So You Want to Watch Detective Conan: A Beginner’s Guide

narutaki Detective Conan is one of the premiere detective series in Japan with a long legacy of entertaining kids and adults. It is a wonderful combination of mystery, humor, suspense, action, and even a little sweet romance. After so many years it has a robust and colorful cast of characters who rarely wear out their welcome. But Conan isn’t changing the face of anime, it isn’t deep, and it won’t make you contemplate the meaning of life however it will entertaining you. I find it easy to fall in love with if you let yourself.

hisuiconWith any long running series it can be extremely intimidating to try to decide how to jump into the franchise. With over 60 manga volumes, 500 anime episodes, 14 movies, OVAs, specials, and a live action spin-off as of when this article is being posted it might seem impossible to casually start watching the adventures of Japan’s favorite animated detective. Do you just start from the beginning when the series might be rough? Do you pick a movie and hope it is self-contained and representative of the work as a whole? Do you watch the latest offering and hope you are not totally lost? Don’t panic. We are going to offer you the basics to let anyone with even a casual interest jump into the franchise.

What to know: Conan is so long running that remembering all the little details can be a challenge so we’re going to give you the most basic pieces that will allow you to start anywhere in the Conan library.

  • 17-year-old Shinichi, already well-known as one of the best sleuths in Japan, one day runs afoul the Black Organization and is given an experimental poison that regresses him to elementary school age. He is forced to take the alias Conan Edogawa as he tries to find a cure for his condition.
  • Conan moves in with with former childhood friend Ran and her father P.I. Kogoro. Since Kogoro is rather incompetent Conan is almost always forced solves the cases and make it seem like Kogoro solved them instead. Conan has gadgets to knock out Korogo and impersonate his voice in his collection. Ran’s best friend Sonoko often gets involved in cases and Conan will sometimes knock her out if Korogo is not around.
  • The “Detective Boys” (even though two are girls) are Conan’s friends in elementary school and consist of the lumbering Genta, timid Mitsuhiko, and cute Ayumi. Later, stoic Ai, a former member of the Black Organization who took the same drug as Conan to escape them, joins the group. These kids are often in toe with Conan and get into plenty of mischief.
  • Dr. Agase provides all of the gadgets Conan uses throughout the series and is looking for a cure for Conan’s condition, he is good-natured, a bit daffy, and helps the kids in their adventures. He takes Ai in after she escapes the Black Organization.
  • Heiji is the son of a police chief and also a teenage detective often considered on par with Shinichi. At first he is a rival but the two become friends.
  • Kaito Kid is a charming phantom thief who is one of Conan’s few criminal rivals. He is a jewel thief who doesn’t kill.
  • The Black Organization is part of the central plot, viewers still only know minimal details about them. They are usually involved in some monstrous illegal activity that is tangentially related to a case Conan is involved with. All the high ranking members of the organization have code names based on alcohol. Conan is always on the lookout for the nefarious long-haired Gin who is responsible for Conan’s condition.

What to expect: If you know Conan only by its name, there are few things to know about the show in order to really enjoy it and accept it for what it is.

  • Detective Conan is a children’s show or more accurately a family show. Therefore it has a little bit for everyone, there are funny and child-wish-fulfillment moments for the kids and tense mystery and logic for the adults.
  • In earlier seasons and films they recap the basic plot and characters of Conan at the beginning so you can jump in fairly easily. Also they often throw up name plates for characters both new and old. This has unfortunately stopped with newer additions to the series probably because they assume everyone knows Conan nowadays.
  • Conan himself uses his sharp mind and attention to detail to solve the cases. He is a genius on the level of Sherlock Holmes so don’t expect to figure out everything in each mystery. In fact, it is a lot easier to determine who the culprit is (though still difficult) than their motive many times.
  • Not every case is going to be epic. Some play out more mundanely than others and some can be downright goofy at times. But there are plenty of great head-scratchers.
  • Conan uses super science, he has a ton of gadgets that help him through each episode, kind of like Batman. However, super science doesn’t solve the cases; the gadgets exist purely to buoy his being trapped in a 7-year-old’s body. All cases make a good effort to follow Knox’s Rules; while things outside the case can be affected by super science the actual facts of the case are not, nor is super science used to commit the crime.
  • There is a variable level of violence in the series, each episode is different so you never know what you’ll get, how graphic it will be, or how macabre it will go. The series is fond of gruesome and grisly murders including decapitation.
  • The overarching plot of Detective Conan comes in few and far between spurts. For example, the Black Organization appears in the first two episodes and not again for the rest of the first season.
  • Our advice is don’t marathon this show or at least keep it under 10 episodes at a time. Some of the fun is removed from long viewings and you start to pick up on the formula of the episodes.

