On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’ve Never Read Them (+Detective Conan review series)

If I’m being entirely honest, there are certain things I don’t talk about much with the Golden Age mystery-reading side of my social sphere. Heck, I don’t even really talk the way with them the way I talk with anyone else I know. The problem is that I am painfully aware I am a 20 year old university student punching a bit above my belt by involving myself in a community whose youngest members are probably around twice my age at least. If past posts delving into my personal thoughts have proven anything, it’s that I have the world’s greatest inferiority complex, and the way I talk is usually colored by me trying to mask myself as an intellectual equal among people who nearly universally have more experience and education than myself. This also manifests in the form of me being pretty reserved with a lot of my other non-mystery hobbies that might be derided as “kiddish” or “immature” or outright “stupid”. Unfortunately, before delving into an upcoming long-running series/project I’ve undertaken, it’s going to require breaking the ice on some of that, and preparing a lot of you for it. So, what’s about to follow is somewhat of a biographical post, but I beg you to stay with me for a bit — this is a fun one, I promise.

I absolutely adore video games (yes, even the new ones you probably hate), cartoons (yes, even the new ones you probably hate), and sitcoms (yes, even the new ones you probably hate).

I’ve mentioned on this blog more than once that I do some of my own hobbyist writing of Golden Age-styled mysteries, but when I’m not writing I’m also probably drawing. My whole life, I’ve been deeply fascinated with animation and always wanted to become an artist, but my guardian wouldn’t let me, yelling at me that I’m “wasting my time on something I’ll obviously never be good at”. It wasn’t until just last year, in fact, now that I’m living in university housing, that I tried to foster my childhood dream of becoming an cartoon character artist, though all of that is really beside the point.

The point is why this matters. Well, as luck would have it, it was my fascination with cartoons that ended up turning me into a devotee of Golden Age mystery fiction. When I was young, one of my favorite cartoons was the Alvin and the Chipmunks show — the one that came out before the live-action/CGI movies. A favorite, yes, in spite of the fact that I only owned one DVD with four episodes from what many consider the worst season of the show. It was the show’s last season, which was comprised of about a dozen and a half pop culture/movie parodies. The episode I watched the most often was “Elementary, My Dear Simon”.

No points if you’ve guessed it, but this episode is a parody of Sherlock Holmes in which the lead character Alvin takes on the role of Sherlock Holmes, and his younger brother Simon takes on the role of Dr. John Watson. The two, together, traverse Victorian London, investigating a series of mysterious thefts in which every item stolen is trifling, worth nearly nothing. Now, this is an interesting set-up, but any mystery fans reading this… don’t bother watching the episode, it is not good, and the ending will frustrate you. But that did not matter to six year old me. I was a lonely kid who loved puzzles and riddles, and all that mattered was that feeling of seeing something like a puzzle play out in the form of a story. I had no sense of whether or not it was a good puzzle, just that it existing and was there.

Well, after falling in love with this show, I went on to other forms of mystery media geared towards kids. I owned every DVD of every movie and series of Scooby-Doo that existed when I was still into it. I watched them dozens of times each, some of them more than that.

I was hooked, but at the time I had no real awareness of the fact that this sort of thing I loved really, you know, existed in genre form. When I watched “grown-up” mysteries on television, they were always legal dramas like Law & Order, or true crime like Investigation Discovery, and none of them really appealed to me in the same slow-burn puzzle-piecing way that “Elementary, My Dear Watson” or Scooby-Doo had.

Well, fortunately for me, I didn’t just enjoy western cartoons, I also loved video games and Japanese anime.

