Friday, February 21, 2014

C.M.B. volume 19 review

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C.M.B., vol. 19, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B


(Ishidera asks Ryou, "Who do you really love?" Ryou answers, "You".)

Ginza Mugentei no Shujin (Master of Ginza Mugen-tei, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2011).
Three stories this time. This one starts out with Ichirou Ishidera, a Lower House Diet member, in the Diet complaining about overtly sexual materials being used in manga aimed at the youth audience (a reference to the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, driven by then-Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara). After grandstanding for a while, Ishidera hops in his limo and drives home to meet with Shinra regarding a somewhat-related matter. Initially Ishidera attempts to reneg on his agreed payment, but is eventually forced to show off a very realistic doll called "The Master of Mugen-tei". The job involves listening to the story surrounding the doll, then quietly investigating the answer to a specific question. The story: Back during the late 1950's, there was a bar/nightclub in Ginza, Mugen-tei, that was frequented by the top writers, poets and artists of the time. The star attraction was the captivatingly beautiful nightclub singer, Ryou. The only catch is that Ryou was a boy still in his teens, but that didn't matter to the club's guests. One night, there was a terrible rail accident where a train slammed into a fuel tanker that had run the no-crossing sign. Of all the passengers killed in the fire, Ryou's body was the only one not charred by the flames. After the funeral, the will was read, allowing all of the Mugen-tei's guests to select one of the gifts that they'd given him, none of which had been opened. The box that Ishidera claimed contained the doll in Ryou's likeness. The question: "Who did Ryou love?"


(Yajima spies Ryou crying over a music box.)

Whenever he was asked directly, "Ryou would answer "Only you"." Ishidera wants to know the real answer. In investigating, Shinra tracks down two men, Manabu Kirio, a former literary editor, and Shunji Yajima, a former novelist currently running the Mugen-tei coffee shop. Kirio adds little to the mystery, but constantly shows off the watch he got from Ryou. Shunji claims to not have received anything, but does relate an incident when he had seen Ryou looking at a music box and crying. Questions: What secret does the music box hold? Do the gifts the guests had received after the funeral mean something specific? Who did Ryou really love? Does Shinra get to keep the doll as payment?

No science, just a little history about creative types liking to hang out in certain bars in Ginza. In fact, one such place was Bar Lupin. And, yes, "Ishidera" succeeded in getting his "Healthy Youth" law passed in 2011. However, I'm not sure if the Mugen-tei story, or the doll, are based on anything in real life. I can't find "Mugen-tei" in a google.jp search.



(Ruka sees a burglary in progress.)

Yoru ni Dansu (Dance the Night Away, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2011).
Ruka Ichii is a third-year student at Tatsuki's school. She's practicing to be a dancer outside an office building one night. As she's taking a break, she sees an office worker carrying a bag through the lobby. He spies her, bolts, trips and spills stacks of 10,000 yen notes ($100 USD) on the floor. Ruka runs into the building after him; the guy is gone but he left one of the bills behind him. Ruka calls the police. A little later, as she's giving her report to one officer, she sees the building nightshift guard giving a DVD of surveillance footage to another cop. At the same time, some of her fans spot her and wonder what's going on. The case is handed to Kujirazaki, and he starts doubting Ruka's report. The nightguard claims to have seen nothing, but had heard the click of a door behind him at about 8 PM. The surveillance footage just shows an empty lobby at that time. And, a website designer that had been working nights in the building had been walking in the stairwell and had heard the clicking of a door at about the same time. Meanwhile, at the high school, Shinra and Tatsuki are helping with the preparations for an upcoming talent show. Ruka is part of the basketball team, but hasn't been showing up for practices because she'd rather focus on dancing. A couple of the girls try complaining about the "spoiled rich kid who gets everything she wants", but a third girl interrupts, saying that she'd overheard Ruka's parent-teacher meeting, where both adults were trying to talk Ruka into concentrating on a stable office career. A little later, Ruka sees Shinra trying to catch a dragonfly (a Lyriothemis pachygastra) and she easily plucks it out of the air. She wishes she could fly like it does, and the boy tells her that dragonflies don't have a choice, it's a fate that they're stuck with.