Where to start (and not start): Most things you start at the beginning, and while you can certainly do so with Conan it isn’t necessary. In fact if you want to experience Conan the best we have a few things you may want to try first.

  • It is totally okay to just watch the Conan movies. They are the biggest blockbusters for obvious reasons and they tell you what you need to know at the beginning of each movie.
  • Do start with Last Wizard of the Century (movie #3) which has a wonderful blend of suspense, history, and intrigue that keeps you guessing. It also boasts a huge portion of the cast in its story including Kaito Kid.
  • Don’t start with The Timebombed Skyscraper (movie #1) because it just doesn’t quite have its footing making it easy to see that it is the first one. Unfortunately, this means you shouldn’t watch Countdown to Heaven (movie #5) because it ties into the first.
  • Do start with episode 11 (11 and 12 in the Funimation release) which is a one-hour special that is equal parts mysterious, haunting, and baffling.
  • Don’t judge the series based on any random episode. As we mentioned they are variable and can swing from silly kid stuff to deadly and everything in between which means you never know what that week’s tale is going to offer.
  • Do start with The Raven Chaser (movie #13) it is one of the latest so it has slightly updated character designs and more slick animation. It also involves the Black Organization which guarantees a flashy, dangerous, and climactic ending.

narutaki This list is more about helping you decide if you want to watch Detective Conan for real. The starts we mentioned really give you a taste of what Conan can be and will let you know if you should continue on with the series. The main thing to remember when watching Detective Conan is to have fun with it!

hisuiconIn the future we will have individual guides to the movies and each season of Detective Conan. These subsequent guides will tell you what episodes are essential to the main plot, which episodes things are introduced such as characters and gadgets, and which are the best episodes to watch because they showcase how good Detective Conan can be.


27 thoughts on “So You Want to Watch Detective Conan: A Beginner’s Guide

  1. lalagreeneyesf21 says:

    I have never thought of watching this anime, there are many reasons why, but I’m not going to write them here… its all too shallow! lol However, after reading your blog it has made me want to watch the anime… at least i’ll give it a try.

      • reversethieves says:

        The somewhat recent London arc had some particularly good scenes with Ran and Shinichi. It is called Holmes’ Revelation eps. 616-621. I don’t know if it is the MOST romantic episodes ever though I think you could argue they are.

        ~ kate

  2. LH says:

    Great job on the intro guide. I will refer my friends who are interested in starting the series to this post.

    My only problem against DC is that the mystery is entirely based on the methods used, and little or no thought is given to the motive or psychology of the criminal. Mystery fans who prefer something more along the lines of Agatha Christie will be very disappointed. Otherwise it is still an enjoyable series, with cunning solutions. I have kept up with it for about 5 years now, and plan to continue watching until it is finished or I die (not entirely sure which will come first :P).

    DC is in desperate need of the subsequent guides you spoke of. I hope you’re able to complete it. I look forward to it!

    • trickster says:

      My personal thought is to watch season 1 for getting into the series watch the episodes with the introduction of the teen detective rival and the child detective girl in the same situation as Conan and the newer teen detective girl introductions, watch the episode where he temporarily becomes his teen form again to talk to Ran/rachel and Ran/Rachel’s father suspect Conan of being her the teen version of himself and meeting Conan’s parents watch the introduction into the kid detective squad with maybe the kidnapping episode and the treasure hunt episode and watch episodes or movies involving the black organization for plot. The rest is just about crime solving on pretty much show to show bases with no connective plot development necessary to conan concluding his original and ongoing case. This will give plot and remove being clueless why a character might be involved with the main character or about recovering his teen form and the original mystery from the organization that turned Conan into kid.

  3. foomafoo says:

    I don’t know why you recommended other people not to start off with DC Movie 3. Won’t they be confused since they immediately see Ai there already? I honestly think Movie 1 on itself is a good start for other viewers before they delve immediately to the BO.

    • reversethieves says:

      My real problem with movie 1 is that it isn’t that well put together for a movie, for a TV episode maybe but the length of the movie doesn’t work for it. And because of that I think it doesn’t really show the viewer how good Conan can be.

      As for Ai being in movie 3, I don’t really think it is confusing because they recap Conan and its characters at the beginning which is why jumping in at different places in the series is made so much easier.


      • foomafoo says:

        Well, regarding that, you might actually be promoting Kaito Kid indirectly even though he’s not a prime character in the series since he plays a big role in the movie.

        I think it’s best to start off Conan right off at episode 128/9 where Ai is introduced :D

      • reversethieves says:

        Actually as someone who got into the series for the first time through the movies I found that it was the minor characters like Ran’s mom and Conan’s parents that took me a few minuets to identify more than anything else. The major characters all get introduced in the opening narration and the very minor characters always state who they are. It’s the mid level characters who usually fall through the cracks.

