Case Closed, Volume 7: The Case of the Moonlight Sonata by Gosho Aoyama, translated by Joe Yamazaki

Originally published in 1995
English translation first published in 2005
Volume 7
Preceded by The Last Loan
Followed by Who is the Night Baron?

On a remote island, a job request comes in from a pianist who’s been dead for over 10 years. Can Conan solve the case of the cursed piano?

And later, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be Jimmy’s girlfriend. The only problem is, Conan’s never seen her before in his life!

Today’s post is brought to you by my need to get a bit of an early night tonight. Rather than rush jotting down thoughts on one of the novels I have read, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the next volume in the manga detective series Case Closed.

As you may recall, the previous volume ended with an incomplete story and this volume begins with the conclusion to that adventure. As a quick recap of the premise, a famous writer was found murdered in his hotel room during a fire festival. The obvious suspect is a fellow writer who had been lodging with him but he has a seemingly unbreakable alibi – there is photographic evidence that he had been attending the festivities that night with our heroes actually appearing in one of the snaps themselves.

I noted last time out that the previous volume had ended with the reader having everything they needed to work out the solution to the case and I stand by that assertion. It’s done pretty well, and I certainly enjoyed its ideas and following it to its conclusion, but I think it suffers from delivering exactly what I had expected. There is no new evidence here, nor any surprising twists or moments of action and I think I would likely have felt a little underwhelmed had I waited any length of time between finishing the previous volume and starting this one.

The bulk of the book is given over to the next story which is the only complete one in the volume – The Case of the Moonlight Sonata. This begins with Richard Moore receiving a letter which prompts him to travel to Tsukikage Island.

When he arrives he learns that the sender, a famous pianist, had died over a decade before after apparently going mad, killing his family and playing his piano while his house burned to the ground with him inside. When the same tune is heard and the island’s mayor is found dead it seems that history has been repeating itself and, of course, further murders follow.

There were some aspects of this story I enjoyed a lot. I think particularly of the history of the piano and the somewhat eerie suggestion that there might be a supernatural explanation for what is taking place. While I am never going to take that seriously in anything purporting to be a fair-play detective story, it does create a fantastic atmosphere and tone for the piece that I think makes its early chapters particularly engaging to read.

I also enjoyed the pacing of the case with a number of murders happening in very quick succession. This helps to emphasize how out of control the situation is and it did have me gripped to see what would happen next. Unfortunately I think that fast pacing is also responsible for some of what I don’t like about the story – I think a couple of elements of the solution just don’t work for me.

One of them is related to the musical piece that is associated with the killings. I had really loved this as an idea running through the adventure so I was a little disappointed with a revelation that occurs in one of the later volumes that I felt detracted from it.

Another is related to the killer’s identity. On the one hand I really liked the handling and discussion of the killer’s motivations which gave them a surprising amount of emotional depth and characterization. I also think that, while an aspect of the solution had the potential to have not aged well, the motive for it did make sense to me. The problem is that I’m not sure there’s anything approaching a clue to that in the version that I read. That may reflect changes made in the English language translation, which would not be the author’s fault, but it did keep the reveal from feeling entirely satisfactory.

The last is that I feel the way Richard and the others are brought into this story feels rather contrived and unconvincing. It’s not just that on getting said note his first instinct is to bring two children with him but that on reflection I cannot see a good reason why Richard would receive that note. That includes the attempt at a justification made by Conan on the case’s last page.

None of these three issues are serious enough for me to suggest that the story doesn’t work, but I do think that the final product never quite matches up to the promise I felt in its more atmospheric first half. Of all of the stories I have read so far however, I think this is the one I am most interested to watch the anime adaptation of as I can imagine that the musical elements would be very appealing.

This brings us to the final story in the volume which will be completed in the next installment. This sees a teenaged girl turn up at Richard’s home asking to talk to Jimmy. When she is asked about her reasons, she declares that she is his girlfriend. This is news to our hero who has never seen her before!

It’s a pretty entertaining way to open the story and I enjoyed Rachel’s bursts of jealousy as she becomes certain that Jimmy must be secretly seeing her. Perhaps more than anything though I appreciated that once again we were getting an acknowledgment that Jimmy’s absence is presenting problems and requires some extra explanation, and I think you’d be right to suggest that there is an element of filling space to this story thread, it does feel a little overdue to address the idea that Rachel is taking a lot on trust and clearly must be missing him.

