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Q.E.D., vol. 49, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B+
(The death of Sammy Chou.)
Mukankeina Jiken (Unrelated Incident, new to this volume, 2014)
Kouhei Tomashino is a 4th year university student currently doing the rounds of companies to try to get a job. After 20+ interviews, he's losing his self-confidence and is thinking that there's something wrong with him. Meanwhile, in a completely unrelated incident in Hong Kong, two underground gangs, 16M and Chinhai, are facing off over who is going to get the contracts to build a new multi-billion dollar casino in Macao. The older leader, Sammy Chou, has brought in a Japanese banker, Shinichi Amagi, as part of the negotiations, while the upstart, Stanley Lau, is trying to muscle in on Sammy's turf. Suddenly, there's gunfire outside, and Lau accuses Sammy of trying to kill him. Lau's group goes out the front door, while Sammy's goes out the back. Sammy is shot in the chest and he dies. His men look for the shooter, but the back door opens onto a deserted dead end alley. A week later, Tomashino is working part-time as a janitor with his friend and classmate, Tatsuo Sasaki, at an office building. Tatsuo loves collecting self-help books, and one self-help idea is to go up to one office where he's seen some guy toting a briefcase filled with money and steal it. Tomashino is kind of caught in a tough place because his family is talking about putting all their money into sending his younger brother, Haruhiko, overseas to a private school, but the boy has become a recluse due to bullying at school (Kouhei had been in a marathon run at school, and after crossing the finish line, had collapsed and thrown up. Haruhiko had kneeled in the vomit to help his brother, and now his classmates call him "filthy"). Tatsuo talks Kouhei into visiting the office on the upper floor, where they witness Amagi trying to blackmail Lau to remain silent. Lau tortures Amagi a bit, and Tatsuo panics and runs down the hall. Lau and his men chase after him, giving Kouhei the opportunity to try to help Amagi. Instead, Amagi grabs his cell phone and records a video saying that he knows that Lau killed Sammy Chou.
(Lau asks Kouhei "who else have you talked to?")
Amagi dies, and Kouhei and Tatsuo both escape the building. They tell Haruhiko what happened, and he gets them to go with him to his math tutor - Sou Touma. Sou is willing to help, but Tatsuo wants nothing to do with any of this. Unfortunately, Lau and his men track Tatsuo down, and that leads them to Kouhei and his younger brother. Lau beats them up a bit to find out who else they've talked to about Amagi's murder, but they know that if they talk, they'll be killed, too. Lau shoots Haruhiko in the leg, then decides to off them one at a time, regardless. Do the 3 victims get to live another day? How was Sammy Chou shot, and why did Amagi think Lau did it? Can Sou pin Sammy's death on Lau in a way that the Hong Kong police are guaranteed a conviction in court, while also having the rest of the 16M gang rounded up?
No science this time.
(Makoto, Kazuhiko and Yumi.)
Rabusuto-ri (Love Story, new to this volume, 2014)
45 years ago, Makoto Kamata was an avid member of his school's film club, along with his friends, Kazuhiko Ooizumi, Satoru Mukoujima and Yumi Nijou. Makoto developed a script for an SF-based love story, called "Love or Death" that he wanted to get into a film contest, and he'd invited a beautiful up-and-coming actress named Youko Yoshizawa to be the female lead, partly because he wanted to date her. During the filming, Kamata fell in love with Yumi, and the conflict posed by the resulting love triangle prevented him from being able to write the final scene. Jump ahead to the present. Kana Mizuhara was tricked by one of her friends into working part-time at a soba shop at one of the beaches during the summer, and she's been doing nothing but work, since the place is horribly under-staffed during the seasonal crush. Makoto and his wife, Yumi, stop at the shop, and are amazed at how much Kana looks like their former female star, Youko. The two of them talk Kana into doing the final scene for "Love or Death" for them, and it really does look like Makoto has been able to complete his movie. However, he soon dies, leaving behind 3 digital film files on an SD card. One is "Love or Death" up to the final scene, shot and edited 45 years before. The second is the scene with Kana walking up some stairs near the beach and looking back at the camera. And the third is of Makoto in his hospital bed following his latest visit for a heart attack just before he died.
(Kana portraying Youko's character for the final scene.)
The story in "Love or Death" is that the hero, played by Makoto, has ESP powers. He falls in love with Youko's character, and decides to show off his abilities to her, which attracts the attentions of the aliens looking for her. She turns out to be an extraterrestrial named "Snow Princess", and the leader of a distant planet, but the villain wants to capture her and use her as a key to his own plans. Makoto is defeated by the villain, so he works at building up his physical strength. One year later, he finds Snow Princess again, and tries to rescue her from the villain again. He fails, again, but he and Princess team up and beat the bad guy together. Princess and her advisers ask Makoto to leave Earth with them as the Princess' bodyguard. It's at this point that Makoto fails to write the final scene, and Ooizumi is convinced that it was because Makoto had started dating Yumi, but was still in lust with Youko. He thinks that the finished film will show that Makoto regretted marrying his wife, and that he really wanted to go with Youko. Kana talks Sou into trying to finish the film himself, in time for a film club preview scheduled in 10 days. Yumi gives them the files, and it seems that Makoto had lied about having made the ending for it.
Can Sou do the movie justice? Will Ooizumi be proved right and Yumi's feelings will be hurt? Why does Youko suddenly send a letter saying that she doesn't want to participate in finishing the film? Why does the SD card only have 3 files on it?
No science this time.
Comments: Both stories are pretty good, but "Unrelated Incident" has a huge continuity problem at the end, in that Haruhiko's leg undergoes the deus ex machina routine of healing overnight. He's shown standing on it, after having been shot, without bandages or a crutch. I like the way things unfold in "Love Story", however I'm not really sure I follow Sou's explanation for what Makoto was trying to say about "love". (At one point, Makoto told Yumi that people can only get into heaven if they have embraced science, art or love. Since he isn't good at the first two, he wants to finish "Love or Death" to prove that he has enough "love" to get into heaven.) I'm really hoping that the next volume, due out next February or so, will include science again. Recommended if you like the series.