When I was about 12 years old, my friends roped me into playing this silly-looking anime-styled game series called Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. At first, I really didn’t want to play it — it’s a lawyer game, so it had to be boring, like Law & Order. But my friends are annoying persistent, and convinced me to give the game a shot. Immediately, I fell in love with the series. It is a dramatic, engaging tale of detection and logic in which, through very simple button prompts, the game invites you to make Ellery Queen-esque series of deductions to protect the lives of innocent people falsely accused of complex murders. You collect evidence, listen to witness testimony, expose lies through clues, and then through a series of question prompts you will solve the mystery by explaining why every lie was told and every mistake made. It was only after playing the game series through to the end that I immediately made a realization — these sorts of stories I want exist, en masse, and I can just go out and read them. It was Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney that inspired me to go out and buy my first detective novels, A Study in Scarlet, And Then There Were None, and The Mysterious Affair of Styles. And all of these stories were exactly like the mysteries in Ace Attorney! Finally, I said, I’m home.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney‘s first entry is actually reviewed on my blog already, only for nobody to actually read it, dashing any intentions I had to review the others in this 10+ game series. That post’s lack of attention is, in fact, why I’m writing this post now. After all, some of you might’ve spotted a troubling detail: “Isaac, if you played this game nearly 9 years ago, why did you suddenly review it so recently?”. The answer, of course, being that I adore this franchise, and to this day the third game in the franchise (among others) boasts a few cases that I still consider some of the best mystery-writing and mystery-plotting in the whole genre. I was actually hoping that by writing a review, I could get the 600-odd people WordPress says visits my blog monthly to try this mystery series I love so much out.

The post has been read 33 times in the 12 months since I’ve written it.

Compare On 50 Locked Room Solutions of Our Own, which, despite its lack of comments, gets on average 150 views every single month, or my clearly-labelled April Fools post (which isn’t even that funny) which has gotten 350 views, over 1000% the Ace Attorney post’s yearly reads, in a week.

The point of this post isn’t to bitterly whine about that post not getting a lot of attention, though, so don’t worry about all of that. More, I want to air my thoughts a bit on why it didn’t.

In the “Golden Age Detection” Facebook group, I’ve seen a few pop culture mystery series that’ll presently remain unnamed get brought up. And people were angry. People had never even read these stories and they were angry, because people would dare compare Golden Age greats to this modern usurper, for no better reason than the modern work was animated. To quote nobody in particular, they said “I don’t need to read it to know there’s no way a cartoon could ever compare to the original”. Another time, when asked to name some of my aesthetically favorite surreal mysteries, I named a surreal case from a mystery game series that I really enjoyed, only to be met with “Laugh” reacts and mild derision for posting a video game. These are just two of a number of instances that I will not direct anyone to in the interest of not seeming like I’m trying to flame some stranger on the internet who has no bearing on me or my life.

Now, I for one have always believed that making rash judgments on things you’ve never experienced (within reason) is a fault. I’m sure many of you in theory agree with me, but might in practice still have this kneejerk, conservative aversion to the “less respectable” mediums. I believe the lack of attention video-game related posts and these attitudes I’ve seen openly expressed in the group are evidence enough to speculate on.

My theory has been that I will post about a mystery video game, earnestly enjoying it, and trying to spread the word and people might see that it is, in fact, a video game, and assume that it probably isn’t worth playing — they may even assume I didn’t like it — and merely pass the post by. Well, I’m beginning a bit of a large project soon, and in the interests of that going well, I felt it was important to make this post and the following shocking declaration:

Some of the most brilliant and emotionally-touching classically-/Golden Age-styled mystery plots ever conceived exist within the confines of video games and Japanese comic books (manga), and I believe turning your nose up at them will be doing yourself a disservice as a mystery-reader.

And I want to talk you into it. We’ve all probably read some shin-honkaku novels, right? Those modern, brilliant detective novels from Japan that beautifully represent Japan’s fascination with the form? To name a few, The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji, or The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa or Death Among the Undead by Masahiro Imamura. This shin-honkaku movement was majorly observed from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, and if you’ve loved any of those books from Locked Room International then I have some good news for you: many, many detective video games, cartoons, and comic book series from Japan are specifically inspired by or part of this very same shin-honkaku movement, as many of the biggest names in video game mysteries and comic mysteries popped up around the 90s and early 2000s.

This was so major, in fact, that some famous shin-honkaku writers in Japan openly credit these video games as direct inspirations. Westerners probably haven’t heard of him, but in Japan Takekuni Kitayama is not a small name. He is, in fact, a respected author of locked-room mysteries and impossible crimes, famous for his highly technical, mechanical trickery. One of his earliest novels, The “Clock Castle” Murder Case, was an award winner in Japan, earning the 24th Mephisto Prize. Kitayama has openly declared his fascination for another Japanese Golden Age-inspired video game series called Danganronpa.

