Sunday, October 30, 2016

Color of Memory

ああこの世界はあなたの色になるよ
「 世界はあなたの色になる」(B'z)

Oh this world will be painted in your colors
"The world will be pained in your colors" (B'z)

Man, I had to wait long for this release! Usually, a Detective Conan film is released late April in theaters, with a home-video release following late November. This time, the home-video release was scheduled early October, but unbelievable pre-order figures (three times the usual number) led to a three week delay. But now I finally have it!

Detective Conan manga & movies:
Part 1: Volumes 1 ~ 10
Part 2: Volumes 11~20; The Timebombed Skyscraper (1) / The Fourteenth Target (2)
Part 3: Volumes 21~30; The Last Wizard of the Century (3) / Captured in Her Eyes (4)
Part 4: Volumes 31~40; Countdown to Heaven (5) / The Phantom of Baker Street (6)
Part 5: Volumes 41~50; Crossroad in the Ancient Capital (7) / Magician of the Silver Sky (8) / Strategy Above the Depths (9)
Part 6:  Volumes 51~60; Private Eyes' Requiem (10) / Jolly Roger in the Deep Azure (11)
Part 7: Volumes 61~70; Full Score of Fear (12) / The Raven Chaser (13) / Lost Ship in the Sky (14)
Part 8: Volumes 71~80; Quarter of Silence (15) / The Eleventh Striker (16) / Private Eye in the Distant Sea (17)
(You will find the links to the reviews of volumes 70, 72~76, 78, 82~90 and the films Quarter of Silence (15), The Eleventh Striker (16), Private Eye in the Distant Sea (17), Dimensional Sniper (18) and Sunflowers of Inferno (19) in the library)

Doctor Agasa has brought high-school-student-detective-turned-child Conan, Haibara and the other Detective Boys to the newly reopened Touto Aquarium, an aquatic themed entertainment park with a gigantic double ferris wheel as its new main attraction. At the entrance of the park, the kids run into a mysterious woman, who appears to be suffering from amnesia. The kids decide to help her find out who she is, and drag her along with them inside the park. What Conan however does not know is that this woman is a highly trained operative who last night managed to steal a highly confidential NOC-list from the National Police Agency, detailing the identities of undercover agents from various international intelligence agencies infiltrated inside the Black Organization, the criminal entity responsible for turning Conan into a child. A hectic highway chase prevented the woman from conveying the names of all the traitors to her boss, and while she did manage to escape from a major car crash and the ensuing explosion, the trauma of the accident caused amnesia. With the identities and lives of the remaining spies inside the Black Organization at stake, the National Police Agency Security Bureau, the FBI, CIA and the Black Organization all move in to get their hands on the mysterious woman and the information in her memories in the 2016 film Detective Conan: The Darkest Nightmare.

The twentieth Detective Conan film! I remember I started watching the films around the time the sixth film (2002's Phantom of Baker Street) hit the theaters, but who would have thought that the Detective Conan films would have become such an important part of Japanese popular culture and that they'd come this far? Not even the original makers apparently, because the first film, 1997's The Time-Bombed Skyscraper, was originally intended to be the definitive Detective Conan movie. But the immense popularity of the TV series and the film was enough reason to make this an annual event. And so every April a new Detective Conan film is released. In Japan, Detective Conan is not just a mystery show. It's a family show, with a very wide audience. I've been lucky enough to see the films in Japanese theaters three times now, and at an afternoon showing you'll see groups of children in the audience, but the evening showings will feature couples and many, many adults. The fact that The Darkest Nightmare became the highest-grossing film in the franchise shows that the audience still loves these flicks.


Kodama Kenji, known for his work on the classic anime series City Hunter, was the director of the first seven Detective Conan films, and his films are fairly classic whodunnit films, with usually about two large set pieces to give it the necessary action movie feel (the set pieces usually happen halfway and at the climax). The whodunnit plots were the main driving power of these films however. Yamamoto Yasuichirou took over with 2004's Magician of the Silver Sky, and his direction was definitely more action-focused, with more set pieces set at diverse settings like planes, ships and a snowy mountain. The mystery plots in turn were simplified, with usually less murders per film. The latest change in directors came in 2013, when Shizuno Koubun became main director, and his films are marked by ridiculously over-the-top action and even less a focus on a whodunnit plot. Films like 2013's Private Eye on the Distant Sea and 2014's The Dimensional Sniper are more thriller than detective at times and while they're absolutely fun to see as action movies, they are very, very different from the more sober classic mystery films early in the film franchise.


