Sunday, August 30, 2015

Growing of My Heart

「忘れ咲き」(Garnet Crow)

That day you looked all grown-up even though you were still a boy
I was unable to say goodbye, hidden beneath my umbrella
Misunderstandings, what-ifs...
Sometimes these feelings bloom late
"Wasurezaki" (Garnet Crow)

The last couple of years, I've been grouping reviews of the new volumes of Detective Conan together with those of The Young Kindachi Case Files in short short reviews, as their release dates were always on more-or-less the same day. But a slight change in publication schedules has come up, so I'll probably discuss two volumes of Young Kindaichi next month. Anyway, this is the first full-length standalone review of a Detective Conan volume in over a year!

Detective Conan manga & movies:
Part 1: Volumes 1 ~ 10
Part 2: Volumes 11~20; The Timebombed Skysraper (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)
(You will find the links to the reviews of volume 70, 72~76, 78, 82~86, and the films Quarter of Silence (15), The Eleventh Striker (16), Private Eye in the Distant Sea (17), Dimensional Sniper (18) in the library)

With almost 90 volumes out, Detective Conan has become a rather stable factor in my life. Every two, three months I'll check whether a new volume with the pint-sized detective is out, order and read it, and then wait again. Rinse and repeat. The release of volume 87 took a bit longer than usual however, because Aoyama Goushou had to go to the hospital for an operation in March. While usually a chapter is released every week (meaning there's enough material for a new volume every two/three months), the series had to go into a short hiatus (which was filled with reprints of older Conan chapters) in March/April so Aoyama could recover. And with a delayed serialization of the chapters, volume 87 was also delayed slightly. Anyway, volume 87 opens with the last two chapters in the long-running Kawanakajima Murder Case which started the previous volume. As practially always with stories featuring Inspector Yamato and Morofushi of the Nagano Prefecture Police, this is a dark serial murder case: this time a cop-killer is on the loose and Inspector Yamato is the main suspect, as the case appears to be connected to the death of an old childhood friend of Yamato's, who was killed by a trigger-happy policeman many years ago. Meanwhile, Conan suspects that someone connected to the investigation might be Rum, a new Black Organization member.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed in the case actually. The story has some parallels wih volume 19's Naniwa Serial Murder Case, but never becomes really as exciting as that case. The solution to the case is also a bit convoluted: it includes vague mechanical tricks, but also hard-to-solve wordplay based on Japanese (war)-history. Granted; all cases with Yamato and Morofushi have to do with Japanese or Chinese war-history (often thematically), but this time it was going a bit far as the story expected you to deduce the identity of the murderer based on rather extensive knowledge of it. Also; the "could Yamato be a cop-killer (who leaves evidence)" plot doesn't really work here: it's already been established that Yamato and Morofushi are extremely competent and fair policemen who at times can even outsmart Conan. Even if either of them were cop-killers, they'd be much better at it! In the end, the presence of Conan wasn't really even really needed for this story, I kinda wish this had been an exclusively Yamato/Morofushi story actually.

A Blog Leading to Death is a rather standard howdunnit story: Conan and the rest of Detective Boys meet two actresses in a hotel: the two women are rivals, and co-star in a new TV drama shot at the hotel. Later, one of the actresses is found beaten to death in her hotel room, but her room key is found inside (and there's no auto-lock). Conan suspects the other actress is the murderer, but has to overcome two obstacles: how was the room locked from the inside and where's the murder weapon? This is not a particularly inspiring story, with basically all elements (including the trick) lifted from previous stories. Yet, there's something alluring in the fact as how Aoyama "updated" it all. This is definitely a 2015 story, and could not possibly have been written, 10, 15 years ago. Detective Conan has been running for over twenty years, and it is interesting to see how Aoyama keeps the series close to the modern day society, using concepts and objects from now, and not from many years ago. Still, I wish he had used these 'new' elements in an original story, rather than in a redressed old story.

With 87 volumes, I don't think you'd be surprised if I tell you I think the cast of Detective Conan is slighly bloated, but this is the first time in 87 volumes I had no memories whatsoever of a recurring character. Even after looking up in which volumes/stories she appeared, I still can't really remember her.

The concept of Ran GIRL & Shinichi BOY is also something Conan-fans are familiar with: a story set in the past focusing on the relation between Ran and Shinichi (before the latter was turned back into a kid and had to assume the Conan identity). Basically every Conan movie features some sort of flashback. Ran GIRL & Shinichi BOY is special in the sense that it focuses on the very first time Ran and Shinichi met. It is a cute story set at nursery school and has links with the everyday life mystery genre, with a young Shinichi having suspicions about one of the teachers at the nursery school.

This was a fun story: the plot structure is completely original and something Aoyama has never done before and it works out really great for this story. The mystery itself is a bit underwhelming (which is often with everyday life mysteries), but the storytelling really makes up for it. One big problem I have with the story is with how the kids are portrayed though. There is NO WAY kids at nursery school talk and behave like that. Shinichi in particular is obnoxiously impossible as a kid. I don't read Detective Conan for the realistic portrayal of children (c.f. the Detective Boys), but nursery school Shinichi is reeaaaaaally impossible to believe.

The volume ends with the first chapters of The Secret of the Big Couple, which in theory is about a murder on the owner of a restaurant, but in reality is about a rumor of soccer player Higo and idol singer Youko dating, and the hilarious jealousy of Mouri Kogorou (Youko's number 1 fan) and.... Haibara, who apparently is a really, really, really big fan of Higo. Seriously, I don't even care about the murder anymore, I just want to see more grumpy Haibara.

All in all a more-than-decent volume. Detective Conan 87 does start off in a predictable manner, which isn't really surprising after that many volumes, but Ran GIRL & Shinichi BOY shows that Aoyama still dares to do new things with his storytelling. Just looking at the puzzle plots, I'd say this is a below-average volume, as none of the stories have really shocking plots or tricks, but the second half of this volume shows so much potential for future writing, I can't help but feel pleased with this volume.

Original Japanese title(s): 青山剛昌 『名探偵コナン』第87巻


  1. Looking forward to the Kindaichi review! :) The translation of Kindaichi R vol. 6 only just got released, and so I'm envying Japanese readership who are able to get their hands on vol. 7...

    1. Volume 7 was released last weekend, so with shipping and stuff, the review of 6&7'll probably come early next month. Lately, I've felt that single volumes of Kindaichi Shounen were a bit lacking (as stories often carry over to the following volume), so I'm actually quite excited to read two volumes in one turn now!

  2. Yes, I find it hard to enjoy one volume on its own as it tends to leave you either hanging, or plunge you in the middle of a mystery read a few months ago. As such, I have resorted to waiting for the mystery to be completed before starting on it - which means I get to indulge in Kindaichi only once every 1.5 volumes. Happy reading!

  3. I think this new Big Boss character of the Nagano department is showing some great potential. The police from there have been thinking that Conan is the one behind sleeping Kogoro since the get-go, so I'm very interested in seeing where this is going to lead with a much more bigger figure character making his appearance. Seems kind of different type of build up in this RUM arc compared to other arcs (not necessarily main-story related build up going on with Nagano PD but for that we have to just Stay Tuned).

    1. I think it's a bit early to say how this arc will build, as at the moment, I think it's still kinda like how Bourbon was done (first name, then bunch of suspects who seem to fit the profile). Aoyama noted even he wasn't sure whether he would stay within 100 volumes like he had said earlier, but I'm rather curious to how long the Rum storyline will be. Personally, I wouldn't really mind moving towards a finale.