Monday, November 3, 2014

C.M.B. volume 27 review

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C.M.B., vol. 27, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B+

(Tetsuo asks Shinra for help.)

Asutekka no naifu (Aztec Knife, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2014)
While negotiating with Hihimaru (the monkey) over the replacement of Hihi's worn-out cushion, Shinra and Nanase are visited by Tetsuo Kougyoku, the son of Torame Kongou. Torame, an antiques collector and occasional customer of Shinra's, was murdered about a week before. The weapon was an ancient Aztec knife used for the ritual removal of the hearts of sacrifices, and the the main suspect is Tetsuo's mother, Torame's ex-wife, Ruri Kougyoku. Torame had been stabbed in the throat with the knife, but Riru is too short to have reached across the victim's desk in his office to make the attack, and she didn't have blood spatter on her clothes despite the large volume of blood around the victim. Tetsuo asks Shinra for help, and the boy agrees in exchange for the knife. While the door to Torame's office was in constant view of two housekeepers during the entire day of the murder, there is one other suspect, Torame's current wife, the young and beautiful Maju, who was the last one seen talking to the victim before Riru discovered the body. Torame had used the money from his previous business to amass a large collection of artifacts in his offices, and had decided to use that to set up a charity foundation. Both Riru and Maju objected to this use of his money (Riru because it eliminated whatever her son would inherit, and Maju because she'd be cut off from his will). Although Riru was in the wrong place at the wrong time, Maju has the stronger motive.

Given the current evidence, is the murderer the ex-wife Riru, the pretty but money-grubbing Maju, or the two women that had been alone in the building all day with the victim? There's no real history this time, just some drawings of vases and stuff, and the mention of the knife's original purpose.

(Shinra tells Nobuo about dinosaurs.)

Bakuha yokoku (Bomb Threat, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2014)
The world-leading manufacturer for consumer electronics, Blue Bull, is in the process of setting up an exhibit hall in their offices as an attraction for children. Shinra has been called in by one of the department heads, Nobuo Toba, as a consultant for the dinosaur fossils display. During the preparations that evening, Shinra and Nanase learn that a rival department head, Yukio Terano, is a weak-spined liar that has a reputation for taking credit for Nobuo's accomplishments. At one point, one of the office workers helping do set up receives an email bomb threat on his tablet computer. The bomb is to go off at midnight. Shortly thereafter, there's a small explosion out back of the building, followed by another email asking, "do you still think this is an empty threat?" When the police call the building to investigate the noise, Yukio wants to cover up the problem so it doesn't impact the start of the exhibit the next day. However, Nobuo is the one on the phone, and he tells the police about the threat. The bomb squad arrives and as they sweep the exhibit hall for explosives, a second bomb goes off in Yukio's office, accompanied by an email demanding a huge sum of money. The employee with the tablet computer tells everyone that Yukio had been involved in a hushed-up kickback scheme, and was suspected of receiving the same amount of money as given in the demand email. As the clock ticks down to 12 AM, the building is evacuated, and the suspect is believed to be someone holding a grudge against Yukio.

Is the bomber a terrorist? A disgruntled former employee? Or someone unrelated outside of the company? Does the timing of the threat mean anything, or the fact that the threat has received international news coverage? Who is the bomber and what do they want? The history/science is limited to a discussion of how a 70 ton herbivorous dinosaur could walk on such tiny little feet.

(Gousuke arrives in his office and discovers his dead auditor.)

