FIVE TO TRY: Japanese Thrillers Even Mystery Lovers Can Enjoy

Mysteries and thrillers have had such a wedge driven between them that for the two to overlap is often a spectacle worth noting as rare exceptions, such as the spectacular “puzzle boxes” of film director Christopher Nolan (Inception, Interstellar). While the western incarnations of these exceptions are often highly well-documented in our little blogging niche of the internet, those crossovers between purified detective stories and thriller from Japan are significantly less publicized than their straightforward honkaku (“authentic”) detective story counterparts.

And so, cribbing the title of this post from Jim Noy’s “FIVE TO TRY” posts over at his spectacular blog, The Invisible Event, I intend to offer to western fans of Golden Age mysteries and detection five Japanese thrillers which appeal even to our specific sensibilities! These aren’t just any old “mystery-thrillers” or “thriller-mysteries” or whatever other permutation of genre names you want to think of; these are thrillers which contain a style and nature of plotting which I believe should specifically appeal to fans of the Golden Age standard and method of mystery plotting!

So, below are my five picks for Japanese thrillers which I believe even those in our little nook of the internet can enjoy!

Death Note

The quintessential Japanese mystery-thriller, Death Note is predominantly a manga series about Light Yagami, a high-school student who discovers a supernatural notebook called “The Death Note”, writing in which allows Light Yagami to kill any person as long as he knows both the real name and face of that person. Now going by the alias of “Kira” (Killer) ascribed to him by the media, Light Yagami is tracked down by a master detective who goes by the enigmatic name of “L”.

Death Note is the very first entry that came to my mind when I decided to compile a list of thrillers which I believe even English-speaking authentic mystery fans could read and enjoy. The series is possibly the most well-known “cat-and-mouse” thriller from Japan to English-speakers, with the story following both the perspectives of the criminal Light and the detective L in equal measure.

Despite its supernatural premise, the eponymous Death Note is guided by a set of strict, unbendable rules which dictate how it can and cannot be used, making it a verifiable example of the hybrid mystery. Furthermore, while L can sometimes resort to “moon logic” (wildly convoluted or counterintuitive reasoning), typically his reasoning is based on information the audience is also privy too. And since Light/Kira’s responses are equally guided by reasoning based on information known to the audience, it can be said that despite being labeled a “supernatural thriller”, Death Note is as much a fairplay detective story as any other inverted mystery, in which we’re equally capable of reasoning along with both sides of the crime: commission and detection.

I recommend this most to people who: like inverted mysteries and capers; don’t mind supernatural elements in their mysteries; enjoy following the psychology of the villain.


Billed by Wikipedia as a “psychological thriller”, LIAR GAME is a multi-media franchise which began with a manga (Japanese comic book) about Nao Kanzaki, a naive college student who is suddenly sent 100 million yen (roughly $760,000 USD) and instructed that is now a competitor in the Liar Game Tournament, a multi-stage competition in which participants are encouraged to cheat, betray each other, and lie in order to get their hands on each other’s money!

…A problem, indeed, for the “foolishly honest” Nao Kanzaki.

In this tournament, the competition is split into various stages in which contestants play games of wits to overcome their opponents and win their money. For instance, the very first game is a game called “Minority Rule”, in which contestants are asked to answer yes/no questions. If your answer is the minority, you move on to the next round of the game, but if your answer is the majority you are immediately disqualified… Of course, however, as players are permitted to lie, there are three questions you must ask yourself every round: (1.) how many of my competitors does this question apply to, (2.) how many of my competitors know the answer to question 1, and therefore (3.) how likely are the competitors to lie, and is it beneficial to me to answer correctly or lie?

As Nao Kanzaki moves through the various stages of this tournament, instead of keeping the money for herself, she begins to use the earnings to buy her contestants out of their debt and, hopefully, slowly dismantle the Liar Game Tournament Organization from within the game itself…

LIAR GAME is almost certainly the closest thing you’re going to get to “fairplay mystery plotting” in something which is, frankly, not even a “mystery” at all. Rather than dealing with murders or thefts, in LIAR GAME the puzzle is always “how can Nao mathematically maximize or even guarantee her chances at winning each game?” Information is never hidden from the audience, and with a close enough understanding of the rules, the player is constantly in possession of all the details they need to see Nao’s path to likely or certain victory! In every game, outcomes can be forced, rules can be cleverly exploited, and nothing is ever left entirely up to chance or victory. A stage for many complex math puzzles and logic problems, LIAR GAME is almost like a mystery story in which you follow a protagonist who has to solve, not crimes, but purified riddles! Something like The Hunger Games, but with competitive puzzle solving.

This genre of story is not uncommon in manga, often called “gambling” or “game” stories, but very few few manage to be as good as LIAR GAME, which is as complex, satisfying, and fair as any crime story!

I recommend this most to people who: like riddles, logic problems, and math puzzles; are interested in game philosophy, game theory, and logic theory, especially as it applies to gambling; enjoy heavily rule-dictated conflicts.

Raging Loop

“Werewolf” is a social deduction board game in which players are randomly assigned roles like “Townsperson” or “Werewolf”. Every round of the game is separated into two stages: nighttime, in which the players assigned the role “Werewolf” secretly select one person to kill (remove from the game), and daytime, during which players debate about who they believe the Werewolves are, vote them out, and then kill them.

However, imagine if instead of a board game, these rules dictated the real murders and deaths of real people in a cursed mountain village out in rural Japan. Then, you’d have Raging Loop.

In the “visual novel” (a video game with lots of text that mostly only exists to tell a story) Raging Loop, Haruaki Fusaishi bikes into the mountains with no idea of a destination. However, during his trip he gets stranded in a remote mountain village which, he discovers, has been the battlegrounds for a war between the God of the Mountain and the demons of Yomi (Hell)…

In order to keep the battle fair, rules have been established: at the start of the “war”, a random number of villagers are killed and replaced with Werewolves who take on all of the traits of the person they’re replacing! Every night these Werewolves are allowed to kill one person of their choosing, and every day the survivors debate amongst themselves who they believe are the Werewolves. And, if they believe they’ve found an impostor, they vote, and the accused person is hung by the cliffside… If all the Werewolves are exorcised, the Mountain wins, but if the Werewolves ever outnumber the surviving humans, the survivors are murdered and the mountain is overcome by the Yomibito…

While competing in this bizarre murder game, Haruaki is murdered and discovers he has the ability to go back in time and make difference decisions by dying. Using this ability, Haruaki tries to stop the deaths. But, as he continues to change things in the village, the “game” begins to take on different, progressively complicated permutations, putting Haruaki more and more at risk of being unable to overcome this bizarre curse…

Raging Loop‘s first three chapters are very interesting exercises in mystery-writing in which you, the player, read about the characters participating in a murder game following specific rules. While early on the characters are comically awful at Werewolf, which might be frustrating to real-life veterans of the game, it helps ease newcomers into understanding the concept, and as the games progress and more and more characters compete in the game, the games begin to get more creative and more deceptive!

Because the murders are based on the real rules of a real-life “mystery game” which are easy and intuitive to understand and we have access to all the same information as the characters, despite being easy to sum the game up as a psychological horror game, it also means we have the ability to reason along with the players as they play the game. It’s easy to intuit what the characters will do (to the same degree as it’s possible to do it in the real-life party game), and it’s possible to reason about who is and isn’t the Werewolf on the same level as the characters within the narrative. Using a heavily rules-dictated conflict makes this a fantastic thriller game for fans of mystery fiction, as it hits a lot of the same notes, focusing on tight strategizing and clever logic required for the characters to survive!

While the chapters following the multiple “games” aren’t nearly as interesting, the first 20 or so hours of the game are fantastically fun mystery-thriller fare! Check out my friend “Bad Player”‘s review here.

I recommend this to people who: like social deduction party games; are interested in psychological horror; enjoy conflicts in which the players are forced to apply creative strategic thinking in order to survive/come out on top.

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a game best experienced knowing as little as possible, but what I can say is that it’s a supernatural horror-mystery puzzle game in which the player is tasked with investigating the truth behind seven curses befalling seven groups of people…

The game’s narrative is incredibly dense and complex, and while it’s the furthest thing from a traditional detective story on this list, it is still a satisfyingly complicated mystery tale involving the interplay between a giant collection of brain-teasing plot threads and puzzles which mystery fans should enjoy if they’re comfortable with a more heavily video game-ish experience.

I recommend this most to people who: like J-horror; enjoy ghost stories; are comfortable playing video games

The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria

 Kazuki Hoshino is an average student at an average high-school trying to live an average high-school student life without anything getting in the way of his very peaceful, un-compromised existence. Hoshino’s ardent commitment to maintaining as unspectacular an existence as humanly possible has attracted the amusement of a being named “O”, who wishes to give Hoshino a “Box” — a wish-granting implement that will give him anything he asks for. When Hoshino rejects the wish, insisting he doesn’t want anything he doesn’t already have, “O” decides to make it his mission to subject Hoshino to as gruesome conditions as he can until the high-schooler relents and accepts the “Box” to wish for his everyday life back…. in an experiment to test the furthest possible limits of human homeostasis.

During this experiment to push Kazuki into accepting a wish, more and more of the people in his life are given “Boxes”, and these “Boxes” take the wisher’s deepest desires and externalizes them into supernatural phenomena… all entirely centralized around disrupting Kazuki Hoshino’s average, everyday life!

In order to restore balance to his existence without wishing the “Boxes” away, Kazuki Hoshino, along with Maria Otonashi, must continue to (1.) discover what the nature of the supernatural phenomenon targeting them is, (2.) figure out what manner of which produced the phenomenon, and (3.) figure out who would make such a wish and convince them to unhand their “Box”…

The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria is, strictly speaking, a “supernatural psychological thriller” novel series told in the form of semi-episodic mystery stories. There are seven volumes in the series, each one focusing on a different incident with a different wish produced by a different “Box”, and in each case the protagonists are required to deduce details about the wish and wisher, making this another honest-to-God example of the hybrid mystery plotting style. While it isn’t strictly-speaking always fairplay, and the first book is more of a straight-forward supernatural drama, some of the books like Volume 2 really get close to purified detective fiction, including genuinely fair clues, clever logic, and format-breaking storytelling that make this a super interesting and enthralling supernatural detective series.

I recommend this most to people who: are comfortable with high-school drama; are interested in supernatural mysteries; want a series that gets progressively more surreal over time; are interested in psychological drama.

While their shin-honkaku brethren are more publicized in our nook of the internet, these five and more represent how varied and intelligent the world of Japanese thrillers can be, and just how amenable they can be to the sensibilities of lovers of puzzle plots and Golden Age mysteries. Oftentimes they can be found not far from the hallowed grounds of authentic mystery we love so much, so if you choose to pursue any of these stories, happy sleuthing, and good reading!

Detective Conan Volumes 16 to 29 — 14-Volume Review Lightning Round

(*Note, although this is the sixteenth 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)

You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t updated my Detective Conan reviews in a while. The last update was a review of volume 15, nearly a third of a year ago… This is NOT because I haven’t been reading it, but quite the opposite: I’ve been reading it between classes, while bed-ridden with sciatica, at the hospital waiting to be diagnosed with sciatica, during mental health burnouts, over lunch… It’s such a breezy and easy to read series that it’s become a go-to comfort read for me when I feel like I haven’t touched enough mysteries lately.

I’m actually at book 30 in Detective Conan now, and reviewing these somewhat weekly means I’ll never catch up and never have room to discuss any other non-literature mysteries! So I kept putting off writing new Detective Conan reviews, but then continued reading the series until one day I realized… oh no… I’ve only reviewed half of what I’ve read!

Suffice it to say, this was unideal. Anxiety set in (as it always does when I’m facing the most insignificant problems a person has ever faced) and I had no idea how I was ever going to catch up with myself reviewing them one measly book at a time!

…So why review them one book at a time? Why not write one massive catch-up review post, covering all 14 volumes I’ve read since I last updated the series, and continue from there? Does this seem inefficient and inelegant? Probably.

But I’m still doing it. It makes me feel better.

Detective Conan is one of if not simply the largest “classical-styled” mystery series in the entire world, boasting exactly 700 disparate mystery stories across 1109 chapters of 104 books, and 1067 episodes of 31 seasons of television (only counting the stories original to the television adaptation), and that’s before taking into account video games, novels, movies, audio plays, and other random, obscure micro-entries… and the franchise isn’t even done yet, as it’s slated to continue in full force later this year! Suffice it to say that when I set out to consume nearly 2200 micro-units of media for review on this blog, I was making a huge commitment of time, energy, and effort, not to mention sacrificing my integrity in the eyes of more conservative mystery readership…

Naturally the project sometimes gets away from me, as I’ve read 15 whole books in the series since I last reviewed it. If it were one or two books I was behind, that’d be one thing, but 15…!? That’s not reasonable at all. I was simply not on top of the project. In order to get myself back on track, I’ve decided to carry out the worst plan in the history of plans and cram 14 reviews into one by going through a lightning round review of all 41(!) stories I’ve read but have yet to cover on the blog…


I don’t want to waste too much time on this preamble for a rushed and slapdash review, so without much further ado, let’s start with…

Volume 16 (1997)

Volume 16 only fully starts on Chapter 4 with Casebook 043 – Elementary School Mystery Case (Chapters 4-5), a Junior Detective League case borrowing from Japanese schoolkid mythology of every school having “seven mysteries”. The Junior Detective League investigates running skeletons and moving statues, but the solution is intentionally silly and not entirely interesting, even if the “motive” is really cute.

