Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Who Ya Gonna Call?

We’re not jealous of you at Scotland Yard. No, sir, we are very proud of you, and if you come down to-morrow, there’s not a man, from the oldest inspector to the youngest constable, who wouldn’t be glad to shake you by the hand.
The Six Napoleons"

Detective Conan isn't just a big mystery series, it is probably the biggest mystery multimedia franchise that currently exists in the world, with many, many forms of media that are being constantly released, ranging from the original comics to the weekly television series, real escape rooms, spin-off series, theatrical films, mobile games and everything. And one thing that is important in a franchise like this, is timing. Ideally, you want the various Conan-related projects to have some kind of synergy. One obvious example is how every April, a new Detective Conan film is released in Japan, which is accompanied by various other projects and releases to coincide with it, and even the original manga releases are usually timed in a way so there's a new volume released in the same week as the new film premieres. In more recent years, author Aoyama Goushou has even made sure that the April release of the collected volumes of his long-running series tie in one way or another with the new film of that year, for example by writing stories that provide some minor background or supporting details to the story of the film, or by having stories that feature on key characters also featured in the film.

Volume 102 of Detective Conan, released in the middle of September 2022, is a volume that is really curious when it comes to timing. Looking at the stories collected in this volume as a whole, I would say volume 102 is not a particularly remarkable volume, as it only features short, three chapter stories that as standalone mystery stories are also quite simple and not really the type you'll remember 100 volumes later, but you can sense this volume should have either released much earlier this year, or a few weeks later. Why? Because all the stories in this volume focus heavily on secondary cast characters of the series who belong to the various branches of the police force. In fact, the promotion surrounding this volume even says this volume features no less than 19 policemen and women, some of them being around since volume 1 of this series, some introduced as recently as the previous volume. The Detective Conan film of 2022, The Bride of Halloween, was released this 2022 and also focuses on the many police detectives we see in series, both alive and dead, and many of them appear in this volume too or are connected to these stories one way or another, so volume 102 really should have been the companion volume to the April release. Oddly enough, the home video release of The Bride of Halloween is scheduled for the second week of November (....after Halloween), while it would have made much more sense to release the home video version just before Halloween, and then have volume 102 release in the same week as the home video. But volume 102, on the whole, falls a bit flat now reading it in October, as a lot of what could've worked, feel a bit underwhelming.

The volume opens with the final chapters of The Case Memos Left by Date, which started in the previous volume. A curious code found in the notes of Inspector Takagi's deceased mentor Date put the gang on the trail of a kidnapping case which actually was still on-going. The Detective Boys, Takagi, Sato and... Amuro all work together to resolve this case, as cafe Poirot seems involved too. A very unremarkable story, even with the bits and pieces we learn about Date, a character who was already dead when he was first introduced in this series. Code cracking stories are seldom the best you'll find in any random Conan volume, and the same holds here. Conan has to crack a few codes and other puzzling messages before they figure out the kidnapping case, but almost none of them are really solvable for the reader. And no, not because they utilize the Japanese language, but simply because a lot of these messages can only be solved if you happen to know about the completely fictional buildings in the city and "well-known" facts that were created solely for this story. So the codes only work in hindsight and even then they're hardly satisfying.

The Message in the Secret Base starts with Kogorou, Ran and Conan visiting Gunma Prefecture and being asked by Inspector Yamamura to help with a rather vexing case: somebody has been murdered in the parking lot of a hotel, but the man has died on the border of Gunma Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture, and curiously, the body was lying exactly on the line indicating the border between the two prefectures, and now Inspector Yamamura (of Gunma) is having an argument with Inspectors Yamato and Morofushi of Nagano about jurisdiction. The victim, a Youtuber who was staying at the hotel with three fellow Youtubers, was also found in a very curious pose, which seems to indicate a dying message. Yamamura also happens to learn that a childhood friend he lost contact with, is actually the younger brother of Inspector Morofushi, another of those new interconnecting facts in the Conan world whichmakes the world feel a bit too connected and small as everyone apparently met each other in the past one time or another, Anyway, the mystery focuses mostly on why the victim died in such a weird pose, and whether any of his three friends could be the murderer, despite most of them having either an alibi or being found not in the possession of anything that could serve as the murder weapon (a blackjack). The "dying message" is a variant on ideas we have seen earlier in this series, so as a concept it's not really original, and the only thing memorable about this specific iteration is just how outrageous the execution of the idea is. The whodunnit plot is also rather simple, with the blackjack idea probably still the best part of this story: the visual clewing is rather clever: just curious enough to attract your attention, but difficult to really figure out what it means until it's pointed out to you. Conan does this kind of clewing more often, but I think this is one of the better times it was done.

