Case Closed is one of the most popular anime in Japan and around the world. The mysteries of a teenage boy who has been shrunk to the body of a 10-year-old have kept junior (and adult) sleuths pondering clues and trying to solve the various whodunits of the show since 1996. That said, the series is known as Detective Conan around the world. North America is one of the few countries that goes by the name of Case Closed.

Why is this the case though? Was there something wrong with the name Detective Conan? Why was it an issue when the character is still referred to as Detective Conan in the actual show itself? Did the American studios simply want to Americanize the show? Believe it or not, the reason behind the name change is not only a legal reason for the change, it’s one of the more interesting legal snafus in the history of anime in America.

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What is Detective Conan?

The main cast of Detective Conan

Detective Conan revolves around a teenage sleuth named Shinichi Kudo, who is aspiring to be one of the greatest detectives of all time. He witnesses a crime being committed, but before he can report on the act he is ambushed by two men dressed in nothing but black. Not wanting to shoot the kid and attract police, the men give him a drug that is supposed to kill him. Instead, it turns Shinichi into a 10-year-old boy. At this point Shinichi moves in with his childhood friend Ran, takes the name Conan Edagawa, and solves murder mysteries while tracking down the men in black who did this to him.

The easiest way to explain the series is that it’s a bit of a cross between Murder, She Wrote, and The Hardy Boys, with most episodes revolving around the death of a random person whose killer needs to be identified. While viewers who care more about story progression may find the pacing of Detective Conan to be a bit slow, if you love mysteries there is no better show to be watching these days.

Funimation Licenses the Show


Considering the show had a lot of episodes and was TV-friendly, Detective Conan was a series that seemed primed for Funimation Productions to come in and swoop it up for distribution in America. While several companies had previously wanted to bring the franchise to America, the high cost of licensing the series made it out of reach for many anime companies. Funimation had the clout, money, and relationship with Cartoon Network to make an aggressive play at the franchise.

They acquired the rights, committed to over 100 episodes right off the bat, and even acquired a couple of movies early on. They had the full support of TMS (who even helped Funimation during the adaptation process, which is quite rare). While plans were being set to bring Detective Conan over, a lawsuit was filed that made Funimation pause. While they themselves were not the subject of the lawsuit, they soon realized that it could have a very negative effect on their show.

The Spike Lee Connection

Spike Lee Marvel DC

In 2003 popular cable channel TNN (The National Network) decided they wanted to rebrand and create programing geared towards a young adult male audience. The new network name was going to be called Spike TV. This prompted a lawsuit from Academy Award-winning director Spike Lee, who accused the network of trying to profit off of his name.

Over at Funimation, the situation was no laughing matter. While the general public viewed the lawsuit as silly and frivolous, it was a costly endeavor for both TNN AND Spike Lee himself! What’s more, there were rumblings that if Lee succeeded, it might encourage other celebrities to sue companies and properties with similar names. While there was no serious talk from the official representatives, concerns that Conan O’Brian or the rights holders to Conan the Barbarian were singled out as potential suers in the event that Lee won his lawsuit.

Rather than delay the show and deal with potential legal paperwork, the decision was made to rename the series to Case Closed, which was a more generic term that would (in theory) be free from any legal problems. Ultimately, Spike Lee lost his lawsuit and Spike TV finally launched (and would alter rebrand again as The Paramount Network). It also turned out that Funimation didn’t need to worry about Conan O’Brian, who found out about Detective Conan’s huge popularity in Japan and decided to visit Hokuei, Japan on his show, which featured many tourist attractions based on Detective Conan.

These days the series is still officially called Case Closed in America, however recent movie releases from Discotech have started emphasizing the Detective Conan name in descriptions and on the reverse cover art more than Case Closed. Whether this is TMS starting to rebrand the series back to the original name in the states remains to be seen, but it's interesting to see how a lawsuit involving an unpopular cable network forced a name change to one of Japan’s longest running series.

New dubbed episodes of Case Closed can currently be streamed for free on Tubi.

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