Casebook 044 – KAITO KID and the Black Star Case is a landmark case for the series, as it is the first crossover between Detective Conan and Gosho Aoyama’s other series Magic Kaito. Magic Kaito is a heist series about a magician-turned-supercriminal who seeks to steal every gem in the world until he can find the magical jewel that is responsible for his father’s death..! The protagonist, KAITO KID, often crosses over with Conan in heists told from the detective’s perspective, and this blend of heist fiction and classical detection results in an exceptionally fun and outstandingly unique story in this franchise. A+!

Casebook 045 – Famous Potter Murder Case (Chapters 10-2) involves a famous potter and his proteges excitedly showing the famous Detective Richard Moore their work when the potter’s daughter-in-law accidentally breaks his magnum opus… She’s naturally torn-up with grief, so when she dies by hanging in the shed the very next day, when everyone was together in the living room of the house with an alibi, it’s determined that her death must’ve been a suicide…

My biggest gripe with Conan alibi tricks is that the cases tend to get lazy by giving everyone a perfect alibi, highlighting the very existence of an alibi trick and making the tricks less functional and more obvious as a consequence. What’s here is a decent idea for a trick, but the cracks on the foundation become more apparent when your set-up shouts “hey, everybody look! Alibi here! There’s an alibi trick here!”. Some later Conan stories handle this better. Middle of the line story.

Volume 16 is fairly unremarkable if not for the exceptional KAITO KID case. It’s hard to recommend the volume on the weight of one story alone, but it is a landmark, so I’d suggest checking out the anime adaptation of this story to get context for future KAITO KID crossovers (of which there will be many)

Volume 17 (1997)

Volume 17 opens with Casebook 046 – Scuba Divers Attempted Murder Case (Chapters 3-5), in which a bride-to-be almost drowns after being bitten by a rare, poisonous sea-snake! But a chance observation by Conan, as well as Richard’s ex-wife Eri, leads to the realization that this seeming “accident” way well be murder.

The motive for this one requires a little tolerance for what is and isn’t taboo in other cultures, but it’s actually a really good plot with a smart visual clue. It recalls the last Attempted Murder case in Casebook 21 – Poisoned Bride Attempted Murder Case (Volume 8, Chapters 8-10) in that it involves a tragic misunderstanding that is resolved by the end of the case. I think the resolution works better in this case than that one, but this isn’t as good a mystery. Still, a really solid one!

Casebook 047 – Hospitalized Robber Case (Chapter 6) isn’t very interesting. It’s Die Hard but condensed into a single chapter of Detective Conan. My least favorite story in the series. Next.

Casebook 048 – Mysterious Clocks Mystery Case (Chapters 7-9) is a Junior Detective League code-cracker, only instead of the Junior Detective League it’s Conan and the Moores… Even if the JDL are absent, the case about a mysterious house where all of the clocks go off at once isn’t interesting or fair, giving it the same standard of plotting as those JDL stories… Also underwhelming.

Casebook 049 – Historical Actor Case (Chapters 10-2) sees Richard Moore summoned by an actor well-known for period pieces to act as reference for an upcoming detective film, but when they all witness the murder of his wife in the next-door apartment, Conan has to find a wrinkle in the open-and-shut case against the tenant… The case isn’t entirely original, as it recalls a particular Ellery Queen story, but it’s still a decently fun case that I enjoy well enough, with a pretty solid spatial trick.

Volume 17 seems split evenly between the good and the bad, but the bad stories are actually quite short. If you’re willing to pick up Volume 18 to finish Historical Actor Case, Volume 17 is a worthwhile addition for signed-on fans of the franchise!

Volume 18 (1997)

After finishing Historical Actor Murder Case, Volume 18 opens with Case 050 – Jimmy’s First Love Attempted Murder Case (Chapters 3-5), in which a fire starts from the inside of a house with a young woman inside, even though all of her friends were out at the time, singing karaoke miles away and in full view of each other…

Another “all of the suspects have an alibi” one, but the trick here is actually a really unique method of lighting a fire with an alibi, so it stands out from other, similarly-structured cases! A pretty cute and novel short form case, and one of the better stories from the series!

Case 051 – Lady in Black Kidnapping Case (Chapters 7-8) is another “thriller with logic” case involving the Junior Detective League involving the kidnapping of one of their classmates’ brother… It introduces Anita, an important character, but the case is otherwise not interesting at all and teases plot developments that don’t pan out.

Case 052 – University Professor Murder Case (Chapters 9-1) is a locked-room mystery in which Anita and Conan visit a university professor to retrieve Black Organization contraband, only to find the professor murdered in his locked-and-sealed office…

This is a unique take on the locked-room mystery because the case all but tells you from the get-go that the solution is a specific kind of string trick, and what the string trick was. However, the solution leaves another problem: how did the string escape from the room? I didn’t like the case at first because the string trick is rather silly, but once I realized the point was more the mystery of the disappearing string I lightened on it a lot. It’s actually a pretty novel locked-room mystery that I enjoy! Easy recommendation.

Volume 18 is a pretty solid entry into the series that’s worth checking out if you’re a signed-on fan. Not only does it contribute important plot development (something I don’t care about because it’s the most glacial narrative in the history of writing, but…), but it also has two pretty good cases bookending it. It isn’t one of the all-time great volumes, but a pretty good one worth checking out.

Volume 19 (1997)

After giving us the conclusion chapter to University Professor Murder Case, Volume 19 starts with Casebook 053 – Mystery Writer Kidnapping Case (Chapters 2-4), in which a mystery author appears to be leaving clues to his kidnapping in his serialized manuscript. Another boring code-cracker, which involves knowledge of three(!) languages to solve, and is just as tenuous and unbelievable as always.

Casebook 054 – Stabbed Wallets Murder Case (Chapters 5-8) has Conan visit Harley’s home of Osaka, where a serial killer with a bizarre M.O. is on the loose: first, he strangles his victims, and then he stabs their wallets…

Not a very interesting case for the first proper “serial killer” story, involving a tenuous “missing link” that makes no sense and reveals a pretty nonsensical motive for the killers. There’s one solid trick in the mix, but it’s a pretty unremarkable story, silly and unambitious.

Casebook 055 – Stadium Indiscriminate Threatening Case (Chapters 9-1) is a Junior Detective League story, but is more of a “thriller with logic” case as a man holds a stadium of over 26,000 soccer fans hostage with a bomb threat in exchange for millions of yen! Despite being a “thriller with logic” case, which are rarely fair, this one is pretty solid for being surprisingly fairplay with its solution and having some neat, clever developments. Not my kind of story personally, but pretty solid for what it is.

Volume 19 is one of the weaker volumes of the series so far, and it’s not even close. Despite the fairly decent Stadium Indiscriminate Threatening Case, nothing here stands out as worth going out of your way to read, nor is it important to read for context into the overarching narrative. Wholly skippable.

Volume 20 (1998)

Casebook 056 – KAITO KID and the Magic Lovers Murder Case (Chapters 2-6) is a fan-favorite of many Detective Conan fans, including TomCat of Beneath the Stains of Time, but I wasn’t as enamored with it. This no-footprints-in-the-snow mystery involving a murder at a meeting of an online magician fangroup has an overly technical, machine-based solution that doesn’t really do it for me. The solution represents a type of trick most people immediately think of when thinking about murders committed in snow without leaving footprints, too…

Also, KAITO KID hardly figures into the story. Don’t get excited, all 1 of you Magic Kaito fans…

Case 057 – Sealed Bathroom Murder Case (Chapters 7-9) has Richard Moore and Conan on the scene when a woman breaks into her taped-shut bathroom to find that her sister has committed suicide within….!

The solution and set-up are lifted entirely from Clayton Rawson’s landmark locked-room mystery story “From Another World”. There’s a neat touch with how Conan identifies the killer, a brilliant fatal visual clue that’d function well in an inverted mystery, but the locked-room mystery’s shameless pilfering knocks this story down a lot.

Case 058 – Blue Castle Murder Case (Chapters 10-3) is a four-chapter long JDL code-cracking case with a lot of padding and failed attempts at horror and suspense. The code is fair for English-speakers for once, but it still makes for an unremarkable story. We’ve been getting too many of these code-crackers…

Volume 20 is another pretty underwhelming and not very good volume in the series that isn’t worth seeking out to read in my opinion. Unremarkable all the way down.

Volume 21 (1998)

Casebook 059 – Jimmy’s First Murder Case (Chapters 4-7) has Rachel falling asleep on an airplane, reminiscing on the first murder case Jimmy (Conan) ever solved, also on an airplane… a case in which an unsavory tabloid photographer is murdered in a bathroom after boasting about the compromising photos he’s gotten of a prominent American politician!

The case offers some cute lore for Conan as a character, and is all-around a pretty well-written, well-plotted detective story with a fun alibi trick at its heart. The disappearing weapon element isn’t very interesting, and recalls an earlier story in the series, but the rest of the case is pure, good, un-gimmicky mystery plotting. Good stuff!

Casebook 060 – Treadmill Murder Case (Chapters 8-10) is the first in a series of stories called “Police Love Story” about the will-they-won’t-they romance between police detectives Wataru Takagi and Miwako Sato.

A semi-inverted mystery about Conan suspecting a man of murdering his wife, even though the man was at the police station when the crime occurred, the technical trick here isn’t very interesting, and a variation of a classification of trick the series is obsessed with… It’s a somewhat okay-ish variation on the concept, since it relies on environmental elements of which you are aware, but it’s not a favorite.

Casebook 061 – Wedding Day Murder Case (Chapters 11-3) is a pretty underwhelming and bogstandard locked-room mystery about a butler being murdered in a locked-room. There’s a decent double-bluff at the end with a string trick being proffered as a false solution, but the true solution is still an old dodge. However, I enjoyed the way the killer misdirected away from the trick, making this an unremarkable locked-room mystery but a decently smartly-done whodunit.

Volume 21 is better than the previous two volumes, with a higher average of quality, but is still not quite good enough to unambiguously recommend. If you’re a signed-on fan, I can say this is a decent volume worth your time, but people only looking for the highlights should just look for the anime adaptation of Jimmy’s First Murder Case.

Volume 22 (1998)

Casebook 062 – North Star Murder Case (Chapters 4-7) focuses on a professional robber who, after bungling a jewelry store robbery, murders the owner of the store on a train before impossible vanishing from a guarded compartment… All of which reminds Conan of an unpublished mystery manuscript written by his father!

The solution to this impossible disappearance isn’t very interesting, as it’s obvious and the clues are rather crude. I appreciate the framing device of excerpts from the father’s manuscript highlighting pivotal moments in the case, but the manuscript’s connection to the case is boring and hand-waved away. Not a very good one at all.

Case 063 – Serena Attempted Murder Case (Chapters 8-10) sees Serena, Rachel’s long-time best friend, the target of a serial killer who murders young blondes! If you can’t see the conclusion to this cheap dime-store thriller-esque narrative coming from a mile away, I don’t know what to tell you. Corny and not interesting.

Volume 22 contains no full stories worth reading, and doesn’t finish a very good story either. Not worth reading at all, and one of the worst volumes we’ve seen in a long time.

Volume 23 (1998)

Casebook 064 – Movie Theater Murder Case (Chapters 1-3) sees rotten real estate agent murdered inside of a failing movie theater after boasting about shutting the place down! His dead body is hung in front of the projection’s booth in the middle of the movie theater’s swansong marathon of every Gomera movie, in the attendance of which was none other than Conan and the Junior Detective League…

This is my second favorite Detective Conan case of all time so far, as it’s brilliant from top-to-bottom. The movie theater setting is exploited to produce a truly brilliant and unique alibi-trick, with some of the series’ best visual clues to top it all off. The Junior Detective League are restrained and quite helpful in this case too, allowing the story to side-step a lot of the typical pitfalls of JDL-centric plots.

Fantastic little setting-oriented mystery story, unambiguous recommendation!

Casebook 065 – Cruise Ship Murder Case (Chapters 4-9) is the first proper long-form case we’ve seen in a while, focusing on a cruise ship where the vengeful, once-thought-dead former head of a crime group is thought to soon resurface… And, naturally, in his wake he leaves many corpses!