Murder at a Matchmaking Party has Inspector Yokomizo (the younger one) participate in a masked matchmaking event in Tokyo. At the party, he happens to run into Chihaya, a traffic officer from the same police department, who is definitely not looking for a potential husband, but only here planted as a beautiful woman to attract men to the party, and she's getting paid and free food for it too! During the party, Chihaya and another woman (only known as "No. 24") turn out to be the most popular of the female participatns, being the no. 1 pick of several men at the party and they are given special time so the two women can choose with whom they want to go on a date: both Chihaya and No. 24 have four potential dates (Yokomizo being one of 24's picks), and each of the men get 10 minutes of private talking time in a special room to convince the woman they are the best pick for a date.  The men leave the room through a different door than the people entering though, to avoid any problems between the various candidates. Yokomizo is the last of his group, but when he enters the room, he finds No. 24 has been shot, and the pistol is lying on the table. It appears one of the men who went before Yokomizo must've shot No. 24, but this doesn't mean the man before Yokomizo must've shot the woman, because the two men before him could also have been hidden beneath the table and forced the woman to act normally with the other candidates with the gun pointed at her. The direct clue pointing towards the murderer is pretty weak, and is rather similar to ideas we have seen very recently in this series, so not really satisfying. I love the other clue that indicates the murderer though: it's a technique used fairly often in Conan, but the execution is done pretty well, with small, seemingly insignificant events occuring in the background through the various chapters suddenly being connected to form one clear line. We get a few more hints at interconnectivity between the various police-related characters in this story, but nothing too big.

In Kyoto Sweets and Poison, we learn of plans to make a stage play based on Mouri Kogorou and Hattori Heiji, and the two visit the director of the play to discuss the script. Meanwhile, Kazuha and Ran are being driven around Kyoto to enjoy the local sweets, when Kazuha finally realizes that the Ooka Group is sponsoring the play, and that her rival-in-love Momiji is behind having Kazuha "removed" and indeed, Momiji appears at the script discussion. She brings with him Kuroda, the one-eyed managing officer of the First Division of the Tokyo MPD as a consultant for the police-related matters of the script, and Hattori, Mouri and Conan all go through the script together with the director, producer and playwright. While they're having a pizza lunch, the director takes a break and goes to sleep in the room upstairs, but when the group goes to wake up him upon the departure of Kuroda, the director does not reply at all to their loud cries, and while they don't find the door locked, it is blocked by something heavy leaning against the door. This reminds them of the recent suicide of an actress whose body was found by the director, playwright and producer in the exact same way, leaning against the door, so Hattori, Conan, Mouri and Kuroda rush to the other side of the house, climb the ladder up to the balcony of the room and see that the director is indeed lying against the door. They break the windows, but it's already too late for the director, who seems to have taken poison as his way out of life. At first sight, this seems a clear suicide committed in the same manner as the actress, but all the detectives at the scene (sans Mouri) suspect this was no suicide, but how did the murderer recreate this crime scene? As said, this volume only has very short stories, so despite Hattori, Kazuha and Momiji's appearences here this is a fairly simple mystery story. It's not a true locked room mystery, as the door could be opened partially, until they find the body lying against it preventing them from opening it further, but I think the "before" and "after" of the locked room mystery are also a lot more interesting than the actual dynamics of the murderer's main trick: the "preperation" for the murder itself is rather silly, but I like the idea itself which was used to get the victim where the murderer where they wanted him to be, and the aftermath of the murder, where the murderer has to "clean up" for the discovery of the death also features some interesting ideas. But on the whole a rather unassuming story.

Volume 102 ends with the first chapter of a story set at a family restaurant that of course also has a few police officers (and many other recurring characters too!) appear again, but we'll have to wait until the next volume, scheduled for Spring 2023 to learn more about that. Like I mentioned at the beginning, Detective Conan 102 on its own is nothing special: the stories, taken as mystery stories alone, are very simple, and often utilize ideas and concepts we have already seen in the series quite often. There are some neat ideas here and there that, as always, really sell Conan as a modern-day puzzle mystery (the masked matchmaking party is SO modern-day Japan as are the Youtubers), but I can already tell you I'll remember very little of the events of this volume. There are some seeds planted in regards to character relations, but it's hard to tell whether those tidbits are actually building towards something, or just neat little background details. So the next volume won't be released until 2023, but I will definitely review The Bride of Halloween when the home video releases in November and I've going through some anime originals again, so perhaps I'll find a few episodes that are interesting to write about.

Original Japanese title(s): 青山剛昌 『名探偵コナン』第102巻


  1. Have you seen this? Super excited for next month. Jealous of the people who got proofs.

    1. Oh, cool, I didn't know that one was releasing! I read the previous one (the second Japanese-themed) one a long time ago, but I didn't write the review until like two weeks ago (planned for publication next month) ^_^'

    2. Looking forward to your review! I have to admit, despite knowing Japanese, I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to the country's fairy tales and such - so I've only read the Little Red Riding Hood book lol. I should just do some research on wikipedia and read the Japanese ones.
      (;・∀ ・)