Saturday, June 8, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 36 review

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Q.E.D., vol. 36, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
At some point, I'm going to start looking up info on certain manga before I buy it...
I went back to Book Off to find more copies of Monju. When I got to the used copies of Q.E.D., I grabbed the latest volume to see if the series had ended yet, and if so, how. That happened to be #36, and it was pretty obviously not the latest one. When I got home, I checked the Japanese wiki entry, which states that it's still ongoing, and is up to volume 44. Oh well. The good thing is that the Japanese is actually pretty easy to understand, so I can claim that I'm using it to further my studies...

The main characters, Touma and Kana, are obviously aging during the course of the series. The description section on the first page shows the designs from volume 1, and they were a lot younger-looking than they are now. So, one plus is that the artist is improving and growing with practice, although there is still a sense of "rubber stamping"between panels.

As with the previous two volumes I'd reviewed, there are two stories in this one. With the first, "Kurogane-tei Satsujin Jiken" (Kurogane Mansion Murder Case), Touma is invited to Kyoto to meet with one of his former teachers at "K-university" regarding the death of Dean Kurogane, one of the theoretical physics researchers there. While Kurogane was found hanging from a rope by his neck in his study at home, the police rule it a murder because no suicide note is found. The teacher, Jinnai, wants Touma to help clear another researcher, Renji Karasuma, from suspicion. Seems, that Renji is doing some work on gravitons, and Kurogane had stolen credit for his research. Renji does everything he can to antagonize the detective handling the case, but he leaves a hint as to what the cop should really be looking for by mentioning one of Zeno's paradoxes (specifically, the arrow paradox).

(In the bottom panels, from left to right: Kana, Jinnai and Renji. The artist kind of screwed up here, because the murderer wasn't in with the drinking party and we wouldn't have seen his/her reaction when Shida was found.)

Along the way, Jinnai introduces two other characters with potential motives - Associate Professor Shida, who wants Kurogane's position as lead researcher at the university, and Shida's lackey, Kamogawa, who has been promised Shida's Assoc. Prof. post when it opens up if Shida gets promoted. All of them are invited to the after-funeral ceremony at Kurogane's mansion, and that evening, someone shoots Shida in the neck with an arrow. The detective immediately suspects Renji, but Kamogawa is also an option because Shida had retracted his offer of the assoc. prof. opening. Renji points out to the cop that while he'd been at the end of the covered walkway where Shida was standing, and the bow was found in the bushes behind him, the length of the walkway, plus the low roof, would make it impossible for him to successfully shoot the arrow that far without hitting the underside support timbers (ref. Sanjuusangendo). Touma pretty quickly figures out both Renji's hint and the identity of the double-murderer.

(The way the poem is structured, the person asking how to work with the metal is included as part of the process. The Rossfeller siblings think that if the poem is a hint, then it implies an outside stranger on the island is committing the various acts against them.)

"Q and A", the second story, starts out with Touma being interviewed by a faceless person regarding a series of strange events on an isolated island near Greece. He'd been invited to the island by Gurasu Rosuferaa (Glass Rossfeller, a parody of the banking Rockefeller patriarch) to interview Glass's 4 adult children to see which one would be best suited to inherit the empire when he retires. Also on the island are Kana, Touma's younger sister Yuu, the manservant Koruf Samos, Koruf's young son Karfy, and the Rossfeller siblings - Ian, Walter, Freya and Wood. Ian's the oldest, but also the most demanding and incompetent. Freya doesn't really want anything to do with business, while Walter is the director of Asian Operations and the youngest, Wood, is the director of the European division. Initially, the power goes out, then water. Someone pushes Karfy off a cliff, and after Wood summons a jet to whisk Karfy and Koruf to a mainland hospital, the same suspect blows up the yacht Walter and Wood used to get to the island. Each of the other people provide their interpretations of the events, and Touma keeps having them repeat a particular story that's the key to everything - a tale about the island having been home to Arab metallurgists during the Crusades. In the story is a poem that supposedly teaches the Europeans how to do Arab-level metalworking. Touma wraps up the case by explaining "who-done-it", and what Glass really hired him to do on the island.

One of the interesting things about Q.E.D. is that so much of the series revolves around Touma's having graduated from MIT at an early age, and is extremely knowledgeable about physics and science as a whole. The first story includes a brief introduction into the strong and weak forces, and how gravitons (if found) could lead to a Nobel prizing-winning proof for the grand-unified theory. Q and A isn't quite so hard-core, but the background for the main hint revolves around the solid understanding Arab culture had regarding metalworking, and how the battles with the Christians affected the Arab school in the region. The science stuff never gets too overwhelming, but does reach the level of informative entertainment. While I still dislike Kana's over-the-top tomboy character, I am starting to view Q.E.D. as being worth reading further, despite the flat-looking character designs. Recommended.

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