Detective Conan Volume 10 (1995-1996) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the tenth 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)

Volumes 6 to 8 were a breath of fresh air for a series that started off so mediocrely. Although Volume 9 stumbled a bit, with a very uneven assortment of stories, it evened up by the end with a pretty good alibi trick inside of a decent, if underrealized, mystery tale. The average quality of the stories has improved considerably since the first few volumes, and I now found myself reading Detective Conan again casually, instead of beating out volumes “waiting for it to get good”. Even a mediocre story from this stage of the game is considerably better than a good story from the first three volumes…

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

Volume 8 opens with Casebook 25 – Diplomat Murder Case (Chapters 2-6), in which a woman summons Richard to her husband’s study to help with a background check on her future daughter-in-law, who is “too perfect to be good”! However, when the gang arrives at the scene, they find that the husband, a diplomat, has been killed by a poison prick-pin! Worse yet, the room was locked-and-sealed, and when the murder must’ve occurred, not only did everyone have an alibi but one person, but the only keys to the door were either in the victim’s pocket or the wife’s pocket (who was away from the house).

While struggling to piece together the mystery, Conan struggles with a fierce fever. Worse yet, a new detective named Harley Hatwell has shown up and named himself Jimmy’s rival — and he’s about to walk into the killer’s trap and blow the whole case!

This one’s fun, I really like the introduction of Harley as having him bounce ideas off of Conan and also butt heads with him makes the reasoning/deduction segments of Detective Conan more engaging and fun. The mystery itself is a bit minor for a feature-length story, though, as a lot of the story was basically dedicated to the locked-room mystery’s false solution as well as setting up the final confrontation between Jimmy (Conan) and Harley.

The locked-room mystery is fairly basic. The solution is a decent reworking of an age-old trick. However, the way it’s applied here is a lot more elegant on account of the way the presentation of the locked-room is handled. It makes the killer’s actions more natural so that the age-old solution doesn’t quite jump out at you like it would if this story played it entirely like those other stories tend to… This reworking of this particular solution type also lends itself to some fun cluing.

This is a decent story. The introduction of Harley is significant, and the denouement is a very good scene, but the mystery plot is just mediocre.

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

Immediately after this is Casebook 26 – Library Employee Murder Case (Chapters 6-8), the first story in the series to share chapters with another story, as chapter 6, the ending of Diplomat Murder Case is a direct tie-in to the beginning of this case (not that it matters to the plot).

Newly reinvigorated with the knowledge of how to return to his adult body, Jimmy accompanies the Junior Detective League on one last case where they investigate the disappearance and presumed murder of an employee… While there, they hunt for the secrets of the owner of the library while their life is in danger!

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

Okay, fine! I really liked this Junior Detective League story! There’s a fairly-clued, if obvious, “Purloined Letter”-esque trick with the hiding place of a particular item in the story. The real puncher here, though, is the hiding place of the body, which is just mildly clever on its own, but is further elevated by a really clever piece of mathematic misdirection.

Not an astoundingly brilliant one, but I really enjoyed this one.

The volume ends on Casebook 27 – Medical Professors Murder Case (Volumes 10-11, Chapters 9-1), in which the Moores are stranded outside on a ski trip after Richard loses their lodge keys. The family is, fortunately, saved by a band of medical professors who invite them to spend the night at their private lodge. However, while there, the head professor under which the others study is murdered violently, and it appears he’s left behind a message identifying his killer…!

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

This one is ingenious in all of the ways that dying messages tend to be, but also absurd in all of the ways that dying messages tend to be. The message involves intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and language, and also demands you be reading the story in Japanese or else you just won’t get any of the clues that actually reveal the solution to you in the character names…

I think this one is wildly ingenious, but for some reason I just didn’t find it very satisfying. I give it points for cleverness, but I didn’t actually really enjoy this one.

Volume 10 is much more even than Volume 9! While it never quite reaches the highs of any of the volumes before it, there are no standout bad stories in this volume! This is all-around a good, balanced collection of Detective Conan tales.

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

Detective Conan Volume 9 (1995) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the ninth 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)

If you’ve been reading this series of reviews from the beginning, you’ll probably be struck by the fact that there has been a massive uptick in quality. For the first few volumes, I was giving metered, measured, and reserved praise to stories that were “good… for this point in the stories”. Since then, I’ve started throwing out words like “brilliant” and “classic” and making lofty comparisons to Brand and Christie. Volumes 6 to 8 have all been consistently on-point with only the occasional stinker among them. We can only hope that this upward trend will continue in Volume 9…

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

…which opens with Casebook 22 – Ayumi Yoshida Kidnapping Case (Chapters 1-3), my least favorite story in the series so far. The Junior Detective League are out playing hide-and-seek when Ayumi gets into the trunk of a suspected kidnapper-and-serial-child-murderer! The kids chase her down on Conan’s rocket skateboard as she describes sounds to them that give them clues to her location.

It’s a three chapter long chase scene with a joke ending that isn’t very funny. The descriptions of the locations are pretty obvious as to what they’re vaguely supposed to be. Worst story so far, there’s basically nothing of interest here worth reading for any reason. I really do not care for these Junior Detective League stories one bit. Hopefully there’s a really good one involving a library to look forward to in the next volume!

Casebook 23 – Kogoro Richard’s Class Reunion Murder Case has the Moores attending a reunion of Richard’s university judo club. Unlike many other clubs we will see in this series, there are no “two-year-old secret deaths we promised not to speak about!” In fact, the reunion goes pleasantly, with the members teasing Richard for his poor attendance, much banter ensues, and it’s clear the familial bonds of the Judo team are in tact even after 15 years!

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

After the team goes to the fireworks showing without Yumi Horikoshi, a member of the team, they return to find her in her room dead from a gunshot wound to the forehead. Based on the rigor mortis, she had to have died when everyone was together in the ping pong room earlier and everyone had an alibi…

I know this one is apparently a favorite of a lot of people’s, but I’m sorry to say I really didn’t think it was too great. Seeing Richard momentarily mature into a suitable detective to solve the murder was really fun, and the moment-to-moment detection as well as the cluing were all very well-done.