This isn’t my favorite long-form Conan, as the trick at the heart of this one is a crude artifice I’ve seen and gotten bored of elsewhere, but despite the unambitious trick this is still a smartly-plotted, well-written detective story with tight reasoning that is plenty worth reading! Really good stuff!

Casebook 066 – Innocent Suspect Case (Chapters 10-2) is another entry into the Police Love Story series, in which Miwako Sato is handcuffed to the escaped suspect in a murder case in a bathroom! Despite the fact the man was alone in his locked-and-sealed apartment with the victim, he insists he’s innocent, and the two police officers decide to do a little more inquiring into the case with the Junior Detective League…

Surprisingly, another pretty good Junior Detective League murder case. The core trick at the heart of this Judas Window-esque locked-room mystery is silly in a very natural and believable way, and I actually kind of found myself being amused at not seeing the solution ahead of time. I wonder if I’d like this one as much returning to it, but as it stands I thought this was an amusing and comical take on the problem even if the melodrama of Sato being handcuffed to a toilet in a building that’s soon to be demolished unnecessary.

Volume 23 is one of the best volumes in the series so far! This is the first volume containing three stories in which I think all three stories are truly good and worth reading, and it contains my second favorite story in the whole franchise! Absolutely check this one out, it’s good stuffs, this!

Volume 24 (1998)

Casebook 067 – Blackout Murder Case (Chapters 3-6) is an unfortunately unremarkable story on the heels of Volume 23. As Richard is consulting a client, a man winds up electrocuted to death in a bathtub after a blackout! But who could’ve committed the murder, and how!

The murder method is one I’ve seen repeated in a few other stories, and the alibi “trick” shows Conan‘s age, as the tool required to make it work is much more well-known to us in the modern world and something we’d think of immediately. Not great.

Casebook 068 – Hotel Party Case (Chapters 7-11) sees Anita and Conan tailing a member of the Black Organization to a hotel party, whereupon they’re chased down by grunts from the group following a seemingly-impossible murder committed in the dark!

This is a plot relevant case, so naturally is of interest to those who care about that sort of thing, but as an independent murder murder is quite thin and unmemorable. Not worth reading unless you’re invested in the overarching story of Detective Conan.

Sadly another short and unpleasant volume not worth going out of your way to read unless you’re a signed-on fan of the overarching narrative of the series. Supposedly, Gosho Aoyama starts to shift his focus away from disconnected murder plots to more connected stories, so I wonder if that’ll cause my interest in the individual cases to dwindle going forward…

Volume 25 (1999)

Casebook 069 – Skating Rink Murder Case (Chapters 1-3) sees a woman shot to death in the bathroom of a skating rink during a fireworks show. Sure enough, she has a dying message in her hands implicating a friend of hers, but when the friend is revealed to be entirely innocent Conan is forced to figure out who would want to commit this murder and frame the friend…

The dying message repurposes a trick used earlier in the series, but the dodge here is equally effective as there is really smart psychological trick played here to give the killer a false alibi! As I’ve never used the tool used to produce the alibi, I think it’s probably a little unconvincing, but the forced association trick at the heart of this one is really neat in concept. Love it a lot, fantastic little case!

Case 070 – Tottori Spider Mansion Murder Case (Chapters 4-8) sees Harley and Conan investigating a series of suicides instigated by the Spider Mistress’s Curse, which have just recently been bookended by the impossible murder of a doll-maker in his locked-and-sealed shed, with his entire body strung up in a spiderweb-like arrangement of string…

The core murder method recalls a Father Brown tale, and it’s a murder method repurposed in a certain famous Kindaichi Case Files story… but an extra twist is put on the knot with a really smart piece of misdirection involving the state of the body and the spider imagery that disguises a pretty brilliant piece of alibi trickery which elevates the story beyond the fact it (obviously, from the set-up) turns on a variation of string trickery. Throw into the mix a haunting aesthetic and tragic motive, and you’ve got yourself a pretty great Detective Conan locked-room mystery!

Case 071 – Cave Murder Case (9-1) is another Junior Detective League code-cracking in which the kids need to solve a riddle to escape from a cave before they’re murdered by a group of thugs whose murder they’ve just witnessed. Putting Conan out of commission to force the JDL to reason for themselves was a smart idea, but they end up guessing instead of reasoning, making the set-up feel wasted and their victory unearned. Not very interesting or good.

Another fantastic volume with two all-time great cases! Although Cave Murder Case is disappointing, Skating Rink and Tottori Spider Mansion are two fantastic mystery plots that both begin and end within this volume. Unambiguous recommendation for this volume for those two exceptional stories!

Volume 26 (1999)

Casebook 072 – School Play Murder Case has an attendee of the high school play be poisoned by his drink… This is a really well-clued and well-written detective story, a fact sorely undercut by the fact the solution turns on a trick that has passed from cliche on to riddle on to punchline since its conception. It’s a shame, too, because some smart reasoning shows up in the denouement of this one…

Casebook 073 – Restaurant Elevator Murder Case is another inverted mystery from Detective Conan, in which a man murders his soon-to-be father-in-law in an elevator while using his wife as an alibi.

This is actually a really solid inverted mystery, with the killer being caught on a brilliant Furuhata Ninzaburou-styled slip of the tongue trap, but the fact the case has to share room with Conan (Jimmy) and Rachel’s romance plot does mean the investigation is a little thinner than I prefer, making the killer come off as a bit of a trivial pushover. Still, really good one, even if it falls behind the franchise’s better inverted mysteries.

Casebook 074 – Music Box Mystery Case (Chapters 8-10) sees a young woman attempting to figure out the secrets behind an apparently valuable music box her dead pen pal left her, despite the fact the antique shop says it’s worthless…

The story that follows ends up just being Scooby-Doo but played 100% seriously and with none of the humor of whimsy. Unremarkable.

Volume 26 does mark a sudden shift to more plot-relevant cases, as the first two cases each try to move along Jimmy and Rachel’s romance, and in both cases it does seem to come at the expense of the story. While the first two cases are decent and solid respectively, I can’t recommend wholeheartedly you go out of your way to read this volume unless you’re a dedicated fan of the series as-is. If you are a Detective Conan fan, though, this isn’t a terrible volume that could be worth picking up to fill some holes in your reading.

Volume 27 (1999)

Casebook 075 – Suspect Richard Moore Murder Case (Chapters 1-3) has Richard Moore become the prime suspect in a murder after the woman he drunkenly hooked up with was murdered in her locked and sealed hotel room! His separated wife and lawyer, Eri, sees to the investigation to prove him innocent…

The trick at the heart of this one is a pretty unremarkable variation of the kind of gimmick we’ve seen a few times within and without this series, so it wasn’t a very interesting case. The way the killer was caught is fun, but didn’t elevate the case any at all.

Casebook 076 – Sato’s Father Murder Case (Chapters 4-6) is another Police Love Story case, as well as a Junior Detective League case focusing on arson! Unfortunately, the code-cracking is, as always, unfair, tenuous, and unfun. The “parallel plots” reveal at the end is kind of amusing, but minor.

Casebook 077 – Arcade Murder Case (Chapters 7-9) sees a brutish bully murdered at an arcade in the middle of a career-defining match in a virtual reality fighting game! Only, of course, with everyone’s eyes on the game, there are no witnesses as to who may or may not have murdered the gamer…

This is actually another exceptionally good case. Although it might be somewhat easy to see through the core deception, the trick at the heart of this is novel, unique, and informed brilliantly by the video game setting. It is a much more clever utilization of video games than the disappointing Mantendo Bombing Case from Volume 12. Despite the ease with which some people will see through the alibi trick, Arcade Murder Case is easily my new third favorite case, with a unique plot informed by a unique setting.

Casebook 078 – Bear Hunter Murder Case (Chapters 10-2) is a Junior Detective League case in which Mitch and Anita flee from a murderer whose crime they’ve witnessed! Unable to come out into the open without being shot, Anita is forced to come up with a message to communicate with Conan so he can save their lives…

The misunderstanding behind the motive makes this a surprisingly sweet story, but the clues and plot are otherwise rather unremarkable. Decent motive misdirection, but not impressive in any other way.

Volume 27, sadly, wasn’t a great volume. Arcade Murder Case is an exceptionally novel murder mystery, but the other three stories don’t make the volume worth recommending for one case alone. I recommend everyone go check out the anime version of Arcade Murder Case as soon as possible, as it’s truly a wonderful case!

Volume 28 (1999-2000)

Casebook 079 – Old Photograph Murder Case (Chapters 3-5) has Richard commissioned by an old lady who seems to lie about insignificant things to find an old friend of hers to recover a photograph he accidentally took from her. When the friend is located, however, he is found murdered inside of his apartment after having eaten breakfast…

The alibi trick at the heart of this one recalls my favorite episode of Alibi-Cracking, At Your Service, and can be seen as a forebear to that exceptional episode. While it’s still a very clever idea in Detective Conan, I found this variation of the trick less impressive or convincing. Not that it’s a bad case by any means, I think it’s a pretty fun short-form murder mystery. It’s just somewhat inferior to another, similar story.

Casebook 080 – Mermaid’s Curse Murder Case (Chapters 6-10) has Harley and Conan investigating a letter from a woman who claims to be cursed to die by mermaids after she lost a talisman purported to grant eternal life… In investigating the woman’s disappearance, they explore an island with bizarre mermaid-worshipping religious practices and an annual celebration that results in three more murders…

There really isn’t much of a meaningful misdirection to speak of outside of a fairly clever double-bluff about the identity of one of the victims. This case revolves around a trick that I’ve always found to be somewhat corny and uninteresting, and it’s a rather unambitious variation of it too. It’s also a somewhat inferior long-form case as regards the plotting and cluing. Sadly not much better than decent despite its good reputation.

Casebook 081 – Girl Clubbing Murder Case (Chapters 11-2) is a serial killing case about a man killing ganguro (dark make-up) girls in a department store. The motivation is absurd, and the only noteworthy part of the story is one piece of misdirection about the killer’s body type and the attempt to give Inspector Meguire some development. A fairly mediocre case.

Another middle of the line Volume with a couple of decent moments but nothing unambiguously worth going out of your way to read. I don’t recommend this to any but the most dedicated of hardcore Conan fans looking to fill in some gaps in their reading.

Volume 29 (2000)

Casebook 082 – Bus Hijacking Case (Chapters 3-5) is a somewhat interesting “which-of-the-three” case in which Conan realizes that one of three people sitting in the back seat of a bus are communicating to a group of bus hijackers, but it’s impossible to tell how they’re communicating.

Unfortunately, what follows is more of a “thriller with logic” case, with pretty thin investigation/cluing into the culprit’s identity and not very memorable in resolution. Mediocre.

Casebook 083 – Dog Lover Kidnapping Case (Chapters 6-8) has a rare purebred dog kidnapped from a house of dog-lovers, and Conan on the case to discover who the culprit is.

There’s one somewhat neat clue surrounding the whereabouts of the dog, but the motive and method leave this story feeling plain and uninspired.

Casebook 048 – 3 K’s of Osaka Murder Case (Chapters 9-11) sees three western celebrities visiting Osaka for an event, when a murder is committed inside of a hotel in which the three men were alone! However, all three men have alibis proven by the fact they were turning lights on and off in front of hundreds of witnesses, making this crime impossible…!

The set-up is a really neat lead-in to an impossible alibi situation, but the resolution is underwhelming and flat-out unbelievable. This is a fan favorite case for the way it develops Conan’s character, but as a mystery it’s mediocre and middle of the line.

We finish off this long 14-part review with one final unremarkable volume, with not a good story worth going out of your way to read or watch in any form…

Overall, this batch of 14 is far from being the most consistent in the series. A lot of mediocre and underwhelming stories interspersed with a fair bit of good and truly fantastic cases leave this section of cases feeling balanced (or, perhaps, mixed…).

Special notice to Volume 23, which is truly exceptional and contains my second favorite case in the series, and Volume 25 which contains two great stories well-worth reading, including a terrific impossible crime! Add to the mix my third favorite case in Arcade Murder Case, and we still see plenty of truly good cases coming out of this series well worth seeking out for fans of classical detection!

To wrap up this long post, my ranking of all 84 stories we’ve read so far… My 5-point system has been expanded to a 10-point system in order to better account for more nuance between similarly-enjoyed stories.

