Case Closed 101

Fans of Case Closed never received much in the way of DVD bonus features. The original single volumes featured some mildly diverting (though not easily accessible) voice actor bloopers along with some industry-standard inclusions like credit-less openings and endings. If you were the kind of person who went bonkers for a few paragraphs of character profiles, FUNimation had you covered, but fans seeking an in-depth look at the show and its production were disappointingly left in the dark.

This changed (slightly) in early 2006. FUNimation would occasionally manufacture promotional discs to be distributed for free at various anime conventions and events. These discs included select episodes of various FUNimation series along with trailers, shorts, and other bonus material. Fans lucky enough to attend an anime convention in the spring of ’06 had the opportunity to snag a now-rare promotional DVD featuring Case Closed 101, a half-hour featurette produced as an introduction to the long-running mystery series.

Conan 101-09 Conan 101-10
Pictured Above: Both “Spring 2006 Preview” DVD Menus.

Written, directed, and edited by FUNimation veteran Jared Hedges, Case Closed 101 is the closest thing Detective Conan fans have to a behind-the-scenes look at the American dub’s production. Sadly, despite being the main attraction of this promo disc, no other Case Closed episodes or extras are provided. Bonus features include sample episodes (presented dubbed and subbed) of Baki The Grappler, The Galaxy Railways, and Gunslinger Girl, as well as a Mr. Stain On Junk Alley short and trailers for 25 additional FUNimation properties.

Haven’t heard of Case Closed 101, you say? Bafflingly, FUNimation has never given this featurette a home video release on any of Case Closed’s single volumes or “season” sets despite it seeming like a no-brainer conclusion. Collectors looking to own this obscure piece of Conan history will have to pay close attention to the secondhand market to snag a copy of the promotional disc. So what’s this thing all about, exactly? Read on to find out.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Conan 101-01

The featurette begins with 16-year-old Alex Branton, our charmingly (?) awkward host and moderator. Who is he, you ask? I have no clue. Seriously, who is this kid? I can’t find any sort of filmography for him, FUNimation or otherwise. He introduces himself as a “big fan” of Case Closed and tells us that he’s apparently “been picked” to give us an introduction to the series. Is being a fan all it takes to qualify for something like this? What about me? I was 16 at the time! I’d have been all over this project if someone had asked me. Oh, well. It’s this kind of celebrity star power that gets me excited for the rest of this 27-minute mystery spectacular.

Alex provides an overview of what we’ll be seeing over the next half-hour: clips from Case Closed, interviews with real crime solvers, and a discussion of whether or not Conan’s sleuthing tactics have any basis in reality. But what is Case Closed? Fear not, series newcomers! Alex has a sneak peak for us! Fans of the show will instantly recognize the trailer he presents; this two-minute, Christopher-Sabat-narrated promo made its rounds back when the series was first debuting in America. It’s probably my favorite of the Case Closed trailers made by FUNimation; it’s humorous, informative, and it captures the tone of the series very well.

Now that we know everything there is to know about Case Closed, Alex introduces us to his “special guest” and co-host: Colleen Clinkenbeard, the voice of Rachel Moore!

Conan 101-02

Clinkenbeard discusses ways in which she resembles (and doesn’t resemble) her character, how she alters her voice to play Rachel, and reveals an inside joke amongst the cast and crew poking fun at how often she’s forced to say the name “Jimmy” while recording. Poor girl! She praises the quality of the show’s mysteries, admitting that she enjoys reading through her recording scripts to figure out what’s going to happen next (something that voice actors typically don’t get a chance to do). Footage of Clinkenbeard in the recording booth is also featured.

Colleen Clinkenbeard’s comments represent the highlight of Case Closed 101. As the only participant who actually appears in the show, she’s able to provide behind-the-scenes information and anecdotes that Alex and the others cannot. She never ceases to be entertaining and her enthusiasm for the series is quite apparent. I’d have loved for her interview to have covered the entire half-hour of this featurette.

Conan 101-03

Alex brings Clinkenbeard onstage as the atmosphere reaches overwhelming levels of awkwardness. I really have to praise Clinkenbeard; she’s being such a good sport here. She continues to be her usual perky self, while Alex continues to give off those awkward teenage vibes as he hams up his lines. Maybe he’s starstruck? Hang in there, buddy. I’d have been acting the same way.