However, the problem is just a fundamental one with this kind of story. As I mentioned in my post on “impossible alibi problems”, there are two ways to construct a problem like this. One is “we know who the killer is, but we have no idea how they established an airtight alibi”, which features in Mysterious Shadow Case (Volume 2 Chapters 1-3). The other is “a murder committed when everyone has an alibi” — this story — and this premise only has arguably three or four total basic solution types. Unfortunately, the story also quickly reveals which of these types has to be at play, and the second that happens it basically just comes down to the minutiae of applying it, which in this case I really did not care much for, being a unique facepaint on what’s still a very old type of biological trick.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s, technically, a perfectly-constructed detective story, with cleverly-placed clues hinting at the true solution, including a very neat piece of Japanese folklore, and the solution’s unique application of an old premise lends itself to very clever cluing. This type of perfect composition is a mark many other Detective Conan tales miss, but, gun to my head, I’d prefer a story with flawed construction but brilliant heights and shocks like Night Baron Murder Case (Volume 8 Chapters 2-7). Nonetheless, this story just gets marks for being well-realized, even if I don’t believe it’ll bowl many people over with ingenuity or surprise.

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

The volume, being the first in a while to feature three stories, ends on Casebook 24 – Wealthy Daughter Murder Case (Volumes 9-10, Chapters 7-1). At a party hosted for a wealthy daughter to select her desired suitor for marriage, of which many of the guests are from the host’s old yachting club, many people’s car tires are slashed, scaring people into fleeing the party. The few who remain intend to finish the party and walk away with a new bride…

However, the festivities are finally disrupted when the body of one of the suits is found drowned in the fountain outside of the house! With the debutant missing from her own party and under suspicion when Rachel is the victim of a murder attempt in which her head is forced under the water in a bathroom sink, Conan is underway to find this would-be serial killer…!

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

I mentioned preferring brilliant heights with flawed construction, right?

There’s a very clever alibi trick at play here that, similar to Moonlight Sonata Murder Case (Volume 7 Chapters 2-7), effectively relies on the fact that it could only work in the context of a serial killing and would not be nearly as effective in a one-off murder. Both that story and this one ultimately feel like a case of the first two murders merely being a means to one big misdirection in the final murder, and it’s an interesting plotting device that I found neat and effective.

However, construction-wise, this story is just as weird and messy as the aforementioned Night Baron Murder Case, for a lot of the same reasons (see my review of Volume 8). There’s a scene where an old lady at the scene of the crime compare’s Rachel’s appearance to that of a young woman who drowned to death a few years ago (like every non-Judo club in the Detective Conan universe). The scene is presented with considerable weight and importance, but this little detail of Rachel’s resemblance to the dead girl is neither paid off nor followed-up on at any point in the remainder of the story. Similarly to Night Baron this also feels like two stitched-together premises — a murder at a yacht club reunion, and a murder at a groom-selecting ball. This is ultimately and most importantly a murder at a yacht club reunion, and the entire set-up of this party being meant for the selection of a young woman’s husband is a detail that gets laid at the wayside and never called-upon for any meaningful reason.

Nonetheless, I think of this story highly. I think the alibi trick is clever enough to save this story, although I think it’s a step below Night Baron in sheer brilliance and ingenuity, even if the construction is equally bizarre.

This volume started out rough, but managed to find its footing near the end. Nothing here that I’d say is a classic of the series worth going out of your way to read, but Wealthy Daughter is a good read for signed-up fans, and most people think more highly of Richard’s Reunion than I do, so maybe you will too…?

Now that I’ve broken the 20 stories mark, I’m going to start arranging these stories more clearly based on rough quality! I’m worried the ranking is getting a bit messy and hard to read though, so let me know if this knew formatting decision is good or if I should abandon it and just let the ranking speak for itself.

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

Detective Conan Volume 8 (1995) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the eight 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)

Back-to-back Volumes 6 and 7 gave us some absolute stunners. From a brilliant inverted mystery at a fire festival, to a somber murder to the beat of a piano, to the shocking murder-by-swordfight of an art collector, Detective Conan has started to produce some genuinely great stories that fans of detective fiction would be doing themselves a disservice to ignore…

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

Volume 8 opens with Casebook 20 – The Night Baron Murder Case (Chapters 2-7), as the Moores attend a bizarre competition at a hotel. A person will dress up as the fictional phantom thief, Night Baron, and roam the hotel committing petty crimes. Whoever first discovers the identity of the masked man will be given free room and board at the hotel. However, as Conan investigates and finds out nearly everyone present is a respected computer programmer, he discovers that there’s another, secret prize in the competition: a virus named after the Night Baron character…

During their stay, Conan is thrown off of his balcony by the Night Baron! Now concerned about the true nature of this competition, Conan is on the hunt for the Night Baron… The Baron’s identity is quickly revealed when the character is too cast from a balcony, and lands on the spear of a statue, getting impaled and dying immediately. When the mask is revealed, the identity is revealed to be programmer Tokio Ebara… however, Conan is not convinced this is the real Baron. The Moores begin their search for the culprit of this murder and the true identity of the Night Baron…

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

And during their hunt, they find the victim’s room, locked and sealed from the inside, barring access…

I want to get this out of the way now, there is some beautiful cluing towards a brilliant murder trick in this story. In my opinion, in fact, this is the most brilliant piece of misdirection in the series so far. The locked-room mystery itself is minor and resolved immediately, but the locked-room itself is merely a form of misdirection that contributes to the greater solution — the true solution. It’s a brilliant mystery puzzle, so I wish I liked this story more…

The story, bizarrely, feels like two disparate premises stitched together. The murder at a gathering of computer programmers and the ne’er-do-wellery of a fictional Great Thief come to life are, individually, two fantastic premises, but stitching them together by naming a virus after the character makes the whole thing feel confused and muddled, and leads to neither idea really feeling like it gets sufficiently payoff come the end.

What makes this even more bizarre is that there are multiple instances of characters doing wildly suspicious things, and there’s… no explanation for it before or during the denouement. The suspicious activity is hand-waved over the course of what basically constitutes an epilogue, with multiple characters basically giving an apology that amounts to “hehe, whoops, we were so silly!” Very half-baked, artificial attempts to cast suspicion onto another character.

This also returns to the feature-length story trope of having a character make a weak dodge to attempt to deflect suspicion from the culprit, but inadvertently do the opposite and point big, blazing, neon arrows in the killer’s direction. It works here, though. Not from a misdirection standpoint, but just from a storytelling and character standpoint the attempt here actually adds a little to the story and gives Rachel a very compelling WWJD (What would Jimmy do) moment.

