Monday, June 26, 2017

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure



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

Some things are better left as anime. Nice hair, though. Jojo, the movie.




Sunday, June 25, 2017

C.M.B. volume 35 review


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

C.M.B., vol. 35, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B


(Shinra explains to the police what it is that Tara finds unbelievable.)

Domitori- (Dormitory, 2017, Monthly Shonen Magajin)
A group of backpackers in Thailand are talking with each other in a guest house and showing off the souvenirs they've bought (carved wooden statues of Shiva, Vishnu and Hanuman), all thinking that these are unique local talismans, while the Indian tourist, Tara Boyd, keeps correcting them. The group consists of Seiyuu Tsunoda (Japan), Ben Craft (Australia), Kwan Ryu (Taiwan), Tara, and Scott Koba (Switzerland). The Thai police raid the guest house on the rumor that someone is dealing drugs there, and one of the cops finds a plastic bag with white powder in the hollowed space in Seiyuu's statue. He's hauled off, and Tara and Kwan stake out the Japanese embassy in order to find someone that can help their acquaintance. Shinra and Tatsuki step out with one of the embassy staff as Shinra is being thanked for helping them with a separate problem. The two women grab them and drag the heroes to the police station, where Seiyuu begs for help (the penalty for selling drugs in Thailand is very severe, and Seiyuu claims to be innocent). Shinra gathers everyone's stories. At the time of the raid, Seiyuu had been in the men's dorm room, putting his statue in its box and then in his bag. He heard Scott yell out and fall in front of the hallway door as if being pushed, and went to the doorway to help. There was no one else behind him, but Seiyuu was now in full view of the police that were searching the women's belongings. The police said that Seiyuu was obviously trying to run away, and when they looked in his bag, they found the statue, and drugs in the hollow base.

The only other possible suspect would be Ryan, the American. He played poker with Scott and Seiyuu and lost big money. He left the dorm right after, but he was obviously a druggie and could have planted the stash in Seiyuu's statue in revenge. The problem with that theory is that Immigrations has records showing that Ryan had left the country before Seiyuu bought his souvenir. The only real cue is that Tara saw the photos the police took of the evidence, and there's something she finds unbelievable.

Questions: Did Ryan frame Seiyuu, and if so, how? If not, is Seiyuu really guilty of smuggling? Who pushed Scott and why didn't anyone see him or her? And, what is Tara having so much difficulty believing?

Natural history: A short description of the Hindu gods, and how various religions co-opt each other.

Payment: Shinra might have gotten Seiyuu's Shiva statue.

--- Spoilers ---

If you guessed that Scott is lying, you're right. Scott's the one that had been dealing from the guest house, and Ryan had been one of his customers. However, when Ryan lost most of his money to Seiyuu and Scott in the poker game, he got angry and phoned in an anonymous tip to the police before leaving the country. One of Scott's snitches had informed him of the impending raid, and when he saw that Seiyuu had gotten a similar statue, he'd switched bases when Seiyuu wasn't looking. The police took photos of the evidence, and Tara noticed that the Shiva statue had a flower base, and not the normal crouching tiger. So, Scott is the obvious culprit. Seiyuu is released, but Shinra reminds him that the thrills and dangers of the unknown are the main reasons anyone goes backpacking around the world on their own, so part of the problems he'd just faced are his own fault. Note that most of the discussions of hiding things revolve around having the statue itself hollow, but the drugs are found in the one wooden base, which was almost never shown in the bulk of the chapter, which was intentionally misleading.



(Mau visits the vaults at Tokyo Big City Bank.)

Kurisumasu no Mau (Mau at Christmas, 2017, Monthly Shonen Magajin)
Mau is back, and has two intertwined storylines. The first regards a huge trove of art collectibles that a German estate wants her to sell on their behalf, and she gets to keep 40% of whatever they go for (she expects maybe $32 million). Second is that Interpol is on her case again for dealing in stolen goods. Seems that a Gauguin painting Mau had sold to a notorious Mexican drug lord had been part of a shipment being sent to a museum. The truck was hijacked and the painting stolen. Interpol wants to know if she's involved. From here, the main focus is on Mau's preparations for receiving the German art collection and finding the highest bidders for it, while also deciding whether to move her other inventory into a bank vault. She sends her main warehouse manager, Joseph, to London to get an insurance company to sell her a policy for her full collection. She has a hapless minion, Ryuuen, go to Mexico to meet with David, the drug lord, and she herself goes to Big City Bank in Tokyo to rent vault space. But, she seems to be doing everything all wrong. Joseph is instructed to pay 30,000 pounds on a 130,000 pound policy. She's trying to get the bank to give her most of its vault space for free, and David is about to put a bullet into Ryuuen for his insolence in telling David to buy everything in the German collection at full value.

