Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Weekend

Going into last Friday, I was feeling pretty good about my prospects for getting a lot of work done on the webcomic artist interviews, visiting the Meiji Restoration festival to see what they'd have on the weekend, and hitting the Halloween events Saturday and Sunday at Amu Plaza.

Unfortunately, I developed severe stomach problems that worsened through the evening, and on Saturday morning I found myself at a clinc getting poked and prodded and x-rayed, and being referred to a hospital a mile away. There, a specialist made a few proclamations, and suggested some treatments, which had me trapped up in a toilet stall until 1:30 PM, when the nurses told me they were locking up the hospital for the day. So, now I'm on the street, about half-a mile from the apartment, looking for public restrooms I can duck into. Unfortunately, the medicine they gave me just made things worse, and I had to cancel all my classes at the English school just to stay home and deal with the cramping. I didn't sleep much Friday night, and I had even less sleep Saturday night, alternating between the toilet and the shower, going through 3 liters of water and cursing the pain.

Sunday morning, I went to a larger prefectural hospital, where they went through the whole routine of ultra-sound scans, x-rays and blood taking again (I've got large bruises on both arms where the nurses stuck me with needles. The nurse at the second hospital tried taking blood from my left arm, but kept missing the vein. She apologized a lot when she switched over to my right arm, which was already bruised from Saturday.)

During all this, I can't keep food down, and I'm in a daze from the lack of sleep and mix of medicines from the day before, and it feels like my left kidney is shutting down, giving me a sharp pain in the back. I'm weak and shuffling through the hospital corridors, lagging behind the nurses and lab techs. Finally, I get to an internal organs specialist that again pinpoints the problem to the blockage in my stomach, and he gives me a pain reliever and says "be patient." Monday the earlier medicines start working correctly, and by noon the blockage is mostly gone. By Tuesday, I'm almost kin of back to normal, but I still don't have much of an appetite.

But, now my entire weekend is shot, and I missed all of the free music at Amu Plaza. Plus, I'm behind on everything else I'd wanted to do on one of the biggest holiday weekends in Japan so far this year. Sigh. Moral of the story: Don't make plans.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Hiroako Bazar Halloween

How can I help you?

C.M.B. volume 33 review

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

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.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Q.E.D. iff volume 5 review

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

Q.E.D. iff, vol. 5, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
Motohiro has come out with a new crime mystery novel, entitled, "Tukamaetamongati!" (捕まえたもん勝ち = "I Can Make Arrests!"), illustrated by Nanakawa. It features a rookie detective named Kikuno Tanabata - AKA, Kick (because she keeps defeating top-level black belt martial artists by kicking them in the head). To tie Kick in with the rest of his universe, Motohiro features her in cross-over stories in the last chapters of both Q.E.D. iff 5 and C.M.B. 33.

Direct youtube link

(Two hikers find the body of Ren Ahikaga in the hills.)

I-bun ("Even", Magajin R #4, 2016)
Two hikers are out on a mountainside when they discover the mangled body of Ren Ashikaga, a university student. The police are summoned, and they discover what looks like a suicide note ("I was dumped by my girlfriend, I can't bear to live anymore"). The next day, Kana Mizuhara is visiting her father in the hospital, and she's infuriated at him. The Det. had been investigating a theft at a pachinko parlor, and one guy in a car was drawing attention as he demanded to take his pregnant wife to the hospital. Mizuhara got suspicious, and the driver hit the gas pedal. Mizuhara grabbed the steering wheel through the open window, and the driver yelled "die!" as he aimed for a concrete light pole. The airbags deployed, knocking out the driver and the passenger (who was hiding the stolen money under her shirt). Mizuhara made the arrest, but he injured his leg badly enough to have to spend the next week in the hospital. Kana goes out of the room to do her father's laundry, and notices a suspicious-looking person sneaking out of another room. The door is left open. Inside, she sees Ashikaga in a coma in bed, with his air mask off his face, and his life support turned off. Kana chases the person (with the mask, sunglasses and trenchcoat, it could be a man or a woman), telling some police nearby to arrest that person. But, the suspect turns down a deadend hallway and disappears. The police find a white trenchcoat on the floor, but the suspect is gone. Kana asks Touma for help, quietly, because she doesn't want her father to get out of bed and hobble around on crutches to solve the case.