Danganronpa is a series entirely about 15 talented high-school students who are trapped in Hope’s Peak Academy and instructed that in order to escape, one student must murder a classmate and successfully evade detection in the ensuing “Class Trial”. In spite of the teeny-bop dialogue, crass juvenile humor, and the jazz-punk aesthetic, every single one of the 18 murder mysteries written throughout the series’ three-game run are plotted wholly, entirely, and authentically like Golden Age/Honkaku classics, and similarly to Ace Attorney, the game has players solving the murders by collecting evidence, exposing lies, and then explaining lies through a varieties of quizzes/prompts. Kitayama was so enamored with the series, in fact, that he approached the developers and asked them if he would be allowed to write novels taking place inside of the Danganronpa fictional universe. What spawned from this agreement was a seven-novel-long prequel series following a major character from the first game named Kyoko Kirigiri, solving locked-room mysteries as part of a Detective Competition. So successful were these novels that when the third game in the series, Danganronpa V3, was developed, the creators commissioned novelist Kitayama as a co-writer who was majorly responsible for the game’s mystery plots.

The worlds of shin-honkaku mystery novel writing and video game/manga mystery writing were so inextricably bound that respected novelists were writing for video game series.

There are many more examples I could get into to make this point, such as the cross-contamination of ideas to and from popular Japanese mysteries series and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, or the fact that one of the most famous mystery novelists ever, Soji Shimada, author of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, sued comic series Kindaichi Case Files for wholesale plagiarizing his novel for one of their mysteries, forcing them to put a spoiler warning for his novel in all Japanese publications of the chapters where this plagiarism occurred. To get into all of the gems and warts of the shared world of video games and novels in Japanese detective fiction, however, would simply be diluting the point: this overlap exists, period, and that’s what matters.

Even in the most kiddish-seeming of Japanese mysteries series in video game and comic book form, writers share the same level of complexity, brilliance, and ingenuity as their novel counterparts for the very simply reason that they are cut from the same cloth. I believe that if you’ve read shin-honkaku novels, and you are clamoring for more translations while simultaneously turning your head away from any mention of video game mysteries or comic mysteries, I can’t find much sympathy for your desire to read more while you turn your nose up at the cornucopia of brilliant mysteries that are quite literally everything you’re asking for, and all for no better reason than you think their packaging is “too childish”.

Yes, a cartoon can compare to the original.

This whole post was not merely an idle exercise in writing a minor dissertation on the brilliance of Japanese mystery writing, though I will say that if I’ve at least convinced those among you to be a little more lax I can refer you to some fantastic Japanese mystery video games and manga and even help you get into them if you’d like. What’s more important is that cartoon I mentioned before. The one that earned ire from people who’ve never watched it.

Detective Conan.

Detective Conan is the quintessential Japanese detective comic series. I can’t speak from first-hand experience, but I feel comfortable saying that there probably isn’t a single mystery story produced in Japan since 1994 that doesn’t owe a little bit to Detective Conan‘s existence, as it is simply massive and the archetype of all things Golden Age mystery plotting.

Conceived by Gosho Aoyama, Detective Conan is a fantastical story about a teenager detective named Jimmy (Shinichi) Kudo who gets shrunken down into the body of an elementary schooler by an experimental chemical manufactured by a mysterious gang known simply as “The Organization”. On the protracted hunt for the group in order to return to his adult size, Jimmy is forced to adopt the alias of Conan Edogawa (taken from writers Arthur Conan Doyle and Edogawa Ranpo), and struggle to get his theories heard in hundreds of murder cases that he solves in spite of his small stature.

The silly premise is a byproduct of a bygone age during which Gosho Aoyama wanted to write child’s fiction, a period which can probably be singularly blamed for many “serious-minded” mystery readings passing the series up. It was at the behest of his editor (by the way, Japan has editors who specialize in classical mystery plotting) that Gosho Aoyama shift gears towards producing more mature, complex, adult-sized mystery stories (only, of course, still solved by a first grader…). And, naturally, nearly every case is some manner of plotting familiar to the Golden Age of Detection, both the English and Japanese ones.

And, I won’t pussyfoot around this. For what begins feeling like the world’s corniest kidtective story ever, Detective Conan goes on to produce dozens of what I can confidently say are the most devilishly clever mystery plots ever conceived in the entire history of the genre from any continent. Dozens of hidden classics of alibi problems, locked-room mysteries, and inverted mysteries are buried within the covers of this children’s series, and you’re not reading them!

