Sunday, October 30, 2016

C.M.B. volume 33 review

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C.M.B., vol. 33, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
As mentioned in the review for Q.E.D. iff vol. 5, Motohiro has a tie-in story to his new novel, "Tukamaetamongati!" (捕まえたもん勝ち = "I Can Make Arrests!"), which shows up in the last chapter of this volume.

(The cops investigate the inn owner's death, and find the missing money in Yuuri's pocket.)

Ugoku Iwa (Moving Rock, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 5, 2016)
The story is mostly seen from the point of Yuuri Genbu, an underachieving office worker. He has few prospects and no girlfriend. His main joy is getting together with 3 friends and playing video games together. Conversely, one of his friends is Manabu Hanaoka, an overachieving success story. He married into money (he thinks), and his university post-doctorate thesis won a newspaper award. Unfortunately, after the wedding his in-laws moved into his apartment and threw out his gaming console. Yuuri considers himself poor, but carefree. However, the group's twice annual vacation trip is coming up and he doesn't have the money to pay for the train ticket and hotel stay. As he's thinking about this, he stumbles into Hanaoka, who is just coming out of some kind of building. Yuuri says he can't afford the trip, and Hanaoka immediately promises to pay for him. A few days later, the group of four friends take a three-mile walk through the woods on a hillside in the country to get to a little inn near a small village. Hanaoka made all the arrangements as part of his studies - he's following a career as a folklorist. One of the legends in this area is of the "moving rocks."

Large boulders fall from the sky and then emit a bluish-white light. The villagers immediately set out offerings and worship the rock, but the belief is that if you look directly at it, you will die. The group gets to the hotel and start playing video games. There's a loud noise outside, and a boulder has fallen from a cliff and landed on the riverbed below. The inn caretaker, Kyoko Anzan, rushes out to pray to the rock, which is glowing blue-white. Later, the group wants to drink beer and relax after resting in the onsen (hot springs), but the inn charges $7 for one bottle of beer, so they hike the three miles to the nearest vending machine to buy drinks and snacks. On their way back through the woods, they see the fallen boulder, but now it's up at the top of the hill again. Hanaoka yells at them to put their hands up and protect their eyes, and run before the rock can curse them. They get to the inn, play games, drink beer, and then have weird dreams of being chased by rocks. The next morning, they want to have breakfast, but Kyoko Anzen has been missing since the day before and the food hasn't been cooked. Eventually, a fisherman finds Kyoko's body near the rock. She's been dead for a while, and the curse of the rock must be at fault. There's a complication, though. Kyoko had been on her way to the village to deposit the day's receipts - $5,000 - and the money has gone missing. The four friends prepare to return home, and an envelope falls out of Yuuri's jacket pocket, with the missing money. The police arrest him, and he seems to be out of luck.

At the same time, Shinra had been called out to the village to appraise a pair of small statues that turn out to be protective talismans normally placed along a road outside of a town to ensure the safety of travelers. Shinra is staying in the same inn, and Kyoko's assistant  approaches the boy with a netsuke (a small carving) to ask for his help.
Questions: How does the boulder "walk"? Why did Kyoko die near the boulder? How did Kyoko's money get into Yuuri's pocket?

Natural History: A repetition of the walking boulder story, and a brief mention of "dousojin" (the protective carved statues).
Payment: We're not told what Shinra receives for assessing the dousojin. He gets the netsuke for solving Kyoko's murder.

--- Spoilers ---

Boulders often break loose after a heavy rain, and if someone hears one fall and edges near a cliff to look down, occasionally they'll slip on the wet grass and plummet to their death. No mystery there, and the folklore builds from that. And, many rocks glow under ultraviolet light, which explains the blue-white light from boulders viewed in bright daylight. Hanaoka, had carried a portable black light, which he aimed at the gap the boulder had dislodged from. The surrounding rock was of the same material as the boulder, and the hole glowed in the same shape, making it look like the boulder had mysteriously returned to the top of the hill. He yelled at the group to keep their eyes covered and heads down so they wouldn't see him run away to a ledge a little ways away where Kyoko was waiting for him. Hanaoka had been cheating on his wife with a younger woman, and had brought her to this inn a while ago, but Kyoko had seen his photo in the newspaper when he'd won the award for his thesis, and she knew that the woman at the inn wasn't Hanaoka's wife. She wanted to blackmail him to stay silent, and he had her meet him at the top of the hill at the time the group was to return from buying beer, and he pushed her off the ledge. He then took Kyoko's money and put it in Yuuri's pocket. The reason? Hanaoka had been fooling around with the same woman at the time he ran into Yuuri, when Yuuri said he needed money for the trip. Hanaoka thought that his friend had noticed the woman, and was trying to blackmail him, too. Yuuri is stunned by this news.

