Back to MrAM's Blog

MrAM's Blog

May 20, 2015 5:49 AM
Anime Relations: Detective Conan (TV)

Detective Conan doesn't actually have any officially named story arcs, but in the interests of organization, the fandom has divided the story into such arcs anyways. While there are some variations, in general the following is the classification used by most DC fans. I've included this here for the purpose of convenience, so that the reader will know what part of the series I am referring to when I refer to any of the story arcs by name.

The Conan Arc (episodes 1-128)
The Haibara Arc (episodes 129-178)
The Vermouth Arc (episodes 176-345)
The Cellphone Arc (episodes 346-425)
The Kir Arc (episodes 425-508)
The Bourbon Arc (episodes 509-???) [Ongoing in the anime as of the time of this writing, finished in the manga, which has recently entered a new arc]

[Continuation from Part 3]

One of the most prominent ones, and probably the most subtle, is Ran’s slowly building suspicions. The entire Bourbon arc can be seen as one long, long set-up for what is very likely to be Ran’s final suspicion arc, the one where she finally discovers Conan’s identity. The brilliance of the way Gosho has written it can be seen in the way that he made an event from the ancient early days of the series very much relevant to the present. I’m speaking, of course, of Conan’s stabbing in episode 118, the case that introduced Kazuha. At that time, the broken piece of the handcuff that had once bound Heiji and Kazuha as children, the one that was stuffed away in Heiji omamori (good luck charm), saved Conan’s life by blocking the knife. He had jumped in to protect Ran at the last second, taking the hit for her. She had understandably panicked, and he managed to calm her down only by physically extracting it from the charm in order to show it to her.

This becomes very relevant to a certain case near the beginning of the Bourbon arc, the one in which Shinichi is accused of being a murderer. Of course, the reality was that the “Shinichi” present throughout the case was an imposter. Heiji used the handcuff piece, which had Conan’s fingerprints on it, to decisively prove that the Shinichi who had stabbed the lady was in fact a fake. Of course, the grave error that Heiji committed here was using Conan’s fingerprints to prove Shinichi’s true identity. This mistake did not escape Ran’s attention, who later asked Kazuha, quite directly, about the discrepancy. Conan had touched the handcuff piece, yes, but when had Shinichi? Kazuha had no good answer, and Ram appeared to brush it off.

However, Gosho dropped very subtle clues throughout the remainder of the Bourbon arc that Ran had not let go of her suspicions; in fact, they seemed to grow stronger, and by the end Ran’s interactions with Conan strongly imply that she’d already come to the solid conclusion, whether consciously or subconsciously, that Conan and Shinichi were one and the same:. To elaborate: Ran asks Conan off-handedly in Amuro’s introductory case about the nature of DNA testing, and how it could be used to expose a person’s true identity even if they were disguised. It’s a point that gets chillingly close to landing on a way to destroy Conan’s cover, and although the moment is played for laughs, it clearly startles Conan. An even more blatant moment comes in episode 691, Yuusaku’s Cold Case. Conan accidently refers to Yuusaku as “dad” when speaking of his deduction, and Ran sees a younger version of Shinichi in Conan. She grabs him and asks him, “Conan-kun, right?”, a clear expression of doubt about his identity and practically a confirmation that she has her suspicions. Conan of course comforts her by affirming his false identity, to which Ran responds by scolding him for scaring her, especially because he looks just like Shinichi. This is another important point, as it lets the audience know that Ran is very much aware of the similarity in appearance between Conan and her childhood friend.

Following the Mystery Train case, Ran seems to have already decided, on at least a subconscious level, that Conan was indeed Shinichi. This comes across most obviously in a scene in episode, when Ran asks Conan about which girl he liked. Her behavior in this scene is odd for two main reasons: one, Ran seems way too interested to find out the identity of a seven year old child’s love interest, practically pleading him and specifically saying that she was “curious.” Second, she is blushing when she asks Conan all of this, which again is a bit strange when interacting with a first grader. Why would Ran blush, unless she thought she was speaking to her own romantic interest?
An excellent example of Ran subconsciously associating Conan with Shinichi occurs in the very first chapter of the Scarlet Showdown, when Ran calls for Conan eagerly so that he doesn’t miss Yuusaku’s appearance at an award ceremony. Kogoro points out her weird behavior: why would Conan care at all about Yuusaku? The two aren’t supposed to be connected in any way whatsoever. Again, this small scene demonstrates Ran’s mentality in regards to Conan’s identity.