*Newly reviewed cases are italicized and bookended with asterisks*

{10/10 — Favorites}

1.) Moonlight Sonata Murder Case (Case 018, V. 7 Ch. 2-6)
*2.) Movie Theater Murder Case (Case 064, V. 23 Ch. 1-3)*
*3.) Arcade Murder Case (Case 077, V. 27 Ch. 7-9)
4.) Tengu Murder Case (Case 030, V. 11 Ch. 8-10)
5.) The Art Collector Murder Case (Case 015, V. 6 Ch. 2-5)
6.) Tenkaichi Fire Festival Murder Case (Case 017, V. 6 Ch. 9-10 V.7 Ch. 1)
7.) TV Station Murder Case (Case 028, V. 11 Ch. 2-4)

{9/10 — Great}

8.) Bandaged Man Murder Case (Case 012, V. 5 Ch. 1-5)
9.) Wealthy Daughter Murder Case (Case 024, V. 9 Ch. 7-10, V. 10 Ch. 1)
*10.) Skating Rink Murder Case (Case 069, V. 25 Ch. 1-3)*
11.) KAITO KID and the Black Star Case (Case 044, V. 16 Ch. 6-9)
12.) The Night Baron Murder Case (Case 020, V. 8, Ch. 2-7)

{8/10 — Very Good}

13.) Bonds of Fire Murder Case (Case 042, V. 15 Ch. 10, V.16 Ch. 1-3)
*14.) Tottori Spider Mansion Murder Case (Case 070, V. 25 Ch. 4-8)*
15.) Poisoned Bride Attempted Murder Case (Case 021, V. 8, Ch. 8-10)
16.) Art Museum Owner Murder Case (Case 009, V. 4 Ch. 1-3)
*17.) Jimmy’s First Love Attempted Murder Case (Case 050, V 18 Ch.3-5)*
*18.) Jimmy’s First Murder Case (Case 059 V. 21 Ch. 4-7)*
19.) Elementary School Teacher Murder Case (Case 039, V 14 Ch. 9-10, V.15 Ch. 1-3)
20.) Scuba Divers Attempted Murder Case (Case 046, V. 17 Ch 3-5)

{7/10 — Good}

21.) Gomera Murder Case (Case 036, V.13 Ch. 8-10)
*22.) University Professor Murder Case (Case 052, V.18 Ch. 9-10, V.19 Ch. 1)*
*23.) Cruise Ship Murder Case (Case 065, V. 23 Ch. 4-9)*
*24.) Restaurant Elevator Murder Case (Case 073, V. 26 Ch. 5-7)*
25.) TWO-MIX Kidnapping Case (Case 040, V. 15 Ch. 4-6)
26.) Library Employee Murder Case (Case 026, V. 10 Ch. 6-7)
*27.) Old Photograph Murder Case (Case 079, V. 28, Ch. 3-5)*
*28.) Innocent Suspect Case (Case 066, V. 23 Ch. 10, V. 24 Ch. 1-2)*
*29.) Historical Actor Murder Case (Case 049, V. 17 Ch. 10 V. 18 Ch. 1-2)*
*30.) Stadium Indiscriminate Threatening Case (Case 055, V. 19 Ch. 9-10 V. 20 Ch.1)*

{6/10 — Decent}

31.) Richard’s Reunion Murder Case (Case 023, V. 9 Ch. 4-6)
32.) Mysterious Shadow Murder Case (Case 004, V. 2 Ch. 1-3)
*33.) Bear Hunter Murder Case (Case 078, V. 27 Ch. 10 V. 28 Ch. 1-2)*
34.) Loan Shark Murder Case (Case 041, V. 15 Ch. 7-9)
35.) Lex Band Vocalist Murder Case (Case 013 V. 5 Ch. 6-9)
*36.) Sealed Bathroom Murder Case (Case 057, V.20 Ch. 7-9)*
*37.) Wedding Day Murder Case (Case 061, V. 21 Ch. 11, V. 22 Ch. 1-3)*
38.) Diplomat Murder Case (Case 025, V. 10 Ch. 2-6)
39.) Suspicious Uncle Murder Case (Case 038, V. 14 Ch. 4-8)
*40.) School Play Murder Case (Case 072, V. 26 Ch.2-4)*
*41.) Famous Potter Murder Case (Case 045, V. 16 Ch. 10, V. 17 Ch.1-2)*
*42.) Mermaid’s Curse Murder Case (Case 080, V. 28 Ch. 6-10)*

{5/10 — Average}

*43.) Treadmill Murder Case (Case 060, V. 21, Ch. 8-10)*
44.) Holmes Enthusiasts Murder Case (Case 033, V. 12, Ch. 7-10, V. 13 Ch. 1)
*45.) Bus Hijacking Case (Case 082, V. 29 Ch. 3-5)*
*46.) Hotel Party Murder Case (Case 068, V. 24 Ch. 7-11)*
*47.) 3 K’s of Osaka urder Case (Case 084, V. 29, Ch. 9-11)*
*48.) Suspect Richard Moore Murder Case (Case 075, V. 27, C. 1-3)*
49.) Illustrator’s Assistant Murder Case (Case 035, V. 13, Ch. 5-7)
50.) Mantendo Bombing Murder Case (Case 032, V. 12, Ch. 4-6)
51.) Hatamoto Family Murder Case (Case 007, V. 3 Ch. 1-6)

{4/10 — Mediocre}

*52.) Sato’s Father Murder Case (Case o76, V. 27, Ch. 4-6)*
*53.) Stabbed Wallets Murder Case (Case 054, V. 19 Ch. 5-8)*
*54.) Music Box Mystery Case (Case 074, V. 26, Ch. 8-10)*
*55.) Blackout Murder Case (Case 067, V. 24, Ch. 3-6)*
56.) Triplets Father Murder Case (Case 034, V. 13 Ch. 2-4)
*57.) KAITO KID and the Magic Lovers Case (Case 056, V. 2 Ch. 2-6)*
*58.) Girl Clubbing Murder Case (Case 081 V. 28 Ch 11, V.29 Ch. 1-2)*

{3/10 — Bad}

59.) Shinkansen Bombing Case (Case 010, V. 4, Ch. 4-6)
60.) Conan Edogawa Kidnapping Case (Case 014 V. 5, Ch. 10-11, V.6 Ch. 1)
*61.) Dog Lover Kidnapping Case (Case 083, V.29 Ch. 6-8)
*62.) Blue Castle Murder Case (Case 058, V.20 Ch. 10, V. 21 Ch. 1-3)*
*63.) Lady in Black Kidnapping Case (Case 051, V. 18, Ch. 7-8)*
*64.) Mystery Writer Kidnapping Case (Case 053, v. 19 Ch. 2-4)*
*65.) North Star Murder Case (Case 062, V. 22, Ch. 4-7)*

{2/10 — Very Bad}

*66.) Elementary School Mystery Case (Case 043, V. 16, Ch. 4-5)*
67.) Medical Professors Murder Case (Case 027, V. 10 Ch. 9-1, V. 11 Ch. 1)
68.) Haunted Mansion Case (Case 006, V. 2 Ch. 8-10)
69.) Idol Locked-Room Murder Case (Case 003, V. 1, Ch. 6-9)
70.) Roller-Coaster Murder Case (Case 001, V. 1, Ch. 1)
71.) Magician’s Suicide Case (Case 037, V. 14 Ch. 1-3)

{1/10 — Least Favorites}

72.) Moon, Star, Sun Code Case (Case 031, V. 12, Ch. 1-3)
73.) Soccer Player’s Brother Kidnapping Case (Case 019, V. 7, Ch. 8-10, V. 8. Ch. 1)
74.) The Monthly Presents Case (Case 008, V. 3, Ch. 7-10)
*75.) Mysterious Clocks Mystery Case (Case 048, V. 17, Ch. 7-9)*
76.) Twin Brothers Case (Case 016, V. 6, Ch. 6-8)
77.) Kidnapped Daughter Case (Case 002, V. 1, Ch. 2-5)
78.) 1 Billion Yen Robbery Case (Case 005, V. 2 Ch. 4-7)
79.) Coffee Shop Murder Case (Case 029, V. 11 Ch. 5-7)
*80.) Serena Attempted Murder Case (Case 063, V. 22, Ch. 8-10)*
*81.) Cave Murder Case (Case 071, V. 25, Ch. 9-11, V. 26 Ch. 1)*
82.) ORO Treasure Map Case (Case 011, V. 4, Ch. 7-9)
83.) Amy Kidnapping Case (Case 022, V. 9, Ch. 1-3)
*84.) Hospitalized Robber Case (Case 047, V. 17, Ch. 6)*

Furuhata Ninzaburou Season 1 (1994) by Kōki Mitani (Part 2/2)

(*Note, although this is the second in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read the first review to get the preamble of the review series, all subsequent parts can be read individually.)

Furuhata Ninzaburou is a Japanese television drama clearly inspired by Columbo with its focus on a disarmingly quirky detective and how he solves crimes the solutions to which we already know, but as we established in the first review of this series the series more than an idle copycat. Elements of Japanese culture play heavily into the series, with Furuhata developing a love for children’s romance manga, murders by kabuki, and crimes committed at shogi tournaments. Furuhata Ninzaburou, both television show and character, have the DNA of Columbo, show and character, but Kōki Mitani’s skillful scriptwriting bleeds through with tons of charm, clever clues, and memorable killers to create a show that stands on its own two feet…

The first six episodes of the series’ first season were split down the middle between three great episodes, and three less-than-great episodes, but the average quality was quite high, with even the worst of episodes being functional and having their charms. We will now round out the first season of this show with six more episodes, starting with…

Episode 7 – The Rehearsal Murder has samurai actor Jushiro at a crossroads, as the wealthy benefactor and owner of the movie studio has decided to sell the property for the construction of a shopping mall. Even after collecting the signature of every single person who works at the studio, Jushiro was unable to convince his supervisor to cancel the deal. Desperate, Jushiro concocts a devious plot to tamper with the choreography of a swordfight scene in which his boss guest stars as the villain, so that when he uses a real sword to cut his boss’s throat open, it looks like nothing more than a prop-and-choreography accident during the rehearsal, with dozens of witnesses swearing up and down that the crime was an accident. Now, Furuhata is posed with a new problem: not with proving who committed the murder, but instead with proving that the murder was deliberate and premeditated.

If Episode 6 ended off the first part of the first season on one of the worse episodes so far, Episode 7 opens up the second part with the best episode in the show so far. The specialized question of “how to prove the murder was intentional” is well-utilized here with a killer who does a good job at deflecting all of Furuhata’s suspicions by accepting half-guilt for everything he throws at him. One of the best scenes in the show is in this episode, in which Furuhata nearly dies after thinking he’s baited the actor into revealing he can tell a real sword from a fake one.

Throughout the episode, The Rehearsal Murder teases you with the inscrutable clue of a moving moon prop on the set, and the explanation for how it establishes the killer’s intentions to commit murder is utterly brilliant, if not totally believable. The denouement makes incredible use of the movie studio setting, with footage from an old black and white samurai film being used. This is the best episode of the show I’ve seen so far, and an utterly gobstopping inverted mystery. If you ever choose one Furuhata Ninzaburou episode to watch, let it be this one!

It certainly doesn’t help that I am a fan of old samurai films, so the stylings of this episode appeal to me personally…

Episode 8 – The Limited Express Murder takes place on a train, where Dr. Nakagawa meets with a private inspector who has proof of his infidelity. When the inspector threatens to release the photos to his wife, Dr. Nakagawa murders him with lethal injection and steals the jacket containing the photos. Unfortunately for Dr. Nakagawa, a detective inspector is on the train and refuses to leave him be…

Like the last one, this episode has a scene where Furuhata lays a trap that initially appears to go off without a hitch, but actually backfires in his face, only this time played for comedic effect rather than dramatic. Besides that, the episode is just pretty good, with lots of natural little contradictions building up an image of the culprit’s guilt, and the interplay between Nakagawa and Furuhata is good (as it always is in this series). The trap is a fairly standard variation on the typical inverted mystery trap of “killer reveals information they shouldn’t know”, but since it relies on baiting it out of the killer at the last minute it isn’t fair for the viewer, and isn’t very interesting. Not a bad episode, but overwhelmingly average in every respect and a bad follow-up to the exceptional Rehearsal Murder.

Episode 9 – The Psychic Murder has Furuhata at the set of Kuroda, a famous psychic television personality who is being visited by an engineer from a local university in an attempt to disprove all of his psychic tricks as mumbo-jumbo and jiggery-pokery, such as proving that he can move water with static electricity or showing how mind-reading is just asking leading questions with obvious answers. When Kuroda claims to have found the scarf of a missing woman, the engineer accuses him of planting the scarf there, and proves it by showing that the scarf was actually a fabrication he and the police concocted together to trick him. In disbelief, Kuroda has a public panic attack and, desperately trying to prove his abilities, suddenly “discovers” a corpse in the same location as the scarf, shocking everyone… except Furuhata who suspects the truth that Kuroda killed the victim!

In concept, the idea of a psychic pretending to discover his own murder victim sounds interesting, but in practice this paints the killer as colossally idiotic. The killer was only just accused of being at the scene of the crime, planting the scarf so he can pretend to discover it; the exact same (true) accusation can be made of him “discovering” the body, making this discovery not only unconvincing in proving his psychic abilities, but also entirely stupid in painting him as an obvious suspect in the murder. It’s such an idiotic maneuver on the part of the killer that it deflates all tension from the episode — the fact that Furuhata canonically plucks a confession from him in an in-universe half-hour is not surprising in the slightest.

