Friday, July 4, 2014

C.M.B. volume 26 review

C.M.B. #26 and Q.E.D. #48 came out on the same day again. They're basically on a 3-month schedule, so we can expect the next books in Sept.

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

C.M.B., vol. 20, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Keitarou doesn't like being extorted.)

Three stories again. The first one, Gondora (The Gondolas, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2014) revolves around Keitarou Arai and his inept slacker brother-in-law, Katsuhiko Shibaura. Keitarou is a successful TV chef, and Katsuhiko is constantly trying to bum money from him to hawk garbage products. This time, Keitarou refuses to make another bad loan, so Katsuhiko threatens to extort him by spreading rumors to torpedo his cooking show. Arai then decides to invite Shibaura to a party at his ski lodge the following week. They take separate lift cars, and halfway up Arai climbs out to the tower and uses that to get into Shibaura's car. He promises to hand out the next loan if Shibaura, a thrill seeker, will put his skis on and jump out onto the slope. At the last moment, Shibaura balks, so Arai pushes him out and he falls to his death. Arai's younger sister doesn't believe the police report that her husband died accidentally, and Det. Kujirazaki refers her to Shinra to figure out the crime.

No science or history this time.

(Tracking lions in the Maasai Mara reserve.)

Raionrando (Lion's Land, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2014).
This is the longer story. It starts out with an African boy, Haga, out on the plains with his father, and seeing his dad killed by lions. 3 years later, Shinra is invited to the Maasai Mara game reserve by one of the researchers there, Andrew Cook. Cook and his assistant, Eric Norton, are scientists tracking the movements of the lions in the reserve using GPS collars. Since there aren't any GPS satellites immediately over the Mara, they pay local villagers to hand carry receivers across the plains to collect computer data. Supposedly, all of the lions have collars and the PC knows where all of them are at all times. Recently, Cook has been approached by a drug company regarding a specific folk remedy rumored to repress bad memories. There's a shaman at the far reaches of the reserve that is said to know how to make this medicine, but foreigners are prohibited from visiting that region. Which is why Cook is asking for Shinra's help as the holder of the C.M.B. rings. At this point, the villagers get excited - one of their best trackers has just been found, killed by lions. The killing was witnessed by one boy who is in shock and refuses to talk - Haga. The villagers want to turn on the scientists for having put their people into dangerous positions like this, but the leader, Addison, calms them down. Turns out that Addison had gone to university in Nairobi, where he'd met Shinra. He asks Shinra for help in getting Haga to the shaman, Ganbit, to receive the memory suppression medicine. Overall, this situation is getting expensive for Cook - he needs to pay 8 head of cattle to the victim's family, and then provide four more as payment to Ganbit (2 for Haga, 2 to learn how to make the medicine). Addison selects a guide, Oguru, and the next day Shinra, Haga, Cook and Oguru set out on foot. They're in radio contact with Tatsumi and Eric at base camp, and those two use the PC to map out a safe route between the lion prides. But, that night the group's camp is attacked by a pride that doesn't have GPS collars.


Cook has never used a rifle before, and Oguru prevents him from aiming it anywhere close to the cattle. He fires shots into the air, which attract the attention of a couple nomads that help chase the lions off. They continue walking the next day. Back at the base camp, Tatsuki follows Addison out into the savannah. Shinra had asked the leader to do a little research for him. After a few hours, Addison spots a glint in the grass that marks the location of a bullet that had been crapped out by a lion. A ways away, tire tracks lead to a grove of trees; inside the grove they discover a small stash of elephant tusks. Addison tells Tatsuki that Shinra had speculated that the dead villager, whose eyesight was at least as good as Addison's, would never have been surprised by a hunting lion. Coupled with the fact that the body was found with the spear held in the right hand pointing up, the victim wasn't facing a lion at the time of death. This implies that he was shot in the back by a poacher, and then left where the lions could get to him to eat the evidence. The scene shifts to the expedition again. Cook tries talking to Haga about how he also knows what it's like to lose someone close - his wife had been killed in a car accident. Haga doesn't respond and Cook gives up. The next day, as they're preparing to cross a river, they find themselves trapped between a sleeping crocodile and another group of uncollared lions. They sacrifice one cow to some of the lions, then Cook has to stay at the river to hold off the others as Oguru guides the 2 boys and remaining cattle past the sleeping croc. The splashing of water wakes the croc, but Shinra confuses it into thinking it's eating food by throwing rocks into its mouth. Eventually, Oguru gets the boys and cattle to Ganbit's compound. There, Shinra exposes the truth behind the recent death of the villager.