This gradual build-up is more than Ran just getting suspicious, however. It’s been designed in such a way that could allow Ran to actually be able to expose Conan’s identity no matter what tricks he might try to pull. Ran’s main problem in previous suspicion arcs was that she had no firm, unshakeable physical evidence that could incriminate the object of her doubts. She had reasons to believe that Conan wasn’t who he said he was, certainly, but they easily collapsed in the face of the elaborate and complicated schemes that Conan concocted to keep her in the dark. This time, though, things are different. Consider: Ran now knows that Shinichi supposedly has his fingerprints on the handcuff segment within Heiji’s omamori. She could easily acquire an object with Conan’s fingerprints on it and have someone do a comparison for her, which would essentially prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Conan and Shinichi are the same person. Ran’s comment on DNA shows that the possibility of using such an analysis is on her mind. Another important point to consider is Ran’s awareness of both Conan’s bowtie as well as his soccer belt/super-powered up shoes, courtesy of episodes 690-691. Sera drew Ran’s attention to Conan’s bowtie, and for the first time, Ran witnessed Conan take someone down with a soccer ball. These odd inventions lend credibility to the idea that something’s not right with Conan, and provide more solid evidence that Conan can’t easily shake, especially if Ran were to ever actually examine them, now that she knows they exist. The end result of all of this is that Ran practically as an arsenal of incriminating information to use against Conan, which is something that she distinctly lacked in previous suspicion arcs. What’s really impressive about this slow build-up is how it spanned the entire Bourbon arc, and yet could be almost totally unnoticeable to the inattentive viewer.

There is an abundance of motifs scattered throughout the arc, some related to the plot while others complement certain thematic threads. In terms of plot, the most prominent are easily the symbols related to Britain. Of those, the most consistent and persistent one is that of the Britain flag. Since Sera’s introduction, it has been virtually everywhere. In the very first chapter that she appeared in, on the cover, Conan has a flag with the Britain flag on it. During the brief flashback in the Yuusaku’s cold case arc, Conan as a child is wearing a shirt with the design of the British flag. The last chapter of the Scarlet Showdown has Conan wearing a tie that has the Britain flag design on it. In Movie 18, Conan is wearing, once again, a shirt with the British flag design on it. On the cover of one of Shounen Sunday’s editions, Conan is wearing a shirt with, you guessed it, the design of the British flag.

There are other clues pointing to Britain, namely surrounding the characters of Sera and Amuro. Sera, despite her claims of having lived in the United States for the past three years, is much more British-like in her mannerisms. She refers to soccer as ‘football’ instead of its American name. She holds eating utensils in a manner customary to British folk. Lastly, she is associated with the mystery girl, who dresses in a distinctly British style. Amuro screams ‘Britain!’ even more blatantly. Like the aforementioned mystery girl, he has a British wardrobe. He is a skilled boxer, a sport that originated in Britain. He is also a very skilled tennis player, a sport that DC as a series has firmly associated with Britain via the London case and Wimbledon. He casually referenced the M16 (a British agency) during the Scarlet Showdown. Finally, he is shown to have a past with Elena Miyano, the one plot character in the entire show who is totally British. Taken altogether, these small details pile up into the massive, undeniable image of a giant hand pointing straight to ‘Britain.’ Gosho is clearly building up to something that is related to it, a build-up that spanned a great deal of the Bourbon arc. Again, like with the hints about Ran’s suspicions, the viewer who isn’t paying close attention could easily miss all of these clues. There is not a single moment in the entire narrative in which the Britain hints are explicitly pointed out in any shape or form. Instead, they are slipped casually into several seemingly insignificant circumstances, subtle enough so that they could be missed easily enough, but also present enough so that the viewer who picked up on even just a few would soon be able to find many more. Together, they give Britain a compelling presence in the proceedings, without the location ever being deliberately pointed out to the audience, an example of some truly fine writing, evidence of the Bourbon arc’s subtlety despite the frequent claims of its supposed heavy-handedness and obviousness.

What makes all the clues regarding Britain so especially brilliant is how they tie into the London case. At the time that it was published in the manga, its appearance seemed almost random and spontaneous. Gosho had spoken of such a case seven years before he actually wrote it, so most people assumed he had kept putting it off until now. Some fans complained that he had missed a golden opportunity to make the London case one related to the overarching plot, especially considering its significance as the birthplace of Sherlock Holmes, instead of wasting it on Shinichi and Ran’s romance as well as that of a one-off character like Minerva Glass. With the benefit of hindsight, however, it becomes very clear that the London case functions as a remarkable piece of foreshadowing. Not only that, but it very deliberately establishes the ‘Britain’ theme of the Bourbon arc moving forward. Fans at the time had been quick to denounce Gosho’s writing for various perceived failings and missed chances, as they lacked the foresight and knowledge that the author himself possessed. In the end, the joke was on them, as now, five years after the fact, it becomes obvious just how carefully crafted the London case was, with its hidden allusions and hints.

Just consider Minerva’s statement to Ran about love, for example. “Love is zero,” she said, in reference to Ran’s romantic woes. The statement is an integral aspect of the case, as it ties into both Shinichi’s confession and Minerva’s own story. However, the deeper meaning behind the number “zero” would not become clear until near the very end of the Bourbon arc, when the audience learns that Amuro’s nickname is “Zero.” That nickname doubles as a hint in regards to Amuro’s past as well as his true allegiance. That “zero” first came up long, long before this only makes it an even more impressive piece of foreshadowing. Amuro’s association with Britain is what connects this back to the London case, bringing it all together.

