Monday, February 29, 2016
(Soba, grilled mochi and amazake.)
I didn't have to work on Saturday until 5 PM, but I was fairly busy on the computer most of the afternoon. And, on my way in to the school I had to drop by Maruya Gardens to get a newspaper from the bookstore on the 6th floor. So, to get to Maruya Gardens I walked along the the main street car street, and as I got close to Sun Drug store, I looked down the wide arcade to see if there was anything happening at the far end of the arcade, which is the open area in front of 7-11. I spotted a blue tent near 7-11, but I didn't have time to swing over and see what it was for. When I finished teaching my lessons at 9 PM, I made a point of returning through Tenmonkan to see if there was a stage set up. Instead, there was just a stack of wood slats covered with a blue tarp set up off to one side of the plaza. However, the nearby soba restaurant had their sidewalk tent in front of the shop, so I assumed something was going to continue happening on Sunday.
Sunday, I got out of the apartment at 1:30 PM and headed first to Tenmonkan. Turned out that the arcade only had the soba table, some farm produce and someone trying to do tarot readings. I had a small cup of amazake (sweet, unfiltered rice mash sake) for 150 yen and kept walking in the direction of Yamakataya.
Shimonoseki Products Promotion Fair
As I was going into the school on Saturday, I did make a point of going by Lotteria. At that time, there was a live stage event that was just starting. I couldn't make much out of what little I saw, but it kind of looked like a samurai fashion show. I didn't have time to take photos, so I just kept walking, but behind me a group of people began singing; maybe it was samurai fashion show musical. Since I knew the event was going to run two days, I headed back here after leaving the soba shop stand in the arcade.
It's a promotional event for the food, tourism and cultural history of Shimonoseki, the western-most city on the main island of Honshu.
Examples of some of the product tables, plus a few of the women belonging to an idol group representing the city.
Shimonoseki is famous for its fugu (poisonous blowfish) production. Here we have some hanging fugu lanterns.
The booth to the right was giving out 150 bowls of free fugu soup on both days. Unfortunately it was a VERY popular offering and a long line formed the second the MC announced that the give away would start in a few minutes. I had a second event that I suspected was running up at Amu Plaza and I wanted to go to that, rather than spending half an hour standing in line here. I've had fugu before, and didn't have all that much interest in getting the soup that day, even though I normally don't turn down free food.
The cooks are busy preparing the soup, which isn't ready to be served yet. As far as I know, there were no poisonings this time.
I caught 3 of the Sunday stage events. The first was a stylized recreation of the famed duel between the sword masters Miyamoto Musashi and Kojirou Sasaki. According to one legend, Musashi had carved a wooden sword out of a boat oar and killed Sasaki with that, then ran away because Sasaki's followers were angry that their master had been treated with such disrespect. The video below has the actor playing Musashi fighting using a boat oar.
The second act was the idol group doing songs and dances about Shimonoseki. I recorded the first piece then hiked up to Amu Plaza.
Tegetege High School Broadcast
They were holding the event that I'd thought was supposed to be the weekend before. This is the "Tegetege High School Festival" (tegetege is a local Kagoshima slang that means the opposite of "meticulous"). There were a couple food booths, and everything else was along the lines of massage for the elderly, and educational school exhibits, including a petting tank containing sea slugs and coral on loan from the aquarium at Dolphin Port.
"Tegetege High School" is the name of a program on MBC radio. It's mainly humorous dialog and some music. The schedule for the day (it was a one-day event) listed a couple sketches by the high school students on the radio show, some dancing and music by other students, and the comic performance of the manzai duo Totsugeki Pineapple. I'd made a video of Pineapple during the Spring MBC Festival last March, and I wanted to let the guys know I'd put it on youtube. I caught up to them in the sound booth, but I'm not sure if they really understood what I was talking about. I gave them my business card, and if they do eventually send me an email, I'll give them the link to the video.
This is kind of a meta photo - the cameraman on the platform to the left, and the big screen to the right showing the footage of the stage show he's recording.
The area in front of the stage was pretty crowded and there seemed to be kind of a "no cameras" rule, in that I didn't see anyone else recording video or taking photos. So I just grabbed a few quick shots from where I stood. The high school girl to the right is reading a monologue off a script, and the guy to the right holds up cue cards for the audience to say "Ehhh"...
