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"Case Closed: The Fourteenth Target" Doesn’t Prevail

by on March 30, 2008

After a long, long wait, we finally get the second movie in the popular Detective Conan/Case Closed series: The Fourteenth Target. Does it live up to its predecessor? Or does it deserve to be taken into custody for suckiness?

Now you KNOW Conan means business!For those who have never seen the series: Jimmy Kudo was a super-ace high school detective until he accidentally stumbled onto a shady deal. He was then administered a poison that, instead of killing him, shrank him back into a child. Adopting the identity of Conan Edogawa, Jimmy now hides out at the house of his girlfriend Rachel, whose father is a private investigator. Using Dr. Agasa’s gadgets, Conan can still solve crimes, though he’s forced to give Richard, Rachel’s father, the credit.

The present case has a personal edge. A former enemy is picking off Richard’s friends and associates one by one, counting down from 13. With Inspector Meguire, Dr. Agasa, and Eva Kaden (Richard’s ex-wife and Rachel’s mom) in the hospital, Richard and Conan are forced to discover the culprit’s true motives before something really bad happens. And if you know your adventure stories, you know Rachel’s not going to be safe for very long. It doesn’t help that she is wary of her father after learning that he once shot her mother during a botched hostage situation.

Right off the bat, the movie’s greatest strength is in this background. We get to see more of Richard’s past, back when he was married and on the police force, and we get to learn about another of his hidden skills. The subplot about Richard shooting his wife is quite brilliant and adds a lot of emotional depth to the movie while also providing some very nice character depth. I don’t know if these particular moments were adapted from the manga or retconned, but I’m hoping that this stuff will be brought up again. In particular, I’d like to see Richard shoot a gun again, as I want to see if he is still as good a shot as he used to be. Admittedly, I really like the stories where Richard is treated seriously instead of as Conan’s tool. Too often in the series Richard is a bumbling idiot who can’t even tell right from left, so it makes these few instances where Richard becomes serious all that more special. I do wish we could have seen him do more during the final climactic battle, but the story called for the usual Jimmy/Rachel sappiness, so I guess Richard would have to settle for bystander on this one.

Would this be considered illegal?With so much focus on Richard, you would think there would be a lot of Jimmy/Rachel romantic scenes, especially considering how the last movie ended. However, there are only three scenes where this plot point comes into play, and all three are rather self-contained. There’s no big, super-sappy conversation like in the last movie, and two of the three scenes don’t directly focus on the love aspect of their relationship. This is more forgivable, as the culprit isn’t targeting Jimmy like in the last movie. We also get a bit less of a focus on Conan solving the case and more on the various background characters and their relationships with Richard. In fact, probably about a third of the film goes by before Jimmy even starts thinking about the case, let alone finding clues. Conan’s detective work here actually seems to be a chore to get through, as it feels like it deviates from the two on-going plots, so that when the time comes for him to reveal who the killer is, it feels like a stall until the big finale. We do get a great gag, though, when Conan speaks through the bowtie before putting Richard to sleep.

Now, I said there were two on-going plots in this movie. The first deals with Richard shooting Eva when Rachel was little and her troubles accepting this. Unfortunately, this plot takes a backseat to the main plot, which is the murdering of Richard’s friends and associates. And wow, does this plot suck. There’s a playing card shtick that is pretty neat, though it loses a lot of meaning in the dub (which I’ll get into later), but the actual murder case doesn’t really hold up. We get a number of new characters, but they make about as much of an impression as the characters in any random series episode. Some of the characters actually get so little screen time and development that they have to rely on their voice actors’ deliveries to even stand out! In particular, Peter Ford seems to be a waste of a character, inserted only to fill out the numbers. I would’ve liked it better if they had brought along a character that had been previously established to fill in the vacancy, but I can’t think of anybody other than the overused Yoko Okino.

This is what happens when you eat too much Valentine's Day chocolate.The mystery also lacks a certain spark. Despite how crazy the killer is (wait until you hear his confession at the end of the movie), things never get quite as heavy as in the previous movie or in certain series episodes. Perhaps if the movie had focused on only one victim and on the main characters trying to protect him or her, then it would’ve been better. As it is now, the main plot feels tacked on, and whenever the movie focused on that, I wanted it to shift back to Rachel yelling at Richard about not being able to trust him and stuff like that. And really, except for two particular moments, the film doesn’t feel any more grand than the average television episode, which all by itself marks the movie as a relative failure.

And, as if it weren’t bland enough, it doesn’t even have outstanding animation. The intro lacks the oomph of the first movie’s, and the only moments where the animation is superior to the series’ come when Eva is shot, when a helicopter crashes, and near the end when everything blows up. However, it doesn’t seem to be as well done as in the previous movie. It doesn’t help that this movie has the same faded look as last, and without the popping colors to spice things up. One odd thing about this release is that all the one-timer character’s names are displayed in grey boxes in English. Usually, the characters’ names are displayed in Japanese, which is fine for the show since they usually change the characters’ names anyway, but since all of the characters (except for Ford) have their names changed, it ends up looking sloppy when they introduce themselves under their American names when their Japanese names are displayed right below them in plain English. The changed names also hurt the plot of the movie, as their Japanese names have numbers in them, while the English version has to clumsily make up indirect reasons why the people are on the list.

It's a good thing Rachel doesn't jump to conclusions very easily...Aside from that little gaffe, the audio is the usual Case Closed greatness. Jerry Jewell and Allison Retzloff continue to rock as Jimmy/Conan, R. Bruce Elliott continues to shame the original Japanese voice artist as Richard, and the day Colleen Clinkenbeard has a bad performance (Luffy excluded) is the day the world explodes. The only real problem I have with the dub is the killer’s voice. If you’ve been keeping up with the dub, you’ll know exactly who the killer is right away as soon as he speaks, as that same voice actor, with his instantly recognizable voice, has played the killer in most of his appearances in the series. In fact, it’s become a running joke that if that voice actor is in the show, he’s the real killer, and it’s a shame FUNimation continued this tradition in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, the performance itself is fine, I’m just tired of that particular artist being used to voice the culprit. The Japanese cast is the usual (everyone except Kogoro is fine), and the music is decent, though not as memorable as the last movie’s music.

Now, the Case Closed DVDs have never been rich in extras, despite FUNimation actually making a thirty-minute promo reel for the series and even bringing in real cops and forensics experts to help promote the series. But this is just pitiful. Trailers. That’s it. I didn’t even get FUNimation’s catalog in my copy!

Overall, this is mainly for diehard Case Closed fans. Those who are just getting into the series would be better served grabbing a random volume of the series or the first movie instead.

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