Questions: Is Mau insane? Do all her people die?

Natural history: Just a little information on money laundering, and Gauguin.

Payment: Mau tries to sell a Celtic cross to Shinra.

Note: The Mexican drug lord's name is given in katakana as "Dabito", which I'm treating as "David."

--- Spoilers ---

Mau is actually killing two birds with one stone. Her group puts ultraviolet bar codes on all their shipping containers, a fact that no one else knows about. She went to the bank she'd worked with for the Gauguin transaction, and located the crate that had the stolen painting in it (it was suspicious that with a truck filled with art going to a museum that the thieves knew exactly which one box to take). And, there's the fact that the insurance company was so quick in paying $100 million for David's insurance policy when they refused to take Mau's reduced offer on her policy, and she's a better customer for them. Conclusion - David has a lot of money from his drug dealings but no way to get it into circulation. So, he buys the Gauguin from Mau, gets it over-insured, fakes the theft, and lets the bank keep the painting. The insurance company pays him $100 million, which he CAN now spend, and the bank pays the insurer $100 million in a kickback - everyone wins.

Except that Mau holds all the evidence, and she wants her cut. The insurer gives her cheap insurance, the bank gives her cheap vault space, and David buys the entire German collection at full value. All except one piece, a Celtic cross that Mau tries to sell to Shinra.



(Ryouta suffered during the rescue training the day before, and is now afraid of dying outside, alone.)

Donguri to Matsubokkuri (Acorn and Pinecone, 2017, Monthly Shonen Magajin)
Tatsuki and Shinra go out to a mountain in the Japanese Alps for some sledding (same place Tatsuki's grandfather is at for the hot spring spas). Nearby, Ryouta Ishigaki is a new member of the mountain rescue services. He'd undergone some severe rescue training the day before, and his body is trembling. A call comes in that the leader of a school hiking team at the top of a mountain has been injured and the group needs to be evacuated. The rest of the service members leave to do the rescue, telling Ryouta to stay behind and rest. However, Ryouta wants to protest and say that he's not shaking because he's exhausted - he's terrified. He'd had to carry a heavy body on his back the day before, and the weight was so great that he'd thought he was going to die. He's scared of dying alone in the wilderness. Then another call comes in - a father and his young son had gone hiking by themselves and the father had gotten lost. He wandered off the trail, and slipped while climbing down a cliff. The boy is with him, and used their cell phone to call for help. The boy, Gaku, is panicking, so Ryouta gets him to describe his surroundings, then calls his squad leader to say that he's going to go get the boy and his father (the leader tells him to be careful).

Ryouta gets to roughly the area described - near a waterfall and river, with a big pit close by - and starts yelling. A man yells back, and Ryouta goes to him. The guy has also fallen and hurt his leg, but he's alone and doesn't have children. Seems that there are a lot of people needing rescuing today, so Ryouta calls his squad leader, who says that they've finished their mission and will try to recon the area, too. Ryouta picks up his guy and is forced to carry him on his back, again. Things are looking grim, until Shinra and Tatsuki happen by and let him use one of their sleds. They get to the rescue hut and the rescue squad radios in that they can't find anyone else in the area around the falls. The boy calls back, getting more panicked. He's surrounded by fog now and can't see any of the landmarks in the area.

Questions: Where is the boy? If he's not near a waterfall, the river below it, or a big pit, where is he? Do he and his father get rescued in time or not? Does Ryouta quit the rescue services?

Natural history: Some discussions of pine cones and hot springs.

No payment?

--- Spoilers ---

Shinra gets on the phone and asks what seems to be irrelevant questions - Are there any power line towers visible? What kind of flowers have you seen. Where was the sun when you last saw it? What direction is the river flowing relative to the sun? What does the fog smell like? In fact, the shapes of the acorns and pine cones the boy saw help place the elevations of the trees in the area at 700 to 800 meters. And the smell - rotten eggs - indicates that the boy is close to a fault line and a hot spa. Looking at a map, Shinra places the boy somewhat farther away from the falls than first thought. The group finds the boy and his father, and then Ryouta is shocked at seeing an optical illusion - it's as if there's a second, new waterfall. In fact, there are two rivers, with the first one, coming from the falls, making a turn behind a hill in the way, and the second river curving on the near side of the hill. Together it looks like there's one, completely different, river running from the falls to the boy's location. Below that spot is a clear pool that's reflecting a cliff face on the other side, and together it looks like a deep pit. Ryouta looks out at the horizon and accepts that nature is dangerous, but also beautiful. Then, the rest of the rescue squad shows up and evacs the boy and his still unconscious father. A little later, Ryouta gets a postcard from Gaku, saying that his father is getting better, and that his mother is really angry at them. Then, the squad captain orders him out for more drills.



