Saturday, March 1, 2014

C.M.B. volume 22 review

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C.M.B., vol. 22, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Kazunari finishes testing the solar car.)

Kakihokou Jugyou (Summer Supplementary Lessons, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2012).
Three stories this time. The first one starts out with the three members of the Electrical Club looking on in horror at their damaged solar panel car. The flashback jumps back a few hours to the classroom where Hidetoshi Monobe is teaching remedial politics. None of the students can focus on his lectures, but all but Kazunari Takanashi manage to cover for their distractions. Monobe discovers Kazunari's electronics notes, and berates him saying that the only thing that keeps the world running is "law". When the class is over, Monobe drives off for lunch, the musicians go to the roof to practice, the art students go to the river to paint, and the swimming club goes to the pool to swim. The three electrical club members go to a sheltered parking lot to measure how long their car can run on battery in preparation for an upcoming race. Kazunari is left to drive around in circles in the non-air conditioned car while the other two run to the convenience store to buy rice balls. Eventually, the battery runs to zero, and when Kazunari gets out into the cool fresh air, he sees one of the girls he likes standing next to the pool fence on the roof above him. The other two club members return, and they go inside to eat. Up on the main roof, some of the band members have found a volley ball and are playing with that instead of practicing. Then, there's a shout, and the others look over to see the damaged solar car. There's lots of accusations over who broke it, many with fingers pointing at the people with the volley ball.

(Speculation on who the real culrit is.)

Questions: With the solar car in full shade and a dead battery, how did it move forward enough to be hit by something else? Who hit it? Why did Monobe park his car at the far end of the lot? Why does Shinra tell Monobe that what causes the world to run is people's desire to correct their own mistakes? Shinra solves the "crime" in return for the class buying him another expensive shaved ice.

No science.

(Santo accuses Prof. Alice of attacking him.)

Garasu no Rakuen (The Glass Paradise, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2012).
This is a 2-parter, but the summary of the story isn't much longer because of it. At Tagus Cove on Isabela Island in the Galapagos, researcher Alice Podd and her assistant, Rick, are out on a boat in the rain searching for fishing poachers. They see a boat, and Alice switches from a flashlight to a searchlight to determine who the fisherman is, but the boat is empty. They go up the steps along a trail leading to the top of the hill and discover one of the natives unconscious on the ground. Five days later, Shinra has been called out to act as a mediator, but he and Tatsuki would rather dive and play with the sea life. Rick takes them from the docks and past some cliffs where visitors have been carving their names into the rock for centuries. Soon, though, the're surrounded by angry villagers that harrass all three of them. A priest comes up, Father Ferdinand, and breaks up what looks like could be an ugly brawl. The problem is that the guy found 5 days before, Santo, had come to and immediately accused Alice of having pushed him down the hill. Santo is now in the hospital, refusing to talk to anyone, Alice calls him a liar, and the villagers are taking Santo's side against the researchers. What's adding fuel to the fire is that the seas around the islands are in danger of being fished out, so Alice's job is to prevent poaching, while the villagers, many having descended from Ecuador, feel that their livelihood is at risk. Questions: Why does Shinra think that both Alice and Santo are hiding something?

(Darwin fails to make friends with his ship's crew.)

Tatsuki asks why Darwin had developed his theory of evolution, given such a small sample size to work with, and why couldn't everything be the result of some creator or Intelligent Designer. Shinra spends a lot of time describing the research from not only Darwin, but also the work of Peter and Rosemary Grant. In the 70's, the Grants studied the Darwin Finch, restricting the finch's diet to specific kinds of nuts and demonstrating over a 30-year program that natural selection led the finch's beak to change shape and adapt to its environment. Along the way, we get some scene-switching, with Darwin himself on the HMS Beagle visiting the islands in the Galapagos. He's been assigned an assistant, a highly religious boy named Robin. Robin can't believe that Darwin thinks that evolution is possible, and keeps trying to open his eyes by pointing out the wonders of nature surrounding them. Darwin gets tired of the incessant noise and orders Robin back to the ship so that he and another crewmate can spend 8 days recording what they find in the hills. Robin is shocked, but also afraid that something will happen to the scientist and tries to give him his rosary. Darwin refuses and he parts ways with the boy. After the trek is over, Darwin returns to the ship, where Captain FitzRoy tells him that Robin was killed by a puma. Darwin runs to the boy's cabin, where several crewmen are scrubbing the floor, and he finds the rosary hanging on a nail on the wall. Since Robin never took the rosary off except when sleeping, Darwin suspects foul play. Questions: What actually happened to Robin? Was it a puma, or was he killed in his hammock, and the sailors were trying to remove the bloodstains afterward? Is FitzRoy in on the conspiracy?

(Darwin demands to know what happened to Robin.)

----- Spoilers -----

Darwin first. He spends several nights writing out his suspicions, and prepares to have his diary delivered to the Royal Academy when he gets back to England. FitzRoy invites him to dinner, and after some verbal sparing, FitzRoy changes his story. He asks if Darwin has noticed that 2 other crewmembers have also disappeared? All three developed the same symptoms, and all three died within 3 days. If word got out that they were suffering from an epidemic, no port in the world would let them land again. Darwin agrees to remain silent, but he's still not happy about the puma cover story and the lack of a grave for Robin. Switch to the present, where Shinra explains that Santo had discovered something that he thought would be worth money to Alice, but after seeing what it was at Tagus Cove, she refused to pay anything for it. Santo kept bugging her on the way back along the tail and she pushed him away. Santo lost his balance, fell backward and hit his head at the bottom of the hill. Alice determined that the man was not in any danger, then went to get Rick as part of a plan to discredit the guy if he tried showing his discovery to anyone else. Instead of using her flashlight that night, she had a portable projector with the image of a guy in a boat, then used the search light to "accidentally" locate where Santo had left his boat. When she and Rick reached Santo, he was still unconscious. Shinra adds that Alice refused to pay for the discovery because it could either be a fraud, or bring unwanted new tourist traffic to the island. The group then goes to the cave that Santo had found, with a mound of sand at the back, and the words "Charles Darwin, 1835" carved in the wall. The story ends with Darwin deciding to bury his notes and Robin's rosary in a cave on one of the islands where it might be found by someone in the future when people are ready for the truth.

(The subterfuge.)

The science revolves around the fishing problems in the Galapagos, and the work conducted by the Grants on the Darwin finch.

(Police find the suspect at the scene of the crime.)

Rasen no Kottou Hinten (The Screwed Shop, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2012).
Tatsuo Kawarazaki is a lawyer tasked with disposing of the estate of his deceased friend, Inudzuka. Inudzuka had owned a junk/antique shop that was laid out in a kind of spiral shape, and he'd sit at his register at the back of the spiral and read all day. Shinra has been asked to assess the contents of the shop, and he comments that the floor layout allows for more artwork to be displayed on the walls, as at Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim museum. Tatsuo offers anything in the shop as payment, but the boy turns it all down as worthless trash, before stopping in his tracks in front of a large ammonite fossil. What the lawyer really wants to determine is exactly how his friend died. 1 month earlier, some young guy burst into the shop claiming that Inudzuka had stolen a wall scroll from his mother. The assistant clerk ran to get the cop from the police box across the street, and when the officer got to the back of the hallway, he found the guy sitting on the floor, Inudzuka dead from a blow to the back of the head from a metal urn, and the cash register cleaned out. The guy claims to be innocent, but the only other people that had entered the shop that day were the female clerk, and Yoneo Inagazari, the next door kimono maker. Yoneo has been looking for a specific collector's clock, but everything Inudzuka kept showing him was made of cheap plastic. Tatsuo shows Shinra a  photo album, saying that his friend was a volunteer worker who would visit older neighbors in the area to keep them from getting lonely.

(The secret of the screw shop.)

On the day in question, Yoneo had visited the shop, seen the fake clock, and been told by Inudzuka that the real collector's items are too expensive for him to carry. As Yoneo was exiting the shop, the clerk told him that she needed to get some new clothes, so the two of them visited a nearby coffee shop, knowing that the store was safe because the cop was watching it from the police box. Suddenly, the young man entered the store, shouting something about Inudzuka being a thief, and then Inudzuka being killed and the young guy taking the money from the till (which he supposedly flushed down the toilet so it wouldn't be found on him when the cop arrived). Questions: Why would the young guy kill the shopkeeper over a missing wall scroll, take money from the till and then not keep the money? If the suspect is innocent, who is the real killer? Is there something about the shop that might be relevant to the mystery?

----- Spoilers -----

Shinra thinks that having the ammonite near the register is strange, since it's the only thing worth money in the store. He hints that the secret of the ammonite shell is that when the creature grew, it would seal off the smaller chambers to turn them into air pockets that would make the shell bouyant in the ocean. The only way to learn about this secret is to cut the shell in half. He reaches to a wooden panel behind the register and slides it aside to reveal a second spiral hallway sandwiched between the main one. And this is where all of the real treasures that Inadzuka had been stealing from the elderly people he visited have been stored. The only person that would have suspected that the hidden storeroom existed is the part-time clerk, who wanted more money to pay for her car loan and to buy stuff for her kids. The trick is that she recorded Inudzuka talking earlier, and when Yoneo was looking at the clock out of sight of the back register, she killed her boss and played the recording back, before returning to the front of the shop via the secret hallway and then asking Yoneo to join her to talk about the clothing commission. The part-timer gets arrested, the earlier suspect goes free, and the lawyer is sad to learn the truth about his friend. Shinra concludes by saying that the ammonite is similar in that the real creature has never been seen, but it does leave behind a beautiful shell.

The only science is the talk about the ammonite shell.

Comments: Summer Supplementary Lessons is pure fluff. The "trick" consists of one of the kids forgetting to disconnect the solar recharger, but the question remains - if the car was in the shade with a dead battery, how could the motor get power? The Glass Paradise has a lot of nice artwork of the animals on the Galapagos islands, and some interesting talk about the work done with the Darwin finch, but the part with Robin seems to be "artistic license", plus it's a little strange that Santo would have stayed unconscious for almost 5 hours in the rain prior to Alice returning to him again. Anyway. I like the idea behind the corkscrew floorplan for The Screwed Shop, and the motive isn't that bad this time. Overall, this volume is recommended.

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