Friday, September 20, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 28 review

Of all the volumes in the Q.E.D. series, only #28 seems to have gone out of stock here in Kagoshima from all but one store. I did go to an internet cafe, and they had the full set of books on the shelf. Cost 480 yen to read a 440 yen book for an hour, but they have an all-you-can-drink soda and coffee dispenser so I think I kind of broke even on the deal. Anyway, after going to the net cafe, I went to the cat girl bookshop, and bought my copy there.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Q.E.D., vol. 28, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Finding the Pharaoh's necklace.)

Farao no Kubi Kazari (The Pharaoh's Neck Ornament, Magazine Great, 2007). This particular story is the reason this book is so hard to find - it's the first chapter with a crossover appearance by Shinra Sakaki, hero of Katou Motohiro's other detective mystery series, C.M.B.. The story starts out with Touma being invited by Thomas Potter, an acquaintance who is laid up in the hospital with multiple injuries. The guy is an archeologist, and he'd apparently discovered an unknown tomb of some pharaoh in Egypt at the north end of the Valley of the Kings. At the same time, there was a rockfall that knocked him out of commission, and now he needs Touma's help to complete the research. In the hospital room with them is Sarah Hughes, a science magazine publisher that had financed the expedition, and she threatens to sue everyone if the expedition comes up empty. Thomas is the kind of person to email everyone to tell them that Touma has backed out of a debt (he owes the guy for buying him a hamburger once), so Touma agrees to finish the investigation for him. Once in Cairo, he meets up with his capricious cousin, the one more flighty than his parents are, Shinra (Sou says that he's the son of his mother's younger aunt). The one artifact found in the tomb was a very elaborate neck piece, which Shinra says is authentic, but atypical for items generally buried during the period covered by pharaohs like King Tut. In fact, it pre-dates that period by 800 years, and there's no other evidence that the tomb contains royalty of any level. After this, there's very little interaction between Touma and Shinra. For the most part, Kana and Shinra's friend, Tatsuki Nanase, just trade stories about how difficult it is for them to put up with the two boys.

(Shinra, meet Kana. Touma, here's Tatsuki.)

As the investigation progresses, the other workers become injured or run off, and the only other researcher, Nick James, gets hit by a car and dies in the hospital. Occasionally, there's an appearance by Anri Vento, an expert excavator who keeps warning Touma to leave before he too gets hurt. Finally, a boulder mysteriously appears on the cliff above the dig site, and it falls on Touma. In the next scene, he's in the hospital with his head bandaged, visited by the wheelchair-bound Thomas, pushed by Sarah. Questions: Is the tomb authentic? Who was buried inside? Why isn't it from the proper era, given the quality of the neckpiece? Is another "Curse of King Tut" at play? If there's no curse, who would be sabotaging the dig and why?

(Shinra at work.)

The science revolves around the discovery of King Tut's tomb by Howard Carter, with art backgrounds from areas around Cairo, and several different tombs.

(Touma talks about the kusoushi emaki.)

Ningen Hanabi (Human Fireworks, Magazine Great, 2007). The story starts with folklore professor Kunio Takayanagi giving a lecture on how various Japanese yokai (monsters or spirits) legends had gotten started. He ends the presentation saying that things in the dark become less scary if you give a name to them. Afterward, Kunio invites Touma to his office, where he meets Kunio's assistant, Chinatsu Kawashigi, and family friend Hatsue Okumoto. Kunio shows Touma a sketchbook that he identifies as a "kusoushi emaki", the kind of scroll that Buddhist priests used to show families of the bereaved during the Kamakura era (1192 - 1333) to warn them of what a dead body will look like over the course of 9 months. (kusoushi = "9 phase poem", emaki = "scroll"). Hatsue tells them that her husband, Daijirou, had inherited the sketchbook from his father, Zenjirou Goshiki, and he'd been acting weird lately. The previous day, she'd told him to stop staring at it and he'd threatened to kill her. So, she swiped the book when her husband wasn't around and brought it to Kunio. Touma gets interested and volunteers to help; however, Kana and Chinatsu are the ones that end up doing the footwork. They talk to Daijiro, then to several other people connected to his father, including a canvas maker and Zenjiro's old doctor. The story that comes out is that when he was young, Zenjirou had seen a dead body laid out for a funeral in the house next door, which was owned by the canvas maker. He'd taken photos with a film camera, and made the sketchbook and wrote a diary with kind of an obsession for the "beauty" of death. He was also entranced by fireworks and grew up to be a fireworks manufacturer. At one point, he crossed the line and kidnapped a customer, strapped him to a large explosive, and blew him up in an attempt to create the most beautiful fireworks ever. Soon after, he committed suicide the same way.