Another prominent motif in the Bourbon arc is the color red, or “scarlet.” This is fitting, as the entire arc’s narrative is built around Akai, whose name means “red.” He is Okiya Subaru, Sera is his sister, and Amuro is his enemy. All the major players revolve around him. This motif appeared in the very first case of the entire Bourbon arc, the one that introduced Okiya. There, Okiya was referred to by the kid involved as the “red man,” because he always watered his garden, like a fire truck. Not only did this serve as a clue for Okiya’s identity, it also began the pattern of the color “red” appearing consistently and persistently throughout the rest of the arc, a.k.a nearly 300 chapters and episodes. It’s interesting to note that the color symbolism had actually been established prior to the Bourbon arc’s beginning, namely in the climax of the Kir arc, the Clash of Red and Black. Although it may not have been clear at the time, in hindsight it becomes obvious that the “red” referred to in the title is Akai.

The Bourbon arc has an unusually high percentage of cases that are scarlet-themed, an intentional move by Gosho. A few easily come to mind: the Red Wall case, the Red Shirts case, the Blush Mermaid case (the jewel was red), the Treasure Chest case (the victim was buried in red apples), the Cherry Blossom case, the KID vs. Makoto case (where the green jewel turned out to be red in reality), the Red Woman case (which also involved red tomatoes…), etc. Shinichi is referred to as the “scarlet detective” in the Aquarium flashback case, and is even wearing a red jacket to complement the label. In addition, the case has a strong focus on sharks, animals that are commonly associated with blood, which is also red. Episode 581 is called “The Red Shaking Target,” likely a reference to the fake Akai. Finally, the climax of the entire arc was labeled the “Scarlet Showdown,” and the title of the chapter that featured Akai’s long-awaited return was titled “Scarlet Return.” Aside from all of that, even the anime production team got in on the scarlet theme, an indication that they had either realized Gosho’s intentions or that he had informed them of it himself. Consider anime-original cases that were also scarlet-themed: the Red Wine case and the Red Leaf Palace case are examples. Even the special titled “The Disappearance of Conan Edogawa” had a major event take place at a location with “red” in the title. In addition, the anime changed the color of Subaru’s character to red whereas it had been white in the manga. The point of all this is that the color ‘scarlet’ totally dominated the Bourbon arc, so much so that even the climax was named for it. This is yet another of those subtle cues that the narrative never explicitly points out, simply leaving it to the audience to notice it.

There are also several phrases and terms that show up repeatedly throughout the Bourbon arc, serving primarily as hints that foreshadow what’s to come, as well as a means through which to give the giant narrative a feel of cohesion. The most oft-repeated phrase is probably “territory,” a word whose meaning in the context of DC’s story has yet to become clear. It first shows up shortly before the Mystery Train case, when Haibara attempts to uncover what lies beneath Okiya’s scarf. He grabs her hand forcefully just before she does, warning her that beyond that point lay his “territory,’ which she couldn’t cross. Sera used the term later on, in the Fruit Coffin case, when she told Ran to stay back because beyond that point was her “territory.” Finally, the Mystery Girl used it when she told Sera to tell Conan that she was “her little sister from outside the domain (territory).” There’s clearly some sort of significance in the fact that only those related to the Akai family in some shape or form use the term, but what exactly has not been revealed at the time of this writing. Nonetheless, it’s interesting and an example of a phrase that showed up repeatedly in the Bourbon arc, lending it both a sense of mystery and cohesion. Yet another word tossed around a lot in the Bourbon arc, or more specifically in its last third, is the ‘Wizard.’ Again, this is related to Sera in some way, who speaks of this mysterious ‘wizard’ often, and who is strongly implied to be Conan. Her middle brother speaks of the ‘wizard’ as well, as can be seen when he asked Sera if she had met him yet. And while we’re on the topic of Sera, I’d like to point out a tiny little thing about her: that small fang-shaped tooth. It first appeared in the Cabin case before the Mystery Train, but no attention whatsoever was called to it. Lo and behold, it became the object that sparked Conan’s memory of Sera and that confirmed to him that he had met Sera before. This was after Sera had shown the tooth on several occasions, although it had never really been acknowledged by any of the characters. This is the sort of subtle writing that forms the essence of not just the Bourbon arc, but of DC in general.

The Mystery Characters
This is where the Bourbon arc shines in particular. It is the one thing that the Bourbon arc is arguably superior to the Vermouth arc in: the three “villain” suspects. Both arcs bear this similarity: a group of three newly introduced characters who serve as the suspects for the identity of the BO agent the arc is focusing on. In Vermouth’s case, it was Jodie Starling, Akai Shuiichi, and Tomoke Araide. In Bourbon’s case, it was Okiya Subaru, Sera Masumi, and Amuro Tooru. While all of the above are great characters, the Bourbon arc has a sharp edge: its mystery trio’s characters are better-developed in their respective arc than the former three. Jodie, Akai, and Araide were all fun characters, but for most of the Vermouth arc they were enigmas, especially Jodie and Akai. Mysterious individuals, yes, and they did have a sense of menace about them that infused the arc’s narrative with suspense and tension, but they didn’t really stand as characters in their own right. Sure, there were pieces of dialogue and thoughts that hinted at the depth that lay beneath the surface, but during the Vermouth arc, that’s all they remained: hints. Jodie and Akai were only really developed as legitimate characters in the Kir arc, while Araide remained woefully underdeveloped during and after his time of importance; for the most part, he was just characterized as a nice guy with a strong sense of justice.

