Case Closed: In Hot Pursuit

Case Closed: In Hot Pursuit (1996)
FUNimation Entertainment
Cast: Alison Retzioff, Jerry Jewell, Colleen Clinkenbeard
Extras: Trailers

The long running Japanese anime series, "Detective Conan" (renamed "Case Closed" in the United States), centers around the exploits of young supersleuth Jimmy Kudo who, after witnessing a criminal act, is administered a strange poison that has one serious side effect. Instead of killing the teenager, the poison transforms Jimmy into a seven year-old boy. Still armed with his sharp, detective mind, Jimmy now has to keep his real identity hidden, all the while trying to cope with the unique problems that children face. On top of this, Jimmy continues to tackle a slew of interesting mysteries that belie his short stature, christening himself "Conan" (after the writer he idolizes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). Constructing a ruse that involves him being a distant relative of Jimmy's, Conan takes shelter with his girlfriend Rachel (who doesn't know that he is really Jimmy) and her detective father, Richard Moore. Of course, this situation opens up a whole new world of exciting cases to work on, with Conan regularly solving them, while letting the idiotic, arrogant detective Moore take all the credit.

Employing a unique premise, "Case Closed: In Hot Pursuit" contains Season One episodes 10-15 in all their uncut glory. In order, they are: "Deadly Game," where a mysterious girl appears at the detective agency searching for her missing boyfriend Jimmy, which sparks a jealous rage in Rachel. This stranger is up to something though, since Jimmy (aka Conan) has never seen her before. Once at her apartment, Conan and Rachel soon become embroiled in a kidnapping plot, which may involve a couple of soccer stars.
Next up is a two-part episode entitled "The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case," where detective Moore, Rachel and Conan head to an island after being hired by an unseen man named Casper Austin. Once on the island, they quickly discover that Casper has been dead for twelve years, having committed suicide after murdering his wife and daughter. While inside his burning house, Casper plays his favorite song, Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," on his piano as the flames engulf his body. Now all these years later, corpses begin piling up around the supposedly cursed piano, striking fear in the island community.
In "Kidnapped: Amy," Conan and his elementary school buddies Amy, Mitch and George (who have formed a mystery-solving endeavor of their own, called the "Junior Detective League") find themselves in a predicament when a friendly game of hide-and-seek goes horribly wrong. Amy mistakenly gets locked inside the trunk of a car, driven by two men who may be a pair of serial killers that target children. It's up to Conan and his cronies to locate their friend and rescue her from these dangerous murderers.
"Mystery Mastermind" involves a woman named Michelle who is looking for her missing father. Once detective Moore tracks him down, the reunion between father and daughter is strangely awkward and soon takes an interesting turn when the father turns up dead and Michelle disappears from sight.
Lastly, we have "The Shooter," a convoluted tale that has the Junior Detective League witnessing a strange occurrence from the rooftop of a building. A man with a gun to his head aims and shoots a high-powered rifle toward the lake below, the bullet striking a balloon that is attached to a moving, motorized boat. Shortly after, Conan investigates the roof, finding a left-behind calculator that may hold clues as to who the man is and where he is heading.

Out of these episodes, the most effective ones are "The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case Parts 1 and 2" and "Kidnapped: Amy." The former showcases the ambitious heights the cartoon strives to reach. Creating an environment with red herrings galore and characters with hidden motivations, this two-parter sets up a rich history of the island and its people; highlighting a cursed piano, an angry, vengeful ghost, concealed narcotics, a couple of suicides, multiple murders and shady, political machinations. Somehow, these disparate elements are effortlessly weaved together, with all the pieces falling into place without a hint of awkwardness. Like a junior version of "Ten Little Indians," these episodes layer the characters with such skill and ingenuity that the results are riveting. Despite this, there are a couple of slight missteps, since the clues and details are doled out at such a furious pace that sometimes things become a little too confusing and cumbersome. In addition, the ending hurls a curveball our way that cheats the audience and, while not a complete cop-out, it nonetheless strains credibility (even for a cartoon about a crime-solving kid detective). Regardless, "The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case" is an entertaining ride that not only presents an interesting, involving mystery, but also features funny, comedic beats which makes it a well-rounded pot-boiler.