...and "nani" ("what???") At this point I was conflicted. Pineapple had finished their set 10 minutes earlier, and the remaining performances were going to be amateur street dance and J-pop singing, neither of which I'd be able to record. Meanwhile the next thing on stage at the Shimonoseki event was going to be a costume drama at 3 PM. It was now 2:40 PM and there was a chance I'd arrive just before it started if I left right away. A few minutes later I was kicking myself for not first asking if Pineapple would pose with me for a photo. Oh well, maybe next time.
Shimonoseki, Part 2
It took almost exactly 20 minutes to reach Lotteria. I could hear the MC announcing the next performance about a block away. I hurried to the far right side of the stage, as close up as I could get and started taking photos. My positioning was both good and bad. Good in that all the shots were in focus. Bad in that I was trapped right beside one of the speaker stands, and that ended up blocking some of the video shots. I considered trying to move around while looking through the camera finder and decided against it. Which turned out to be a good idea; when I finished recording, I turned around and found myself surrounded by another 10 people. I couldn't have gotten anywhere without tripping over someone.
I couldn't really understand the narration, but my suspicion is that this is kind of a theatrical drama representing a scene from the Tale of the Heike. Back between 1180 and 1185 AD, two clans, the Heike (also known as the Taira) and the Genji (AKA: Minamoto) fought for control of Japan. Historically, the Taira clan had defeated Minamoto (which had been backed by the Emperor) in 1161. For about 19 years the leader of the Taira ruled so badly that when the Genji regrouped and attacked back, the Taira were pretty much wiped out. The Tale of the Heike was collected in the 1300's from stories told by traveling monks, and has been referred to as the Japanese Iliad. The narrator mentions both Heike and Genji, and that whatever is happening here took place at least 800 years earlier, in Shimonoseki. I'm told that the two women in full dress are courtesans, and the two in plain red kimono are courtesans-in-training. They're supported by "the guy holding the umbrella" (literal translation) and two teachers.
Notice that the space is packed, compared to 1 hour earlier.
I had prior engagements for the rest of the afternoon, or I would have stayed until things ended at 5 PM. As it was, I had to do some food shopping and then return to the apartment at 4 PM. I never did get to see the samurai musical, but I'm satisfied with the 15 minutes of video I did manage to get that day.
Direct youtube video
Sunday, February 28, 2016
I was down at the Volunteer Center a few days back, and when it came time to return home I decided to walk by the Reimeikan history museum to see what exhibits they had running. As I got close the the entrance through the old castle walls, there was this glittering flash of green that swooped from the top of the wall over to a section that had a hole partway up. I tried getting my little digital camera out of its holder, but by that time the bird was gone. Then, on Friday, the 26th, through a series of flukes, all of my classes for the day got canceled. Generally, Friday is when I have to get up the earliest (8 AM), and I figured that I might as well continue that pattern. If the weather was good, I'd go back to Reimeikan and see what else was out then.
The weather was good, and fortunately, the glittery bird was waiting for breakfast.
The photos don't do it justice. When it flies, the bluish strip down its back sparkles and shines a brilliant green. I saw just the one of this species.
After a few minutes, the glittery bird few off, so I went around to the little park behind the back of Reimeikan, at the foot of Shiroyama. Unfortunately, a groundskeeper kept going back and forth with a gas-powered leaf blower. I didn't see that many birds in the park, maybe only 4 or 5, and I'm not sure if that's because they were all elsewhere for the season, or if the noise drove them away. The sound bothered me enough, and I only hung around for half an hour before returning to the front of the castle walls to look for the glittery bird again. After that, I went back home.
What's funny is that evening I went to the bookstore to look at science books, and as I was walking by the bird section I noticed a volume on birdwatching in Japan and this guy's relative was on the cover. It's called a "kawasemi" (river locust), which is "kingfisher" in English.
This guy liked flitting around in the shadowy areas under the trees, occasionally stopping in the sunlight just long enough to look for bugs, then jump somewhere else. I only got 4 shots of him before he was gone.
The main reason for showing this photo is to give a view of his back and wing patterning. The big camera was fighting me a lot with the focusing. Either I need more practice using the manual settings, or I need to try resetting to the factory defaults and see if that helps. I think the manual aperture controls worked out ok, though. Lots of soft focus on the backgrounds in these shots.