(Seiichi remembers going out to eat.)

Aribai (Alibi, 2017, Monthly Shonen Magajin)
Seiichi Mikeno is a salaryman in a bind. His boss wants him to work unpaid overtime and/or get sent off to an office in another city, while his wife wants him to stay home and spend more time playing catchball with their young son so he'll become a better softball player. It doesn't help that the family really needs money. One morning, as he prepares to go to work, a pair of police detectives grab him and take him to HQ for questioning. Seems that one Daisuke Hachiware, a loan officer, was strangled to death in Seiichi's building 2 weeks earlier, at a time of evening (7 PM) when Seiichi was the only one still there (excluding the night guard who was on security camera all night). Apparently, a group of office workers in the next building over had been leaving for the night at 6:30 PM and had noticed that a conference room still had its lights on, although the room was empty. They reported it to the night guard, who then went to that room and found Daisuke dead on the floor. The police believe that Seiichi killed Daisukei for turning down a loan request, then dragged the body to the conference room between 6:30 and 7 PM. They ask him where he was at that time, and Seiichi can't remember. It was two weeks ago, and his mind is a blank. He tells them that Daisuke always wore a flashy white fur coat and had his hair bleached fashionably blond, so he was probably mugged for his money, but the detectives don't budge. They let him go for the day, but demand that he give his whereabouts at the time of the murder or face charges.

In a funk, Seiichi notices that he's holding his muffler, and that 2 weeks ago there was a girl near the train station that had handed it to him. He goes to the station for clues, and spots Tatsuki. He corners her, and she says that he'd been in a daze at the time 2 weeks ago, and had dropped his muffler on the ground. She'd picked it up and given it back to him. Shinra gets him to explain what's going on, and he decides to help. They find out that Kujirazaki is handling the case, and Tatsuki talks the detective into describing all the evidence. Shinra looks at the ceiling, then says that Kujirazaki will be able to solve the case if he unseals the murder scene.

Questions: What happened that evening? Why can't Seiichi remember anything? Does he have an alibi? If so, who is the real killer?

Natural history: Nothing.

No payment?

--- Spoilers --

The first clue is Seiichi's muffler. Normally, at about 6 PM on a weeknight, he'd go to a ramen shop near the train station, where the customers are standing elbow to elbow. No one would remember him there, but he wouldn't be taking his muffler off to eat in a place like that. But, when he was walking from the station in a daze, he was holding his muffler in his hand, so he must have been in a sit-down restaurant where he'd have taken his muffler off to eat. That's when he finally remembers what happened. He'd gone to a regular cafe because the places near the station were too crowded. At the end of the meal, he saw tickets for a Power Rangers-type stage show near the cash register, and because he knew he was going to be working overtime, and not be home to play with his son, Seiichi told the restaurant owner that he'd buy two tickets for the show. The owner apologized, saying the show had ended its run one month earlier, and it was her fault for not removing the tickets from the register stand. That's when he'd gone into shock. But, the owner remembered him and the time he'd been there, because she was expecting her own son to be coming home from school then and she'd just looked at the clock when he came in. So, that gives Seiichi an alibi. The next day, Kujirazaki unseals the conference room and Shinra hides inside to wait. Eventually, the guy from the next building over that had told the night guard about the conference room lights still being on comes into the room and tries to remove something from the overhead lights. Kujirazaki arrests him, and we learn that the guy had summoned Daisuke Hachiware to the conference room and killed him there. Then he'd put filter sheets on the overhead lights, so that with Daisuke's white coat and blond hair, he'd blend into the coloring of the carpet and the room would look empty from a distance. When the night guard entered the conference room, he'd turned on the main lights, and turned off the dimmer lights, making the body on the floor more visible. But, because the police had sealed the room, the killer wasn't able to return to remove the last of the evidence. The guy curses at getting caught. Some days later, Seiichi and his wife are at the ballpark, watching their son playing outfield. The wife asks if it's ok for him to be here, and he cryptically replies that he was saved by an expired show ticket. Then the batter hits an easy pop fly, and Seiichi's son manages to catch it as Seiichi and his wife cheer.



