Saturday, October 31, 2015

C.M.B. volume 30 review

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

C.M.B., vol. 30, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

Finally, book 30 is out. Back last Spring, I'd read "Soya has Disappeared" in Monthly Shonen Magajin when it had come out. Not one of the stronger stories. Sigh. And, it turns out that "Soya" is the one chapter that gets the youtube treatment...

Note, there WILL BE SPOILERS here.

(Happy Takao.)

Takao Kitamori is a part-owner at a furniture importing company, along with the buyer, Nishimiya. Takao lives with his girlfriend, the interior designer, Koharu Higashimatsu (note the last names: North Forest, West Shrine and East Pine). Lately, Takao has been waking up in the middle of the night from bad dreams. He holds up a dream catcher, and says that it's not working so he's going to make a new one. He suddenly disappears, and a couple days later a lawyer shows up at Koharu's office, announcing that Nishimiya has reported a lot of money missing from the company and only Takao could have taken it. Koharu panics, then remembers a flier she'd picked up when the two of them had visited Shinra's museum, thinking that the boy might know something about the dream catcher. Soon after, Shinra, Koharu and Tatsuki are flying to Alaska. The boy hires a native medicine man, Blue Eagle, as a guide. Blue takes them into the brush, where Koharu is thrilled by all the animals. She wants to get closer to a grizzly and her cubs, and has to be told of the danger. Blue adds that 10 years earlier, a young boy, who had been alone at the time, had had to shoot and kill a grizzly to protect himself. Soon, the mosquitoes, jet lag and everything starts wearing on Koharu, and the hard ground and weird sounds keep her from falling asleep. She blames Takao for all this hardship and swears revenge. The next day, a different group happens by and one of them tells Blue to be careful because one of the grizzlies has gone rogue and killed someone. Blue asks for the guy's spare rifle, and they keep going. Blue finds Takao's old campsite, and the discarded old dream catcher. Shinra speculates that Takao no longer needs it. That night, Shinra notices Blue missing from his guard post in front of the campfire, and goes into the bushes to find him. Blue has spotted the grizzly, and wants Shinra to wake the others and get them into the boat. Unfortunately, Koharu sees a bear-like shadow and screams - it's only a curious moose. But the rogue bear reacts to the sound, spots Blue Eagle and rushes him. Shinra tries to use the spare rifle to save Blue, but it's too heavy for him and the shot misses. The bear turns to face Shinra, and Koharu thinks the boy is going to die.

Questions: What happens next? Is Takao guilty of the theft? The money was locked in his desk and Takao was the only one with the key. Why did Takao go to Alaska to make a new dream catcher in the first place?

Natural science: We have some nice artwork, and a bit of a description of dream catchers.
Price: Shinra asks for the old dream catcher.

----------- Spoilers -----------

Takao rushes out of the brush and kills the bear. Koharu runs up to hug him, then demands answers. Shinra explains that since Nishimiya was the buyer, the really fancy furniture advertised in their brochures was his responsibility. Problem is, the materials include Brazilian Rosewood, which is used heavily in making guitar bodies and cabinets. Rosewood has been over harvested and there's a restriction on bringing it into Japan. Nishimiya discovered this and had to pay a big fine. Rather than explain himself to his partner, Nishimiya waited until Takao requested an extended vacation, then popped the top off of Takao's desk to bypass the lock and steal the money, to put the blame on Takao. Meanwhile, Takao was the boy who'd killed the bear 10 years ago - his real name is Hawk Eagle. He's an Alaskan native, but looks Japanese. He'd gone to university in Japan with a friend, then stayed there when he found work. His bad dreams came from his fear when facing the bear before, but those stopped when he returned to Alaska, so he doesn't need a dream catcher to help him anymore. Koharu demands to know if Takao had written proof of permission from Nishimiya to take the vacation, and the guy says no. She's about to blow up over his gullibility, when he pulls out his phone and plays back the conversation. Koharu returns to Japan, while Takao stays in Alaska to find himself, but with the promise that they'll meet up again during her next vacation to discuss wedding plans. Shinra and Tatsuki also go back home, along with the discarded dream catcher.

(Hayato finally meets up with Soya again.)