(Touma grills the three people that had visited Ren that day, the guy Shinta, the cute girl Nana, and Shinta's fan, Sana.)

Touma checks the visitor log, and learns that three people had signed in to the hospital that day, and he connects them to the supposed suicide jumper. Now, though, this is a pretty clear case of attempted murder. Initially, the situation is pretty muddled. The first visitor was Nana Tejima, who complains that Ashikaga had been trying to ask her out on a date, and she'd turned him down. Kana is immediately approached by Sana Sendou, who says that Nana is lying and to not trust anything she says. Sana mentions that Nana had been in a car accident, and Ashikaga had given her $1,200 to have her car repaired. But, Nana has lots of expensive clothes, and therefore must have been leeching off the guy. The third name on the visitor list is for Shinta Koshimoto. And this is where things get messy. To make Ashikaga leave her alone, Nana claims she had asked Shinta to pretend to be her boyfriend, and they staged a kiss when Ashikaga "happened" by. But, Shinta really is Nana's boyfriend, which is why Sana hates her so much. Shinta is the star runner on the university's track team, and Sana considers herself Shinta's biggest fan. Shinta, meanwhile, knows who Sana is and has no interest in her. On top of all this, all 4 of them are in the same German class. The teacher had lived in Germany for a few years, and therefore treats himself as an expert on the language. His tests are very severe, and if you fail one, you have to take the class over. Ashikaga was the best student in the class, and everyone had asked to copy his notes in trade for small favors, like free lunches and the like. Nana had gotten his notes in exchange for her scented handkerchief. But, someone had broken into the teacher's car to steal his exam notes, so the teacher was rewriting the test, and all the students are in a bind because Ashikaga is still in a coma. Kana is instructed by Touma to ask Shinta why he'd agreed to stage the fake kiss with Nana, and the boy answers that Ashikaga is a pervert; after one of the classes, when he'd thought the room was empty, Shinta spied Ashikaga looking out the window in a daze, deeply breathing the perfume from Nana's hanky. What remains now is where Nana's money is coming from, and it turns out that she's working part-time at a cabaret club as a "hostess," which would be a minor scandal if the news got out. Topping all this, Shinta decides to dump Nana as being too clingy, so he can go overseas to study for an MBA, causing Sana to further accuse Nana of being responsible for her idol's giving up his dreams to be an international track star.

Questions: Is someone really trying to kill Ashikaga? Is it Nana, to keep him from telling everyone she's working as a hostess? Is it Shinta, to protect Nana from the pervert? Is it Sana, trying to frame Nana for murder to get her away from Sana's beloved track star? What about the incident in the hospital - how did Ashikaga's attacker disappear from the deadend hallway? And, does Kana's father learn about the mystery and get out of bed to solve it himself?

No science.

(Notes: Each of the character's names this time include the names of body parts. Ashi = leg or foot; Te = hand; Dou = Head; Koshi = back.)

(Kick interviews Kana's father to investigate charges of department fraud.)

Fukanzenna Misshitsu ("The Imperfect Sealed Room Mystery", Magajin R #5, 2016)
Det. Mizuhara has recovered and is out of the hospital. He's investigating a closed room murder mystery, and he discovers a pool of blood under some drums in a garage behind a house, indicating that the murder may have occurred here, absolving the suspect of the crime. The suspect, an old woman named Satoko Itami, is allowed to go free. Which causes problems for the captain of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. It's looking like sloppy investigative work, and the captain orders a new subordinate, Kikuno Tanabata, to snoop around and find the truth. Kiku goes to talk to Koutarou Mizuhara (the captain's sempai in school), and he recognizes her name as being for the legendary "Kick," the rookie that has been defeating top level black belts in martial arts training. He tells her to "talk to that girl," pointing to Kana out the window (Kana had dropped by the station to give her father the bento lunch box he'd forgotten at home). Kick gets super-serious about her job and attempts to hold Kana as a witness, until learning her mistake. The goal was for Kick to meet Touma.