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Some days ago, I was walking along the Kotsuki river towards the Yamada Denki electronics store to get a new landline phone. It was one of the few rare days now when the sky was almost clear, so I decided to take a few photos of the ducks with the little pocket camera. The "river" is really just a large drainage ditch that routes runoff from the hills 10 miles out, and from the nearby streets, down to the bay. Generally, the water is only 3-4 inches deep, unless there's a major storm, in which case the river rises up above the walkways.
Friday, February 26, 2016
(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
Q.E.D. iff, vol. 3, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
The current pattern for this series is to have two stories per volume, with the first half of each story dedicated to setting up the mystery and the second to the resolution. Both halves run in the same volume of quarterly magazine Magajin R as a complete chapter.
(Yamaguchi's mansion, the night of the art auction party.)
Sannin no Shikaku (The Three Assassins, Magajin R, 2015 #4)
Kenji Yamaguchi is a swindler, thief and con artist running an art investment service. Three of his victims are the women Yui Kurotsu (whom he married, then divorced after cleaning out her bank accounts), Miki Okada (her family lost their orange orchard due to a foreclosure when Kenji mismanaged their finances) and Akiko Fujishima (same situation as with Yui). All three women become desperate enough to vow revenge against him. A fourth victim is the grandfather of one of Kana's friends; Kenji stole a priceless plate that had been a family heirloom, and the friend wants Kana to ask Touma for help. The challenge, of course, is to give Touma a reason to want to figure everything out. A few days later, Yamaguchi hosts an art auction party at his mansion, telling his assistant to hire a cheap caterer, fill expensive looking bottles with no-name wine, and use bargain basement shochu with lime juice for the cocktails. Kana drags Touma to the party, where they spot the stolen plate. Kana wants Touma to steal it back, and he refuses. Meanwhile, the three women also arrive to carry out their plans.
("Yamaguchi must die." The three swindle victims, and Yui's plan for the trick she wants to use.)
Miki had hired on with a cleaning company to do housekeeping at the mansion so she could hide a knife under the bed in advance. She's going to wait until Kenji goes to sleep, sneak into the room and stab him to death. Akiko buys a poisonous African snake from an exotic pets store and brings it to the party in her bag, which is supposed to be checked into the coat room. However, she orders a bloody mary from the bar, feigns a reaction to the alcohol and gets put in a guestroom with her bag to recover. She leaves the snake in the master bedroom, returns to the bar, gets another drink, then has to be taken to the hospital. Yui's plan is to sneak up behind Kenji in a hallway and hit him on the back of the head with a vase, hide his body in the living room, and join in the search when someone notices him missing to establish an alibi. Afterward, she'd bring the body out and when it's found everyone would think the killing had happened more recently. Miki sneaks a sleeping pill into Kenji's gin and tonic (he demands the good gin). A few minutes later, Kenji realizes he's been drugged and he tells his assistant he's going to lie down and try to recover. Akiko has already put her snake in the bedroom. Miki goes to the bedroom too, gets the knife from under the bed, and stabs the sleeping body in the chest. Yui takes longer to start moving, and she spots Kenji wandering the hallway, grabs a heavy gold vase and bashes him in the back of the head with it. She hides the body, waits until the assistant initiates the search for his boss, then brings the body out to the middle of the living room where someone else finds it. At this point, there's a huge blood stain the middle of his chest. Kenji is declared dead by the witnesses and the police are called. But, when they arrive, the body is now floating in the middle of the pool at the front of the mansion. During all this, Kana has been feasting on the catered buffet, and she's noticed that the caviar is a fake, cheap brand, which just goes to show that Yamaguchi is a bad guy who can't be trusted.
(When the police find the body, it's in the pool.)
The police question everyone and then they are released. The next day at school, Kana wants to know how they're going to get the plate now. Touma replies that it's going to be tied up in the investigations, then probably auctioned off by a bank along with everything else to pay off debts. Kana gets furious, so the two of them go to Yamaguchi's assistant at the mansion to get a list of suspects. The assistant tells them that he'd almost immediately recognized all three women at the party, and knew that Miki was working for the cleaning company. The assistant goes to throw some garbage away, and discovers a dead snake and a knife in the trash can.
Questions: How did the body get into the pool? Is there a fourth suspect? What happened to the snake and why was it and the knife in the kitchen garbage can?