Kouun (Lucky, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2014)
Gousuke Mabuchi is the young president of a net game software developer. One night, after a successful demonstration at a video game conference, he returns to his office only to stumble over the dead body of his auditor. The only one with access to the locked office is Mabuchi, and the office door had been in full view of his secretary the entire evening. The police arrest Mabuchi on suspicion. While in prison, he's visited by his friend and lawyer, Eisuke Karashima. Eisuke promises to do everything to spring Mabuchi, but with the mounting evidence the only option seems to be to lie about the two of them being together at the time of the auditor's death in order to set up an alibi. The next day, Nanase visits the prison, posing as a replacement lawyer for Karashima. She asks for Mabuchi's side of the story, and inquires as to whether he had received phone calls while he'd been out of the office. There were three calls, none of which Mabuchi wanted to return. The first was his wife, who had been pestering him about spending a huge amount of money to send their son overseas to a private school (Mabuchi refused to do so, saying that he was a self-made man, and he doesn't want to pamper the boy so he'll grow up spoiled). The second was from Nigauri, a former friend who had sold the family's liquor/convenience store to amass a small fortune and then spent his free time helping out school children with science-related field trips. Nigauri was pestering him to fully fund a nature center. Amanuma made the third call. He was a former schoolmate, who had become a systems engineer, but was so overweight as to be hospitalized and lost his job. After getting out of the hospital, Amanuma became a taxi driver, spending most of his days sleeping in his car. He approached Mabuchi to try to get a contract for his firm to be the sole taxi supplier for Mabuchi's employees. In all three cases, Mabuchi turned them down, saying that the auditor was watching his books like a hawk and he couldn't help them out. After Nanase leaves, Mabuchi realizes that the killer has to be one of those three people.

A little later, Mabuchi is freed because the killer was caught. Question is, how did his wife, Amanuma, or Nigauri get into his office to murder the hated auditor? And why is Shinra the one explaining the crime to him? We're not told what Shinra received as payment this time. No science or history.

Oonyuudou no Byoubu (Giant Monk Drawn on a Folding Screen, special to this volume)
This is another of the M.A.U. black market witch case files. One day, after selling an African mask to an American hip-hop artist in New York, for use as jewel case artwork for his next CD, Mou is told by three of her American employees that they'd promised the mask to a university researcher working on a new book. Right after this, a different employee runs up to announce that somehow their bank account has been cleared out and she needs to come up with $500,000 in three days or the banks are going to foreclose on her. She tasks her room full of researchers to find someone that has an open offer worth enough to keep them afloat, and is told that there is something from the Rockwall estate. Alfred Rockwall had been a steel magnate in the 1800's, and his great-granddaughter, Katie, is looking at paying $500,000 for assessing Al's collection of artwork, much of which includes Ukiyo-e, folding screens and armor from Japan. Katie is much more interested in finding out what happened to a mysterious screen, the "Giant Monk Drawn on a Folding Screen", that no one has been able to locate in over 100 years, and is willing to pay anything for its discovery. Mou goes through the records, and obtains the accounts ledger of one of the Japanese exporters Rockwall had bought from - Kousaburou Kawagishi. The story then flips between the 1800's and present day, as Kawagishi, an art dealer selling paintings and other artifacts during the Japonism craze, over-extended himself in buying three folding screens in an auction at a price too high for resale. With the future of his business on the line, Kawagishi convinces Rockwall, a fan of youkai artwork, to purchase the "Giant Monk" screen at an absurd mark-up. Problem, is, "Giant Monk," never made its way to New York.

(Rockwall discovers "Giant Monk" in Kawagishi's storeroom and demands to buy it.)

So, did Kawagishi save his company, and does Mou save hers? The main discussion is on the history of Japonism, and the west's interest in Japanese art and culture in the late 1800's. The name "Kawagishi" does show up in a net search on "Japonism", but there's no definite proof that Kousaburou was a real person. The artwork for the screens in the story is very good, at any rate.

Comments: Of the four stories, I think I like "Lucky" and "Monk" the best. "Lucky" because it is an interesting "why-dunnit", and "Monk" because of the Japonism lesson. I could figure out about 50% of the mystery in "Monk", and I had my suspicions for "Aztec Knife" and "Bomb Threat", but the motives were kind of unsatisfying. I do like Mou when she's in stand-alone stories like this, but I really wish Motohiro would focus more on the history and natural science aspects we saw at the beginning of the series, and less on run-of-the-mill detective stuff. The artwork's good, at any rate, even if he still can't draw feet. Recommended to C.M.B. fans.

Sidenote: I originally wrote Mou's name as "Mau" in the previous reviews because of the spelling given in the "M.A.U." splash pages. But, this volume includes a short write-up on the character descriptions page, and her name is given there in English as "Mou Segirl".

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