Anyway, the central trick here is brilliant and it elevates this story well beyond where it would’ve been with a lesser murder plot, being so loosely-plotted, frustratingly lazy and half-baked in places, and muddled. I’m almost certain this was once-upon-a-time a standard-length story, and it was extended when they realized they wanted it to be relevant to the series’s overarching plot for XYZ reasons… Only it would’ve been much better if it stayed that way. Still worth reading for the trick, but don’t make this your first Detective Conan you seek out.

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

The second and final story this volume is Casebook 21 – The Poisoned Bride Attempted Murder Case (Chapters 8-10), which has the Moores attending the wedding of a police commissioner’s daughter — who also, as it happens, turns out to be Conan’s persnickety former teacher. Before the ceremony can commence, however, the bride is non-fatally poisoned by a packet of sodium hydroxide left in her favorite drink, a can of lemon tea! A video camera that recorded the gang’s entire interaction in the dressing room became a central piece of evidence in the murder…

This one is very good! The alibi trick for the poisoning was very clever, if not entirely unique, turning on a principle that has fundamentally been used a few times in the series already. It’s a fairly distinct interpretation of the idea though, as it relies on a certain character’s assistance to operate under the restrictions of poison, and the visual clue that reveals everything is very neatly handled!

The motive is touching and fairly clued, and the ending is very sweet, even if it a bit on the side of rewarding people for doing bad things…

It’s hard to match peaks, but Volume 8 of Detective Conan makes a valiant effort with its two stories. Volume 8 is absolutely worth reading once you’re a signed-on fan of the series, especially for the brilliant trick buried in the otherwise messy Night Baron Murder Case

  1. Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  3. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  4. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  5. Night Baron (CB#20 V8 C2-7)
  6. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  7. Poisoned Bride (CB#21 V8 C8-10)
  8. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  9. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  10. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  11. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  12. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  13. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  14. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  15. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  16. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  17. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  18. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  19. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  20. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  21. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)

Detective Conan Volume 7 (1995) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the seventh in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read my review of the first volume to get a summary of the series and my preamble about the reviews. It is not necessary to read any other entry in the series besides the first)

Volume 6 of Detective Conan was simply fantastic. The two absolute best stories we’ve seen so far featured in that volume, and while there was one pretty uninspiring story in the middle it didn’t spoil what I consider the first absolute must-get volume in the series… Now that we’ve reached this point in the Detective Conan franchise, standards are high! One can only hope that we keep getting more fantastic stories like we saw in the previous volume…

First up to bat in Volume 7’s two stories is Casebook 18 – The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case (Chapters 2-7), a six chapter feature-length, opening with a mysterious letter addressed to Richard Moore summoning him to Tsukikage (Moon Shadow) Island with the warning that the island will once again be cast in darkness… The sender? A man going by the name of Keiji Asoh…

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

At Tsukikage Island, asking about the identity of Keiji Asoh reveals that the man has long since passed away. It was 12 years ago, in fact, when world-renowned pianist Keiji Asoh went mad, killed his family, and proceeded to light his home on fire. While the wood of his house scorched and embers danced hungrily around him, lapping at his skin and threatening to devour him, Keiji Asoh calmly sat at his piano and played his favorite song, the Moonlight Sonata, up until the very moment he was engulfed in flame and passed away… Thirteen years later, the sounds of the Moonlight Sonata playing from the community center summoned witnesses to find the dead body of the Tsukikage Island mayor… The piano’s story history has led to it being isolated in the city center away from everyone else, derided as a cursed artifact of the island’s colored history.

Despite thinking of the letter as a cruel-hearted prank, the Moores and Conan stay at Tsukikage Island to soak in the local politics of the upcoming mayoral election and even attend the late mayor’s funeral. While there, they hear the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata and run into the room with the cursed Asoh’s piano only to find Hideo Kawashima, a mayoral candidate, drowned to death, at the helm of the piano!

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

While the mystery is underway, Conan realizes that the letter only says that a shadow will begin to fall over Tsukikage Island. And, as the Moonlight Sonata has two more movements that they’ve yet to hear, the damning realization dawns on the Moores that there may very likely be two more murders committed to this musical motif in the shadows of Tsukikage Island… And when another mayoral candidate is found murdered to the second movement of the Moonlight Sonata during the investigation, their worst fears are realized… A serial killer is out for blood.

There are only so many ways to call a story brilliant, but this one is… well, brilliant! What initially seems to be a very clues-light detective story is revealed to be a subtly complex tale of murder and deception. The haunting motif of serial killings inspired by a cursed piano lend itself not only to atmosphere, but also to a delightfully simple and elegant if technical misdirection of alibis and time-manipulation. The central misdirection here is wildly unique and very naturally implemented, clever and very credible. What’s more is that the trick almost relies on the fact that this is a serial killing, and wouldn’t be nearly as effective in a single, isolated murder case. This is also the first feature-length Detective Conan in which the killer doesn’t make a weak double-bluff that immediately reveals their identity, and I was in fact pleasantly surprised by the denouement!

The ending of the story is very touching, and I think the most character-oriented the series gets. The killer’s motive is touching, even if not unique, and the way the character is sung off for the last time beautifully reflects on and calls back to the first death of the story. In a heartfelt scene of redemption, the killer seeks retribution in saving Conan’s life…

I do feel compelled to point out three minor faults with the story. Firstly, I feel like the supernatural undertones of the cursed piano are abandoned really quickly when it’s revealed that the music is being played from a sound tape during these murders (the piano isn’t even present for the most important murder…). The story also engages in some classic Detective Conan sexism, and it’s a bit harder to ignore here because it’s a very important part of some of the deductions that move the plot along. For a moment during the denouement, you actually think they’ll double-back and make a point about the sexism being wrong but… they absolutely do double down on it. Similarly, there’s a clue involving the way a character’s name is written in Japanese… something entirely removed from the English translation with I think little hope of figuring it out otherwise.

But never you mind those quibbles. This is a beautiful, touching, and brilliant Detective Conan story that succeeds on every level from plot to character. If I were to name a single Detective Conan story that fans of classical detection should read, it would probably be this one.

Interestingly, this is when I noticed Gosho Aoyama stopped trying so hard to write around the fact that Conan is in a child’s body. During much of this story, Conan just… makes deductions, and characters either humor him or take him and everything he says 100% at face value. Occasionally Richard will hit Conan (usually implied to be because he’s showing him up), but for the most part Conan just gets away with playing detective much more blatantly. I wonder if the premise started to get a bit problematic for Aoyama to write for…

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

The second and last story in Volume 3, Casebook 19 – Soccer Player’s Brother Kidnapping Case (Volumes 7-8, Chapters 8-1), involves a young woman coming to the Moore house, claiming to be looking for Jimmy (Conan) because they were dating before he vanished… Because Conan knows he’s never met this woman before, he is curious as to the real reason why she’d be looking for him… And when the two accompany the woman to her apartment, he finds a ransacked child’s room and believes a kidnapping may have taken place here!