Soya has Disappeared
I'm pretty sure I typed this story up before, but I can't find it in the blog archives. Anyway, it's not one that I particularly like so I'm going to keep the summary short. Hayato Tsugaru is a first year university student, and works part time at a convenience store. He's from the countryside, and had been feeling lost until he became friends with Ryuusuke Soya, a fellow hick student and co-worker. Everything was going fine until the girl showed up. This young office lady was being harassed by an older man, and Soya confronted them. Later, Soya was seen with the woman a few times. But, suddenly he disappeared, his apartment was abandoned, and no one wants to talk about what happened to him. Hayato has worried himself so sick that he passes out in Tatsuki's family's public bath. Tatsuki asks Shinra for help, and the boy agrees in exchange for a strange souvenir that supposedly contains a puzzle related to the mystery (it's a key holder showing a cat sitting over a bowl of food). Questions: What happened to Soya? Did he fall in love with the woman and gotten killed by her angry boyfriend? Why doesn't anyone want to tell Hayato what happened to him?

No natural history.
Price: The key holder.

----------- Spoilers -----------

It turns out that Hayato is as thick as a brick when it comes to listening to what people tell him. At the bottom of it all, Soya was feeling homesick, and Hayato didn't pick up on that, so Soya dropped out of school and returned to his home in the countryside to help his ailing mother care for their farm. "The woman" was just a new-hire at a customer service company, and the "angry guy" was a corporate trainer helping her learn how to cope with mad customers. Soya realized that Hayato had become enamored with the woman, and was staying on the sidelines to avoid conflicts; there was nothing going on between the customer service trainee and him. When Hayato finally meets up with Soya again, he has to face the fact that he's an idiot, but it looks like the two of them are friends again. As for the souvenir, it's completely unrelated to everything else; it's just something the woman had picked up on a trip and had asked Soya if he could figure it out for her. Rather than a cat sitting over a bowl of food, you turn the picture over. The bowl now looks like teeth and the cat is upside down, meaning you read "neko" backwards. Ha (teeth) + ko + ne = Hakone, a resort town near Mount Fuji.

(Innes shows Shinra the painting made by Owen Jones.)

Mau has gone to Barcelona, Spain, to meet with a guy named Bernardo to discuss the sale of a painting he'd exhibited at an art museum. (At the time, he'd acted like he didn't know what it was that he had, making Mau think she's going to pick it up cheap.) The day she visits his mansion, Bernardo is getting married to Innes, a former waitress at a nearby bar. The streets are packed with cars, with one car double-parked. Mau instructs her driver to push the offending car out of the way, which damages it pretty badly, then she goes to the reception area to eat snacks before trying to locate Bernardo. She finds him in the shadows of one of the rooms in the mansion, but he's been stabbed and Mau trips over the knife and picks it up as the guards run up to apprehend her. So now, she's in jail and she wants Shinra to help spring her. The painting in question is an original artwork by Owen Jones, a famed architect and painter who worked on the Great Exhibition building in 1851, which was later reopened as the Crystal Palace, which he also worked on. But, he's also known for having quantified color theory, and doing research on middle eastern artistic patterns. The painting is actually one of Owen's designs for playing cards (he sold a lot of artwork to the De La Rue printing company, which produced playing cards, decorative tins, and postage stamps. They went on to print bank notes, too.) Shinra talks to Innes about alternative potential attackers that might want to kill her new husband. There is one - her former boyfriend, Habi Gerello. Habi is a thug who had gotten drunk and beaten her up one night. Bernardo saw her working in the cafe the next day and took care of her. When Habi confronted Bernardo over stealing his girl, Bernardo stood up to him, and gotten beaten up as well. Habi is the main suspect, but he was working as a clown at a birthday party 10 km away on the same day, and therefore has an alibi. Habi's uncle had drawn his nephew's face paint. Habi has a partner, a younger brother named Richardo, that had similar face paint and had worked at Bernardo's wedding making balloon animals, but there was only one car between the two of them, and Habi had it at his party. While the obvious solution is that Richardo and Habi switched places that day, it would have meant that they'd both have to go to their respective parties, establish themselves there, and then drive 10 km each to the other party for Habi to attack Bernardo. That would mean that one or the other of the clowns would have been detected missing during part of their party. Additionally, Richardo had injured his arm some days ago and it's in a cast; he isn't the one that stabbed the victim. Question: How does Shinra break Habi's alibi.

Natural history: Some really nice artwork on Owen Jones and his paintings, plus a brief description of his creation of playing card designs that are still in use today.
Price: The playing card painting.