The duo introduces a short clip from Case Closed episode 003 (a great choice). You’ve all seen this one. A dead body’s been found in Yōko Okino’s apartment! Can Conan prove Yōko’s innocence and find out the identity of the real killer? The three-minute, dub-only clip details Inspector Meguire’s initial investigation of Yōko Okino’s apartment, ending just as the gang identifies Yōko Okino, Yūko Ikezawa, and Eiichi Yamagishi as suspects.

Conan 101-04

Alex and Colleen summarize the clip and identify the clues we should be paying attention to. Who could the killer be? Before we find out, Alex suggests that we learn from an experienced homicide detective how crimes are solved in the real world. Could it be that the investigative techniques that Conan uses are actually based in reality? Of course they are! Just imagine how weird this featurette would be if they said “Nope, sorry. Bye!”

Cue Detective James Hallum, a man who, according to his LinkedIn profile, was a detective for over 30 years in Irving, Texas. He apparently became a Senior Sergeant Investigator in 2012 (a promotion no doubt earned thanks to his appearance in Case Closed 101), so congrats to him! Detective Hallum briefly goes over his mystery solving tips for us. Be creative in your questioning methods. Pay close attention to physical evidence. He provides a few anecdotes to back up his points, but it’s all pretty dry and you’re almost guaranteed to lose interest after about a minute. This is only very, very loosely connected to Case Closed.

Conan 101-05

Back when Alex was going over the game plan at the beginning of Case Closed 101, I assumed these experts would be shown a preview (or maybe even an entire episode) of the series and then be asked to comment on it. That’s not what happens. One gets the impression that someone at FUNimation went and interviewed this man without actually telling him what the interview was for. “Hey, tell me a little bit about crime solving. And… go.” Hallum does indeed tell us that “one truth prevails,” but I have a feeling he was just asked to say that without being given any proper context beforehand.

We cut back to Alex and Colleen, who were apparently blown away by Detective Hallum’s insights. “That was really interesting,” says Clinkenbeard, as if she’s trying to convince us. Clinkenbeard gives us a little bit of trivia about her fellow voice actress Gwendolyn Lau’s role in Fullmetal Alchemist (because she can!), and then Case Closed episode 003 resumes. Another three-minute clip treats us to the scene in which our three suspects are interrogated, as Conan slowly starts to piece the clues together.

Our hosts decide that we should hear from a few more professional crime solvers before we can crack Conan’s case. But we’ve already talked to a professional detective. Who else could possibly help us?

Conan 101-06

Meet George Adams and Dr. John Planz, two forensics men who specialize in DNA testing (which I guess is relevant because… one of Conan’s clues is a strand of Yōko Okino’s hair? I don’t know. They’re really reaching with this one.). They take a few minutes to explain what DNA is and how vital it can be to crime solving. Just like with Detective Hallum, their comments are pretty dull and only applicable to Case Closed in the broadest sense of “Hey, these guys are talking about mysteries. Conan Edogawa also talks about mysteries.” Hilariously, Dr. Planz makes sure to mention that “one truth prevails,” just like Detective Hallum did. FUNimation should have gone the extra mile and made these guys dramatically point their fingers towards the camera as they say it.

I should mention that Case Closed 101 is really well edited. I’m not kidding. Jared Hedges must have skimmed every Detective Conan episode in FUNimation’s possession before putting this featurette together because he’s assembled a ton of relevant footage to compliment what the interviewees are saying. Mr. Adams starts talking about footprint DNA, and bam. A clip of Conan examining footprints from episode 019 plays onscreen. Dr. Planz starts talking about how he can extract clues from a piece of chewing gum. Bam. You’re looking at a clip of Night Baron holding a piece of chewing gum from episode 043. You can tell that Mr. Hedges is trying as hard as he can to keep these men’s comments connected to Case Closed, and he does a really good job of finding scenes from the show to draw parallels to the examples provided. At one point, Dr. Planz tells a short story about how his forensics lab once received a bag of feces to examine for clues, and I half-expected Mr. Hedges to magically find a clip of Conan holding a bag of poop from some unknown episode of the series (sadly, he did not).

