Saturday, October 19, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 40 review

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

I'm not really sure of the reason, but the publication information for the individual chapters disappears with this issue. I'd guess that Q.E.D. either stopped appearing in a magazine before being collected in book form, or the publisher decided that it wasn't worth the work of printing that information.

Q.E.D., vol. 40, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: C+

(The two guys fight over the two girls that don't like them.)

Shikaku Kankei (Love Square, Magazine Iino, 2011). Yasushi Ikezawa is a mousy, unattractive university student in love with the beautiful heartbreaker Miki Takeuchi. Miki, in turn wants to date the attractive part-timer at the nearby bookstore, Shinichi Kusanagi. And of course, Shinichi has his eye on his bookwormish colleague, Kumi Ayukawa, who is attracted to hardworkers like Yasushi. So, it's a love square. Touma has been helping out at the local university, probably Todai, where he's come into contact with Yasushi. The student asks Touma for advice on taking Miki out on a date and the entire situation turns into a mess largely because Yasushi is also a moron, and Miki is top-of-the-class high maintenance. Along the way, we learn that Kumi avoids flashy guys like Shinichi because her older sister had dated someone like that and he'd cheated on her so much that eventually she had a nervous breakdown and became addicted to sleeping pills. Finally, one night, all of the money in the till at the bookstore goes missing, and shows up in Shinichi's bag. It's Touma's task to explain how and why.

------------ Spoilers -------------

(Miki explains why Kumi should be more careful of other people's feelings.)

One of the things that I dislike the most about preachy manga is when it becomes hypocritical to the point of absurdity. This story is a prime example, and it embodies another facet of Japanese culture, which is, if you're a victim, you're not allowed revenge above or beyond a particular level. In this story, Kumi is seeking revenge for her sister, because the guy that drove her to a breakdown was in fact Shinichi. The details of the crime (stealing the money and planting it in his book bag) are irrelevant. What's important is that Kumi lied about liking Yasushi. Now, ignore the fact that Yasushi doesn't like plain girls like Kumi, that Miki also can't stand Yasushi, and that Shinichi and Miki are both hardcore manipulators. Kumi's mistake was to get caught by Touma, and then explain why she lied to make the love square (it would make her look more respectable if she pretended to like a spineless worm). Miki hauls off and slaps Kumi in the face for being dishonest, and the bookstore owner fires her (which is ok, she was only there to set Shinichi up for the theft, anyway). The story ends with Shinichi and Miki both promising to find a date for Yasushi from one of their friends; Yasushi still wants to date Miki, and she refuses him. The hypocrisy lies in the fact that the author pretty much supports Shinichi's and Miki's views that it's ok to take advantage of people weaker than you, if they allow you to.

No science, and the "trick" is a simple matter of misdirection.

(Enari says that asking her clubmates to help on a mystery is like having a baby pull a cart.)

Mishitsu No. 4 (Locked Room #4, no publication or date). Kana, Touma and Enari (Queen, from the school's mystery club) are on a chartered boat out to an island with a run-down hotel. The hotel had been built during the economic bubble and has since fallen into disrepair. Kamekichi Komaki, head of a group controlling several travel agencies, has tasked Naoyuki Samejima, of Sparrow Travel, to turn the island into a money maker again. So, Naoyuki is taking the kids, Kamekichi, three employees and a washed-up mystery writer out to the island to test out a new package tour concept. It's a "who-dunnit" murder mystery, where the tourists will be presented with 3 locked rooms with dead bodies (played by the employees) located inside. The task is only to figure out the locked room tricks, not to identify a killer. One of the 3 employees had asked her friend, Enari, to participate, and "Queen" enlisted Touma for backup (she refused to invite the other members of the Mystery club, because that would be like having a baby trying to pull an ox cart).

(An unscheduled locked room murder.)

On the island, everything goes wrong. The chef leaves with the boat to care for a sick grandchild. The "grand banquet" turns into microwave beef stew. The boss drops out of the tour to spend time looking at spreadsheets to find why Sparrow Travel is hemorrhaging money. The employees, instead of acting like dead murder victims, keep complaining about wanting to be let out of the rooms. And, the writer leaves in disgust when Touma easily solves the first two of the locked rooms. Finally, when the trick for the third room is revealed, everyone but the writer goes to the dining room for supper, where they find that Kamekichi has been really stabbed with a real knife through the heart. The dining room was locked and only Naoyuki has the keys to the building. The writer has no alibi, and Naoyuki has a motive (he'd lose his job if this tour idea fails). Touma shows once again that he's better at mysteries than Enari Queen, and he easily demonstrates how and why Kamekichi was killed. Questions: Who else had motive? Why would the only person without an alibi want to kill the victim? And, how did the killer set up the dining space as the "4th locked room"?

No science, just some highly contrived situations for how to make a door look locked when it isn't.

(Soaking a rope in gasoline allows it to burn with no traces, no strong after-smell, and no burn marks...)

Comments: This is definitely one of the weaker books in the series, and the weakest in a long time. The motive for the killer in the second story kind of just happens without any explanation, and one of the tricks used isn't plausible (the killer escapes from a window using a gasoline-soaked rope that they then burn to leave absolutely no trace whatsoever). I mentioned in the review for #38 that Motohiro is reusing his character designs - the scriptwriter and film producer from that book reappear as Naoyuki and the mystery writer in this book. Recommended only if you're bored.

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