----- Spoilers -----

The reason there are so many uncollared lions in the reserve is that Eric had been poaching them and selling bones, skins and elephant tusks on the black market. Haga had been helping him, since the boy had a grudge against lions for killing his father. The victim, his uncle, had discovered the hidden stash of tusks, so Eric shot him in the back and left him for the lions to eat. Haga went into shock at seeing his uncle die before his eyes. At the base camp, Addison and Tatsuki capture Eric Norton and hold him for the police. At the compound, Ganbit accepts the offer of the 3 head of cattle and gives Haga a glass with the memory suppression medicine. When Haga realizes that the memories that give him so much pain are the ones when he was the happiest with his father and uncle, he can't act. Ganbit instead tells him to give thanks to the spirits of the departed. At about this point, Cook also arrives at the compound with the help of a present from his deceased wife - a GPS bracelet. Cook thanks his wife, too, and the ceremony is completed. The expedition returns to the main camp, and Ganbit says that there is no memory repressing medicine, the glass just contained plain milk. His job as a shaman is to help people figure out how to solve their own problems.

No science or history, just a discussion of poaching, descriptions of how researchers track lions, and lots of really nice drawings of birds and animals.

(Punishing intellectuals for being intellectual.)

Kizashi (Sign, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2014).
Kenbun Chou is a rich Hong Kong financier. He drops by Shinra's museum to buy a tougarashi necklace (the pendant looks like a glass red pepper) that the boy had purchased while on a trip to China 6 months earlier. Shinra locates the necklace, but the seller told him not to give it to anyone that asks for it. Chou tries to use his bodyguards to threaten the boy, so Tatsuki beats them all up. That night, Chou comes back, more contrite, asking to try again. Shinra agrees to listen to his story in return for an expensive pocket watch the guy has in a vest pocket. Chou starts out saying that the necklace represents a bad dream, and that it was a present given to him by his mother. He wants it back as a memento of her. Shinra thinks he's holding back information, so Chou is forced to explain everything. His father had been a soldier, and after WWII had been given a beautiful historic mansion to raise his family in. His parents both loved history and art, and the house was filled with artifacts. Then, in the 60's, the People's Cultural Revolution began gathering strength, following the growing popularity of Mao Zedung and his little red book. Chou found himself swept up in the craziness. Then, the Red Guard was formed, made up of university students. As one of the guard, Chou actually enjoyed beating up people that the Revolution declared "traitors to the country" - politicians, scholars, teachers, and anyone that displayed a liking for western fashions.

----- Spoilers -----

Naturally, Chou's personal crisis came to a head when the Red Army located his parent's house. He was required to demonstrate his loyalty to the cause by assaulting both of his parent's with a club. In desperation, he was close to killing both of them when the necklace his mother had given him flipped in front of his face. She'd said that it was a talisman that would forewarn him of danger, so he feels that it had betrayed him by letting things get so far out of hand. After Mao attained power, the university students were all sent to re-education farms. A couple years later, Chou had finished his time on the farm, located his parents, returned the necklace to his mother, and then moved to Hong Kong. But now, she's passed away and he wants the necklace back to bury the nightmares with her. When he wraps up his story, he takes the necklace from Shinra and prepares to leave the museum. The boy comments that when he'd bought the charm, the old woman had quoted the "Rebellious Horse" poem from the Huainanzi (a 2nd century BCE Chinese philosophical text). Chou falls to his knees in shock. He leaves, and as he visits his mother's grave to pray, Shinra explains to Tatsuki that the poem is about a boy that falls off a horse and is permanently crippled. When he becomes an adult, his country goes to war. All the able-bodied young men are drafted, and in battle they all die to a man. The protagonist, rejected from service due to his disability, is the only one of his generation to survive. The moral is, no matter how badly you are treated, if you still have your life, be happy. The talisman had done its job, showing Chou that something evil was about to happen if he didn't stop the beatings. Because of this, he no longer associates it with "a bad nightmare".

No science. The history involves the events leading up to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

(Back cover.)

Comments: I'm a little disappointed in this volume. The artwork is the same as ever (great backgrounds and animals) but there's no real natural history this time, and that's what I buy C.M.B. for. The Gondolas is fluff, and I didn't really like how the extortionist was portrayed as an innocent family man trying to turn his life around - it wasn't convincing. Lion's Land was good, although the unmasking of the villain was anti-climatic. I wasn't sure how to react to Sign, since the point of the story didn't surface until the very end. It's a good story, actually, but again, there's no natural history; the tougarashi (red pepper) design of the necklace pendant was never relevant to anything. Overall, I recommend this volume only if you like the rest of the series, or if you like pictures of big cats.

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