(Kick confronts Chitose over charges of his protege tampering with evidence.)

There is corruption in the Sakisaka department, and the problem is how to get people to start talking about it. The current case is related to an older case from about 2 years prior. In the current case, a rice delivery man went to the home of retired detective Takamatsu to drop off a package, and saw Takamatsu through a window - he was dead in bed, with a knife in his chest. The police entered the house and found an old woman knocked out just inside. The woman, Satoko, is a nurse and had been treating Takamatsu's diabetes with daily insulin shots. Investigators tied her to the earlier case, and arrested her on charges. But, Mizuhara's discovery of the blood in the garage caused the charges to collapse and the nurse was set free. Now, in the original case, there was a "black school" run by a crime gang that would use hostesses to lure kids to a cafe, where thugs would then pressure them into signing contracts that would drain their bank accounts. One night, one of those hostesses was found stabbed in the chest with a knife, sitting on the floor next to the toilet in one of the stalls of the women's bathroom in a dance club. The club personnel rushed to the toilet, but the hostess was dead then. A security camera aimed at the restroom doors from outside showed the victim entering the room, then followed by 2 women, who came back out, and then another woman who found the body, and finally by the crowd. It was a closed room mystery. The lead investigator on the case was an elite up-and-coming newbie named Souji Miyako. Miyako was tired of being stuck at a desk, and he used this case to make a name for himself. He located one potential suspect, Takeo Itami, and tried to pin the murder on him. Takeo had a solid alibi (he'd been at a karaoke club with friends all night). But, Miyako found someone that claimed Takeo had said he wanted to kill the hostess who'd tricked him into signing the contract at the "black school." Takeo was arrested, and after a few days, he committed suicide. Miyako was promoted, because he comes from a powerful family, and one of the higher-ups in the police department has taken him on as a mentor. Everyone else knows that Miyako screwed up, but they're too scared to talk.

The tie-in to the Takamatsu murder: Takamatsu was one of the detectives that had interviewed Takeo. Takamatsu's nurse is Takeo's mother, Satoko. And, the investigator that ordered Satoko arrested was Souji Miyako. With the blood in the garage indicating that the murder occurred elsewhere, Miyako's case against Satoko is in danger of collapsing, and Miyako's mentor, the head of the Tokyo Police department detectives, Kenji Chitose, resents both Mizuhara and Kick for tarnishing his protege's image.

Questions: What was the trick used in the dance club murder? Who was the killer, and what was their motive? What was the next trick, used in the Takamatsu case? And what was the motive there? How did Miyako get his case to stick against Takeo, when he had no evidence to work with? What is he going to do now against Satoko, and can Kick do anything in the face of Chitose's desire to protect Miyako?

No science.

Summary: I've said before, and I'll say again, I prefer the stories that have science or technology in them, and neither of these stories have that. Even is an ok procedural, and I did get misled enough that I didn't figure out the mystery by myself, although the trick of the disappearing suspect in the hospital was pretty easy. I would have liked Imperfect Sealed Room better if Touma was the main hero. I can understand Motohiro's desire to use this spotlight to promote his new novel, but Kick isn't a particularly interesting character on her own. Touma makes the calls, and Kick just goes through the motions. All we know about her so far is that she has a reputation as a fighter, she won't back down from threats from her superiors, and she is very gung-ho about her work. Recommended if you like the rest of the series.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Smirnoff Ice Masks

I was at the konbini one night, and I noticed Smirnoff had something they called Halloween Japanese Monsters. Basically, these are face masks like the ones people wear when they get a cold, with different designs printed on them.

Typical Japanese approach - put on the face mask and your costume is complete.

A lot of the designs seem to be either variations on the Mexican Day of the Dead artwork, or a couple Chinese-styled demons.

