(*Note, although this is the seventh in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read my review of the first volume to get a summary of the series and my preamble about the reviews. It is not necessary to read any other entry in the series besides the first)
Volume 6 of Detective Conan was simply fantastic. The two absolute best stories we’ve seen so far featured in that volume, and while there was one pretty uninspiring story in the middle it didn’t spoil what I consider the first absolute must-get volume in the series… Now that we’ve reached this point in the Detective Conan franchise, standards are high! One can only hope that we keep getting more fantastic stories like we saw in the previous volume…
First up to bat in Volume 7’s two stories is Casebook 18 – The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case (Chapters 2-7), a six chapter feature-length, opening with a mysterious letter addressed to Richard Moore summoning him to Tsukikage (Moon Shadow) Island with the warning that the island will once again be cast in darkness… The sender? A man going by the name of Keiji Asoh…
At Tsukikage Island, asking about the identity of Keiji Asoh reveals that the man has long since passed away. It was 12 years ago, in fact, when world-renowned pianist Keiji Asoh went mad, killed his family, and proceeded to light his home on fire. While the wood of his house scorched and embers danced hungrily around him, lapping at his skin and threatening to devour him, Keiji Asoh calmly sat at his piano and played his favorite song, the Moonlight Sonata, up until the very moment he was engulfed in flame and passed away… Thirteen years later, the sounds of the Moonlight Sonata playing from the community center summoned witnesses to find the dead body of the Tsukikage Island mayor… The piano’s story history has led to it being isolated in the city center away from everyone else, derided as a cursed artifact of the island’s colored history.
Despite thinking of the letter as a cruel-hearted prank, the Moores and Conan stay at Tsukikage Island to soak in the local politics of the upcoming mayoral election and even attend the late mayor’s funeral. While there, they hear the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata and run into the room with the cursed Asoh’s piano only to find Hideo Kawashima, a mayoral candidate, drowned to death, at the helm of the piano!
While the mystery is underway, Conan realizes that the letter only says that a shadow will begin to fall over Tsukikage Island. And, as the Moonlight Sonata has two more movements that they’ve yet to hear, the damning realization dawns on the Moores that there may very likely be two more murders committed to this musical motif in the shadows of Tsukikage Island… And when another mayoral candidate is found murdered to the second movement of the Moonlight Sonata during the investigation, their worst fears are realized… A serial killer is out for blood.
There are only so many ways to call a story brilliant, but this one is… well, brilliant! What initially seems to be a very clues-light detective story is revealed to be a subtly complex tale of murder and deception. The haunting motif of serial killings inspired by a cursed piano lend itself not only to atmosphere, but also to a delightfully simple and elegant if technical misdirection of alibis and time-manipulation. The central misdirection here is wildly unique and very naturally implemented, clever and very credible. What’s more is that the trick almost relies on the fact that this is a serial killing, and wouldn’t be nearly as effective in a single, isolated murder case. This is also the first feature-length Detective Conan in which the killer doesn’t make a weak double-bluff that immediately reveals their identity, and I was in fact pleasantly surprised by the denouement!
The ending of the story is very touching, and I think the most character-oriented the series gets. The killer’s motive is touching, even if not unique, and the way the character is sung off for the last time beautifully reflects on and calls back to the first death of the story. In a heartfelt scene of redemption, the killer seeks retribution in saving Conan’s life…
I do feel compelled to point out three minor faults with the story. Firstly, I feel like the supernatural undertones of the cursed piano are abandoned really quickly when it’s revealed that the music is being played from a sound tape during these murders (the piano isn’t even present for the most important murder…). The story also engages in some classic Detective Conan sexism, and it’s a bit harder to ignore here because it’s a very important part of some of the deductions that move the plot along. For a moment during the denouement, you actually think they’ll double-back and make a point about the sexism being wrong but… they absolutely do double down on it. Similarly, there’s a clue involving the way a character’s name is written in Japanese… something entirely removed from the English translation with I think little hope of figuring it out otherwise.
But never you mind those quibbles. This is a beautiful, touching, and brilliant Detective Conan story that succeeds on every level from plot to character. If I were to name a single Detective Conan story that fans of classical detection should read, it would probably be this one.
Interestingly, this is when I noticed Gosho Aoyama stopped trying so hard to write around the fact that Conan is in a child’s body. During much of this story, Conan just… makes deductions, and characters either humor him or take him and everything he says 100% at face value. Occasionally Richard will hit Conan (usually implied to be because he’s showing him up), but for the most part Conan just gets away with playing detective much more blatantly. I wonder if the premise started to get a bit problematic for Aoyama to write for…
The second and last story in Volume 3, Casebook 19 – Soccer Player’s Brother Kidnapping Case (Volumes 7-8, Chapters 8-1), involves a young woman coming to the Moore house, claiming to be looking for Jimmy (Conan) because they were dating before he vanished… Because Conan knows he’s never met this woman before, he is curious as to the real reason why she’d be looking for him… And when the two accompany the woman to her apartment, he finds a ransacked child’s room and believes a kidnapping may have taken place here!
This is another kidnapping case. It’s actually the best one so far, with some okay-ish cluing and okay-ish reasoning. The plot, motive, and resolution all just kind of lift bits and pieces from CEO’s Daughter Kidnapping Case (Volume 1 Chapters 2-5) and 1 Billion Yen Case (Volume 2 Chapters 4-7), but the individual parts taken all work better when combined in this story.
What is my favorite clue in this story is there’s a clue that is only debatably fairplay, which ties into a fictional video game called Onimaru Quest. Onimaru Quest is a fictional reference to/parody of a specific real-world video game in an actual video game series, as the plot of the Onimaru Quest game becomes important in a minor way, and you might possibly be able to figure out the clue ahead of time if you’ve played the game, Dragon Quest V, before reading this story. It isn’t much of a spoiler, but I love that this specific clue exists in the story.
There’s also a very touching moment at the end not unlike the previous case in which a misunderstanding makes the culprit feel foolish… Rachel’s jealousy here is cute, but it also means the story astoundingly fails the Bechdel test.
Anyway, I know it’s a bit underwhelming after the first case in this volume, but this case is another basic kidnapping base that brings nothing new to the table.
I wholeheartedly recommend Volume 7 on the weight of The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case alone, which many Detective Conan fans will name as their favorite story in the series. While the misdirection at the heart of it isn’t Detective Conan‘s absolute number one best, as a story of detection it’s perfectly composed and pitch-perfect, beat-for-beat…
- Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
- Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
- Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
- Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
- Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
- Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
- LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
- Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
- Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
- Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
- Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
- Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
- Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
- Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
- Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
- Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
- President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
- Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
- ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)