The series is massive. Not just culturally, but I mean it is a quantifiably massive franchise in terms of just how much of it exists. Detective Conan spans comic book series, a Japanese animated television show, musicals, stage dramas, movies, novels, video games — probably ancient cave-writing, if you look hard enough. In the manga/comic alone, there are over 300 unique mystery stories. The anime television series has adapted nearly all of these, and produced over 300 more unique stories not present in the comic. Without even scratching the surface of this series you have nearly 700 mystery short stories already.

Now, if I’ve interested you with all of my comparisons to shin-honkaku novels, and then immediately scared you off again by throwing triple-digit figures at you… don’t worry! Editors and English professors beware, for after exactly 2834 words (by the end of this sentence) we’ve finally arrived at my thesis statement!

I am, for your benefit, re-reading/re-watching every single mystery story in the Detective Conan canon. All 700 and change. In the course of reading these, I will be keeping notes, and producing a comprehensive ranking of all of the stories read, that way you can know, based on my opinion, roughly how good each of the 700 mysteries are from the very worst one all the way to the very best one. I will also be, for convenience, telling you exactly which book in the series you need to hunt down to read any one of the stories you want. And, furthermore, if that weren’t enough for you, I will be reviewing all 90 volumes of the manga on this blog, one volume at a time, as I’m reading them. As it’s been years since I’ve touched the series, I will be writing all of the posts from the perspective of someone who is going in blind, for people going in blind, assuming that your understanding of the series evolves with mine as we going along. It will be an exhaustive, chronological resource on Detective Conan.

This tiny little project of mine, I imagine, will take anywhere from four to six months. This isn’t quite the same as me slamming out a single review of a single game in a few hours. I am dedicating a not-negligible chunk of my life and time to doing this. Hence, this post. This is not for my health. I genuinely believe that everyone in our group from 18 to 80 can find something to love in the mysteries of Japanese animation, video games, and comic books, and my end-goal is to convince a not-small portion of you to read at least 10 chapters of a Japanese mystery manga by the time I die.

Cartoons and video games have been a huge part of my life and my mystery-reading career. It’s thanks to them that this blog even exists, in fact. As “childish” as many of you might see them, they are a credible part of the Golden Age mystery experience. I was lucky enough to be Christened from a young age, and I hope I can be lucky enough to help a few of you find the same enjoyment I have in these brilliant “children’s” mysteries.

With that being said, my posts on the the first four volumes of Detective Conan can be expected soon. I’ve also not neglected my literature — look out for Jim Noy’s Red Death Murders, which I will also be reading and reviewing… at some point. If a review for a novel comes out, it’ll be this one, I guarantee it. I look forward to making converts of you all. Arrividerci, and happy reading.

18 thoughts on “On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’ve Never Read Them (+Detective Conan review series)

  1. JJ April 10, 2022 / 4:56 am

    I’d venture to suggest that the reason a lot of classic GAD fans overlook the video games is the expense of getting started — a book is a most £20 in hardcover, and the manga are £7 each, I think, but to try the video games you need to buy the console and then drop the price of a book on top…and, certainly for me, that’s an expensive gamble!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scotch April 11, 2022 / 12:49 pm

      I think most of the ‘major’ detective games, such as the Ace Attorney and Danganronpa series, are available from Steam, IOS, or Android. So no need to buy dedicated video game console if one is curious to try those games. Both series are excellent, but of those two, I personally think that the ‘Ace Attorney’ series might the one to start with for people who are not used to these kind of games.

      Like

      • JJ April 12, 2022 / 4:05 am

        Oh, man, that’s me showing my age. Back in my day we had to buy a special computer on which to play games…grumble grumble 😄

        Like

  2. Kacey Crain April 10, 2022 / 5:04 am

    There is just so much to agree with in this post that I hardly know where to begin. I too have been bemused by people wanting to find more mysteries flat out ignoring some of the best plots the genre has to offer, just because the come in a form that’s a bit different than what they’re used to. I mean, I understand that it could take a bit of acclimation, but rejecting them sight unseen? Pfui! I hope that you’re successful in convincing more people to try some of these out..

    And as one of those six or so readers TomCat mentioned, I can’t wait to read your thoughts on Detective Conan. I’ve stalled out a bit in my own reading of it, so this’ll be good chance to pick it up again. Well, maybe after finals… (And, since I don’t indiscriminately watch the anime, for fear of spoilers, reviews of the anime-original episode will be really helpful.)

