"Cause he's the only one able to snipe Ran's heart, right?"
"Detective Conan: Dimensional Sniper”
Sadly enough, I wasn't in Japan in April to see the annual Detective Conan film in the theaters this year, so I had to wait for the home release. A friend did see the movie in the theaters then though (and sent me pictures of her standing in front of the theater), which only helped fuel the
Sera Masumi. The two chase the sniper through downtown Asakusa, as do the police and an FBI team, but the sniper manages to escape. The identity of the sniper is revealed to be known to the FBI: an ex-Navy SEAL is taking revenge on people who ruined his life and is now after some of them who happen to be in Japan at the moment. But while Conan and the police use precious time trying to trace down the murderer, the sniper continues his revenge and with more succesful hits, the population of Tokyo naturally starts to panic under the constant snipings. Can Conan find and stop this long-range murderer?
I love this eigthteenth Conan film, even if it feels quite different from earlier Detective Conan films sometimes. Actually, that is probably what made this film work and stand out in this long series. Dimensional Sniper continues the direction started with last year's Private Eye in the Sea, but feels much more a conventional Conan film than that movie. I think one of the biggest points to address here is that Yamamoto Yasuichirou isn't the director anymore: Yamamoto was the main director for all the Conan movies between 2002 ~ 2012, and while there are some I really enjoy of that period (The Raven Chaser!), they tend to be very alike. A special setting like a plane, boat or general location like an island or snowfield, a rather rudimentary whodunnit plot, some neat action scenes and a finale involving a lot of explosions. While the Detective Conan films are still over-the-top action movies, I do think the change in directors these last two films make the series feel fresh again, even if we do get to see the same old tropes again.
While especially the older Conan films featured pretty cool whodunnit plots (The Fourteenth Target!), Dimensional Sniper's story puts the focus on the investigation. Because of the FBI's information, the police knows who they're hunting for and the plot is more about Conan and Sera finding out who the next victim will be and the meaning about the mysterious dice the sniper leaves at each crime scene. The plot is fairly dynamic though, with new discoveries about the snipings made along the way and I wasn't bored even in the little. There's little to this movie who want to guess whodunit, but I think the film did a great job at presenting a thrilling investigation. There is a slight whodunnit element in the second half of the movie, but it is extremely barebones.
I loved how this movie brought the Conan film franchise back to Tokyo though: the last few years, each movie has been set at some special setting, but I actually loved the earlier movies like The Time-bombed Skyscraper, The Fourteenth Target and Captured in Her Eyes because they were 'normal' Conan stories set in an urban area. Dimensional Sniper does a great job at depicting downtown Asakusa in Tokyo and actually makes the location relevant to the plot (also borrowing ever so lightly from Arisugawa Alice's Kotou Puzzle), which I love. There's also a little interesing symmetry going on in the beginning and ending of the movie.
Also interesting is the light social commentary going in the movie. It's not the first time it has happened in Conan (Phantom of Baker Street and Private Eye in the Sea feature it rather heavily), but it was funny to see how mass and social media were depicted in the movie. It's not heavy or really interfering, but it's something that never showed up in the Yamamoto directed Conan films between 2002~2012, so I still need to get used to it.
Is it all good? Well, I wasn't a very big fan of the Japan - foreigners juxtaposition in both this movie and the previous movie (this one had ex-US officers killing each other off in Japan, while the previous film was about the national defense). But those points are not very heavily pushed on the viewer. I do think that Dimensional Sniper is hard to understand if you're not familiar with Detective Conan lore, especially of the last few years. A lot of recurring parties are involved in this story and one vital plot point that had not even been properly addressed in the comic book series when this movie was first released, was actually revealed in this movie. So this film is connected to the main storyline of the comic and especially the last act can be a bit confusing if you don't know how one particular character is (who is hardly introduced in the movie itself).
Oh, and while with Yamamoto gone, the outrageous skateboard scenes in the movies have became slightly less outrageous, Dimensional Sniper 'makes up' for that by making Conan's shoes even more powerful than ever. You don't have to worry: if anything, the action scenes have become even more ridiculous than ever (though to be honest, the last act borrows a lot from previous Conan films).
While Detective Conan: Dimensional Sniper does a few things different from 'regular' Conan films, it does feel like a true Conan film and one of the best in recent years too. The lack of a normal whodunit plot is a bit disappointing, but I quite enjoyed the film as as an investigation story with a great finale. And it gets bonus points for actually addressing main story plot points, even if it might be a bit confusing who only watch the Conan movies and thus don't know who some of the characters are. But I am glad the Conan films have moved on from the stale formula set in the last ten years, and I'm curious as to how next year's Sunflowers of Inferno will turn out.
Original Japanese title(s): 『名探偵コナン 異次元に狙撃手（スナイパー）』