Surprisingly, the deeper I delve into the Case Closed Universe, the more impressed with the property I become. I was a self-admitted late adopter to the series (beginning with the 5th season oddly enough) then backtracked to some of the earlier examples of the mythos on account of how much I enjoyed the later ones. Now I've picked up a few of the full length feature films and am pleased to report that they dazzle as well as the popular television serial, perhaps even surpassing it at times.
The show, for those who have yet to experience it, follows a pretty formulaic structure whereby the title character happens upon criminal activity that requires a good deal of intelligence to successfully point the finger of blame. Sounds like standard mystery-genre fare so far but what's unique about Case Closed is that the lead is played by a 17-year-old (Jimmy Kudo) investigator who has been transformed, via an experimental drug, into a child. The kid goes by the made-up name Conan Edogawa after two popular mystery writers and goes to live with his friend Rachel Moore and her private detective father, Richard. If you're looking for back story, I strongly recommend considering Funimation's Case Closed DVD Starter Set as except for a narrated opening sequence, the films waste very little time retelling past events.
Coming in at a total runtime of 100 minutes, The Last Wizard of the Century spans a single DVD housed within a standard-sized clamshell case. The show wears an appropriate if not slightly conservative TV PG rating (due to a steady dose of cartoony violence rather than inappropriate language or nudity).
Language options are standard sub & dub, which means the viewer has the choice of the original Japanese dialog track (stereo) or an English dub (Dolby Digital 5.1) and the option of running English subtitles with either.
The story of The Last Wizard of the Century goes something like this: Two new (previously undiscovered) Faberge eggs turn up and the sheer value and intrigue surrounding the priceless gems makes them the target to a wide variety of international entrepreneurs, politicians, collectors and thieves. One thief in particular has his sights set on the eggs; the elusive Phantom Thief Kid. It initially kicks off with the Phantom Thief Kid's latest crime feat, which of course has the Metropolitan Police scrambling in panic.
When the Phantom Thief Kid provides an encrypted written note (boast) that he intends on stealing the egg out from under everyone's noses, the cops (and more importantly, Conan) decide it's time to get involved.
As with any solid mystery, there are more layers to this tale than in your average onion! Several moments play out as a sort of pseudo-Indiana Jones with hidden vaults, booby-trapped artifacts, and treasures that do far more than simply look nice. The remainder of the film plays just like any other episode of Case Closed with Conan being a step or two ahead of even the most deviant-minded criminal.
Phantom Thief Kid represents a wonderful addition to the mythos with his enigmatic and charming way offering a counterpoint for Conan's (and his friends') bubbly enthusiasm. Best of all, his appearance in the final few moments of the film is nearly worth the price of admission in and of itself.
Aside from the longer runtime there are some notable differences between the film and the series. Among them is a reliance upon revealing pieces of pre-Conan life for Jimmy Kudo as threads with which to solve the mystery as well as mysteries that are themselves more complex (involving half a dozen key clues to solve rather than the one or two common of the series). Also Richard Moore is portrayed as being far-less dopey and actually contributes to the case's conclusion on multiple occasions; so dramatic is this change that the gimmick of Conan knocking Richard out via a tranquilizer dart then using his voice-changing bow-tie to reveal the solved case in the end is omitted entirely!
There also tends to be a greater focus on Conan's pal and fellow-age-reduced Anita Hailey, Dr. Hershel Agasa and the gadgets he invented to aid Conan on his mission.
As is always the case (no pun intended) with this show, the artwork and visual style aren't extremely rich or polished. Instead the animation is fairly simplistic but gets the job done. Focusing on the show's beauty (or lack thereof) is truly missing the whole point of what makes Case Closed so special. This is suspense-driven story telling that goes the extra mile to make sure each motion picture provides sufficient resolve. I consider myself a competent wannabe detective, but failed to solve this one prior to Conan's unraveling of clues at the end!
The English dub is pure first-class Funimation all the way, which means it just nails the little language details that make the original mystery fun. I can only imagine the work, planning, and translating this must require to get right. The effort pays dividends though when you view the finished product and literally forget that this wasn't originally written in English. That said, this is an example of a film that offers great acting value in either language choice.
In all, quite an entertaining addition to a solid franchise and perhaps the best of the films (at least of the ones I've enjoyed so far). I found it thoroughly entertaining and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to existing fans and neophytes of the franchise alike.