Recently, a friend of mine pushed me to start watching Detective Conan (known as Cased Closed in the states). I wasn’t a fan of Detective Conan at first due to its long episode count and the problems I initially had with the plot. Now, having seen 100 episodes and counting, Detective Conan has presented me with something I didn’t know I wanted; a good old murder mystery!
What is Detective Conan all about?
Famous teenage detective, Shinichi Kudo, is forced by a mysterious organization known as The Black Organization to drink a poison that turns him into a child. Now, going under the pseudonym Conan Edogawa, Conan lives with his childhood sweetheart, Ran Mori, and her bumbling detective father, Kogoro Mori, solving murder cases while trying to find an antidote to the poison. Conan keeps his identity a secret from Ran and Kogoro to protect them from the mysterious Black Organization who are constantly on the hunt for him.
Created by Gosho Aoyama, Conan is a juggernaut in Japan. With over 900 television episodes, a movie released every year since 1997, multiple live action adaptations, and a theme park ride at Universal Studios Japan, it has a massive cultural footprint.
Funimation licensed the first five seasons of Conan in the mid 2000s but the anime never gained much traction in the United States. Viz has been releasing the manga since 2004.
With so much Conan content, how do I navigate it all?
Detective Conan can be very intimidating due to the sheer amount of content. I know I was certainly intimidated at first. Luckily, Conan has very low levels of continuity. You definitely need to watch the first episode, and there will be recurring characters (mostly policemen), but apart from that, you can jump into the series without having to know a ton of lore. The anime has a good amount of filler you can skip and since Conan never made it big in the States, the amount episodes available legally are the first 130 episodes with a major jump forward to episode 806 through the present.
Now with all the preamble out of the way, what really makes Detective Conan/Cased Closed worth a shot? It’s the only anime or manga that is doing the classic murder mystery.
Do You Like classic murder mysteries? Conan is for you.
Growing up I watched a lot of live action adaptations of Agatha Christie’s works, mostly the ones featuring Ms. Marple and Hercule Poirot. They have a tried and true formula where a murder takes place and 6 to 8 suspects are connected to the murder victim. Marple or Poirot interview the suspects and look for clues. Our detective gathers the suspects, elaborates on who is the murder, how they did it, and why they did it. Detective Conan uses this formula as well.
What has made murder mysteries so engaging for audiences for decades upon decades is that they give the audience the chance to solve the murder themselves. The murder is a puzzle to the audience. The audience is given the same clues and testimony as the detective. Can the viewer at home reach the same deductions as the detective? If you can, you get a sense of accomplishment and feel pretty smart. If not, well there’s always the next case. Detective Conan provides a niche that is not all that common in anime. Occasionally there are murder mystery anime released like 2017’s Erased, but murder mystery anime are rare and if any get made at all, they are usually in the horror genre.
Sidebar: At the end of each episode, you are given a hint to the next episode’s murder case. These hints are told in a very over the top and funny manner which makes them great. Listen to an example below.
Since the beginning of the series, two major questions have been posed by the show; when will Ran learn Conan is Shinichi? and when will Ran and Shinichi finally get together as a couple?
A common trope in TV and movies is the building of a relationship and teasing said couple finally coming together. Detective Conan has milked this teasing forever. New viewers may find this aspect of the show frustrating, which is understandable. I have come to look at this will-they-won’t-they situation as a comedy. How will Conan fool Ran into not believing he is Shinichi this time!? The level of disbelief can get really over the top at times. Conan is kinda like Superman and Ran is Lois Lane; even though she is very intelligent, Conan’s glasses are like Clark Kent’s. Those bifocals are able to hide his identity completely! If you can get past that logic in Superman, you can do the same in Conan.
Lupin the Third & Detective Conan Crossovers
You shouldn’t be all that surprised that these two franchises have crossed over considering they are both produced by TMS. Conan has his own Lupin equivalent, the gentleman thief Kaito Kid. These two franchises also share similar story beats; the puzzle box nature of heists and murders, and of course the over-the-top absurd humor. The crossover TV special and movie have more of a Conan bend to them so if you are only watching these for Lupin, they might not be your cup of tea. Discotek Media released both of them on DVD in 2014.
For the longest time, I couldn’t get into Detective Conan due to my own hangups with the the plot. Once I got past those issues, I saw that Conan gave me something I didn’t know I was missing; the Agatha Christie murder mystery formula I grew up loving, sprinkled with comedy and romance. Watching Conan has made wish there were more traditional mystery anime. If you know of any good who-done-it mystery anime, please let me know in the comments below!
You can find the Cased Closed manga both in print and from digital retailers. You can also stream the early episodes on VRV, and some on Netflix.