A Devil on the Court: Case Closed, vol. 71 by Gosho Aoyama

The 71st volume of Gosho Aoyama's Case Closed, originally published in Japan as Detective Conan, is an unusual entry in the series as the only two stories in it, a short and a long one, focus entirely on breaking codes and finding hidden messages – only hint at murder is tucked away in the grim back-story of one of the characters. So, if memory serves me correctly, this is one of only two volumes without a single murder case.

This volume opens with a short, so-called slice-of-life mysteries and takes place in the audio/visual storage room of Teitan Elementary.

Ms. Kobayashi recruits Conan and the Junior Detective League to help her find a videotape in the A.V. storage room, crammed with thousands of tapes with faded or hard-to-read labels, but they also find a former student of the school rummaging around in there. Detective Chiba, of the Metropolitan Police, was a member of the A.V. club and had a crush on a girl who was about to move away. So he wrote her a love letter. She wrote cryptically wrote back that she left her answer in the A.V. storage room and hoped it leave on a mark on him, but Chiba "searched the room from top to bottom." And he couldn't find anything. Now a class reunion is just around the corner and Chiba is determined to find that 13-year-old reply.

A charming story, as most these slice-of-life stories tend to be, with Aoyama's favorite trope (long-lost) childhood friends with a romantic interest. My only problem is that the hidden message seems a little bit too clever to have been concocted by such a young child. And on such a short notice.

The second story covers the remainder of the volume, nine of the eleven chapters, which begins with a hint of the Had-I-But-Known School. A story that "began with a strawberry" and Conan "never imagined that this would set off an adventure" – both "sweet and sour." A lucky incident with a strawberry and cat gave Conan, Rachel and Richard Moore to visit England during a school holiday. Conan is a huge Sherlock Holmes fanboy and he can't wait to visit all the places from Conan Doyle's stories. There are, however, some obstacles to overcome. Such as the pesky problem of his double identity. Just read the series and you'll understand.

Conan eventually makes it to London to embark on his "Sherlock Holmes pilgrimage," something only mystery fans will understand, but he finds several hurdles on his path.

On the doorstep of the Sherlock Holmes Museum, on 221B Baker Street, Conan meets an eight-year-old boy, Apollo Glass, who's the kid brother of tennis-star and "the top-ranked Queen of the Grass Court," Minerva Glass. Earlier that day, Apollo was at the tennis court when he was approached by a man telling him that he'll get "a greater thrill" than he would expect. Someone, somewhere in London, will be murdered in front of him and to tell Scotland Yard – if it doesn't make any sense to "leave it to Holmes." So this mysterious event plunges Conan in hunt around London for Holmesian-themed clues and codes. This part of the story almost reads like a travelogue with the characters hunting around all the London landmarks for clues.

As to be expected, not everything goes smoothly and Conan forgets himself for a moment and makes a mistake. One of several mistakes in this volume. In the first story, he talks as if he was a long-time student at Teitan Elementary, but officially, he has been there for only a year or two. At the start of this story, Conan starts speaking fluently English in front of Rachel and Richard Moore. Conan's third mistake convinces Rachel that Jimmy Kudo is London and has purposely avoiding here.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again, the relationship story-line between Jimmy/Conan and Rachel has become stagnant and a weakness at this point in the series.

I concede that it made absolute sense keeping Jimmy's predicament from Rachel when the series started, but, in the series, nearly two years have passed since the first volume and continuing to keep the secret is now only used as a story-telling device – in order to create these needlessly complicated situations. Logically, Rachel should have been told by now as she would have been valuable alley/cover for his Conan identity. Seriously, I begin to suspect that the final volume will reveal that all these stories were told by Jimmy and Rachel on the coach of an incredulous, harassed-looking relationship counselor. Mark my words!

The penultimate chapter of this story, which will be concluded in the next volume, takes place on the court and the tennis match is one that could only be played in an anime or manga series (e.g. The Prince of Tennis). And even for this series, or anime/manga in general, the code cracking in this part of the story stretched credulity a little too far.

Still this was a fun, if somewhat weird, story and look forward to the last chapter, but don't think it will stand as a classic story-arc in the series. However, I do think this volume, as a whole, stands as a notable example of the code cracking detective story and a Holmesian homage to boot!


  1. "In the series, nearly two years have passed since the first volume."

    That's not true. It's only been about half a year since Shinichi turned to Conan in-universe, or at the least, not longer than a year (Ran specifically says it's not even been a year since the aquarium story in volumes 83/84, which is set immediately before the first chapter of the series). "Recently" the second grade of Teitan High visited Kyoto on their school trip, so Shinichi/Ran/Sonoko/Sera are all still in the same grade as when the series started.

    A new Conan volume will release in Japan next week. It's been going *really* slow the last two, three years because of Aoyama's condition/study trips etc., and it doesn't seem he'll get back to the old schedule soon. I guess there's the spin-off series now that reveals the background history of several important characters whose identities/relations would probably mean spoilers for you at this point (so don't look things up, please), but it doesn't seem like that's a mystery series...

    1. "It's only been about half a year since Shinichi turned to Conan in-universe, or at the least, not longer than a year "

      Are you sure? I can't seem to find it right, but distinctly remember a story from the early-or mid-period pointing out a year has passed since Jimmy/Shinichi became Conan. I remember Conan was sitting in a movie theater when he reflected on this. Something with an anniversary.

    2. Perhaps it was a year since another event? All the time references I remember all specify it's been only several months, and definitely not even a year. Ran specifically says so in the last chapter of 83 (first chapter aquarium story), where she recalls the case she and Shinichi encountered at the aquarium as having occuring not even a year ago, and their date to Tropical Land is set soon after their aquarium visit.

      In volume 57? 58? (the hospital case with Akai), Jodie tells Conan Akai's girlfriend was killed only a few months ago, and that too is an event that happened soon after Shinichi turned into Conan.

    3. "Perhaps it was a year since another event?"

      I don't know. Annoyingly, I can't find the story, or panel, which I remember referencing the time that had passed, but I'm likely misremembering it or misread something.