Monday, October 18, 2021


"I can't believe it has come to this..."
"Detective Conan"

Today is the release day of volume 100 of Aoyama Goushou's Detective Conan, one of the biggest detective franchises to have ever graced this world and while I'll still have to wait for my copy to be delivered, I figured this might be the best occassion to look back on this long, long-running series. It was in 1994 when high school student detective Kudou Shinichi accidentally became witness to a shady deal, got caught by two men of the Black Organization and fed an experimental drug that was supposed to kill him. Instead he was turned into a child and while staying low as "Edogawa Conan" with his childhood friend/love interest Mouri Ran and her private detective father Kogorou (who don't know his real identity), Conan tries to find a way to turn back into his old self and catch the Black Organization, figuring that the easiest way is to secretly help Kogorou solve as many cases as possible, as this will likely bring him on another lead connected to the Organization. More than 25 years later and 100 volumes down the story, Conan still hasn't succeeded in his goal completely, but readers have been treated to more than 300 different mystery stories that have been consistent in quality, with regularly brilliant entries. And I'm just talking about the original comic here! With an arguably even bigger animated series that adapts the comic, but also has original stories and an incredibly succesful series of annual animated theatrical releases, Detective Conan (or Case Closed as it's known in select regions) is commercially probably the biggest active detective franchise at the moment worldwide. 

When I reviewed volume 99 in April, I mentioned that "the special occassion is a great excuse to do a special Conan-themed post" and I got suggestions like a list of Top 10 stories/tricks or at a greater scale, looking at Detective Conan's influence on Japanese mystery fiction in general. But I think the suggestion to look back at when I started with the series and how my thoughts on the series have changed over the years, and how the series itself has changed over these years resonated the best with me. For while I haven't been reading Detective Conan since the very start, I have been with the series for about twenty years now, and it's also been a large part of this blog in general (it's the series with the most tag entries by far!). Heck, this blog probably wouldn't have existed without Conan: it was also the series that introduced me to a lot of mystery fiction, as the individual volume releases include an Encyclopedia of Great Detectives each time that introduces various fictional detectives, both Japanese and non-Japanese, and it were the names I first saw in these entries that got me interested in Japanese (prose) mystery fiction, and now many years later, there's this blog and I even translate these novels myelf. So perhaps it's time for a bit of reminiscing.

I don't remember the exact year, but it was around 2000 that I had my first encounter with the franchise through the second animated film: Detective Conan: The Fourteenth Target, which I still consider one of the best films of the series. It's an excellent introduction to the series, as it incorporates a lot of the recurring characters of the series (at that moment in time), but their appearances are actually heavily tied to the plot, as the film deals with a series of murders on people connected to Mouri Kogorou. The story is a nice serial killer whodunnit (with a very memorable motive for the murders!) that is tenseful and also cleverly connected to the background stories of the main characters, while also having just enough action to really sell the "theatrical release" feel. The film had me hooked, so then I watched the first movie, and from there I started reading the manga, which by that time was already around volume 35-40 in Japan. At the time, the easiest way for me to read Detective Conan, besides scanlations, was either through the French or German releases: German was infinitely easier for me to read than French and with the help of a friend (whom I'm ever grateful to), I found a shop that would actually import German comics for me and once in a few months I'd binge-buy Detektiv Conan volumes. Which incidentally also greatly improved my grades for German at school. Thank you, Conan.

