So, long time ago I reviewed the series Detective Conan, alternatively known in the states as Case Closed. In the review I talked more about there series overall, touching briefly on what I thought it’s positive and negative aspects were. Today I’m doing something similar but on a much smaller scale in an effort to not only get me back into the series but give myself an incentive to watch it and talk about it bit by bit. Today I’ll be reviewing the first season of the series.
For those of you who haven’t read my original review or ever heard of the series, I don’t mind recapping. The series focuses on Shinichi Kudo, a high school detective so ridiculously talented the police might as well fire everyone else and hire him instead. But his inquisitive mind gets the better of him one night while out with his childhood friend Ran Mouri and he chases after a suspicious man in black. Too busy observing an illegal transaction, he fails to notice a second man in black sneak up behind him and club him from behind. Rather than shoot him and thereby eliminate him efficiently, they opt instead to use their “organizations” new poison that’s supposed to basically induce a heart attack and then not show up during an autopsy. If they’d stuck around long enough they’d have realized that their new wonder drug has a one in a million chance of causing the victim’s body to regress in age…approximately ten years or so. So Shinichi, under the advice from his neighbor and confidant Prof. Agasa, takes on the name Conan Edogawa and shacks up with Ran and her father Kogoro in hopes of getting his body back to normal. How does he plan to do this? Well Kogoro’s a detective himself but not a very good one so basically Conan now has to make Kogoro into the best detective in the world so that more cases start flowing in and eventually he might get a lead on the men in black.
Now, lets talk art. I find that Gosho Aoyama’s art style is visually at odds with the kind of series he’s writing. In personal opinion, I find the artwork for Detective Conan rather childish with very basic designs. Basic but not generic as the designs actually go very well with the characters. Each one is visually distinctive from the other and no two people look entirely the same, though a few look slightly similar and Ran seems to be the basic template for any female in her general age range. Once again though, this isn’t a bad thing because I think that despite the art seeming childish and rather innocent, it lends itself very well to the series. On a more general note Conan is animated by TMS Entertainment and over the years they’ve come out with some very well known shows dating all the way back to the sixties. They’re responsible for Luipn III, Doraemon, Cats Eye, and Sonic X to name a few. As the series was initially aired back in 1996 it looks like a 90’s anime and a long running one at that with the episodes looking rather average and unspectacular by today’s standards but for it’s time it probably looked as good as everything else that was airing. Basically, it looks like a long runner. Talking about audio now, the series sounds great. That’s Kappei Yamaguchi voicing Shinichi and you should know him from both Ranma 1/2 as well as InuYasha where he plays both of the leads. Conan though is voiced by Minami Takayama who’s also been in Ranma as Nabiki, but she’s also been the lead in Kiki’s Delivery Serice, Envy in FMA Brotherhood and Hao in Shaman King. I can’t exactly say anything else for the rest of our voice actors aside from that they sound great. Every line they read brings a well of emotion to whatever character they’re playing. The music is also very nice, if very repetitive on the BGM side of things. For this season of Conan our opening is Mune ga DOKI DOKI by ↑THE HIGH-LOWS↓ while our endings are Step by Step by ZIGGY and Meikyu no Lovers by heath. I really like this first opening and ending and I’m kind of conflicted on the second ending. I like the overall sound of the music, it’s got a really awesome beat but it’s the vocals that I’m not really about. On a final note about the art style, I’ve got to say how much I appreciate how varied the body types are in this series. I’m really loving that Ran doesn’t have these huge breasts or an equally big butt and many of the characters follow suit.
So, what can I say about Detective Conan? Well, I feel that for a shonen series Conan is something of a standout. You don’t really hear that much about great shonen detective mystery series and I can really only think of two others, The Kindaichi Case Files and Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning which I will one day review. I feel like of an episodic type of series, Conan is, at least at this point, one of the best ones that you can find, especially if you enjoy a good mystery of which this series has plenty. I swear to GOD that Gosho Aoyama just sits around all day long thinking of different ways to murder people cause this series has those in spades. Out of 28 episodes we have one suicide. ONE! Granted one episode revolves around a bomb and a couple revolve around kidnapping or some theft, most of the series uses murder as its’ go-to mystery. The fun in watching, at least at this point, isn’t seeing if Shinichi finds a way to get his body back, it’s watching all the different methods of murder go down. My favorite was the dog. Other than that, I feel that the series isn’t the kind of thing I’d show someone to see if they could solve the mystery because I feel like, at least from an audience perspective, the clues don’t really add up or aren’t as readily available. Out of all the murders, I’d have only been able to solve the last one and I’ve seen these episodes at least 5 times in the past. And this isn’t counting episodes where it’s made to be extremely obvious who the murder is. I feel like this is a shame because personally I like thinking that I’m smart enough to solve cases like the ones presented in this series. While rewatching it was fun, it sure as hell wasn’t fun going in knowing who was behind everything. I can say this as can anyone else who’s previously tried to marathon this and has an extremely good memory. But I can’t say this for everyone else as everyone has different standards on what makes a good mystery series and how solvable any given mystery should be.
