Case Closed (known internationally as Detective Conan) has had a troubled history in America. While the franchise may finally be gaining the cult following that has long been denied in America with the streaming on sites like Netflix and Crunchyroll, attempts by Funimation to bring the series over to America ended up being a costly failure, and the series has been in limbo for many years. While the failure of the series had been a sore issue for fans of the franchise and Funimation for years, what many of them don’t realize is that Funimation wasn’t the first company to try and bring the adventures of Conan and his friends to America.

In fact, efforts to make the kid detective a household name in America started as early as 1999, when the series was new and the major success of the title had not truly been realized, executives at a famous TV network started circling the title in hopes of acquiring the title. Meetings were held and discussions held, but ultimately nothing came of those talks after some harsh realizations were made. Realizations that many fans would tell you probably should have been made sooner, but this was the late 90s, and due to some cultural misunderstandings, Detective Conan would not come to America until several years later.

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What is Detective Conan?

Conan's Stun-Gun Wristwatch in Detective Conan

Detective Conan follows the adventures of young Conan Edogawa. While he is seen as an intelligent 10-year-old kid, the reality he is a 16-year-old teenager named Shinichi Kudo (Jimmy Kudo in the Funimation dub). While visiting an amusement park with his childhood friend Ran (Rachel in the Funimation dub), Shinichi witnesses a crime taking place that involves men dressed all in black. He is discovered by one of the members and knocked out before he can report what he saw to the police. Rather than shoot him on the spot, they gave Shinichi a drug that was supposed to kill him. Instead, it turns him into a 10-year-old boy who lives with his girlfriend and solves mysteries (most of them murders) as Detective Conan.

The Early Attempts to Adapt the Series

Fox Kids

In 1998 America was overtaken by a new phenominom: Pokemon. It resulted in what journalists dubbed 'PokeMania,' and kids everywhere couldn’t get enough of Pikachu and his friends. When Kids WB acquired the rights to the series it projected the network to number 1 in the ratings, and competitors were starting to take a look at anime as a viable source of programing as a result. Kids WB’s biggest competitor at the time was Fox Kids, who decided to acquire the rights to Digimon Adventure and aired the series as Digimon: Digital Monsters. The show was an unexpected hit for the network, and Fox Kids began looking for other anime properties to acquire.

One of the series that caught their attention was Detective Conan. They saw that the series was a hit with families in Japan, noted that the characters looked cute and marketable, and saw that there were over 100 episodes to play around with. The series even had characters form a club called the Junior Detective League, and the executives felt that this aspect alone would make for a very marketable series. They contacted producers in Japan to have some meetings and explore options to bring the series over to America.

Why Fox Kids Ultimately Passed on the Project

A scene featuring characters from Detective Conan

You don’t need to be a Detective Conan yourself to figure out where things went wrong. While Fox executives loved the look of the show and thought the kids had marketing potential, what they were not aware of was the fact that the series revolved around children solving murder mysteries. Not only did someone die in almost every episode, most of the deaths were grissly and bloody. Episodes of the Junior Detective League finding an old women’s cat DID exist…there just weren’t many of them! After watching a couple dozen episodes the Fox executives realized that no amount of editing would result in a workable show and the project was shelved.

Whether you believe this was a good thing or bad, one thing that was clear is that the situation at Fox Kids grew worse, as none of their other anime managed to rival Pokemon (or even the first couple of seasons of Digimon: Digital Monsters). Shows like Flint the Time Detective and Escaflowne ended up being such huge rating disasters that both shows were canceled early. In fact, Escaflowne ended up being such a ratings sinkhole that the series was pulled after 11 episodes and a planned airing of Magic Knight Rayearth was also shelved as a result. Fox Kids would not only exit anime shortly after their failed attempt at bringing Case Closed to America, but would soon exit the childrens market altogether. However, Pokemon continues to air to this very day, showing that it had staying beyond what the critics predicted it would have.

Case Closed can be streamed on Cruncyroll, Netflix, and Tubi.

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