Case Closed, Volume 5: The Bandaged Be-header by Gosho Aoyama, translated by Joe Yamazaki

The Verdict

Offers one excellent case, one middling one and an incomplete one (at least until Volume Six). Still, it’s entertaining and there are some wonderful moments to be found here.

Book Details

Originally published in 1995
English translation published in 2005
Volume 5
Preceded by Explosives on a Train
Followed by The Last Loan

The Blurb

Jimmy Kudo, the son of a world-renowned mystery writer, is a high school detective who has cracked the most baffling of cases. One day while on a date with his childhood friend Rachel Moore, Jimmy observes a pair of men in black involved in some shady business. The men capture Jimmy and give him a poisonous substance to rub out their witness. But instead of killing him, it turns him into a little kid! Jimmy takes on the pseudonym Conan Edogawa and continues to solve all the difficult cases that come his way. All the while, he’s looking for the men in black and the mysterious organization they’re with in order to find a cure for his miniature malady.

A vicious murderer whose face is covered in bandages is on the lose. Will Conan be able to catch him before he strikes again? 

And later, Conan’s friends Rachel and Serena want to blow off some steam but they get more than they bargain for when they discover murder at the karaoke box.

Can you figure out whodunnit before Conan does?

I couldn’t see his face well but a creepy man was wearing a dark cape and a hood.

My Thoughts

This past week has been a rather crazy one for me that found me with relatively little time on my hands to do any reading. Fortunately I found the perfect solution to this problem in the Case Closed manga series which are the sorts of book you can read in a single sitting and have become my go-to reads in that sort of situation.

The Bandaged Beheader is the fifth volume in the series in the manga series about a brilliant teen detective who has been transformed into the body of a grade schooler. As I have noted in previous reviews, I would encourage readers to work through these in order as there is some light continuity between the various adventures and to fully appreciate some of the elements that get used and the relationship between Jimmy and Rachel. Fortunately each of these volumes so far have been really entertaining making that an easy recommendation to make.

This volume is comprised of two and a half cases for our young detective to solve. Yes, that does unfortunately mean that one of these cases is incomplete and you will need to get the sixth volume to discover how it all concludes. I don’t exactly love that as an approach, particularly as it makes it that much harder to write this review, but I guess that makes sense as a sales strategy and given that I prefer to have two of the three parts than just one, I probably shouldn’t complain too much.

The first case, The Mysterious Bandaged Man, finds Rachel and Conan staying at an isolated villa where a group of college friends who had all been part of a Film Club are meeting for the first time in two years. On their way across the a rope bridge they spot a strange figure in robes with a bandaged face crossing the bridge ahead of them. Feeling a little creeped out, the pair get settled and meet the other guests. Rachel is persuaded to take a walk in the woods where she is unexpectedly attacked by that bandaged man, having a very narrow escape. Soon the group realize that someone has severed the supports on the rope bridge and disconnected the phone, stranding the group and leaving them with no way of sending for help.

Image of the title pages from The Man in Bandages

This makes for a pretty engaging backdrop to a story that feels quite action-driven but has a pretty solid detective story core. That story manages to sustain a pretty strong sense of tension, helped by the gruesomeness of a crime and the sense that Rachel’s life might really be in danger. There are some really striking panels such as the discovery of a body or an unexpected attack in the third part that keep the energy levels of this story high.

I don’t expect many readers will be surprised by the revelation of the guilty party’s identity though I think that is handled pretty well. My only complaint with Jimmy’s explanation is that there is a visual clue that is very clear when presented from the angle shown at the end of the case but that is far less clear when it is originally presented to the reader. This struck me as a little unfair, though I will accept that there are some other indications to support that same point and I will note that it didn’t really harm my enjoyment overall.

The second case, the Lex Vocalist Murder Case, involves our young heroes going to a karaoke session where they meet the members of a musical band. The group is led by the dashing Tatsuya Kimura who seems to needle his bandmates at every opportunity, creating tensions that inevitably lead to murder.

The circumstances of that murder are strange however as he is poisoned moments after he has finished a performance and has eaten a rice ball randomly off a shared tray. Based on everything we and our sleuths observe, it seems impossible that anyone could have administered a poison, meaning that we not only have to ask who did the crime but how they could have pulled it off in the first place.

It’s an enjoyable tale and I appreciated its audacity though I do wonder about the feasability of the plan the killer utilizes. My issue is not that I doubt the method might well kill Tatsuya but I think the killer puts themselves at considerable risk in carrying it out. There is so much potential for this to go badly, it makes it hard to see the plan as particularly clever. Fortunately this story offers some other points to recommend it.

For one thing I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional depth that is introduced towards the end. I hadn’t expected the story to strike those sorts of notes at all which made that development feel all the more striking and powerful. Rather than feeling sudden, I appreciated when I read back over the story that I could easily see the evidence for it, making me appreciate that plot and the subsequent tone struck all the more.