(Ritsuko sees Ishiba kill his wife so she calls the police, but they don't find anything out of line in his cabin. Then she goes to the police headquarters to give her statement.)

Itsuka no Bunkaku Zenshuu (Unread Collections of Literature, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 6, 2016)
Shinra and Tatsuki are on an airplane to Hawai'i, where the boy is going to participate in a census of the number of endangered birds on one of the islands. Next to them is another passenger, an older woman named Ritsuko Yonekura. This is Ritsuko's first trip abroad, although her husband, who worked as a buyer for a distributor, had traveled a lot without her. He passed away recently, and Ritsuko now feels free to do whatever she wants. Her plan is to sit in a hotel room for 3 months and read all the literature books she never had time for before. The plane lands and Ritsuko goes to her room. But, the sights on the beach, and the setting sun distract her. She notices a cottage down below her room at the hotel, and inside are two people, fighting. The guy hits the woman and she falls and bashes her head against a table, then doesn't move. Ritsuko calls the police. They arrive at the cottage, go inside, and come back out empty-handed. Ritsuko tries to convince the police chief that she'd seen a murder, but the suspect claims his wife is out shopping, and with no body in the cottage, there's no case.

The next day, Ritsuko bumps into Tatsuki, and she pours her heart out to the girl and boy. Shinra disappears, while Tatsuki accompanies the older woman around the island to spy on the suspect, Akio Ishiba. At one point, in a gift shop, Ritsuko actually goes up to talk to Ishiba, to Tatsuki's horror, but there's no real reaction. The older woman goes out to the beach that afternoon to stare at the water from the top of a cliff, and to ask herself what to do next. Suddenly, someone comes running up behind her, only to be tackled by Tatsuki, with Shinra and two cops coming up from another trail on the hill.
Questions: What happened to Ishiba's wife? And why was he trying to run towards Ritsuko?

Natural History: Nothing.
Payment: Nothing specifically stated.

--- Spoilers ---

Ishiba had seen Ritsuko up on her balcony when the police were leaving his cottage, and recognized her getting off the bus when he'd taken a half-day tour of the island. When she confronted him in the gift shop, he knew that she'd been the one to call the cops on him, and he wanted to push her off the cliff to eliminate the only witness. The argument he'd had with his wife had been about her feeling trapped in her newly married life, and wishing that she'd never gotten married. This shakes Ritsuko, because she'd pretty much said the same thing to her daughter before taking the trip to Hawai'i. The trick with the corpse is that Ishiba had put the body in a chair on the balcony. With the setting sun behind her, the cops just didn't see anything in the shadow, because the contrast between light and dark was so great. At the end, Ritsuko takes a day trip for dolphin watching, and talks to the memory of her late husband. They both accept that they'd made mistakes, and she finally cries at having lost him.

(Shinra visits a draper to see the 3-lobed treehopper the guy had collected.)

