By Gosho Aoyama
As of this volume Gosho Aoyama’s Case Closed has over sixty volumes out in English, which is impressive considering its niche audience. It’s rare for a long-running manga with as many volumes as Case Closed to continue being released in the west without a popular anime adaptation or media franchise being released alongside with it. Case Closed is certainly no One Piece or Naruto in this regard. While its anime is legally streaming, there is no home video release or merchandise being released for it, meaning the manga is the only licensed product that still being released. Does Case Closed continue to run just because Viz likes it, or because there’s something appealing about the manga specifically that makes it easy to pick up and read? This is where Case Closed’s episodic nature benefits it, because no matter which volume is introductory, the series provides a variety of stories that fill in gaps. and what’s fun about it. Volume 61 is no different, featuring three mysteries all different in tone and complexity, but all of which explain something about the show and characters that make it easy for new readers to pick up on.
The volume begins strong with a Kaito Kid case, a mainstay of the series that pits Conan against his magician thief rival Kaito Kuroba. Kid cases are appealing because his eccentric egomaniac billionaire foil Jirokichi Sebastian always concocts elaborate scenarios in which to ensnare Kid, making it fun not only to see what Kid does to outwit him but also try and figure out alongside Conan what his trick is. Kid’s big trick in this case is teleportation in the middle of a crowded public space. Here Aoyama uses both the environment of his world and sleight-of-hand to enrapture readers in Kid’s magic trick. He places subtle clues like an odd billboard sign make the reveal of how the trick was done not only feel plausible but ingenious, making Conan busting him always satisfying. Kid cases are also just fun because of the rivalry he has with Conan, where he acts like the Lupin to Conan’s Zenigata, only if Zenigata was competent. In this case Kaito directly challenges Conan directly, inviting him to try and figure out what his trick is and stop him. Just the pissing match between these two geniuses and their constant game of cat-and-mouse is fun on its own as a character dynamic, making this as great an introduction to the Kid storylines as any other.
A more typical case follows next, about a woman who somehow caused her husband to burn to death using the ignition of her car. Aoyama has a talent for applying whatever is bothering the characters in their personal lives to the solution of the case, and this one is a fine example. Anita Hailey’s discomfort with being shocked by static electricity because she’s wearing wool helps Conan figure out how the culprit used the static shock to make her boyfriend ignite when he turned the key of his car. Here Conan’s observations of the culprit’s inconsistent witness statements and Haley’s embarrassing problem makes how the plots combine feel coherent and simultaneously funny and clever. The long, drawn-out process of tricking the culprit into outing herself by recreating the crime also drums up the dramatic tension while being a smart way to illustrate to the reader just how it could’ve been done. Plus, Haley’s subplot is just funny on it’s own, as her tsundere-like embarrassment about the static shocks contrasts her normally snarky and distant personality. Overall this case ends up being a solid example of a Detective Boys case, even though the other Detective Boys don’t end up doing much to help solve it.
Finally, the last major case is kind of a tease for the ongoing storyline. Even though Case Closed is generally episodic, is does have an overarching plot that pops up every now and again. The final case in the volume heavily teases the identity of Black Organization agent Bourbon by putting heavy suspicion on college genius Subaru Okiya and testing his wits against Conan’s by both attempting to solve the same case at the same time. Okiya is presented as super shady and suspicious, to the point he’s so humorously shady to the point it’s unclear whether to consider him a genuine suspect or a red herring. That he’s literally drinking a glass of Bourbon at the end of the case doesn’t help matters. But ultimately the heart of the case ends up touching upon Jimmy (Conan’s real identity) and Rachel’s relationship, showing him become concerned and breaking character by yelling at the police when she’s put in danger. The actual mystery of the case, a mysterious SOS message sent via paper airplanes, is interesting but ends up being less important to what makes the case fun than the dramatic tension involving Okiya’s true identity and the romantic tension involving Jimmy and Rachel.
Case Closed sixty-first volume contains a nice assortment of cases that show off the range of Aoyama’s storytelling. While these cases are inconsequential to the overall plot, they’re entertaining enough that it doesn’t matter much. If there’s anything to criticize about this volume, it’s that the last chapter begins a new case.It would’ve been a more satisfying hook to end on the tease of Okiya drinking Bourbon in his study, leaving a lingering feeling if the symbolism is a hint of a red-herring. Ending on the first chapter of another case just makes the volume feel incomplete and a little less satisfying. This is the first volume of Case Closed to be released in English in 2017, and as good a place as any to start getting into it. If there’s one truth that prevails, it’s any random volume of Case Closed is accessible, and a guaranteed a good time.