Saturday, March 8, 2014

C.M.B. volume 24 review

As I write this review, I have about 4 weeks of backlogged C.M.B. entries waiting to post and this one would bring me fully up to date on the series. However, the latest issues of both Q.E.D. (#47) and C.M.B. (#25) are scheduled for a Feb. 17th release. Since it takes 3 days for new publications to make their way down to Kyushu, I won't see them until maybe the 20th. With luck, I'll be able to pick up both copies in time to write up reviews for them to run in the 5th week. After that, I don't know what will happen. I'm not reading any other manga right now, so I'll either take a break from writing reviews (I'll still cover the Kitaro DVDs), or I may stop by Book Off to see whether there's anything there worth picking up for 105 yen.

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

C.M.B., vol. 24, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Fuuyuki films the building of Nishou-tei 2.)

Nishou-tei (Nishou-tei Residence, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2013).
Fuuyuki Fukagawa is having a house built, and is following all the work closely with a video camera. One of the workers questions some of the building requirements and the foreman yells at him to just focus on getting his part of the job done. A little later, his younger sister, Rika, and her aunt  and uncle (Miyuki and Kihachi Nakamachi) are at the museum to ask Shinra for help. When Rika and Fuuyuki were children, her brother apparently had been smoking cigarettes in secret in his room, and one night there was a fire that resulted in the deaths of their parents (Miyuki was their father's sister). Fuuyuki denied any responsibility, but the arson team pinpointed the start of the fire to his room, and he hadn't done anything to help his parents out of the house at the time. Following the scandal, he'd escaped to the U.S., while Miyuki and Kihachi took responsibility for raising Rika. Now, Fuuyuki is back in Japan, blowing through his half of the inheritance on the construction of a weird house. Rika wants to know what is wrong with her brother, while the Nakamachi's accuse the boy of being an insane killer. Shinra agrees to investigate, and the entire group, including Tatsuki, goes out to this house in the middle of nowhere. Fuuyuki is polite in greeting them, but very stand-offish and walking around in an outdated kimono. Shinra immediately recognizes the house design - rooms with two baths, doors that are too big, strange wall murals - but before he can ask the boy about them, Rika drags him off to demand answers. Shinra replies that in the first part of the Showa era  (late 1920's to the 30's), a guy named Kinzou Watanabe had built a house called Nishou-tei (Second Laugh Manor) that had the exact same design. However, as Kinzou blew through his family's money on it, all of his relatives eventually abandoned him. On the other hand, many experts now consider the place an example of fine modern art.

(The building itself.)

Shinra and Rika join the others for dinner, but Shinra hesitates to eat anything, saying that Kinzou had a reputation for bathing in the cooking pot. The Nakamachi's gag on the food, but Fuuyuki assures them that the meal was catered. Unfortunately, this just goes to further prove Rika's and the Nakamachi's point, that Fuuyuki is unstable and needs to be committed. Rika still wants to help her brother, and tries to ask him what he's thinking with this monstrosity he's built, and he laughs, "You mean, why am I spending all this money I inherited from the parents I killed?" He then tells her to trust him. Shinra asks to see the floor plans, adding that if everything plays out the way Fuuyuki hopes it will, that they go into his museum. Fuuyuki agrees. That night, the new Nishou-tei burns to the ground, Fuuyuki is hospitalized with a head wound and the firefighters determine the source of the fire to be Rika's room. Questions: Why did Rika start the second fire, and is it possible that she'd been the one that caused the fire that killed her parents? What exactly was Fuuyuki's plan, and did it include getting the head injury? Does Rika go to jail for arson and attempted murder?

(Shinra tells Rika about Kinzou Watanabe.)

----- Spoilers -----

Shinra calls everyone, plus Det. Kujirazaki, to the hospital and explains everything. The key point is that Fuuyuki wasn't building a house, he was constructing a movie set. And the one thing you need to make a movie is cameras, which is what the builder at the beginning of the story was asking about. Fuuyuki knew that he was innocent of the first fire, but had no way of proving it. So, when he was old enough, he returned to Japan to make a nuisance of himself. And, since he was going to be implicated for murder again, the house had to be far away from any neighbors. Shinra anticipated what was going to occur and had Kujirazaki stationed outside the house, ready to act if he saw signs of smoke. Additionally, he was to pull the cameras out of the ashes before the culprits found them and stole them. The video shows the Nakamura's using signal flares to fill the house with smoke, and one of them knocking Fuuyuki unconscious. Kihachi imitated the boy's voice to tell Rika he was ok and to get out of the house, before starting the actual fire in her room with the flare. Pretty much like what they did when they killed Miyuki's brother and wife to get at Rika's half of the inheritance. Shinra finishes by saying that while the first Nishou-tei caused the break-up of a family, the second one pulled a family back together.

No science, just the history of Kinzou Watanabe and Nishou-tei. There's no direct mention of it in the story, but the premise is pretty obviously based on Hamlet.

(The inept art museum president is desperate to get his priceless diamond back.)

Daiya Dorobou (Diamond Thief, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2013).
An unnamed diamond thief is in an art museum, cackling to himself over having committed the perfect burglary. He's still stuck in the museum with the gallery president, the guards, an insurance agent and some young-punk kid, but he's safe in knowing that no one is going to catch him. The kid, Shinra, had been called in by the insurance agent because rumors had been flying about for a week that the 121 carat diamond on display is a fake. Through flashbacks, the thief recalls being approached by someone that had all the floor plans and security details in an envelope, asking him to steal the diamond for a share of the profits. The thief then followed the president around, determining him to be completely incompetent. He stole the president's phone and changed the number for the on-call diamond expert company to that of his own phone. The thief visited the museum several times and had friends start the rumor that the diamond was fake. Eventually, the president was forced to call his outside experts, reaching the thief instead. When the thief entered the museum in disguise (fake beard and glasses) the president himself ordered the security system deactivated and gave the diamond to the thief to inspect. The thief then put it inside a glass shell to make it look like a fake, and was preparing to leave the building with it to "take back to the shop" when Shinra and the insurance woman arrived.

(How the thief gets the president to shut off the security system for him.)

Questions: Will the thief walk out with the real diamond? Is anyone overlooking a key element in the entire scheme of things?

No science or history.

(The lacework. Note the blood stain at the bottom of the lace.)

Re-su (Lacework, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2013).
Hilda and Alba Buffort are sisters and the last remaining heirs to the 600-year-long British Buffort dynasty. The older of the two, Hilda, is preparing to get married in the next month, and they've contacted Shinra to investigate something that could complicate the wedding. One year earlier, their father, Oswald, had died in a fire on his yacht. He'd been on his own after his wife had died, and Hilda thinks that her uncle, Paul, had been murdered by her father some months prior. The only thing to have been recovered from the fire was an extremely valuable family heirloom, a piece of 18th century lacework. While Oswald was very frugal and a great businessman, Paul was a womanizer who loved spending all his money on the ladies and booze. Hilda had overheard them arguing about a "promise" of some kind, and that Oswald would take care of Paul's money problems if he kept his side of the promise. What the sisters have been able to piece together is that one night Paul was in Oswald's study, and that Oswald and a guard had heard noises coming from the room. There was a full moon that night, so Oswald could see Paul's face, and he ordered the guard to shoot the intruder. The shot killed Paul and blood splatter had landed on the lace. Eventually, Oswald had been eaten away by guilt and he set fire to the yacht to kill himself and destroy the blood-stained lacework at the same time.

(The bodyguard relates what happened the night Paul died.)

The group goes to Greece, where they meet the bodyguard, a former army soldier. His story is a bit different, in that the room was dark and they couldn't see Paul's face. There was just the sound of the room being ransacked. When Oswald shouted, "Who's there?", Paul had grabbed a candlestick and rushed to attack them at the doorway, which is why he pulled the trigger of the handgun. It wasn't until the lights were turned on that they could see the victim's face. Questions: Why do the two stories not match? What really happened that night, and why did Oswald set his own boat on fire?

----- Spoilers -----

In return for the lacework, Shinra determines that Oswald was trying to hide a secret, which is that he wasn't Hilda's real father, Paul was. Paul was a womanizer, and one day showed up at his brother's house with a baby he didn't want. Oswald agreed to raise Hilda as his own child as long as Paul signed a contract promising to never tell her the truth. As the girls grew up, Paul would play with them a lot and he eventually decided that he wanted Hilda back. Oswald refused, so Paul broke into the safe in his brother's study looking for the contract. He was hidden in the shadows beside a desk when Oswald shouted out, "Who's there?" Recognizing the voice and in a rage, but not knowing there was an armed guard at the door, Paul grabbed the candlestick to bash Oswald's brains in. Finally, Oswald was diagnosed with cancer, and he decided to burn the lace in the yacht with him to prevent anyone from doing a DNA analysis on the bloodstain. With the truth finally out in the open, Hilda happily gets married with some kind of lace as part of her wedding veil.

No science, just the history of lace in Europe in the the 18th century.

(Mau and Clark watching the seance in which the older Lane sister dies in a locked space.)

Tansu no naka no Yuurei (Ghost in the Cabinet, Monthly Shonen Magajin Plus, 2013).
Subtitled "M.A.U. - The Witch of the Blackmarket's Case Catalog". This is a fun little story in that Mau becomes the main protagonist. Clark Ebart, one of Mau's assistants, has requested that she join him for the auction of an old wooden cabinet in northern England. The owner is John Henry, who is desperate to raise some quick cash due to an expensive divorce arising from having gotten caught in some infidelities. Clark, on the other hand, is really hoping Mau wants the cabinet so he can get his commission to pay off his mother's hospital bills. That night, Henry stages a seance featuring two young women, the Lane sisters (first names not given), who recreate the seances of 100 years ago employing the same cabinet. The older sister takes a mouthful of water, has a gag placed over her mouth, is handcuffed with her hands behind her back and padlocked inside the cabinet, then the room lights are turned off. Soon, there's an eerie musical sound coming from the cabinet that sounds almost like a woman's voice. The younger sister interprets this to mean that the spirits occupying the house are upset by someone that doesn't believe in them. Mau happily points to herself. When the ritual is over, the guests retreat to the dining room for dinner. During the meal, we learn that Henry wants money, and that the older sister isn't really concerned about the next performance. Plus, that Clark is deathly afraid of ghosts and spooks, and that the seance is scaring him silly. After the meal, there's a second performance. This time, the house shakes with a loud "boom" which rattles the chandeliers. The younger Lane shouts that the spirits are angry and cries for her sister to be protected. There's a second boom, followed by a third. The lights are switched back on. The younger Lane unlocks the padlock on the cabinet doors, and her sister falls out to the floor, dead, with a knife in her chest. Henry sees this turn of events as potentially driving up the final auction price.

(Mau says, "Learn the facts, don't just believe what you see".)

The police arrive and start their investigations. Mau is happy to leave and go look for artifacts somewhere else, then is horrified to learn that the cops have sealed off the town to prevent the culprit(s) from escaping until the case is over. In anger, she has Clark search the British mansion for clues. In the attic, he finds a set of rope nets holding bowling balls. Three of the nets are empty, and in one corner are 3 loose bowling balls. He puts one ball in one of the nets, twists the net and lets go. It slowly unwinds, and the ball eventually falls out to hit the floor with a loud "boom". Back in the hotel room, Mau has found an online puppet show demonstrating the original seance from 100 years before. It's exactly the same as what the Lane sisters had done in the first performance. She notices a small hair comb on a chair that disappears before the end of the video. She now knows everything. Questions: Who killed the older Lane sister, and why? Will John Henry make a fortune from the auction? Will the suspect get away free? Will Clark be eaten by ghosts? What's the point about the comb?

(Mau's recreation of the crime scene leaves a bit to be desired.)

----- Spoilers ---

Mau drags Clark to the nearby pub and and suddenly starts yelling, "What, you know who the killer is? And you can prove it all? That's amazing!" The other mansion guests demand that Clark solve the crime so they can all go back to their homes. They go to the mansion, where Mau recreates the crime scene, pouring water into Clark's mouth, handcuffing him, then kicking him into the cabinet. She asks Lane to put the chain on to seal the doors and padlock the chain. The lights are turned off, then there's the 3 loud booms. Mau immediately turns the lights back on, catching the younger Lane sister in the act of opening the cabinet to stab Clark in the chest with a knife before he can give her away. Mau shows that the chain Lane used to hold the door shut is looped in such a way as to let the doors open enough for someone to reach their arm through; it just looks like the doors are fully barred shut. The bowling balls were timed so that the first one would distract the audience, the second to mask the sound of the chain moving, and the third to cover the victim trying to scream when stabbed. The musical "spirit voice" was actually created by the older sister holding a comb against the cabinet wall as a sounding board and then flicking the tines with a fingernail. The motive is that the older sister had planned to break up the act and publish a book giving away all of their "seance secrets", and the younger sister wasn't ready to find normal employment yet. Mau leaves without buying the cabinet and Clark loses his chance at the commission. However, Mau decides to pay off the guy's hospital bills anyway just to prevent him from calling her back out for another unnecessary sale.

The science focuses on the powers of observation. Mau tells Clark that the reason he's afraid of ghosts is that he only believes what he sees in front of his face, rather than trying to do research to uncover the truth behind various events. Examples of believers in the occult include Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, while counterexamples are Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle.

(Back cover.)

Comments: I can't find much online information on the Nishou-tei building, but I did enjoy learning about it. Diamond Thief is pure fluff, and it's hard to believe that a diamond expert wouldn't have noticed the seams on the glass shell containing the real diamond. At least the motive is believable. Lacework has a lot of good artwork, but I guessed the motive fairly easily. I really enjoyed Ghost in the Cabinet, with Mau being the lead investigator this time - that was fun. My one peeve, though, is that Motohiro always draws knives as entering the body with the blade up and down, which would jam against the victim's ribs. The blade should be horizontal to pass through the ribs more easily. This is either because of a weakness in understanding anatomy, not wanting to give his readers ideas, or simple artistic license. Either way, I recommend this volume for the M.A.U. case files story.

Side note: This is the first time I've seen Mau's name written in English. Up until now I've been spelling it "Mao". I've corrected the character guide, but I'll leave the older reviews as-is.

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