Tsunozemi (Treehopper, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 7, 2016)
The story starts out with a sleazy-looking guy named Manji Igasa, a management consultant, sitting on a chair with a black background. He claims that his plans are perfect, because he graduated from an American university with an MBA, and he loves to pepper his speech with English buzzwords that his clients don't understand, but that make him look educated. If anyone wants to know more, they should talk to Shinra Sakaki. From here, the story switches to a series of seminars put on by a company called Urame Consulting. They have 4 employees, plus the boss, who is currently in the U.S. The two main rivals are Shigeo Yoshidzu, and Igasa; the remaining two workers are the younger cup ramen-loving guy, Yukio Noritake, and the woman Rina Kurebayashi. With the boss out of the country, Yoshidzu and Igasa argue over who has the best "schemes" - Igasu, who keeps harping on high-tech AI, or Yoshidzu, with his reliance on old-fashioned hand-drawn charts and graphs. They finally challenge each other to a duel; the first one to be transferred to the U.S. by their boss wins, and the other has to leave the company. Igasa decides to print up a fake announcement on the company's letterhead paper, claiming that their boss picked him. He can do everything else himself in Photoshop, but the only way to get the paper is to go into the boss' office, and that's protected with a combination lock, and Rina is the only one that knows the number. The next day, Igasa fakes a phone call from the boss to scan and fax him an email, which he has to do from the main office. Rina falls for the scam and lets Igasa into the room, and tells him that the door opens freely from the inside, so he can leave when he wants. Igasa gets his paper, goes home, prints up the fake announcement, and leaves it in the FAX machine the next day for Yoshidzu to find. The older guy does so, reads the announcement, and quits the company. Right after this, the company's bank account is cleared out, Igasa's scheme with the fake FAX is blown, and he's arrested and jailed for stealing $300,000.

Elsewhere, Shinra had been called to the shop of a bug collecting drapery merchant named Kitazawa. The merchant had gone to South America, where he'd found and pinned a rare 3-lobed treehopper bug, which he wants to show off to the boy. Kitazawa considers himself an honest merchant, but he's encountered what he says is a much less-trustworthy firm - Urame Consulting, which he claims caused a friend of his' company to go out of business. A little later, in his museum, Shinra tells a group of elementary kids about treehoppers. They come in various shapes, but they are usually found surrounded by ants. The hoppers produce a sweet fluid that the ants feed on, while the ants protect the hoppers from predators. It's a symbiotic relationship that kind of ties into the fraud mystery. When Igasa is jailed, he gets a lawyer that knows Kitazawa. The drapery merchant has the lawyer give the 3-lobed treehopper to Shinra to solve the mystery at Urame.
Questions: Who stole the money, and how?

Natural History: Descriptions of different treehoppers, and their relationships to ants.
Payment: The 3-lobed treehopper.

--- Spoilers ---

Igasa has opportunity, since he was in the office with the boss' PC, and the hallway security camera showed him to be the only person going in and out without authorization. And he had motive - he lived above his means, in an expensive penthouse apartment, and driving a sportscar that he bought with a bank loan. However, he knows he didn't steal the money, which is why he's telling us to talk to Shinra. All he cares about is whether anyone tells him that his plan to fool Yoshidzu was perfect, as he claims. No one else had opportunity except Rina, since she had the lock code, but she wasn't in the office at the time the bank account was cleared out. The only clue is a used wooden chopstick that Noritake threw away after eating cup ramen.

Shinra realizes that one other person did have motive after all. When Rina let Igasa into the office, she dropped the used chopstick on the floor next to the door frame. Igasa was too busy taking care of the paper he was stealing to notice the chopstick, or the fact that the door didn't completely close and lock behind him. Rina propped a photo of the empty hallway in front of the security camera, went into the office, and moved the money into a fake bank account. The lawyer explains this to Igasa, but he's too full of himself to admit that he was swindled. The story ends with Rina praying in front of the grave of her parents, saying that she got revenge on the guy that caused them to lose their business.

(The audience sees Nagata die on stage. Later, Kick finds Yotsuya in Akihabara.)

Mienai Shashu (Invisible Archer, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 9, 2016)
Makifumi Nagata is the temperamental owner of a small theater company. As he is dressed up as King Leer, standing on the stage in front of a packed house, he's shot in the back with an arrow, and he dies. The other actors, principally Takeo Yotsuya as Leer's retainer, and Kaeda Iida as Leer's daughter Cordelia, are on stage with Nagata, and they try to figure out if this is some kind of twist introduced by their boss before realizing the arrow is real. A few days later, Kikuno (Kick) Tanabata, is dressed up as a maid in Akihabara, handing out tissues for a maid cafe, as part of a stakeout to locate Yotsuya. She sees him in the crowd and radios this to two of her superior detectives. They want to rush in and arrest the suspect immediately, but Kick has misgivings because there's not enough evidence tying him to Nagata's murder. The geniuses tell her to shut up and attempt to close the trap. Kick gives chase as well, and the commotion attracts the attention of Shinra and Tatsuya, who are shopping nearby. Yotsuya runs in front of a truck, and Kick pushes him out of the way, and Tatsuya discovers the police officer safe under the truck - scuffed up but ok. Later, all three cops are called in front of their superior in the Tokyo police department offices, and the two older guys accuse Kick of having screwed up the stakeout. The three argue with each other, and the chief, Ryuuji Fushimi, tells them to shut up. The two guys are to grill Yotsuya, and Kick is to find more evidence to point to the "real killer." In a hallway, Det. Kujirazaki sees Kick, and tells her that if she needs help that she should seek out Shinra Sakaki, but she'll need to give him a present to get his support.

