It is allergy season. The weather is warm again, and that means all the local plant life is spawning. I would think it was much prettier if it didn't also make my nose stuff up constantly. I've spent most of the week trying to fight back one of those headaches that makes you feel like you have too many teeth, and your eyeballs have routed your heartbeat through a powerful subwoofer.

I cope with this by overmedicating as much as I dare -- you can actually take three of the 325 mg aspirin tablets at a time, FYI -- and by distracting myself. Right now I am also distracting Moggie by throwing detectives at her.

I used to work overnight at an answering service. It was boring as hell. Nobody called after the bars closed at about two. They had the computers locked down and I can only carry so many books, so I spent most of my time in the break room, where the cable TV was, conducting a survey of all the kinds of fascinating nonsense stations started throwing on at four in the morning after test patterns went out of style.

Most of it was trash. I watched a lot of The Pretender and Charmed. Cartoon Network had an anime block on at the time, most of which was not trash, just old enough that the nine-year-olds would be bored if they tried to air it at 3pm. Lupin III is ancient but hilarious.

One of the newer things they showed -- by which I mean the dub was only a decade behind the original air date -- was a show called Case Closed. Called Meitantei Conan in Japan (名探偵コナン - "Famous Detective Conan", usually referred to as just "Detective Conan" by English-speaking fans), the gist of it is that Kudou Shinichi is a brilliant Sherlocky teenage detective, who trips into the middle of some shady dealings while taking his definitely-not-my girlfriend Mouri Ran out to an amusement park. The goons dose him up with an experimental drug that was supposed to work as an undetectable poison, but instead shrank him back down to a six-year-old.

That's actually about as irrational as it gets, surprisingly; once that one weird premise is established, the consequences are pretty rational. Shinichi scoots back home, freaks out, and enlists the help of his friend and neighbor Professor Agasa in helping him investigate what happened. He opts not to clue Ran in, or her father (Kogorou, himself a private detective), on the basis that if the goons ever found out Shinichi survived they would probably come around trying to fix that, and would also probably not care who else they hit.

[The 'Conan' part of the title comes from the alias he gives himself, Edogawa Conan, when Ran demands to know the cute little kid's name. This is frankly about half a step up from calling himself "Bic McPenlamperson". He pulled it directly off of the bookshelf he was standing next to at the time. 'Conan' as in Arthur Conan-Doyle, and 'Edogawa' as in Edogawa Rampo, a famous author of both mysteries and horror stories published in Japan in the 1930s and 40s. His father, you find out later, is himself famous for writing mystery-thrillers; the house is stuffed with them.]

The abovementioned actually has very little to do with most of the plots in the show, which is a looooooooong series of what are essentially five-minute mysteries, much like the ones in the Encyclopedia Brown books. All of which I have long since read, which tells you how I feel about the genre. As it turns out, being suddenly shorter does not also make Shinichi suddenly dumber, but he can't blow his cover and no one will listen to a kid anyway, so when the Mouris inevitably trip over a corpse about three times a week, he has to "help" Kogorou solve the murder. Sometimes he does it by feeding Kogorou hints, but Professor Agasa conveniently invents a watch that shoots a tranquilizer dart and a bow tie that contains a device for disguising his voice, so Shinichi can knock Kogorou out and deliver the final accusations in his voice, which is about a million times funnier.  He does it so much that people eventually start talking about 『眠りの小五郎』, Sleeping Kogorou, the detective who solves complicated crimes after suddenly falling unconscious! Kogorou is exactly enough of an egomaniac to conclude that this clearly means he is so brilliant he has developed an alter ego who solves murders for him, and doesn't even need to be awake to do it.

The series is notable for being one of the very few that I like about as well dubbed as I do subtitled. This is surprising, considering that maybe a quarter to a third of the cases have solutions that hinge directly on some piece of word play that doesn't work at all if translated directly into English. Similar things appear in the 'flavortext' in many other episodes -- Agasa likes to give Conan's kid detective friends punny riddles to solve, and Shinichi is still very much a seventeen-year-old deadpan snarker inside his own head. I have no idea how the localization managed to pull it off. The result is on par with the Ace Attorney games. Reportedly when Aoyama Gosho, the author/artist, was approached about the possibility of translating the manga and the anime for release in the US, he just said 'good luck'.