Okiya, Sera, and Amuro are all far more dynamic characters with a livelier presence. They manage to come across as mysterious and even menacing while simultaneously expressing different facets of their personalities and really coming into their own as genuine characters. They play a far more active role in their arc then Jodie and Akai ever did, by routinely interacting with Conan and fully integrating themselves into his daily life. This is how they manage to have a more impressive presence than Jodie and Akai did. Those two were mostly passive onlookers; people who watched Conan’s life unfold from afar with minimal interference. Of all of them, Araide was the closest to Conan, but even he didn’t appear with much frequency. In sharp contrast to this, Okiya lives literally next door, in Shinichi’s house, and he frequently visits Agasa. Sera goes to school with Ran and Sonoko and enjoys hanging out with them often. Amuro is Kogoro’s apprentice, meaning he has an almost daily presence at the Mouri Detective Agency, literally where Conan lives. This meant that they were active parts of Conan’s social life, affecting and molding the events unfolding around him. This had the double effect of ramping up the tension, since one of them was Bourbon; the audience knew that regardless of who it was, Bourbon was in a position very close to Conan, one from which he could endanger the lives of virtually everyone in the series.

The three Bourbon suspects are such great characters both because of their own distinct personalities as well as the ways they reflect and parallel one another. Take Sera Masumi. She is a bumbling tomboy, one filled to the brim with enthusiasm and energy. She has high self-esteem and is very confident in everything she does. An excellent detective, she is highly intelligent and very perceptive as well as observant, and thinks well on her feet. She practices a form of martial arts, just like Ran, and seems to enjoy trying out her moves. As Akai’s sister, she functions as a deliberate foil to him: while he is serious, stoic, and moody, she is funny, expressive, and happy. Sera confirms herself that this is overcompensation for her brother’s attitude, the one she grew up with. She tells Ran that the reason she always smiles is because she was raised around someone who never did. As a result, Sera actively tries to avoid burdening herself with such a heavy demeanor. It’s her reaction against her brother, the one she always tried to make happy.

However, despite Sera’s merry and silly demeanor, she is also a chillingly realistic pragmatist, one who does not believe in the sacredness of life on the level that Ran and Conan do. She had no qualms about luring a man to his death in order to save herself and the lives of the people with her, and could not comprehend Ran’s idealism when she deliberately foiled her plan. This gray morality is made even more interesting by the fact that she is so young, still a high school student. She made it clear in her introductory case, however, that she was not fazed at all by death and murder. This attitude is likely a product of Akai’s influence on her.

More can be written about Sera’s character; note that as of the time of this writing, neither the manga nor the anime have resolved many of the mysteries surrounding Sera, including her past meeting with Shinichi and Ran, her middle brother, the mystery child she is with, her reason for calling Conan wizard, how she knows his identity, etc. Yet, despite that, she is still a very rich character, and the mysteries concerning her that were resolved only added more depth and context to the person she was. That she, the sister of Akai, acts as such a perfect foil to him is wonderfully fitting.

Amuro Tooru, too, is an excellent character. Like Sera, he is also a foil for Akai. Whereas Akai is serious, Amuro is often very funny and humorous. Akai is stoic, while Amuro is extremely expressive. Akai is socially awkward, unlike Amuro who has natural charisma and effortlessly fits into normal society. Akai is an introvert, whereas Amuro is a clear extrovert. Akai is usually silent, while Amuro enjoys talking and conversing with others. Akai was often moody, in contrast to the very cheerful Amuro. Where Akai is careful and composed, Amuro is often reckless and impulsive. Even their codenames within the Organization align with this opposition: Rye (Akai’s codename) is known to be spicy or fruity, and makes cocktails drier, while Bourbon is sweeter. However, Amuro doesn’t function merely as a contrast with Akai; he also mirrors and parallels him, often in ways that didn’t become clear until the very end of the Bourbon arc.

Both are highly intelligent individuals. Both are driven by an intense hatred; just as Akai hates Gin for killing Akemi, Amuro hates Akai for doing something to someone he cared about (implied to have done, at least, and likely to someone codenamed ‘Scotch’). Both come from special national agencies, Akai from the FBI and Amuro from the Secret Police. Both infiltrated the Organization, and both are working towards the same goals.
Amuro’s forte is psychological manipulation. He has a deep understanding of the human mind, of how people think, and of what affects people most deeply. This ties into his acute perception of human emotions. He breaks down his opponents through mental tactics, not physical ones, usually by first understanding what makes them tick and then using that knowledge to his advantage. This is what he did with Chianti when he smiled at her, what he did with Kogoro to get his password, and what he did repeatedly with Conan post-Mystery Train. He retrieved information from him and Jodie using a disguise while simultaneously deliberately making mistakes so that Conan could catch on later about what had occurred. Once the realization came to Conan it shattered his confidence and threw him off, rendering him a paranoid wreck that was susceptible to committing careless mistakes. This worked, as Conan became increasingly worried and terrified throughout the last portion of the Bourbon arc. Amuro did it again when he confronted Conan at the hospital, and also used it with the FBI. He initially mocked and derided them to get them emotional and off-balance, before he zeroed in on Camel and systematically attacked his insecurities as a low-ranking FBI member with a history of costly errors. By doing this he was able to get Camel to accidently spill the information he needed, which eventually led him to him figuring out how Akai faked his death as well as Okiya Subaru’s death.