At the museum, Kick gives the boy an expensive slice of cake, to Shinra's displeasure. Tatsuki says that she should have brought a rare bug or something. Shinra relents, and Kick tells him the story. Nagata was a fickle womanizing bully, but he was the one running the theater troupe so everyone had to put up with him. He was shot in the back with a crossbow bolt. The police searched the theater and found a crossbow in Yotsuya's bag. The problem is that Yotsuya was on stage in front of the audience and couldn't have used the crossbow without being seen, even with all the fog surrounding him. The back of the stage had a set painting propped in front of the building wall, and the two other detectives think that Yotsuya had the weapon mounted at the top of the set and triggered it by remote when Nagata was bending over. Except that it's a simple prop and incapable of firing a killing shot. Conversely, Nagata had gotten angry at one point and kicked the set over during rehearsals, and it had landed on the set designer, crippling his hand so he couldn't paint anymore. In a depression, the designer returned to his home in the countryside and committed suicide. Yotsuya was a good friend of the designer, and the two male detectives think he'd killed Nagata in revenge. Kick views the evidence as being too weak, but she has no idea of how to proceed.

Questions: Who killed Nagata, and why? What was the weapon, and how was it removed from the building without the police seeing it? Does Kick keep her job? Does Shinra get a better payment than a slice of cake?

Natural Science: Nothing
Payment: A four-leaf clover.

--- Spoilers ---

Shinra has Kick spread rumors on the internet, in a discussion forum related to that theater, that the police have a new lead and are going to search the building again for the weapon. Kick, Shinra and Tatsuki hide inside that night. Eventually, someone comes in, wearing a hood, and they go to the stage and lower the trapdoor elevator (the elevator had been lowered during the play because Nagata was supposed to disappear in the fog at the end of the scene). There's a gap under the floor, revealed when the elevator is out of the way, where the killer had stashed a spring-loaded pipe. Kaeda Iida, who'd played Cordelia that night, had gotten into a fight with Nagata over his cheating on her, and she'd had the pipe up the sleeve of her robe. When Yotsuya was delivering his lines, Nagata was looking at her, and he saw the arrow launcher in her hand. He turned to run away and she shot him in the back, then hid the pipe in the gap under the floor before the stagehand raised the elevator back up so people wouldn't fall into the hole. She'd put the prop crossbow in Yotsuya's bag to frame him, since he was Nagata's friend. Kaeda runs up the ladders into the ceiling crosswalks and out a window onto the roof, with Kick chasing behind her. It's raining outside and Kaeda slips on the tiles. Kick grabs her hand to keep her from falling to the street below. Kaeda bashes Kick in the head with the pipe, but the cop refuses to let her die, and Kaeda eventually surrenders. At the end, Kick gives Shinra her prized possession - A "rare" four-leaf clover. Shinra remains disgusted.

Summary: We now have the second of the two tie-ins to Motohira's new novel, starring Kick. The stories this time are ok, but nothing extremely outstanding. I like the folklore in Walking Rock, and Kick in a maid costume. Tatsuki spotted a strange mark on Kick's left shoulder (it looks like the curved "v" pictures artists draw to symbolize seagulls in the distance). Supposedly, this is the "mystical mark on the hero's shoulder" mentioned in the advertising for the novel. Not really sure what that's supposed to mean, though. Anyway, this volume is recommended if you like the series. I'm probably not going to get the new Kick book, at any rate.

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