This is another kidnapping case. It’s actually the best one so far, with some okay-ish cluing and okay-ish reasoning. The plot, motive, and resolution all just kind of lift bits and pieces from CEO’s Daughter Kidnapping Case (Volume 1 Chapters 2-5) and 1 Billion Yen Case (Volume 2 Chapters 4-7), but the individual parts taken all work better when combined in this story.

What is my favorite clue in this story is there’s a clue that is only debatably fairplay, which ties into a fictional video game called Onimaru Quest. Onimaru Quest is a fictional reference to/parody of a specific real-world video game in an actual video game series, as the plot of the Onimaru Quest game becomes important in a minor way, and you might possibly be able to figure out the clue ahead of time if you’ve played the game, Dragon Quest V, before reading this story. It isn’t much of a spoiler, but I love that this specific clue exists in the story.

There’s also a very touching moment at the end not unlike the previous case in which a misunderstanding makes the culprit feel foolish… Rachel’s jealousy here is cute, but it also means the story astoundingly fails the Bechdel test.

Anyway, I know it’s a bit underwhelming after the first case in this volume, but this case is another basic kidnapping base that brings nothing new to the table.

I wholeheartedly recommend Volume 7 on the weight of The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case alone, which many Detective Conan fans will name as their favorite story in the series. While the misdirection at the heart of it isn’t Detective Conan‘s absolute number one best, as a story of detection it’s perfectly composed and pitch-perfect, beat-for-beat…

  1. Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  3. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  4. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  5. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  6. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  7. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  8. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  9. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  10. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  11. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  12. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  13. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  14. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  15. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  16. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  17. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  18. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  19. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)

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)

Detective Conan Volume 5 (1994-1995) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the fifth 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 4 represented a pretty substantial leap in quality for Detective Conan, boasting what I consider to be the first truly good story in the series with the very clever, if flawed, Art Museum Owner Murder Case (Volume 4 Chapters 1-3). Although the following two stories didn’t quite live up to it, with The ORO Case (Volume 4 Chapters 7-9) being my least favorite story in the series so far, Art Museum is still a good indicator how good the series can be.

Its first attempt to live up to that story, Volume 5 leads with Detective Conan‘s second feature-length mystery, Casebook 12 – The Bandaged Man Murder Case (Chapters 1-5). Things seemed to be going well for the film club. Chikako Ikeda surprised everyone with her breakout success, a screenplay of her own being professionally realized as a movie! But, suddenly, club member Atsuko Tokumoto killed herself, hanging herself in the clubroom. Unable to look at each other, the film club disbanded…

Screenshot taken from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

Now, years later, the group has decided to meet for a reunion at an isolated vacation house in the mountains. On the way to the reunion to accompany Rachel’s friend, she and Conan see a mysteriously bandaged man crossing the bridge to the house, only for him to disappear… Nonplussed, the two continue to the house and attend the reunion.

Old wounds surrounding the suicide of Atsuko Tokumoto haven’t totally healed, as tension boils perceptibly under the surface. After a fight, Rachel goes for a walk with the club’s pretty boy Masaru Ohta, where she’s frightened by the thunder and runs away. On her way back to the house, Rachel is intercepted by the bandaged man, who attacks her with an axe! Narrowly escaping with her life, the group return to the house and debate about whether to call the police…

when the bandaged man rushes by the dining room window, carrying Ikeda with him!

Screenshot taken from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

After a chase ensues, they find the dismembered body of Ikeda in the woods! And upon returning to the house, the bridge has been destroyed! As the bandaged man doggedly pursues Rachel in constant attempt to murder her, Conan rushes to resolve the mystery and save Rachel’s life before it’s too late, in the meanwhile discovering the killer’s grudge against his friend!

I always thought this one was fairly interesting. Detective Conan‘s feature-length mysteries tend to feature three murders, so this one instead being orientated around one murder and two separate instances of attempted murder was pretty fun. Although only five chapters instead of six like the last feature-length, The Hatamoto Family Murder Case (Volume 3 Chapters 1-6), this one is a drastic and marked improvement over that one.

At the heart of The Bandaged Man Murder Case is two devilishly simple and clever misdirections, and some very smart reasoning. The persistent question of the killer’s motive for wanting Rachel dead is a very well-manufactured one that helps call attention to one of the simplest and most blatant but also most easily-missed visual clues we’ve seen. The atmosphere is also fantastic, and it makes this whole story feel aggressively Kindaichi-esque (masked killers committing murder in broad daylight is a staple of that franchise).

Screenshot taken from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

If I had to bring up one gripe against this story, though, it’s a persistent problem with closed-circle mysteries trying to be clever in establishing a “Suspect X”. For those who may not be aware, “Suspect X” is a term only very occasionally used in reference to closed-circle mysteries, mysteries with a suspect pool of static size due to being in an isolated environment; any character who exists (or might exist) off-screen as an additional, un-accounted-for member of this suspect pool is “Suspect X”. Often times, closed-circle mysteries will use one trick or another to attempt to falsely create the existence of a “Suspect X” — generally speaking though, I think it’s fair to say that most mystery fans are well aware that this “Suspect X” isn’t really here, and that it’s one of the principle cast members (the story establishes this early, so I don’t consider this a spoiler). This creates a problem, however, where unless you’re careful your trick can end up backfiring and putting a huge “KILLER IS ME” sign onto your culprit’s back. Essentially, similarly to The Hatamoto Murder Case, the killer attempted a dodge that ended up signaling to me their identity immediately, the exact opposite of the intended solution.

This trick is especially problematic because there’s basically no way to clue it without hiding it entirely, and the story was aware of this — because it did just hide the clue. There is one single clue that blatantly and immediately reveals the trick used here, and the story hides this clue for much of the story. Context makes the existence of the trick obvious, and this one clue makes the exact nature of the trick obvious. This specific element of the story is a major lowpoint, especially since it recalls large parts of one of my favorite Christianna Brand novels and one of my favorite Jonathan Creek episodes (granted all three were utilized for different reasons!), and I feel like this is the least creative or well-executed version of this particular maneuver.

