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C.M.B., vol. 31, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B-
Jigoku Ana (Hole to Hell, Monthly Shonen Magazine, 2015)
Kouki Hamaya is a young kid living with his father, helping run an inn in the mountains outside of Tokyo. One day, there's an earthquake that causes a landslide, ripping out part of the road connecting the village to the tourists in the outside world, and exposing an old cave. The boy is concerned because the loss of tourism means that his father is going to have trouble making ends meet. They do have one customer that had arrived before the quake, though - Shinra. Shinra was summoned by an old Shinto priest to recover an ancient painting showing Enma, the demon king, guarding the entrance to hell. The painting is on a marker board affixed to the ceiling of the cave. Kouki helps Shinra free the painting, and that part of the work seems to be ok. However, the village council has been meeting to figure out how to bring in more cash, and this results in a TV crew that arrives to film the supernatural side of the Hole to Hell. Quickly, many of the villagers begin disappearing, while others suddenly come into money that they spend on game machines and vacation trips to other onsen areas. Both Shinra and the priest talk about the history of "holes to hell," in Japan and Ireland, where the living go over to the land beyond (faerie world, or the land of the dead) and can't return for different reasons (such as having eaten the food there). Kouki is afraid that his mother, who had died the year before, is similarly trapped, so that night he takes her picture from the family altar and carries it to the cave to try to talk to her. A few minutes later, rocks, concrete and debris come rushing in through the cave entrance and partially bury the boy.
(Finding the Enma painting, and talking about Japanese legends regarding the entrance to the underworld.)
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Shinra had figured out pretty quickly what was going on, and realized that the village council had contacted a construction company. With all of the old buildings being torn down and new ones going up, construction companies have been desperate to find places to quietly, and illegally, dump old concrete slabs and pilings. Some of the company employees had bribed the villagers to leave for a few days, while the "TV crew," which was in on the scam, played on the fears of ghosts kidnapping victims and dragging them into the cave, to scare others off. Shinra summoned the police and they all arrived at the cave in time to save Kouki. On the other hand, while in the cave, the boy dreamed that he'd talked to his mother and she told him that he can't go to where she is. The fates of the construction people and TV crew are left unexplained, but Shinra says that the villagers that had left the town are like the travelers to the underworld that ate the food there - they can never come back.
Natural History: Images of the Enma painting, and discussion of "the other lands" stories.
Payment: Shinra gets access to the Shinto temple's boxes of old records.
Go-suto Ka- (Ghost Car, Monthly Shonen Magazine, 2015)
Some employees of an outdoor camping site are gathering firewood for a group of school kids that are to arrive at the camp for the weekend. One of the workers notices a car on the road below them and recognizes it as the Alfa Romeo belonging to one Usuke Inuyanagi, a painter that died 6 months before. The workers check the road and the car has apparently disappeared without a trace. That weekend, Shinra's class comes out for their field trip, and they stumble across the Alfa Romeo, which is jammed between two trees halfway up the cliff from the campsite. The doors are trapped shut, the windows are rolled up, and the key is still in the ignition. The workers explain what happened on the road earlier, and point out that Inuyanagi had his art studio in the cabin at the top of the hill, overlooking where the car is now. In the cabin are Inuyanagi's two sons, Torao and Youichi, and his older brother, Nekojiro. They're planning on having a lawyer visit the cabin the next day to divide up Usuke's estate. Usuke was a talented artist, and his brother handled the sales side of the business, but Usuke had a tendency to lowball his prices if clients said that they liked his work, so there's no more money in the accounts and the estate looks like it's going to all go to Nekojirou. Torao is looking for a job, but Youichi has just graduated from high school and now may not have enough cash to pay for university. There are two mysteries at the moment. First, is how the car got out of the temporary garage it was stored in, given that Neko is the only one with the key to the garage door. Second is what has happened to painting #300. In order to get an accounting of the estate, the family lawyer ran an audit to identify all of the unsold paintings. #300 is roughly 6 feet by 9 feet, and it had been in the house during the audit. The lawyer left, and when he came back the painting was missing. It's too large to be hand carried away, and there were no trucks on the road that could have taken it. Does this mean that the ghost of Usuke is angry at his sons and is trying to punish them?