It's just a little cheap piece of cloth with the design stamped on it. Even in the above advertising photos, the masks look too small for adults. Mine was at least 2 inches too short to reach my ears, so I tossed it without bothering to take a picture with it on.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Halloween Party Train

I mentioned the Kagoshima party train some months back. It's available for rental, but apparently only runs once a month or so. A couple days ago, I caught sight of it in Tenmonkan, where the driver was waiting for the light to change. It wasn't at a platform, so I didn't have the option of running over to find out how much it was. There are a few paper bat and spider cutouts visible through the windows.

The passengers can sit at tables along the windows and eat food (box meals), and drink alcoholic beverages.

One guy was taking photos of the people on the sidewalks, and mugging for the cameras of anyone taking pictures of the train.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lotteria Halloween purple cheese burger

Ok, I really did want to get the purple cheeseburger for the blog, and I was hungry. I figured it would be safer if I bought the set meal for $7.50, which came with the burger, an order of fries and a small drink (I got ice coffee).

In the poster, the cheese oozes down the side of the burger like a big tongue.

In reality, it's just glopped in the middle of the burger looking like Pepto-Bismol. It tastes fine - it's just melted cheddar cheese. The burger itself has too much black pepper, which I've noticed with special campaign burgers from Burger King and McDonald's, too. I suspect it's a way of covering up for the use of cheaper cuts of meat. Not really recommended. The fries were good, though.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Cup no Fuchiko Halloween Figure

Coppu no Fuchiko (Fuchiko of the Cup) is the line of capsule ball figures that feature an OL (office lady) named Fuchiko, that is designed to be propped on the side of a drinking glass. The latest series is for Halloween, so I decided to get one. 300 yen ($3 USD).

The back of the insert sheet has a concept sketch, plus a little bio on the artist. In the dialog boxes, Fuchiko is saying "Torikku oa nantoka--" (Trick or Whatever). "Aki no shuukaku wo iwau omatsuri nandesu yo-" (It's a festival to celebrate good Autumn results."

I'd wanted the red witch, or maybe one of the ghosts. The jack-o-lantern design is ok, but not quite as eye-catching. Fuchiko is about 2" tall.

Still, she's very well-detailed. The back of the dress has Katsuki's copyright statement.

To give a better impression of the actual size of the figure.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Oct. 22-23

Baru Gai Sax Quartet

The city of Kagoshima had a Baru Gai (Bargain Street) event for one day only, on Saturday. Basically, some of the shops offered discount prices on some of their goods. As part of the event, there was a small live stage. I had to work most of the day, so I just caught the last 3 minutes of a sax quartet doing an encore performance.

Direct youtube link

Kagoshima Furosato, Oct. 23, 216

The city of Kagoshima has been celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration for a couple years now. The tents and stuff seem to be going up at least twice a year. Last Friday, I was up at Amu Plaza, and I noticed the front gate structure, and some of the banners, but I was on the wrong side of the street to go look at the schedule, so I just went home. Saturday, we had really hard rain most of the day, and I wasn't expecting any of the tents to go up. However, I finished work at 8 PM, and got to Tenmonkan at 8:20, just in time to stumble on the Baru Gai (Bargain Street) event that was only running on the 22nd. The advertising for that said the event would continue to midnight, so after dinner I returned to Tenmonkan to see if they were going to have any more live music (they didn't, and the live stage had already been dismantled). But, the rain had tapered off, so I continued up to the Kotsuki river, near the main train station to check out the tents there.

The schedule was finally set up in front of the metal gate, and it said that things would be starting Sunday morning, and continue to Nov. 6th, although the sign over the entrance gate wasn't up yet. So, I figured I'd come back the next day, if the weather was good.

Sunday morning, I had to do online English school teaching support, and I had to stay home for that. But, the weather had remained bad, with rain into the afternoon. I kept working and didn't get out of the apartment until 4 PM. At that point, it was just drizzling. However, all of the outdoor live activities (theater plays, posing for photos, and most of the food booths) had been cancelled. There were a few costumed actors who were hanging around the Meiji Restoration Museum, in the middle of the park, and they still had the used book sale (I didn't bother looking through the books because I wouldn't know the difference between a valuable book and a nonvaluable one). But, without the plays and food tables, there were no visitors to the event, either.