    I’m curious what some of the other mystery video games and manga you mentioned being able to recommend are? I’m familiar with a some mystery manga (DC, Kindaichi, QED, In/Specter), but I’m always glad to learn of more. And as far as (available in English) video games, I really only know Ace Attorney and Danganronpa, and I’ve not actually played either, so recommendations are definitely welcome there too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isaac Stump April 10, 2022 / 5:31 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I was worried the autobiographical half would lose people, but I felt like it was necessary to make the point of cartoons’ place in finding modern fans of GAD fiction….

      Ace Attorney is best played in order, I believe, with the six main games being played, and then the spin-off series in their designated order. If you want to know what ones I think are the best, though, then the third game (Trials & Tribulations), and the spin-off (Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2: Prosecutor’s Path, which is not available legitimately in English but has a fan translation) have the best mystery plotting in the series in my opinion. Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 especially reads like an anthology of five Detective Conan cases kicked into absolute high-gear…

      The worst mystery writing is in the Sherlock Holmes spin-offs, THE GREAT ACE ATTORNEY. The first is more history/character/drama-oriented, and is very enjoyable as an exercise in thematic storytelling. The second game, for 4 out of its 5 cases, flagrantly plagiarizes famous stories. The third case, however, is unique and I consider it one of my favorite impossible crimes ever written. It has the unique premise of IMPOSSIBLE TECHNOLOGY — your client builds a teleportation machine, which beams a man into another building, where he is later found stabbed to death. Because the location he was teleported to is inaccessible until police arrive, it’s determined that he had to have been stabbed before being teleported… and the only person who could do that is your defendant. In order to prove his innocence, you need to prove that the impossible feat of technological marvels… the teleportation which you all saw happen with your very eyes… is truly impossible, and you must prove how it was faked to frame your client for murder. The solution isn’t hard to piece together, but it’s just a fantastically fun and aesthetically unique impossible crime story!

      Dangnanronpa I think is on average worse than Ace Attorney, and the writing isn’t very palpable if you’re not used to, excuse me, “very fucking weird anime bullshit” — believe me, once you play it you’ll understand there’s no better description. The first game’s mysteries are consistently among the most mediocre and uninspired in the series. The second game has the highest highs, with two absolutely fantastic mysteries near the end, but also the lowest lows, with one of the most unashamedly stupid locked-room mystery solutions ever put to paper. The third game never reaches the highs of the second game, but is the most consistently good and manages to stay above-average all the way through the game. The over-arching narratives of Danganronpa and its individual games can cause damage not unlike protracted exposure to undiluted alcohol — no game’s final case is very good.

      As for other games, SHINRAI ~ Broken Beyond Despair’s dialogue is also crass and juvenile, like Danganronpa, but the mystery is an above-average mansion mystery that uses its Halloween Party setting very well. Lucifer Within Us’s mysteries aren’t fantastic, but it has a thematically poignant ending and it’s a brilliant evolution of the GAMEPLAY of detective games — only recommended if you’re willing to deal with a very game-y detective game.

      As for manga, you’ve pretty much got them covered for English-available classic-styled mysteries, though Detective School Q (a “sister series” to Kindaichi) is also worth checking out.

      Happy reading (playing)!

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  3. Velleic April 10, 2022 / 5:05 am

    Hey, I may be an outlier it seems, but one of the reasons I became interested in this blog was the fact that you actually covered mystery video games!
    I had no idea the Facebook group was like that – I exorcised the site from my life years ago. That sucks. To have fans of one often-maligned genre that gets derided for being too simplistic turn around and deride entire mediums for being childish seems pretty ironic. For what it’s worth most bloggers seem more open minded and cover TV sometimes and the occasional manga.
    All of Detective Conan, eh? Quite an undertaking. It is true that having a series with quite so many stories in it can be offputting. But I’ll have to have a look and see what my options are for playing along. I’m going to make a wild guess that the anime is no longer easily available on Youtube, which it used to be.
    Another bonus of games, anime, manga – they are more willing to embrace modern technology! Personally I love it when that happens. The old GAD stories were up on their new technologies, and these newer stories carry forward the spirit of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isaac Stump April 10, 2022 / 5:42 am

      I don’t want to paint a bad picture of the group! In all, the group’s pretty lovely! Just one or two negative interactions that eventually culminated in this post… Besides, I’m sure they’re all tired enough of me anyway!