However, I don’t want to get too down on this story. It took me a long time to explain that hyper-specific gripe, but it isn’t as big of an issue as you might think. Although I figured out that specific bit of the solution pretty quickly, I still struggled to put everything else into place, and what’s here absolutely worked very well and exactly as it was supposed to. This is another peak in the series, and another story worth seeking out, slyly overtaking Art Museum Owner.

Casebook 13 – The LEX Vocalist Murder Case (Chapters 6-9) has Rachel, her boy-loving friend from the last story, and Conan come face-to-face with a famous rockband at a karaoke bar! The band invites the group to karaoke with them, where the girls and Conan get a front-row seat to the lead vocalist, Tetsuya, harassing his fellow bandmates through a variety of targeted song recommendations. At the end of that stressful night, Tetsuya sings his own song before sitting down, eating a rice cake, and dying of potassium cyanide poisoning.

Screenshot taken from the manga series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

This is another decent one, but not an absolute favorite. The core principle of the poisoning trick here is fairly obvious and basic, and most of the story is spent trying to figure out what specific way that principle was applied. Granted, that specific method is pretty clever and relies on a neat sleight of hand, but it won’t astound you with its raw ingenuity. There are some neat clues building up the killer’s motive that are clever, but while I gather it was meant to be touching it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth; it felt like it moralized domestic abuse in a pretty half-baked way.

A decent story, worth reading if for no better reason than it shares spare with Bandaged Man.

This collection rounds out by introducing the worst thing to ever happen to Detective Conan. No, not the story; the story’s fine. But it’s the fact that stories no longer end in the volume they started in; the last story always ends a chapter into the next volume now. Everyone agrees, it’s awful, and I’ll be reviewing the stories holistically because that’s just easier for me. If you see a story that you think you’ll want to read, be wary if it’s at the end of the collection because, most likely, it ends in the next volume.

Casebook 14 – The Conan Edogawa Kidnapping Case (Volume 5 Chapters 10-11; Volume 6 Chapter 1) opens with a woman claiming to be Conan’s mother coming to the Moore house and taking Conan back into her custody. However, we know that Conan, not being a real person, has no such mother! The woman immediately reveals that is a member of the Organization, and she’s learned of Jimmy’s true identity… and she’s going to deliver her directly to the Organization for him to be murdered and dissected so that they can learn the true nature of the poison that shrunk him!

Screenshot taken from the manga series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

This one is another one of those stories like The Shinkansen Bombing Case (Volume 4 Chapters 4-6) that combines clever reasoning with a thriller/action story. I don’t have much to say about this one that I didn’t have to say about that one. The reasoning is clever, albeit not always fair, the moment-to-moment action is fun, and I really enjoy the resolution. I consider it to be a tiny bit worse than Shinkansen, because I just found the overall reasoning less interesting, but it’s about the same.

This is one is important because it does introduce us to multiple important recurring characters, like the Night Baron and Jimmy’s actual parents, so if you’re keeping track of plot-relevant ones, here’s one for you.

Volume 5 is the best volume so far! The second one worth reading since the first, starting with a fantastic long-form mystery! While the two after it aren’t as good, neither of them are outright bad! It feels good to write a whole review of earnest praise. The grapevine says it can only get better from here…

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

Detective Conan Volume 4 (1994) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the fourth 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‘s first three volumes were a mixed bag. It had glimmers of decency here and there, but absolutely nothing I can actively encourage people to go out and read. People might be worried that this whole series of reviews is going to be like this forever. You might be feeling your interest wane a bit. And, frankly, I felt the same way… until I read the first story of Detective Conan volume 4.

In Volume 3 we did see Gosho Aoyama slowly start to transition to more mature mystery plotting in The Hatamoto Family Murder Case (Chapters 1-6), but it was still messy and uninspired, only marginally more complex with its three murders. It was immediately followed up by a more psychological procedural-esque story of kidnapping that was only decent in places. It is with great pleasure that we’ve finally reached volume 4, as I can finally introduce you to the first genuinely good Detective Conan story.

Screenshot taken from the manga series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

Casebook 9 – The Art Museum Owner Murder Case (Chapters 1-3) opens with two security guards at the local art museum being frightened as a suit of armor appears to spontaneously come to life and chase them down. The guards seek the professional advice of famous detective Richard Moore, who laughs off their request as ridiculous. Rachel, however, compels him to take her the museum…

On their museum trip, the Moores and Conan do much more touring than investigating. They meet multiple members of staff, including the irritated and unprofessional Kubota and the owner Manaka, who intends to sell the museum and have it repurposed into a fancy hotel…

Screenshot taken from anime series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

The detective family immediately forgets about the living suit of armor when Manaka the owner is stabbed to death inside of the museum’s “Hell Room”. He is ran through with a sword and pinned to the wall, mimicking a nearby painting of a knight achieving vengeance by slaying a demon… When the security footage in the Hell Room is reviewed, the victim is seen being assaulted by a living suit of armor, and murdered. However, during the attack he is also seen writing on a piece of paper… a piece of paper which the security footage proves wasn’t tampered with… and on it he had wrote the name “Kubota”, clearly implicating the employee in his murder…

This one is far from perfectly conceived. For one, it’s not entirely fair. We know that because this is a detective story, the note must’ve been faked — the trick for faking the note, we can figure out ahead of time, with a very neat visual clue. And because it’s Detective Conan we can probably guess the killer and motive right away. However, there’s no way to actually connect the note-faking trick or any other detail of the murder to the identity of the killer until the story does it for you.

I was also disappointed that the “living suit of armor” bit didn’t open up a Carrian impossible crime quite like I expected it would. The suit of armor bit is really just a visually interesting means of hiding the killer’s identity. In fact, the whole art museum setting could’ve been utilized a bit more. There was one segment where the killer uses a “DO NOT ENTER” sign to ward off a part of the museum to commit the murder, and I was kind of hoping that’d become an actual trick in the mystery, but… well, no.

But, I dunno. Maybe my standards have shifted while reading a bunch of pretty middling stories, because I really liked this one purely on the strength of the central trick of the note faking. The method of falsifying the dying message was lowkey, but a really elegant and cute little trick that was, from my perspective, pretty unique, especially since it’d be much less reliable in a world where video cameras do not exist. It’s the sort of trick and visual clue I could see Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney pulling out for a fun mid-case contradiction (these words mean nothing to most of my audience…)

The ending also has a neat, charming little poetic note that works better than a few others in the series. The killer graciously relinquishes himself to the police on the weight of the message of the very same painting he attempted to mimic…

Unambiguously the best story so far. It’s the story that rekindled my interest in Detective Conan when I initially started to lose faith in the series, and the first one I would probably recommend you go out and read…

Chapter 10 – Shinkansen Bombing Case (Chapters 4-6) has our lead characters on a train where Conan runs into the very same people who poisoned him! While trying to do some espionage work, he discovers that they have just performed a trade and that their client’s merchandise has been rigged with a timebomb! Now, no longer able to worry about finding a sample of the poison they used on him, Conan sets off to attempt to find the Organization’s client and save the train!

