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This Week in Anime
Can Detective Conan Newbies Enjoy Zero's Tea Time?

by Christopher Farris & Steve Jones,

So you know next to nothing about Detective Conan's ongoing mysteries but you heard that Detective Conan: Zero's Tea Time but you've heard about the immensely popular starring character Tohru Amuro/Rei Furuya/Zero/Bourbon and his mere visage causing magazines to sell out? Whether you're a newbie or a long-time fan, there's something for everyone in Detective Conan: Zero's Tea Time.

This series is streaming on Netflix

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @BeeDubsProwl @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Steve, I admit I was a little intimidated when I saw Editorial say we should cover Case Closed for TWIA. But I'm nothing if not committed to this column. So...I did it. I marathoned all 1,054 episodes of Detective Conan, just in time to be ready to talk about it, as assigned!
Oh no, Chris, I'm so sorry. There must have been some kind of communication mix-up, because we were supposed to watch all of Kamen -yaiba- instead. No worries, though, there's only 1,053 episodes of that, so that should only take you a minute.
Aw jeez, this is why I really need to do more than skim my e-mails. We might actually need to reschedule this one then. And finding ourselves with nothing else to do here now, where could we spend that downtime?
The game is afoot, Chris! Or rather, the game has been going on for almost thirty years now, so instead of trying to catch up on that game, why don't we instead play a short 90-minute spinoff game based on a guy who works at a café within the game? Also the game is Case Closed, and this is Zero's Tea Time.
Right, this is way more reasonable than actually trying to cover the entirety of the somehow-still-ongoing original Conan anime (It's almost as long as ten Legend of the Galactic Heroeses!), and short-form Netflix spin-offs seem to be our main focus recently, so. This one takes breakout character Toru Amuro and focuses on him in...not necessarily a coffee shop AU, since this is still within the proper Conan-verse. Let's call it a "Coffee Shop Gaiden." All filler, only occasional killer.
I do appreciate them being upfront about the downsized scale of the show to match its downsized runtime. I know the basics of Detective Conan, but I can't pretend to know the slightest bit about anything in what I imagine must be a labyrinthine web of plots and characters spanning nearly three decades. A guy in a coffee shop, though? I think I can handle that.
Well...he's does get a little more busy than that.

Even with all the canon complications, I think Zero's Tea Time does alright getting those basics across. Within the first couple episodes, you can pick up on Rei's status as some sort of triple-agent moonlighting as a café worker, special agent detective, and secret society supervillain, with different aliases between each one. They even show 'em all off across the intro for you!

And this does begin to get at what the series is really about, because it's not simply a slice of this man's multiple lives. No, Zero's Tea Time is an anime brave enough to ask you a very important question: what if this man were your husband?

He cooks. He cleans. He cleans his pistol. He goes to bed shirtless. What more could you want?
Come to Café Poirot. We got Rei thirst and thirsty Rei.
And to sweeten the sexpot, may I add that he's voiced by the velvety tones of one Mr. Tohru Furuya. And may I also note that this is second anime we've covered this year where that dude has voiced someone named Amuro, and neither of those anime have been Gundam.
I'm glad you brought that up because yeah, one thing I absolutely wanted to talk about was this character's Amuro association. Like his most-known alias of 'Toru Amuro' intersects with his 'real' name of Furuya Rei to shamelessly name-drop both Mr. Furuya and his most famous role.

The closest thing Zero's Tea Time has to an ongoing story arc is the plot of Rei adopting a puppy. What do you think he ends up naming his adorable new companion? I'll give you one guess.

It's a deliberate and very cute homage, and I'm assuming the manga introduced the character before it was ever certain who would voice him in anime, so props to Furuya for being a good sport and bringing the joke full circle.
What if I told you that the whole setup was almost certainly intentional, as Gosho Aoyama had pulled the same stunt earlier with Rei's fast-moving archenemy, named Shuichi Akai.

You'll never guess who Gosho requested voice him in the anime.
Case Closed, Birdie Wing, it doesn't matter. It's Gundam all the way down. Although now I'm disappointed Zero's Tea Time didn't give us a scene of Rei and Shuichi wrestling each other down a grassy hill or something to that effect.
That sort of struggle might conflict with the overall intent of this one, where even in the more dramatic moments of its brief episodes, Rei is pretty much the most effortlessly awesome dude alive.

Watch him chase a criminal down on a commandeered motorcycle and espouse the values of traffic safety!
I mean the prelude to that is very funny, given that he ganks the motorcycle from a cop after giving his broken leg a quick ocular okay. What a gentleman.

But that is also the thrust of the show. Rei is a near-flawless know-it-all with an insufferable passion for justice, but he's able to get away with it because he's hot, charming, and knows how to make a mean ham sandwich.
I respect Midori for confidently dropping an awful pun like that in the middle of this already completely unserious series.