Across the river, though, a group of merchants and crafts people had their own booths set up. But, business was so bad that at 4:30 PM they were already tearing down. (Things were supposed to continue until 5 PM on the weekends.)

A dismal end to a dismal day. I continued up to the main train station, but there was nothing interesting happening in the main plaza, either. I went into the department store to get free sample coffee at Kaldi, and picked up some snacks (apple, chestnut and royal milk tea pudding packages, and a bag of small snack waffles), then headed back home for an early dinner. The rest of the evening was spent doing online teaching support, formatting pictures for the blog, and massaging an interview for Basket Case. Again, yet another low-key weekend.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Code of Princess 3DS

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

Code of Princess, Agatsuma Games, 2012, Grade: B-
I've been looking for an inexpensive 3DS game for a while, and I finally broke down and got Code of Princess for 500 yen ($5 USD). I'd seen it in Book Off for months, but I'd been holding off buying it partly because the box art didn't show much in the way of the game play. CoP is, in the words of one reviewer, "a sidescrolling brawler". It's very similar in concept to the old Simpson's video game, where you walk left or right along a street, fighting a fixed number of enemy within a time limit.

(Player selection screen. In story mode, you can only select one of the 4 main characters. Obviously, to get all 4 up to the higher levels, you have to replay the story quests at least one time each for each character.)

You play Princess Solange. Her father's kingdom is attacked by monsters, and the army blames the royal family for the mess. Solange is instructed to get the Sacred Blade DeLuxcalibur out of the armory and find out why the monsters are attacking. DeLuxcalibur is a huge blade, longer than Solange is tall, and very heavy, so Solange spends most of her time dragging it along on the ground when she walks. It has a slow attack, but does a lot of damage if it hits the enemy. It is funny, when Solange is surrounded front and back, that the blade hits anyone behind her, while throwing the enemy in front of her up in the air. In the first few stages, you only have 4 actions - upward cut, lunge, attack the legs, and "burst" (burst uses up all your MP, but adds extra magic damage to the other attacks).

(Princess Solange, from the opening cut scene.)

As you progress through the story, you unlock each chapter one at a time. Any chapter can be replayed if you want to get more experience. At the end of the chapter, you get experience, money, items, and points that can be assigned to specific character stats (strength, HP, MP, defense, etc.) I've only started the game, and I think I have less than 4-5 hours on it. One of the NPCs that joins your party will sell you random weapons, armor and accessories, which are largely useless. I have encountered the three other playable NPCs - the thief, Ali Baba; necromancer Lady Zozo; and "bard" Allegro (Allegro plays an electric guitar, and apparently doesn't need an amp). There are other characters you meet later on, but according to the wiki page, you can't play them in story mode. You can switch to a couple other free play modes, where you can use the other characters, apparently up to 50 total.

(One of the battle screens. Pressing the D-pad in various combinations, then following that with that A-B-X-Y buttons will give you different attacks. Just like Street Fighter.)

The story mode fighting system is very simple, and it's mostly just button mashing. The artwork looks really good, but there's not much strategy - upper cut to keep the enemy air borne, and if someone gets too close, back away and lunge, or attack for the legs a bit, then go back to upper cutting. Guard if the enemy are too high-level and swarm you. I really wanted a traditional RPG, so I'm a bit disappointed at getting a sidescroller. So far, though, it's not difficult to keep beating each chapter, so I may play CoP occasionally, rather than playing Spider Solitaire on the PC. Recommended only if you can find it cheap, used.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ajin, vol. 9 review

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

Ajin, vol. 9 (Good Afternoon, 2016-16), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: A-.
The battle between Satou's forces and Tosaki's continues, although it's really Tanaka and Satou, with the police inadvertently getting in the way of the defenders. The one guard recognizes Kei, and the boy takes Kou as a hostage, whispering out a quick plan. Kei shoots Kou in the legs, giving the guards the chance to dart him. Kou then darts the medics tending to him, and shoots Kei in the head with a gun, resetting him. After a brief skirmish, the guards are all down, and Kei and Kou work their way up the stairs. Elsewhere, Izumi and Tanaka fight it out, until Tanaka succeeds in darting her a couple times. He handcuffs her to a railing. The medics arrive, and think that Tanaka, who is in a uniform, is on their side, and they let him leave. Unfortunately, the medics realize that Izumi is an Ajin, and they prepare to shoot video with their smartphones to put on the net, as Tanaka is still within earshot. (He may have become a little more sympathetic after exchanging memories with Izumi when their ghosts came into contact with each other.)

