Movie 06: “The Phantom Of Baker Street”
Original Japanese Premiere Date: April 20, 2002
Original American Release Date: February 16, 2010
Original Version Written By: Hisashi Nozawa
Original Version Directed By: Kenji Kodama
American Version Written By: Eric Vale
American Version Directed By: Tyler Walker
Detective Conan’s sixth feature film may not be anywhere close to perfect, but one certainly can’t fault the movie for being unoriginal. The concept of being trapped in a video game may seem incredibly out-of-genre for the series, and it is, but the setting is so carefully chosen that I can’t bring myself to complain. I mean, what fan of the series hasn’t pondered at least once what it would be like for Conan to explore Sherlock Holmes’ world first-hand? There isn’t any other story in the show that’s anything like this, and because of its unusual premise, it’s something that the series can really only get away with once. Luckily, it’s pulled off as well as can be expected, my only nitpick being that Holmes himself is almost entirely absent, which is disappointing for fans like me who wanted some sort of interaction between him and our main cast.
This movie’s screenplay was written by the late playwright Hisashi Nozawa, the first and only writer for the movies thus far who isn’t Kazunari Kochi (and isn’t even part of the series’ staff, for that matter). That certainly explains the atypical plot, but at some points, the writing is so different from the norm that one begins to question if this was even originally intended to be a Conan film. The main mystery concerning a ten-year-old’s suicide is slightly darker than what we’ve come to expect from the series, but more unwelcome is the abundance of political commentary that nearly derails the plot. Fortunately, it isn’t completely unnecessary and it actually helps fuel the antagonist’s motivations, but the plot dwells on it for so long that at points, it feels like the writer is merely using the script to push his own agenda rather than using it to enhance the story. Yes, I’m sure the Japanese education system has its problems, but that’s not why anybody pays to see a film about a group of kids trapped in a video game.
The film also suffers from pacing problems. The scenes in 19th Century London are a real treat, but the film tries to juggle both the plot in the video game world and the corresponding mystery with Yusaku in the real world, a feat that’s handled rather poorly. Unlike the third movie, in which every subplot worked together and developed each other, the story’s progression in the video game world completely halts when we go to check on the characters in the real world, and vice versa. A similar issue plagues movie two, and it’s just as annoying here.
But since no Conan movie is all bad, there are naturally many saving graces. If one can endure the flawed pacing, “Phantom” is very fun to watch, especially the scenes with Conan and friends in London, which are filled with Holmesian cameos and mystery fanservice. The way the story is structured, with all of the main characters being eliminated from the game one-by-one, gives the film a very And Then There Were None vibe that really works to the movie’s benefit. The film’s music features one of Katsuo Ōno’s better movie scores, and voice acting veteran Megumi Ogata makes a very enjoyable guest appearance as one of the film-exclusive protagonists. The movie certainly captured audience attention, as this is the second-highest-grossing Conan movie of all time (3.4 billion yen, a record only recently surpassed by the series’ 13th film: 2009’s “The Raven Chaser”).
This film is special for a different reason in America, as this is FUNimation’s final dub of Case Closed. It’s disappointing, to be sure, but FUNi obviously intended to go out with a bang. Fittingly, Eric Vale, the head writer for the entire series, handles the movie’s dub script, and it’s mostly without problems. My main complaint is that some of the adapted dialogue comes off as very immature, even for the child characters. The occasional cringe-worthy, dub-only lines pop up here and there (such as Conan saying “your face is crappy” to Mitch), but these moments are few and far between, though they’re still unfortunate. On a more positive note, every single Japanese character name is kept (the first time that’s happened since episode 003), so there isn’t any need for a name conversion guide.
The final thing to mention is that the dub sadly features voice recasts for Jimmy’s parents. Both Booker Kudo and Vivian Kudo receive new actors for their movie debuts. Booker Kudo was played in the TV series by actor Randy Tallman, who unfortunately passed away at age 67 before this movie was dubbed. John Swasey steps in to fill his shoes and does a fine job, but it’s sad that Tallman didn’t get to dub the character’s final appearance in the American version. Vivian was played by Laurie Steele in the TV show, but has been replaced by Melinda Allen in this movie for unknown reasons. To my knowledge, Steele still does voice work for FUNimation on occasion (she recently voiced a role in the company’s 2010 dub of Oh! Edo Rocket), so I can’t think of any reason that would have prevented her from reprising her role unless she had scheduling conflicts.