2016's The Darkest Nightmare continues this line set by Shizuno. The script, penned by Sakurai Takeharu who also wrote Private Eye in the Distant Sea and Sunflowers of Inferno, does not even feature a murder mystery! The Darkest Nightmare is from start to end a gripping spy action thriller, about various government organizations and the Black Organization trying to outwit each other as they all hunt after the mysterious woman and the stolen NOC-list. It's more James Bond than Detective Conan, to be honest, but I did really enjoy this film. For a large part it's because this film is so strongly connected to the main storyline of the comic. Usually, the films are set in their own little world and have their own atmosphere, but this film really felt like one of those grand storylines that feature the Black Organization, like volume 49's Black Impact, volume 57's The Clash of Red and Black and volume 85's The Scarlet Truth. It reminds of the thirteenth film, The Raven Chaser, which also featured a Black Organization-focused story, but The Darkest Nightmare does not feature a murder mystery subplot that dilutes the impact of the Organization's presence. And while director Shizuno definitely does not go for realistic action in his films, I have to say his action set pieces are absolutely thrilling to watch. It's ridiculously over the top, but in a good way.

The fact this film is so much about various organizations from the Detective Conan universie going against each other does make this one a fairly inaccessible one. I would never recommend watching this film without being up-to-date with the corresponding manga storyline. The earlier Detective Conan films are much, much better as an introduction to the series. The Darkest Nightmare is great for the fans, less so for newcomers. Oh, and after years of awful guest voice actors in the Detective Conan films, I have to say actress Amami Yuuki did a fairly good job as the mysterious woman! (Let me remind you that Eikura Nana was awful in Sunflowers of Inferno)


The Darkest Nightmare is also a great Gundam film. Mobile Suit Gundam is an iconic science-fiction animated series from 1979 which is grown out to a gigantic franchise. Its influence on Japanese popular culture is basically what Star Wars or Star Trek was to American popular culture. Gundam is everywhere and everybody knows it. Sequels and spin-off series are still made to this day (in fact, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is running right now on TV). Two rival characters in the Detective Conan universe are actually based on Amuro and Char, respectively the protagonist and antagonist of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, and these characters are even voiced by the original voice actors of Amuro and Char. The rivalry between Amuro and Char, and their voice actors, is thus given new life in Detective Conan, and especially in The Darkest Nightmare, which is full of little Gundam references. Already from the first chase scene on, we see these characters drive off in white and red sports cars, mirroring the colors of the Mobile Suits (gigantic robot suits) Amuro and Char use in Mobile Suit Gundam, and they even get to fight over a woman and basically have to stop a Colony Drop. Seriously, the more I think about, the more I'm convinced I didn't watch a Detective Conan movie, but a Gundam movie. Furuya Tooru, the voice actor of the character based on Amuro, even confessed that during the voice recording session for The Darkest Nightmare, he accidently cried out Char's name during a fight scene, recalling his iconic role!

So in short: I really enjoyed Detective Conan: The Darkest Nightmare as an action-packed thriller featuring many characters from the Detective Conan universe, which also doubles as a Gundam movie, but it's also very different from what you'd actually expect from a Detective Conan movie. There isn't even much detecting going around here. It's definitely not the movie to use if you want to introduce a friend to Detective Conan, but as a piece of entertainment for the fans, The Darkest Nightmare was really, really awesome.

Original Japanese title(s): 『名探偵コナン 純黒の悪夢(ナイトメア)』

10 comments :

  1. Finally! The review I've been waiting for!

    I, myself, am quite disappointed when i watched it in the theater. Being a 20th Conan movie also featuring a story about black organization, I thought it will outdid The Raven Chaser. Then reality struck.. and i could only say, "what?"

    Now I'm wondering if they'll bring back good old Conan Movie with a tricky and clever whodunnit? Or will they continue this action-packed full of nonsense?