Similarly impressive is the "Kidnapped: Amy" episode, wherein our pint-sized hero finds himself in a race against time trying to track down his school friend Amy. Unlike the other episodes, this one gives us a brief respite from an overload of detective work and instead focuses on pure action. Also, adults are confined to villain roles, which affords us the opportunity to see how Conan interacts with his elementary school sized "equals." Through his actions and inner monologues, it's clear that Conan resents having to put up this childish front, yet a certain innocence that's been missing in him soon seeps through. While this dynamic is comically interesting (especially his reaction to Amy's crush on him), the episode really kicks into gear after Amy is inadvertently locked inside the trunk of the car. Rolling along at a breakneck pace, "Kidnapped: Amy" climaxes with a thrilling car chase (well, technically a car and skateboard chase) and, much like "The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case," presents us with an ending that seemingly comes out of left field. Apparently, appearances aren't quite what they seem in this series. It's odd that my favorite episodes have the most frustrating endings and it's sort of hard to get angry over a cartoon, but one can't help but feel cheated when most of the clues end up being nothing but a series of lies. Despite this, I did enjoy Conan's quick-thinking and his ability to wriggle his way out of various tough spots (I especially enjoyed how, in "Deadly Game," Conan attempted to cover up the fact that he is Jimmy from Rachel. This added an extra dimension to the story, preventing it from becoming a stagnant, common whodunit).

While Conan's reactions to his bizarre ailment are interesting, the show often gets bogged down by an over-abundance of exposition. Beside "The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case," and "Kidnapped: Amy," the episodes spell out each and every clue and detail, which quickly renders the mysteries as moot. Also, inner monologues from the characters tend to telegraph their every move and motivation, which severely cuts down on the unpredictability factor. If the series had focused on Conan's unique situation (trying to conceal his real identity while also dealing with being a grown man in a little boy's body), then "Case Closed" would be more satisfying. Unfortunately, the episodes where Conan isn't hampered by these problems condemns it as a fairly straight-forward crime show. As such, I found half the mysteries instantly forgettable.

Interestingly, the DVD case points out that these episodes are uncut, while also listing them as being TV-PG. With chopped-up bodies, stabbings, hangings and child abuse prevalent, this rating can be a little misleading. Definitely harsher than advertised, I'm not exactly sure who this series is targeted to. I am aware that Cartoon Network has aired it on their Adult Swim programming block, so keep in mind that, although it may look like a children's show, many adult themes and situations are touched upon.

"Case Closed: In Hot Pursuit" comes to us via FUNimation Entertainment in a Full Frame presentation. Not the best of transfers, with hints of grain appearing every now and again and specks dotting the images regularly. Color-wise, much of the show has a faded quality to it, which probably stems from the age of the production. Also, there were some instances of compression artifacts, especially during brighter scenes.

In terms of sound, we get an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as well as English and Japanese surround tracks. There's very little depth in the 5.1 track, with ambient sounds under-utilized in the surrounding channels and dialogue emerging from the front channels. Oddly, we are given an English subtitle option, but it differs greatly from the English dubbed track. FUNimation has "reversioned" the show, essentially rewriting the dialogue for American audiences. So, if you're looking to preserve the original text (with the proper Japanese names being used), you can access this with the subtitles. One downside to the show is that numerous moments feature signs or character information written on the screen in Japanese, yet, unless the English subtitles are on, we're given no clue as to what these say. There were many instances where I had to bolt for the remote in order to understand what was happening, which tended to take me out of the show.

As for Extras, all that is included are a few Trailers for other anime titles.

"Case Closed: In Hot Pursuit" is a mixture of crime-infused film-noir, James Bond adventure and Sherlock Holmes inspired mysteries. With a compelling concept that isn't always exploited to its full potential, the show still offers plenty of thrills and comedy, yet is also weighed down with ample amounts of exposition and telegraphed motivations. Overall these episodes are fairly entertaining, but can suffer from bloated cases that over-complicate Conan's job. When the show stays grounded and deals with Conan's personal problems, "Case Closed" truly flaunts its uniqueness. If you fancy yourself an anime or mystery fan, then take a stab at this collection, you could do much worse.