Every year, my friend and I go to our local cinema to watch the latest instalment of the Detective Conan franchise. We’ve been doing this since 2014, going through the movies whether good or bad.
I entered the cinema with fingers crossed and hoped for the best. After the disaster that was the 20th movie I was cautiously optimistic about this one, and while a small part of me was reluctant to watch it, the squealing fan-girl within me pushed me to give it a chance.
And so fast forward several days later – I can still recall the utter relief that rushed through me
when I finished watching The Crimson Love Letter. I left the cinema with an excited smile on my face, mind whirling with thoughts and opinions to prepare for this review. It’s a little depressing to be happy just because the movie didn’t suck, but eh. We’ll just have to wait and see if the movie 22 turns out to be good, so that the spike of dread at each new Detective Conan movie will finally cease.
The case this time is simple and straightforward, no closed room murder or intricate murder mystery for the viewer to unravel. I think it’s a good thing because instead of getting a complicated mess of a story what we got instead was a simple and solid mystery. The whodunit didn’t become clear to me until they were revealed but more astute watchers might guess who it might be if the manage to piece together the evidence quicker than I could.
The Crimson Love Letter not only gives us a good mystery, it also provides a generous dollop of competitive Karuta – something some anime fans might be familiar with if they watch or read Chihayafuru. Basically, it’s a sport wherein players have to ‘steal’ cards from their opponent’s territory, a one-on-one battle to see who gets the card first. It requires a fast-reflexes and an intimate knowledge of the poems written on the cards, and the first player to get rid of all their cards, win.
A deep understanding of Karuta isn’t necessary but you would enjoy the Karuta battles more if you did, I suppose. The movie does a good job of tying it in with the main plot and character motivations, so I was slightly impressed by that. The inclusion of Heji and Kazuha also served to spice up the regular mystery formula due to the fact Heji’s childhood friend has a role to play in the story as well. Overall, I think the plot was well-paced and kept my interest for the entire runtime.
Hattori Heji and Tomoya Kazuha stage an epic return in this movie. I really missed them as it’s been quite a while since they appeared in both the manga and the anime, and as I watched Conan and Hattori bicker like old pals I felt indescribably happy at such a familiar scene.
In contrast to Conan’s rational and sometimes cold personality, Hattori’s hot headedness provides a nice change. He spices up boring exposition scenes and makes the regular doom and gloom of searching for the murderer more enjoyable, and his ‘will they or will they not’ relationship with Kazuha makes The Crimson Love Letter more energetic and humorous. There were many scenes throughout the movie where the chemistry between the two childhood friends were downright intense – you can literally see their affection for each other through every action and remark.
This causes the appearance of the movie’s new character, Ooka Momiji, to have a bigger effect, one of the side plots being that she is ‘engaged’ to Heji due to a childhood promise. This was another aspect of The Crimson Letter that I really liked as it gave the movie a lot more personality, rather than going through the usual tired detective mystery and eventual capture of the suspect.
In many ways, the characters here felt more genuine than those in the last few movies.
Editing was on point for this movie, and the creative use of panels from the manga to convey flashbacks was a very nice touch, and honestly, damn impressive. They really stepped up the game for this movie. The animation was consistent with several standout moments, like one scene where Kazuha and Momiji admire their surroundings from a boat. Overall, I have nothing but praise for the animation.
The Crimson Love Letter may not be a return to form, but it does a fine job of reminding fans of why they're in love with Detective Conan. A well written mystery with entertaining characters and impressive animation, you can’t go wrong with this one. Take it from someone who hated the last movie, The Darkest Nightmare. This movie is definitely worth your time.