There’s some other enjoyable comedic moments, such as a pretty ridiculous ‘invention’ from the Doc that comes in handy in this story and Conan’s foiled attempts to try to speak to Rachel amused too. As for the case – I enjoyed some of the early, admittedly rather simple deductions made from looking around the apartment. It’s not particularly complex but unlike the story that opened this volume, I felt that I still have more to learn in the next installment before I’ll be able to solve it which does make the way this is split feel a little less frustrating.

Also, you do get a nice little note about one of my favorite detectives – Columbo – to end the volume along with a recommendation of the episode Any Old Port in a Storm, so it at least ends on a bit of a high.

While I did enjoy this volume, I do have to stress that this is by far the most frustrating one I have encountered so far and the reason is the division of the stories into these volumes. While Moonlight Sonata feels like a substantial work, neither of the other cases feel weighty or puzzling enough to match it. If you’re reading these in order (as I have previously recommended and am doing) this is not much of a problem, but if you’re planning just to dip into occasional volumes, I think only getting one complete story could be a little frustrating. For that reason I’d suggest having the next volume readily to hand…

The Verdict: A bit of a mixed bag for me. I liked the complete story and thought it did some interesting things but the stories on either side feel a little slight by comparison.

Second Opinions: I linked to it above but check out Isaac Stump’s Solving the Mystery of Murder blog where they are writing about and ranking all of the Detective Conan Cases, tackling them in order. I’m not going to keep pace with these but I have enjoyed reading over the posts and comparing how we felt about each of the volumes I have read so far.

Case Closed, Volume 6: The Last Loan by Gosho Aoyama, translated by Joe Yamazaki

Originally published in 1995
English translation first published in 2005
Volume 6
Preceded by The Bandaged Be-header
Followed by The Case of the Moonlight Sonata

It’s Conan versus the Phantom Thief! Who is this mysterious masked man? And why does he know Conan’s true identity? 

Later, an investigation of an extramarital affair leads to bloody murder! Also, Conan’s elementary school friends decide to become super sleuths when they form the Junior Detective League! But will they get into more trouble than they can handle?

Can you figure out whodunit before Conan does?

My Thoughts

The previous installment of Case Closed left us on a bit of a cliffhanger with Detective Conan in peril from a masked man. This sixth volume begins with the conclusion to that Conan Kidnapping Case but while it does wrap things up, I cannot say that I found it at all satisfactory.

One of the things I had liked most about the story as it began in the previous volume was that it seemed to tie into the series’ on-going mystery about the identity of the men who transformed teenaged detective Jimmy into the body of an elementary schooler. This final part does not deliver on those suggestions though and while it may provide a necessary explanation for why our hero will remain in the care of Richard Moore, I found the circumstances to be far too contrived. The good news though is that this is just one chapter and the remainder of the volume is of a significantly higher standard.

The first full case here, presumably titled The Last Loan, concerns the savage murder of a moneylender. Richard Moore and Conan visited the victim to report their findings after trailing his wife, revealing that she has taken a lover. They are interrupted during their meeting and asked to wait while he speaks with a visitor. When he does not return they investigate to find him dead having been run through with a sword and the walls and ceiling of the room are covered in vicious slashes from a similar blade.

The police arrive on the scene and quickly establish that the killer must be one of the four people the victim planned to meet with that afternoon. Three are people he had loaned money but the other is Richard Moore as he stumbles over explaining his own presence there.

One of the aspects of this story I enjoyed most was the rather bizarre crime scene. This not only provides us with a really striking visual, I appreciate that the oddness of the killer’s actions grow more apparent as you ponder the scene. While there is one aspect of the case that would require some detailed cultural knowledge to fully appreciate, the reader should still be able to recognize its significance by thinking about the evidence logically.

The crime scene from The Last Loan

I also really enjoyed the story’s colorful cast of characters. This begins with the victim who I felt is one of the most distinctive we have had to date in the books and extends to his wife and the three men who visited him. Each feels well-defined and the story does a good job of providing each with a credible motive.

