Saturday, February 8, 2014

C.M.B. volume 16 review

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C.M.B., vol. 16, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Investigators gather at Nazca to dig into the cause of the death of a researcher.)

Nasuka no Chijoue (The Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2010).
Shinra and Tatsuki have been hauled out from their hotel rooms in Lima, Peru, as part of a police investigation into the death of Spanish archeologist Prof. Saido. Saido's body was found in the middle of one of the Nazca line drawings, cause of death - a fall from a great height. The problem is that this part of the land is flat and the highest thing is the roof of Saido's car. There are no tracks from other people or vehicles, and the only thing in the air at the time of death was the plane Shinra flew in to get to Peru. Shinra had been called out to Peru by Saido to act as mediator in some kind of dispute, but he wasn't told the details. Also at the scene is Javier Peresu, a local councilman. Javier tells Shinra that Saido wasn't very popular with the local people, since he was Spanish, and kept blocking them from building roads out to the Nazca sites in order to boost tourism and bring in much-needed outside money.

(Why were the Nazca lines originally formed?)

Tatsuki asks Shinra about the lines, and he mentions that they're speculated to have been either messages to space aliens, ways of recording star patterns or positions of the sun throughout the year. Personally, he thinks that some of the lines were the result of people walking back and forth between cities, or were created as routes followed for various shamanic ceremonies. He also adds that there's a lot of bad blood between the Peruvians and Spanish dating back to Spain's conquering and plundering of Peru. Questions: How was Saido killed, and why? Who would have done it? Were the bumpy air conditions on Shinra's flight somehow tied to Saido's cause of death?

Some descriptions of the Nazca lines, and a little of the more recent history of Peru.

(The evil Leyak tempts men, threatens babies, and makes your teeth fall out.)

Reyakku (The "Leyak", Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2010).
Tatsuki's grandfather has been called out to visit a friend in Bali, Indonesia, and Tatsuki and Shinra have tagged along on the trip. The friend, unnamed, has decided to retire in Bali, but he suffers from bad knees and is being treated by a young doctor named Made Sudaruta. Made is Indonesian, but had studied medicine in the U.S. He decides to take the two kids in his car as he makes his rounds of the island treating villagers that are suffering from ailments made worse, not better, by various medicine men. Made gripes about how his people are still superstitious and blame everything on Leyak, including FAX machines that automatically power on at night to receive incoming faxes. He wishes that they would become at least a little more familiar with the modern world. Shinra adds that the Leyak is an Indonesian demon that is blamed for anything that goes wrong, from taking on the form of a woman to get men to cheat on their wives, to sucking the blood of babies and causing people's teeth to fall out. Made interjects that part of the myth is that if you accuse someone of being a Leyak, it will kill you, so this creates a culture of silence when it comes to solving crimes.

(Spoiler: Confession time.)

Made stops to let the kids watch a stage play featuring masked performers as the witch Rangda and the sacred beast Barong. During the play, one of the female performers, Kutud, staggers onto the stage with a knife in her back. She collapses and is taken to the hospital, where her boyfriend, Bawa, sits in vigil next to her bed. Rumors soon start swirling that the culprit is another female performer, Rasumin, who is in love with Bawa and jealous of Kutud. Rasumin had accused Kutud of being a Leyak, making it ok to kill her. Later, though, Rasumin is found dead at the bottom of a cliff. It's believed that she either slipped in the mud and fell when it was raining, or had committed suicide to avoid arrest by the police. Questions: Did Rasumin jump, or was she pushed? If she was killed, who did it and why?

No real science, just a description of Indonesian beliefs and lots of really good artwork of the Leyak.

(Not everyone can tell good ghost stories. Top panel: Yokoyari. Bottom left: Shinichi.)

Gakkou no Nana Fushigi (The Seven Mysteries of the High School, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2010).
Yokoyari, the glasses-wearing member Tatsuki's group of classmates is trying to scare the others by telling the 7 mysteries of the school (ghost stories) and failing miserably. The tales range from a haunted swimming paddle board to the ghost of a frustrated marathon runner. In the group is Shinichi Okumura, tender of the goat and rabbits in the school's basement. Shinichi gets scared easily, having once torn through the wall of the school's haunted house exhibit. But even he finds Yokoyari's stores hilarious. Tatsuki corrects Yokoyari on the "mystery of the playing piano" so that the victim, a lover of Chopin, is killed and his head stuck in the display case where Chopin's bust had been. This causes Shinichi to panic, run, trip and spill all of the paint supplies he'd bought over the floor. Since the group is supposed to build the entrance arch for the school's festival that week, Shinra and Tatsuki have to go back to the art store and get more paints. While the two are walking, Shinra talks about Japan's leading teller of ghost stories, rakugo Enchou Sanyuutei.

(Yokoyari just can't get no respect.)

When Shinra returns to the school later that evening, he notices that the front door doesn't open the way it usually does. Then, they discover that the classroom is empty, the other 4 students are missing, and all of the phones for those classmates are still in their bags in their desks. Questions: Did the others disappear? Was it ghosts, killers, or one of Yokoyari's "mysteries"? Or, are maybe the others trying to play a trick on them? Is what Shinra felt when he opened the door related to the problem? Will the missing students ever be found?

(Enchou Sanyuutei, the man.)

No science, just a brief highlighting of some of Enchou's stories, including "Shibahama" and "Death God". Although, there is a mention of how sudden air flows can make doors close on you.

(The suspects, the investigators and the dagger. Top left: Brust. Top right: Mao.)

Kafanjaru (The Khanjar, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2010).
Tatsuki visits the museum and Shinra futiley attempts to hide a flier advertising a big auction coming up for gold and artifacts recovered from a sunken Spanish ship. Shinra wants to attend it to get something for his museum, but it's the same day as a group study class that the others in the school have insisted has to be held at the museum to prepare for an upcoming test and Tatsuki refuses to let it be postponed. Then, Inspector Brust, from Europol shows up to have the boy appraise a Khanjar, a decorative Turkish dagger crafted in the 1700's. Shinra agrees, but Brust won't let him inspect the treasure until all involved parties are present, which would be in a few days. It seems that the dagger was stolen under the orders of Mao, the black market dealer, and Shinra tells Tatsuki that it would be fine by him if she went to jail and got out of his hair. Suddenly, Mao, dressed in the school's sailor uniform, kicks him in the back of the head. Turns out that Europol is keeping both of them under observation, because Brust thinks that Shinra is in cahoots with her. It's to his benefit to help her out. She tells him that some bumbling group of three thieves had stolen the dagger from an estate, and planned on prying out the stones from the sheath to sell them one at a time. They showed her a turquoise, demanding $10K-$20K USD for it and she turned them down, saying that the turquoise stone is pretty but not valuable on its own. It's only worth something as part of the sheath. She then followed them to their hotel, and while eating lunch at a cafe, saw the police raiding her own shop. From what she'd gathered, the thieves had gotten caught by Brust, and pleaded for mercy by claiming that she was their boss, that they were only following her orders to steal the dagger, and that they'd testify against her in court for clemency. Since Brust thinks that Shinra is working for her, if she's arrested, he will be, too. Plus, her fingerprint is on the stone that was put back into the sheath. Mao attempts to get Shinra to switch the stolen dagger with a replica, and he violently refuses.

(Mao makes a peace offering to ensure that she can use Shinra in the future.)

The day of the evaluation, Brust, two assistant inspectors, the three thieves, Mao, Shinra and Tatsuki get together in the thieves' hotel room. The thieves repeat their story that Mao had taken the dagger out of the sheath and commented on how it looked like a fish hook. Shinra appraises the dagger and says that it's authentic. Brust pounces on this claim to arrest Mao, and Shinra adds, "I doubt you'd win your case in court, though". Questions: What does Shinra mean by this last comment? How does he avoid getting arrested himself as Mao's accomplice? Does Mao go free, or do the thieves?

No science, and only just a brief discussion of the cultural importance of the Khanjar. As a "thank you" gift, Mao has an assistant deliver a dagger and a small chest containing three gold coins to the museum. The dagger and chest have tags, implying that they came from the Spanish shipwreck auction.

(Back cover.)

Comments: Lots of nice artwork this time. I really like the Leyak drawings, which probably were copied from photos off the net. I would have liked to see more of the Nazca lines (which Motohiro spelled as Nasca), but it's nice that he did use them in a story, in the first place. The resolution of the Nazca and 7 Mysteries stories is a bit weak, however I enjoyed the way the Khanjar chapter turned out. Overall, this is a pretty good volume. Recommended.

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