(Celtic Cross)

Summary: To be honest, I liked the science and history-based stories in Q.E.D. iff more this time. The misrepresentation of where the drugs were hidden (in the wooden base, not within the hollowed statue itself), and the portrayal of the one American in the story as a nasty little drug user distracted from the mystery in Dormitory. I always like reading the Mau stories, so Mau at Christmas was a nice respite, but I had trouble figuring out where the story was heading. Acorn and Pinecone was ok, and I did like what little natural science was there in the discussions on what plants grow at what altitudes, and how hot springs are formed. Alibi was a semi-decent fluff piece, but we never get the killer's motive. Overall, this volume is recommended to anyone that likes the series.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Q.E.D. iff volume 7 review


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

Q.E.D. iff, vol. 7, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B


(Touma tells us about Ramanujan.)

Niji no Kanata no Ramanujan (The Rainbow Over Ramanujan, 2017, Magajin R)
(Niji no Kanata is generally translated as "Over the Rainbow" or "Beyond the Rainbow". I'm taking liberties to have the title match the splashpage, which has a rainbow over a different character.)
The story starts out in New Delhi, India, with a street gang being called out to an open field outside of the city, to meet with a rival gang. The first group arrives and is angry that the second group isn't there yet. Suddenly, a ghost appears of someone known to be dead, and the leader shoots at it before it disappears. This is immediately followed by shouting and more gun fire. Two days later, Loki and his girlfriend, Eva, are in New Delhi, on their way to a big university, along with Touma and Kana. It appears that there's an Indian math teacher, Ravi, that has been teaching elementary school kids at a nearby school. When the kids bring in their homework, and all get 100 scores, Ravi suspects that they're cheating, so he gives them harder assignments. This escalates up to university grad-school level problems and the kids still get perfect scores. The teacher demands to know who's doing their homework for them, and they say it's a street kid named Arujan, who spends a lot of time at the dumps, but he also likes to sneak into the university library at night to read the books there. Ravi, who is married to one of Eva's aunts, was convinced Arujan is the reincarnation of Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920), and had wanted the biggest university in the city to sponsor the boy's education with a full-scholarship. However, he was killed 2 weeks before, and Eva's aunt had called Eva to come help.

There's a history lesson on Ramanujan (one of India's greatest self-taught mathematicians, Ramanujan petitioned G. H. Hardy who then sponsored his studies at Cambridge) as the heroes wait to meet with Vasant, the head of the New Delhi university. Vasant claims to have been a friend of Ravi's, and was impressed with Arujan's test results, but he can't help them now, because Arujan is currently the police's main suspect in Ravi's murder (he claims the boy robbed Ravi for money, and stabbed the man in the chest when he fought back), and he's not going to give a scholarship to a killer. At about this time, one of the street vendor carts outside catches fire, and Vasant comments that this kind of thing happens all the time and to not worry about it. A little later, the group visits Eva's aunt, who tells them that the police had entered the house and ransacked her husband's den while looking for "evidence" for his murder. The woman then says that her husband had left a message for Arujan in case anything happened to him - "The fourth twin." The group retires to a cafe, where there's more talk about Ramanujan. First, "twins" are pairs of prime numbers that are separated by 2, as with 3 and 5, 5 and 7, and 11 and 13. So the fourth twin would be 17,19. Additionally, Ramanujan had been playing with Riemann's zeta function without quite understanding it, and he'd discovered that -1/12 = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5... (The zeta function is the summation of all terms k=1 to infinity, for 1/(k^s), where s is a complex number. Ramanujan substituted s = -1, which gives 1+2+3+4+5..., while using a separate formula for prime numbers that resulted in -1/12. Ramanujan's mistake was in not recognizing that the generalized zeta function doesn't hold for s < 1.)


(Touma tells Arujan about all the things he could learn by entering a university.)

There's a disturbance outside the shop, as one street gang (the Krishna, who appeared at the beginning of the story) accuses the other (the Mohan) of throwing a cricket ball through their front window. The Mohan members claim that someone else had thrown it, but because of the construction of the neighboring buildings, none of their excuses hold up. An old man nearby tells the four to get out of the street before a mafia fight can start up, so they return to the shop, where the old man fills them in on more of the details of the crime. Seems that Ravi was robbed by one of the two mafia gangs. He was found lying face down in the field outside of town, with a stab wound in his chest. The murder weapon, a long bladed knife, was found in one of the Krishna member's rooms, and he was arrested while yelling that he's innocent. The old man continues, mentioning other rumors, including that the building with the smashed window belongs to Vasant, and that Vasant's university has been accepting students that buy their degrees, without having the grades to pass any of the exams. He thanks them for the chai then leaves. The group still doesn't have a lead on Arujan's whereabouts, but Touma knows that the boy hangs around the library, and that he eats the hard candies that Ravi had given the other students for getting good grades on their tests. They find candy wrappers along the road, and eventually locate the boy near a landfill as he's trying to solve a partial derivative written in the dirt. (Along the way, Kana notices a woman drawing a rangoli on the ground with colored sand.) Touma finishes the equation, and everyone goes to another restaurant, where the boy stuffs himself on curry.

