by Rebecca Silverman,

Case Closed

GN 44

Case Closed GN 44
High schooler-turned-elementary kid Jimmy “Conan” Kudo faces off against a wide variety of foes in the 44th volume of his adventures. After finishing up the case of the suicide bomber at Koshien, he tackles an apparently perfect murder, copes with the latest exploit of the Kaito Kid, and wraps up by starting an investigation into a school ghost.

If Hajime Kindaichi and Encyclopedia Brown had a kid (ignoring the physical impossibilities of this), that child would be Conan Edogawa, AKA Jimmy Kudo. The de-aged detective uses a mix of the two detectives' styles to solve his crimes, relying on logic and his own encyclopedic knowledge to catch the criminals and make the world a safer place...most of the time. The notable exception here is the recurring villain Kaito Kid, a mysterious thief with a knack for theatrics. The sole case this volume to merit back copy, it is, in fact, the most engaging of the four presented here. In part this is because it has the most chapters, although that is only a fair statement when we look at the volume as a single unit: the Koshien bomber and the school ghost are both incomplete within the pages of book forty-four.

The book opens with the final three chapters of the Koshien bomber case, with time running out for Conan and Co. to find the man before he blows up the stadium. While the logic used in this case is fascinating, it will make more sense to people familiar with the setup of baseball stadiums, as it relies heavily on seat numbering, player numbers and positions, and other game knowledge. Although this doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of watching Conan figure things out, readers who like to solve the mystery along with the detective could find themselves disappointed in the specialized knowledge required. Interestingly enough, along with the mystery, Aoyama makes a small point about athletes pushing themselves too hard in pursuit of perfection, which adds a dimension to an otherwise fairly cut-and-dry resolution.

The next two chapters detail a murder where there are witnesses to the perpetrator's escape, but apparently no evidence to prove that he did it. From a logic perspective, this is a strong case with a lot of interesting twists and turns. Readers who don't remember life before DVRs may miss some of the clues, but there is a certain ingenious quality to the villain's plot that makes this a very engaging case nonetheless. We also get to see Conan interact with his apparent peers (elementary students), reminding us all the more strongly of the fact that he is not, in fact, a little boy and the struggles he must face to be taken seriously. It is moments like these, and the unexpected angle on the Koshien case, that make this series consistently worth reading, even for fans of more hardcore mystery – Gosho Aoyama isn't just chronicling some random detective's casework, he's also reminding us that there is a person behind the logic, and one who has a very real problem.

Following the murder case is the story of Serena's uncle Jirokichi, who has at the age of 72 managed to obtain every honor he has ever set out to get – except for one instance where his newsworthy exploit was relegated to page three of the newspaper by a story about the Kaito Kid. This rankles, so he sets out to trap the Kid with an elaborate ruse involving an unlikely gold figurehead and an invitation. The Kid naturally responds in kind, and a battle of wits ensues. Apart from the starting logical issue of the fact that no one in their right mind would put a solid gold figurehead on the prow of their ocean-going vessel, watching Conan and the police try to figure out how Kid seems to walk on air and vanish in a puff of smoke, not to mention trying to save the figurehead, is a lot of fun. In this case the clues are more accessible to the main body of readers with the real possibility of figuring out the case along with the detective. Conan and Kid also have a very interesting verbal exchange during this investigation, neatly painting the two as foil figures and establishing anew the basic differences in their characters that puts them on opposite sides of the law. The book then ends with the first chapter of the next case, a school ghost story, that fails to impress overmuch, but does nicely follow up on Conan's musings at the end of the Kaito story.

Readers of this series may or may not have come to terms with the changed names of the characters, so whether or not you find the fact that some names are English and others Japanese irritating will largely be a matter of personal bias. It can get distracting, however, since only those introduced early have English names, setting up a clear divide in translation policy. Fortunately the rest of the text is well-phrased, with occasional gems like the sky being “veiled” with helicopters shining through. Aoyama's art has certainly come to a refined, stylized point where he retains the mirror-like eyes and simple figures while getting everyone to be different and expressive. Since this is primarily a cerebral story, action is limited, and it isn't as strong as the crowded landscapes and populous scenes, although Aoyama does a credible job with a sidecar spinning out.

Fans of light mystery ala “Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine” will certainly find plenty to enjoy in this volume, and with the exception of the first case, curious readers could probably pick this volume up to see what the series is all about with few issues. With an engaging hero, a combination of logic and knowledge, and stylized but pleasant art, Case Closed continues to be a diverting read. It won't fill the gap left by Tokyopop's Kindaichi Case Files, but if you're looking for something a bit mysterious, you could do far worse than Case Closed.

Production Info:
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B-

+ Kaito Kid and murder cases are interesting and well done. Good emotional touches and some nice character work. Crowded pages tend to provide clues, so don't detract.
School ghost story looks like more of the same for that genre, combination of English and Japanese names can be distracting.

Story & Art: Gosho Aoyama

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