Shimizu, the TMS news reporter, goes unnamed in the dub. She does, however, refer to an unseen anchorwoman named Angela in the American version. That’s the closest thing I can qualify as a dub name in this film.
The first location shot of the film is translated.
That’s only the beginning, though. There are video edits in nearly every shot of the movie’s prologue. See, in the original Japanese version of the film, the characters (with the exception of Hiroki), are all speaking in English. The prologue does take place in America, after all. To translate, subtitles were placed over the animation so that the Japanese audience could understand the dialogue.
The best way to handle this when giving the film to foreign countries would be to provide a text-less version of the prologue without the Japanese subtitles (obviously). If that cannot be done, then it’s best to just leave the film as-is. Apparently TMS can’t commit to either of those options, so the entire prologue is… you guessed it: gray-boxed.
Notice that Hiroki’s information on the right-hand side of these next two shots goes untranslated.
The problem here is that regardless of whether you watch the movie in English or Japanese, the characters are all already speaking English in this scene. So now, instead of English being translated into Japanese, the English is being translated into… English. The subtitles no longer serve a purpose, and the end result is just confusing to the audience. “Why are there subtitles forced onto the video if everyone’s already speaking the same language?” The gray boxes were already ugly, but they’re especially intrusive and pointless in this scene.
All these edits and we aren’t even at the opening credits yet! Like all the movies before it, “Phantom” receives a brand new title card for the international version.
It doesn’t even try to capture the design of the original title card or logo, which is very disappointing and lazy on TMS’ part.
Opening credits time! Let’s see what shots were altered to remove those pesky Japanese credits. First, the entire scene of Conan running from Gin and Vodka (who turn out to be his prankster parents in disguise) is zoomed in.
The shot of Conan sitting cross-legged with his parents in the background is freeze-framed. Admittedly, we don’t really miss anything from this (the character artwork just slowly pans across the screen), but it’s a change nonetheless.
The final shot of the opening is obviously and awkwardly freeze-framed on Conan with his eyes only half-open. This probably would have turned out better if they had zoomed the shot in instead of freezing it (or better yet, they could have left the movie alone).
The “two years later” caption is translated in a gray box.
In the very same shot, the same thing is done with Beika City Hall.
Thomas Schindler’s information is given a gray box next.
The shot of the party hall is translated as well.
The introduction shots of the four movie-exclusive protagonists are all translated.
Later, Kashimura’s profile is gray-boxed.
Yusaku Kudo makes his feature film debut in a gray-boxed shot.
I sure feel bad for Professor Agasa’s covered-up face, though.
In one of our few gray boxes that doesn’t specify a character name or a location, the time is translated.
The parents of the spoiled children are given names next, with corresponding gray boxes to go with them.
I was really starting to hope we’d be able to make it through the whole movie without one of these.
Richard: “It’s just my luck I got dragged here tonight. Too bad we end up talking like this.”
Originally, Kogoro was explaining that he knew something bad had happened because he saw police cars from the balcony while he was sobering up. This is pretty important information because the last time we saw Kogoro, he was goofily swooning over Yoko Okino in the audience at the party. Without this line explaining how he knew a murder had been committed, the audience has no idea what Richard’s doing away from the party or why he’s suddenly not drunk anymore.
Another change occurs a minute or so later when Kogoro and the others are trying to find the significance behind the “J,” “T,” and “R” keyboard message.
Richard: “If it was JR and JT… nah, I got nothin’.”
Kogoro had a slightly better theory in the Japanese version. Originally, he wondered if “JR” and “JT” could be interpreted to represent cigarettes and trains. In Japan, “JT” refers to Japan Tobacco Inc. and “JR” refers to the Japan Railways Group.