(The girl, the boy and the dragonfly.)

The next day, Det. Kujirazaki tries getting Ruka to come in for additional questioning, and all hell breaks loose. Her fans (some of the other boys are dancers that sometimes practice with her in front of the office building because it has a big reflective window and the lobby is empty at night) are afraid she's going to be arrested so they start claiming to have seen the same alleged thief. Her parents are terrified that she's lying to get attention and demand that she recant her story before her potential office career is destroyed. And the main investigating officer keeps telling her that her story isn't supported by the other witnesses and that she should return the money she stole from one of the businesses in the building ($16,000 USD had disappeared from a locked cash box on the evening in question). At the peak of the chaos, Ruka sees Shinra standing there, smiling, and she quietly refuses to back down. It's up to Shinra to uncover the truth. Questions: Ignoring any other tricks like reflections off a partly-open glass door, why does the surveillance not support Ruka's claims? Is there significance in the fact that both the guard and the website designer say that they heard the "click" of a door closing? Why don't the police find the office worker Ruka described?

No science, no history. Reasonable motive but the trick is kind of forced.



(Tatsuki takes pleasure in the simple things.)

Daitouryou Taiho Jiken (The Arrested President Affair, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2011).
Ok, this is the story that people may want to buy this book for. It's the crossover to Q.E.D.'s Special Envoy for Balkia, from volume 41. Swami was the president of a small eastern European country named Balkia. Until he was overthown in a coup by Mantory, he had led a brutal genocide program against immigrants and minorities, which resulted in 30,000 dead, while at the same time funneling the country's wealth into the purchase of bags of blood diamonds. The diamonds were then hidden in statues sent to churches around Belgium. Following the coup, Swami fled the country, but was soon captured by Belgian police. The Belgian Prime Minister has presented Shinra with the fur of an extinct Japanese wolf in exchange for his representing Belgium in the world court in Hague over Balkia's attemts to have Swami extradited to face criminal charges back home. The Prime Minister is afraid that Swami's former military supporters will free him from jail and restore him to power in Balkia. Europol agent Bia Brust has been requested to act as Shinra's bodyguard. When Shinra visits Swami in the hotel room where he is under house arrest, the guy jokes about a game he used to play. In his prison, he'd find immigrants or minorites that were family members and give them each guns; the one to kill the other would go free. One time, it was a father and his son, and the father had ruined everything by shooting himself in the head. Shinra then vows that Swami will stay in Belgium and pay for his crimes in prison there. Unfortunately, when it comes time to meet the Balkian envoy, it turns out to be Sou Touma from Q.E.D., and Sou refuses to explain why he's on the "wrong" side. This just makes Shinra angrier and more determined to win his case in Hague.


(Swami and his trail of dead.)

Because Tatsuki has no idea what the World Court is, both Shinra and Brust have to spend several pages describing how cross-country disputes are handled. The key point in this story is that certain high-level functionaries, like Kings, Emperors and diplomats, are generally exempt from legal punishments. The exceptions are for war crimes, or cases where the detainee has been legally stripped of their office through impeachment proceedings. Paul, the older guy in Q.E.D. dispatched by Mantory to the Hague, is carrying a formal document declaring Swami impeached, but because Paul has disappeared, Belgium considers Swami to still be the current leader of the country and therefore untouchable by Balkian law. So, the case goes to World Court, where Brust, Sou and Shinra all present their arguments. Shinra keeps looking at Sou for support but doesn't get it. After the presentations, Kana forces Sou to at least say something to Shinra, so he asserts the fact that he's won, and that Swami is going back to Balkia. Therefore, Shinra should be concentrating on something that he alone can do. He adds a clue: when Paul had disappeared, he left a phone message mentioning "Kimberley" and "Mirny". Additionally, after Shinra had met with Swami the first time, one of his Balkian guards had said "If you want to capture a snake, you must remove its fangs".


(Shinra presents Belgium's case to the World Court.)

A few days later, Brust is in Swami's hotel room with several Belgian guards, preparing to have Swami and his cohorts transported to their next location. Then, Brust announces that the Court has ruled in Touma's favor so Swami is to be deported to Balkia. The guy laughs, sure that he's back on track to being restored to power by his supporters. Shinra mentions Paul's clue, saying that it refers to two diamond mines, one in Africa and the other in Russia. At one time, they were in the same place when all of the continents were one super-continent - Gondwana. Through continental drift, they separated. This hints that Swami had dispersed his blood diamonds across Belgium, where the city of Antwerp is the diamond trade hub of the world. This makes it easier to launder the diamonds and convert them to cash. Since Europol knows where to start looking, it's just a matter of time before they get confiscated. Also, Paul has finally surfaced and Swami is now officially impeached. However, with this news, the Belgian forces have been recalled, leaving Brust to be the only one armed with a gun to escort Swami back to the border. Brust goes ballistic, but the Belgian police say that they have their orders.


(Break out.)

We next see Brust fuming in a van, with a single police car ahead of them. Swami is laughing, and Shinra has to explain that the only reason he himself is in the van is because he promised Touma to not screw up this assignment. Eventually, a bicyclist on the road takes a spill, causing the police car to stop, thus blocking the van. Swami's forces rush out from behind some bales of hay, killing the police escort. Shinra wants to stay because of his promise to Touma, but Brust's job is to protect Shinra, so he slugs the boy and carries him away before the smoke screen envelops both vehicles. Swami is freed from custody and he disappears with his men. Question: What happens next?

----- Spoilers -----

Some time later, a small group of men disembark from a plane and walk to the airport exit to enter Switzerland. They're met at the gate by Shinra, Tatsuki, Brust and a number of police. While Swami has undergone another costume change, he is still recognizable. Shinra's plan had been to defang Swami by forcing him to panic and gather all the diamonds in one place and then sell them. And, since Swami has no idea who his supporters are, it was a simple matter of using Belgian forces to stage the jail break. In fact, only one of the men with Swami actually supports him. The full defanging can occur because now that Swami is on Swiss soil, he's guilty of attempting to smuggle a large amount of cash into the country. As a regular citizen of Balkia, this is a crime he can be tried for and the money confiscated. Swami asks for a pistol from his bodyguard and points it at Shinra, saying that if he's going to hell, then Shinra will get there first to clean his room for him. He fires, then Brust shoots him in the shoulder. As Swami lays bleeding on the floor, the guard looks at him and says "Blanks". Turns out that the bodyguard was a relative of the boy killed in Swami's "family game" at the beginning of the story and he's been waiting for his revenge ever since. The guard wants Swami to bleed to death here and now, but Shinra asks for an ambulance, adding that this is part of his promise to Touma.

No science outside of the discussion of diamonds and continental drift. The only real history is the evolution of the World Court.



(Back cover, with the doll of Ryou.)

Comments: I really like the artwork on Mugen-tei, but it does look like the bar and the doll of Ryou are fictional. I can see why Motohiro wrote this story to parody Ishihara, since the provision of "no violence against minors" in the Tokyo Ordinance would effectively outlaw both Q.E.D. and C.M.B. So far, though, the ordinance seems to have had little effect on the manga or anime industries as a whole. Dance the Night Away is ok, but the trick is kind of far-fetched. On the surface it looks like Shinra solved the case for free, but it may have been in exchange for Ruka's catching the dragonfly for him (which he released after verifying what species it was). Finally, though, the main reason for getting this volume is to see the "Balkia Affair" story from Shinra's side. It's very talky, with almost none of the action of the Q.E.D. portion. Swami's final denouement is a bit predictable, and it's not really believable that a snake like him would have fallen for it. But, at least this time we don't have Tatsuki going up against an army of trained killers, and winning. This story is more of a condemnation of the violence by dictators against their own people, which is more political than Motohiro normally gets. Recommended if you like the C.M.B. - Q.E.D. crossovers.

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