Case Closed: Movie 6: The Phantom of Baker Street Reviews

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½ December 17, 2010
The Mystery-Magnet of Japan

There is a theory, which is only half a joke, that Jessica Fletcher was a serial killer. After all, anywhere the woman went, people died. Yes, she solved the case, but the premise then is that she went around framing people for her crimes. I mention this here to highlight the big problem with any mystery wherein the detective is not actually a police officer. There must in any case be some reason for the person to keep investigating, or else it seem suspicious. Stephen King mentioned it as a problem with [i]Kolchak the Night Stalker[/i], and a solution was found when the same character became Mulder on [i]The X-Files[/i]. How? Making him a law enforcement officer who specializes in that sort of case and travels around the country for work. Whereas in shows like this, people just keep dropping dead around the main character. Not that this one is a murder case, but you know what I mean.

Our Hero is Shinichi Kudo. For reasons I will get into, he is now in the body of a child and goes by the name of Conan Edogawa. For reasons which don't need explaining, he and a group of his friends end up participants in a virtual reality massive multi-player game. Conan, his quasi-girlfriend Ran, and his annoying little friends Mitsuhiko, Ayumi, and Genta--the most annoying one of them all--end up in the group which will be hunting Jack the Ripper on, among other London locales, Baker Street. Only something has gone wrong, and the kids are locked in the game. If they die in-game, they get trapped in the AI somehow in ways which don't matter. Someone in one of the four scenarios must solve the mystery in order to free all the others, the children of the richest and most powerful people in Japan. In practice, this pretty much means that Conan must survive and solve the case. It's the practical equivalent of saving dozens of lives.

I like this anime quite a lot, but I always have trouble explaining why. There's only a certain level to which you should expect anime to make sense, but this one really seems to go above and beyond the call of duty of bewilderment sometimes. See, Shinichi was given some kind of poison which was supposed to kill him but for some reason didn't and shrunk him into the body of a child instead. (This later happened to Scientist for the Shadowy Organization Shiho Miyano, who takes the name Ai Haibara and tries to find a cure.) Only he has to keep it secret so they won't find him and finish the job. He ends up living with Ran, who doesn't know his secret, and her father, inept detective Mouri Kogorou. Only Mouri hates Conan, so I don't get that. Also, Conan has made his reputation, because when Conan solves a case, he shoots Mouri with a tranquilizer dart, uses a voice-changing bowtie he wears, and reveals all in Mouri's voice. So Mouri is now the famous Sleeping Kogorou. Because okay.

The personal interactions in the series are just generally ludicrous, really. Conan, as far as the Kogorou family knows, has just appeared out of the ether. He is somehow connected with Shinichi, but Mouri doesn't like Shinichi much, either, so that shouldn't help. Conversely, there is Professor Agasa, who knows Shinichi's secret and provides him with ridiculous gadgets but doesn't take him in. But does take in Ai. Ayumi, who refers to herself in third person about half the time, is crazy about Conan, and the other two boys are crazy about her. Ran's friend Sonoko doesn't much like anyone but Ran--and herself, a lot--but has invited these kids to this gathering and gotten them spots in the game because okay. Inspector Megure is a charming, affable man who has known Mouri for years but doesn't seem to find much suspicious about his sudden prodigy as a detective. I have never been able to figure out what the deal was with Shinichi's actual parents. And so forth.

Still, I do like this anime. Yes, the plots get predictable after a while. My feeling about the TV show is that one third of Japan has driven another third to suicide and then been murdered over it by the remaining third; it's how the plots work. However, here, there are two levels of plot, and Conan really must solve both of them. Yes, he has to find out who Jack the Ripper is. (Incidentally, Sherlock Holmes is another character I've always suspected of framing people.) He must solve what are awfully grisly murders to be part of a children's game, and if it isn't a children's game, why are they letting these children play? But there is, of course, also the mystery of why the AI is now seizing these children. Though of course, as far as I'm concerned, it can take most of them. Though I don't think even an AI intent on some sort of byzantine scheme to improve the upper crust of Japan would want Genta.
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