One of the most interesting aspects of Amuro’s character is that like Sera, he’s a bit gray in terms of morality. He deliberately smiled at Chianti while disguised as Scar Akai in a show of mockery, knowing that it would break her concentration and enrage her. However, this was a dangerous move as it could have led to innocents being harmed. Amuro’s actions show that that fact did not really concern him. In his formal introduction case he almost allowed an innocent man to unintentionally destroy his exonerating evidence just for the sake of testing Kogoro. In the case right after, he noticed Conan’s disappearance early on but didn’t notify Ran and Kogoro until much later. The list goes on. In the Scarlet Showdown, Amuro used the police force to blackmail Akai into revealing himself by having them hold Jodie and Camel hostage. The confrontation almost killed them both. Amuro fully intended to hand Akai over to the Organization, thus killing him and Kir as well, just to raise his rank and get closer to finishing his mission. He was also willing to do this because he disguised Akai. However, he showed this same sort of behavior when he reported Shiho immediately to the Organization the moment he found her. While he did want her alive, had he not reported her at all there would have been no risk.

This is what made Amuro so dangerous. He was technically on the side of good, working towards a noble goal, but the methods he used were often dubious in terms of morality, and his willingness to let emotions guide his actions instead of logic made him downright destructive. Amuro is a passionate man, one who feels very strongly about things, and it’s this quality which is his most defining characteristic, as well as the source of most of his problems (similar to how Akai’s stoic and cold aloof demeanor is his defining characteristic and also the source of the majority of his issues). His hatred of the FBI in general as well as his nationalistic tendencies led him to mock the FBI when he met them, behavior that bordered on immature and childish; it’s the same as when he smiled at Chianti. He allowed his hatred of Akai to control him, carelessly causing collateral damage just for the sake of finishing him off. His desire to properly fulfill his mission essentially turned him into a loyal member of the Organization, reporting all his findings at once for the sake of success in his actual mission. Amuro soon lost sight of the bigger picture, so focused was he on satisfying his desires and moving up through the Organization. In short, he put his emotions and goals above everything else, to his own detriment as well to the detriment of others. Fascinatingly, this is an image of the person Akai used to be before Akemi’s death; it was his prioritizing of the mission before all else that cost him his relationship with Akemi and led to her death. Akai sees himself in Amuro, which is why he tells him pointedly over the phone that he shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture. Akai speaks from experience; after all, that same mistake is what took the person he cared about the most away from him, and it’s the mistake which he is still trying to redeem himself for.

More can be written about Amuro, but I think the above is sufficient to demonstrate just how complex a character he is, despite the fact that much about him is still unresolved. His character’s relationship to Akai as well as his own distinctive personality (replete with merits and flaws) makes him a fascinating character who is a pleasure to follow. More so, he arguably played a more active role in his own arc then even Vermouth did in hers. And speaking of Vermouth….

Bourbon and Vermouth’s complex relationship dynamic is one of the most entertaining and intriguing aspects of the Bourbon arc. Both are fiercely independent individuals with their own separate goals; pairing two characters that are so secretive together is sure to produce interesting results, and it does. The fact that the two work together frequently was first hinted in the Beika Mall case (episodes 578-581) when Vermouth appeared to assure Gin that all was well, and at the end of the Detective Nocturne’s case (episodes 671-674). The Mystery Train case was where there was explicit confirmation of their partnership, and it’s there that we first see just how poorly they actually do work together. The plan was to capture Sherry alive, but Vermouth couldn’t have that, so she backstabbed Bourbon and planted explosives in the carriage Shiho was to be held in. That ruined Bourbon’s plan, but interestingly, his only reaction when he realized what Vermouth had done was just an amused smile.

That, perhaps, is the funniest thing about their relationship: they do not fear each other in the slightest. They casually betray each other confidently without a care in the world. In fact, right after the Mystery Train case, rather than being upset at Vermouth for sabotaging his plan, Bourbon just asked her for some files, business as usual. The two seem to enjoy working together to an extent, and Vermouth does seem willing to help Bourbon whenever he needs a disguise. However, Vermouth does know that Bourbon is investigating awfully close to the two people most important to her (Conan and Ran), and it is heavily implied that her promise with Bourbon was to keep them safe. This would explain why Amuro freaked out so badly when Conan was hit on the head with a tennis rack and knocked unconscious.