As much as I liked that one, I liked the next story, The Junior Detective League, even more. This is another story that features Conan interacting with his elementary school classmates who have now banded together to form a detective agency. It’s a very cute conceit that plays with the junior detective agency trope nicely and I love the way the scope of the group’s investigation expands from trying to find a missing cat to investigating a bloody murder.

The puzzle at the heart of this story involves the disappearance of a body from within a house that our kid detectives kept under observation while they waited for the police to respond to their call. The investigation does a great job of reinforcing those constraints and emphasizing the impossibility of that disappearance and several elements of the explanation of what happened are rather clever.

I only have one problem with the story and that is I am not entirely convinced that the killer, who had little reason to expect the police to show up, is able to pull together a plan to hide the body rather quickly. This seems to me to be reinforced in the confession at the end of the case. If you can suspend a little disbelief about that, I really enjoyed some of the ideas here and I found it to be one of the most entertaining storylines in Case Closed up to this point.

The final story in the volume was particularly suited to my tastes as it is essentially an inverted mystery. The case involves the murder of a famous writer in his hotel room during a festival. From the start of the case we and Conan will suspect the man who had been staying with him but he seems to have an unbreakable alibi – one that involves Richard Moore, Rachel and Conan themselves.

The tone is not unlike that found in many episodes of Columbo in which we have what amounts to a cat and mouse game between our sleuth and an overly confident killer. The latter is absolutely sure that he will get away with it, seeming to invite suspicion on himself with some of his actions.

Readers should be aware that they will not get the solution in this volume but you will have everything you need by the end of this book to solve the case. Expect that you will want to immediately go and get the next volume to check that you are right! I will cover that solution properly when I come on to write about the next volume but I think it delivers a satisfying conclusion to the story here.

The Verdict: With the exception of the first chapter which concludes a story from the previous volume, this has been one of my favorite volumes to date. The three new stories it starts are all very entertaining and are well clued. The only problem is that you’re bound to want to immediately go and buy the next one to find out if you were right!

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!

Case Closed, Volume 2: The Woman of Mystery by Gosho Aoyama, translated by Joe Yamazaki

Book Details

Originally published in 1994
English translation published in 2004
Volume 2
Preceded by The Sherlock Holmes of Modern Times
Followed by One and the Same?

The Blurb

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?

The Verdict

This second volume of Detective Conan stories is as entertaining as the first, though the cases feel a little simpler.

“Hah! Nobody will believe you… What’s the word of a child?”

My Thoughts

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!

Case Closed, Volume 1: The Sherlock Holmes of Modern Times by Gosho Aoyama, translated by Joe Yamazaki

Book Details

Originally released in 1994
English translation released in 2004
Volume 1
Followed by The Woman of Mystery

The Blurb

Ghastly beheadings, bloody murders, and coldhearted child abductions–

Precocious high school student Jimmy Kudo uses his keen powers of observation and astute intuition to solve mysteries that have left law enforcement officials baffled. Hot on the trail of a suspect, Jimmy is accosted from behind and fed a strange chemical which physically transforms him into a grade schooler! Taking on the pseudonym Conan Edogawa, he attempts to track down the people who did this to him. But until he finds a cure for his bizarre condition, Jimmy continues to help the police solve their toughest cases.

Can you crack the case before Conan does?

The Verdict

An entertaining introduction to the series and its young protagonist. This volume is really about setting up the key elements and so the first two cases can feel a little slight but they were great fun nonetheless.

“I don’t want to write about detectives… I want to be one!!”

My Thoughts

The detective manga Case Closed has been on my radar for some time thanks to Tomcat’s enticing reviews of the later volumes in the series. Rather than jump in at the end I thought it best to start at the very beginning with this first volume which Wikipedia tells me is titled The Sherlock Holmes of Modern Times.

The protagonist is Jimmy Kudo, a rich and unsupervised teenaged detective story fan. He has grown up studying his parents’ library of vintage detective novels and fancies himself to be a new Sherlock Holmes, honing his deductive and physical abilities in the hopes of emulating his fictional hero’s feats. Though he is only a junior in high school, Jimmy is already putting his skills to the test and building a reputation for himself by assisting the police in their investigations. For instance, when we first meet him he is on the way to announcing the identity of an unlikely murderer in front of a group of suspects.

