Archive for November, 2008

Movie Review: Detective Conan: Full Score of Fear

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 Movie Reviews
I’ve been a fairly ardent Detective Conan follower ever since the first movie came out some 11 years ago. I was actually younger than Mouri Ran back then. But now, I’m much older. I am proud to say that I have experienced almost all 12 Detective Conan movies in one way or another—either by watching it in the theaters, watching it on home video, or reading the cine-manga.
As the movie’s subtitle suggests, the theme of this latest installment is classical music. Compared to past Conan themes (e.g., skyscrapers, amusement parks, virtual reality devices), I find the classical-music theme to be a little underwhelming. I suspect they’re just reacting to Japan’s Nodame Cantabile-inspired classical-music boom.

The movie starts out with a bang (literally) when two students die and a third is injured in a bombing at a prestigious music academy. This sets the ball rolling on a series of murders, all revolving around students of the school. When Conan is invited to a concert starring a singer with perfect pitch from that very academy, it falls to him to protect her and catch the killer, before the concert can become a stage for tragedy.

What I liked:

  1. The soprano, Akiba Reiko, is an energetic supporting character. The brilliant voice-acting by veteran voice actress Kuwashima Houko almost had me thinking that it was Hirano Aya voicing the character. Reiko is a rare movie-only supporting character in that she basically drives the plot forward. She’s always going around doing something and getting involved with Conan & co. At first she felt like someone very repulsive and I thought she might fall into the typical category of “supporting characters who die because they’re assholes.” But I was wrong – it seems that she is just not very good at expressing herself. Instead, she chooses to shut herself off from others. After repeated pestering from Conan, they had some very good interaction throughout the course of the movie. It almost felt that they shared a special connection, a role that’s usually reserved for Ran. Perhaps the good point of this movie is also a bad point too because Reiko has essentially stolen the main female character spotlight from Ran.
  2. Lots of nice, very technical details on classical music, e.g. grand organ performances. If you’re a fan of classical music and loved Nodame Cantabile, then you’ll appreciate all the performance scenes. Oh yeah, lots of “Amazing Grace” in this movie.

What I disliked:

  1. Flat supporting characters (apart from Reiko), who have names but end up having no plot role. Rather, they become stock character who either just “die” or serve no particular purpose. Sometimes they’d say something or do something, and you’d think to yourself, “Oh here’s a sub-plot!” but the sub-plot ends up not materializing.
  2. The “trick” used by the murderer was extremely boring. Deaths are quickly skimmed past and treated as something of a newspaper report. In previous movies each murder would be carefully scrutinized by Conan, who would find some evidence. Eventually Conan would connect the dots and figure out the murderer’s true intent. That’s lacking in this movie. I feel this is one area that Conan movies are regressing considerably since movie 9 Strategy Above the Depths. This became more obvious in movie 10 The Private Eyes’ Requiem. (I have not seen Jolly Roger, so I cannot comment on that)
  3. Boring culprit/murderer. He lacks that “murderer” atmosphere – too “simple” to be a mass-murderer. This has also been happening for the past few movies too.
  4. There’s no big climax! I was very disappointed in this. Usually there’d be something like something blowing up, placing the lives of hundreds of people in jeopardy. Then it’s up to Conan to prevent a tragedy from happening. Not this time. I mean, people’s lives are in danger this time and there are buildings getting blown up, but the tension was lacking. There weren’t people screaming in horror and clambering for their lives. There’s no climax to display the strong bonds between Shinichi and Ran, which leads up to my next point…
  5. Shinichi and Ran’s “connection” felt EXTREMELY underwhelming in this movie. It felt like a throw in just because they had to do something about it every movie. Ran actually served NO purpose in this movie. It was only minimally related to the case and had no direct consequence to Conan solving the case or averting disaster.
I do not regret seeing this Conan movie because I like seeing Conan movies, but I seriously feel that the movie director and storywriters have lost their edge. Basically everything that has made me enjoy previous Conan movies so much is missing from this movie – contrived murder plot, big explosions, emotional climax. It ended up feeling rather hollow and underwhelming as a Detective Conan movie and it isn’t something in particular I would recommend to non-Conan fans. If you like Conan, then by all means you should watch it. Otherwise, perhaps it’s not quite worth your time. One exception is that people who loved Nodame Cantabile and/or classical music might want to check it out :p

Side note 1: The ending theme of this movie is Tsubasa wo Hirogete by ZARD, which has produced many Detective Conan OP, ED, and movie theme songs (OP4, OP15, OP21, OP22, ED17, ED24, Movie2, Movie9, Movie12). This song is actually the posthumous release of a previously unpublished recording Sakai Izumi made over 10 years ago. Sakai Izumi, ZARD’s vocalist, unfortunately passed away last year from a fall while getting treatment for cancer.

Side note 2: Did you know that Shinichi knows how to play the violin and has perfect pitch? Shinichi has this much to say about his new talents:

Clearly Shinichi learns everything in Hawaii.

Summary:
The good: strong supporting character in Akiba Reiko who steals screentime from Ran
The bad: lack of tense life-and-death moments
The ugly: emotional climax showcasing the connection between Shinichi and Ran non-existent

If you like Detective Conan, you might want to try:
For nice big explosions and exciting action scenes, see Movie 5 Countdown to Heaven
For a great emotional climax between Shinichi and Ran, see Movie 4 Captured in Her Eyes

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Manga Review: X|1999

Friday, November 7th, 2008 Manga Reviews

X|1999
Author: CLAMP, 1992 – 2003
Volumes: 18 (of a potential 21 if ever finished)

The year is 1999, and the millenium is coming to an end.

So is the world.

The seven Dragons of Heaven are the champions of humankind; while the seven Dragons of Earth fight for the planet, for the destruction of mankind to allow the Earth to live. Kamui is the key; he must choose between these two groups. But whatever he chooses, his own world will be torn apart…

X|1999 (X in Japan) is perhaps CLAMP’s most unrelentingly dark series (though Tsubasa’s giving it a run for its money). Most everything in this manga is top-notch – the fight scenes, the plotline and magic, and especially the characters. This entire series is fascinating, but it is not for the squeemish. There is more than a little gore and violence. Still, the art is beautiful; heavy and relentlessly detailed.

The manga isn’t finished, and isn’t likely to be, but it’s beautiful even in its incompletion, rather like cherry blossoms in bloom, but soon to fall.

Shonen-ai Note: Some shonen-ai is present (two pairings in particular) but even these tend towards unhealthy obsession (in the spirit of the manga) rather than actual romance.

Continuity Note: Sequel to Tokyo Babylon and CLAMP School Detectives. Careful, though, because CLAMP School Detectives is as light as X|1999 is dark. (Emotional whiplash, very much.)

Anime Adaptation: Though I’ve never seen them myself, I believe that there are two different anime adaptations: OVAs and a series. I’ve heard mixed reviews, most probably stemming from the fact that the animes had to write thier own endings for the series. Also, I’ve heard that the anime and the OVA have completely different endings. On the other hand, the art seems to have transferred well from the clips I’ve seen, and the action scenes are a bit more dramatic with motion.

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