----------- Spoilers -----------

There was a third sibling, Nemi, who Habi painted up and was wearing a spare clown suit. On the day of the crime, Ricardo and Habi had both gone to their respective parties, and Nemi remained hidden near Habi's party. Nemi and Habi switched places, and Habi drove to the wedding, where he switched in with Richardo, stabbed his hated rival Bernardo, and then Richardo switched back in again. Habi returned to his own party and switched with Nemi again, so it looked like Richardo and Habi had stayed in place working all day. The problem is that Habi was in such a rush that he double-parked, and Mau had sideswiped his car on the passenger side. Habi didn't notice this and had returned to his party, unsuspecting. Later, Richardo discovered the damage and took the car in for repairs without telling Habi because he was afraid his older brother would get angry. Habi supposedly had the car at the birthday party all day, so its presence at the wedding is proof that Habi had pulled this trick. Habi and his brothers go to jail, Bernardo recovers and leaves the hospital, Innes is happy, and Shinra gets the painting that Mau had gone to all this trouble to try and buy.

(Cathy wants to know why her employees aren't working to find her inheritance.)

Mr. Peter's Legacy
Mau has been contacted by Cathy Simon, the widow of the famed French wine producer Peter Simon, to try to find her husband's treasure. Peter had spent a lot of time and money putting in floor tiles in the house, growing irises in his garden and making display boxes for the rocks, seashells, plants and insects he'd collected. All activities that his wife objected to. One day, he and Cathy had gotten into a spat, and she threw a flower pot at his head. Later in the day, he took a break from building his latest display box to grab a shotgun and track down his wife in her bedroom. Security cameras in the hallway show him opening the bedroom door, and then getting shot and collapsing to the floor. Cathy is shown coming out of the bedroom, holding a pistol. She was arrested and put on trial, but found not guilty by reason of self-defense. However, when the estate was assessed, it came to only a fraction of its reported wealth. Cathy wants to know what happened to all the money, so that it can go to her son, Enzo, and daughter, Lydia. Mau can't find anything of real value in the house, and asks Shinra for help. While asking around, Shinra talks to Lydia, who explains what happened that night, and she sides with her mother. Enzo yells that everyone is treating his father as the villain, and that Cathy is the one that should have died. Lydia slaps him in the face and he runs away. Cathy discovers the party doing everything but looking for the treasure, and coldly states that she's been tried once for the murder; in France, she can't be tried again. Questions: Did Cathy get away with murdering her husband? Why did Peter work on the display box before deciding to shoot his wife? Where's the money? What's going on between the kids and their parents?

Natural history: A little bit of talk about floor tile patterns, iris flowers and display cases.
Price: Not given.

----------- Spoilers -----------

The floor tiles hint that the patterns within the tiles match up to the patterns made by multiple tiles. It's a clue. The rock and insect display cases in the den are pointless and a waste of effort. A case labelled for one thing contains something completely different instead. There are rocks, leaves and insects with no value at all. The clue is to look at the colors of the display boxes themselves, which match up to the colors of one of the photos on the other wall of Peter's study - a picture of a chateau on a vineyard that Peter had purchased in secret. When the family finally visits the vineyard, the caretaker asks them what took them so long. In the chateau is a massive collection of antiques and artwork worth a lot of money. As Tatsuki, Mau and Lydia run inside the building, Shinra stays behind to tell Cathy and Enzo what had really happened that day. When Cathy had been yelling at Peter for spending so much money on flowers, Enzo had been standing around a corner some distance away, listening. After she threw the flower pot at Peter, she went to her bedroom, where Enzo came in to complain to her. He'd asked "What if the pot had killed him?," and Cathy replied, "I wish it had." Enzo noticed that her nightstand was open and had a pistol inside. He took it out and pointed it at her angrily, saying "Maybe you should be the one to die then." She yelled for him to put the gun down. Peter heard the yelling, and grabbed the shotgun thinking there was a burglar in the house. When he opened the bedroom door, Enzo turned and accidentally pulled the trigger, shooting his father in the chest. Cathy grabbed the gun from Enzo and then went out to the hallway, knowing where the security cameras were. Peter's dying words to her were "Protect Enzo". Which is what she's done, but the boy can't live with the guilt anymore and tells his mother that he wants to turn himself in to the police and stop living the lie.

Summary: Dreamcatcher is an ok story, but kind of predictable. Unfortunately, the drawings of the moose and bear aren't all that good. I still think that Soya is ignorable filler. Joker and Mr. Peter's Legacy are both stronger stories, and I like the fact that they each have Mau, and some decent natural history stuff (especially the material on Owen Jones). I'm disappointed, though, at Mau being reduced to comic support. When she's on her own, she's shown that she's at least on the same level as Shinra for problem solving. Here, she's at least 2-3 steps behind Shinra all along the way. Overall though, the book is good. Recommended if you like the series.

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