The other thing I enjoyed was the way that Jimmy manages to get involved and solve this case. This problem of how a pre-teen might get the authorities to listen to them has been really effective and I appreciate that this sees him using another clever mechanism to achieve that goal. That decision has some unintended consequences that have to be tied up towards the end of this story and I think it mostly does a good job of handling that, though I once again question Rachel’s thoughts and actions as she really should notice something is quite clearly off here.

The final story is the Conan Kidnapping Case, a story in which our young detective is surprised when a woman turns up at the Moore household claiming to be his mother. He is taken away only to be kidnapped and taken to an abandoned house. With no one aware of that fact, he must work to rescue himself from his captors after he figures out why they have taken him and what exactly they have planned for him.

More adventure than deductive test, these first two installments are fine enough and there are some entertaining elements though it does all feel rather slight. I did appreciate that this seems to link back to that broader on-going plot running through this series and I think there are some clever tricks and ideas here, even if there isn’t much opportunity for armchair detection.

The volume gives us a proper cliffhanger ending with our sleuth in serious danger of being spotted and recaptured, setting up an interesting problem for him to solve in the story’s final installment. Readers will no doubt want to jump straight to the next volume to find out how it all resolves and I will, of course, do the same shortly. While I do not love this splitting of a story across two volumes, I understand why it was necessary here and I am glad that neither of the previous stories was shortened to make space for this – particularly The Mysterious Bandaged Man which was easily my favorite of the stories here.

Case Closed, Volume 4: Explosives on a Train by Gosho Aoyama, translated by Joe Yamazaki

The Verdict

Book Details

Originally published in 1995
English translation published in 2005
Volume 4
Preceded by One and the Same?
Followed by The Bandaged Be-header

The Blurb

Bloody murder is committed at a museum, reproducing a scene from a gruesome painting.

Later, the men in black are back! Will Conan be able to come any closer to getting his old body back? 

Also, Conan’s friends from grade school find a treasure map–but will it only lead them to a trove of trouble?

What? A medieval suit of armor was walking by itself?

My Thoughts

Today finds me returning to Case Closed, the manga series about a brilliant teen detective who has been transformed into the body of a grade schooler. It’s a fun, lighthearted series but given that it is best read in order let me send you back to the first review and I’ll see you in three books time!

Okay, where were we? While the previous volume featured just two cases, this one has three. The nice thing about this is that it does mean that there is a little more variety but that does come at the cost of depth. Each of these three cases feel a little simple compared to those in the previous volume.

The first involves the strange case of an ancient suit of armor that supposedly roams the halls of a museum. One day the gallery is being visited by its obnoxious new owner who steps into the Hell Gallery only to be run through by a sword.

The case is a solid murder mystery though it suffers a little from having just two characters who might be suspects, particularly when one becomes the focus of the investigation. I think though that rather than viewing this purely as a whodunnit, it is more interesting to view this as a howcatchem and ask what clues will lead Jimmy toward the truth.

While the case is short and relatively simple, it does offer some points of interest including a dying message and a pretty clever trick used to get to the truth. All in all, a very solid start to the volume.

In my previous Case Closed post I noted that I had one issue with the second and third volumes: that Jimmy seemed to have forgotten that his purpose in getting close to Rachel’s father and assisting him in his work as a private detective was to find out information about the gang who drugged and de-aged him. Happily the next story in this fourth volume sees Jimmy cross paths with two of its members, even if he gets sidetracked along the way.

He is traveling by train with Rachel and her father when he sees the two heavies climb on board carrying a dark briefcase. Following them to the dining car he learns that they have sold the case and its contents to a passenger but they have a secret. The buyer is unaware that their new locked briefcase contains a bomb that will detonate. Jimmy needs to find the buyer and dispose of the briefcase before that happens.

This is a fun setup and it feels like a nice change of pace from some of the previous cases. The time element certainly adds to the sense of tension but I also appreciate that this is another example of a story where Jimmy’s small size and apparent youth is a real barrier to his investigation. This is not just physical though there are moments where that comes into play – it’s also that Jimmy has to contend with Rachel trying to babysit him.

It’s a fun adventure and there is a subtle element of deduction involved. More than anything though I just feel it’s nice to acknowledge properly that Jimmy is supposed to be looking for the solution to his situation and while I understand that this obviously will be stretched out, it’s nice to see that addressed from time to time.

The final story sees the return of an idea from the second volume that I liked in theory, even though I felt that the case was not wholly satisfying. This is another case featuring the characters from Jimmy’s class in school who this time find themselves involved in something of a treasure hunt.

While the reader doesn’t have much opportunity to solve anything, the idea is a lot of fun and I do enjoy the dynamics of that group of children. It is always interesting to see Jimmy put in awkward situations and I do appreciate that the series is not forgetting to show the other half of his issue with de-aging – that he is intellectually far above those who are supposed to be his peers.