There is a further short case (which I will get to in a moment) that follows this introduction before an event happens that changes Jimmy in some quite profound ways. After he solves that case he grows suspicious of a pair of men and follows them, only to get caught. Rather than shoot Jimmy, the men decide to poison him by feeding him an experimental drug and leave him for dead. The drug does not work as expected however and rather than kill Jimmy, instead it deages him by about ten years.

Turning to a family friend, an inventor, for help, Jimmy is told he needs to find the original formula to try and reverse its effects on him. To do this it is suggested that he adopt a false identity so the would-be killers do not know he survived and live with his friend Rachel and her private detective father. The idea is that Jimmy will be able to use the father to help him research the villains who had attacked him. Unfortunately Rachel’s father turns out to be a rather inept detective however Jimmy, who rebrands himself as Conan Edogawa after two favorite detective novelists, finds ways to help him solve his cases.

There are three complete cases contained within this volume though they are not all given equal space. The first is easily the simplest, taking place in just one chapter (which are termed files), and it is really used to provide an origin story for the character. It is quite a colorful case however in spite of its short page count.

Jimmy has taken his friend Rachel to the theme park where they go on a roller coaster ride. Everyone is securely strapped into the cars in pairs. During the ride one of the passengers is suddenly decapitated though it does not appear that the ride itself is at fault. Given the distance between the cars and the use of mechanical restraints it seems that the only possible killer would be the victim’s girlfriend who was sat next to him. Of course appearances can be deceptive…

Because the conditions seem to preclude anyone but the girlfriend from being the killer, I think this can be considered an impossible crime. Certainly I think the question of how the crime was achieved receives the bulk of the focus and while I have some doubts whether the killer could actually pull off their rather daring crime without being seen and suspect most will instinctively guess at at least one element of it, I still think it is a pretty creative murder method. It certainly gets things off to an entertaining and rather macabre start!

The second case involves the kidnapping of a rich businessman’s ten year old daughter by a mysterious figure in black. This case initially seems relatively straightforward with it quickly seeming clear what has happened, only for an end of chapter revelation to spin things off in a somewhat different direction.

The main purpose of this case is to establish the challenges that Jimmy in his Detective Conan guise will face in trying to get adults to listen to him. That makes sense as a choice in developing the series though I think it is unfortunate that it results in a case that it driven more by action than points of deduction. I think it does a good job of establishing the basic structure where Rachel’s father is hired to look into a case and Conan finds a way to tag along and influence the investigation, subtly inserting his own theories, and so it is important to the overall development of the series.

The final case is far cleverer and, offers the reader a locked room murder. A beautiful and popular idol consults Rachel’s father to ask him to investigate a series of home intrusions, strange messages and silent phone calls made to her. He accompanies her to her apartment which she left locked but when they open it they find an unknown man lying dead with a knife in his back.

It seems logical that the idol would not have hired a detective to draw attention to the death if she had committed the murder herself but she was the only person who should have had access to her apartment. Of the three cases, this one was easily my favorite. This case is less twisty than the previous one but I think that the solution is much better clued and rather imaginative.

Having discussed the cases briefly, I think I should end by reflecting a little on our young sleuth.

Jimmy is certainly a rather arrogant kid but I could relate to his detective novel fanboying. There is something rather appealing about the idea that simply reading lots of mystery novels could be the basis for a great career as a detective. The change he undergoes is largely physical but it does mean he must adapt his methods too. For one thing, he is incapable of performing some actions physically while perhaps most significantly, he must figure out ways to be able to influence cases when no one will take him seriously. This leads to many of the book’s most comedic and madcap moments.

One complication that Jimmy has to work with is that he must pretend to not be himself around Rachel, apparently to protect her as if the criminals who transformed him learn his identity then she might be in danger. This is perhaps not the most convincing reasoning but at the same time it does avoid the potentially rather uncomfortable problem of the person she is in love with being in the body of an elementary schooler. While the setup is a little weird, I do like the character and I think she has a few nice character moments late in the volume.

Overall then I enjoyed my first encounter with Detective Conan. I enjoyed the silly premise of the series, loved the references to classic crime writers and appreciated the blend of cases. While none of the solutions are likely to blow the reader’s mind, I like the creativity involved. These stories were great fun to read while I look forward to learning the truth behind the greater mysteries concerning the men who attacked Jimmy.