So what was it that captivated me so? For me, Detective Conan: The Fourteenth Target was an eye-opener in the sense that it was the first original animated detective story I had ever seen that actually dealt with murder and death: besides some Sherlock Holmes cartoons and Basil of Baker Street (where there's no death), I had seen none. That combined with the James Bond-esque gadgets and occassional over-the-top action got me hooked, but the manga was more subdued in tone of course. Being a comic serialized in Shonen Sunday, it's no surprise it has clear rom-com roots, but the stories featured in the comic were also quite memorable as detective stories. Early stories like The Piano Sonata "Moonlight" Murder Case brought us to creepy islands with serial murders or to mountain villas with murderers who decapitate their victims. While the earliest stories might not be exceptional by any standard in terms of originality in plot, plots greatly improve after the aforementioned The Piano Sonata "Moonlight" Murder Case, with several brilliant tricks that could have featured in any classic of the genre: the impossible hanging of a monk that only a Tengu could have done is one of the more memorable early entries for example. One notable thing about Conan is of course that it's not always murder, and there are a lot of puzzle/quiz stories, or treasure hunt stories too, which help make the series feel diverse. One important aspect Detective Conan did perfectly since the beginning was the use of visual clewing: the visual format allows for different possibilities than the prose format and mangaka Aoyama's solid artwork has been used very deviously to literally place clues right in front of your eyes, and still you're likely to miss them. Readers who mostly read detective novels might have to adjust to Detective Conan at first, as it's not just the text in the balloons that's important, but also what is shown in a panel and how, but Aoyama's been great at using the visual traits of the medium. This is especially the case when it comes to stories that feature mechanical tricks for for example locked room murders: even complex Rube Goldberg-esque string & needle tricks are shown very naturally and often, the reader is given a better chance at solving these kinds of stories because they have a better idea of the actual layout of a room/building. I have a feeling these more "complex" locked room murders are more prominently seen in "waves": there were a lot of these impossible stories in Detective Conan like after volume 15, and after a few years you'd get a period with fewer of those stories, and then they'd be back for a while again.

One of my favorite aspects of Detective Conan however is that besides "classic locations" like manors, isolated islands and modes of transportation like trains and ships, the series is often very contemporary and urban, and that is also reflected in its mystery plots. This makes Detective Conan one of the most diverse detective series, because it can very naturally go to any setting and it still feels natural. Personally, I love the urban setting of Conan a lot. While the locations in the earliest stories often feel a bit "isolated", you already get a glimpse of modern urban when Conan is confronted with a murder case occuring inside a karaoke box, with people singing and going and out of the room all the time and once the animated series started and the first film was made in 1996-1997, Aoyama knew he had a hit at hand and started to build more on more on the fictional setting of "Beika Town", setting more and more cases in this fictional part of Tokyo. Because of that, we also see more recurring locations and with them, recurring characters. Detective Conan has a gigantic fictional world nowadays, because Aoyama does re-use locations and characters, so a classmate of Ran who's only mentioned in an earlier story might turn up for real another time with a case for Ran's father, or a television director who was a suspect in an earlier story might return in another story involved with the media. It makes the world feel alive, but also allows the series countless of possibilities to bring Conan to a certain setting. A series like Columbo or Murder, She Wrote also feature a lot of diverse story settings, but Conan has an ever wider range, as it also has a lot of stories featuring children. The contemporary, urban setting is also reflected in the mystery plots, which is also an aspect which sets Detective Conan apart. The series started in 1994, and we're now in 2021. The reader will know consumer society has changed drastically. Fads came and went, as did technology. In 1994, few people would have had internet at homes, then we went through dial-up modems on desktops with their iconic dial-up tune, then we got small i-Mode pages on select phones and now probably more than half of the readers of this blog are reading this very article on a mobile device. Unlike most detective series however, Detective Conan is a series that has been serialized from the beginning, being published at a pace of (in theory) one chapter a week. Because of that and the contemporary urban setting, consumer technology has always been a part of Detective Conan and it's a joy to read detective stories that don't pretend like modern technology like mobiles have made a detective puzzle story impossible because old tropes can't be used as-is anymore. Detective Conan embraces whatever modern society considers "the norm" and uses whatever is available to the modern man living in contemporary society to present an entertaining detective story. Tablets, the Internet of Things, smartphones, chat applications: why should a detective story pretend like we don't use these things all the time? In Detective Conan, modern technology is not a "cheat", but used in the same way as "telephones" or "trains" in Golden Age detective stories: the norm and nothing out of the ordinary for both the culprit and the detective. And because Detective Conan is such a long-running story with a rolling time-line (ergo: the story is always set in the same "present", whether it's a story from 1994 or from 2021), it also serves as an interesting reflection of how the world around all of us has changed too, and how it has changed the possibilities for the modern puzzle plot detective story.

