The boy detective genre has really taken off in Japan and there are many shows that follow the simply formula of a kid solving crimes either by himself or with a group of friends. Detective Conan has arguably been the most successful with this and since it launched in 1996 the show has garnered over 500 episodes and is STILL alive and kicking twelve years later. That's simply daunting when you think about it and that fact puts the show up on the popularity chart with stuff like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto. But why isn't it as breakthrough a success here in the States?
FUNimation has been handling the franchise very well and though the show has been renamed Case Closed, Detective Conan loses very little in translation. It's a smart, funny, and charming series that makes the viewer think while it entertains them. Maybe that's part of the problem with why the show hasn't caught on fire with the masses on this side of the pond. There simply aren't a lot of fights or flashy bright colors. The tone is much more laid back and because of that I could definitely see the youth of America not coming in droves to watch it. It's a shame really, what else can I say? This is a solid program no matter which way you slice it and it's one that everyone should check out.
For a while now FUNimation has been releasing the series with individual volumes that you can probably find in a bargain sale somewhere around the web. However with the sheer amount of volumes available collecting them would be a daunting task for anyone unless you picked them up upon release. For those of us who have only been able to experience snippets of Case Closed, FUNimation has finally put together collections of the show's seasons and the first has finally hit store shelves. Before we get into what is in store for you with this first year of cases let's fill you in on what the show is all about.
Seventeen year old high school sensation Jimmy Kudo is a top notch investigator who could give professionals a run for their money even at his young age. While looking into a particular case he's attacked by two agents of the Black Organization and is subjected with an experimental drug that should have done him in. Thankfully Jimmy managed to escape the ordeal with his life but an unfortunate side effect of the drug turned his body into that of an eight year old. With his new identity Jimmy adopts the pseudonym Conan Edogawa and moves in with his crush Rachel. Together with Rachel, his new friends in the Junior Detective League, and some old/new allies in law enforcement he's able to pursue the Black Organization again with a second chance at life.
The first season of Case Closed takes us through the opening moments and introduces us to the world and characters fairly quickly. In the first five episodes most of the major players in the show are set up and many of the series' dynamics that follow are laid right out on the table. Conan is secretly longing for Rachel, Dr. Agasa is trying to help him however he can, Conan's exploits as an eight year old yield hilarity with the Junior Detective League, and so on and so forth. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as the first season picks up the action right away but I must say that despite the slight amount of continuity (mostly in the character relationships department), the episodic and formulaic nature of the program sets in rather quick and that is definitely the show's Achilles Heel.
To put it simply, I loved Case Closed. It's an old fashioned and endearing series with loveable characters and fun stories that truly entertain (in most circumstances). The fact that it's twelve years old takes its roots back to a time when the anime world was something of a different beast and that's definitely a throwback. Unfortunately the episodic and repetitive content causes the series to grow monotonous upon marathon viewings. Going from episode to episode you'll basically see Conan try to solve a murder, a mystery of some sort, catch a killer, and then attempt to solve a murder again. If you watch these episodes back to back you're going to grow tired of the concept quickly which is definitely a shame. There's so little new introduced in each episode that it feels like after the pilot the series kind of stands still for the rest of the season with only a few highlights in between.
Peppered throughout the 26 episodes here are some fine episodes that definitely break the mold included a two-part murder arc involving some musical killings. Enjoyable as always between each episode is Conan's exploits as the main attraction and the secondary characters that support his personality. The Junior Detective League for instance brings high amounts energy to each episode they are in and Dr. Agasa's wild inventions definitely add a nice James Bond flavor to the otherwise low-key anime. Otherwise it's simply case after case after case, though I suppose that's not necessarily a bad thing. The quality of the writing is very good and the overall production values are nice as well.
If you're looking for a fun series that is imaginative, entertaining, and a veritable cultural icon then look no further than Case Closed (Detective Conan). This little tike's first season provides 26 episodes of murder solving adventure and each episode is entertaining when taken independently of each other. This is definitely a show that becomes saturated quickly upon multiple viewings and its one that you should pace out if you want to really enjoy it. With that being said it's great that FUNimation is supporting a program such as this because chances are due to its size and content it simply wouldn't hit the mainstream on TV like DBZ and Naruto did.
Given the fact that these episodes aired in 1996 it's not surprising to see that the video quality depicts some wear and tear. The 1.33:1 full frame image is covered with a fine layer of grain in just about every scene and in some cases there are small amounts of speckle in the transfer. Aliasing wasn't really a problem though at times the colors appeared to be washed out and not quite as vibrant as they were intended to be. This is still a decent looking show with an average presentation for a Standard DVD but it features some flaws due to the material's age.
Fortunately the audio fares slightly better in terms of presentation merit. The 2.0 stereo tracks for English and Japanese offer clear and crisp audio with no technical flaws to point out. The only downside is that the range of audio just isn't as strong as it could have been with the 2.0 offering. There is little to no diversity on the soundstage and the show sounds flat at times. It's no better or worse than I was expecting.
Some trailers make the cut onto these four discs as well as a Character Spotlight for Conan Edogawa and a look at the kid's Super Sneakers. In other words there's really not much in terms of bonus content which is unfortunate. A commentary would have gone a long way though I suppose the budget for a re-release of the program wasn't very high to begin with.
Considering its long-running nature and steady popularity in Japan it's no surprise that Case Closed has peaked the American anime community's interests. Unfortunately with the daunting amount of episodes constantly coming out chances are good it's going to be quite some time before (if ever) we receive the whole series. The first season collects the premiere 26 episodes and tosses us right into the world of Conan Edogawa. It's an enjoyable show to be sure though I have to say that the episodic nature doesn't do the franchise any favors. More continuity would have gone a long way to improving the overall quality and as it stands the formulaic structure definitely stands out as a chip in Conan's armor.
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