      I agree that the stories embracing modern technology works to their benefit! Detective Conan is no stranger (even though I have to admit that it’s weird for technology to advance so much when the series takes place canonically within a little over an in-universe year…). During the “slow start” of the first 7 volumes, my favorite murder is THE ART MUSEUM OWNER MURDER CASE, where the victim is seen writing the killer’s name on a piece of paper on a security camera. The trick is super unique, and would probably be more difficult to pull off without a security camera in place..

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    • Isaac Stump April 10, 2022 / 5:46 am

      Also, I’m very sorry that you’ve gotten interested in my blog because of my video games, only for me to get frustrated and stop writing video game posts! To be fair, in retrospect, there are probably only so many ways to review the individual games of something like Ace Attorney, but we’ll see! 😛

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  4. Ho-Ling April 10, 2022 / 7:33 am

    Like you, and after many years of writing about mystery fiction in the broad sense of the term, I still find it puzzling at times how dismissive some “mystery fans” are of mystery fiction in any form but a prose story. You honestly don’t see it as severe the other way around (people who get into mystery fiction via games/manga/Takarazuka musical or whatever). And in a lesser form, I do notice on my own blog, I do notice that some commentators usually do stick with “their genre”, as in some people only comment on game posts, some only on novels etc.

    But, yeah, clinging to one single form seems a bit weird, as there’s so much great going on in all the various media when it comes to mystery fiction. Just finished up the main scenarios of Higurashi: When They Cry yesterday for example, which might not be a “perfect mystery story” but it does really fun things with showing how diverse the genre can be.

    Have fun with rewatching all of Conan! It’s something I honestly can’t see myself doing any time soon anymore, perhaps after the series has ended, but there’s just too much I still want to see/read besides Conan, so there’s just no time to be re-reading/rewatching everything XD Which reminds me, volume 101 is going to be released this week in Japan…

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    • Isaac Stump April 11, 2022 / 2:06 am

      Thank you, I’m having fun! I just finished re-reading up to Volume 6, so I’m about out of the early-series slog. It’s pretty all-around great for this era of Conan, and I think it’s when the series started to transition into something greater than it has been. The Junior Detective League case is pretty whatever, but the ART COLLECTOR MURDER CASE and THE TENKAICHI FESTIVAL MURDER CASE blow the other cases in this period out of the water. ART COLLECTOR (V6 C2-5) turns on a few really clever visual clues and a pretty damn solid Agatha Christie-style dodge, and TENKAICHI (V6 C9-10, V7 C1) isn’t at all a half-bad inverted mystery that’d suit Columbo or Ace Attorney. The only other early Conan that comes close at all is ART MUSEUM OWNER (V4 C1-3), which has a really clever and elegant trick for the dying message…

      I agree, clinging to one form is silly and really reductive, and I hope I can talk some people into Detective Conan one of these days!

      Speaking of reading, I’m still studying my Japanese, Ho-Ling! I was wondering if you knew of some good young adult mysteries a late N4/Early N3 could read? I wanted to ask you for some recommendations since I left the Ace Attorney Discord (I’m Heartfelt, we’ve talked), but I have no clue how to get in touch with you…

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      • Ho-Ling April 11, 2022 / 4:41 am

        Have you read the two children’s novels of Ace Attorney already? (Gyakuten idol and Gyakuten Kuukou)? Should be comfortable reading now at N4/N3. Probably the same for the Detective Conan original novels (there are a bunch of them, some novelizations of drama adaptations and the movies, but there are also three original novels and the last one, Ejinbara no Witch, is pretty okay). By N3 I guess you could also just start with reading “normal” novels, as you’ll be able to recognize what you don’t more easily and look things up (at N5/N4, you’d probably look up too much too often for the actual reading to be any fun).

