Saturday, January 4, 2014

C.M.B. volume 06 review

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C.M.B., vol. 06, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: A-

(The death of Peter Fuse.)

Kanoposu no Tsubo (Canopus, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2007).
This time, the story takes up the entire volume. It starts out with someone named Peter Fuse meeting up with a friend in the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo, Egypt, and being shot in the head with a silenced gun. The bullet is a through-and-through, hitting a glass display case on the back wall. The ejected shell casing has the name of Pharaoh Khufu engraved on it, and it is left on the floor. The scene shifts to the Nanase sento, where Tatsuki is being run ragged by customer requests. Suddenly, Shinra Sakaki bursts in, demanding that she go with him to Egypt. The customers accuse her of making boys cry, so she's kind of forced to drag her grandfather with them as an adult guardian. On the flight, Shinra explains that they're going to Egypt because that's where the guy is who damaged a precious object from his mother. Eventually, we learn that Prof. Haruna Sakaki was an accomplished archeologist, as well as having a wide range of interests in the natural sciences, which is how she came into contact with the three holders of the C.M.B. rings at the British Museum. One of the pieces she'd discovered during her work at Akhetaton (now Amarna) was a jewel-encrusted bird-shaped accessory, currently being repaired after being hit by a bullet. Shinra is told about the murder a few days earlier, and he wants to capture the culprit himself to punish them for damaging something associated with his mother. Cooler heads prevail and he is told to let the police handle matters, since the criminal has a gun and is willing to use it.

(Shinra plays tour guide to the great pyramids.)

Having time to kill, and since they're already in Egypt, Shinra gives the other two a tour of the pyramids. At the Great Pyramid, dedicated to Khufu, they notice a weird Canadian named Todd Soap, who claims that the pyramids are actually alien spaceships that used humans as fuel (when emptied, the humans looked like mummies). He hopes to find the secret to powering the pyramid so he can "go back home" again. Since the wait to get into the Great Pyramid is almost a full day, they go check out the less popular ones. Near Saqqara, a different group of tourists finds a corpse with a bullet hole in the head and a knife wound in the belly. A marked-up shell-casing is found nearby. The heroes give their report to the police, and back at the hotel they see a news announcement on the TV that Todd Soap was arrested for the crime. Since the time of death was determined to be noon, Todd couldn't have committed the murder because that was when Shinra and Kana saw him at the Great Pyramid. We're told that the cause of death for both Peter Fuse and the second guy, a German named Mark Daniken, was from being shot. However, both of them had been cut open and one of their internal organs removed. Shinra thinks that it may be related to the Canopic jars used to store the organs of the Pharaohs when they were mummified and entombed. (There was a jar each for the stomach, intestines, lungs and liver).

(Touma tells Tatsuki about Shinra's growing up with his step-fathers.)

A little later, Shinra learns that his first cousin, Sou Touma, will be in Egypt for a couple days (he's working on the case of The Pharaoh's Neck Ornament from Q.E.D. vol. 28) and they plan to meet up. Touma and Kana get to see Shinra and Tatsuki, and the two girls bond almost immediately over the troubles caused by the two boys. Touma gives a hint to Shinra about solving his case ("be sure your numbers match up"), as does Kana ("If I were the killer, I wouldn't act so as to attract attention to myself"). Tatsuki demands to know why Touma's family allowed Shinra to live on his own, and Touma answers back that he's living alone in Japan himself. But that after Haruna died, Shinra was raised in a castle by his adoptive fathers, before running away to see the world for himself. Tatsuki now wants to find someone she can ask about the boy's birth father.

(Chapter 2 splash page: Haruna and Shinra.)

Later, Shinra is showing off the Great Pyramid as part of a scheduled group tour, and talking about the riddles of this particular structure (air holes that lead nowhere, the misplacement of the King's chamber, the placement of large slabs of rock in two irregular locations, and the fact that the Pharaoh's mummy was never found. Suddenly, he remembers Touma's hint and runs back to the hotel to check the internet. He finds a website for Space Journey, a conspiracy site that claims that the Pharaohs came to Earth from space and, after dying, Khufu was reincarnated as 4 people. Those four include Peter Fuse, Robert Hory, Mark Daniken and Alfred Hopkins. Then, the Australian Alfred Hopkins is reported on the TV as having been found dead, leaving Hory as the prime suspect. Hopkins was found near Meidum and also had his stomach cut open.

(Kana and Tatsuki prepare to face the nomad horde.)