But yeah, the lighter atmosphere and regular focus on food (He even cuts the crusts off! A gentleman indeed!), almost bring to mind Today's Menu for Emiya Family. Though Zero's Tea Time is careful to almost always stay laser-focused on Rei himself, with none of the main core Conan cast appearing beyond brief, out-of-frame cameos. The idea seems to be to show how easy things are for Rei when he's not having to participate in major manga-derived plots.

There are some allusions to the more serious aspects of Rei's character, like his aforementioned adversity against Akai, or his lingering attachment to his old police academy squad or his mentor. But those are all brief, context-lite flashbacks for regular viewers to recognize, and those less deep in get to have it as the emotional spice for this cute detective curry.

One place where I would have liked a bit more spice is in the production values. To use Today's Menu as a counter example, that's a show that wielded its soft aesthetic with a lot of care and delicacy, to serve the audience a nicer (and tastier) side of the Fate mythos. Zero's Tea Time, on the other hand, doesn't really have an adaptational hook to match its premise. There are occasional good-looking scenes, but it's rough around the edges for the most part.

They made a cute dog, though. I'll give 'em that.

Yeah, it gets to a point a few times where you wonder if the shortened run-time on these things was simply because they knew they wouldn't have the production resources to make more. It means that several of the episodes just come off like disparate sketches that are over before you know it. We do get an occasional uptick, like the lighting going all sexy any time Rei is interacting with Vermouth, or one episode's psychedelic swerve into what can only be described as a Curry Trip.

And I def got a kick out of the way they drew any of the incidental crooks Rei came across as the 'Criminal' from the original Case Closed.
Guy holding a screwdriver to a baby in a bassinet wins the Anime Criminal of the Year award. Spectacular vibes.
Especially since he later makes an improvised weapon check with that baby!

It doesn't work, because Rei is Rei, but points for trying!
I also really got a kick out the bad guy in the American Ninja Warrior sketch. Truly, only a detective of Rei's caliber could identify this culprit.
A real Columbo, this guy.

That was another one that made for fun watching, mostly because of the absurd gimmicks of the course we got to see Rei run through. Complete with him getting to the top of some ridiculous Sonic the Hedgehog loop-run to show that even a turbo-genius like Rei isn't above walking into a room and forgetting what he was there for.
Yeah, it would've been nice if the anime had the resources to fully commit to the over-the-top obstacle course bit, a la that one episode of Spy×Family. But even as is, it's one of the better parts of the show thanks to its silliness. The series isn't a rip-roaring comedy or anything, but I definitely found myself gravitating to the goofier parts. Like the authentic Indian restaurant experience.

Curry hubris comes for us all eventually.
That's one of those segments where Zero's Tea Time Dilemma uses the whole bit of Rei's insufferable knowledge of everything for that cohesive comedy. Compare him compounding Kazami's curry-based torment by explaining the scientifics of why drinking water is bad, actually, with him talking down to his sexy secret society boss about not using phones or having drinks before bed.

Listen buddy, I'll accept your spicy food advice, but there are some things in this world you'll never convince me to give up!
Also, sorry, but I don't think I'll be taking sleep advice from the guy juggling several different identities on a nap's worth of zzz's.
The punchline there being that it's not even good sleep he's getting!
I love the part, too, where he gets so indignant about the FBI agent that he starts dissing the concept of tea time.

A) we don't even do that on this side of the pond, and B) my brother in Christ, look at the title of your dang spinoff!
Hey, with the triple-shifts Rei's pulling, it's no wonder he doesn't have time to learn the differences between Brits and Americans. He barely has 90 minutes total to allot to his own titular tea time!

Still somehow he has plenty of spare time to sexily wash his car or teach a neighborhood kid to ride a bike, though.
The man was simply born to be a husband. Dad energy off the charts. He's serenading a puppy. My god.
So much of it comes off like the premise of Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, except if Sakamoto were a spun-off character from a mega-popular series that's been running for over two-and-a-half decades, and not played for comedy as much as it is some sort of helpful husband pin-up calendar.

And as neat as the overall vibes are, especially since the miniscule run-time means it never overstays its welcome, so much of it comes off like trying to sell people on the appeal of Toru Amuro "Bourbon" Rei Furuya, except most of the people coming into this one were already sold on this guy thanks to knowing him from the original show.
Yeah it's Detective Conan fanservice plain and simple. Here's more of a thing you already like, just packaged a bit differently. And it's not something that I, a non-Conan-head would have ever sought out on my own in the First Place. But having seen it, I do think it's a nice, if slight, diversion. Unremarkable but pleasant.
I can see it working as something of a primer for those curious about Rei's astronomical popularity who don't want to get into the extremely tall weeds of the main series. And hey, maybe those context-free traumatized Toru flashbacks would then actually interest them enough to check out the broader story. That's worked with any number of movies for something like, say, One Piece, right?
True enough. Sometimes all you need is a taste, and next thing you know, you're stuffing the whole thing in your mouth.
But as much as you may want to pour yourself a tall drink of Rei right away, remember everyone, All Cops Are Baristas

Goodnight Everybody!

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