Saturday, February 15, 2014

C.M.B. volume 18 review

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C.M.B., vol. 18, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(The twins.)

Ryuuhou (Dragon and Phoenix, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2011).
Three stories this time, Dragon and Phoenix being a two-parter. Gairin Shuu is a real estate mogul, and the head of a Hong Kong mafia group, having taken over after her husband had died a couple years earlier. She invites Shinra to a soccer match held at the stadium she owns, in an attempt to get the boy to decorate a condo building her husband had originally designed. Shinra says "no" and wants out, but the bodyguards won't let him leave without signing the contract. He attacks the guards, and the noise disturbs Manrun, Gairin's son, who tells them to get out if they won't watch the game. This pushes Gairin into letting Shinra and Tatsuki go. At about the same time, Shiufun Kok, Gairin's main rival in the real estate business, is found lying on the ground at the stadium, having fallen from a balcony. When his guards arrive, Kok says "The Shuu twins are identical" before dying.

(The jade Dragon and Phoenix. Tatsuki likes the soup in Hong Kong.)

Det. Tin (the Hong Kong inspector that appeared in The Actress Sees Ghost, in vol. 12) is handed the case, and pretty quickly learns that Manrun has a twin sister, Manfon (Gairin calls the twins her "Dragon and Phoenix"). However, they don't look much alike. Tin suspects that Manrun had gone to the men's room at the stadium, followed by a bodyguard, switched places with Manfon in one of the stalls, and that Manrun had then shoved Kok off the balcony. The problem with this scenario is that Kok wouldn't have known about Manfon, and wouldn't have had reason to meet with Manrun. The rumor quickly spreads, though, and as the resulting turf war threatens to engulf the entire city, there are several attempts made by Kok's gang to kill Gairin. Manfon and Manrun discover Shinra having tea at a restaurant and plead with him to find Kok's killer and save their mother, but there's not much he can do at the moment. Eventually, some of Kok's men happen on Manrun when he's not being guarded, and chase him into the condo construction site. The boy is cornered and forced to fall off the roof and die on the ground below.

(The death of Manrun.)

The funeral is held and Gairin's men are preparing to launch a full-out assault on Kok's gang, with Gairin pulling out a pump shotgun to lead the charge. Manfon asks which is more important, revenge, or the lives of the two remaining Shuu women? The other gang members try leaving the compound on their own, but are stopped by Tin, Shinra, and some of the other Hong Kong police. Shinra offers to uncover Kok's killer to stop the war, in exchange for a priceless jade carving of a dragon and phoenix that Gairin says protects the Shuu family. Questions: Who killed Kok? Was it Gairin's Number 1 guard on Gairin's orders, the number 1 on his own initiative, the bumbling #2 man, or Manrun? As part of the deal, the Shuu family are to hand over Kok's killer while the Kok gang turn the guys that killed Manrun over to the police, but will this really happen? Exactly how did Manrun die, or was there a trick involved? What exactly does Kok's dying words mean? After Gairin leaves the Shuu family and takes Manfon with her in the car, who is the mysterious hitchhiker they pick up along the way?

(Shinra says that Manrun and Manfon lead special lives.)

No science, just a brief discussion of Chinese protective charms and how they compare to Japanese practices.

(Shuuji Sakai suffers chest pains when he hears "Take the "A" Train" on the piano. Notice the "cheese wedge" feet.)

A Ressha de Ikou (Take the"A" Train, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2011).
Shuuji Sakai is a high school student who's late for class on his first day to transfer to a new school. In the class, he attracts the attention of a fierce-looking kid that appears to be a major bully in the school. That afternoon, as Shuuji rides his bike home, he gets to a blind road crossing, suffers severe chest pains, and collapses on the road. When he looks up, he sees the bully watching him. The next day, Shuuji thinks that something had happened to the kid that had the desk before him, so he tries to ask the other students about it, but the bully is following him everywhere and the other students run away without answering. Shuuji hears someone talking about Shinra's ability to solve problems, so he seeks the boy out. Shinra suggests looking into the desk to see if there's anything left over from the previous student, and Shuuji discovers a trumpet mouthpiece. They go to the music room, where two of the classmates say that the mouthpiece belonged to their former leader, but they're interrupted by a loud note - the bully is playing the piano and the song he's belting out causes Shuuji to collapse again.

(Shuuji dreams that the bully is trying to kill him.)

Finally, Shuuji confronts the bully at the blind road crossing, and accuses him of having killed the previous school band leader and wanting to kill him next. Questions: Who is the bully? Why did he kill the trumpet player? Why does Shuuji's chest hurt when it does, and what significance is there to the song the bully had played on the piano? How does Shinra solve the case?

No science, and Shinra doesn't receive a payment this time.

(Shinra complains about the layout of the glass museum, and points to the Persian piece hidden in one corner.)

Garasu no Hakubutsukan (The Glass Museum, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2011).
Yukio Umanari is an officer at a bank. One of his clients is a very wealthy businessman, named Kai. Kai's wife, Asari, loves collecting expensive glassworks, and her collection had gotten too big for the house. As a result, Asari forces Kai to take out a loan so that she can open her own glass museum, and she uses the money to add a new wing to the house. When the museum is ready for guests, Yukio is compelled to be one of the first visitors, and he asks his birdwatching friend, Shinra, to come with him on the trip. Along with Tatsuki, the other guests are Asari's hated rivel in glass collecting - Nozomi Katsuno, and her husband, Shimeo. When Asari learns that Shinra has his own museum, she asks what he thinks of her collection; he answers "It's nice". As she happily skips away, he adds "If you like this kind of thing". What Shinra hates is that Asari has no idea just exactly what she's bought. The information cards are wrong, there's mistakes everywhere, and the one truly valuable piece, an example of ancient Persian craftsmanship, is hidden in a far corner because it looks kind of ugly. Asari then shows the group her latest acquisition - a beautiful stained glass bowl made by Louis C. Tiffany, son of Tiffany Co.'s founder. The group is escorted to the kitchen for tea and snacks, but Nozomi demands to be allowed to stay behind with the bowl. A few minutes later, she walks into the kitchen, then her husband leaves to go to the toilet.

(Shinra talks about glass throwing history, from Persia to Tiffany.)

Soon, there's the loud sound of crashing glass. Everyone runs to the museum, where shards lie on the floor at the base of the pedestal the Tiffany bowl had been sitting on. Asari accuses Nozomi of breaking the bowl out of spite, while the other woman claims that Asari just wants to collect on the insurance money. During the shouting, Shinra picks up the Persian artifact, and says that he'll solve the case in exchange for it. Questions: Who broke the bowl, and how did they do it when the museum was unoccupied? Since there has to be a trick involved, what was it, and why is it significant?

No real science. The main history is on Louis Tiffany's glass work, the development of glass blowing around 50 BCE, and it's growth through the Roman Empire to southern Persia.

Comments: Motohiro tried doing another Hong Kong triad story in Q.E.D., but that wasn't very convincing either. The problem is that his stories are set up to be intellectual, and it's hard to maintain that setting when everyone wants to just use brute force against each other. The artwork is good though, usually - either he, or his assistants, can not draw feet to save their lives. In one scene in Take the "A Train, the characters all look like they have little cheese wedges instead of shoes at the bottoms of their legs. And the layouts in Glass Museum appear to have been constructed specifically to avoid having to draw anyone's feet. Ignoring that, the artifacts, like the Dragon and Phoenix jade, the Persian glass and the Tiffany bowl all look nice. Recommended if you like artifacts.

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