by Gosho Aoyama; adaptation by Naoko Amemiya
published by Viz; $9.99 US
A great place to sample the series, since this volume contains three complete cases and the solution to a fourth, with no cliffhangers.
The first chapter shows boy detective Conan concluding a case from the last book. Like many of his stories, it’s Encyclopedia Brown-like — if you can find the single wrong item or recall the obscure knowledge that forms a clue, you’re well on your way to solving the case — only here it turns on a piece of trivia that the reader is unlikely to be familiar with. The key elements, the tiles from a Shogi game and how they map to kanji characters in proper names, are very Japanese, so those who enjoy manga because of its exoticism will be thrilled.
The next case involves a television show that airs real-life mysteries, its host, and its producer. From the beginning, we know who the bad guy is, so the mystery becomes a “howdunnit”. I appreciated the change of pace, and watching the villain’s expressions and manipulations as he lied to set up his plan was entertaining.
After that comes a more character-driven section, as one of the main characters meets an important person in her life the reader hasn’t seen before. Of course, it all takes place surrounded by a murder, but the situation allows someone else to be as smart as Conan, a refreshing comparison. The final case involves a monk, his four acolytes, a deserted temple by a waterfall, and rumors of a fog demon.
As the series continues, the things people are willing to do for murder become ever more unbelievable. In the first case, a woman had a plan that turned on stocking her car with every possible type of snack you can get at a convenience store so she could fill orders from other people without actually making a long drive and thus establish her alibi. In the last, a strangely constructed room with a very high ceiling was a key factor, although the reason for its shape was never explained.
If you want to play along, it’s a good strategy to figure out how the most simple activities could be faked, no matter how far-fetched it would be in real life. The series is a tribute to thinking “outside the box”, finding imaginative solutions that often wink broadly at the laws of physics.
In order to get detectives and other interested parties to listen to a child’s deductions, Conan usually knocks the adult detective Richard Moore out with a drug, props him up as if he’s sleeping, and then throws his voice, pretending Moore is solving the case. It’s just another one of the conventions of the series that no one else worries that Moore seems to spend an awful lot of time in a stupor and that they’ll listen to someone slumped over but still apparently talking brilliantly. He even makes fun of himself and his tendency to fall asleep at the conclusion of every case while being praised as a great detective.