Things came to a head in Scarlet Showdown. When Amuro had deduced just how Akai had faked his death and told Vermouth, she immediately concluded that Conan had something to do with it and shifted gears, posing flimsy arguments as to why Akai was most definitely dead. Amuro was unconvinced, but Vermouth cleverly forced him to play along with her game. By stating her disbelief in his words, she challenged him to gather evidence and prove her wrong. In short, if Bourbon wanted any credibility for his claim within the Organization, he would need to convince Vermouth, a very high-ranking member. Otherwise, his investigations were for naught. Bourbon accepted her challenge, deciding to go confront Akai and draw him out in person.

After the events of Scarlet Showdown, Bourbon tells Vermouth that he was wrong, and that Akai is indeed dead. Of course, he hid his alliance with Akai as well as the fact that he is an undercover agent from her. Bourbon reveals that he knows Vermouth’s secret; in response to this, she pulls a gun on him, threatening to kill him right then and there. Bourbon is unfazed, and even calmly advises Vermouth against such a course of action. It is here that we learn that Bourbon has actually arranged to have Vermouth’s secret leaked to the rest of the Organization should he be eliminated. In short, Bourbon is blackmailing Vermouth, ensuring his safety regardless of what he does. Vermouth withdraws with a rather bored look on her face, conceding his point. That the two so casually threaten each other is one of the most fundamental aspects of their relationship. Their ‘partnership’ is a flimsy thing, as both routinely double-cross each other, and yet both are also interested in keeping it going. Together, they are a fun and engaging duo. Aside from her brief interactions with Gin, Vermouth didn’t have such a lively personality to play off of in her own arc.

Aside from Amuro and Sera, there is some great development to be seen in Okiya Subaru. Taken at service value, there is not much more to him than just a quiet, intelligent guy is good at cooking and seems a bit suspicious. However, knowing his true identity changes the context of his every action, and in fact gives him a great deal of depth. Okiya Subaru can be seen as the second phase in the developmental arc of Akai Shuuchi’s character. In the final episodes of the Kir arc, we learn of Akai’s relationship with Akemi (which was hinted back during the Vermouth arc), the guilt he feels over it, and his hatred of Gin and the rest of the Organization. Akai got involved with Akemi and failed to protect; he was in many ways responsible for her death, and he needs both redemption and revenge.

Okiya Subaru is the logical progression of Akai’s character. He fakes his death, ending the existence of the man named Akai Shuuchi, and is reborn. Every trace of his original identity is wiped from the earth, even his beloved Chevrolet, whose destruction symbolizes the true death of Akai. He resides in the Kudo household, right next to Professor Agasa’s house, and begins his journey to redemption. He has but one mission: protecting Akemi’s sister, Haibara Ai a.k.a Shiho Miyano. Before, Akai’s mission ahd cost him Akemi. Now, as redemption, his only mission is to protect Haibara against any danger that might befall her. Where he failed to protect Akemi, he’ll protect her sister. Akai sacrificed everything he had to do this: his identity, his personality, his occupation, his relationships, everything. This is his way of compensating for his mistake.
More so, living as Okiya Subaru allowed Akai to experience a life that he never got to enjoy. His whole life, Akai carried burdens. He was always serious, and always isolated from the world around him. He struggled to form meaningful relationships with those around him (which is why the few he had were so important to him) and was a loner. Normal life was foreign to him, and in general he didn’t allow himself the pleasure of living. As Okiya, though, he had no choice but to fully integrate himself into normal, everyday life. Eventually he grew used to it and even came to enjoy it, came to really taste the sweetness of the life he never lived.

Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the final chapter of the Scarlet Showdown. Both Jodie and Camel are taken aback by Akai’s laid-back lifestyle. Jodie was stunned that Akai could cook, and his response was that it lessened food expenses and made for a good “change of pace.” The fact that Akai even worried about being frugal with money while shopping is bizarre considering his background as an FBI agent, but it is a good indication of just how much he had grown accustomed to civilian life. Camel thought that Akai didn’t have it easy having to deal with kids like the Detective Boys all the time, to which Akai said, “Do you think so?” implying that he disagreed. This is in marked contrast to his “Annoying kids!” upon seeing Vermouth take Conan back in the climax of the Vermouth arc. Akai even told Conan to invite the Detective Boys in, and he seemed to enjoy discussing things with them. All in all, Akai had become a true everyday man, one who seemed to enjoy the small, ordinary pleasures that life had to offer. He had become much more comfortable around people as well. The experience of being Okiya Subaru changed him for the better.

His relationship with Haibara as Okiya Subaru is interesting as well. Back in the Vermouth arc’s climax, Akai told Jodie that the time was not yet right for Haibara to meet him. This was before his backstory and relationship with Akemi was revealed. Once it was unraveled near the end of the Kir arc, the narrative moved to have Akai finally meet Haibara, if only in disguise, now that it was placed in the appropriate context and against the right backdrop. Interestingly, Haibara strongly dislikes Okiya for pretty much the entire first half of the Bourbon arc, mostly due to her suspicions of him being with the Black Organization, a suspicion that ironically has some truth to it. Okiya, for his part, does his best to protect Haibara however he can. There is a clever comedic subtext to their relationship despite its seeming seriousness; basically, that Akai is so socially inept and incompetent that he can’t protect Haibara without freaking her out. His attempts at being a guardian are clumsy and hilariously unsubtle. For example, during the Detective’s Nocturne case, he invited himself into Agasa’s house with some stew under the pretense that he had happened to hear them discussing the missing Conan, a lie that could not have been more obvious. When he went to fetch Haibara on the Mystery Train, he frightened her so badly with his demeanor that she took off running (even though she trusted him to an extent by this point).

