Over the last few weeks, I have become addicted to, and have experienced all extant English-subbed episodes of, a TV series called Detective Conan in Japan, and Case Closed over here.
And when I say “all extant English-subbed episodes,” well, there are quite a lot of them. About 430 of 554 TV episodes that have aired over the course of 14 years, 13 movies, 11 OAVs, and 2 live-action TV specials. And a number of “scanlated” issues of the manga, too.
The premise of the show is that genius high-school detective Kudo Shinichi (or “Jimmy Kudo” in the English dub) witnesses a blackmail deal going down with mysterious gangsters—but the gangsters get the drop on him and force him to take a poison pill. After they leave him for dead, the poison causes him to shrink down from a 17-year-old to a 7-year-old.
Disguising his appearance with a pair of his father’s old glasses, with the help of an absent-minded inventor who comes up with helpful gadgets, Kudo takes on the name Edogawa Conan (from Japanese mystery author Ranpo Edogawa, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and goes to live with the family of his girlfriend, Mouri Ran.
Ran’s father Kogoro is an inept private investigator—and in the hope of coming across more information about the mysterious gangsters who shrank him, Conan starts working behind the scenes to boost Kogoro’s reputation as a P.I. He can’t tell anyone who he really is—even Ran. And so begins 14 years of romantic tension…
As one might guess from the name, Detective Conan borrows a lot of inspiration from the Sherlock Holmes stories of Conan Doyle. Even the place names are similar; Conan lives on “Beika Street” not far away from “Haido Park”. And if Conan is inspired by Holmes, one of Conan’s occasional adversaries—the Kaitou Kid—is modeled after the original Arsène Lupin.
The first 5 seasons and 2 movies of Detective Conan have been released in bilingual format by Funimation (retitled Case Closed after the Robert Howard estate objected), and the 3rd and 4th movies are coming out December 29th. Most of the episodes, movies, and OAVs after that have been fansubbed.
This is a remarkably good mystery series, and I cannot recommend it enough. The overall storyline is a bit slow to get started (it is episode 130 before Conan gets any real leads on the organization that shrank him), but there are a lot of good mystery stories in the mean time.
For those who are not sure if they would like to commit to a full-length TV series, the movies are a good way to experience the series in bite-size. I especially recommend the 4th movie, Captured in Her Eyes, as a decent encapsulation of the series as a whole.
Amusingly enough, the producers of the Detective Conan anime and the Lupin III anime got together this year to produce a crossover TV special, pitting Japanese animation’s greatest detective against Japanese animation’s greatest thief. The show is pretty funny, but for maximum clarity should probably be watched only after becoming more familiar with Conan.