BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A favourite among Thai manga readers for more than 20 years, the popular Japanese characters from the Detective Conan series have finally arrived in Bangkok and taken up residence at Siam Centre.
The first pop-up Detective Conan Cafe, which offers dishes themed on their roles and the storyline, has taken over Bake A Wish on the ground floor until Sept 30 to coincide with the latest full-length animated film Detective Conan: Zero The Enforcer now showing at cinemas around town.
Conceptualised and developed by Parco Japan, the pop-up Detective Conan Cafe has opened in various locations throughout Japan but this is the first Conan-themed cafe to operate overseas.
"Conan is on the top-ten manga lists in Japan and is read by both kids and adults. It's been popular in Thailand for a long time, with 92 of the 94 volumes so far published translated into the Thai language. Thais are also happy to embrace new food experiences so I hope this collaborative project between Parco, Siam Piwat and Bake A Wish will receive a warm welcome from Thai fans," says Mr Shigeyoshi Sato, chief executive officer of Parco (Singapore), which is responsible for the overseas market and has enjoyed success with the pop-up Pokemon and Minions cafes in Singapore.
Written and illustrated by Gosho Aoyama since 1994, the ongoing Detective Conan series follows an amateur high-school detective Shinichi Kudo who was forced by the criminal Black Organisation to swallow a poison called APTX-4869, that instead of killing him shrinks him into a seven-year-old child.
He assumes a fake name, Conan Edogawa, and continues to solve a multitude of cases while impersonating his friend's father and other characters.
Customers can't resist having their pictures taken with the "standees" of the most popular characters - Conan, Shinichi and Toru Amuro - while the savouries, desserts and drinks just cry out to be shared on social media.
The poisoned capsule that shrinks Shinichi into a child is the inspiration behind APTX-4869 Super Big Capsule Curry (250 baht or S$10.30), a dish of pork curry and two-toned steamed jasmine rice in white and red in the form of the pill.
The handsome detective Amuro who juggles several identities plays a central role in the latest Conan movie. His mysterious character is portrayed in Bourbon's Spicy Seafood Pasta (200 baht).
"The taste buds get an unexpected spicy punch from this seafood pasta that is not unlike the manipulative traps Amuro uses to gather information from his enemies," says Ms Nikan Prachyasilpawut, owner of Bake A Wish.
Amuro is actually an agent at the Public Security Bureau, the Japanese version of the FBI, where he's known as Rei Furuya. He also goes by the code name Bourbon when he is working undercover in the Black Organisation. His secretive personality is also an inspiration for the Amuro 3-Faced Parfait (220 baht) - featuring ice creams in three flavours of Thai tea, matcha and mint topped with matcha-flavoured macaroon and dressed with fresh strawberry slices.
In one episode, Amuro displays his culinary flair by making a sandwich, the recipe for which quickly went viral on social media. Amuro Original Ham Sandwich (180 baht) is also served here. "Amuro is one of the best-loved characters, particularly among women, and creates a new social phenomenon in Japan," adds Mr Sato.
Apart from his smart looks, blonde hair and wide-ranging skills in everything from cooking, sports to martial art, women see Amuro as an ideal, according to an article in the Japan Times. As he goes by the code name Bourbon, the Japan Times reports that this has spurred a recent rise in bourbon sales. In the series, Amuro also drives a souped-up Mazda RX-7 and some hard-core fans have been known to either rent a model or buy one outright in an attempt to emulate their idol.
The puzzling crimes are transformed into Labyrinth Curly Fries (150 baht) and a hot latte (130 baht) topped with edible film featuring one of the six main characters. As diners can't choose the latte visual, it's fun to guess which character will top the cup.
Inspired by long-time friendship and love of Shinichi and Ran Mouri, the cafe offers an iced Lychee Soda with the sweet floral taste of rosebuds (150 baht). A refreshing Fruit Soda (250 baht) is also served in a limited edition bottle bearing the silhouettes of Conan and Amuro.
There are take-away sweet treats too, among them the Detective Conan Cake featuring layers of blue, white and red to emulate Conan's blue jacket, white shirt and red bow tie (165 baht), Shinichi's Favourite Lemon Pie (165 baht for two pieces), a package of six Cheese Tarts (540 baht) and Detective Conan Choux Cream (40 baht). They are available at all 13 outlets of Bake A Wish.
"The project took about six months to complete. Parco asked Dai-Ichi Kikaku Thailand, whose Good Anime unit is the master area licensee of Detective Conan here to propose cafes with the potential to operate this themed character cafe. Of the five put forward, Bake A Wish was finally selected.
"We worked closely with Parco to develop the menu and the first priority was that each dish must be delectable. The Parco team is very concerned about quality control and operations," says Ms Nikan.
The Guest Cafe & Diner is a Parco business unit and has been behind many collaborative theme cafes such as Makoto Shinkai's 2017 movie Your Name and Sanrio's My Melody and Sailor Moon.
It currently has five outlets across Japan, in Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, Nagoya and Fukuoka. It routinely changes the concepts every two to three months through a pop-up cafe model and the theme is based on popular anime characters, artistes and movies.
"After this, Parco will evaluate the success of operation. If the result is positive, it's possible that Bake A Wish could run other themes. I personally would like to run the themed characters of Sailor Moon and the Rose of Versailles," adds Ms Nikan.
The pop-up Detective Conan Cafe is on the ground floor of Siam Centre, Bangkok. It is open daily from 10am to 10pm until Sept 30.