Conan 101-07

Alex and Colleen tell us to use some of the professional detective knowledge we’ve gained today to solve the mystery before Conan does. One final three-minute clip from Case Closed episode 003 plays, in which Conan uses Richard’s voice to reveal Akiyoshi Fujie’s suicide. Alex admits that he incorrectly thought Mr. Yamagishi was the killer. Oh, Alex. Didn’t you learn anything from Case Closed 101? Clinkenbeard gets a good laugh out of the “knife inside a block of ice” trick, kindly telling the audience to “not try that at home.”

Looks like it’s time to wrap things up! Alex tells us to visit the official Case Closed website for more information, to which Clinkenbeard adds that we can even upload our Conan fan art if we want to! Wow, this really was a long time ago, wasn’t it? A 30-second trailer for the two-disc “The Investigation Is Afoot” DVD set plays, after which Alex and Colleen say their goodbyes. Alex thanks Clinkenbeard for joining him, and reveals that he’d like to ask her one last question before she leaves. “Will you sign a… DVD for me… afterwards?” Alex, you little scamp! I was expecting a proclamation of love, followed by an intense onscreen kiss, but I guess I’ll have to keep dreaming.

Conan 101-08

Alex and Colleen start cracking up as the screen fades to black. The final thing we hear Alex say is “… That was embarrassing.” It’s nice to know he’s proud of this project! The ending credits feature some of Alex’s bloopers along with some additional interview snippets from Clinkenbeard.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Case Closed 101 is a strange beast. Essentially a 27-minute commercial, it’s not really targeted towards existing fans of the series, but you probably need to be a fan to want to sit through it in its entirety. As I mentioned earlier, the Colleen Clinkenbeard interview is a real treat. She gives us fans exactly what we want to hear: an analysis of her character, insight into how she plays her role, and some amusing production stories. The girl’s enthusiasm is infectious; you can’t help but smile along with her. It’s a fun talk with a fun person that ends much too soon.

The rest of the featurette confuses me. I simply don’t get what Mr. Hedges is going for. Why are we interviewing random detectives? Why are we talking about CSI tips and tricks? Who the hell is Alex? We see so many different faces talking about so many different things, and all the while I’m wondering what exactly we’re trying to accomplish. This is less a promotional special for Case Closed and more a promotional special for detectives in general. The episode 003 walkthrough attempts to tie everything together and give the featurette some focus, but it’s hard to accept this forced coherency when we don’t even know whether or not the interviewees know what they’re being interviewed for.

An informed discussion that compares Conan’s animated adventures to those of real detectives sounds fascinating, but in order to do that, you’ve got to make sure your participants are all on the same page. Show these guys a clip of the series. Show them an entire episode. Instead of asking them for general detective knowledge, give them something that they can apply their knowledge to and dissect. Not once do any of these participants indicate that they know what Case Closed is, which is why it’s so hard to connect their words with the material they’re apparently meant to analyze. Mr. Hedges does an admirable job of pairing their comments with relevant footage from the show, but it’s not enough to paint the picture he so obviously wants to paint.

Let’s keep in mind that this is supposed to be a “special preview” for Case Closed. They’re trying to sell this show to an audience. If I’m watching a preview for an upcoming show or movie, who am I going to want to listen to? The cast and crew. Where’s Jerry Jewell? Where’s Alison Viktorin? Surely it would have been easier to schedule a Q&A with them instead of some (presumably busy) detectives? Hell, Jared Hedges was present for this entire thing; put him in front of the camera! He’s written a bunch of Case Closed episodes; I’m sure he’s got tons of stories to tell. It just seems like a missed opportunity to put together such a long, detailed featurette and fill it with people who may or may not even know what your product is.

Case Closed 101 has its heart in the right place, but it suffers from a lack of focus and some questionable “guest stars.” The segments featuring Alex and Colleen Clinkenbeard are appealing but undeniably corny, while the segments featuring the professional crime solvers are dry and only barely relevant to the subject matter. The good outweighs the bad, and I recommend seeing it (if you can get your hands on it), but most fans will likely be satisfied after only a single curiosity viewing. Either way, I hope you enjoyed my special preview of this “special preview!”

_____________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: