Saturday, January 18, 2014

C.M.B. volume 10 review

(I think it's appropriate that Google posted a doodle for the 255th anniversary of the British Museum on Jan. 15th.)

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

C.M.B., vol. 10, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

----- Warning - Spoilers -----

(Joyce's discovery.)

Sonosa 6 senmannen (Sixty million years, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2008).
Four stories this time, again. This one starts out with Hella Cobalt driving Shinra and Tatsuki through the Gobi desert to meet up with her brother, Joyce. The two of them are fossil hunters, and a few days ago, they'd made a discovery that caused them to seal off the dig and send all the workers home. When the three get to the site, they find Joyce pointing a rifle at Rob Dale, director for a nature TV show. Hella kicks her brother in the head to make him settle down; then, when he learns that Shinra is the owner of the CMB rings, he grabs the boy and carries him past the security perimeter. Inside, they find two fossils embedded in a cliff wall, one of a dinosaur and the other of a human. Since the dinosaur dates back to about 65 million years, and the first humans showed up 4 to 5 million years ago, having the two types of fossils at the same layer in the ground would either be a remarkable discovery, or some kind of a hoax. Shinra talks about Johann Beringer, a German doctor that had been duped by some friends that made fake fossils for him to "discover" in the 1720's. Joyce had contacted the British museum because he was afraid of being a victim of a hoax as well, which is why Shinra is there with them. However, Hella is convinced that her brother is being too cautious and is going to throw away his only chance for success.

(Hella is afraid that Shinra is going to steal her brother's discovery.)

Meanwhile, Rob has returned to the nearest town and has contacted his boss back in the States. Rob has been exiled to wander around looking for new stories to cover, and this one, judging from the information gained from one of the workers ejected from the site, may be big enough to let him come home. A few hours later, the producer arrives by plane and the two of them drive to the dig, where Joyce tries to shoot out one of the tires of their jeep, and instead hits the gas tank and blows the vehicle up. Eventually, Shinra has to explain everything, in return he gets to decide what happens to the fossils.

--- Spoilers ---

This part of the Gobi was once under glaciers during the ice age, and they'd churned up the ground along the way. Later, river channels started forming, and the fossils were exposed by erosion. So, while the river canyon wall looks to be regular exposed rock, it had actually been folded over double by the ice, which also destroyed the "time record" of the surrounding rock. Shinra's conditions are that the wall be cut around the fossils and they be removed in one big slab, and that he gets to display them for 1 month in his museum. Additionally, the TV crew likes the history surrouding the fossils so much that they want to shoot a straight-forward show about it (rather than the feared "did time-traveling aliens take humans back to the age of the dinosaurs?" routine.)

The science consists of an overview of how geologists date fossils based on what layer of rock they're in, the story on Beringer, and the concept of the overthrust (or Decken) structure.

(The email that starts it all.)

Kuji (The Nail, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2008).
One of Tatsuki's classmates gets a text message on his phone, including a photo of a small straw figure nailed to a tree. It's kind of a challenge game to learn more about the picture, which is a traditional method of putting curses on people. Shinra notices that the shrine in the background is near the school, and he and several of the students go to check it out. The straw doll is well above their heads, and no one would have seen it without deliberately looking for it. Shinra climbs the tree and reports that the piece of paper on the doll has the name Takeo Yowatari written on it. One of the girls remembers that name as being for a victim of a hit and run 6 months earlier. Shinra and Tatsuki track down Det. Kujirazaki and ask about the case. Initially, he refuses to discuss police business, so Shinra threatens to stop helping him in the future. This does the trick, and the detective tells them that Yowatari had been killed late one night in a hit and run, but that the driver, Eisuki Deaigashira, turned himself over to the police voluntarily. The group tracks down Eisuke, where he's currently living in an apartment alone. He claims that someone had pushed the victim out on the road as he approached and he hadn't had enough time to stop. Based on the height of the doll on that particular type of tree, he figures that the curse had been put on Yowatari at the time that he was in jail during the investigation. The existence of the curse doll proves that someone else wanted the guy dead, and helps support his contention that Yowatari was murdered.

Yowatari had a girlfriend but she'd moved back to her family's home town after he'd taken all her money and was then caught dating another woman. Tatsuki and one of the classmates take a train out to the countryside, and show the ex-girlfriend the photo of the curse doll, but she just laughs because it's such a childish thing to do. Tatsuki returns to Tokyo, and Shinra gathers everyone at the tree to uncover the truth.

--- Spoilers ---

The problem is that with this kind of tree, a pine, the base grows outward, not up. So, the nail in the doll would still be at the same height it was pounded into the tree even after 6 months. A few days before emailing the photo out, Deaigashira had used a ladder to pound the doll to the tree, using pre-faded straw and paper with the victim's name on it. He'd gotten the name, and information about the ex-girlfriend from his lawyer during a visit while he was still in jail. The entire scheme was designed to make him look innocent of reckless driving. Shinra's price for giving the reveal is for his classmates to buy him the most expensive shaved ice dessert at a nearby restaurant.

No science.

(Shinra's hopes are dashed.)

