The 82nd volume of Gosho Aoyama's Case Closed series takes off with another battle-of-wits between Jirokichi Sebastian and the young gentleman thief extraordinaire, Kaito KID, who has announced the impending theft of one of the rarest gemstones in Jirokichi's collection – an Alexandrite christened The Green Emperor. Jirokichi installed the latest state-of-the-art security systems, but computer simulations showed KID eluding "every combination of security measures" and get away with the gem. So he has less than a day to either come up with full-proof plan or postpone the exhibition, which is when the boyfriend of his niece comes knocking.Makoto Kyogoku is an undefeated karate champion, "the prince of kicks," who wants to prove himself to his niece, Serena, who's always fangirling all over Kaito KID's exploits. So he becomes "the world's most powerful security system" pitting wits against physical superiority. That could have made for an excellent entry in the whole Jirokichi vs. KID saga, but this story is not at all like their previous duels as it uses their rivalry as a vehicle to spotlight the other members of the Sebastian family. And a right of passage, of sort, into the family for Makoto. A task further complicated by two high-stake bets within the Sebastian clan and some second-rate trickery unbecoming of both Aoyama and KID. What really killed the story is Makoto's incredible feats of strength and speed, like plucking pellets from a pellet gun out of the air, which would make him a legitimate superhuman. Needless to say, Conan is practically a non-entity in the story. So it stands as the weakest Kaito KID story to date.
Fortunately, the following two stories, while pretty average by themselves, helped to elevate the overall quality of what would have otherwise been a mediocre volume. A rare occurrence in the series, but, every now and then, you get one.
The second story revolves around the calico cat, Cappy, introduced in vol. 80 as the stray cat who hangs around Richard Moore's office and gets fed by the waitress of Coffee Poirot, Azusa – who named the cat after Captain Hastings. An article appeared in a local magazine about the cafe with a picture of Cappy as "one of the café's regulars." Azusa hopes Cappy's original owner sees the picture and contacts her, which turns out to be bigger success than she thought. Three people turn up to claim Cappy, but who's speaking the truth? Conan has to deduce the truth from their stories about Cappy's medical history. A really minor, but decent enough, story that carries onto the next case.
Conan has identified Cappy's original owner and, a week later, he and the Junior Detective League to come around to that person's apartment without telling them why. When they arrive, they find a neighbor telling the janitor to quickly open the front door with a spare key, because he heard a strange sound. However, the door is not only locked from the inside, but secured with one of those U-shaped latches and liked how Conan had to do a locked room-trick in reverse to unlatch the door. Once inside, they find Cappy's owner unconscious in the bedroom with a bleeding head wound. Apparently, the result of an accidental fall while trying to change a light bulb, but Conan deduces it was an attempted murder disguised as an accident based on the chair, slippers and the broken bulb on the floor. The intercom system has a camera that records anyone who rings the bell and recorded three visitors to the apartment that day, but whom of the three had the motive and means to have staged such a convincing accident?
The murderer is easily enough identified and the locked room-trick is an elaboration on an age-old trick, one that has been used before in this series, which doesn't make it a standout locked room mystery, but fairly clued and liked how it neatly wrapped up the whole Cappy story-arc – even explaining why Cappy jumped on the delivery truck in vol. 80. So not the best stories, or story-arc, in the series, but, after my previous reads, I appreciated these normal, down-to-earth plots. Well, I got what I wanted.
The fourth story is an inverted mystery with an alibi that has to be broken down. Conan foregoes an afternoon of playing football (i.e. soccer) in the park to accompany the Junior Detective League to the store to buy a strategy guide for their newest video game, Titan Hunter, where they meet another fan of the game, Noriya Makabe. A first-grader who's staying a few days with his grad student cousin, Toshinari Shiga. So they go with Noriya to his cousin's place to play Titan Hunter, but Conan immediately smells something funny. Not long after, Toshinari discovers the body, brutally stabbed to death, of his next door neighbor. Conan already spotted the clues pointing towards Toshinari as the murderer, but possesses a cast-iron alibi as had been spending the day of the murder playing video games and watching a movie with Noriya. Conan quickly puts to pieces to together and figures out how "he created his alibi by twisting time and twisting a little boy's feeling." However, the solution gave me a serious case of déjà vu and a little internet detective work revealed it retreated the alibi-trick from an earlier volume.
So that was disappointing to discover, but, until then, it was actually a good story with more of an emotional punch and perhaps shows why I would be a bad detective. Not because only one in three of my armchair theories hit anywhere near close to the mark, but this is one of those cases in which I would have kept my mouth shut. Not just because he has a motive you can sympathize with or at least understand, but simply to have spared that poor kid the knowledge he unwittingly helped his cousin to commit a murder. You see, the trick only ended up working because Noriya cared about Toshinari. And even worse, he helped Conan solve the case without realizing. What the story lacked in originality was made up in storytelling and, perhaps, improving on an old idea.
Last chapter sets up a story that will be continued in the next volume and has Conan, Rachel and Serena accompany Masumi Sera on a case to a remote cabin in the woods. A case she accepted on her brother's behalf as he apparently can only "solve cases and fix problems around his school." The cottage has a bloody history going back 15 years when a woman savagely butchered her cheating husband, ran at the police with a knife and, while covered in blood, disappeared into the forest – never to be heard again. That gave rise to the local legend of the Red Lady. Three years later, Satoko, a high school student, vanished following a sighting of the Red Lady. A week later, her body was dredged from a swamp together with the knife from that old murder case. Ever since, the students who were with Satoko returned to the cottage on the anniversary of her death, but "strange things started to happen" during the last few gatherings involving red apples, rose petals and red paint. And the ends with the discovery of a body in a hot tub filled with tomatoes!
So, on a whole, not one of the strongest or most original collection in the series opening with the weakest Kaito KID heist to date and ending with a teaser of, what could have been, the best story in this volume. I didn't dislike the three stories in the middle and punched up the overall quality, but they had problems and shortcomings of their own. I can forgive a weak or average volume, once in a while, in a series that has been able to retain a certain standard of quality for over twenty years and more than eighty volumes covering hundreds of stories. Hopefully, the next volume will be return to form.
I'm not going to take any risks with my next pick and going to a second look at one of my old favorites.