Case Closed: The Crimson Love Letter is the 21st anime film released for the franchise.

Case Closed: The Crimson Love Letter
Directed by: Kobun Shizuno
Written by: Takahiro Okura
Starring: Kappei Yamaguchi, Minami Takayama, Wakana Yamazaki, Rikiya Koyama, Ryo Horikawa, Yuko Miyamura, Megumi Hayashibara, Yukiko Iwai, Ikue Otani, Wataru Takagi, Kazuhiro Yamaji, Masako Katsuki, Naoko Matsui, Masaki Terasoma, Satsuki Yukino, Daisuke Ono, Kenichi Ogata, Daisuke Miyagawa, and Riho Yoshioka
Run Time: 112 minutes

The focus of this film is on karuta, a Japanese card game where players have to quickly determine which card out of an array of cards is required and grabbing it before another player does. Fortunately, I had seen the first two seasons of the Chihayafuru anime before watching Case Closed: The Crimson Love Letter, so I already had some knowledge about karuta going into it. Because of this, I think I was better able to appreciate and understand the karuta aspects that are brought up in this film.

At the beginning of the film, the reigning champion of the Satsuki Cup is murdered while he is practicing karuta, and the cards that are spread around the room provide an important clue. But the murder isn’t the only mystery that takes place in this film.

Meanwhile, Kogoro is in Kyoto for an interview that includes the man behind the Satsuki Cup and the Satsuki school for karuta. He is accompanied by Ran, Conan, Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Genta. Ai decides to stay at home with Professor Agasa, and this fact becomes important when Conan needs help solving the mysteries that present themselves during this film. They are joined by Heiji and Kazuha, who are there to cheer on their classmate from the karuta club who is playing in a tournament against the current Queen (the best female karuta player in Japan).

Things get interesting when Hattori and Kazuha run into Momiji Ooka, the current Queen. She recognizes Heiji and says she’s happy to see her future husband. Hattori has no idea who this girl is, but of course, Kazuha becomes upset by this ordeal. As soon as I saw Momiji, I realized that I know her from some of the more recent episodes of Case Closed. I had an “a-ha!” moment here, when I realized that The Crimson Love Letter is Momiji’s introduction to the series. Since I hadn’t seen this film before encountering her in the anime series, I just thought Momiji was this weird rich girl who was stalking Heiji for some reason. It turns out they met in elementary school, when Heiji entered a karuta contest and won. Momiji has the belief that the two made a promise to marry someday, which is why she believes Heiji is her future husband.

The next mystery is revealed when a bomb threat is relayed to the television station where the characters are getting ready for the karuta match and the interview. Most of the characters evacuate in time, but Heiji, Kazuha, and their friend from school are trapped when the karuta player decides to save the special karuta cards that were brought to the studio for the match. After Heiji and Kazuha are separated from their friend, there’s an exciting scene of them trying to make it to the roof in the hopes of getting out of the smoke. It’s up to Conan to use his solar powered skateboard to rescue them. The excitement is amplified when Conan himself ends up in danger during the rescue attempt. I have to say that while this was exciting to watch, there were portions of it that felt unrealistic. I think in order to truly enjoy this rescue scene, you have to be able to use your “willing suspension of disbelief.”

Heiji and Kazuha’s friend breaks her arm during the incident, and Kazuha has to take her place in the upcoming Satsuki Cup match. Heiji calls in his mother, who is a former Queen, to help Kazuha train before the big match.

But there’s still another bomb to be dealt with, this time on a car being driven by one of the members of the Satsuki school. Conan and Heiji help to investigate both the murder and the bombings, and through various clues discover that a former rival of the Satsuki school could be behind the incidents. The story builds in intensity and leads up to the karuta competition for the Satsuki Cup, as well as revealing the truth behind the murder and the bombings. The truth behind Heiji and Momiji’s promise is also revealed, and it is quite amusing. Considering how intense this mystery gets, it was nice to get such a light-hearted scene at the end.

When I heard the karuta readers in this film, I thought they sounded an awful lot like the karuta readers in Chihayafuru. As I recall, Chihayafuru used real and certified karuta readers for those scenes, so those same readers could have been approached for Case Closed: The Crimson Love Letter in order to help add a layer of authenticity to the karuta that’s depicted in the film.

The one thing I’m still puzzled by is the inclusion of Ayumi, Mitsuhide, and Genta. Yes, they wanted to see Kyoto, but when it comes to the actual plot, they really don’t do anything important. They basically just tag along with Ran or are just kind of “there.” Quite frankly, I think the story could have worked just as well without their involvement.

I thought the animation looked very nice for this film. Even though I found the rescue scene on the unrealistic side, I was still impressed by the animation that was used for this scene. I could just see and feel the danger of the flames and smoke on the roof of the building. And I thought that the animation worked well for the karuta match scenes.

But when all is said and done, even with the nitpicks I had with Case Closed: The Crimson Love Letter, I still enjoyed it. It’s ultimately one of the more important films in the franchise, since it introduces a recurring character who appears off and on in the anime series. Without seeing Momiji’s introduction here, her appearances in the anime series don’t make sense, and you get a very different perception of the character without this introduction. It’s definitely worth seeing if you’re a fan of the Case Closed franchise.

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