Screenshot taken from anime series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

A decent, tense action-/thriller-y Detective Conan story with some neat moments of genuinely clever (if not always fair) reasoning. Important as it advances the plot of the story for the first time in a whole 30-and-change chapters. It’s not overly obvious where it goes, either, but in my opinion the thriller-y stories are just inherently less interesting than the pure detective stories. It’s fun enough, though.

The Organization members’ codenames are awful in the American version of the manga… The alcohol-themed Japanese names were much more charming.

Casebook 11 – The ORO Case (Chapters 7-9) sucks. It’s the second story revolving around Conan’s elementary school friends, after Haunted Mansion Case (Volume 2 Chapters 8-10), and has the gang cracking two codes you don’t have a chance in Hell of figuring out. The first code is a cute pun that only works if you speak Japanese, being I believe the first in a pretty long trend of stories where some Americanization would be appreciated.

Screenshot taken from the manga series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

The second code is a series of symbols which, without giving away too much, relate to a series of SOMETHINGs you’d see on storefronts. The reason I’m so upset with this story is that there are multiple establishing shots of storefronts where these SOMETHINGs could’ve been hidden in plain sight (who studies establishing shots?), actually making the story somewhat fair and a little more fun. But they don’t show you the SOMETHINGs until the characters crack what the code is supposed to mean. Conan’s reasoning is pretty weak all throughout this story too, as he lucks from one conclusion to the next. The worst story in the series so far.

Talk about uneven! Beginning with the best story so far and ending with the worst, Volume 4 is not a new gold standard. It has the story, however, that fully convinced me that Detective Conan is worth reading, and it’s one I still think of fairly fondly to this day. If just for the fantastic first story, and the decent plot-relevant second one, Volume 4 is the first volume since the first I’d recommend you add to your collection.

  1. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  2. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  3. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  4. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  5. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  6. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  7. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  8. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  9. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  10. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  11. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)

Detective Conan Volume 3 (1994) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the third 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)

While we move through the ever-famous “Early-Series Slog”, there really isn’t a lot to say. I’ll just whet your appetite: we’re getting to the good stuff. I promise. Volume 3 is actually a turning point for the series, as its first story, Casebook 7 – The Hatamoto Family Murder Case (Chapters 1-6) is the first “long mystery” in Detective Conan.

If you’ve read the last two reviews, you’ll notice that most Detective Conan cases last about three chapters, sometimes four. This one lasts for six, so double-length. This isn’t an isolated occurrence, and will happen occur quite frequently going forward. I also consider this to be the first indication that Gosho Aoyama is trying to write more “mature”, complex mystery plots suitable for adults. How well does Aoyama use this space now that he has it?

It’s okay.

In The Hatamoto Family Murder Case, the Moores and Conan (off-screen) attend a vacation at a nice island resort. However, because Richard forgot to book them a return trip, they were generously invited onto the private cruiseliner of the wealthy Hatamoto family, currently celebrating the recent nuptials of the family’s youngest daughter Natsue. While on the ship, the Moores are treated to first-hand witness the cruelties of the Hatamoto’s elderly patriarch, Gozo Hatamoto.

All screenshots taken from the anime series and supplied by Detective Conan World Wiki.

When the reception dinner comes, and Gozo isn’t present, the entire ship goes to find him murdered inside of his locked and sealed private cabin! Suspicion immediately falls on his granddaughter Natsue’s fiance, who is revealed to be the son of a former business rival who killed himself after Gozo’s company put his out of business. When two more attacks occur, Conan is set on discovering the true identity of the killer and proving that young man’s innocence…

This is probably the best-crafted mystery story in the series so far, at least. We get a larger cast of characters with more defined (marginally) dynamics and personalities, more protracted investigations, and a little more complexity. However, it’s far from perfect. There aren’t very many tricks or deceptions at play, and the few that are really are not that interesting and will be immediately obvious to any long-time reader of mystery stories. There’s a few interesting clues and points of reasoning, but it’s all pretty low-key fare. The locked room is explained solved immediately, and is more “a clue” than “the puzzle” of the story, so I really don’t consider this a proper locked-room mystery either, but I’ll still give it the tag…

Ultimately, I think it’s the best-crafted mystery story so far, but not the best mystery story. It’s still beat out by Strange Shadow, but only barely. Not worth seeking out unless you desperately want to see a Detective Conan milestone.

The story in a number of places recalls parts of J. J. Connington’s Murder in the Maze, especially in the weak dodge the killer attempts, the personality of the killer, and the clue of sounds heard in a certain order. None of these elements are particular to Murder in the Maze, but I dunno, I thought of this novel while reading the story.

All screenshots taken from the anime series and supplied by Detective Conan World Wiki.

Because the first story was so long, this volume only has room for one more story, that being Casebook 8 – The Monthly Presents Case (Chapters 7-10). A doctor is receiving 1 million yen and a strange assortment of child toy’s every month for the last two years. He initially thought nothing of it, but when the 25th month comes with a note claiming to want to “finish the transaction”. This mystery turns into a race against the clock as the doctor’s son is soon kidnapped, as we see the culprit slowly make plans to murder the five year-old boy…

Some parts I like are buried in a pretty unremarkable story. The psychological undertones in the scenes showing an adult man prepare himself for the murder of a young child are suitably haunting, and I did actually like the ending (even if it’s one of the many cases of Detective Conan trying to moralize legitimately terrible behavior based on absolutely nothing). However, as a moment-to-moment detective story I didn’t care for the more procedural-ish plotting, and like most of the other stories we’ve read so far it’s pretty uninspired from beginning to end, as well as painfully obvious. You’d need to actively put forth effort to not predict where this story is going at every step of the way, which is a shame because I initially thought the premise was pretty interesting when they were setting it up.

A weak tale of deduction with tiny glimmers of decent character work don’t make this story a Detective Conan classic, though..