I have seen some mystery bloggers approach Detective Conan who seem more familiar with American comics, not realizing that Conan is a serialized, on-going series that is released in chapters. Without that knowledge, the fact that stories are often "cut off" only to continue in the next volume might seem weird, but that's what happens with an ongoing story. For the fact that the series features an ongoing narrative is of course also quite unique for a detective series. Some stories form a set together, like a budding love story between the police detectives Takagi and Sato that develops over the course of several stories involving the Homicide division of the Metropolitan Police Department, while the phantom thief KID appears once in a while in heist stories with an impossible crime element. While the bulk of the cases in this series have no direct relation to the overall main story, Conan's path has crossed that of the Black Organization a lot of times in these 100 volumes and the story has grown to a much larger scale than you'd suspect readin the first volume. The ongoing serialized nature of the series has allowed for some memorable stories that take their time build up foreshadowing/clues. As I mentioned before, when I started reading the manga the Japanese release was around volume 40 and I remember that the Halloween story in volume 42 was one of the biggest events of the series, showing off what Aoyama could do with this format: while on the surface, the story involves a murder case happening during a Halloween party, the reader is also treated to a grand face-off between Conan and a member of the Black Organization, which recontextualized a lot of the events that had occured until then. While the attentive reader might have noticed something had been brewing for the last few years, it was at this point that Aoyama revealed he had been plotting this confrontation for years, hiding relevant clues and information necessary to solve the plot here in various previous stories, even stories that at first sight seemed irrelevant to the overall plot. The way Aoyama showed how he could patiently build a proper detective story over the course of many years was impressive and he'd use this technique more often in the rest of the series, where he'd have larger storylines develop over the course of many years and very different stories. The Scarlet Series in volume 85 for example was the conclusion of a storyline Aoyama had been working on for 7 years, dropping hints and clues now and then and allowing the reader to deduce the thing themselves, but even if you guessed what was going on, it was still incredibly satisfying to see Aoyama pull off the thing succesfully.

As mentioned before though, the series has changed a lot over the course of these years. My first encounter was through the films. While the first one I saw was The Fourteenth Target, the first one I actually saw in Japanese theatres with a friend was The Raven Chaser, which was already more thriller-ish in tone than the early movies. Especially the last ten years, these films have grown out to be (explosive!) action spectacles and the quality of the core mystery plots may vary a lot depending on the year: the mega-hit Zero the Enforcer was very unlike any other Conan film for example, but was a very entertaining political thriller and while The Crimson Love Letter follows the format we know of beloved early films like The Fourteenth Target, Captured in her Eyes and Countdown to Heaven, a film like The Fist of Blue Sapphire was more action-focused. While the manga has seen less drastic changes in tone in general, you can definitely feel changes as you go through the volumes. For example, you'll see more stories that build up the fictional world after volume 20 and after the aforementioned Halloween story in volume 42, Aoyama starts working more often on similar storylines covering several years, using minor stories to drop hints as he builds towards a climax. You're also more likely to see "classic" mystery settings like manors in the woods, small islands etc. in the first half of the series, with more urban stories in the second half of the series. Character popularity also changes, and it's often easy to pinpoint when a character suddenly explodes in popularity, because you'll see a lot of them then, even if they don't really add much to a story.

But that's perhaps the strength of Detective Conan: while the puzzler core with a rom-com tone is always intact, the series has always been quite diverse in what it offers to the reader in terms of style of detective story, offering both a broad selection, but also a selection that changes with time, and if you're a fan of puzzlers, it's likely you will find at least one story, or a set of stories, that will suit your taste. Whether it's inverted mystery stories, cozies, locked room murders, pure whodunnits, howdunnits, stories using modern technology, stories set in isolated, old-fashioned places, closed circles, political thriller, folklore-based mystery, non-lethal crimes or even non-criminal mysteries of everyday life, and anythng you can think of, there's probably at least one story in the manga, or the extended animated universe that will appeal to you. And despite that range, everything still feels like it's part of one Detective Conan franchise, and while not all stories are as strong as others, the quality of the plots is also fairly consistent.

Anyway, this is enough of me reminiscing about what got me first started on the series and why I have been following the series for over twenty years now, and still looking forward to each new release. Many readers of this blog are also fans of the series I know (the Conan posts always attract most commentators), so to celebrate the release of volume 100: what are your favorite Conan stories? What are your Top 10 stories/tricks? What got you into the franchise? Any memorable happening related to Conan? Feel free to talk about anything Conan-related in the comment section, and try to be generous with your use of ROT-13 spoiler tags, as a courtesy to all the readers here!


  1. "What got you into the franchise? Any memorable happening related to Conan?"