----- Spoilers -----
Kana asks a couple simple questions to each of the three women (Why were you at the party? If alcohol makes you so ill, why did you order a second drink? If you hated your ex-husband so much, why were you so concerned about him that you immediately joined the search for him?) A little later, Touma calls a meeting with the women and the assistant, but without the presence of the police. He explains that what happened that night went something like this: Miki slipped the sleeping pills into Yamaguchi's drink, and he immediately realized why he was feeling wiped out. He went to his room, but stopped at a washroom along the way to splash cold water on his face in an attempt to wake up. Akiko had put a chemical heating pad in the bed to keep the snake happy and prevent it from slithering off some place. When Miki entered the bedroom, she saw the bunched up covers and stabbed that, killing the snake. Kenji reached his room, got in bed, and panicked on getting blood all over his undershirt. Seeing the knife and snake, he suspected someone was trying to kill him, but he didn't want to raise an alarm which would put a crimp in his art auction plans. He took the knife and snake body down to the kitchen and disposed of them in the trash can. As he made his back to his room, Yui saw him and hit him from behind with the vase. Her trick was that the living room furniture set included two wooden tables - a larger magazine table and a shorter coffee table. If you put the coffee table under the magazine table, there's enough space to hold a body, but if they're covered with a cloth sheet, anyone looking under the sheet is going to think there's nothing there. After the search party checked the room, Yui removed the body from between the two tables and set it in the middle of the floor. However, because the vase was made of soft metal, it absorbed a lot of the blow, and Kenji hadn't actually been killed. He regained consciousness, and, convinced now that someone was trying to off him, the first thing he worried about was whether the police were going to find all the money he'd made illegally.
The group goes to the pool, which has been drained (Kenji insisted on letting it fill with rain water, being too cheap to use regular tap water). The assistant removes the grating in the bottom of the pool to reveal several large gold ingots. Yamaguchi wanted to pull the gold bars out to hide them somewhere else, and ended up drowning himself. Since this is no longer a murder case, Touma tells the three women to turn themselves in and confess. They'd probably then be able to file claims against the estate and get their money back. They agree. The plate is returned to its owner, and as thanks the old man gives Kana some cans of caviar.
Science, math or technology: Nothing.
("Nature hides deep secrets." Touma, doing weeding work 6 years ago.)
Jitensha Dorobou (Bike Thief, Magajin R, 2016 #1)
6 years earlier, Touma had had a school break in the U.S. at the same time that his globetrotting historian/archeologist parents were in Japan to help on some work at an old shrine, so the family had kind of a reunion in Japan for three weeks. During that time, Touma found a used book of woodcut prints at the local bookstore, and he needed a way to make 3,000 yen to buy the book. He became friends with another boy his age, Akiyuki Sawaihara, and learned that Akiyuki's older brother was running a small business and needed part-time helpers. The older brother, Takahiko, accepted odd jobs from the senior citizens in town. One of the jobs was to cut grass in a large yard. As Toumi was busy with this task, he happened on a new bicycle that had been reported stolen. He turned it in, but the police accused him of stealing it and insisted on having him confess to the crime. Back in the present, Touma and Kana, plus some of the other year 3 students, have been roped in by the 2nd years to arrange for a venue for their class' Christmas party. The group finds a large rental hall, but Touma gets a phone call telling him that he's been named representative for one Takahiko Sawaihara. He, Kana and some of the other kids go out to the remote town, where Touma gives permission to a moving crew to clear the old junk from a building that's scheduled to be torn down. In the main room are shelves of souvenirs from around the world, and the walls are covered with glossy travel photos.
(Takahito wants a $2,000 bike. His mother resents his choices.)
As Touma relates it, Takahiko had hired three workers - him, Akiyuki and some high school student, based from this building. Taka would divide the jobs up into three sealed envelopes, which he'd hide behind his back and have the kids each pick one (top, middle or bottom). The tasks would be things like doing someone's shopping, cutting grass, or housecleaning. While the money coming in was ok, it wasn't quite enough to let Taka buy the $2,000 touring bike he had his eye on in the local bike shop. While drooling over the bike, his mother came up and demanded that he stop all this foolishness and return home with her. He refused, saying that this was his way of proving her wrong. Apparently, when Taka had failed to get into university on his first try, his mother had been laughing and joking with her neighbors, and she'd told them that Taka was a hopeless case who had never succeeded in anything in his life. Taka overheard this and moved out of the house the next day to never go back. His mother resents the fact that he's actually making money in this new business venture. A few days later, Touma gets the task of cutting grass on a large estate, discovers the stolen bike, which is worth $200, and is accused by the local cop of being a thief. Touma's parents show up and are ready to bring in a team of lawyers to raise holy hell, but Touma has the situation under control and he talks his way out of all charges. Akiyuki finds Touma and tells him that Taka has suddenly bought the touring bike after all. He visits the bike shop and notices two small pieces of paper on the floor near the fax machine, with the characters for "ta" and "te" on them.
