Originally published in 1994
English translation published in 2004
Preceded by The Sherlock Holmes of Modern Times
Followed by One and the Same?
Conan must contend with the murder of a man who burns to death while the prime suspect has the perfect alibi; he helps a seemingly sweet and innocent girl look for her missing father; and he still has time to explore a haunted house with some of his new friends from elementary school!
All the clues are there–can you piece them together and solve these baffling cases before Conan does?
A few weeks ago I reviewed the first installment of the long-running Manga series Case Closed. I had not planned on posting about the second volume so soon but I found myself with less time to read than I would like this past week and rather than rushing some posts out I decided I would go ahead and release one of these a little earlier than planned (sorry, no impossibilities this Monday – I hope to make it up later this week!).
The premise of the series is that teenaged Jimmy Kudo, a brilliant amateur detective who has styled himself on Sherlock Holmes, stumbled onto the activities of a group of mysterious villains who force-fed him a drug that they thought would kill him. Instead it de-aged him by ten years meaning he now has the body of an elementary school student. Until he can identify the villains and find the formula they used on him, he cannot tell anyone his secret. Instead he has adopted the identify of Conan Edogawa and is staying with a private detective, secretly assisting him with his cases whenever possible.
Case Closed volume two contains three standalone cases, though I would agree with TomCat (who inspired me to try the stories) that the series ought to be read in order to follow the overarching story of Jimmy’s transformation. While there are not many developments in these three stories, there is one moment that seems to play into that plot line. With that in mind, let’s start talking about the specific action in this volume.
The first case file begins with Conan being introduced to his new classmates. While this is not directly related to the action in this particular case, it reminds us of the overall premise and reintroduces us to the problem that he always has to overcome – how to exert his influence as a detective when he looks like, and has the body strength of, a young child. Perhaps more importantly it introduces us to some supporting characters who will feature in this volume’s final case, establishing their relationships a while before we get to that action.
The case proper begins with Rachel’s father, Richard Moore, being hired to follow a man around for several days. Shortly after he finishes his assignment however the man’s body is discovered in a fire tower during a village’s fire festival. While this story is not exactly inverted, I think it is safe to suggest that there is an obvious suspect with a strong motive and that this is an example of an unbreakable alibi problem.
I do not think that this is a particularly challenging case to solve – you can imagine many of the developments that will occur by working through the scenario logically – but it is entertaining nonetheless and moves quickly enough that its relative simplicity isn’t a problem.
It also does a couple of things that I really like. For one, there is a visual representation of the unbreakable alibi timeline that works very well, condensing what in a novel would be several paragraphs or bullet points into a single small graphic. For another, I really enjoy the problems Conan encounters trying to steer this investigation and his interactions with the killer, even if I am less enamored of the way this case is resolved. All in all, this is not mind-blowing but a good, solid start to this second volume.
The second story is much meatier involving a high school girl visiting Richard to ask his help in finding her father who moved to Tokyo to find work but then disappeared. Conan thinks to himself that disappearances aren’t much in his line but before long he will find himself also investigating a murder.
This story initially struck me as quite predictable but it picked up for me as it progressed. It is not so much that the facts of the case become more complex but rather the situation surrounding it becomes increasingly intriguing. I also really like that this case sees Rachel take a more prominent role, becoming emotionally involved in the case and showing her toughness in a memorable sequence in which she chases a suspect down. While I have liked the character since she was first introduced, it is nice to see her in a role other than simply being oblivious to Conan being a de-aged Jimmy.
The final story is a bit of a change of pace as Conan is begged by several of his grade school classmates to join them as they investigate a house that is supposedly haunted. Several years earlier a man had been murdered there though the police were unable to discover the killer’s identity. Soon after they arrive however the group begin to disappear one-by-one…
I am in two minds about how I feel on this one. On the one hand it is nice to see the book properly lean into the premise of him having become a young child, involving him in a case that would certainly interest someone of that age. I enjoyed the mix of personalities among his classmates and it is interesting to see him interact with characters who are supposed to be his peers but that he feels quite separate from. That presents him in a slightly different light which I feel is welcome. I also quite like the idea of him effectively taking of a cold case, albeit quite unwittingly.
On the other, I don’t feel that the case is particularly satisfying. While I can understand the motives being explored here, I think the characters and the explanation feel rather flat and they are not properly introduced prior to the case being explained reducing the impact of that moment a little. Still, I appreciate this for trying to do something a little different and I really like the ending of the piece which sets up a fun idea that I hope would be picked up soon.
Overall I found this to be another quick and entertaining read. The cases here are perhaps a little less striking than those found in the first, but the stories all move pretty quickly and I enjoyed seeing how Jimmy would find ways to assert himself in his much younger Conan persona. I certainly plan on continuing to read this series though ideally these posts will be a little more spaced out in the future!
The Verdict: This second volume of Detective Conan stories is as entertaining as the first, though the cases feel a little simpler.
5 thoughts on “Case Closed, Volume 2: The Woman of Mystery by Gosho Aoyama, translated by Joe Yamazaki”
“sorry, no impossibilities this Monday – I hope to make it up later this week!”
You picked Case Closed as a replacement. So you’re forgiven.
Like I said on your review of the first volume, the quality of the plot drastically begin to improve as the series moves closer to its 10th volume and the visual aspect of the alibi-trick is merely a taste of things to come. Stick with it and you’ll be calling it your favorite detective series this time next year.
“While I have liked the character since she was first introduced, it is nice to see her in a role other than simply being oblivious to Conan being a de-aged Jimmy.”
This is the only real problem I have with Case Closed. It made sense to try to keep it a secret when the series began, but always felt that part of the main storyline had ran its course thirty, forty volumes in. A logical story progression would have been if Rachel eventually figured it out or he told her, which would have added an interesting new and fresh dynamic to the character stories/situations. Something that’s done in the later volumes by introducing new characters with shady backstories and mysteries linked to main storyline. Rachel has proven, time after time, she would be valuable ally to watch his back and she’s not in anymore danger than usual by hanging out with Conan. But other than that one of the best detective series ever created!
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Marginally spoiler-y here below:
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Yes, I can absolutely see what you mean. The first issue hasn’t been repeated enough yet to become truly frustrating, though I suspect that it will given time. As for the second – yes, absolutely!
“Marginally spoiler-y here below”
Precisely! That aspect of the ongoing storyline ran out of steam a good forty volumes ago and should have moved on with Rachel being told, or finding out, and helping him to keep his identity a secret. Or maybe she finds out and decides to keep quiet, while keeping an eye out, until Conan/Jimmy decides to tell her. Either way, it would have given that plot-thread some much needed movement as it has barely progressed since the series began. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ending Case Closed reveals the whole series was retold by Jimmy and Rachel on the coach of a relationship therapist to patch up the trust issues between the two. 🙂
Once again, it’s the only thing about the series that really bugs me, but hardly detracts from everything else the series has to offer.
Thanks TomCat! I have a stack of about a dozen Case Closed waiting for me so I look forward to seeing that evolution play out. Honestly, I’m already sold on these so knowing even better stories await is very exciting.
As for Rachel, it does seem pretty silly. I can appreciate the potential for comedic moments it brings but your points are very well made!