April of this year saw the latest Detective Conan film The Fist of Blue Sapphire release in Japan. With the release of the franchise’s 23rd theatrical film now well out of the way, director Nagaoka Tomoka and producer Suwa Michihiko took a moment to reflect on the production of the film at a special event in Tokyo, affording us a rare look behind the scenes of this latest Detective Conan production.
While the film did not continue the franchise’s box office smashing pattern, with The Fist of Blue Sapphire coming just short of last year’s Zero the Enforcer box office receipts, the film did very well considering that another massive film was set to come out around the same time – Avengers: Endgame.
Detective Conan and Avengers: Endgame might have teamed up for Golden Week, but the threat that one could steal all of the revenue of the other was very real. Luckily, as director Nagaoka Tomoka said during the event, the fact that Endgame premiered two weeks after Fist of Blue Sapphire was a godsend.
After thanking her lucky stars regarding that, Nagaoka moved on to talk about the setting of The Fist of Blue Sapphire. In a first for the long-running series, the film takes place outside of Japan, in Singapore. It was because of this that Nagaoka made the decision to have characters of nationalities other than Japanese speak in English during the film, which helped sell the film’s setting immensely.
This decision, which often isn’t taken by other anime productions, also came at the behest of original author Gosho Aoyama, who remarked to Nagaoka that he always thought it was weird when foreign characters speak Japanese in anime – further prompting Nagaoka to make the change.
It wasn’t just in regards to the representation of foreign characters that Nagaoka paid special attention to, however. If you’ve seen Fist of Blue Sapphire, then you’ll know that there’s a lot of really beautiful shots involving the sunset and sunrise in Singapore, which somehow never feel out of place or forced in for dramatic framing.
This is because Nagaoka actually plotted out the flow of time as it changes during the events of the film, using a spreadsheet. Not only did this allow her to organically integrate such great compositions, but she hoped that it would also help viewers to connect more vividly with the story of Conan et al. this time around – specifically wanting viewers to feel like they too were ‘on vacation’ with Conan.
Yet, even despite this seemingly cautious and conscientious disposition on Nagaoka’s part, the director professes that she actually made a lot of departures from the original source material with The Fist of Blue Sapphire.
One particular incident cited was how the film portrayed the character of Sonoko. Sonoko is known, among other things, for her iconic headband that keeps her hair tidy and her forehead prominent, and yet, during The Fist of the Blue Sapphire, she takes off her headband for the first time and lets her fringe down.
This hadn’t ever been done in neither the original manga nor the ongoing TV anime, so Nagaoka wasn’t sure that she would get permission from Aoyama to do it. But this was something she really wanted to do with the character, so she plucked up the courage to ask Aoyama – he accepted, to Nagaoka’s surprise, saying “It’d be cute, so why not?”
It seems as though Aoyama’s faith in the cuteness of the scene was not misplaced, not only because of rave fan reception to the scene when the film came out, but also due to the fact that, during a screening of the film, he apparently ‘squealed’ and shouted ‘Sonoko is cute!’ when he saw the scene.
It’s incidents like this that cause Nagaoka to remark that “I think that [Aoyama] has the heart of a maiden.”
To wrap things up, Nagaoka thanked fans for coming to the event and for seeing Detective Conan: The Fist of Blue Sapphire. She said that she’d like to come back to the franchise and do another film with the Kaito Kid character, as she’s aware that many girls of her generation have a bit of thing for the elusive phantom thief.
But, as producer Suwa Michihiko remarked, she might have to wait a couple of years before she gets another chance given the franchise’s current pattern of styling one film after a different protagonist every year.
Nevertheless, Fist of the Blue Sapphire was a ton of fun and was very well received by fans, even if it didn’t smash another box office record. I hope that Nagaoka is able to come back to the franchise soon.