Additionally I feel like the show already suffers from being entirely too episodic because while it’s a great way to keep people invested so that way they’re not sifting through countless episodes of filler, it also hinders your series for the exact same reason. Conan is a dense series. There’s a lot can be causally tossed aside and there’s a lot that can’t be skipped because it adds additional context to the series and characters. That said, even I can’t tell you which episodes can be skipped or not because like I said, context. For example there’s an episode in this season where a murder takes place on Valentine’s Day. Is it important? Yes because it introduces us to Ran’s friend Sonoko for the first time and gives us some established context about their relationship and her personality. Is it canon? No, because it didn’t appear in the manga. Meanwhile there’s another episode dealing with amnesia which I find skippable, especially since its’ anime only like the last episode. It doesn’t really add much of anything at all and is kind of superfluous, but someone else might say otherwise.
Speaking on “canon” for a moment, the series is rather odd with the way it adapts cases from the manga. Oh, sure the important ones are where they need to be, especially for the first three or four episodes, but it doesn’t take long before we start fucking around and making our own continuity by placing certain cases before or after others despite how they appeared in the manga. Is this a problem? No, because the episodic nature of the series allows for cases to take place at any point they need to. I think we adapt cases randomly between volumes 1 and 9 in these 28 episodes but the events typically play out the same with the exception of one which we’ll talk about…much much later…like another review later.
On a final note I think that I’ll spend a little bit of time talking about the characters before I finish this up. We’re introduced to a handful of reoccurring characters in these episodes. I already mentioned Shinichi/Conan, Ran and her father Kogoro as well as Sonoko but there’s also Inspector Megure of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, the Detective Boys consisting of Ayumi, Genta and Mitsuhiko who are Conan’s friends at grade school and Professor Agasa who gives Conan all of his gadgets. I like that we have this motley crew of people that Conan has to interact with though your milage on them will certainly vary. Ran and Sonoko are fine, especially since Sonoko is kind of a rarity at this point, appearing in only two episodes while Ran, Kogoro and Inspector Megure appear in the broad majority of them and of them only Kogoro is unrepentenly unlikable, treating Conan as a pest and a nuicense even though the child expresses much better competence than he does most times. That leaves Prof. Agasa and the kids Ayumi, Genta and Mitsuhiko as the last of our “important” characters and I also find them rather enjoyable though it varies in the case of the kids. Ayumi is likable enough, her innocent crush on Conan and her habit of speaking on his behalf endear her to me and Mitsuhiko tends to be the other “smart” one of the group, being more grounded in logic than the last of them, Genta who’d be the muscle and treats Conan only slightly better than Kogoro but you can tell here that it’s more childish not knowing than straight up abuse. Agasa is kind of a BAMF though, creating all the cool gadgets that Conan now HAS to use in order to get his detective work done. He also gets to be the only one that Conan can truly be Shinichi around since he’s the only one who knows the secret. But what about our main character you may ask? Well, while Conan is a far cry from your average shonen lead he’s no better for it, being rather pompous and self centered. He solves mysteries seemingly more for the thrill of it than just being a good person and is quick to dismiss others he considers impediments to his work which makes him very comparable to Kogoro who he’s now forced to not only tolerate and live with but also make into a great detective.
I feel like that’s really all I’ve got to say about it. Season 1 of Conan introduces us to the tricks of it’s trade, pulling them out one by one and seeing which ones it can run with in the best way possible. It might not be up to the visual standards of the modern anime fan but it’s clever and intelligent writing more than make up for it. It’s characters are more than enough to hold the series and make you feel for them. We get some very touching moments of Ran pining away for Shinichi, not knowing just how very close and far away he is to her at this point. All together, I guess that it’s no mystery why people, myself included, still like Detective Conan. There’s really only one truth! See you next time!