The psychic show is incredibly fun, but unfortunately lasts for nearly 70% of the episode and doesn’t actually contribute to the mystery outside of one line that is dropped at the very end of the segment. The investigation at the end is very short, and the killer is caught on two very basic, generic clues. There is a brilliant idea at play, where Furuhata needs to prove that the killer saw something specifically with his eyes, as opposed to in a psychic image in his head, and the explanation for this is incredibly clever, but the question is underplayed to the point of having none of the impact it could’ve had, wasting what is ostensibly a very good idea for an inverted mystery trick. Also, like in The Kabuki Murder, episode 2 in part 1 of this review series, this episode heavily involves a second crime that goes entirely unresolved.

The killer’s personality is one of the most interesting of the show so far, but this is a story that would benefit from being told from their perspective. As it stands, this episode has a very promising beginning that ends up flopping around limply at the end with wasted potential and half-baked ideas. If nothing else, the psychic show being an extremely entertaining waste of time works in this episode’s favor, but this is the worst inverted mystery in the show so far, and it’s by a massive margin.

Episode 10 – The Politician Murder sees Sokomizo, the secretary to a prominent politician, on urgent clean-up duty after he accidentally knocks a young woman out who refuses to take his boss’s hush money. While trying to help the woman recover, Sokomizo is ordered by his boss to overdose the woman and make it appear like a suicide, much to horror. Naturally, interested in being selected as his boss’s successor, he does so reluctantly — while the politician, in the next room, orders a pizza to the crime scene and makes coffee with the victim’s coffee maker! Sokomizo is therefore horrified when his boss reveals, over the body of his murder victim, that he’ll be giving the position to his son, enraging Sokomizo. Now in so deep that another murder would be the least of his problems, he proceeds to strike his boss over the head in order to make it look like a failed affair that ended in a murder-suicide…

Only, Sokomizo is shocked when he is being badgered by a nosy police lieutenant, who mentions that the politician is not dead, but rather hospitalized with amnesia…

Like Limited Express, this is another one that’s technically sound, but I didn’t love so much. The psychological trick isn’t very interesting and, in my opinion, not properly set-up by the killer’s behavior throughout the story — it also recalls an episode of Columbo, which itself is also pretty middle-of-the-lane. Furuhata’s reasoning throughout the episode is good, though, and I enjoyed the scenes in the hospital with Imaizumi getting his hemorrhoids treated. Not a terrible episode, but not incredibly memorable.

In Episode 11 – Sayonara DJ, famous radio celebrity Otaka has been sending herself fake death threats in anticipation for the murder of her subordinate for stealing her boyfriend! She commits this murder during a very short break in her radio show, using a shortcut known only to staff, so that she could pretend to have been in her dressing room at the time… She dresses the victim up in her cardigan, making it look like the murderer who sent Otaka the death threats mistook the two women, and then returns to her dressing room using the same shortcut..! Only, to her colossal misfortune, Lieutenant Furuhata Ninzaburou was at the station at the time on her request, and he is not to be fooled!

This is a very good one, with an extremely well-utilized setting. The denouement, similarly to Rehearsal Murder, uses the radio station in very clever ways to accentuate Furuhata’s arguments. The trap that nails the killer’s guilt is another variation of “revealing unknowable information”, but not only is this one entirely fair to the audience, it does a good job at using innocuous information not clearly related to the murder to hide the trap (though the “Challenge to the Viewer” foreshadows it so heavy-handedly, I’d be shocked if anyone gets to the denouement without figuring it out…) as well as a fun pop culture reference. The killer is extremely charming and her banter with Furuhata is some of the best in the whole show — my favorite scene is when she forces him to answer listeners’ questions on the radio show as punishment for suspecting her. Not an out-and-out classic, as it isn’t extraordinarily inspired, but it’s clever and great fun.

A man is acquitted for the murder of legendary senior detective Kogure’s daughter. Enraged with the verdict, and knowing fully well the defendant is guilty, the police officer takes the law into his own hands, shooting the perp dead in the middle of the street! However, although Furuhata suspects the detective, he has a perfect alibi: he saw a man carrying an attache suitcase into a suspected drug deal at around the same time the murder was being committed, with multiple witnesses attesting to this and corroborating Kogure’s story. Worse yet, the witnesses all came despite Kogure asking them not to, proving that it was impossible for them to lie on his behalf. Furuhata must unravel this tricky alibi to establish the guilt of his superior in Episode 12 – The Stakeout Murder.

This one is very good, being the second semi-inverted mystery in the series with the first being Shogi Tournament Murder in part 1, since we don’t see the trick the killer uses to establish his alibi. However, it isn’t very hard to guess what kind of gimmick was utilized, there being maybe one or two different possibilities. The killer’s guilt is established by two clues, and while both are extraordinarily clever, only one is entirely fair to the audience, a mistake that flows organically from the killer’s murder plot and solidly establishes his guilt. The other clue is a huge coincidence and extraordinarily lucky for Furuhata, too, on top of being impossible to figure out until the last minute, but the way it ties around into establishing the killer’s guilt is novel.

However, I’m a bit disappointed that most of the investigation simply had Furuhata badgering Kogure about his stake-out. Maybe in a longer story, I would’ve loved to the relationship between Kogure and his daughter expanded upon more, since in this episode it’s just a data-point that serves to provide a motive. Otherwise, the killer’s only real charm is that we see him try fast food for the first time, and he treats it like it’s high cuisine. I also didn’t feel like the episode paid off on the inherent drama of Furuhata investigating a murder committed by his own superior officer — a renowned, respected man in his profession. This is the season 1 finale and has a naturally dramatic premise, so in a way it feels like a waste to have the episode be so… normal.

Nonetheless, still a very good, not extraordinary, episode that rounds season 1 out very nicely.

Furuhata Ninzaburou‘s first season’s last six episodes round out to being as consistently good as the first six.

What I’ve started to notice about Furuhata Ninzaburou, as opposed to Columbo, is that the former has a greater tendency for high-concept plots that go a long way to inspiring a strong variety of crimes, situations, and traps. Columbo‘s plots are more complicated, but nearly every episode of Columbo involves murders committed in the high-society, with business owners being a very frequent character to call on for murders, and the murders being, conceptually, the kind of murder you’d expect to see in the real world. Men bludgeoned to death in their offices, or shot in their bedrooms — all very conceptually sterile.

Furuhata Ninzaburou, on the other hand, feels a lot more comfortable running with stranger, less realistic premises. Murders committed on psychic television, and a samurai movie rehearsal being exploited to make the crime look like an accident, and an impossible crime involving cheating at a shogi tournament, and a detective author acting out a complexly-staged fake hostage situation all feel uniquely Furuhata Ninzaburou; the kind of thing Columbo would never touch.

Looking back, I began to realize that most the episodes I found the most underwhelming are the ones that felt too much like Columbo episodes and not enough like Furuhata Ninzaburou episodes, with a few exceptions. Limited Express Murder and Politician Murder both felt like the kinds of crimes I’d expect to see in Columbo, and in a way they also stood out to me as being distinctly unlike this particular series, too. Many of the episodes we’ll see in Season 2 will further show that Furuhata Ninzaburou had a firmer grasp on gimmick and premise than its ancestor Columbo.

I’ve started to feel like it’s actually a bit insufficient to call Furuhata Ninzaburou “the Japanese answer to Columbo“. It’s a phrase that diminishes how much work Furuhata Ninzaburou does to stand on its own two legs and be its own show with no regard for whatever may have inspired it.

Season 1 rounds out beautifully, and I cannot wait to review season 2. To end this review, a ranking of the twelve episodes of Season 1…

  1. Rehearsal (Season 1, Episode 7)
  2. Faxed Ransom (Season 1, Episode 4)
  3. Shogi Tournament (Season 1, Episode 5)
  4. Sayonara DJ (Season 1, Episode 11)
  5. Shoujo Manga (Season 1, Episode 1)
  6. Stakeout (Season 1, Episode 12)
  7. Politician (Season 1, Episode 10)
  8. Limited Express (Season 1, Episode 8)
  9. Piano Lesson (Season 1, Episode 6)
  10. Psychic (Season 1, Episode 9)
  11. Kabuki (Season 1, Episode 2)
  12. Psychological (Season 1, Episode 3)

This ranking is actually a bit misleading because I think it implies some episodes are worse than they really are. The Stakeout Murder, for example, is sitting in the middle of the list, which would imply that it’s roughly average/mediocre, but it’s actually very good. To qualify, I think 12, 11, and 10 are bad, 9, 8, 7 are underwhelming, and 6 upwards are a spectrum of very good to great. Let it go to show just how consistent the quality is in this show, then, if half of its episodes are at least significantly above average in quality.

Psychological Test (1925) by Edogawa Ranpo (transl. Akitsugu Domoto 2017)

The long and storied history of the Japanese detective story didn’t begin with Edogawa Ranpo, but it can be said that it grew legs with him. While mystery writing predated Ranpo, such as those works by Ruikō Kuroiwa that were a great inspiration for Ranpo, it wasn’t until Edogawa Ranpo’s post-war efforts to promote mystery fiction in Japan that the honkaku movement of Japanese Golden Age-inspired “puzzle mysteries” truly took off. Despite his contributions to the honkaku sub-genre, however, Ranpo struggled to write in it, as his chief inspirations were western pre-Golden Age authors the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle — his pen-name, as it happens, is a transliteration of the name “Edgar Allen Poe”. Consequently, he developed a reputation for Sherlockian crime stories with a bend towards deviant psychology and sexuality, and not as a peddler of puzzles and riddles.

Ranpo initially got his start before the beginning of World War II with the publication of the short story “Murder on D. Hill”, featuring Akechi Kogoro, the man who would go on to become Ranpo’s feature detective, a brilliant and eccentric detective in the vein of Sherlock Holmes and C. Auguste Dupin. Although he only intended to write the one story with Akechi and move on from him, the sleuth’s success among readers and friends alike compelled Ranpo to continue writing stories in this series for more than a quarter of a century. The second of this stories, and the immediate sequel to “Murder on D. Hill” is the renowned inverted mystery “Psychological Test”.

Fukiya Seiichirou is a poor college student, forced to live frugally after he is financially ruined by tuition. He would rather be in his room, reading books and constantly acquiring new knowledge, and yet he’s forced by circumstances to take on various odd part-time jobs to finance his education and living. It is therefore his great fortune to learn from his closest friend Saito that he lives with an old lady who keeps a cache of money hidden somewhere in her house — and that, aside from Saito and a housekeeper, who are frequently gone, she lives entirely alone…

For the next years, then, Seiichirou spent all of his time scheming, learning the ins and outs of the old woman’s schedule, and plotting the perfect moment to murder her. Finally, when she is all alone, he seizes his opportunity, sneaks his way into her property, and assaults her, first suffocating her to knock her out and then stabbing her through a cushion to control the spray of blood. He then steals only half of the money (to disguise the theft), and then puts it into a wallet which he later turns into the police, claiming to have just found it (this so that if the theft is discovered, he’s discounted as a suspect because he turned the money in to police), with the knowledge that if the “true owner” doesn’t pick it up within a year then the money belongs to him legally.

Even more brilliantly for Seiichirou, his friend Saito is the prime suspect in the murder. Apparently, Saito came home only moments after the crime had been committed and decided to steal what remains of the money before calling the police. After being discovered with the stolen money on his person, Saito is quickly charged with the crime, and Seiichirou believes he’s in the clear… only, unbeknownst to him, the judge presiding over the case doesn’t believe Saito is the criminal, and therefore summons famed detective Akechi Kogoro to figure out who the real murderer is. Akechi claims that with just one conversation, he can prove that the killer is that young man Fukiya Seiichirou…

“Psychological Test” is the first story by Edogawa Ranpo I’ve ever read, and it defies every expectation I had about Edogawa Ranpo from his reputation. Knowing that Edogawa Ranpo’s chief inspirations included Arthur Conan Doyle, I never expected that’d he write an inverted mystery. Sherlock Holmes never had an inverted mystery before, chiefly because the focus was entirely on Sherlock Holmes as a detective and his methods. Furthermore, such “gimmick” mysteries as a defined genre were newer than Sherlock Holmes.

But I decided that, alright, Edgar Allen Poe, another core influence on Ranpo, wrote a small few stories that could be arguably considered “inverted mysteries” — “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Black Cat”, “The Cask of Amontillado” were all stories told from the perspective of a murderer perpetrating his crime. With this in mind, I went into “Psychological Test” with the expectation that it’d be a story focused on the deviant psychology of a murderer — the title as much as confirmed this in my mind, anyhow.