Overall then I felt this was another very solid installment in the series. I appreciate that each of the three stories feels quite distinct from the others though I did feel that the first two could each have benefited from a little more space to add complexity. In spite of that though this is a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing what other adventures Jimmy has in store for him…

Case Closed, Volume 3: One and the Same? by Gosho Aoyama, translated by Joe Yamazaki

Book Details

Originally published in 1994
English translation published in 2005
Volume 3
Preceded by The Woman of Mystery
Followed by Explosives On A Train

The Blurb

Jimmy, Rachel and Richard take a vacation aboard a cruise ship, but little do they know that the patriarch of the wealthy Hatamoto family is about to be murdered.

With the perpetrator still aboard ship can you figure out whodunit before Conan does!?

The Verdict

This volume offers two solid cases. While the solutions may not necessarily surprise, I really enjoyed the process of reaching them.

“No, this was murder and a very simple one at that.”

My Thoughts

Case Closed is a long-running manga series with the entertainingly far-fetched concept that a genius teenaged detective is transformed into the body of a young child. He continues to solve mysteries however, helping his almost-girlfriend’s private investigator father without his knowledge, all the while trying to keep Rachel from realizing her crush who is supposedly away solving a case is actually right there with her. If that sounds like a somewhat convoluted and fantastical premise, it absolutely is, but I enjoyed both the previous volumes and would suggest reading them in order (for my thoughts on Volume One, see here).

This third volume contains two complete cases. The first, which is the longer of the two, concerns the murder of the head of a wealthy family on board a yacht following the marriage of his granddaughter. The victim was found dead inside his locked cabin to which there was just one key.

This is technically a locked room and you may have noticed that I have tagged this book as such, though I would caution readers not to expect too much in that regard. The locked room problem is pretty simple with a fairly familiar solution and it is solved by Jimmy in just a couple of pages. It is however just the start of a case that ends up incorporating several other mysterious twists. The solution, while not startling, is competently handled though I was not entirely convinced by the killer’s motive. In spite of that however I found the story to be both entertaining and engaging.

Though the second case is shorter, I found it to be the stronger of the two stories. In his first outing we were told that Jimmy wants to be the new Sherlock Holmes and this case feels rather reminiscent of a Holmes short story in that it is an exploration of some odd circumstances rather than an overtly criminal act.

This story begins with Rachel’s father being approached by a man who wants to hire him to investigate who is the mysterious benefactor sending him large gifts of money and children’s toys each month. The client has felt uncomfortable for some time, particularly concerning the gifts of money, but what prompts him to seek advice is a letter that came with the most recent gift saying that the benefactor will visit soon to ‘complete the transaction’.

As with the previous case the solution was not particularly hard to guess but this is not a story that really is about springing a surprise on the reader. Instead the solution feels like a very logical explanation and we just need to wait for all the relevant information to be shared with us to be able to piece it all together. It is nonetheless a pretty powerful conclusion, in part because it hits some unexpected emotional notes that I think are earned. It’s a pretty great case and of the two cases, it is certainly the more original storyline.

Perhaps the most striking element of the second story is the way it begins to more seriously float the idea that Rachel might recognize Jimmy, even in his de-aged form. In the comments to my previous posts, TomCat (who is responsible for initially interesting me in these books) has suggested that her inability to recognize her crush is frustrating and I can see why. Her obliviousness in some of these stories can seem quite ridiculous.

Here at least she notices some of Conan’s frankly odd and decidedly Jimmy-like behavior. These observations feel natural and I appreciate the way these thoughts grow in her mind as she watches him work on the case. Given how fantastical and ridiculous the idea is, it is understandable that she holds back on asking some questions, and I think the way Conan resolves this does at least provide a solid reason to delay those questions again, if only for a short while. I will say though that I may not feel quite the same way in another seventy volumes time…

The other thing I appreciate about this third volume over its two predecessors is that it allows itself to call back to and reuse elements from previous stories, whether it is showing us memories of events in previous installments or using one of the professor’s devices without feeling the need to introduce it within that same story. It feels much more natural than the Bond-like introduction of a gadget that will solve exactly the issue our hero will be confronted with and I am hoping that this will be the norm in the subsequent volumes too.

In terms of the bigger mystery, there is really nothing that relates to that bigger mystery at all. It does feel a little odd that Jimmy, who is living with Rachel and her father specifically to research the villains responsible for his transformation has seeming done nothing with regards finding them. It’s not exactly a problem with the book – more just a little odd. I can understand why those details need to be rationed out slowly, particularly given the number of volumes I have ahead of me.

Overall, I felt that this volume more or less matched the quality of its two predecessors. Both cases entertain and while I have a preference for the second, I enjoyed both and felt they were each paced pretty well. As for this series, I already really enjoy them and given that apparently the stories get even stronger in a few volumes’ time, I am excited to see where it goes!