Monday, August 29, 2016

Summer Memories

step by step あせることなんてないのさ
case by case わらわれたってかまわない 
「Step by Step」(Ziggy)

Step by Step / There is no need to get impatient
Case by Case / I don't mind getting laughed at
"Step by Step" (Ziggy)

If you just stop and think about it. Detective Conan is a detective series that has been running (basically) non-stop for over twenty years. According to the official Detective Conan website, the last story included in this volume is the 277th story in the whole series! (And there are more chapters that have not been collected in a volume yet). It's amazing how many mystery stories Aoyama Goushou has written (and illustrated) and while not every story is an instant masterpiece, the overal quality and consistency is actually very impressive. Few mystery writers come even close, and that's assuming there iseven such a person around.

While Detective Conan 89 was overall a very amusing volume, it did not feature any stories that were related to the larger storylines of the series. Detective Conan 90, released mid-August 2016, is perhaps the mirror image of the previous volume. It is again an entertaining volume with mostly short stories that have neat ideas in terms of mystery plot, but this volume definitely has something to do with the main storyline. In fact, almost all stories included in this volume have to do with Conan's everlasting quest of fighting the Black Organization who turned him into a child. The volume starts with the remaining chapters of The Message Cut Out With Scissors, which started in the previous volume. A man was found murdered in the annex building of his home, with a pair of scissors in his hand. The pair of scissors are an invention of Dr. Agasa, and the man is called by the police to see if he can help, with Conan and Okiya tagging along, because the case has some similarities with the mysterious murder on Haneda Kouji, who was erased by the Black Organization seventeen years ago. Conan and Okiya suspect the man who discovered the body, but there is one problem: no murder weapon was found, and he could not have brought one with him, as he had been searched before entering the annex. The solution is pretty smart, but the execution is not flawless. The way the murderer left hints and rather incriminating evidence behind is rather silly, especially considering he basically pulled off an impossible crime perfectly, only to make such a elementary mistake after the deed. The hints that should guide the reader to the solution are also rather vague, and incoherent.

In The Unexpected Neighbor of the Spirit Detective, Mouri Kogorou is challenged by a Spirit Detective for a TV program, claiming he can summon the spirit of Haneda Kouji and reveal something new in this old murder case. Conan, Kogorou and the TV director however find the Spirit Detective murdered in his hotel room, and chase a shadow who jumps from the balcony to the next room. Conan is surprised to find high school detective Sera Masumi staying in the room next door, while Sera is trying to keep the Unknown Girl hidden from Conan. Sera joins the investigation, and the result is a story that is just so-so in terms of mystery (it's sorta an impossible crime story, but it's all rather obvious, especially as we're already in the 90th volume of the series), but the story offers enough other thrills as Conan starts to get on the trail of the Unknown Girl.

In the previous stories, Conan and Okiya discovered that the high-ranking Black Organization member Rum was involved with the murder on Haneda, and that Rum used the name "Asaca". The word "Asaca" is also the title of a new song by musician Hado Rokumichi. The Truth Behind The Betrayal starts with Okiya and Conan heading out to attend an open rehearsal of Hado, hoping to find out more about Asaca, but the Black Organization is also aware of this mention of Asaca, as both Amuro and Vermouth (in disguise) are present at the rehearsal too. Hado however is found dead in the concert hall, hung high up in the air, but none of the suspects appear to have been able to pull the body that high up. Okiya, Conan and Amuro all investigate the murder, and Amuro is getting more and more suspicious of Okiya's true identity. The mystery of Hado's murder is rather disappointing though: in its most basic form, the solution makes sense, but Aoyama makes it unneccesary complex with trivia, that make the whole story less satisfying.

The volume ends with the first chapters of The Legend of the Nue of Yadori Village, which has Hattori, Kazuha, a Nue (a chimaera-esque youkai), the hunt for the Tokugawa treasure and an old hotel somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Yes, it's fun.

I haven't been reading this series from the very start, but I have been following the series 'real-time' for quite some years now, and I never could have guessed back when I read this series for the first time that we'd get this far. Detective Conan 90 was nothing particularly special as a collection of mystery stories (though never really bad), but it was definitely exciting with its ties to the overall story. At this rate, we'll definitely hit 100 volumes, but I have a feeling that this series will move a bit faster the coming volumes.

Original Japanese title(s): 青山剛昌 『名探偵コナン』第90巻


  1. Ah, Conan... I was gutted when my local Kindle store withdrew its copies of Conan. :( Will you be reviewing the recent release of Kindaichi? I might be wrong, but I got the impression that this volume is different in that it contains a standalone case.

    1. Kindaichi is coming later this week. It contained one long short story (six chapters) :)

    2. I'm looking forward to the review! It seems like the next few Kindaichi volumes will contain standalone, long short, stories...

  2. When it comes to traditional mysteries, Aoyama is probably a unique case. There have been more than enough prolific mystery writers, past and present, but the consistancy in overall quality, as well as being drawing all of his stories, makes him one of a kind.

    Just for this, the series deserves a larger readership among mystery fans in the West. Sadly, the sheer size of the series scared off a lot of potential readers. US editions will publish the sixtieth volume this year.

    1. I very much enjoyed the Conan volumes I purchased via Kindle, so I'm seriously hoping that they make a return!

    2. What's especially interesting about the series is that it really has grown out to be a cultural icon of Japan and it's a gigantic multimedia franchise now. Annual films, a TV-series running throughout the year on primetime, games, it's really, really big. I don't even think someone like Poirot has this much hours of media exposure if you combine everything. Only Sherlock Holmes would have more.

  3. do you have theory about anokata identity