However, quite bizarrely in fact, the narrator of “Psychological Test” is a detached, nameless third-person narrator, who is not omniscient and knows nothing about the thought process of Fukiya Seiichirou. The implications of the narration is that the perspective is that of an unnamed, unknown character recounting incomplete historical information about an event of which he’s heard. The motive for the murder I recounted in the above synopsis is not a hard-and-fast fact, it is a supposition on the part of the narrator, who all but admits that nobody really knows what Seiichirou was thinking when he committed the murder. It is, in fact, not at all a study of psychology — it is almost as opposite that as it could manage to be, as a murder mystery with no known motive.

“Psychological Test” is therefore a pretty objective, flairless account of a man who decides to commit murder, the steps he takes to plan, perpetrate, and disguise his crime, and the methods by which the detective discovers his wrongdoing. This makes it a very standard inverted mystery story in the style well-known by Columbo or Furuhata Ninzaburou — one of the, if not the first, of this sort in Japanese mystery writing, as it happens.

As an inverted mystery, as we’ve already established, “Psychological Test” suffers from a featureless criminal who commits a featureless crime. The methods by which the killer attempts to avoid detection include a small handful of clever ideas that, as an inverted mystery, mostly fall into being nothing more than detail, so the first half of the story is devoid of much interest.

While reading the story, though, I was constantly in anticipation of what this titular “Psychological Test” would entail. It’s such a striking title, and to see how the killer’s psychology could be expanded upon and also weaponized to establish his guilt would be very intriguing. It had me on the edge of my seat to see how Akechi discovered Seiichirou’s guilt with obscure psychological trickery…

However, disappointingly, the Psychological Test is nothing more than a mere word-association game played with Saito and Seiichirou where they timed the two boys’ answer speeds — the psychological implications are negligible. Disappointingly, despite the results being laid out in a fully-detailed table in the manner of Freeman Wills Crofts timetables, the test doesn’t meaningfully establish Seiichirou’s guilt, nor does it contain any clues the reader can themselves use to figure out Akechi’s thought-process. Instead, the Psychological Test just functions as a small stepping stone Akechi uses to lay his true trap.

The trap itself is actually entirely unfair to the audience since it relies on a detail that wasn’t mentioned in the text and yet very easily could’ve been, it is such a small and innocuous detail. It is also what I like to call “The Ace Attorney Special”. This method of establishing guilt is a cliche of the genre (very likely originating with this story in the Japanosphere) which was adopted and expanded upon countless times in Furuhata Ninzaburou, which itself later went on to influence Ace Attorney, a mystery video game series that also continued to expand on the idea to the point it’s become a recognized staple of the franchise. It’s like playing a game of narrative device telephone in reverse and I’ve finally reached the first player in line… While it’d be ridiculous to blame “Psychological Test” for its own influence diluting its core idea to the point of insanity, at the same time it’d be equally ridiculous to pretend to be bowled over by a story whose ideas I’ve seen countless other times (through no fault of its own).

What hurt the story even more was Akimitsu Domoto’s translation. While Akimitsu is clearly at least fluent in English, his translation was poor, and he obviously doesn’t have a lot of experience with English prose. Sentences were arranged awkwardly — “he instantly held her from her back and choked her neck (although he was wearing gloves, he didn’t want to leave indentation of his fingers on) by his arms as hard as he could” — and often worded unnaturally — “only was it the knowledge of the woman how much saving was there”. There were many typos and bizarre turns of speech, such as referring to a pot made from maple wood as “a pot of maple”. Hyper-fidelity to the Japanese text also meant that sentences were rarely re-arranged to make it flow more naturally. This means that, for example, as is the case often in Japanese prose, dialogue tags were always separate paragraphs, forcing Akimitsu to constantly write “he so said” or “he so thought” while referring back to earlier paragraphs, which became distracting. I think it came to a head, though, when I read the following line:

Akechi so said, thinking something, but Kasamori didn’t notice the pregnant expression on his face and said:

The story is not long, only 20-odd pages, so it was tolerable, but a full novel could not have been read with this quality of translation. I hope Akimitsu Domoto continues to familiarize himself with English prose so that he may improve with whatever translation projects he undertakes in the future, but as it stands I cannot recommend his translation of “Psychological Test” as a good way to read this story, even to those who are interested.

“Psychological Test” was a weird story for how un-weird it was, containing none of the Sherlock Holmes or Edgar Allen Poe influence I had expected from the writer. Instead, what I had gotten was a bogstandard inverted mystery with an idea whose own influence spoiled its former novelty beyond recognition. With little in the ways of investigative or criminal focus, there is therefore little other reason to read the story outside of the minor interest of the underutilized titular Psychological Test. It’s a small issue, then, that Akimitsu Domoto’s translation makes this a poor version of the story, as even with a better translation I couldn’t recommend this story to anyone other than diehard Ranpo completionists or historians interested in the development of Japanese crime writing.

Detective Conan Volume 13 (1996) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the thirteenth 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)

Detective Conan is a wildly imaginative series at it’s heights, but it’s also a huge franchise. Like I mentioned way back in On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’re Not Reading Them, this massive multimedia monster has over 700 distinct mysteries in just it’s manga and anime series alone (this not counting novels, video games, movies, and more). Statistically, many of them have to be good, many of them have to be bad, and many will be… so-so! And you will be getting a lot of so-so back-to-back with a series this massive, it’s just the way of things.

Volume 12 was fine, with two… pretty decent stories and one bad one, and it’s easy to get disheartened when volumes 6 to 11 had so many back-to-back masterstrokes of mystery plotting just for Detective Conan to seemingly take a turn back towards the mediocrity we criticized the early entries for. I’m staying optimistic though! We’re only 10% of the way through the series, there’s no way we’ve seen all of the good Detective Conan has to offer.

In Casebook 34 – The Triplets Murder Case (Chapters 2-4), Rachel and Conan are spending the day at Serena’s sister Ayako’s home to meet Ayako’s soon-to-be father-in-law. But after a night of a sports game, petty squabbling, and drama, the Moores and the girls get ready to turn in and sleep when they look out of the window and spot Ayako’s fiance Yuzo Tomizawa, wearing a beanie to cover his hair, murdering his father with a rock! They immediately go to the police, but while they’re trying to report what they witnessed… two young men who look exactly like Yuzo appear, revealing that what the group really saw was one of identical triplets committing the murder..!

It’s a three-suspect-alibi-check, and it’s hard to do these poorly. The clues and reasoning pointing to the killer are always at least fine, and there are some decent hints here and there in this story. I appreciate that modern technology is being utilized in these plots, though the trick in this story is the most boring, cheap, and straight-forward way to do it. The framing of the three suspects as triplets doesn’t really contribute much of anything. Not exceptionally bad, not exceptionally good. Just… generally not at all exceptional.

Kenjin Hanaoka is a respected painter who has, in fact, been passing off the works of his apprentice Izumi Chono as his own. Blackmailing him with this information, Izumi has pressured Kenjin into a romantic relationship with her and to support her unconditionally. One day, though, Kenjin finally ends up bludgeoning his young apprentice to death… But now he needs an alibi!

Kenjin quickly runs over to his own office, where Richard Moore and Conan are waiting. He proceeds to “receive a call” from Chono, whereupon he urges her not to jump and to calm down! And at the end of this conversation, the entire group sees Chono falling from her balcony, many blocks away from the office, having apparently committed suicide..!

The police are quick to rule this a suicide, as there was nobody else in the apartment or on the balcony when she fell and there’s no evidence of any kind of trick at place, but Conan quickly spots an odd detail on the corpse that immediately tells him that this was a murder! He suspects, Kenjin, but needs to figure out how he orchestrated her fall from miles away..! How can Conan bring guilt home to the killer in Casebook 35 – The Artist’s Apprentice Murder Case (Chapters 5-7)?

This is the third proper inverted mystery Detective Conan has dealt with, after two fantastic outings in The Tenkaichi Fire Festival Murder Case (Volume 6-7, Chapters 9-1) and The TV Studio Murder Case (Volume 11, Chapters 2-4), and unfortunately this is the first slip-up for this particular series of Conan cases.

As an inverted mystery, it’s perfectly good and functional. All of the clues that lead to the killer’s ultimate demise and the trap inadvertently set-up from the very beginning of the story are good and clever. The actual inverted mystery element of the story works very well!

Where this story sadly trips up is that, like the previous two inverted mysteries in the franchise, it’s also a howdunit, because we don’t how the killer performed the trick to give themselves an airtight alibi, making their guilt appear impossible… The alibi trick in this one is particularly bad, just turning on a mechanism simultaneously convoluted and uninspired. It’s such a sour note that it genuinely does spoil the rest of what was otherwise another pretty good inverted mystery outing for Detective Conan. By all means, read this for the inverted mystery if you can put up with the frankly awful howdunit element.

Casebook 36 – The Gomera Murder Case (8-10) has the Junior Detective League attending a tour at a filming studio for the Gomera franchise of kaiju (giant monster) movies. Conan is frustrated with his young friends’ inability to distinguish reality from fiction as they continue to assume that Gomera is a real monster who stars in all of these movies. So, naturally, the kids are horrified when it seems like their hero and idol, the real-life Gomera, appears to commit a murder right in front of them, stabbing a producer in the chest! Gomera proceeds to kick over a paint can, lumbering off down the hallway and leaving a trail of footprints behind him as he goes. As the kids chase Gomera, they follow his footprints to the roof of the studio… where he appears to have impossibly vanished! Looking over the side of the roof, they see the Gomera costume lit on fire, but the culprit was obviously nowhere nearby, even though it’d be impossible for him to have vanished without being seen!

I really like this one. No, the impossible crime isn’t really all that ingenious, and it’s fairly easy to solve, but this story is just super fun. I love the setting, and the way the murder is framed in such a way it looks like a scene from a kaiju film like Godzilla! The Junior Detective League is actually pretty charming in this setting, too, since their naivete contributes to the story in an extremely natural way. The impossible crime isn’t too terribly bad, either, even if a little obvious. Just a good, fun story with a lot of charm and personality. A guilty pleasure of mine.

An uneven volume on all accounts, but it really did round out with an incredibly pleasant impossible crime at a movie studio. This volume is on average still better than early Conan — ten volumes ago, a story like Gomera would’ve been seen as a masterpiece! No, this isn’t a volume I’d recommend you go out and read unless you’re a signed-on Detective Conan fan and want to read all of the gimmick stories (impossible crimes, inverted mysteries, etc…), but it isn’t bad at all and ends on a positive note that bodes well for the remainder of the franchise’s run.

  1. ————THE GOOD————
    Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Tengu Murder (CB#30 V11 C8-10)
  3. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  4. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  5. TV Station (CB$28 V11 C2-4)
  6. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  7. Night Baron (CB#20 V8 C2-7)
  8. Wealthy Daughter (CB#24 V9-10 C7-1)
  9. Poisoned Bride (CB#21 V8 C8-10)
  10. Gomera (CB#36 V13 C8-10)
  11. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  12. Library Employee Murder Case (CB#26 V10 C6-8)
  13. ————THE DECENT————
    Kogoro Richard’s Reunion (CB#23 V9 C4-6)
  14. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  15. Diplomat Murder Case (CB#25 V10 C 2-6)
  16. Holmes Enthusiast (CB#33 V12-13 C 7-1)
  17. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  18. Illustrator’s Assistant (CB#35 V13 C 5-7)
  19. Mantendo Bombing (CB#32 V7 C4-6)
  20. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  21. Triplets (CB#34 V13 C2-4)
  22. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  23. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  24. Medical Professor (CB#27 V10-11 C9-1)
  25. ————THE BAD————
  26. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  27. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  28. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  29. Moon, Star, Sun (CB#31 V12 C1-3)
  30. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  31. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  32. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  33. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  34. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  35. Coffee Shop (CB#29 V11 C5-7)
  36. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)
  37. Ayumi Kidnapping (CB#22 V9 C-13)

Furuhata Ninzaburou Season 1 (1994) by Kōki Mitani (Part 1/2)

Genre cross-contamination between Japan and the West is nothing unheard of. For every The Lion King there’s a Kimba the White Lion, and for every Fistful of Dollars where’s a Yojinbo. Maybe Japanese artists have also taken inspiration from western counterparts. Arisu Arisugawa is a protégé of Ellery Queen, from the masked-superhero trend of Marvel and DC Comics came manga like My Hero Academia. And Columbo… got Furuhata Ninzaburou.

Started in 1994 and led by creator Kōki Mitani, Furuhata Ninzaburou is a Japanese crime drama not only referred to as the Japanese version of popular inverted mystery television series Columbo, but is apparently also explicitly inspired by the show in question. It follows Third Division Homicide Inspector Furuhata Ninzaburou, a disarmingly quirky and aloof detective, as he finds himself (sometimes on purpose, something by sheer chance) sniffing out criminal plots, honing in on a suspect, harassing them and whittling away at their alibi — and their senses! — until he finally has the proof to arrest his mark! As in Columbo and other inverted mysteries, every episode opens with showing us the killer conducting their murder plot and establishing their alibi. Where ordinarily a mystery is told from the perspective of our protagonist, the detective, and we attempt to follow along with their reasoning and intuit who the killer is, in an inverted mystery like Columbo or Furuhata Ninzaburou, the “mystery” is derived from the fact that we know who the killer is, and we have to wonder how the detective will solve this seemingly airtight crime and break apart clever alibis.

