Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Secret Code

見えそうで見えない
キミの心のなか
過去は気にしない
タイプだけれど
「Secret Code」(KinKi Kids)

I thought I could see it, but no, I can't
Inside the depths of your heart
But I'm not the type
Who minds the past anyway
"Secret Code" (KinKi Kids)
 
The thing with serialized series like Detective Conan is that there's quite a lag between the first publication of the individual chapters, and the collected volumes. That's why a story about buying bathing suits and bikinis is published in the middle of December...

As volume 91 of Detective Conan was released mid-December 2016, I had hoped to do this review just before the new year, but the mail was rather slow at the end of the year, as I had feared. This volume starts off with the continuation of The Legend of the Nue of Yadori Village, which started in the previous volume. Osaka-bred high school student detective Hattori and childhood friend Kazuha invite Conan and Ran to come along with Hattori's latest job to Yadori Village. Local legend has it that the hidden Tokugawa gold can be found here, but some years ago, an unfortunate accident resulted in the death of one of the treasure hunters inside a mine. When asked what he saw in the mine just before he died, he replied with the word Nue, the name of a chimaera-like youkai with the head of a monkey, the legs of a tiger, the body of raccoon dog and a snake for its tail. Since then, people stayed away from the area, in fear of the Nue. The mayor of Yadori Village wants to reinvigorate the area however, and he hopes to start a new boom in treasure hunting for the Tokugawa Gold and youkai lovers, so he has invited several people known for treasure hunting, youkai experts and a detective like Hattori to create a new promotion video which should lure in new visitors.

The party is staying in an old abandoned hotel, where the dog of the deceased treasure hunter is also living. On the first night however, the gang is surprised by a horrible cry, followed by a fire just outside the hotel, and when they get outside, they see a gigantic monster standing next to the hotel. Following the monster inside the surrounding forest, Conan and Hattori find one of the party members killed, with horrible slashes across his body. But the night isn't over yet when the Nue strikes again, this time inside a locked room...

Overall a story with good, creepy atmosphere. The truth behind the Nue appearance isn't difficult to guess, I think, and I liked the fundamental ideas behind how the Nue was given life, but I really have my doubts about how feasible the trick is. The locked room murder was clever, though I think figuring out the whole deal about how it was pulled off is a bit difficult based on the hints given. One part of the magic for example involves something I sorta heard about once, but I could never have guessed it could be used in this way, and it kinda comes out of nowhere. The story also ends with a very short introduction of a new, recurring character with a tie to Hattori who will also play an important role in the 2017 Detective Conan theatrical release. The way she is shown is utterly ridiculous and feels incredibly forced.

The second story, The Contents of the Puzzle Box, has a widow asking old Suzuki Jiroukichi for help. Her husband left her an old puzzle box, with a grand Moonstone inside.The problem is that she doesn't know how to open the (booby-trapped) box. She knows her husband had hidden a note with the way to open it inside one of his books, but she could never find it and his books are now donated to the Suzuki Grand Library. Because Jiroukichi can't find the note either, and doesn't know how to open the box, he decides to lure phantom thief KID to his library, challenging him to open the box to steal the Moonstone (Jiroukichi of course plans to catch KID after he has opened the box). The story is part impossible situation, part whodunit. The impossible angle comes from the fact nobody is able to find the note, even though the widow is sure it's inside of her husband's collection (of at least 10.000 books). The solution is kinda hard to swallow: I really doubt that the trick would've gone undetected in a serious search. The whodunit angle comes from the fact KID is (as always) disguised as someone of the main cast. The clues pointing to KID's identity are fairly simple this time, and I think most people will figure them out, though I think they are done in a decent manner that does show that the visual medium does offer a lot of possibilities not available to 'normal' novels.
 
A Secret Code Across Time is set at Teitan Elementary School, where Conan's class is introduced to Wakasa Rumi, a new assistant teacher who'll be working together with teacher Kobayashi. Conan and the Detective Boys accompany their teacher to the old shed, because she's too afraid to go on her own inside the decrepit building, which hasn't been used for a decade. While searching for the materials she needs, Conan discovers a skeletonized body inside the cellar room, as well as a mysterious piece of paper with some kind of coded message. It appears the deceased was a thief who had died inside that cellar ten years ago, and that the code might be connected to his loot, but as Conan investigates the case, he fails to notice that his new teacher Wakasa might be more than she appears at first sight....

First of all, I'm not sure whether I should be surprised or not that Teitan Elementary School has been the home to a dead body for ten years, without anyone discovering it. I think I should be more surprised than I actually am. I am usually fairly indifferent about code cracking stories, but this one gets bonus points because I got a fairly good idea of the premise behind it fairly quickly. I do like several very plausible-looking theories are proposed as to how the code should be interpreted, and that the final solution incorporates elements of all the earlier theories. The story does forces the idiot ball on several characters though, including Conan.

Volume 91 ends with the first two chapters of The Message Of The Fitting Room, which is about Ran, Sonoko and Sera in bathing suits a woman strangled inside the fitting room of a clothing boutique and the dying message she left with the fingers. I have an idea of what the message might mean, but I won't learn about the solution until the next volume, which will be released in April (together with the 2017 Detective Conan film). This story also serves as a hook for an important story in the next volume, which should finally show us the details about how Sera actually first met Conan and Ran when they were kids (which had been hinted at for quite some time now).

Detective Conan 91 was fairly subdued compared to the previous volume, in which most stories had some connection to the plotline of Conan chasing after the mysterious character RUM. Things are not as tense in this volume, with amusing, but predictable stories with Hattori and KID, and a brief introduction to two new female characters who probably turn out to be very important later. Considering the preview, and the fact it's the volume released together with the 2017 film, I expect volume 92 will be a much more densely packed volume, so let's consider this one the enjoyable silent moment before the storm.

Original Japanese title(s): 青山剛昌 『名探偵コナン』第91巻

5 comments :

  1. Oh, great, now everytime I read a story, set at their school, I can't help but be aware of the skeleton wasting away beneath their feet. And I am only at vol. 58 (I think).

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    1. Well, there might be a chance you'll have already forgotten about this by the time you get to 91 :P

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  2. Hello! Just wondering if there will be a review of Kindaichi R vol. 11 soon? I believe it completes 白蛇蔵殺人事件 that began in vol. 10.

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    1. Hey! I'm afraid I won't be reviewing it anytime soon. I'm even afraid that it might become a double review for both volumes 11 and 12 (which should release in March), but only in April/May together with the April volume of Conan :/

      If I could just walk over to the shop next door and pick the volumes up for their set prices, I'd go right away, but as I always have to think in "orders" (with shipping costs/shipping time etc.), some of my planned purchases sometimes get pushed back... Sorry for the wait!

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    2. Will await the Kindaichi review with eagerness. :D

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