Friday, January 31, 2014

C.M.B. volume 13 review

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

C.M.B., vol. 13, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

---- Spoilers ----

Four stories this time. They're minor enough that I'll give away the endings for each one. You have been warned.

(On discovering the vacant lot.)

Natsukusa (The Grass in Summer, Monthly Magajin, 2009).
Shinra, Tatsuki and a few of their classmates are returning home after school. They've been given an English writing assignment, and since Shinra already finished it, the others want to copy his paper themselves. As the more obnoxious of the group tries grabbing it from the boy, it gets caught by a gust of wind. The group runs after it, and eventually they find the paper lying in the middle of an abandoned lot. The plot was divided up by the developer, so a small house is at the front and the bulk of the land is around to the back where no one notices it from the street. Shinra starts talking about the flowers and weeds growing in the lot, from the ivy on a water faucet to a specific plant laid out in a straight line, and he realizes that someone used to live there at one time. The group leaves. The next day, everyone is complaining that all of them handed in the exact same assignment and therefore didn't get any points for it. As they near the lot again, Tatsuki goes around to the back and discovers a woman standing there, crying. She immediately demands to know if any of the kids know anything about her father.

(Carolus Linnaeus and his botanical sun dial.)

Shinra is forced to come up with an answer, and he agrees only if the others buy him another expensive shaved ice desert, mango this time. They go to Burger Kingyo (Burger Goldfish) where the woman, unnamed, calms down. She says that her father had collapsed and been taken to a hospital 7 years ago, but never recovered and eventually had died 3 months back. In going through his effects, his grown-up children had found a passport with lots of visa stamps, and the woman had just received a letter from a real estate agent telling her that her father owned that strange plot of land. Her mother had suffered a stroke, and her father had tended to her at home until she died. Their children had grown up and moved out, then had children of their own. The woman believes that her father had been happy playing with his grandchildren, so why had he disappeared to live some kind of a double life? Shinra's explanation is that the guy, after retiring, just wanted to be left alone to do his own thing. There are many kinds of plants in the lot, and based on the patterns, the man had bought a small camper and set it up in the middle of the lot, with a hose running from the faucet to the camper. The plants encircled the camper in such a way as to replicate Linnaeus' flower clock. In the 1750's, Carolus Linnaeus proposed growing flowers in a garden selected specifically so that each species would bloom at different hours of the day. The woman is unsatisfied that her father refused to share this part of his life with her, but at least now she knows what he had been doing before falling ill.

The science revolves around different kinds of plants, and the principle behind the flower clock.

(Shinra chases a butterfly, gets the group lost, then finds a cabin on a mountaintop.)

Kiri no Sansou (Mountain Villa in Fog, Monthly Magajin, 2009).
Shinra, Tatsuki and a classmate are out on a school field trip when Shinra decides to chase after a butterfly, and the three get lost in the hills. Fortunately, they're still within reach of a cellphone tower, and Shinra spots a mountain cabin. They go to the cabin to wait for the teacher to come get them, but a heavy fog rolls in and they have to wait to be rescued until the next day. The cabin belongs to Tamotsu Tsukiyama, a belligerent braggart who produces the TV comedy show O-Zap. With him are his script writer, Kaeru Amagasa, former girlfriend and actress, Chisato Hanamaku, and upcoming actor Tokuji Kirishima. Everyone goes upstairs to their rooms for the evening, leaving Tamotsu in the living room to drink by himself. That night, there's a scream, and the others run out to see Tokuji standing at the foot of the stairs and Tamotsu sitting on the couch, dead, a rope around his neck.

(Tamotsu has seen better days.)

The police can't reach the cabin until the fog lifts, and Tatsuki and her friend blame all this inconvenience on Shinra, so he has to solve the case for them for free. Amagasa claims that he'd wanted to kill the victim a number of times, for forcing him to rewrite scripts overnight, while also demanding he save Tamotsu from angry girlfriends when he was caught cheating on them. Chisato says that Kirishima couldn't move on to improve his career while Tamotsu remained his producer, while Kirishima says that Chisato is jealous of Tamotsu's money and was probably caught trying to steal from him and killed her former boyfriend to keep him from talking. Shinra reconstructs the events leading up to the crime. Amagasa had talked to Tamotsu, and found out that the producer's claim of having lined up a TV show in the U.S. that could lead to appearances on Broadway was a lie. Tamotsu had then wanted to talk to Chisato, and Amagasa warned him to not cause her trouble. To protect her, Amagasa had followed down the stairs behind Chisato and snuck into the toilet without her noticing, but in full view of Tamotsu. After some time passed, Amagasa decided it was safe to come back out of the toilet, only to discover that Tamotsu had committed suicide. Amagasa was forced to clean up after him again - he cut the body down and placed it on the couch, then went to his room to get a drink to calm his nerves. Unfortunately, Kirishima had come down the stairs and found the body by accident.

(Kirishima tries to place suspicion on Chisato.)

No science this time. However - look at Kirishima's t-shirt above. It's advertising Q.E.D.