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    1. I can definitely understand it if The Darkest Nightmare didn't quite hit the right spot for you, as it's really different from a 'traditional' Conan film. I rewatched some of the older films earlier this year, and they really are much more like theaterical versions of the manga, with a sober mystery plot, while somewhere around Quarter of Silence/The Eleventh Striker, the style made a switch to the current action-driven thriller with its own unique atmosphere.

      Setting aside whether you like the current director's style or not though, I think The Darkest Nightmare is his best film until now, as it fits perfectly with everything he obviously wants to do. I loved The Dimensional Sniper, but even that featured a whodunnit plot. Now Shizuno has gotten rid of even that, but the result is a very focused action thriller, that doesn't try to juggle several things at the same time (like The Raven Chaser or Countdown to Heaven).

      As a twentieth film it might be a bit out of place though, I agree, especially considering the fact they did do something special with the tenth movie (which featured the largest cast of recurring characters of all films).

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    2. The tenth is the one in the amusement park right? The one with Ran and Detective Boys held as a hostage (even though they didn't know it, except Haibara)? I forgot the title..

      Yup, i totally agree about The Dimensional Sniper. I can forgive the action-packed scene when they also provide some mystery to solve.

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  2. They're at twenty already?! I really, really have to catch up with these movies, because I am now eight movies behind. But in my defense, Jolly in the Deep Azure was so dull and slow-moving that I feel like I only just finished watching it.

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    1. You're around volume 58 of the manga right? That volume was released in the period when Jolly Roger was released in Japan, so in a way, you're still up-to-date ;) You could watch a movie once every four, five volumes, so following the original Japanese release schedule of the manga and the movies.

      In terms of spoilers, The Dimensional Sniper (18) and The Darkest Nightmare (20) are best seen after volume 85, but otherwise you're safe, IIRC.

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  3. whatever, it's not even canon

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    1. While it's the true the events in the movies have no direct influence on the storylines in the manga, they are not completely seperate universes.

      In fact, Aoyama has supervised the production of every single movie since the very first one, and they are always based on concepts and ideas offered by Aoyama (especially those he wants to use, but can't do in the manga). He supervises the script, rewrites dialogue, checks all key frames and even draws several of them for each film. He also offers exclusive canon ideas to the movies that explain events in the manga, like how The Fourteenth Target explained why Kogorou and Eri live seperately now.

      For The Darkest Nightmare for example, Aoyama has commented he has wanted do the 'Amuro VS Char' thing for a long time now, but he couldn't because action-packed scenes just take up too many panels in a chapter to really work. A bit of background story in The Darkest Nightmare also comes directly from Aoayama, and he drew the key frames for that scene. He also said he actually already told the director and the producer of the films and anime who the boss of the Black Organization is, so they know how to stay away from creating contradictions now (as opposed to early on in the TV series).

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    2. Really ? he told them who the boss is ?

      that's interesting

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  4. This movie was fantastic I can't even remember the last time I was on the edge of my seat watching an anime before. MAYBE Death Note in.. 2009 or so. Even still I believe this movie was a fantaaaastic addition to the franchise, bringing back Haibaras BO sense, Matsuda plotline with Amuro in the Academy (one of the hints for him being part of the PSB), Conan, Amuro, Akai teamwork.

    And if they manage to oull out an impressive case next year; as it's a Heiji movie? I cant even wait.

    By the way. I noticed Conan saying "You cant run from your destiny" - a plot point Vermouth brought up when she was about to excecute curacacio(?) and that "Destiny" was stopped by RUM appearing as data to save her. I thinkbtjay was an amazing way to subtly show that "this is the main antagonist right now in the story." As RUM went against what Conan stood for.

    Fantastic, loved it.

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    1. Yeah, I was really surprised how much I enjoyed the film, considering the fact it was not really a mystery movie in the first place, and also considering I really, really disliked Sunflowers of Inferno. Looking forward to the Hattori one. I assume that one will be a bit more like The Dimensional Sniper, with two detectives working on a case. I'm quite curious to see how a Shizuno-directed take on a Crossroads in the Ancient Capital-esque setting will turn out.

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