(Nekojirou looking at the now-empty garage and wondering how the car could have gotten out without his knowing about it.)
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Shinra notices that while the garage, which is just a shelter on metal legs, is currently sitting right next to the cabin wall, there's a problem. He waits until all the inheritance paperwork is completed and signed, turning the cabin and the land over to Neko, before asking people to come into the garage and look out. They realize that Neko's car is blocking the entrance to the garage, meaning that Usuke wouldn't be able to come and go in the Alfa when Neko came over to visit. In fact, the garage had originally been at the other side of the parking lot. Neko had taken the car out one night, fixed a cable between the car axle and one leg of the garage, and pushed the car down the cliff side in order to pull the shelter building over beside the cabin. When the sons use a car jack to move the shelter away from the cabin, they discover painting #300 sandwiched in between the walls. Neko lets the boys have the painting, which is estimated to be worth about $180,000, while keeping the land and cabin. Shinra later states that the concrete supports along the cliff face, next to the road, are all cracked and rotting, and that in Japan it's the responsibility of the landowner to pay for that kind of maintenance and upkeep . He expects that this is going to cost Neko at least $180,000.
Natural History: Nothing.
Payment: Shinra receives an extra slice of peach during the camping trip.
(Note, "Tora" is tiger, "You" is sheep, and "Neko" is cat. Inuyanagi is "dog" plus "willow tree", and the "U" for "Usuke" is "rabbit".)
(3 goofballs arrive bearing gifts.)
Ugoki Mawaru Shitai (Dead Body Moving Around, Monthly Shonen Magazine, 2015)
Shinra and Tatsumi are at Shinra's museum when three men, acquaintances that live in the same dorm-style building, walk in with a corpse in a box. The body is identified as Kouno, who had also lived in that building. The first guy, Toi, says that he came home one day from work and discovered Kouno dead in his apartment, the guy's belt on the floor and bruise marks on his throat. Toi panicked and moved the body to Nakanishi's room while Naka was sleeping. Naka wakes up, sees this body on the floor next to him, and he panics. He put the corpse in a suitcase and dumped that in the third guy's room. Tsuda finds the suitcase, opens it, panics, and puts the suitcase through Toi's window. Toi takes the body out to a field and buries it, but is discovered by Nakanishi, who recognizes the suitcase. They both dig the body back up and try to drive somewhere else, but Tsuda had gone shopping and as he's driving back, he crashes into Toi's car, the trunk pops open and the body falls out, so that Tsuda sees it and all three of them know that the others are involved too. Finally, they decide to seek out Shinra's help, since the boy is rumored to be good at this kind of stuff.
Questions: How did Kouno die, and why?
(Waking up next to a dead man. Nakanishi discovers Kouno's corpse.))
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Shinra points out that the killer is one of those three, and is the last one in the circle. Tsuda had been jealous that Kouno had a girlfriend, the two of them argued, and Tsuda killed Kouno in a fit of rage. When he calmed down, Tsuda waited until Toi came home from work, and then banged against the wall in such a way as to cause Nakanishi's room to lose power. Naka came out of his room as Toi arrived, and the two of them went to Kouno's door to complain. That allowed Tsuda to take the body from his apartment and drag it to the one next to his - Toi's. Tsuda was then surprised to find the body back in his room in a suitcase, so he threw it through the glass of Toi's window to prevent the suitcase from being simply relocated to another room again. Once exposed, Tsuda confesses, and Kouno gets a decent burial.
Natural History: Nothing.
Payment: None mentioned; Shinra just wants to avoid getting arrested.