(Remembering Zenjirou.)

We also learn that Zenjirou's wife had divorced him and taken Daijiro with her, changing their last names to Okumoto. Daijiro also became a fireworks producer, and had been pretty stable until recently. After the sketchbook is taken away from him, he settles down and he and his wife get back together again. However, one night after talking to the canvas maker, Kunio sees his assistant, Chinatsu, walking past his car in the university parking lot. He shouts out to her that the sketchbook is dangerous and that someone is going to get killed because of it, then his car explodes and he dies. Soon after, Daijiro shows up in the hospital with severe burns. Questions: Is the sketchbook evil? Is Kunio's connection to yokai folklore somehow responsible for his death? What happened to Daijiro? Does Touma have to admit to the existence of curses and the supernatural? And what is Tsuvovirovski Syndrome (ツボビラウスキー症候群)?

=== Spoilers ===

This is kind of a tricky story to describe because the information uncovered during the investigation is rather jumbled up. Zenjirou's house had been next to the canvas maker's building, but the room occupied by "the boy with the camera" had been on the second floor, and the only thing on the same floor in the other building was the canvas maker's workshop. There was no place there for a corpse to be laid out during the funeral ceremony. Plus, for Zenjiro to have been the one taking the photos as a boy, the canvas maker would have to be 100 years old now. And that's what clued in Professor Kunio - since the canvas maker was only in his 70's, there had to have been two different people involved, and if so, then Daijiro is following in his father's footsteps. As a boy, Zenjiro had found a corpse in the woods, and spent 9 months drawing it. Daijiro was the one with the camera, and he'd been photographing his own mother's body, reflected by the room's window after the sun went down outside. The sketchbook Hatsue saw was a copy of Zenjirou's, drawn by Daijiro a little while ago, and he probably wanted to use his wife for the hostage bomb test. Unfortunately, Kunio himself had scared Daijiro with all of his snooping, and the fireworks maker decided to switch victims. When the one doctor had treated Zenjirou some 40 years earlier, he'd made up the name Tsuvovirovski Syndrome to have something he could point to as the cause of the killer's behavior. And because of that, Daijiro thought he had the same syndrome, which excused his own behavior as a killer. He'd blown himself up, but survived. Thinking that he had cheated death, Daijiro blames the syndrome from his hospital bed. Then, the old doctor tells the current guy to call the police. The current guy does so, adding to Daijiro that there is no such thing as Tsuvovirovski Syndrome. Later, Touma repeats to Kana what Kunio had said in the earlier lecture - to dispell the darkness, first you must give it a name.

No science, just another exploration of the human psyche.

Comments: If you like both Q.E.D. and C.M.B., this is the volume you have to buy. If you like psychological horror, then you'll want to read "Human Fireworks". As with most stories in this series, the motives are weak, but the artwork is good. Recommended.

Note: Back between the 40's and 80's, there was a surrealist artist named Taro Okamoto. Some of his statues were central to Urawsawa's Twentieth Century Boys manga. Taro's motto was art is explosion. I'm curious if Katou Motohiro named his character Okumoto after Taro Okamoto as either a tribute, or an inside joke.

1 comment:

Mengku Negara said...

thank you for the info. it's really hard to look for infos related to this manga, even though it's a very good manga.
very glad found it here ^^