Before I get to the ranking, I have some good news! Volume 4 is the beginning of the transitionary period where we start getting genuinely good stories that I can actually recommend you go out of your way to read just based on the weight of the story alone without modulating my opinions! Huzzah! Volume 3 wasn’t bad at all, but it’s still pretty unremarkable in that early Detective Conan kind of way. Fortunately it’s fast reading.

  1. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  2. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  3. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2 C8-10)
  4. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1 C6-9)
  5. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  6. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  7. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1 C2-5)
  8. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)

Detective Conan Volume 2 (1994) by Gosho Aoyama

Like I promised on my review of Volume 1, much less preamble will be necessary going forward, and these reviews will be shorter, and easier to write as well as to read. I will be reminding you every post to go read my review of Volume 1, however, as that does set the scene for everything else.

Despite sitting in that early-series slump that turns so many people off of Detective Conan, Volume 2 opens with the fairly decent Casebook 4 – Mysterious Shadow Case (Chapters 1-3). The Mysterious Shadow Case opens with Richard Moore, suddenly a respected detective thanks to the intervention of Conan, has been paid an exorbitant amount of money to trail a man for three days. However, the very day afterwards, Richard’s mark has been found dead at a fire festival..! The police are 100% convinced of the guilt of the victim’s old friend… only, at the time of the murder, the friend was provably in another country! Conan, also convinced of this man’s guilt, gets to proving the trick of how he faked his alibi.

Despite often being labelled as such, this isn’t quite an “inverted mystery”. We’re loosely guaranteed the identity of the killer, but we’re not privy to his murder plot, and because the killer has an airtight alibi making this murder impossible I’ll be sorting this into that “Doylist Impossibility” category of impossible alibis. No, TomCat, I won’t be taking any questions. And yes, just to be clear, this means I consider this story the manga’s first impossible crime, and not Idol Locked-Room Murder Case (Volume 1), which I didn’t think was truly impossible.

I actually liked this one. No, it isn’t a “lost classic” of Detectie Conan lore, but it’s a minor peak in the quality you’ll be getting out of the pure detective stories of early Conan for quite a while. Like the previous two stories I discussed in Volume 1, this one turns on pretty obvious and basic clues, but the entirety of the solution wasn’t too derivative. It’s a decently clever alibi trick that kind of calls to mind a less unique and simpler version of the solution to one of my favorite Roger Ormerod novels… Don’t take this praise too seriously though, this story is not exceptional. It’ll be sitting at the “number 1” slot for a hot minute, but I won’t let it get too comfortable…

This story pivots into Casebook 5 – The Billion Yen Case (Chapters 4-7), in which Richard is asked to locate a young woman’s missing father, her “only family”. Another PI elsewhere is asked by an adult man to locate the exact same person, who also claims that he is his father, and his “only family”. The conflicting stories come to a head when the man is reunited with his daughter, only to immediately wind up murdered.

This one’s boring. Not very clever or unique, you’ll see where it’s going from begin to end. Possibly the most uninteresting way to develop this premise. Introduces under-used Conan tech in the form of the tracker badge, though. Meh…

Casebook 6 – The Haunted Mansion Case (Chapters 8-10) is a bit of a departure for the series, having Conan and three of his classmates investigating a supposedly haunted house that was once the site of a grizzly murder! The kids slowly disappear one by one under mysterious circumstances…

This one’s kinda fun, but it has some wild tonal whiplash, going from Scooby-Doo to Edgar Allan Poe in no-time flat. It’s the first appearance of the “Junior Detective League”, but other than that it’s not notable for much. Up until the end, it reads like a middle-of-the-lane Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys-style juvenile detective stories like most of the Junior Detective League stories I can think of… There is, technically, a “murder mystery” that’s solved, but it’s minor stuff, and is more there for atmosphere than anything.

Another mediocre review of a pretty middling volume. I’ll be urging you along for a while, because we’re both working through the slog together, you and me. I want to make it clear that if you see any praise I levy towards these stories that seems colored or reserved, assume there’s an implied “for this point in the series”. There’s nothing great here, but we’re getting to some really good ones… Not, you know, in the next volume, but we’re getting there.

The individual positions of these stories relative to each other doesn’t matter at this point, they’re all kinda the similar level of meh.

  1. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  2. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  3. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1 C6-9)
  4. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  5. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  6. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)

Detective Conan Volume 1 (1994) by Gosho Aoyama

Jimmy (Shinichi) Kudo is the world’s biggest mystery geek. So obsessed with all things Arthur Conan Doyle, Edogawa Ranpo, Agatha Christie, and Ellery Queen is he, that he never stops talking about it, much to the annoyance of his childhood friend Rachel Moore (Ran Mori) who suggests he become a famous mystery writer like his parents. But Jimmy doesn’t want to write about detectives; he wants to be a detective! The Sherlock Holmes of the modern era!

However, a stop is put to his plans after Jimmy proves his case-solving bonafides by solving a case of decapitation committed on a moving roller-coaster! A pair of thugs who desperately wanted to get away from the ensuing investigation despite their innocence in the murder invite Jimmy’s suspicions, and after chasing them down he discovers that they are gun smugglers, and were on the roller coaster to verify that their client had really shown up. Jimmy is immediately assaulted and nearly killed, but to avoid attracting too much attention the gang force-feed him an experimental pill of untraceable poison before leaving. Only, the poison didn’t kill Jimmy…

It transformed him into the body of a first-grader!

Unable to reveal his true identity, for fear that the gang of smugglers will return to kill him, subsequently putting all of his friends and family in danger (the classic superhero dilemma), Jimmy is forced to take on the identity of six year-old Conan Edogawa (named after mystery writers) and move into the Moore household with his childhood friend and her washed-up, deadbeat father Richard Moore (Kogoro Moori), a private investigator. In order to hunt down the gang of smugglers who turned him into a child, Jimmy (now Conan) must help fix Moore’s professional reputation by solving cases and tricking Moore into thinking he thought of it himself (after all, a child can’t solve murders on his own!) while hiding his identity from the people around him who get more than a little suspicious when Conan seems much smarter than the average six year-old…

For those who either haven’t read On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’ve Never Read Them or got bored during the autobiographical first half of the post, I have decided to undertake a comically massive project. I will be reading, reviewing, and ranking every single one of the nearly 700 unique mystery stories that exist in the Detective Conan multimedia franchise. The series is massive, and a cornerstone of Japanese detective fiction, but it’s frequently overlooked by the more serious-minded western readers of detective fiction, both because of its daunting size as well as its juvenile exterior. However, hidden among these 700 stories are some of the best classically-styled mysteries ever plotted in every style and form — whether you’re a fan of Wilkie Collins’s gothic tales of proto-detection, John Dickson Carr’s locked-room mysteries, Christopher Bush and Roger Ormerod’s ingenious alibi-constructions, or Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen’s logic puzzles, classics of the genre have been buried between the covers of this Japanese children’s comic series for years, waiting for you to unearth them. My end goal is to create the comprehensive reading guide for the Detective Conan franchise, so that people who don’t want to dedicate months of their life to this franchise can find the best stories to read and experience the greats without all of the… not-so-great.