Chikyuu Saigo no Natsuyasumi (Summer Holiday at the world end, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2008).
It's the last day of summer vacation, and the class wants to go to the ocean to take advantage of it. Three students bow out, two to take remedial classes, and one to practice with the school's basketball club. The rest take the bus to the beach, with Shinra carrying 3 specimen cases for the creatures he hopes to find for his museum (Tatsuki stuffs them in a locker and tells the boy "no work or research while on vacation"). At the ocean, the kids play around, but a few of the guys are thwarted from swimming past the guard ropes like they wanted to, and Shinra's attempts to catch fish in baggies is also defeated by Tatsuki. During lunch in the beach house, one of the more arrogant boys is dawdling over the menu, because, as he says, "the choices you make will have a big impact on your future". This attracts the waitress, a young woman, and she tells them a ghost story. 15 years earlier, a group of 5 students - 2 boys and 3 girls - had gone into a nearby cave. One of girls disappeared. The other four got to the back of the cave, when suddenly there was loud laughter that terrified them. The group stood still with their eyes closed until the laughing ended. Then they ran back to the school, where they found the missing girl standing in one of the class rooms.

(The class visits the haunted cave.)

The waitress challenges the group to visit the cave, which they do. They get to the back of the cave, and are shocked by a weird, loud laughing voice. They race outside and recover. Tatsuki asks Shinra about it, and he says that he'd only heard the sound of the surf; he'd ran out because everyone else was running.

--- Spoilers ---

At the end of the day, the class is picking up their gear and getting ready to go home. In the beach house, Shinra and Tatsuki are sitting at a table, when the boy suddenly asks the waitress why she'd pranked them. She pulls out a cloth bag with a toy inside that laughs when you shake it, explaining that when the one kid had talked about the importance of making the perfect choice, that she wanted to show them that there's no such thing. She asks how Shinra had figured it out, and he replies that from the way she'd told the ghost story that she must have been hidden in the rocks behind the group of 4, watching their reactions. She'd played the original prank because the other 4 kids liked each other and that was her way of bringing them closer together. One couple had gotten married afterward, and are still living in the nearby town. She follows up by saying that the last day of summer vacation is an important time in a kid's life, and you can't waste it waiting for the perfect chance to do the right thing.
Note: Of the three that opted to not go on vacation, one girl was taking a summer class to prepare for college. One boy took the same class in the hopes of asking her out, but she shoots him down. And the remaining boy was practicing basketball because he's so bad that he's probably going to be kicked out of the club. At the end, he's still not getting any better, but he is very determined.

No science. No admissions price to enter the Wunderkammer.

(The Hydraulis tries to claim Smoke Fresh as its next victim.)

Hidoraurisu (The Hydraulis, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2008).
Mao is back. This time, she's found an old pipe organ in Milano, Italy, and she wants Shinra's help in authenticating it for her. However, a science writer, Smoke Fresh, is in the cabin in the mountains with the pipe organ, and as he's playing it, he grabs his head and screams. Two locals sitting outside the building break the wooden door open, and find the guy passed out on the floor. Mao shows Shinra the pipe organ, then runs away. The boy learns about Smoke, and visits him in the hospital. Smoke claims to have been everywhere in the world, but he'd never experienced anything like this before. He thinks the building is haunted by the souls of the soldiers that had died fighting wars in this region of northern Italy. Tatsuki is convinced that Mao is setting them up for trouble and wants to go back to Japan, but Shinra plans to figure out the pipe organ's secret. When they talk to the locals, they're told that the building is cursed and none of them ever go up there.

(The hydraulis, and defeated soldiers from an invading army.)

Shinra has recognized the organ to be a hydraulis, an old style of air-driven organ that used a tank of water to push air through a storage drum into the pipes. As water from outside filled the tank, it would flow up around the drum, creating a steady pressure against the air in the drum for making the music when the organist pressed the keys. The first one was invented about 270 BC in Greece by Ctesibius of Alexandria. But this particular hydraulis is strange, in that it was built in the 1500's, long after the design was replaced by bellows powered by workers stepping on them with their feet. Shinra spends the day going over the entire system and tells Tatsuki that he was right, this machine is strange. Instead of air flowing in to the pipes to make the music, the tank is designed to create a vacuum to pull the air out. The reeds in the pipes are reversed to accommodate the reversed air flow. Then, the door is barred shut from the outside and the organ starts playing by itself. Shinra gets a massive headache and shouts at Tatsuki to kick the main pipe out of the wall. He throws his jacket to her and she stuffs it into the pipe. The vacuum pulls the jacket into the water tank, where it plugs the opened outflow drain. Then, Mao arrives and opens the door from the outside. Shinra offers to tell her the secret of the hydraulis, but only if she shows him her private art collection. After some complaining, she agrees to this.

--- Spoilers ---

The group goes to the hospital, where Shinra says that Smoke already knows the secret. Since he'd claimed to have visited all of the mountains and seas on the planet, he'd be familiar with altitude sickness, caused by a lack of oxygen in the atmosphere. When he'd recovered after passing out from playing the organ, he knew immediately what had happened. Since Mao had initially contracted him to investigate the hydraulis, he knew that her next move would be to contact Shinra. He was hoping that Shinra would die while in the building, and that he'd then be able to get rich by writing a book on the subsequent "mystery". Which is why he'd stuck one of the keys open, blocked the door from the outside, and then started the water flowing from the tank. The real question is why this particular hydraulis was built in the first place. The answer to that involves all of the battles that were fought in the region in the past. The building was designed without windows, and with only one door, to be a killing machine to be used on foriegn troops encamped there. Now that Mao knows the history of the pipe organ, she realizes that she's not going to be able to get a buyer for it.

The science consists of discussions of how the hydraulis works.

(Back cover.)

Conclusion: The first three stories are kind of played for laughs and are mostly puff pieces, although the artwork for the Gobi desert and the fossils are very good. I really like the science behind the hydraulis, and that entire chapter was fun to read. In short, this is a pretty good book, with decent designs and plots. The motives are still weak, but the tricks are ok. Recommended.

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