(Izumi's and Tanaka's ghosts fight; Tanaka prepares to dart Izumi.)

Hirasawa and his two remaining men have Satou pinned down on one floor, next to an indoor swimming pool. Satou takes a dart to the arm, and tries resetting himself by shooting himself in the head, but his revolver is out of bullets. He collapses. Hirasawa radios Kei, who tells him to see if Satou's throat is vibrating as he plays possum (breathing shallowly). It is, and there's more gun play until Satou takes a dart to the back of the neck and collapses for good this time. (He has a tourniquet around his bicep, keeping the sleeping drug in his arm from entering his bloodstream.) However, his ghost is capable of going autonomous now, and it kills the two remaining bodyguards before resetting Satou. Satou almost kills Hirasawa, but Kei saves him. Hirasawa hits his head against the wall, and Satou punches Kei in the face, hard. When they recover, Satou is gone.

(Satou takes a dart to the arm, then pretends to be out of bullets to set a trap for anyone that gets close to him.)

Satou gets to the executive floor, where Kai, the company president, thinks he is safely locked inside. Kai tells Satou to end this and go home. Instead, Satou cuts his arm off, presses the stump up against the saferoom door, and resets himself. The black smoke that causes Ajin to regenerate discovers the door in the way, and assimilates it to make the guy's arm whole again. Leaving a hole in the door for him to shoot Kai through. At the same time, Tanaka discovers Kai's secretary, and takes pity on her for having had pity on him. He tries to get her to safety before his boss finds them, but it's too late. Tanaka threatens to shoot Satou if he tries to kill the woman, and Satou backs off, claiming that he's more interested in capturing and torturing Kei. Tanaka doesn't trust him, but he and the secretary head to the lobby. Simultaneously, Tosaki, in the main security control room, had activated the lock down system, then gotten a phonecall that is too important to ignore. He leaves the room, and finds Izumi cuffed in the stairwell, surrounded by dead medics (their smartphones all have bullet holes in them). Izumi tries to get Tosaki to help her rip her wrist off so she can escape the cuffs, but her boss looks at the blood, and leaves to find the keys to the cuffs instead.

(Satou promises to cut Kei's head off and have the boy generate a new one.)

Satou gets to the control room, and activates the PA system. He says that he's going to track down Kei, cut his head off, and carry it far enough away that he'll generate a second one to torture. Given Kei, the boy will be able to let him do this. Kou and Kei argue over what to do, and Hirasawa orders them to the roof. The exit door is locked, so Kei has the other two cut his arms off and reset him so that he can disable the lock the way Satou had. Hirasawa orders them to escape, and Kou stands close enough to the edge of the roof to be blown off by a strong gust of wind. Kei doesn't want to run away, and he realizes that Hirasawa is bleeding. Turns out that somehow, Satou had managed to shoot him through a gap under his bulletproof vest. He's dying. Satou finds a gas-powered weed trimmer, and reaches the roof. Hirasawa shoots Kei in the head, causing him to fall over the ledge.  Satou is disappointed, but consoles himself with the idea of going toe to toe with the lead bodyguard in a boxing match. Kei orders his ghost to go to the roof to help Hirasawa, but when it gets to the top, Satou is gone (he admits Hirasawa was a great fighter) and the bodyguard is lying on the roof, dead.

(Hirasawa prepares to box with Satou, while Kou attempts to hold on to a ledge a few floors down.)