Shinra figures that since the three bodies were near major pyramids, Hory will probably be attempting to reincarnate himself as Khufu at the Bent Pyramid. They call Kana for backup and the three of them take a taxi to the Bent Pyramid that night. When they arrive, they find Hory lying on the ground, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot, the gun still in his hand and an engraved shell casing nearby. His stomach is not cut open. Suddenly, they're attacked by angry nomads on camels, and Kana and Tatsuki spend the night kicking butt.

(Two Japanese girls against a horde of adult men = a decent night's work-out.)

They get to the hotel in the morning, and the police rule Hory a suicide and the case is closed. Shinra tells Tatsuki that there really is a "pyramid power" like Todd claimed, but it lies in the fact that after 4000 years, it still holds secrets that authors and conspiracists continue to write about. He thinks that most of the puzzles he mentioned about the Great Pyramid came from decisions to fix perceived problems (flooding from the Nile, potential break-ins by grave robbers in the future, design changes mid-construction, and fears that the ceilings of the inner chambers will collapse under the weight above them). When he gets to the Pharaoh's missing mummy, which he thinks was stolen by grave robbers, he suddenly remembers Touma's hint again. The Canopic jars hold four of the main internal organs, but the heart was considered the seat of the soul and left in the body. For the reincarnation spell to work, Robert Hory would need a mummy.

(Shinra confronts person number 5.)

That means that there has to be a fifth person, but there were only four names on the Space Journey website homepage. Questions: Who is the fifth, unnamed person? Is he really unnamed? What was the trick used to establish an alibi? Was there an ulterior reason for the nomad attack? Where is this fifth person now and what is he planning on doing? Does Shinra get his revenge for the damage to his mother's accessory? Does Tatsuki ever learn about Shinra's real father?

======== Spoilers ========

(Space Journey main page.)

What Shinra overlooked on the Space Journey page was that Khufu's name appears at the top in hieroglyphics, and that Todd Soap had claimed to be Khufu reincarnated at the beginning of the story. The alibi trick is that Todd had convinced Hory to do the second and third killings as part of the ritual for Hory to complete the ascension, with Todd volunteering to be killed at the end, so Daniken was killed while Todd was in full view of an audience. Todd had brought to the police the bloodied knife used on Fuse, claiming he'd found it and wanted to turn it over, as part of the alibi. This caused his face to show up on TV as the suspect, bringing Hopkins out in the open where Hory could talk to, and kill, him. Later, when Hory was finished, he gave the gun to Todd to commit suicide as promised, and then Todd shot him. The nomads were incited to attack Tatsuki's group as cover to allow Todd to cut Hory open and pull his stomach out while making it look like it happened during the nomad fight. Shinra and Tatsuki go to the Great Pyramid that night, where they find Todd sitting next to 4 blood-stained urns, holding a second gun. Shinra explains his theory, but says that he refuses to believe in reincarnation. When his mother died, she never contacted him again or mentioned anything about an afterlife.

Todd replies that that's because everyone else is scum. Only the "chosen" can ascend to their rightful places in the heavens. Shinra turns around and says, "ok, then as one of the chosen, how did your friends react when you killed them?" (The answer is: "They screamed 'I don't want to die'".) Todd is suddenly filled with doubts and he can't bring himself to pull the trigger to finish the ceremony. Shinra gets the gun away from him and punches the guy in the face for damaging something precious from his mother. At the end, the accessory is fully restored, and the curator agrees to loan it to Shinra's museum for a while, making the boy very happy. Suddenly, Tatsuki remembers that she hasn't asked Touma about Shinra's birth father, and she runs to the airport only to see Sou and Kana leaving for the boarding gate. She decides that this isn't an emergency, and she can wait to talk to Touma when they meet again in the future.

(Chapter 4 splash page.)

The science is in the form of Egyptian history, with lots of explanations of pyramid construction, their belief system and the process for making mummies. There's also lots of good artwork and background scenery. The motive is kind of weak, but the trick is believable as long as you accept the motive. Then again, given the popularity of cults in the modern day, the entire concept isn't that farfetched.

(Back cover.)

Comments: While this is one of the two books with crossovers from Q.E.D., the main reason for getting it is to learn more about Shinra's mother. We are told that she was a good archeologist, that she had other interests, that she died at home in a rigged hospital bed while on an IV drip (we can see insect display cases on the walls around her) and that Shinra and the 3 British Museum curators were there with her at the end. We do see Haruna a few times, but her face is usually obscured. If you want to see more of Shinra's past and relatives, this volume is highly recommended.

(The repaired accessory that Shinra's mother had found.)

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