In addition, a common element of the Furuhata Ninzaburou series is two segments in each episode where the protagonist breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly. Before the opening credits, Furuhata tells the viewer a bizarre non-sequitur that always ends up either being a hint for the solution to the episode or simply some thematically relevant ramblings. Later, right before the denouement, Furuhata Ninzaburou addresses the viewer and asks them if they can see how he solved the murder in something like an Ellery Queen-esque Challenge to the Reader.

Furuhata Ninzaburou ran for four seasons, with seasons 1 and 3 being 12 episodes, season 2 having 10, all 50 minutes long. The fourth and final season was made up of only three 2-hour episodes written to be a dramatic swansong for the titular detective character. The show was evidently incredibly popular in Japan and, according to Ho-Ling of the Casebook of Ho-Ling blog, a major influence not only on Japanese crime dramas, but also on Japanese pop culture as a whole. Similar to my other extended review series of episodic mystery franchises, like my Detective Conan series, I will be attempting to discuss the entire franchise by tackling it chronologically, chunk-by-chunk season-by-season, while also reviewing individual episodes. At the end of each post, I’ll leave a paragraph writing up my thoughts on what I’ve seen so far, and then post a ranking of each episode. However, as each season of Furuhata Ninzaburou is generally four times as long as the average Detective Conan volume, in order to keep the reviews from running on for too long I’ve decided to review the seasons by halves — this post will be talking about episodes 1 to 6 of season 1, for example, while the next will review episodes 7 to 12.

These review series always have such long preambles, so just the same as with Detective Conan rest assured that every subsequent post will be significantly shorter and more accessible. Thank you for bearing with me.

Episode 1 – The Shoujo Manga Murder has Furuhata, car out of gas in the middle of nowhere, interrupting a young woman in the middle of a murder plot in order to use her phone. Three days ago, Chinami Koishikawa, an author of romance comics for young girls, went to a private cabin on a liaison with her business partner and illegitimate lover, locked him into a vault in the basement, left him for three days to starve, and then returned three days later. Naturally, when questioned by Furuhata, the woman claims that she had only been here a month ago at the most recent, and that she believes the man’s death was an accident… but Furuhata is quick to point out that the victim has been bludgeoned, a fact unknown to our killer! Furuhata also has to grapple with an apparent dying message… in which the victim grabbed a piece of paper, opened a pen, held both in his hand, and then wrote nothing at all…

This episode is actually criminally good for a pilot, because it really set the standard a bit too high! Although it’s not the chronologically first episode in the series I think it was a fantastic choice to lead with this episode. Opening with Furuhata operating in a strictly unofficial capacity and putting him in an isolated setting to interact casually with the suspect and form a bond with her all show off the more charming side of Furuhata’s character that transcend the DNA of Columbo I think is missing in the series’ actual first episode (the second episode released, chronologically). Until about the end of the episode, there isn’t much of a whiff of investigation or detection, but instead a protracted scene of Furuhata endearingly getting teary-eyed over a children’s love story, and yet these interactions still drop salient clues and hints that dovetail together for the denouement.

Although the crime is very simple, especially when compared to some of the weirdly complex schemes cooked up by Columbo villains, there are multiple very clever clues that build up a picture of suspicion come the end of the episode anyway. The dying message in particular is brilliant in all of the ways a dying message tends to be — brilliant, while also being stupid and ridiculous. I do feel like given the nature of the dying message, there is a more obvious explanation that isn’t really addressed, and as far as being “the ultimate piece of evidence that allows Furuhata to definitively prove the killer’s guilt” it’s probably the least likely one I’ve seen so far to hold up in a court of law. Those are minor smudges though on a very cleverly-realized inverted mystery that showed me immediately that Furuhata Ninzaburou wasn’t a mere copycat of Columbo — it’s its own show, inspired as it is but nonetheless able to stand on its own two feet.

Episode 2 – The Kabuki Murder opens with a security guard hassling kabuki actor Nakamura Ukon over the homicide he witnessed a few days ago. Ukon had paid the security guard to keep quiet, but after his morals catch up with him the security guard threatens to go to the police and expose Ukon’s crime. In his panic, Ukon knocks the security guard over, causing him to hit the back of his head and die. Trying to cover up the murder, Ukon uses a stage elevator to bring the body to the theater, messes with the time on the victim’s watch to give him an alibi, and then tries to make it look like the victim died by falling from the catwalk…

Just like in the previous episode, the killer’s plot is a lot simpler than those in the Columbo episodes I’ve seen. I like the build-up in this one well enough, though I feel like Furuhata is a much less charming character than in the previous episode. There’s one scene that recalls a Columbo episode where Furuhata lies about the kind of evidence they’re looking for in order to bait the killer into attempting to destroy evidence that doesn’t exist. The final detail that cinches the killer’s guilt is also clever enough, relying on a very understandable misunderstanding.

What’s weird about this episode though is… everything else. The victim died because he was being bribed by the killer into staying quiet about another murder, but outside of the opening segment this second murder isn’t addressed and Furuhata doesn’t even make a pass at trying to give Ukon a motive for the crime. Ukon getting caught at all is also very unbelievably, since even though the final misunderstanding is believable, everything leading up to him being at that point at all relies on unnaturally poor decision-making on his part. They try to explain it away with an artistic motive, but his explanation doesn’t even hold water on an irrational level — the killer said that, as a method actor, he wanted to experience what the character in his upcoming play felt after killing a geisha, and that this opportunity doesn’t come along often. This explanation doesn’t pass snuff for me, because… the killer is the geisha, he did not murder a geisha. Even by this weird, deliberately irrational motive, it isn’t consistent with the internal logic of the character, making this whole episode feel like they needed the killer to be as unreasonable as possible to even let him be caught. A few decent ideas here, but very poor all-told.

Episode 3 – The Psychological Murder has psychiatric therapist Eri Sasayama on a date with her former patient and illegitimate lover, who cooked her dinner for her birthday, when he reveals that he is soon to be engaged to another woman. Enraged, Eri concocts a plan that involves locking him out of the house, thereby forcing him to “break in”, while also taking advantage of a quirk of his of loving to surprise people to make him put a pair of stockings over his head and pretend to be a burglar. Doing this, Eri is able to hit him fatally with a baseball bat, thereby allowing her to pass off her murder plot as a mere case of self-defense!

On the one hand this is probably the most complex and interesting plot any killer has concocted of these first six episodes, and Furuhata is very enjoyable in this episode, with a number of funny scenes (most notably, him smoking through a pair of stockings). On the other hand, though, a clever murder plan means very little to an inverted mystery, as that is merely the set-up. The solution is the method by which the detective reaches the true conclusion, and in this episode it’s painstakingly obvious. Not only is it horribly obvious here, though, but the episode spends nearly the entirety of its investigation beleaguering the obvious contradiction Furuhata is building to. While there is a second, more important contradiction, it’s hidden away from the viewer and is very unlikely, but the clues building up to it are also very clearly telegraphed so that the viewer should definitely already know roughly where it’s going. Not a very good episode at all, charming moments notwithstanding.

Episode 4 – The Faxed Ransom Murder follows the faked ransom of the wife of mystery writer Dai Banzuin. After murdering his wife, Banzuin uses a word processor to automatically fax ransom notes to his office from a supposed kidnapper claiming to have his wife and asking for millions of yen. Banzuin proceeds to perfectly act out the instructions he wrote out for himself ahead of time to create an alibi for himself when the “ransomer” finally murders his wife…

In all honesty, I was afraid that the first episode was a fluke. It was brilliant, but two episodes immediately following it were poorly-constructed, obvious, and not very good. I’ll admit I was tempted to stop watching the show for a bit, but I’m glad I didn’t because this one is stunning!

In both Furuhata and Columbo it’s standard for the killer’s murder plot/alibi construction to be entirely completed in the first portion of the episode, before the detectives discover the murder and begin investigation. However, this episode is essentially one 50 minute-long alibi construction in which the suspicion of murder isn’t meant to even occur to anyone, with the crime disguised instead as a kidnapping. Bending format this much creates a new problem where Furuhata not only has to bring guilt home to the perpetrator, but he has to prove that a death even occurred at all! I was afraid that the episode was going to go the obvious route to the solution, with the fax machine at the killer’s house printing out copies of the faked ransom notes, but no, all of the reasoning is very clever as well as fair, and the eventual trap that Furuhata lays for the killer is brilliant.

My favorite episode of the six, and it’s no contest.

Episode 5 – The Shogi Tournament Murder has Furuhata and his subordinate Imaizumi at a hotel which, thanks to being in a “shogi town”, hosts a prestigious shogi tournament. Three-time loser Yonezawa 8-dan is now one more loss away from being finally disqualified from the tournament, so he concocts a plan to cheat. Either player may, on their turn, ask for the game to be suspended for the night, but in order to prevent cheating by allowing them the whole night to consider their next move they’re forced to write their next move on a paper sealed inside of an envelope. Yonezawa has conceived of some way to bypass this safeguard by sliding an empty piece of paper into the envelope and later somehow writing his move down. But when the coordinator of the tournament finds out and threatens to expel him, Yonezawa hits him with an ashtray and attempts to make it look like he fell in his bathtub…

Another very good one. In addition to the impossibility of the killer writing his move into a sealed envelope, the episode eventually turns on the “psychological impossibility” of “why would a skilled shogi player on the cusp of winning make a losing move that even the most ill-informed of layman tournament-viewers can see is senseless and idiotic”. What I love so much about the Detective Conan inverted mysteries is that they have an element of howdunit — you only see half of the killer’s plot, but the important parts (the actual alibi) are left ambiguous so that the reader is still left a clever impossible alibi problem to resolve. I enjoy it when inverted mysteries leave that little gap there, and while the answers to the impossibilities here aren’t ground-breaking they still contribute brilliantly to Furuhata’s reasoning establishing guilt.

There’s a clue here that I did pick up, but many English-viewers probably won’t since it requires knowledge of the Japanese language. It’s very clever though, and somewhat recalls a clue used in a Columbo involving fingerprints on a painting… The setting of both a hotel and a shogi tournament are utilized perfectly, and this is another homerun for the series.

Episode 6 – The Piano Lessons Murder takes place months after the passing of world-renowned pianist Shiobara Ichiro, and Kawai Ken is set to play at his memorial service. Although Kawai’s favorite pupil, Iguchi Kaoru has been disgraced by his estate, and so she electrocutes him to death, inciting a heart attack and hoping to steal his place at the memorial service.

There’s not a lot to say about this one except that it’s basically a reworking/minor improvement over The Kabuki Murder, involving a nearly identical mistake that leads to the culprit’s guilt and a similarly artistic motive for the killer’s unreasonable actions. However, the killer’s mistake is enhanced by something like a minor inversion of the psychological impossibility of The Shogi Murder Tournament, and the motive is more compelling, consistent, and moving than the one in Kabuki. The killer in this one is my favorite killer character so far, but all-told it’s still only a minor improvement over the plot of an episode we just saw a couple hours ago. I guess just skip that one and watch this one instead?

Three brilliant episodes and three mediocre-at-worst episodes makes the first six episodes of this series average out to pretty darn good! Furuhata Ninzaburou as a character obviously has DNA of Columbo in him, with his disarming awkwardness, politeness-to-the-point-of-annoyance, and there are more than a few instances where I absolutely felt like the writers had to restrain themselves from writing “just one more thing!”. But he’s also got his own little quirks and habits that build up during the series, like his love for children’s comics or his culinary ineptitude. He isn’t an idle ripoff of Columbo, that’s for sure!

Something that seemed interesting to me when comparing this show to Columbo is that in Furuhata the killers’ plans are overall simpler. Just watch the first episode of Columbo, and you’ll see the lengths the killer goes to establish their alibi. Four of these six episodes have remarkably simple plots by comparison, with killers often just… committing the murder in a fit of rage and then lying. What’s more is, in five of these six episodes, the killer tries to make it appear as if the deaths aren’t murders — in three of them, the deaths were meant to look like accidents, one of them natural causes, and one of them self-defense. Despite this trend, I never actually felt like this was to the detriment of the show or its mysteries — the complexity of the killer’s plot don’t seem to actually matter so much!

The show is great so far, with three fantastic episodes lined-up, and even the “bad” ones had great ideas in them. With plenty of cleverness in cluing, variety of situation and skill in presentation, Furuhata Ninzaburou is already a great example of the television crime drama, inverted mystery, and a very pleasant show for anyone interested in more Columbo!

