Featured Columns

December 16, 2011

Bento Bako Bonus: Slam Dunk 19, Case Closed 41

A couple quick notes to start off with. The (sometimes) yearly Great Manga Gift Guide for 2011 is being compiled over at All About Manga. It’s an around the Internet listing of manga and anime gift guides. So be sure to check it out if you need some holiday shopping (or wish listing) ideas. My gift guide was posted on Monday, in case you missed it. I’ve also got a small list of cheap manga I’m trying to get rid of, so check that out and help me pay for some Christmas gifts. Now, on with the reviews!

Title: Slam Dunk
Author: Takehiko Inoue
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 19 (of 31), $9.99
Vintage: 1994 by Shueisha in Japan, December 6, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Sports, basketball

[Volume 18 review.]

Shohoku High’s game against Ryonan High for a spot in the national tournament continues in this volume. With the first half of the game over, Shohoku comes back from the halftime break with renewed vigor. Right off the bat, Rukawa shows that his poor showing in the first half was only his way of conserving energy for the second half, and he brings his real game to the court immediately, surprising Ryonan with a sudden burst of heightened play and quick scoring from the team. Shohoku quickly closes the scoring gap, and Ryonan is forced to change tactics – foul out the best players, like Mitsui, and force them to the bench. To compete with Rukawa, Sendoh amps up his game and begins copying and reading Rukawa’s moves. The game calms down as both teams put the pressure on with outstanding defense, until finally the baskets start sinking again, on both sides of the court. Annoyed that Rukawa is stealing the show, Sakuragi struggles to step things up, and a fierce bout of rebounding inadvertently benches Ryonan’s captain, Uozumi, who gets his fourth foul on Sakuragi. The Ryonan coach pulls him out of the game for the time being, and as Sakuragi is complimented on his accidental but excellent play, Shohoku rises to the occasion. From the bench, Uozumi grows increasingly frustrated watching his team suffer without him, and we’re treated to a quick flashback of his early years before he became a star on the team. Sendoh does his best to calm Ryonan down and get them focused, but Uozumi is still itching to get back in the game and make up for his mistake. However, Ryonan’s coach refuses to use his final time out to stop Shohoku’s momentum, and refuses to put Uozumi back in the game, preferring to save him for the last five minutes.

Another heart pounding volume of Slam Dunk has arrived. I don’t even like watching basketball, so I’m surprised I’m so engrossed reading about it. Such is the skill with which Takehiko Inoue writes and draws this series – even someone who doesn’t care for sports can find themselves completely absorbed. I always praise this series, and I’ll continue to do so if Inoue can keep his momentum gong through the entire series (and I have no doubt that he can). It’s been a long time since I played basketball (and I wasn’t very good), but not only is this series entertaining, it’s also a realistic look at team camaraderie, the heightened emotions players feel during a game, the energy that courses through a gymnasium during an intense battle of skill, and the competitive nature of players on the court. If you’re a basketball fan and you read comics (and I’ll assume you’re at least one of those since you’re on this website), then there’s absolutely no reason for you not to be reading Slam Dunk.

Title: Case Closed (Detective Conan)
Author: Gosho Aoyama
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volume 41 (up to 73 and still going), $9.99
Vintage: 2003 by Shogakukan, January 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Mystery, detective drama

[Other Case Closed reviews.]

This volume kicks off with a lovely duo of ladies ready to fight crime – star lawyer and Rachel’s mother Eva, and actress and Conan/Jimmy’s mother Vivian. Along with Rachel and Conan, they are visiting the mansion of Mikio Fujieda, who has been receiving death threats underneath his pillow at night. Eva is there to clean up her husband’s mess, as he’s already spent the money given to solve the case, without actually solving anything. All the group has to go on are two short messages and a single used bullet. At the moment, the master of the house is enjoying a cup of coffee with a book and some classical music in his library. As everyone observes him via the security camera footage, Mikio mysteriously stands up with his arms in the air, and then immediately collapses as if shot. As they run to the room, they hear two gunshots fired, but they are too late as Mikio is already dead. It’s obvious that only someone in the mansion could have left the threatening notes and shot Mikio, so Mikio’s wife, butler, gardener, and brother-in-law become the main suspects. Although Vivian and Eva are on a roll, it takes a little help from Conan (and a phone call from his father) to solve this murder mystery. Up next, Conan’s mother takes the Detective League to a movie studio to watch an advance screening of Samurai Kid: The Movie 2. Unfortunately, finishing up the film is taking a little more time that planned, so Vivian leaves the kids with her studio friend, and everyone goes to Printing Supervisor Akira Hojima’s apartment for a quick nap while the finishing touches are added. During their nap, however, Marketing Director Norihito Furumura, who was sleeping on Hojima’s couch, is murdered. Confusion abounds as the detectives and Conan try to figure out how the murderer silently committed the crime in the cluttered and dark apartment without anyone hearing or seeing him. The strange murder isn’t the only problem, however, as both Conan and Anita notice that a dark car has been following them for some time, and is observing the apartment while they are inside. Dr. Agasa is called over to “solve” the case this time, as Conan and Anita attempt to give the suspicious men the slip. When Anita falls sick, Conan and Dr. Agasa take her to a local mall to visit a clinic, but they get more than they bargained for when a murder takes place in the parking garage. After being filmed for a TV broadcast about a popular restaurant in the food court, Conan becomes worried that the Men in Black will use his appearance to track Anita and him down, so he rushes to solve the case and get Anita to safety. Things only get more complicated when Rachel shows up with her friend Serena, who are accompanied by Rachel’s suspicious acting English teacher, Jodie. Fortunately, Serena’s presence at least gives Conan an outlet to solve the case for the police. As it becomes clear that various elements are tracking Conan and Anita’s movements, Dr. Agasa finds a lead on Dr. Miyano, who he hopes has information about Anita’s family. They head off to the design studio run by a friend of Dr. Miyano’s, but hit a dead end immediately. Miyano hasn’t been by for years, unfortunately…but his daughter has. Akemi, Anita’s sister, stopped by the studio recently and used the bathroom. Anita and Conan immediately pick up on the clue, and go to search the bathroom for something Akemi may have left behind, but find nothing. As the head of the studio, Sohei Dejima, begins describing two strange recent break ins, he suddenly dies, and Conan has another mystery on his hands.

If you’re a fan of detective stories, then you should be reading Case Closed. Case Closed. Oh, did you need a real reason? How about inventive cases, a smart alek teenage genuis detective stuck in the body of a first grade boy, dangerous men out to get said genius detective as well as his new friend Anita (former coconspiritor of the same dangerous men), a hilarious inept professional detective and his spunky daughter, rival genius detectives, murders, robberies, more murders, and so much awesome case solving that you’re sure to be as engrosed as the Japanese readers who have been reading and supporting this series for over a decade. Gosho Aoyama keeps this volume pumping with elements of the overall plot haunting Conan and Anita’s footsteps. Obviously nothing major will really happen, given that the series would basically be over if Conan solved the biggest case of his life, but even knowing that, there’s plenty of tension to keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering if Conan will manage to escape scot-free this time. They get dangerously close to falling into the hands of the Men in Black, and Conan has to try his hardest to keep a sickly Anita safe from harm. There’s something not quite right with Miss Jodie, too, and she seems to know something about Anita’s true identity. Conan’s clearly wary of her, and some others, but for some reason he’s keeping Dr. Agasa in the dark abuot certain hunches of his. The volume ends without Conan and Anita finding her sister’s clue left behind at the design studio, so there’s still a major mystery to be solved come volume 42.


Review copies provided by Viz Media.



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