(Touma's parents don't like local cops harassing they boy.)
Back in the present again, Akiyuki arrives, looking 6 years older, and they all watch the building being torn down.
Questions: Who stole the $200 bike? Why was Touma set up as the main suspect? What's the real motive?
----- Spoilers -----
Akiyuki says that this was all done by his mother, who wanted Taka to come back to her. She stole the $200 bike and spread the rumor that a child took it. The idea was that Touma's arrest would cast a pall on Taka's business and he'd have to give up and close shop. The plan didn't work, though, because Taka had enough money to buy the $2,000 touring bike and has been traveling the world ever since. Akiyuki apologizes to Touma, but his friend suggests that there's a second possibility. Actually, Taka told the bike shop owner that he was going to buy a customized version of the touring bike so the owner would start filling out the order forms to fax to the manufacturer. While the other man was busy, Taka grabbed a key for the locks of the regular mamachari bikes and walked off with the $200 bike unseen. He then used two small pieces of paper (the ones that looked like "ta" and "te") and stuck them to the order form to make it look like the shop owner wanted 2 ("te" is really "2") bikes to be delivered in the evening ("ta" is really the kanji character for "yuru", evening). Afterward, Taka brushed the pieces on the floor before the owner noticed the changes. The delivery truck came to the shop past closing time and just left the two boxes propped against the front door. Taka took one, and the owner arrived the next morning to find the other box waiting for him. Taka then apologized and canceled his original order.
(A picture from the woodcut book Touma wanted to buy, representing Taka's attachment to his fears and guilt.)
Because the daily tasks were handed out to the three part-time kids in identical sealed envelopes, there was no point to Taka holding them behind his back when his workers selected them. In fact, Taka wanted to rotate the kids so that they only did the more arduous job of cutting grass and weeding at the large estate once each, so he put a small cut in the envelope for that sheet of paper, which he could feel with his finger. He masked the cut by opening the envelopes with a pair of scissors, cutting over the telltale slit. The reason for framing Touma was two-fold. First, the boy was going to be returning to America in 3 days, and therefore had no motive for stealing a bike. Any charges against him would eventually be dropped. Second was that when the shop owner realized that Taka had modified the fax to get a free touring bike, he'd be reluctant to complain to the police a second time without really convincing proof.
(Modern-day Akiyuki arriving to watch the building tear-down.)
But, if Taka was the culprit, why was Touma named as his representative for tearing down this old building? The answer is that once he had the bike, Taka felt so guilty that he never went riding with it. Instead, he locked himself up in his shop and filled it with souvenirs and photos he'd gotten somehow (probably ordered over the internet) to live the lie of being a world traveler. And for the next 6 years, that's where he stayed. But, the building was scheduled to be turned into a parking lot or apartment building, so Taka had to move, and he figured Touma was the one person able to figure everything out for him so he could move on with his life. One of the last things pulled out the debris is the touring bike. The classmates return to Tokyo, where Kana's friend had been stuck doing all the work to set up the 2nd year Christmas party. It's a successful party, too. Meanwhile, Akiyuki visits an apartment building somewhere else, and tells his brother that it's time for them to go meet their mother.
Science, math or technology: Nothing.
Comments: Again, not one of the stronger volumes. "Three Assassins" is a comedy of errors, and having Yamaguchi do himself in because of his greed feels pretty weak. "Bike Thief" was kind of predictable, too. The problem is that if Taka really was a failure and didn't have that much money to his name, how did he survive as a recluse for 6 years, much less afford all the statues and trinkets he filled his room with? The artwork is typical Motohiro, and the pacing is good, so I recommend this book to anyone that likes the series. Also, I should emphasize that this is the first time ever that we get to see the faces of Touma's parents...
Thursday, February 25, 2016
(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
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.)
------------- Spoilers -------------
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.)
------------- Spoilers -------------
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.