Ongoing Investigations: Case #074

Detective Conan Movie 3: The Last Wizard of the Century was quite memorable thanks to a mystery that swirls into a full-blown historical conspiracy. And the appearance of that charming phantom thief Kaito Kid! When the Kid delivers his latest riddle about where he will strike of course everyone is in a uproar but Conan senses something different about this heist as Kid signs the message “The Last Wizard of the Century.” Once they decipher the target as the a recently discovered Fabergé egg belonging to Nicholas II of Russia, Conan is even more perplexed as the piece upon examination contains no jewels (Kid’s item of choice). And that is just the tip of the iceberg as Kid leads them on a chase into a mountain of clues and mysteries that come one after the other. And of course there is a murder afoot as well. Plus Heiji is also in tow as the game begins. Ah, they crammed everyone in this movie but it just makes it more fun and spectacular. The way it keeps leading you to the next mysterious piece of the puzzle is engrossing. This was a great ride!

I have always been distinctly aware of the Detective Conan franchise but never really watched any episodes before this movie. This was a good test of how accessible the movies are to someone who did not watch the TV series. I found that with my general knowledge of Conan and the little intro I was able to follow the story. I might not have understood all the nuances but I was never left scratching my head about anything. What starts as a simple case of stopping the legendary thief Kaito Kid becomes a series of murders surrounding the late Russian royal family. That of course means that Grigori Rasputin is also involved because you just can’t have a story about the fall of the Russian royalty without him. By law. I have to say that if nothing else the movie peeked my interest in watching the rest of the franchise as it seemed very enjoyable and fun. I did not realize what a utter putz Kogoro Mouri is. Also the detective kids seemed sort of tacked on because that is how movies based on TV series work. I will say as I have in the past if you want to see some lovely high budget animation got to the family friendly shows. They get the wide audience that lets them spend money as they will and it shows when they put on a theatrical piece. It was a fun romp with all the murder, action, and mystery you expect from the Conan series.

Since I don’t like NISIOISN I was a bit worried about watching Katanagatari, but something compelled me to do so anyway and I’m very glad I did. When the episode hit the ending credits, I turned to Hisui and said “I LOVED IT!” This is mostly owed to the fact that the characters really grew on me and didn’t drive me nuts and weren’t utter jerkfaces which is pretty much why I stay away from this writer. I really enjoy the simple-nature of Shichika that is dual to Togame’s attempts to be devious and “strategic.” And all the humor that goes along with them is charming. The styling of the show and its storytelling is this really lovely mixture of modern and flat but evokes a very fairytale or storybook feeling. I saw this especially in their use of music, such as the moment when Shichika and Togame meet for the first time. And I was happy to see that the fight was pretty cool despite the obvious animation saving tricks used in the beginning. The only real flaw with this episode was a load of story exposition that was dumped, but it lays everything out for you, and since the episode is 50 minutes long it didn’t come off as unbalanced as it could have otherwise. Katanagatari is like a familiar story that you can’t wait to watch even though you’ve heard it before.

I was wary going into Katanagatari. I both like and dislike NISIOISN as an author. The problem is that he has a good sense of how to make interesting stories but a penchant for making characters that get right on my nerves. The story is the standard fetch quest by way of beating highly skilled opponents with gimmick weapons.  This hardly dooms a show. It just means that how well the show does is reliant of two factors: how good the characters are and how cool the gimmick weapons are. So far I have greatly enjoyed Katanagatari because we have yet to encounter a “NISIOISN” style annoying jerk character especially as the one of the main characters. Togame and Shichika Yasuri seem very likable and have an easy comical chemistry between them. I’m sure they could add a new character I will want to strangle but so far this has not been the case. I am intrigued by the way the series is being released. It is being released on episode a month and each episode will tentatively be an hour long and based on one of the books in the series. So far great animation with a cool style, amusing characters with nice comedic timing, and the promise of some cool fights is keeping me watching.

I have had a copy of Swallowing the Earth for quite a while now, but just got around to reading it this week. We learn of a woman who is so beautiful that all men go mad with passion for her, Zephyrus is her name, and in her wake she leaves all men wanting even as she uses them up and throws them away. She is out for revenge on all mankind with their greed and vanity but we won’t know the full story till much later. The story loosely centers around Gohonmatsu who cares nothing about material possessions or women, the only thing cares about is alcohol (this is apparently very refreshing). He is of course the only man that isn’t seduced by Zephyrus so it’s up to him to save the world. Kind of, I think, the story is told in a wonky fashion sometimes going for chapters with out the main characters. The story doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously and certainly comes to be more satirical as it goes along. At times I often thought it might even be a satire of the Gekiga movement itself with all it’s darkness, greed, and sex but done so seemingly sarcastically. But even with that in mind it really never comes together, Gohonmatsu isn’t particularly root worthy and the story isn’t particularly intriguing. There is a nice foreword written by Fredrick Schodt which really enhances the read, in fact, it might be the only thing really saving this story because it gives it context. The real reason to read this, if you are so inclined, is to see Tezuka’s first shaky steps into more adult manga.

Since they were on sale from Right Stuf I picked up the DVDs of Genshiken 2. I never watched in fan-subs because it was so obviously going to get picked up. I do have to say I knew that it was a bit different than the first series and the manga but was shocked how much. I was both interested and dismayed by the changes. None of the changes are deal makers or breakers in my opinion but they are worth noting. The unavoidable truth is that the fan-service has been cranked up to 11 in Genshiken 2. Things that happen off camera distinctly happen on screen in sometimes a rather graphic manner. The porn kiss between Ohno and Tanaka was a little too much for me. On the other hand they did fill in events with more details like Sasahara’s job search which was nice. The series still does reach the conclusion that the manga did which is a shame but maybe we will get a third season to cap it all off.  It’s not a bad adaptation as the spirit of Genshiken is always there but it certainly is different.


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