Friday, January 17, 2014

C.M.B. volume 09 review

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C.M.B., vol. 09, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Tourists find Forio. Tatsuki, Shinra and Mao find Machu Picchu.)

Taiyou to Fo-kuroa (The Sun and a Folklore, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2008).
A tourguide is showing a group of tourists around the city of Cusco, Peru. As she's standing in front of a grate built into a wall of a building, telling the group about the twisty maze of tunnels under the city, the group hears a strange sound and they discover the limp body of a boy in traditional clothing. The boy is holding a bar of Incan gold. According to legend, a group of university researchers from Lima tried to navigate the tunnels, and only one person survived the trip, and even he died soon after. This time, a professor from Yale, Prof. Poraiyu, had thought that he had a key to the tunnels. The Inca didn't have a written language, instead their local stories were passed down generation by generation in the form of folk songs. And, runners crisscrossing the country would collect census information in the form of knotted strings, called quipu. Poraiyu had located a gold ornament holding a collection of quipu that he believed was used for navigating the tunnels. The boy found in the tunnel, Forio, had been hired as Poraiyu's guide. A search party discovers Poraiyu's body 50 meters from the exit, death by dehydration. His flashlight was found next to him, but the batteries are dead. According to Forio, Poraiyu had used the quipu to find a hidden treasure room at the back of the tunnel system, but his flashlight suddenly died and he panicked in the darkness, running off before the boy could stop him. Without the quipu, Forio himself almost didn't make it back. Now, he's laid up in the hospital, refusing to talk to anyone.

(Poraiyu's quipu.)

Mao hires Shinra to help her locate the Inca treasure room. Shinra, meanwhile, has gotten a letter from the president of Peru granting him access to wherever in the country he wants to go. He uses this to get into the hospital to see the boy. As Shinra, Mao and Tatsuki enter the room, a Peruvian history expert, Prof. Horuhe, is unsuccessfully trying to get Forio to talk. While it's believed that all of the Incan gold had been claimed by the Spanish conquistadors and melted down for money, the statue Forio found indicates that Poraiyu was onto something and a secret treasure room still exists. Horuhe wants to find the gold to keep it in Peru. Poraiyu's 2 assistants, Marka and Mace, think that Forio is trying to keep it all to himself. However, those two seem too eager to get the gold themselves. The main suspects are Horuhe and Marka, both of whom could have snuck into the tunnels behind Poraiyu and tampered with the flashlight, and Mace, who claims that she was the one to put fresh batteries into it. A couple days later, a strange masked figure gets into Mace's hotel room just as she realizes what had happened in the tunnels; she stumbles back when she sees the figure, presses against the balcony railing, which collapses behind her, and falls to her death in the street outside. Someone steals the quipu, so Shinra announces that he's going to have all the tunnel entrances permanently sealed off. Suddenly, the quipu resurfaces, so Shinra, Mao and Tatsuki ask Forio to guide them into the tunnels as Shinra recreates Poraiyu's experiment, showing that the knots in the strings actually do indicate which tunnel entrance to take and when to turn right or left. They reach the main back room and discover that the walls are covered in paintings of the secret history of the Incas (each new king would kill anyone that talked about their predecessors, so the ones that recorded events in songs would also record history in the secret room). Marka and Horuhe both sneak into the tunnels to follow the group, and it looks like someone has kidnapped Forio. Questions: Is there any remaining Inca gold? Who tampered with Poraiyu's flashlight and caused Mace to fall from her balcony?

(The secret "treasure" room.)

Lots of history regarding what's known about the Inca, how they were treated by the Spaniards, and the use of quipu. The tunnels really do exist, and people would get lost in them, although now they've been mapped using radar. Shinra's price for saving the other two from the tunnels is for Mao to remain mum about the existence of the records room.

(The painting above the library door.)