(First meeting of the 27th detective's conference, with Yuki at the right of panel 3 on the left-hand page. Note "Sherlock" in panel 2.)
Dai 27kai Tantei Suiri Kaigi (27th Detective Conference, Monthly Shonen Magazine, 2015)
Yuki Kurotsu is a professional part-time worker who has had 17 different jobs so far. He receives an invitation to a "detective's conference", where there's a $10,000 prize for solving a mystery. He thinks he's a shoe-in to win it. Meanwhile, Tatsumi tells Shinra that one of her relatives lives in a village that suffered from a recent mudslide. The mud destroyed the village shrine, and she wants Shinra to donate the money to have a new mikoshi (portable shrine) built for the village. The boy gets the day's mail, and it includes an invitation to the detective conference. Tatsumi urges him to enter so the prize money can go to the village. On the appointed day, a masked woman welcomes the 10 participants in a hotel room, and they introduce themselves (a high school amateur detective club, some office workers, Yuki, Shinra and Tatsumi. The hostess says that they're going to get an unsolved murder case from 7 years prior. The victim is Yoshifumi Yamada, a stage magician and escape artist. The two principal suspects are his top students, Wataru Koshiro and Tomohide Yamasaki. The one witness was Yamada's teenage daughter (unnamed). Yamada was getting ready to retire and he wanted to pass his stage name on to a successor. He planned to do one more show, where he would escape from a water tank while chained and suspended upside down. At the end of the show, he'd announce his replacement. That night, Yamada gets in the tank and is wheeled on stage, but when the lights are turned on, there's an electrical short in the cage and Yamada dies. The police decided it was an accident, but someone has asked the detective conference group to see if it might be suicide or something else. At the time, Wataru was in the wings next to Yamada's daughter, and Yamasaki was at a store to buy food for the group's dinner. Yuki keeps declaring that it's murder and Yamada's number one student, Wataru, must be the culprit. No one else can come up with a better answer.
Questions: Who killed Yamada, how and why? Why was the choice of a water escape act crucial to the incident?
(Yamada's last stage performance.)
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It's pretty obvious that the masked woman is Yamada's daughter, and that she's probably staging this "conference" because she thinks the police are wrong. There's one more person sitting at the table, wearing a Sherlock Holmes outfit with the hat pulled down over his face, who hasn't said anything so far, and he looks kind of like Wataru. Shinra announces that it is murder, and he explains that Yamada was killed by being electrocuted from behind with bare wires before the show started. His body was placed in the tank by the killer and the tank was pushed on stage. The killer then went shopping to establish his alibi. When the lights were turned on, the electricity in the top of the cage flowed through Yamada's feet, making him twitch in the water and appear to still be alive. The killer is Yamasaki, the number 2 student, who had been upset that he wasn't going to be named Yamada's successor. Shinra goes further to add that the part-timer, Yuki, is really Yamasaki in disguise. Yamada's daughter had set all this up at Detective Kujirazaki's suggestion that if the police couldn't solve the crime, Shinra would. Shinra gets the prize money, and Wataru finishes up by saying that even though Yamasaki was a bad magician, Yamada thought the boy resembled himself at that age. Yamada had told Wataru he was going to make Yamasaki his replacement, so the murder was completely unnecessary.
Natural History: Nothing
Payment: Goodwill from Tatsumi's family for using the prize money to buy a new mikoshi.
Comments: Motohiro is repeating himself again. Several of the stories have elements from earlier chapters. Also, there are a couple big plot holes, one being that the garage would have left deep gouges in the cement when dragged out of place, and the shelter is built in such a way that pulling on one leg like that should have torn it apart. The other is that having Yamada already locked in the water tank before the show started would have ruined any sense of suspense in the audience, so it was pretty clear he was already dead at that point and that Yamashita was the killer. And the "Dead Body Moving Around" thing is just kind of silly. Overall, not a strong volume. However, I did like the artwork on the Enma painting. That was good.