There are many things I appreciate about the show. The mysteries are clever and very rarely veer into improbable troll logic. The police are not witless clods; all of Kogorou's cases are bizarre because the normal ones don't require his help. The world is kind of weird, admittedly, but in an improbable Hercule Poirot sort of way that involves setting complicated murder traps for loved ones who have wronged you, not in a senseless cartoon way. The solutions at the end are explained quite clearly for the audience, who are generally assumed to not have pebbles for brains.

There are not a lot of useless women involved. Ran, the not-girlfriend, is actually the brawn in the couple. She's a high-ranking black belt in karate. It's not easy to make her lose her temper, but when she does, she scares people. Even before he got shrunk, Shinichi -- himself a soccer champ and not averse to sprinting after people, or kicking the occasional soccer ball at their heads -- backed the fuck off and let her do the hitting when she decided it was clobberin' time. Ran's mother Eri is a high-powered attorney. One of the scariest detectives on the force is Satou Miwako. A gunman once scooped a woman out of the crowd to use as a hostage in front of half a dozen policemen; when they realized it was Satou he'd caught, they all just sort of stood back and looked at each other like, 'well this isn't going to go well for him, is it?' And, indeed, it didn't.

Even more tellingly, the women in the cast are generally the greatest threat to Shinichi's cover as Conan. Shinichi dares not pull the Sleeping Kogorou trick in front of Eri or Satou, as they are prone to noticing that Kogorou is awfully asleep to be doing all that talking. The only reason Ran hasn't technically figured out what happened is that giving someone a drug that regresses their body to childhood is impossible and makes no sense. If anyone ever presented her with outside evidence that re-kid-ification was even a thing, she would twig immediately, and there would be a lot of shouting (angry), crying (angry), shouting (embarrassed), and crying (relieved) the instant she got her paws on "Conan" again.

As it is, she's come to the most logical conclusion that Conan is acting as Shinichi's agent for some reason, and cornered him into giving her a way to contact Shinichi herself. Which was probably best for them both, because it forced Shinichi to call her on the regular, to prevent her from coming to look for him and getting herself into exactly as much trouble as she would if he just told her outright.

They are both pleasantly aware of the fact that they're crazy in love with each other. There is a long proud history of detectives in literature who are brilliant with logic and terrible with emotions. Shinichi is not one of them. He's remarkably good at people-ing, particularly considering that even when he's in his right body, he's only seventeen. It's not uncommon for him to break a suspect by telling them he knows exactly why they committed the murder, and then go on to point out that all of the assumptions that underlay that motive were wrong, and they've just done something horrible for no reason. One of the running themes of the show is 'poor communication kills'. In a shocking plot twist, Shinichi has actually learned something from all this, and has in fact told Ran how he feels. It took him a few tries, inasmuch as they kept getting interrupted by murder, but he did eventually manage. Ran has told Conan how much she misses Shinichi, so he's aware of her end of it, too, even if he can't tell her that outright. The conflict is entirely from the circumstances keeping them apart and not from them being twitterpated cowards. It's always nice when I don't constantly get the urge to reach into the TV and slap people silly.

If you're a student of Japanese looking for practice, you could do worse. The series is aimed at roughly the same age range as Encyclopedia Brown is, so while some of the vocabulary is a bit offbeat, most of the characters speak pretty clearly and you should be able to catch at least a few bits of dialogue. Shinichi is really terrible at not being Shinichi, so while he switches from teenage boy-pronouns in his inner monologue to grade school-boy pronouns when he speaks aloud, he doesn't generally dip into little-kid-talk. Pretty much everyone speaks Kantou-ben, aside from a couple of characters who are specifically from Osaka. (I don't find Hattori Heiji too difficult to follow, but Mog apparently does; YMMV, as always, when it comes to regional accents). A lot of the stupid pun explanations are done with on-screen text, and the target audience is young enough that the kanji will usually have furigana.

You would also never run out of material. When I said it was long-running, I meant it. The anime is up into the 700+ episode range, the manga is still running, and they release a new movie every year. The 19th feature film is due out in about a week and a half. There are also about a dozen OAVs, and a related series called Magic Kaito 1412 which is much more of a trip on its own, but whose protagonist crosses over into Conan's show on a regular basis.

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