Kei lands on the pavement in the middle of a crowd of reporters. They recognize him, and some cops rush up. Kou steals a TV transmitter truck, because it has the keys in it, and he rescues Kei. They get to a bridge next to a river, and ditch the truck. Kei orders Kou to use the fact that no one knows he's an Ajin yet, and return to his safe life. He himself will seek out another backwood mountainside to hide in. Kou asks about all the people Satou is going to kill, and Kei replies back that Kou was only concerned about the death of Hirasawa, yet had no feelings when he saw president Kai dead. That is, he's being irrational. Kou replies that when he first died, he'd been trying to replace a lightbulb in the family's apartment. He was just a kid. He'd climbed up on a chair and a stack of newspapers, slipped off, and broke his back on the floor. His family moved away, leaving him there, paralyzed, waiting to die. It took days to die and reset. He is desperate now to help people who need him, but he can't do it alone. He needs Kei, too. Kei leaves, trying to think of somewhere that has no people. Suddenly, he stops and says that he'll try calling his mother one more time.

Summary: The security doors of the Forge building open the next morning, and everyone is shuttled out. Tosaki and Izumi leave together, while Tanaka continues pretending to be a guard, then ditches the uniform in a nearby alley. No word on what happened to the secretary. Satou threw himself off the roof and escaped that way. And essentially, everyone is back to square one. Although, Satou is in the lead because he had succeeded in getting one of the two remaining people on his top ten hit list. Great artwork, great action, great pacing. Lots of gory combat. Recommended if you like this kind of thing. Upgraded to A-, based on the improvements in the character art.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Ok. Yeah. There was another opportunity to get a toy from a UFO Catcher (crane arm) machine. I took it. Took 7-8 tries ($7-$8 USD), but I got it. I guess it's just something called "the huggable pillow, Flan."

I have no place to keep these things, so I donated it to a woman that has a dog, to use as the dog's companion. I've been told the dog likes it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Capsule Cafe, Takepla

The capsule ball dispenser banks keep moving around in Tenmonkan. This time, they've been relocated to one of the upper floors of the Taka Plaza (Takapla) department store.

None of the machines have anything really new. It's just that there are so many dispensers in one place, and they've been arranged by type - girls' toys, animals, gimmicks, etc. Prices are between $2 and $4 apiece.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Miyazaki Day Trip

As mentioned in yesterday's blog entry, my plan for Sunday was to visit Aoshima, in Miyazaki. Miyazaki is a 3-hour bus trip from Kagoshima, so I got up to the main station and took the 9:35 AM bus. The bus driver mostly stayed on the express roads, keeping a few miles from the bay, so all I saw were hills and trees. The sky stayed overcast and there was light rain all day, meaning there really was nothing to look at on the trip. I got to a department store in Miyazaki at 12:30, and switched buses for the one that goes down to Aoshima. Miyazaki is on the east side of Kyushu, and Aoshima is a small island down the coast heading south a few miles. I stopped at a roadside restaurant called the Phoenix, and had fresh sushi and sashimi for lunch. With beer, the meal came to $20.

Actually, Aoshima isn't visible from this vantage point, but there is an observation deck where you can stand and stare at the ocean. One of the main features of this region is the washboard-like coast line.

The Phoenix. It's a combination restaurant, souvenir shop, and abandoned educational center. Most of the visitors were Japanese, but with some Chinese mixed in. The most popular items of the day were the soft cream cones.

I'm guessing that the beach is made up of layers of eroded shale. The observation deck does have stairs leading down the hill, but they only go a few yards down. There had been routes that reached all the way to the beach, but those had been closed off a few years ago. So, there's not any point to taking the stairs unless you want to look at some of the flowers below the observation deck. The weather stayed bad, so I took the next bus back to the city.

The Miyazaki main train station has a cut-out board featuring three of the gods and goddesses that created Japan according to myth (including Susanou and Amaterasu, if you remember the Area 51 manga). The express train was maybe $50 dollars, and still took 2 hours to get back to Kagoshima. I got in there at 6:30 PM, and had more sushi for dinner at a restaurant across the street.

At 7:30 PM, on my way home, the sky cleared up and the rain stopped. The full moon was absolutely brilliant. Sigh.

At 10 PM, when I took the trash out at night, the rain had started up again.