"I don't need a reason. I don't know about people's motives for killing others, but people don't need logical reasons for helping others."
I like Meitantei Conan ("Detective Conan"). I really, really like Meitantei Conan. You might even say that Conan made me what I am today. I started reading manga actively after reading Conan. I got to know Ellery Queen through Conan. I started reading Japanese detectives thanks to Conan. And yes, you might even say that it was thanks to Conan, that I started my current Japanese studies.
So to me, Conan will always be a special series. Going to the movie theater to see Tenkuu no Lost Ship (Lost Ship in the Sky") last year will always be a fond memory. Watching Shikkoku no Chaser ("The Raven Chaser") in my room with too many people was immensely fun. But it was also all part of a ritual I just had to do. Conan has influenced me, and by extension, events in my life too much (for a comic!) to consider just as a normal series you get easily in and out of.
So I lament the fact I can't go to the newest movie, Chinmoku no Quarter ("Quarter of Silence"), which was released yesterday. Breaking a two year tradition. This year luckily is the 15th birthday of the Conan animation, so in celebration to that, they made a new TV-drama special, so I at least had something to watch.
Two live action TV-drama specials were released earlier in 2006 and 2007, both starring Oguri Shun (Shinichi) and Kurokawa Tomoka (Ran). The first, Kudou Shinichi e no Chousenjou ("The Challenge Letter to Kudou Shinichi") was a story set some time before Shinichi turned into Conan, while the second, Kudou Shinichi no Fukkatsu! Kuro no Soshiki to no Taiketsu ("The Revival of Kudou Shinichi! Confrontation with the Black Organisation") was a great story actually set after Conan had turned into Shinichi and as the title subtly suggests, the Black Organisation makes an appearance too. The first special was decent, but I really liked the second special with the Black Organisation, which had all the excitement you'd normally get only from a Conan movie.
This year's special, Kudou Shinichi e no Chousenjou - Kaichou Densetsu no Nazo ("The Challenge Letter to Kudou Shinichi - Mystery of the Monster Bird Legend"), broadcast last Friday, takes a step back in time and is set 100 days before Shinichi turned into Conan. Shinichi, Ran and Ran's mother are invited by Sonoko to visit a business relative's place, the Wakura family in the village of Juugoya. A local legend tells of a giant bird, a monstrous bull-headed shrike that, like the normal-sized version, has the habit of impaling its prey on trees for storage. The normal shrike usually impales small lizards and the sort on twigs, the giant monstrous type impales humans. Tree-shaped pillars have been erected all over town in the town, used for praying to the giant bird. The protagonists arrive just right in time for a big festival to appease the bird in a few days. Appearently, the bird is not too happy though, as people are found impaled on the tree-pillars one after another. It's up to the high-school-detective-not-turned-into-elementary-school-detective Shinichi to solve the riddle of the monstrous bird (hint: it is not a real monster bird killing people!).
The story itself was more Kindaichi Shounen, than Conan to be honest. Giant monstrous birds, small villages, local legends. Heck, it even had an old lady yelling tatari ja ("it's the curse!"). Even the trick to the murders, which was kinda too easy to see through, was more mid-Kindaichi-ish than Conan. But what made this special especially un-Conan-ish, was the dynamic between Shinichi and Ran. With Shinichi still his normal age and no sign of the Black Organisation, his relation with Ran is precisely the same as that of Kindaichi and Miyuki in the Kindaichi Shounen series. If you mention a live-action TV drama show featuring two high school students walking around in villages solving murders involving old legends with a romantic subplot, well, that's Kindaichi Shounen and not Conan.
Of the three TV specials, I think this one was the weakest. The second special is the best, no doubts about that, and while this TV special had a better detective plot than the first TV special, it misses the Conan feeling the first did had. The characters and acting was more Conan-like in the first special than in this one. It's too bad though. While I like the original two Kindaichi Shounen live action series, I have to say that the feeling in that series was quite different from the manga, with more emphasis on humor and a bit of Tsutsumi Yukihiko's distinct directing style. The first two Conan specials with Oguri in the other hand, really felt as a part of the Conan-franchise. This third special feels like an extra I don't really need.
Hopefully, I'll be able to see Quarter of Silence before next year's movie is out =_=.
Original Japanese title(s): 『名探偵コナン ドラマスペシャル 工藤新一への挑戦状～怪鳥伝説の謎～』