Love is in the air! With the baffling Red Wall case solved, Conan and the Junior Detective League run into Inspector Santos, who’s finally ready to move on from Detective Sato and search for other fish in the sea. But when his new date gets caught up in a murder case, can he put his duty ahead of his feelings? Meanwhile, Kazuha loses her good luck charm related to a case Harley Hartwell is solving, and it contains evidence of her feelings for the Osaka detective! And when love takes a momentary leave, can the Junior Detective League solve the mystery of The Monster Storehouse before Conan?
With 66 Case Closed volumes localized for America, there may be another example slipping my mind, but I can’t recall another volume that was this focused on romance. Not that love is any stranger to Gosho Aoyama’s mystery masterpiece, mind, but this volume’s spotlight on Santos is interesting solely for finally vindicating him. His story is yet another single-suspect case where we know who the perp is, but don’t quite know how they pulled the murder off. As opposed to just Conan outwitting the latest criminal-of-the-day, things are more interesting with Santos in this entire case hinging on his (reluctant) cooperation, and so we witness the smug but well-meaning cop wrestle with a dying childhood dream.
Having only followed the American release, this case – or rather, a certain plot development – is one I have heard whispers about, but obviously never delved into exploring. Without giving too much away, not everything ends terribly for poor Santos. Not that he finally snatches Sato away from Detective Takagi, of course, but again, those familiar with Aoyama’s story beats may recognize not everything is what it seems. Yes, Santos can be a bit of a jerk, but he’s ultimately a good cop, and leaving him reeling from a sucker punch conclusion would be a nasty bummer. From the very final page, we solve not just the case’s final mystery but recognize our own confidence in his future (and, perhaps, share some of his newfound delight).
Meanwhile, Conan’s school friends take it upon themselves to investigate The Monster Storehouse, an unused depository host to a bizarre optical illusion. Alas, it’s yet another case involving Kanji-related clues; again, we are used to such inconveniences, and we’ve long since trusted the localization editors to ease us along. Thankfully, in this instance it’s only the case’s final step, and much of the mystery depends on deciphering the storehouse’s puzzling mechanization. It’s not the most compelling case the Junior Detective League has ever solved, especially given what just transpired with Santos, but the involvement of an actual criminal hardly renders it a waste of time. (And hey, even if the trick is worthless in the age of electricity, it’s easily one of the cooler illusion tricks Aoyama’s included yet; in fact, it’s enough to wonder how often it was used in 19th century Japan…)
Oh, the trials and tribulations of localization!
And as for our last full case? Young love again takes center-stage as a missing person search segues into an assault case, and while Conan and Harley work together to catch the assailant, Kazuha is a nervous wreck over her aforementioned good luck charm; worse, there may be a love triangle afoot! Actually, this is a case dependent on sports and relevant terminology; naturally, having practically zero knowledge in athletics, such a case was beyond my capabilities to solve. But that’s okay: conclusions like this prove Case Closed’s characters – be they the main cast or bit players — are endearing enough to carry us through. As seen with Santos, we are not merely solving cases, but watching their lives evolve or even be granted closure (and I say that despite Harley and Kazuha’s relationship continuing to go nowhere).
(While we’re discussing Harley and Kazuha, VIZ has really ramped up the Southern dialect for them and anyone from Osaka over the years. It’s hardly a dealbreaker, but it can be somewhat overbearing. Oh well, better they’re trying to channel the original dialect rather than the typos littering earlier volumes, right?)
Putting aside the reoccurring romance, this is a jack-of-all-trades volume of Case Closed. There’s no progress on the elusive Men in Black, just three different cases entailing the adventures of three different parties. They are not, perhaps, the most spellbinding mysteries the series has to offer, but the key lies within its composition: in bookending with a concluding case and teasing with a future one, we arrive eagerly anticipating one (spectacular) case’s closure and leave with a hook for next volume’s murder mystery. None of these push the plot forward, but this, too, is hardly a rare occurrence. Not once do we complain, and why should we, when the mysteries grab our attention again and again? Yes, it’s all part of Case Closed’s master plan to protract its (Japanese) media empire as long as possible, but Aoyama’s passion in compelling mysteries and fun characters shine through.
Final Verdict: 4/5
This review was based on a review copy provided by VIZ Media.