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)