Before getting to the reviews of the actual stories, I also want to establish the format of Detective Conan. I understand this is a lot of preamble, but it’s necessary — all future posts will be shorter. Like any Golden Age detective series, Detective Conan is episodic. There are some dashings of an overarching narrative and continuity, but I’ll just tell you now not to get too attached to the plotline of Jimmy returning to his body. You get maybe a baby stop in plot progression every couple dozen of stories or so. Characters are static, status quo is God, every mystery is its own self-contained little tale, etc. etc. When reading this series of reviews, you only really need to read the first one (I think understanding the basic concept of the series is important at least), but going forward you’re free to jump around however you please. Like with all of my anthology/short story reviews, I will be ranking the stories at the end of each post. How I will deal with it once it reaches 100+ stories, I don’t know, but for the time being… well, we’ll see!

Also, because the series turns on the manga first, and the manga’s translation uses American-ized names, I will be using the English names for all characters going forward. If that’s upsetting to you, Ho-Ling’s overview of the series uses the Japanese names… They’re very good retrospectives, too, and are concerned more with the “big-picture” of Conan than my posts, which will be focusing on story-by-story dissection. TomCat has also done a similar series of dissection (starting with volume 38) over at his blog.

With all of that out of the way, I now present to you…

Casebook 1 – The Roller-Coaster Murder Case – Chapter 1

The first story involves Jimmy and Rachel going on a it’s-not-a-date-I-promise date to the local amusement park, where Jimmy shows off his Sherlockian powers of deduction by figuring out a girl is a gymnast just from a handshake. After the two ride a roller-coaster that takes them through a dark tunnel, one of their fellow passengers is found beheaded! It’s initially written off as an accident, but Jimmy quickly establishes that this is in fact a murder and brings the killer to justice effortlessly!

The story is a decent opener. Jimmy’s deductions are a little on the Sherlockian side, with observations that are technically shown to you but I’d debate whether these count as “visual clues” — they’re all clever though, and the most original pieces of reasoning you’ll see for a while. The solution itself is mechanical and incredible, but not too dissatisfying.

A huge fuss is made about a woman’s strength being insufficient to decapitate a man merely with a dagger, but I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find me a man who could cleanly shave someone’s head off with a dinky knife in a matter of seconds either… This is not the last time Detective Conan implies that women are physically incapable of using knives to kill people (there’s a really silly example later in the same volume where Conan insists that a woman couldn’t stab a man in the back with a knife), though the sexism is cut out fairly quickly.

Obviously the main reason to read this story is just to get the context for the rest of the series, as Conan gets shrunk right at the very end…

Casebook 2 – The President’s Daughter’s Kidnapping Case – Chapters 2-5

Jimmy (now Conan) moves in with Rachel and Richard Moore, only to immediately get roped into a kidnapping case. The daughter of the president of some company (people don’t usually name the companies where they work, so get used to this) has been kidnapped. Only… the kidnapper, bizarrely, doesn’t want any money — instead, he wants the president to shut his company down for ten days, no more and no less. Conan is now forced to contest with being a child nobody listens to while solving the case!

If you can find me a Detective Conan mystery less inspired than this one, I don’t want to know. A mundane kidnapping case, with mundane clues any mystery fan will immediately pick up on, and a solution that won’t have you fooled for more than a handful of seconds. The mystery is actually solved very quickly, and the story pivots to an action/”race against the clock” segment which isn’t very interesting except for a minorly decent visual clue involving the true nature of a “smokestack” in the background…

The motive for the kidnapping is cute enough, but doesn’t elevate the story.

Only worth reading to see Conan acclimating to living with the Moores. Otherwise, not very interesting at all.

Casebook 3 – The Idol Locked-Room Murder Case/The Bloody Idol Murder Case – Chapters 6-9

Famous idol Yoko Okino comes to Richard Moore to have him investigate what she believes is a stalker following her. A stranger has been letting themselves into her apartment, rifling through her belongings, sending her images taken of her in private… And now she’s worried for her safety. When the group arrives at Okino’s apartment, however, they find the body of a stranger, stabbed through the back, even though the door was locked and every window sealed!

I don’t consider this a locked-room mystery. This is a locked-room mystery the same way The Woman in the Wardrobe by Peter Shaffer is a locked-room mystery: yes, the room was locked, and yes, come the denouement the murder method is in fact a means of committing murder inside of a locked-room. However, all three of our suspects either had or could have had a spare key to the room (hence why they’re the three suspects), and thus the crime wasn’t even technically impossible in the Judas Window way.

This one’s actually pretty decently alright for an early Detective Conan. The eventual solution is one that’s been so done to death it’s become both a joke and a lateral thinking riddle, but since this is the first mystery in the series to dedicate a full three-chapters length to the detection the actual construction of the mystery is more refined. If you manage to miss the obvious solution, the story does a decent job of juggling suspicions between the three suspects and has a handful of somewhat decent clues sprinkled throughout.

This is by no means a classic Detective Conan, and you shouldn’t go out of your way to find it, but since you’ll probably read volume 1 anyway for The Roller-Coaster Murder Case I’ll just say there’s no reason to skip this one. It also introduces the regularly-used voice-modulating bowtie that lets Conan pretend to be other people to solve cases using their voices, as well as being the first example of Detective Conan‘s three-suspect mystery format.

This volume isn’t great, and you’ll be seeing a few more of these lukewarm reviews going forward. I know that’s a tad anti-climatic after I spent so long describing what a classic this series is, but please don’t let that put you off of the series or these reviews. It’s well-recorded that Detective Conan does not start off very good, and requires a long running-start to get into (7-9 volumes, so not too long) — hence why I’m making this reading list at all, to spare you the trouble. Without further adieu, the rankings. “V#” and “C#” refer to volumes and chapters. CB# represents the specific chronological appearance of the story.

  1. The Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1 C6-9)
  2. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  3. President’s Daughter (CB#1 V1 C2-5)