The dub probably could have included this line with no problems (after all, they’re admitting that the series takes place in Japan now), but most of Case Closed’s audience probably wouldn’t have understood the reference, so the line was changed.
“Jack the Ripper” is translated to… “Jack the Ripper.”
Golly, thanks TMS. Don’t know what we’d do without you…
Our “translating English to English” edits continue as we enter virtual London.
Another message is translated when we return to the real world.
What’s up with this last shot, though?
It’s not gray-boxed or anything; it’s just replaced with a normal, text-less version of the scene. This proves that TMS has a text-less version of the movie, so why wasn’t FUNi provided the entire film? Why make all of these ugly gray box edits if they’re not even necessary?!
Our next video edit translates Baker Street itself.
Mrs. Hudson appears with her very own gray box a few seconds later.
All of the remaining video edits in the film are to location shots.
After the scene at the pub, the “White Chapel” shot is translated.
The shot of the Opera House is gray-boxed shortly after that.
Dialogue Edit / Side Note
One of Irene Adler’s lines receives an alteration when Rachel acknowledges that she looks like Jimmy’s mother.
Irene: “How rude. I’m not anybody’s mother. But I suppose I could be if the right handsome man came along!”
She scolds Ran in the Japanese version for a similar reason, only she also mentions that she’s single because she’s recently divorced. It’s a throwaway line, so the change doesn’t really affect the story, but the original line happens to stand out because it contradicts Sir Conan Doyle’s original stories. In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the only story written by Doyle that Adler appears in, the character is happily married to Godfrey Norton, a lawyer. There’s never any mention of a divorce in subsequent stories.
Irene Adler is a divorcee in other forms of media as well (Silver Pictures’ 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie, for example), but it’s usually done to work a Holmes-Adler romance sub-plot into the story. Since Holmes himself doesn’t appear in ”The Phantom of Baker Street” for more than one shot, and Adler isn’t even in the film for five minutes, it’s hard to say why this back-story was rewritten when the plot doesn’t do anything with it. Surely the staff did enough research to know the character’s marriage status (otherwise, they wouldn’t have brought it up in the movie), so this change must have had some sort of purpose. Since the story never addresses Adler’s divorce outside of this one line, though, it’s hard to say why the change occurred.
As for the dub, it might seem at first glance that the American version is staying more faithful to Doyle’s original text by excluding that part about the divorce, but the replacement line contains a plothole as well. “The Phantom of Baker Street” takes place during the same time period as The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is September 30 of 1889. “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the story in which Irene Adler is married, takes place in March of 1888, over a year prior to Baskervilles. So logically, Adler should be married in this film, but the dub line heavily implies that she’s single, so this creates the same error.
I’ve already dedicated too many paragraphs to a simple throwaway line, but long story short, the same plothole pops up in both languages.
The Japanese version of this movie actually contains a plothole. During Haibara’s “death” scene, she refers to Conan as “Kudo.” Noah’s Ark is still transmitting the in-game voices to the audience in the real world, though, which would mean that everyone in the building, including Kogoro and Megure, should have learned Conan’s secret identity.
Sure, there are a few ways this plothole can be debated, but at any rate, the dub has Vi refer to Conan simply as “Conan,” eliminating this potential mistake from the American version.
Charing Cross Station receives Case Closed’s final gray box edit.
As we arrive at our usual ending credits comparison, I’m pleased to announce that TMS finally gets it right.
We’re presented with translated credits over the original live-action footage and the proper movie clips. For the first time in America, we’re getting the exact same ending credits footage that Japanese fans got. It may be five movies overdue, but hey, better late than never, right?
The dub keeps the Japanese version of “Everlasting,” the movie’s ending song.
“The Phantom Of Baker Street” ranks among my favorite movies in the entire franchise. Despite its problems, it’s a highly original and entertaining adventure with tons of fanservice for fans of classic mystery literature. It’s hard to think that after all these years, Case Closed comes to an end with this movie, but I don’t think FUNi could have picked a better film for their last dub. With the original Japanese names, a faithful script, and a great American cast, this movie is a great example of what FUNimation can produce when they really bring their A-game. Consider this one highly recommended. Thanks for reading!