Case Closed Volume 52
It’s been a long time — five years and nearly 20 volumes — since I last checked in with Case Closed by Gosho Aoyama. It launched in the US in 2004, and it’s quite impressive to see how it’s still going strong. Although this is the latest book out here, there are 85 volumes in Japan so far, where it began in 1994.
Volume 52 was a great choice to try again, since all the mysteries are self-contained, starting and ending in this book, and since they’re relatively short, the four included here provide a good range of emotion. Plus, pop culture fans will particularly enjoy the first case, set at the premiere of the latest “Star Blade” movie. Unlike the real-life version, this fictional franchise includes a “dark sword master”, a “swordsman of the light”, AND a “warrior woman of the flame”. (I cheered to see a woman included in the three major characters. It’s also neat to see how Jimmy’s crush Rachel is capable of defending herself.)
Jimmy Kudo is a skilled detective who’s been turned into a six-year-old. Why and how isn’t important, since it’s now very clear that that plot device won’t be significantly addressed until the end of the series, which is likely many years in the future. His youthful appearance was more of a plot device in earlier books, where he had to figure out ways to get the cops to listen to him. Here, as events move quickly, the situations are different. Either Jimmy prevents a crime before it happens or confronts a villain himself or simply asks leading questions in front of the police officials, who are often smart enough to pick up on the clues he indicates.
Also present in half of these stories is Kudo’s posse, a group of real kids he hangs out with. They’re cute, particularly when excited by the new movie they’re eager to see. That’s where they meet a super-fan, standing in line with them, but they soon notice a few discrepancies in his behavior. Luckily, they’re able to bring about a reconciliation before anything drastic takes place. The third story also involves a collector, as a novelist who’s been employing a ghostwriter tries to get rid of the person who could reveal his secret. When the kids, playing baseball, happen to break the collector’s window, they find a body and bring the whole scheme down.
The second case has detectives impersonating a couple getting married, since they’ve been threatened by a murderous thief. Although there’s plenty of danger, comedy comes a close second, particularly if one knows the supporting cast. The final case is more poetic, as spoiled teenager Serena has become infatuated with a soap opera called “Winter Maple Leaf”. It features a key romantic scene with a red handkerchief left in a maple tree. They travel to the grove where the show was filmed, only to discover many other fans have had similar ideas, leading to a grove full of handkerchiefs. When the original guide is murdered, the tokens take on new meaning.
The mysteries move quickly and are tricky to figure out, or almost impossible for American readers, particularly when a clue turns on a character writing his name in katakana instead of kanji. I enjoy just following the investigation and the adventures. (The publisher provided a review copy.)