(Argentine gaucho eat slow-cooked steak.)

Asado (Asddo, Monthly Magajin, 2009).
In the school, Tatsuki is angry. She's been put in charge of her team for the school's summer festival in the next couple days, and none of them can agree on what to do for it. Time is running out and she refuses to let anyone go home until they make a decision. Shinra suggests Asado, an Argentine-style of slow-roasted steak. Japan doesn't allow the import of meat from Argentina, so he picks beef from Australia. The next day, the 6-person team takes 1-hour turns at tending to the meat during the 3-hour grilling. Along with other minor fiascoes, the group witnesses a different team bullying one of their own members, a weak-willed kid named Ryousuke Nako. Nako is pressured into building the team's display on recycling while the others go outside to hang out at a family restaurant. Additionally, one team putting on a magic show is so desperate to get visitors that they have to hand out several hundred fliers advertising the act to every single person in the school. Finally, the guy at the neighboring stand (a goldfish scoop stand) is told to take care of the finished asado when Shinra realizes that he forgot to make the sauce for it.

At the end of the night before the big festival, Tatsuki tries to tell the teacher supervising the recycling team that Nako is being bullied, but the bullies claim to be innocent and Nako won't stand up for himself (part of Tatsuki's anger comes from the fact that Nako's mother is in the hospital, his father is spending all his free time visiting her, Nako is the one preparing dinner for his 4 younger brothers, and the bullies are preventing him from leaving the school until he finishes the festival display for them). The group realizes their steak is missing, and the bullies use this to show that they're being picked on undeservedly (the goldfish guy had to go home, and had hidden the steak at his stand so no one else would take it). Shinra intervenes, and "opens" the wunderkammer for free by asking everyone to show their copies of the Magic show flier. Since the bullies can't do this, it's obvious that they've been off-campus all day, and the teacher punishes them. Tatsuki gives the finished asado to Nako to share with his brothers. The next day, Tatsuki's table is packed with people demanding to buy the next asado, and Shinra tells them they have to wait until it's done.

No science, just a description of gaucho cooking. Note that the English translation of the title, "Assdo," is misspelled.

(Hihimaru makes coffee for the guest.)

Orugo-ru (The Music Box, Monthly Magajin, 2009).
Shinra and Tatsuki are returning to the museum after class when they hear a shriek. They run inside to find Hihimaru (the monkey from volume 12) defending the exhibits from Mao, the black market broker. Mao says that she's there on business, so Tatsuki asks Hihi to prepare a drink for their guest. The monkey then brews a cup of coffee and brings it to Mao. She explains why she's there. She'd brought something that looks like a grandfather clock, but it's actually a music box, in Japanese called an "Orugo-ru". According to legend, the owner was a woman in London in the late 1800's that loved listening to the the music box more than she did spending time with her husband, so the husband blew the box case to pieces with a shotgun. Problem is, there's no sign of any damage to the housing, or any indication that the music box was restored. Shinra promises to look into the matter in exchange for information from her. Mao also has the woman's diary, where she writes about spending hours with the Orugo-ru and how listening to it makes her feel like she's in heaven. The last page talks about her husband entering the room and shooting the music box, and how she ran into the bathroom expecting that he would shoot her, too. But, in inspecting the Orugo-ru, not only does Shinra confirm that it's in perfect condition, but the spring crank is too hard for a woman to turn, and none of the seven metal disks stored inside the housing show any signs of ever having been played.

(The history of music boxes in 2 pages.)

Shinra gives Tatsuki a brief history of music boxes, from the first 13th century Belgian hand-cranked wooden cylinder that played bells, to the 1760's when London watch makers tried applying their craft to make the mechanisms smaller. The challenge was in affixing the little teeth to the cylinder, so the solution in 1870 was to use a larger, replaceable, disk with holes drilled in it. The big music boxes were popular for a short while, until being replaced by records and gramophones in the late 1890's. That night, as Shinra is pouring over the diary, Hihimaru gives him something to drink. The boy is shocked to realize that although he was expecting to get coffee, what he's tasting is hot cocoa. This gives him the hint he needs, and he realizes that in the diary, the woman used "orugo-ru" as a keyword for her boyfriend. The music box had never been used, which is why it's still in good condition. It had been cleaned, once, to remove the blood splatter after the husband killed the boyfriend. Shinra uses Luminol and a black light to demonstrate to Mao that his theory is correct. Mao leaves, promising to pick up the music box the next morning and give him his information then. However, when he wakes up, he discovers that Mao had removed the orugo-ru in the middle of the night. On the other hand, Hihimaru had stolen the crank handle, guaranteeing that the black market broker will be coming back soon.

No real science. Just the history lesson on music boxes.

(Back cover.)

Comments: The shorter stories have a tendency to feel like puff pieces, or filler. The artwork is good, but there's not much character development or plot line. The Asado and Summer Grass stories are ok, although I did like learning about the flower clock. Mountain Villa is ignorable, but the information on the music box was good. Overall, this volume is recommended if you like the rest of the series.

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