Saturday, December 10, 2016



Turn the roulette of destiny
Thinking deeply about this or that is a mystery
Look, your person of destiny is over there
Always looking at you
"Turn the Roulette of Destiny" (Zard)

"My name is Kudou Shinichi, a high school student detective. When I went to the amusement park with my childhood friend and classmate Mouri Ran, I witnessed a suspicious deal involving a man dressed completely in black. I was concentrating so hard on the deal, I didn't notice one of their comrades sneaking up on me from behind. That man made me take a drug, and when I woke up, my body had shrunken!"

Fans of the manga/anime Detective Conan will be very familiar with these lines, as every theatrical release of Detective Conan starts off with this short monologue that summarizes the premise of the long-running series for those who don't know it yet. This is actually quite unique. Few film series this long will take the time to explain series lore to first time viewers. They'll either expect you to get along right away, or Go Back To Start. But this usually backfires with longer series, as series lore does form a steep obstacle at times to jump in, and expecting people to start from the beginning and make it all the way to the current state is a bit too much, especially if if we're talking about a series that has been running for over twenty years. So it's actually quite nice of the Detective Conan films to carefully explain the most important parts of lore (that pertain to the story) for every film.
The original manga (comic) of Detective Conan started in 1994, with an animated series (and annual theatrical releases) following in 1996. It's therefore been over twenty years since animated Detective Conan started. And when you think about it, it's not strange if many viewers of Conan have actually never seen the very first episodes/chapters. Especially in Japan, where the manga is serialized and the animated series is broadcast weekly on TV, it's quite possible for a regular viewer to have never seen earlier episodes, as opposed to viewers abroad who usually have to purchase the series as comic books or home video release, and these people usually start at the beginning. How to fix that? Easy: show the viewers the beginning of the tale yourselves again.

To celebrate twenty years of animated Conan, a special was broadcast on December 9, 2016, outside its usual block. Detective Conan Episode "ONE" - Chiisaku Natta Meitantei ("Detective Conan Episode "ONE" - The Shrunken Great Detective") is a 90-minute long animated remake of the first couple of episodes that explained how high school student Kudou Shinichi turned into a child with the name Edogawa Conan. At the start of the special which was supervised by original creator Aoyama Goushou, we're introduced to Shinichi and his childhood friend Ran. Shinichi has been making a name for himself as a brilliant amateur detective, and he hopes to become the Sherlock Holmes of modern times. One day, he promises Ran, his childhood friend and secret crush (the feelings are mutual, even though they daren't confess to each other), he'll take her to the amusement park Tropical Land if she manages to win an upcoming karate tournement. Little did Shinichi know though that accidently witnessing a shady deal of some mysterious men dressed in black would change his life forever.

To be absolutely honest, I hesitated about writing a review on this special. Because at the core, Episode "ONE" is not a mystery story. While the special is indeed based on the first two chapters/episodes of the series, known as the "The Rollercoaster Murder Case" and "The Shrunken Great Detective", the focus of the narrative is changed from the murder mystery, to Shinichi, Ran and the other characters. and the story of how Shinichi was given a drug that turned him into a child. In the twenty years since the series first started, many, many characters have been introduced, and the characters already featured in the first episode also got expanded backstories over the course of time. Episode "ONE"'s goal was to bring that larger, extended world into the first story of Detective Conan. Characters like Shinichi's parents or Ran's best friend Sonoko were for example only introduced a couple of volumes later, but are featured in Episode "ONE". So the goal of this special was to basically make the first story feel more consistent with the elements introduced later in this series, especially in regards to characters.

Most of these insertions are pretty natural too, and they won't bother people who don't know the characters, but they do add something extra for the fans. Having Inspector Takagi assist Chief Inspector Megure in this special works for example, even though Takagi's original first appearance wouldn't be until much later in this series. Or seeing newscaster Mizunashi Rena presenting the news on TV, even though she made her first appearance in volume 48. It all helps make the world feel a bit more consistent. Some revelations regarding the events in this story which were only touched relatively recently in the series (the last two years or so) were also included, once again strengthening the timeline. Details of the amusement park date of Shinichi and Ran has also been expanded upon in later productions, like the 2000 theatrical release Captured In Her Eyes, and these elements have also been incorporated in the tale of Episode "ONE".

The 'problem' with Episode "ONE" is precisely this focus on the characters though. This special has no real storyline to kept you hooked throughout the ninety minutes. Yes, Shinichi solves no less than two murders over the course of the special, but they are more like a bonus. There is no introduction, build-up and climax of a story in a classic sense. The special is simply busy with introducing the viewer to a wide cast of characters, and at the end Shinichi is turned into a child, calls himself Edogawa Conan, goes off living with Ran and her father and then it ends, contuining in the rest of the series. The 2014 special The Disappearance of Edogawa Conan might not have been a conventional detective story, but at least that was a decent mystery story. The twentieth film Detective Conan: The Darkest Nightmare (2016) was perhaps one of the most character-focused films of late, but the driving plot there was a spy thriller. Episode "ONE" however is more like 'A Day In The Life Of...'. I mentioned that most of the expanded character introductions work in this special, but there are still some that make no sense if you only watch this special. Mentioning characters like Bourbon, Chianti or Korn at this point adds absolutely nothing to the plot of Episode "ONE".

The murders featured in the special are the infamous Rollercoaster Murder Case by the way, from the first episode/chapter of the manga, and an expanded version of the one you see in the first three, four pages of the first chapter. The details of the Rollercoaster Murder Case have not been changed, and is still a visually impressive, but slightly hard-to-believe murder.

So is Episode "ONE" just fanservice? Well, yes, mostly. But there is a reason why I decided I'd write a review anyway for the blog. The reason is basically what I mentioned at the start of this post. If people don't feel like going through twenty years of Detective Conan just to get to where the series is now, I do think Episode "ONE" works as a good introduction, as it shows the connections to the various characters and parties in this series much better than the original first episodes on their own. Episode "ONE" introduces most of the major characters in one way or another and from there it's easier to jump into the series. I guess that this is also the real goal of Episode "ONE", to provide a new basic entry point for people.

Oh, and a nice touch for long-time fans was the opening theme, as well as the insert song! ZARD was a singer very strongly involved with Detective Conan, so it was great to her voice again in a recent Conan production.

I would not call Detective Conan Episode "ONE" - The Shrunken Great Detective a must-see by any means. For longtime fans, the material included is basically all known already. It is a fairly amusing refresher course though (I had for example already forgotten how Kyogoku first got to know Sonoko). For people who don't know the series, I do think Episode "ONE" might be misreprensenting the series slightly, as it does not really present itself as a mystery story, but it does a decent job as a revised introduction for a very long series.

Original Japanese title(s): 青山剛昌(原) 『名探偵コナン エピソード"ONE" 小さくなった名探偵』

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