Their relationship took a more interesting turn once Okiya gained a modicum of Haibara’s trust, after his actions during the Detective’s Nocturne, when he comforted her and took direct action in an attempt to save Conan from the kidnapper. Haibara begins to refer to him as ‘Subaru-san,’ an indication that she was more comfortable around him. Once he no longer terrified her out of her socks, Haibara was able to approach Okiya more aggressively. She actually begins to suspect him of being Moroboshi Dai, her sister’s boyfriend. Of course, Haibara was correct in her suspicions, but she didn’t know that. Naturally, she began to actively investigate Okiya. The way the entire situation unfolded is fresh and interesting; Gosho could have gone for a singular dramatic moment where Akai saves Haibara and then reveals himself, for example. Instead, he went for a story that has Haibara and Akai interacting extensively without the former knowing it, thus building suspense for the eventual reveal while also continuing Akai’s character arc. Having Haibara suspect Okiya’s true identity is also an interesting move, because it means that Haibara is less likely to be surprised once she discovers who he is. Haibara was also restored to being an active character, as she had largely been a passive observer since the end of the Vermouth arc. She took matters with Okiya into her own hands, aggressively investigating him until he warns her to back off. It made for an interesting character dynamic, while still functioning as a situation that can be interpreted in two distinct ways depending on who you think Okiya is (if Akai, he’s protecting Haibara, if not, he’s a threat), thus preserving the arc’s mystery.

Speaking of Haibara, she was on the receiving end of some nice character development in the Bourbon arc, after having virtually none in in the Kir arc. The big change comes specifically after the Mystery Train case, when Haibara lives in a world where she is no longer being hunted by the Black Organization, now that they believe that Shiho Miyano is dead. The change in her personality is subtle, nothing too flashy, especially since she had already been on the path to that mental state anyways. Still, it’s just significant enough to be noticeable. It boils down to something very straightforward: Haibara is happier. It shines through in her every action and every expression in the Bourbon arc’s last segment. She blushes more easily, she is more invested in the childish adventures of the Detective Boys, and in general she is more carefree in her actions. The examples are numerous: her enthusiastic imitation of her favorite soccer player (Higo) as she kicked the ball during a game with the Detective Boys, her delight when she found a stray cat, her happy and content demeanor as she listened to a song she really liked, etc. The most significant marker of Haibara’s changed mental state is the fact that she no longer has her Black Organization ‘sense’ which she had relied on for roughly episodes, her reasoning being that now that she doesn’t have anything to worry about, she doesn’t consciously take note of her surroundings. The consequence of this newfound comfort was that Haibara failed to detect both Bourbon and Vermouth at the shrine in the Cherry Blossom case, an oversight that allowed Bourbon to gain some valuable information regarding Akai’s supposed death, which in turn led indirectly to the Scarlet Showdown. Haibara’s vanished BO sense is the only time the narrative explicitly draws attention to the fact that she is a bit different post-Mystery Train, and that was only due to a need to explain a possible plot hole. Otherwise, the story respects the audience enough to leave them to understand Haibara’s current personality on their own, simply by observing her behavior and mannerisms. It’s great stuff.

Aside from the mystery trio and Haibara, the Bourbon arc had some interesting developments for several cast members, spread throughout the mammoth work. Conan himself got a very subtle arc, one in which he began to regress back into his arrogant state but which ended very quickly with Bourbon’s investigations. Prior to the Bourbon arc, Conan had received some wonderful character development, growing from an egotistical jerk to a much humbler and wiser individual. However, in the Bourbon arc he began to grow extremely complacent, and it showed in his general lax attitude and increased cockiness. This was the natural consequence of his success at the end of the Kir arc. After all, while everyone thought that Akai was dead, Conan knew the truth: the FBI agent had successfully faked his death and was now living right next to him. With Akai’s constant presence providing an unusual degree of comfort and safety, Conan began to become more and more reckless and heedless. It had been so long since he had been seriously threatened by the Organization that he no longer worried as much as he once did. Even Jodie informed him of Bourbon’s arrival, and even when he learned who Bourbon was, Conan didn’t really panic. He had both Akai and Yukiko behind his back, assisting every step of the way.