Metamorufo-ze (The Metamorphosis, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2008).
Shinra is being forced to help Tatsuki return map scrolls to their shelves in the library. They see first-year student Hiromi Iimura studying at a table; she's usually there because she has a crush on one of the teachers, Yoshio Shiga. The vice principal, Tetsuji Mori comes into the room to talk to Yoshio. As the adults are leaving, Shinra notices a painting sitting in a frame above the door, and he asks about it. It turns into a mini-mystery, and the group takes the painting to the principal's office. There, Tatsuki's grandfather says that he'd found it in a closet gathering dust, so, since it looked interesting, he had it moved to the library. Shinra tells them that it's an original hand-painting of butterflies and catepillars by noted naturalist Anna Maria Sibylla Merian. Maria was born in Germany in 1647. After a nasty divorce and ridicule by her colleagues, she made her name by recording the behavior and appearance of a variety of insects, being one of the first to document the metamorphosis of catepillars to butterflies. The painting in the school is probably worth $200,000 USD, so the principal asks everyone in the room to keep the painting secret and it's returned to the library.

(The trick for making paintings disappear from their frames only works if you're in one part of the room, and no one notices the mirror sitting on the bookshelf behind you.)

A few days later, while Hiromi is in alone the library, the painting vanishes, leaving her as the only suspect. Shinra volunteers to solve the mystery in return for receiving the painting for his museum. Questions: How could the painting disappear while Hiromi was facing it? Who took it?

Most of the history revolves around Maria Sibylla, and her contributions to etymology. The trick involves sunlight reflections, and is similar to several gimmicks employed in Q.E.D., most specifically the one in Sage's Bequest in vol. 19.

(Shinra, Tatsuki, Tatsuki's grandfather, Nobuaki and Miki.)

Shimetsu Kaiyuu (Abortive migration, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2008).
Shinra has chartered a diving boat so he can take marine photos. Tatsuki tags along after him, and her grandfather is just there to relax on the beach. The dive master is Nobuaki Tsuruoka, who normally works together with his wife, Miki. Today, though, it seems that they've had a fight and Miki stomps off to return home. Shinra's dive goes well, and he gets the photos he wants. However, Tatsuki's grandfather overhears Miki in town talking to Shizuo, her brother-in-law, about a photo she'd discovered. Nobuaki was originally married to Keiko, but she'd died 3 years earlier in a diving accident. Unexpectedly, warm water currents had brought fish up to the colder regions of Japan, where they immediately died from the temperature change. Nobuaki and Keiko had been in the water at the time, when a whale swam up after the fish, and Keiko got caught in the backwash. Her body showed up farther south some days later. Miki has been acting really jealous and demanding that Nobuaki dispose of anything belonging to Keiko, which is what that morning's fight was about.

(Nobuaki on the rope, Keiko taking photos below.)

But, as the day progresses, evidence starts surfacing that implies that Keiko's "accident" was staged, and that Miki may be the next in line to be killed for being too nosy. Questions: What is it about the last photo Keiko took with the whale that catches Shinra's eye? Why has the last of Keiko's effects suddenly disappeared? And why were the belt weights she was wearing at the time heavier than normal?

No history. The science just involves changing water currents, the presence of warm water fish in cold waters, and what would happen if someone weren't properly prepared for a whale showing up in front of them. Shinra doesn't receive an extra admissions fee to the Wunderkammer this time.

(Back cover.)

Comments: The Sun and a Folklore (Katou's own title) is a nice window into Peruvian life and the existence of the tunnels under Cusco. The motive is pretty obvious, but the villain is really clumsy. The motive for Metamorphosis is acceptable, but the trick is kind of silly. I like the artwork on Maria Sibylla, though. Abortive migration is a straightforward murder mystery with no real trick, but again, I didn't care for the choice of killers. The character artwork in several of the panels is very weak, and I'm guessing it's because Motohiro was letting one of his staff do most of the work on them. Still, I recommend this volume for the stuff on the Incas and Maria Sibylla.

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