Why do Japanese companies have such terrible English? Why did Viz finish dubbing MONSTER? Plus, dealing with themes in writing reviews, and why everyone hates weeaboo.
Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Nov 21st 2006
Case Closed Movie: The Time Bombed Skyscraper
Everyone's favorite pre-shrunk teenage detective gets mixed up in yet another maelstrom of crime and revenge, this time involving a large quantity of stolen explosives, a taunting madman, the titular skyscraper, and—most frightening of all—a date between his 17-year-old self and Ran.
During the introduction to the Case Closed the Movie, lead character Conan states that his greatest weapon is his brain. The same can be said for the show itself. The joy of watching Case Closed is the same as that of any mystery novel: trying to figure what happened and whodunit. But in the movie, there is no mystery to be solved, much to the detriment of the film. Oh, to be sure, there are crimes. And Conan has to figure out who is behind them. But there is no mystery. The identity of the culprit (and even his motive) are so blindingly obvious that you would have to be a certified dullard not to guess it in the first 30 minutes. The blow this deals the film is a most difficult one for it to recover from. Without its main draw, the story has to struggle to make up the difference. It attempts to do so, oddly enough, with action. This isn't to say that it suddenly transforms into Lethal Weapon (despite nods to Speed and Die Hard With a Vengeance) or even City Hunter (despite sharing some key cast and crew members), but the film does crank the action up a few notches. And for the most part it succeeds admirably. There are explosions aplenty, a skateboard/bike/car chase, and a tense final act set in a crumbling tower. But one simply can't shake a niggling disappointment during all that action and suspense. Not because it isn't exciting in its own right—the chase scene in particular is a pleasant bit of classical action-movie derring-do—but because Case Closed is supposed to be about a totally different kind of thrill: the pure, intellectual thrill of watching an inexorable chain of logic unfold. And it's a thrill that this movie is sadly deficient in. While there are plenty of chances for Conan to display his deductive prowess, especially during peripheral mysteries, the weakness of the central mystery forces the action elements to the forefront, shunting the anticipated denouement to the status of opening act for the action climax.
First-time viewers be at ease, a brief, yet thorough, introduction lays out the premise, gadgets, and relationships of the television series, giving newbies the fundamentals necessary to understand the subsequent developments. Of course, familiarity with the source material does help to understand little details such as the relationship dynamics of the Junior Detective League, why Mori is such a conceited ass, and why Megure trusts Conan as much as he does, but these are hardly indispensable prerequisites for enjoying the film.
One possible reason that the creators chose to emphasize action over deduction is the budget. With a movie-sized budget to work with, the animators may well have wanted a plot that showcased the boost in animation quality, and sleuthing and logical deduction simply aren't suited to that purpose. Whatever the motivation behind it, the animation shines during the action scenes. Conan's pursuit of a bomb is composed of complex movements (both of him and of the theoretical camera) rather from a montage of more static compositions. The explosions, and their effects on bystanders and buildings, are detailed and dynamic, resulting in massive destruction that is both visually impressive and frightening in its possibilities and extent. The budget increase is also evident in smaller details, such as the animation of background characters and the way people run. It isn't Akira, but it's far beyond what was possible in the television series. The art, on the other hand, remains unchanged. The character designs are still distinctly odd, with pointy faces and dinner-plate ears, especially the lollipop-headed children with their pipe-cleaner limbs. Beika City remains an unimpressive setting. It has very little charm, and the vistas aren't going to send collectors scrambling to buy up the background art. It is, however, an entirely believable city, and the theatrical budget allows the animators to flesh it out even further.
Like the art, the music is mostly unchanged from the TV series. Mostly quiet, unobtrusive guitar and piano based melodies that are as odd as the character designs, the music becomes noticeable only during climactic deductions and some of the more emotional scenes. Overall, the soundtrack is more remarkable for its sparse utilization than for its quality, but is effective when used. The only real additions to the soundtrack are several forgettable pop ballads used to underline important sequences in the film.
Funimation's dub for Case Closed has long been a sticking point for the series' pickier fans. Those fans will be dismayed to know that Funimation sticks to its dubbing guns; so Ran is still Rachel in the English version, all cultural and geographical references to Japan are purged, and the script plays fast and loose with the translation. None of this would be a real problem if it weren't for some of the alterations resulting in noticeably irksome changes to the plot and characters. Mori/Moore is decidedly more mercenary and self-involved in the English version, due largely to a sequence in which a rare display of affection and concern for Conan is transformed during translation into yet another selfish tirade. Another scene excises a tricky Japanese pun that Conan uses to find a bomb, leaving viewers of the English version with no clue as to how he figures out where the bomb is. Fidelity to the source material aside, as is par for Funimation dubs, the work here features flawless flow, natural delivery, and fine, character-appropriate acting. If you're willing to overlook (or enjoy) the changes made, it's a great dub.
The Case Closed Movie has plenty of entertainment value, make no mistake, but it's frustrating that the central mystery is such a dud. Because of it, Conan never gets the chance he deserves to dazzle either his colleagues or the audience with his mystery bustin' skills. Even with all of the action, the side-mysteries, and as high as the stakes get in the end, it can't help but feel as if something crucial is missing.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : C+
Music : C+
+ Big(ger) budget adventure for all of your favorite Case Closed buddies.
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