    I think we got into Detective Conan from opposite ends. What brought the series to my attention was a crippling mystery addiction and a burgeoning fascination with impossible crimes, but you were drawn to the genre by Detective Conan. And then we bumped into each other which eventually lead to us getting blogs. Well, you did and I followed a few years later. You know what that has wrought. So who knows... Detective Conan could very well be credited with being a foundation stone of the current Western reprint renaissance and translation wave.

    Favorite story/trick? So many great stories and ideas to pick from, but, if you forced me to pick, it would probably be “The Poisonous Coffee Case” (vol. 60). A brilliant and subtly plotted story, but very human with a truly tragic conclusion. I actually want to see it adapted into a short story and have it published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine or an anthology. If there's one story from the series Western mystery fans need to read it's that one!

    And I still like my boss theory. :)

    Aniway, great post and what a milestone!

    1. Huh, interesting choice as a favorite, I'd have expected one of the longer/more elaborate stories instead one of the three chapter stories! I had to check what story it was, because the title alone was just so nondescript in terms of Conan cases :P

    2. I could have mentioned the recent "Magic Express" story or the "Detective Koshien Case" with all the high school detectives, but "The Poisoned Coffee Case" stands out with its moody, rainy day setting and an almost noirish atmosphere. But also has an original impossible crime with a solution that packs an emotional punch. I think it's a minor classic and one of the most underrated, three-chapter stories in the series. See? It's not just a good plot that I can appreciate.

    3. I have nothing noteworthy to add to your dialogue (wonderfully put TomcCat!) except that I love Poisoned Coffee Case and find it one of the very best minor cases Gosho has ever conceived. What particular stuck with me for the years since I read and saw it is the final breakdown animated. That was some real human drama right there.

  2. Detective Conan is my favourite manga/anime series. There's no way I can put together Top10 cases though - that's just impossible, in the end I will end up with Top75 or something.
    So many memorable scenes... For some reason the first that came to mind right now was "I do understand his feelings. We're both fathers." from one of the first cases.

    On the side note, I'm thankful to DC anime for introducing me to many music acts that today are one of my favourites: B'z, Mai Kuraki, Zard, Garnet Crow. Thank God all of them are finally on Spotify. I was fortunate enough to go to Mai Kuraki symphonic concert a few years ago!

    God bless Gosho

    1. My reluctance to making a Top 10 also stems from the fact that there are just too many cases, and I didn't want to re-read *everything* again ^_^' The official Sunday site for Conan lists over 300 cases at the moment (though it can be argued that some cases could be taken together with others), and then there are the anime originals too!

      Yeah, Conan has a lot of great music. Zard and Garnet Crow have only been added (relatively) recently to streaming services right? I'm a huuuge fan of Garnet Crow's music and I think I have all but one of their album CDs. I think it was Dragon Ball GT that first introduced me to Zard, though like I mentioned, The Fourteenth Target was my introduction to Conan and she also did the ending song for that film, so I've always associated her with Conan. And awesome you got to go to the concert! I think my favorite songs by her are the ending songs for the two Kansai-themed films (Crossroad and Love Letter).

  3. Conan also introduces me to the whole 'detective' genre. In fact, it is one of the earliest manga that I read alongside Doraemon and Dragon Ball. Interestingly though, the first volume that I read is actually from the tokubetsuhen, not from the original manga. It is from Conan that I read other mystery manga, then Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie stories, then I discovered your blog and others, and the rest is history.

    It is tough to pinpoint my favorite stories, though memorable ones include the 'spider' story, 'walking on air kaito kid story', 'meeting of detectives in both vol. 30 and vol 54', and of course the 'B.O. halloween story' and 'the clash of red and black'. Trickwise, for me Aoyama Gosho is like Agatha Christie, both specializes in clever poisoning tricks. Regarding the movie, oddly the one I remember the most is 'the Phantom of Baker Street'. I like how everybody is eliminated one by one. I also love 'Countdown to Heaven' and 'The Fourteenth Target'.

    One of my pet peeve though, is that a lot of people (usually non-mystery fans) think that all stories not involving B.O. are automatically considered to be filler stories. I think that is a little unfair. For me the quality of the mystery in the stories is the most important, regardless of the involvement of B.O. In fact, I have a suspicion that when creating this series, the inclusion of B.O. is just to provide continuity as a serial, and what Aoyama really wants is to write mystery manga.