That confidence came crashing down, violently, in the last third of the Bourbon arc, when Amuro decided that he would stay at the Mouri Detective Agency after all. Conan, in contrast to the relaxed attitude that he had displayed for the first two-thirds of the arc, became extremely paranoid, frightened at the drop of a pin. He became nervous around Bourbon and increasingly cautious in general. Conan officially fell off a cliff in the aftermath of the Kogoro Bar case, when Conan realized that Bourbon and Vermouth had been present at the shrine and that they had gained valuable information. Conan became hyperactively aware of his surroundings, almost having a panic attack when he heard camera shutters around him, before realizing that it was just Sera messing with him. Bourbon especially was responsible for shredding Conan apart at the psychological level, most notably in the build-up to the arc’s climax. He threw Conan off at the Haido City Hospital, when he exposed Conan’s lie about Kusuda. Afterwards, when Conan had deduced Bourbon’s true allegiance and confronted Bourbon about it, he straight up lied, terrifying Conan and destroying the modicum of comfort that his discovery had afforded him. Finally, Conan seemed to almost have a nervous breakdown at the beginning of the Scarlet Showdown, after he realized that Camel had spilled highly sensitive information to Bourbon. It was at that point that Conan realized that Akai’s cover had been blown, and that immediate action was required to avoid a total disaster.

Up until this point, all the stress and pressure that Conan had suffered through had effectively been punishment for his cocky recklessness throughout the Bourbon arc. His success against the Organization had gone to his head, and Bourbon functioned as a very much needed wake-up call. He basically redeemed himself in the Scarlet Showdown, arranging an elaborate plan that would neutralize Bourbon as a threat while also keeping Akai hidden from him lest he attempt to betray them. Most importantly, it would ensure the safety of the people that Conan had placed in danger. After all, he shared some of the responsibility for Bourbon’s success in discovering Akai’s faked death trick. The agent had played him like a fiddle, crushing Conan at every step of the way. Conan’s plan worked, and the Bourbon arc came to a quiet conclusion. The effects of this run-in have not faded off of Conan, as can be seen in the early chapters of the Rum arc. Conan has not wasted any time in collecting as much information about Rum from Haibara as he could, and while he still has his trademark smug attitude, it is noticeably subdued, similar to how it was before the Bourbon arc.

Another character with solid development who comes to mind is Kobayashi, Conan’s homeroom teacher in school. During the Bourbon arc she and Shiratori became a couple, after Shiratori realized that she was his first love, and not Sato as he had originally thought. Now, Sato and Kobayashi bear an uncanny resemblance, a fact explicitly acknowledged by the narrative all the way back at the beginning of the Kir arc. That exceedingly minor plot point pays off big time in the Bourbon arc, when Gosho preempted accusations that Shiratori was just using Kobayashi as a substitute for Sato by writing a story centered on that very conflict. There, Kobayashi, who had yet to meet Sato, learns from members of the police department that she looks nearly identical to herself. Kobayashi then makes the incorrect but understandable deduction that she is a mere stand-in for Sato, a backup for his failed love interest. This results in a fair bit of drama, as Kobayashi abruptly becomes hostile and aloof towards Shiratori, who scrambles unsuccessfully to fix matters between them. Eventually things worked out between them, however, and the conclusion of the case took advantage of its own central focus to tie things together neatly in the end. The main culprit, who knew that Kobayashi had witnessed his crime and who was trying to eliminate her, was captured by the police for failing to distinguish between Sato and Kobayashi; the former disguised herself as the latter and caught him off-guard.

Even Yumi, a very minor character who’s function has always been, above all else, comic relief, got some nice development, even if it was only a bit. Gosho lampshades his tendency to pair the officers of the police department together through her in Chiba’s second love story case. Yumi, the only remaining officer at the time without a love interest, picks up the romantic tension between Chiba and Naeko and understands immediately what is unfolding before her. It’s here that the audience learns that Yumi had actually grown lonely recently due to her friends (Sato, Takagi, and Wataru) spending more time with their loved ones than with her. It’s the classic “bachelor thrown on the wayside” conflict, and it is quite humorous to see the normally upbeat and optimistic Yumi concerned about being abandoned and left behind by her peers. As such, she does the selfish act of actively attempting to sabotage the blossoming romance between her two workmates. By the end of the case, however, Yumi sees that Naeko is especially attached to Chiba, and as such reluctantly drops her efforts, even going so far as to deliberately arrange a situation where the two could be alone together. For such a silly and comedic story, the gesture represents a surprisingly touching and sympathetic moment for Yumi, who quietly accepts her “alone” status and does what would make her friends happiest, at the cost of her own happiness. Of course, Yumi herself became involved in small romantic subplot of her own when she met her former boyfriend; however, she didn’t get back together with him, simply regarding him with constant embarrassment.

More on the characters in the next part, which will be the last portion of this (very) lengthy essay.
Posted by MrAM | May 20, 2015 5:49 AM | 2 comments
angeal18 | May 26, 2015 2:47 PM
Also, if you get around to it, I would be interested in reading your analysis of Magic Kaito and the role it plays in the overall story of Conan, particularly Kid's appearance at the end of The Mystery Train arc and whether you see that as foreshadowing for the two properties to converge in the future.
angeal18 | May 26, 2015 2:30 PM
The Akai/Tooru plotline may have something to do with Date. Date could have also been in the secret police alongside Tooru and may be the who was assigned the codename Scotch. Somehow Akai blew Date's cover and the Organization killed him and staged his death as a car accident. Tooru had held a grudge against him ever since. Takagi might end up playing a part in this further into the story with their mutual friendship with Date acting as a payoff somehow. (Or perhaps I'm grasping at straws lol)