  1. Faxed Ransom (Season 1, Episode 4)
  2. Shogi Tournament (Season 1, Episode 5)
  3. Shoujo Manga (Season 1, Episode 1)
  4. Piano Lesson (Season 1, Episode 6)
  5. Kabuki (Season 1, Episode 2)
  6. Psychological (Season 1, Episode 3)

Detective Conan Volume 11 (1996) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the eleventh 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 10 of Detective Conan wasn’t the best of the volumes we had so far, but a far shot from the average quality we were getting earlier on in the series. While its third story was hurt significantly by a Japanese-centric clue, it was still absolutely ingenious. It also had the best Junior Detective League story so far in it, as well as a pretty decent locked-room mystery. Volume 11 comes with a good recommendation from Mr. Sands of Time himself, TomCat, boasting what he considers one of his favorite locked-room mysteries in the entire franchise…

Richard Moore is invited to a detective-themed talkshow, on which he’s asked to give a dissertation to the people on the work he does in solving murders. He gives a talk about the security features of cellular phones, and the show cuts to a murder mystery skit that the live studio audience has a chance to figure out themselves… During this skit the host of the show, Takashi Matsuo, calls his producer Michihiko Suwa and threatens to jump off of the roof. Suwa opens the window to the conference room in which he’s waiting to tell him to stop, and is immediately shot.

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

After the show, Suwa’s body is found inside of the conference room. Conan immediately suspects the host Matsuo, but there’s one problem: in order to get from the stage to the conference room would take nearly three times as long as the time Matsuo was offered, offering him an airtight alibi. Nonetheless, Conan doggedly sticks to his lead, and attempts to prove Matsuo’s guilt in Casebook 28 – The TV Station Murder Case (Chapters 2-4).

The TV Station Murder Case is another hum-dinger of an inverted mystery. Very similarly to the last inverted mystery, The Tenkaichi Fire Festival Murder Case (Casebook 17, Volumes 6-7 Chapters 9-1), this mystery has an element of howdunit. We do know who the killer is, and we do know roughly what their plan is, as we see it conducted from their perspective; however, we do not know how Matsuo managed to get from the stage to the conference room to commit the murder in the time allotted to him. The explanation is perhaps a little less inspired than in Tenkaichi, and is very unreliable in how it turns on the victim performing a very specific action in a very specific way, but it’s nonetheless fun and doesn’t detract from the overall experience in any meaningful way.

The way the killer is caught, like in the previous inverted mystery, is clever, but this story really shines in its denouement — Conan’s deductions are aired to the world as part of the mystery-themed talkshow, and he’s cheered on by the show’s massive audience as he corners the killer. It’s an unbelievably fun denouement that wraps up an unbelievably fun story.

Casebook 29 – The Coffee Shop Murder Case (Chapters 5-7) has Conan with Ran at a coffee shop, waiting for an unknown person, but when a woman is found murdered in a locked stall in the restroom, Conan is able to reduce the suspect list to three people…

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

I think this one is silly and just not very good. It’s a locked-ish room in presentation, since the mystery is “how could someone climb through the opening without getting covered in the victim’s blood”, but I think the trick used here, on top of not being very compelling, is just unreasonable and unnecessary in getting the desired effect. Maybe if I re-read this in the future I’d like it more, but I do not enjoy this mystery much at all as it stands. It’s just a killer

Conan gets helped by a lawyer who turns out to be Rachel’s mother, making it a plot-relevant story, unfortunately, so if you’re deep in the overarching Case Closed lore, then you’ll have to give this story a read.

Casebook 30 – The Tengu Murder Case (Chapters 8-10) has Conan and the Moores’ car breakdown outside of an old shrine where they’re taken in by monks. While there, they learn about a years-old murder that took place in that temple. A murder committed by a beast of Japanese legend, a Tengu… But upon probing into it, the Moores anger the head-monk, who tells them they will have to be on their way the very next day.

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

Unfortunately, that night, the head monk is found killed in a way that resembles the old case… Strung up impossibly inside of a room dozens of feet high, fatally hanging from the ceiling beams. When it’s further proven that it’s nearly impossible for a human being to carry a body over those beams to hang him, it’s ruled that the death must be a suicide. But Conan is not convinced, and gets to work proving how the head monk could’ve been murdered!

Complaints that this was never proven to be an “impossible” crime and is more of a “wildly improbable” crime aside, this is an absolute whammy of an impossible crime! The eventual solution is one of those unreasonably high-scale mechanical solutions of the type you’d associate with Soji Shimada’s mysteries like The Murders in the Crooked House, and it is very inspired, if not a bit on the absurd side as well. I agree with TomCat’s prognosis that this story would only be tolerable in the form of a comicbook and would be a little hard to swallow as a novel written in the 19xx’s. Nonetheless, it was very satisfying, novel, and well-done, and easily one of the best stories in the series so far. It’s the first impossible crime in Detective Conan that I really feel strongly about.

Volume 11 has one of the worst stories we’ve seen so far, but it’s sandwiched between two of the absolute best. Since both fantastic stories start and conclude in this volume as well, I can easily recommend interested peoples find a copy for their bookshelves if they’re in the mood for a fantastic impossible crime and a fantastic inverted mystery. A fantastic volume and an easy recommendation.

  1. ————THE GOOD————
    Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Tengu Murder (CB#30 V11 C8-10)
  3. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  4. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  5. TV Station (CB$28 V11 C2-4)
  6. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  7. Night Baron (CB#20 V8 C2-7)
  8. Wealthy Daughter (CB#24 V9-10 C7-1)
  9. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  10. Library Employee Murder Case (CB#26 V10 C6-8)
  11. ————THE DECENT————
    Poisoned Bride (CB#21 V8 C8-10)
  12. Kogoro Richard’s Reunion (CB#23 V9 C4-6)
  13. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  14. Diplomat Murder Case (CB#25 V10 C 2-6)
  15. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  16. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  17. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  18. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  19. Medical Professor (CB#27 V10-11 C9-1)
  20. ————THE BAD————
    Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  21. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  22. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  23. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  24. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  25. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  26. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  27. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  28. Coffee Shop (CB#29 V11 C5-7)
  29. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)
  30. Ayumi Kidnapping (CB#22 V9 C-13)

Detective Conan Volume 6 (1995) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the sixth 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 5 of Detective Conan was a high-point! Now at Volume 6, we’re still apparently in that “early-series slog”, though we’re pretty much at the tail-end of it. Volume 6 is often lumped in with the “volumes not to judge the series from” era of early Detective Conan, and that’s kind of sad, actually, because I think anyone who judges the series from this volume would would walk away with a pretty high opinion of Detective Conan

Volume 6 opens up with Richard Moore called in to investigate a case of adultery in Casebook 15 – The Art Collector Murder Case (Chapters 2-5). His client is Denjiro Maru, famous art collector who suspects that his wife may be cheating on him and, unfortunately, Richard has picture proof evidence of this… The art collector is devastated, but in the middle of his meeting with Richard is forced to leave by an insistent telephone and a sudden visitor.

Screenshot taken from the anime series, provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

After he doesn’t return for two whole hours, Richard angrily stomps off to find him. However, Richard is shocked to find Denjiro in a side building, pinned to wall with a sword, and with a sword in his hand! The room has been demolished, marked with sword cuts all over the walls, floor, furniture, and ceiling, indicating indisputably that the victim died of a swordfight to the death! Following the discovery of the body, three men all show up who have appointments with the victim, one of whom is Denjiro’s swordplay teacher, Yuji Suwa, the only man in the known world who could defeat Denjiro in a swordfight…

Yuji Suwa is immediately suspected of the murder of Denjiro, but when Conan notices something odd about the crime scene it forces him and Richard to reevaluate their opinion of the crime…

This one is fantastic. Although it falls into that “three suspects” alibi check formula that is so common in the series, this one’s just great. The traditional Japanese architecture, with a man strung up by an ancient sword, is a great set-piece that weirdly recalls Art Museum Owner Murder Case (Volume 4 Chapters 1-3) but recontextualized in a neat way.

Screenshot taken from the anime series, provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

There are a number of great visual clues, a really clever linguistic/behavior clue, and the reasoning is entirely sound with no hiccoughs. The suspect-juggling in this one is also very, very good. There’s one clue that’s brilliant that demands knowledge of Japanese, but honestly I don’t think even a Japanese speaker would be able to 100% solve the jigsaw puzzle that is this clue. You can definitely probably guess what was supposed to be there, though, and I think that’s good enough to let you reach the conclusion across language barriers.

The solution turns entirely on a classic dodge. The double bluffs and baiting in this one very closely resemble the plotting styles of Agatha Christie or Christianna Brand. This is also another story where modern technology plays into the solution in a very clever way, also recalling Art Museum. This is my favorite story in the series so far, it’s just really great.

Just one gripe: the adultery sub-plot means nothing and amounts to nothing for, you know, an element that ate up such a big chunk of the early parts of the story…

The middle story of this collection, Casebook 16 – The Twin Brothers Case (Chapters 6-8), sees the official founding of the Junior Detective League — a club of mystery-solvers formed by Conan and his three classmates! Finally a fully-fledged crime-solving group, they’re disheartened when their first case is a mundane case of a missing cat…

Screenshot taken from the anime series, provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

However, things take a turn for the dark when they find the cat emerging from a bathroom window covered in blood. Closer investigation reveals a bloody dead body with its head submerged in the water of the bathtub! The kids immediately call for the police, but when Inspector Megure arrives and he and a bunch of constables go over the place with a fine comb, the body has disappeared! The police immediately name the kids liars, and leave, ignoring their insistence that they did find a body.

The kids immediately begin to investigate yet again…

This one’s pretty mediocre. After so much back-to-back originality, it’s kind of disappointing to see something as uninspired as this one. It has kind of a fun energy, feeling like those juvenile detective stories of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, but overall it’s pretty whatever. There’s only so many ways to call a story generic. I don’t really enjoy these Junior Detective Club stories.

Screenshot taken from the anime series, provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

Norikazu Sasai has murdered his co-writer Satoru Imatake in cold blood. Rifling the room to make it look like a theft has occurred, shooting his co-writer in the forehead in their shared hotel room, and then running out of the room in front of witnesses, down the street, and then to the Tenkaichi Fire Festival where the 天, 下, and 一 characters are burnt into the mountainside to summon a good harvest for that year…

Once there, he grabs Rachel Moore and has her take a photo of him in front of the burning 一. Within minutes, he is grabbed by Officer Yokomizo under suspicion of the murder of Satoru Imatake. He immediately produces his camera, however, and insists that this camera contains proof his airtight alibi. When the film is produced, seven photos are found of him at the festival. One photo places him in front of the 下, and another places him in front of the burning 一. In order for Sasai to commit the murder and produce both of these photos he would need to be able to take the first photo, get to the hotel room, commit the murder, and return to the festival in 25 minutes.

Screenshot taken from the anime series, provided by IMDb.

It is a 40 minute bus ride one way between the hotel and the festival.

Norikazu Sasai’s alibi is airtight. But Yokomizo and Conan believe that only he could be the murderer! How will they prove this man’s guilt in light of the overwhelming evidence for his innocence in Casebook 17 – The Tenkaichi Fire Festival Murder Case (Volumes 6-7, Chapters 9-1)?

Elements of the story recall the first episode of Columbo, particularly the murder of a much more successful co-writer and the story ending on the killer ironically commenting on the one time they’ve ever written a truly good story. The parallels end there, though; this story is grade-A original!

This is the first fully inverted mystery story in Detective Conan, and it’s a great one! While Detective Conan’s fourth story, The Strange Shadow Murder Case (Volume 2, Chapters 1-3), flirt with the inverted mystery genre I consider it more of an “impossible alibi” – we’re guaranteed of the killer’s guilt in spite of his airtight alibi, but see absolutely no part of his murder plot, and the puzzle is figuring out how-he-dunit. There’s still a howdunit element to this story, since we don’t exactly know how Sasai falsified the alibi photos, but I won’t push my luck with the label.

The method for falsifying the 天下一 photos are unique and clever, though I don’t believe it’ll have anybody fooled for too long. The exact way Conan proves the photos were faked, however, is very neat! There’s a visual clue the story doesn’t acknowledge but which also definitely exists and I’m proud to have picked up on.

Another fantastic story from this volume, and a close second favorite. Absolutely check this one out if you’re in the mood for a bite-sized Columbo tale.

Volume 6 is by a massive margin the best volume in the Detective Conan series, boasting the two best stories we’ve read so far! Two fantastic early stories are not let down by the existence of one bad egg. I absolutely recommend this one, it is a gem (just be careful to order Volume 7 as well to finish Tenkaichi).

  1. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  2. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  3. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  4. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  5. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  6. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  7. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  8. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  9. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  10. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  11. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  12. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  13. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  14. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  15. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  16. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  17. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)