A Supernatural detective anime series
The Case Closed magic, for those who have yet to experience it, follows a pretty formulaic structure whereby the title character happens upon criminal activity that requires a good deal of intelligence to successfully point the finger of blame. Sounds like standard mystery-genre fare so far but what's unique about Case Closed is that the lead is played by a 17-year-old (Jimmy Kudo) investigator who has been transformed, via an experimental drug, into a child. The kid goes by the made-up name Conan Edogawa after two popular mystery writers and goes to live with his friend Rachel Moore and her private detective father, Richard. If you're looking for back story, I strongly recommend considering Funimation's Case Closed DVD Starter Set as except for a narrated opening sequence, the films waste very little time retelling past events.
Coming in at a total runtime of 100 minutes, The Phantom of Baker Street spans a single DVD housed within a standard-sized clamshell case. The show wears an appropriate if not slightly conservative TV PG rating (due to a steady dose of animated violence rather than inappropriate language or nudity).
Language options are standard sub & dub, which means the viewer has the choice of the original Japanese dialog track (stereo) or an English dub (Dolby Digital 5.1) and the option of running English subtitles with either.
The story of Phantom of Barker Street goes something like this: Fellow (but natural) kid genius, Hiroki commits suicide due to the pressures placed upon him, leaving behind an artificial intelligence program called Noah's Ark, which among other things, has the ability to mature 5-years for every 1 year of realtime.
Conan, Vi, Rachel and The Junior Detective League weasel their way into being members of the 50 children chosen to sample a new virtual reality video game that actually cocoons its users in a capsule to provide the ultimate gaming experience.
It turns out the players have their choice of different themes/adventures to participate in while in the game. Conan and his friends enter London in the 19th century during the time of Jack the Ripper. Soon after the kids enter the game, Noah's Ark takes over the program and immediately closes all exits to the game. It reasons that someone must solve at least one of the game scenarios successfully to win the freedom of all of the 50 captured participants. For Conan and company, the game goes from high-tech fun, to a situation of life or death stakes against a program of vast intellect.
Aside from the longer runtime there are some notable differences between the film and the series. Among them is a reliance upon revealing pieces of pre-Conan life for Jimmy Kudo as threads with which to solve the mystery as well as mysteries that are themselves more complex (involving half a dozen key clues to solve rather than the one or two common of the series). Also Richard Moore is portrayed as being far-less dopey and actually contributes to the case's conclusion on multiple occasions; so dramatic is this change that the gimmick of Conan knocking Richard out via a tranquilizer dart then using his voice-changing bow-tie to reveal the solved case in the end is omitted entirely!
There also tends to be a greater focus on Conan's pal and fellow-age-reduced Anita Hailey (Vi in English), Dr. Hershel Agasa and the gadgets he invented to aid Conan on his mission.
As is always the case (no pun intended) with this show, the artwork and visual style aren't extremely rich or polished. Instead the animation is fairly simplistic but gets the job done. Focusing on the show's beauty (or lack thereof) is truly missing the whole point of what makes Case Closed so special. This is suspense-driven story telling that goes the extra mile to make sure each motion picture provides sufficient resolve. I consider myself a competent wannabe detective, but failed to solve this one prior to Conan's unraveling of clues at the end!
The English dub is pure first-class Funimation all the way, which means it just nails the little language details that make the original mystery fun. I can only imagine the work, planning, and translating this must require to get right. The effort pays dividends though when you view the finished product and literally forget that this wasn't originally written in English.
In all, quite an entertaining addition to a solid franchise. I enjoyed it thoroughly and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to existing fans and neophytes of the franchise alike.
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