        – Hisui

  4. Gabiey says:

    Actually I think that you should want to start with the first episode of the series because not all episodes have an in depth description of how conan becomes conan. I personally have enjoyed every minute of detective conan/case closed. Each movie i think provides a certain aspect of the world of conan edogawa and each has their own brand of great action, suspense and intelligence. All movies and episodes can provide something different throughout the series itself and each one may appeal to a different type of person. I think that each movie and episode was well put together and has a good plot

  5. mysteryfan says:

    I like how there are time gaps between these comments. It shows that Detective Conan still hasn’t lost its appeal, and that it is doing something right. I personally started watching DC one year ago, from episode 1. It was intimidating at first, but I took it episode by episode. Before I knew it, I was already in the 390’s.

    It’s true that Agatha Christie’s criminal psychology & motive approach isn’t emphasized as much in DC. But there have been many times in conan where he figures out the criminal’s motive early on, but can’t prove the crime until he’s found undeniable evidence. Tieing in evidence to the motive is always the most challenging part. And that’s where DC shines for me.

    Mystery appeal is nice, but I also watch it for its characters & their interactions with each other. For me, DC feels like it builds on its relationships over time, and I find watching that progression enjoyable. Small dialogue tidbits, things of that nature.

    DC Year of release: 1996.
    Year of my post: 2014

    I’ve been missing out on Conan all these years! : )

  6. RenewedTruth says:

    Hey, I realize this was written long ago, and im not even sure if the blog is active because I haven’t checked yet (but I will), in what way are movies 1 and 5 tied together? never noticed any real connection between th two and I’ve watched them quite a lot.

    • marc says:

      Hi, they are all connected, i decided to restart watching from the beggining till the end, wish me good luck.

  7. caylan says:

    I just wanted to say that i first saw DC on adultswim in the early 00’s. They aired a few episodes and ever since then I was hooked. Even though it took some searching years later to find an actual place to watch them. At first I only could watch the dubbed episodes but now I’m so far that there aren’t dubbed episodes but I’m so hooked I don’t mind. I would like to thank the creator of DC and give him a huge hug because without Conan I would feel so empty

  8. Ali says:

    That is true
    The series has interesting parts to it but mostly boring because cases are quite repetitive … I still watch it though

    I am interested in more mysterious fiction … I am not sure where to start though.

    Thanks for the article :)

  9. sindyblue10 says:

    I’m been reading the manga of detective conan (really like it) and I was thinking if I should watch the movies because the movies normally doesn’t tie in with the original manga or storyline because they are mostly not written by the original manga writer. But movie 10 looked really good so I watched it today. And like said in this post, their movies are very popular.

    So I was just wondering to make sure if you know if these movies relate to the main storyline/manga in any way?

  10. Ms. Fidler says:

    Hello. Firstly, thank you for writing this guide. It is excellent. Secondly, I would like to ask: which do you feel is the worst DC episode, if you had to name one? I know it seems like an odd question but I am going to be using DC for a mysteries unit with my Grade 5 class and I need good examples of detective stories and bad examples (while still keeping them classroom appropriate). I would particularly like an episode where the mystery elements are not well-formed so that the students have the opportunity to compare a well-formed mystery to a poorly-formed mystery. Any ideas?

  11. trickster says:

    I watched this in high school 15 years ago and it was a great anime with details on how the killer in the closed room crime scenarios killed their victims. The majority of the show revolves around murder cases but not all. There has been episodes with kidnapping and many episodes with the kids detective group. The Theme does repeat that Conan will knock out Ran/Rachel’s father with a dart from his watch after getting enough details on the crime pretend to be the father by using a voice manipulator from his bow tie because adults won’t take him serious enough as a kid to be solving crimes to explain who was the killer how they killed the victim and why it was certainly the person who was the killer in the ending. The killer explains their reason and gives their motive why they killed the victim with a response from Conan in the end that denounces any good reason to kill. The early seasons had way better animation the stories were much more detailed and more deductive thinking which you can find 109 of the first episodes on Funimation. You might say they are also more tailored to older audience due to the fact the details how the murderer killed were very well thought out and detailed. The newer ones which you can find episodes after 750 have very poor art styles where they over enlarge the heads give less shape and detail probably due to some sort of CG filling compared to the 1996 animation. The Closed Room cases aren’t as detailed or creative on the killer’s planning or motive and is probably to try to bring it closer to children then over using critical thinking like they use to that’d make us think more on how well thought out and clever the crimes were commited in the earlier shows. I’d say everything about the older Case Closed would be better through story, art, thinking and plot development but the newer ones will try to create a censorship to dumb it down enough to where they probably think parents wouldn’t complain about their child watching it cause it wouldn’t teach them how a killer killed the victims.

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