What They Say
As the grand opening of a pair of towers nears, death and mayhem mars the fresh start to the architectural marvels. Conan, suspecting that the mysterious Black Organization that poisoned and left him for dead of being involved, goes to investigate. But soon finds himself in harm’s way, trapped, as the buildings are set to blow.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub gets a nice bump with this release to the 5.1 format at 448kbps. The mix for the film is a little different from the TV series though it has a touch more directionality and oomph to it since there is a bit more action to it. The bulk of the show does continue to be mostly dialogue though and a lot of it has a full sound to it instead of much in the way of real directionality. Listening to both tracks, they come across the same and have both the same strengths and weaknesses. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in theaters in 2001, The transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Case Closed has always had a particular look to it from the TV series and that has translated to the theatrical features as well where it has a grainy and murky look to it. The transfer here has a high average bitrate overall which helps it from blocking or showing other problems, but it’s the kind of feature that’s likely never to look really great. It’s a generally clean print and there aren’t any serious problems such as break-up or cross coloration and colors are generally pretty solid if you discount the film grain side of it. It does have a very natural film look about it which is very appealing and while it’s not a gorgeous transfer that you’d want from other films, it is one that fits perfectly with this material.
Case Closed utilizes the original theatrical artwork, darkened along the top instead of the light purple that I’ve seen on scans of the poster, which again breaks things into different quadrants. Cona is the central figure again as is expected, though he does look somewhat goofy riding his skateboard here which has a Flash-like energy flow behind him. There’s a lot to like here overall though with other primary cast members included on either side and the menace of the men in black along the top. The back cover adheres to what we saw with the TV series releases, though a bit less brown since there is artwork of Haibara along the right side instead of the brown folder we used to get. The few shots from the show are decent as it showcases the various cast members and the summary eases out enough of the story concept to get you interested in it. The bottom has the cute graphic breakdown of his gear which he does use in this feature while the rest is the basic production information and minor technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design keeps it very basic as it utilizes the cover artwork zoomed in a bit in order to set the mood for things with a minor bit of music playing alongside it. The artwork looks good and the menu version of it looks a bit cleaner and brighter than the cover version does, but it is pretty basic with no frills associated with it. The navigation along the bottom is quick and easy to use as it’s just the film and some unrelated trailers on the disc outside of the actual chapter and language selections.
After enjoying the “Captured in Her Eyes” movie as much as I did, I was quite looking forward to taking in the next Case Closed movie, “Countdown to Heaven.” The Case Closed franchise doesn’t quite seem to have a set pattern with good movies versus bad movies, or particular themes, so I had hoped for a couple of good movies in a row. Countdown to Heaven isn’t a bad movie, but it is one that feels a bit more like an overly extended multipart TV episode. The saving grace for this feature is that one of the plot lines involves the pair Gin and Vodka from the mysterious Organization. They’ve not been in the TV episodes I’ve seen all that much so any new little nugget is quite enjoyable.
Countdown to Heaven has two distinct stories that overlap each other because of circumstance more than anything else really. And unfortunately, the one billed as the primary story falls short but is propped up by the secondary story involving the men in black. The premise of the film initially kicks off with Conan and friends – including the junior detective league – being invited to a smaller gathering at a prestigious new two tower building that’s about to be opened. One tower is dedicated to hotels and entertainment aspects while the other, shorter tower features shopping and beautiful enclosed pool on the roof. One of the biggest draws of the tall tower is that on the 75th floor, it’s designed for parties which gives an incredible view of Mt. Fuji during the daytime hours. The opposite side shows off the city beautifully as well, though it’s obviously not quite the same kind of draw.
The cast that we’re introduced to at this party is destined for death, or at least a few of them, as in the time before the opening two of them die while a threat is placed on the woman in charge of the opening based on these murders. What links them together is an o-choko cup that’s found crushed at the first two murders which gives rise to a serial killer with a very strong motive behind events. Conan digs deep into trying to figure out what’s going on, but what throws him off his game is that the junior detectives themselves are trying not to be outdone by him as they take the initiative in searching out the suspects and questioning them. Naturally, they don’t get very far before Conan gets involved but the sequence of events reminds Conan that they are all coming into their own very well as they laid down a very strong approach to getting the right information that would help shed light on the case.
What runs parallel to all of this, and confuses the case greatly at times for Conan (and the viewer), is that early on at the towers Conan catches sight of the rare car that Gin and Vodka are known to drive. His need to get a hold of them and figure out what’s going on is strong and it keeps him from seeing certain clues right from the start. What works out really well for the film is that we do spend a fair bit of time with the two men in black as they’re hunting down someone who has left the organization. And with Haibara chumming around with Conan and friends, things start to get dicey for her as she does some rather stupid things along the way that increases her chances of being knocked off, something the organization is very intent on doing ever since she escaped by using the same formula they used on Conan to shrink him. They just don’t seem to know that she’s used it which is why they end up targeting a very dolled up and mature Sonoko.
Taking place entirely in Japan, Countdown to Heaven has a good feel to it that we’ve seen in some of the other recent features of this period for Case Closed. The Mt. Fuji backdrop is really nicely done and the two towers have a lot of appeal from the sections we do see. With the towers being used as the focal point, there’s a lot of destruction and action to be had there, but obviously we’re not going to see Case Closed: Die Hard or anything. Still, they don’t shy away from putting everyone in danger, murders abound and there are a few really good action sequences. I also positively love that math plays a huge part in figuring out how to escape certain doom in thirty seconds.
Though not one of my favorite movies so far, Countdown to Heaven is a solid entry that brings the men in black back into play and gives them a very interactive role. They were minimal in the TV series from what I’d see released by FUNimation so far (please, give me more!) but they have some fun speaking roles here and they get involved with events in a way that adds more tension to it. The main storyline with the tower and the murders there is less engaging, but as it all comes together it does work well, even if it almost feels a bit like it’s tacked on in a way. There’s a lot to like here overall but it’s definitely a movie of variable quality when it comes to the story itself. The animation, the transfer and the performances are all quite good though.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 19th, 2010
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.