    Anyway, congrats to Conan for reaching 100 volumes. It is amazing how Aoyama and his team manage to create new mysteries consistently for a long time. Though to be honest I am a little disappointed with the cover for volume 100. The background is too similar to volume 77, and I think it is not 'festive' enough. Despite that, I hope for continued success in the future.

    1. Getting started on Conan through the Tokubetsu-hen series AND reading the manga of Doraemon instead of waching the anime does sound like a pretty rare case :P

      In the blue book released... two, three years ago to celebrate Aoyama's 30th anniversary in the business, he mentioned that he figured Conan would just run up to 10 volumes max, so yeah, the organization was just to give the series a bit more body and an easy way to end the series when the time would come. He only really realized the series was quite popular and could go on when they started the anime series and The Time-Bombed Skyscraper got into production.

      And yeah, it's a shame Conan didn't dress up for the occassion on the cover art! It's now just exactly the same as the rest... oh well, perhaps the little Conan on the spine and the art of Aoyama inside are special... (*still waiting for the volume to be delivered*)

    2. I just found out that the newest edition of Shonen Sunday does provide an alternative cover jacket for vol. 100 as a bonus for the magazine. In addition, if you visit the site: "" and use your smartphone to scan any Conan volume cover you have, there will be a unique augmented reality video featuring different characters for each cover. I think it is really neat. Apparently it also works on all country versions of Conan, not just the Japanese ones. Unfortunately it only works until the end of this year.

    3. Ah, now you mention the thing about the cover, I recall having seen that mentioned on the official Twitter account some time ago. But yeah, I'm not going out of my way to order a copy of Sunday just for an alternative cover :P

  4. What got me into DC was around in 2005 when they released couple of volumes here. The first was the island case where the woman was found strangled and the ship captain was found more brutally beaten up and left hanging on the boat..

    Another case I really remember is the Metropolitan PD case with Takagi and Conan in the elevator. That volume also burnt down in apartment fire I had but I remember it being V36, and the last page of that volume with the grim reaper in the background was crazy.
    Takagi: Who are you, really?
    Conan: If you really want to know, I'll tell you.. When we're in the next world.
    >then shows Ai remembering Conan saying how the Detective Boys would do just fine even without him around. The suspense to get the next volume was killing me.

    That case also had Matsuda's (and Jinpeis?) backstory.

    1. Oh, is that the island case like somewhere near volume 40? (probably just before?) That would have been one of the earliest stories I read too since I started around 35-40. But... they didn't start with volume 1 over there? And of course, the bombing case was also one of the earliest stories I read, so that's a very memorable one.

      I had honestly COMPLETELY forgotten about the existence "Non-Matsuda" guy who got killed first in the past, until he appeared in Wild Police Story and I was like: "Who is this guy again?" XD

  5. I meant to comment earlier, but midterms got in the way. But wow, 100 volumes. That's impressive. And exciting, since it means I've got a lot of mysteries ahead of me.

    I don't know when/where I first heard about Detective Conan, but I knew it was supposed to be a good mystery series, so when I noticed a library I go to had it, I started reading individual stories. I only started buying volumes early last year and I've been slowly working my way through it since. As I've not even read 10 complete volumes, I can't really pick favorite stories, although the detective gathering in vol. 30 (which, incidentally, really reminds me of Murder by Death) and a KID story I read in the library (from I don't know which volume) stand out of what I've read so far. (In general, I also really like the impossible poisoning stories, as they are my favorite type of impossible crime, but there aren't as many of them as there are of most other types.)

    I agree with Anon that it's a bit irritating that the non-B.O. stories are regarded as filler. The focus is on the actual mysteries, after all. I think it's related to the current popularity of procedurals, where, despite their pretentions to realism, every other case is somehow linked to the seasons's running plot. They're entertaining (in moderation), but it doesn't mean that every mystery series should be structured the same way.

    (And yeah, DC does have some really good music. I was quite pleased when Garnet Crow's music was added last year.)

    1. The one problem with Conan reaching volume 100 is of course it does make it harder to recommend to people (of course, that's already the case whenever a series passes the 10 or 20 volumes). It's a pretty big investment in time. Though I guess the episodic structure does help a lot, so even if you start out 'late', you could just pick out stories. Imagine if most the story was about BO cases!