        Ejinbara no Witch also features illustrations by Abe Yutaka by the way, a name you might recognize from THE TENKAICHI FESTIVAL MURDER CASE 😛

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      • Isaac Stump April 11, 2022 / 6:01 pm

        Bold of you to assume I remember the names of Conan characters! 😛

        These are good recommendations, by the way, thank you! As the leading authority in Japanese mysteries, I was hoping one of these days you’d make a reading list sorted by JLPT learnings for people like me trying to learn Japanese FOR mysteries. Is that too much of a pipedream, though? 😛

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    • TomCat April 11, 2022 / 7:08 am

      …I still find it puzzling at times how dismissive some “mystery fans” are of mystery fiction in any form but a prose story. You honestly don’t see it as severe the other way around

      I find this puzzling as well. I didn’t start out with video games, anime or comic books of any kind, but with the politieromans of Appie Baantjer and went from him to Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and eventually John Dickson Carr. So by the time I discovered anime and manga has an Aladdin’s Cave of everything I value in detective fiction, I was all over Detective Conan and Detective Academy Q like a one-man ant colony storming a picnic basket. I’m a very typical fanboy. So that lack of curiosity in other fans has always puzzled me. You love locked room mysteries? Go watch The Cursed Mask Laughs Coldly!

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  5. TomCat April 11, 2022 / 6:43 am

    You actually got angry reactions? I’ve been promoting anime/manga detective series for years and either got ignored or heard various objections. Such as having to read from left to right, the sheer size of series like Detective Conan or feeling uncomfortable with reading/watching scanlations/fanlations of untranslated series, but never outright anger. I thought it was generally agreed upon the Japanese have been marvelous custodians of the traditional detective during a dark time for the genre in the West. Gosho Aoyama and Seimaru Amagi made a significant contribution to the whole shin honkaku movement. Another thing often overlooked by Western fans is just how popular Detective Conan is in Japan and helped cement the traditional detective story as mainstream.

    So no idea how to place a comment like “I don’t need to read it to know there’s no way a cartoon could ever compare to the original.” Jim and I got very different comments when we co-reviewed “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case” story-arc from Detective Academy Q on his blog. Not that we succeeded in igniting a long overdue interest in them, but no angry comments cursing us for daring to compare an animated detective story to the classics. I can only recall one, somewhat negative comment and that was half-jokingly in defense of a short story I criticized (something along the lines of, “oh, like a teenage detective shrinking back into a child is believable”). Is there a big overlap between that group and these blogs?

    Anyway, I look forward to your ambitious plans to rank every single story from Detective Conan and what you’re going to make of some of my favorites.

    By the way, have 5 and 6 reported in yet?

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  6. Andrés S. April 11, 2022 / 1:46 pm

    The great thing about Japanese video games and anime is the lack of a proselytizing spirit. You know that a detective story is just a detective story (something western bloggers don’t understand) . I’ve never joined the Facebook group and lately I’m writing less and less blog comments because of the huge amount of reviews based just on the politics of said blogger instead of the quality of the story.

    Having low self-esteem is typical of young guys these days. I’m twice your age, I have an IQ almost twenty points above Einstein, and yesterday I was playing The Flintstones: the rescue of Dino and Hoppy on the NES. You shouldn’t be ashamed of what you like, or what you do. Everyone is different: embrace that. If you try to be something you are not, your esteem will plummet even more.

    You like drawing and writing , then do it!
    I’ve seen grownups change their behavior and way of thinking just because they are afraid of losing fake friends who will abandon them if they don’t follow the same outdated political trend. It’s quite pathetic.

    (EDIT from Isaac: I removed a protracted comment about the LGBT here. The spirit of the comment was essentially that a man’s sexuality had no bearing on his character, and I agree with this in spirit. However, as for the other comments made, I don’t believe that people’s identities are political and shouldn’t be treated as such. Furthermore, I don’t think your comment was made in malice, but I did find a certain term used to describe the community somewhat distasteful and provocative. I don’t want people from the LGBT community to feel judgment from my readers.)

    Btw, Danganronpa is great, but V3’s ending ruined the series for me. I much preferred the futuristic Zero Escape and, of course, Ace Attorney.
    One other thing :
    If you dislike the comment of this libertarian/conservative old fart, feel free to erase it. I don’t mind =)
    But remember : it’s alright to be yourself.

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  7. Javier De La Hera May 7, 2022 / 6:02 pm

    Isaac, we met in that facebook group you refer to in the post. I want to really thank you for making known to me this unexplored territory. I just watched the first episode of Detective Conan and loved it!! I’m sorry if some of the old guard isn’t interested, it’s their loss. Instant hook with Conan for me with that ingenious murder on the rollercoaster!! Best wishes!!

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