her in a way that tips off English language readers that XOXO is the context she is talking about. The puzzle even stumps Conan. I also loved that Rachael is reduced to a sneaky black shadow grabbing someone in her desperate need to figure this out.

Case Closed: Still great after all these volumes of episodic stories. The mysteries are always interesting and so different from one another, I can see how this would have lasting appeal.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Case Closed 32

March 7, 2010

Gosho Aoyama – Viz – 2009 – 69+ volumes

Hmm.  I was reading an article defending scanlations based on Viz’s “butchering” of this series, and got really wound up, and then I realized I didn’t care that much.  The series isn’t “butchered,” only the names are different, and that’s really not Viz’s fault.  Changing the names doesn’t change the plot of the story or anything, it’s just kind of a shame.  The article’s author didn’t seem to be aware of the fact that the series is rated for 16+ or the fact that nothing is changed aside from the names.  I had this big, long response written up, then deleted it, because I just didn’t feel like engaging.

Anyway.  This volume was pretty great.  I liked all three of the cases this time around.  The first was the continuation of the story from last time in Osaka.  Harley’s father gets involved after a couple chapters, and it turns into a pretty serious affair, with possibly both Conan and Harley in danger.  Things keep building and getting stranger and stranger as people continue to set themselves on fire and commit suicide and whatnot.

The second case brings back Yoko, Detective Moore’s big crush.  One of her friends is having an engagement party, but is nearly murdered.  You know where this goes.  This one was actually pretty simple, but I liked it anyway.  Unfortunately, Detective Moore didn’t get his time to shine.  At all, come to think of it.  I don’t think Conan gets to use his darts one time this entire volume.

The final case was a Detective Boys case where the kids run into a man who looks like the owner of a big animal amusements chain.  He’s mistakenly kidnapped, and the kids have to try and find him.  This was a strange one, and involves a kind of language puzzle that is actually in English, but involves a slang term that is apparently common in England and Japan but not America.  That’s okay, it was still good.  As a special bonus, the man the kids helped out was pretty shifty.  He was named James Black.  Conan made a Moriarty connection (James picked up on the connection the group had with Holmes’ Detective Irregulars), but his last name may be the real clue.

There wasn’t any plot or even character development this time around, but I still enjoyed all three stories immensely.  As an added bonus, the detective featured in the back was Mike Hammer, who is awesome beyond belief and I was happy to see him.  I’m still a bit behind on this series, so here’s hoping I manage to catch myself up soon.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.  I think.