Eva tries to talk Arujan into entering Vasant's university and become the second Ramanujan, but the boy knows that the real Ramanujan died of disease in England and has no interest in giving up his own carefree life here in New Delhi. Touma then starts describing the current researches going on in physics, theoretical math, and computer security, and the boy's eyes go wide. He leaves, and we get a replay of the appearance of Ravi's ghost two days earlier. After shooting at the apparition, it disappears, and suddenly the second gang comes out of the darkness, with a couple members bleeding from gunshot wounds. War breaks out between both groups, and when the dust settles, there are 7 people dead and 20 hospitalized. Touma and company visit the scene of the fighting, and he notices something in the dirt on the ground. He comments that something bad is about to happen in town and they have to get back fast:

Questions: Did Ravi's ghost return to exact revenge? Who robbed him and why was he killed? Why did the police ransack his den? Why did Vasant accuse Arujan of robbing Ravi if the police say the mafia did it? What's the significance of "the fourth twin" and is there any truth to the rumor that Vasant is selling degrees to unqualified students?

Science: There's a significant discussion of Ramanujan, the Riemann Hypothesis, and certain features of the zeta function, and a bit on how zeta ties to physics and computer security.

--- Spoilers ---

Arujan is currently under a car, using a wrench to loosen a connector on a fluid line. When he crawls back out, Touma and crew are waiting for him. They go to the university, and wait in the lobby for Vasant to show up. During this time, Touma explains all the mysteries. Ravi had been crossing the open field near the university after leaving the library one night on his way to meet Arujan, when he was attacked by one of the Krishna gang, and stabbed in the chest. Arujan had been in the bushes nearby and had seen what happened. He wanted to avenge the man that had helped him, but the Krisha gang was too well-protected, so he decided to set the Mohan against them by committing minor vandalism to increase frictions between them, including setting fire to the food cart and throwing the cricket ball through the window of the Krishna office when the Mohan group was walking by (Arujan had been in an alley next to the office, and he'd attached an elastic band to the cricket ball so that when he threw it, it would fly around the corner in a tight tethered arc with a 10' radius.) For the "ghost" effect, Arujan had created a cutout of Ravi's silhouette and used it to sprinkle colored rangoli sand on the ground of the open field. He wrote the notes summoning the two gangs to the field, and when the Krishna arrived, he pointed a flashlight at the sand. Because the silhouette was elongated to force perspective, and there weren't any other reference points to work with, it looked like the "ghost" was standing up in midair. Arujan's ultimate target was Vasant, which is why he had been loosening the brake line of Vasant's car.

Vasant arrives, and everyone goes to his office. He pretends to be happy to finally meet Ravi's protege, but the boy snubs him. Touma holds out a book and says that he'd found the thing Vasant had been looking for. The university president takes it and looks it over, then goes stiff, asking where it had been hidden. Touma answers that Ravi's hint, "the fourth twin" meant that Ravi had put his notes in a book on Ramanujan under the library's filing system: "17" for Mathematics, and "19" for Math History. Because Vasant had refused to grant Arujan a full scholarship, Ravi had documented every case where the university had allowed rich students to buy their way through school as a form of blackmail. Turns out that Vasant had gone to the Krishna offices to complain about the situation, and the Krishna leader had offered to get Ravi's notes in return for having the rent on their offices reduced. It was supposed to look like a robbery, and Vasant never wanted Ravi dead.

However, it seems that Ravi was part of the problem, too. Arujan wasn't the only child Ravi claimed was the reincarnation of Ramanujan. There had been 5 others before him. Only 2 had actually made it into university and one other had committed suicide. Vasant couldn't afford to sponsor yet one more potential failure. The president gets his act together, and says that he'll expedite the paperwork to allow Arujan to leave the country before the Krishna discover who'd been manipulating them. Eva and Loki decide to contact Alan Brad to get him to sponsor the boy through his wife's NPO (Alan agrees to do this), but Arujan is afraid of giving up the carefree life he's enjoyed up until now. Touma tells him that this is something that he has to decide for himself, and the boy agrees.



(Takao and Suzume both want the same used books.)

Aru Kougyoushi (The Showman, 2017, Magajin R)
Osaka, 1964. A car goes up in flames. One of the witnesses, a comic storyteller (mandanka) named Tsubame Engawatei, is hauled in by the police. He claims that the car belongs to Mejiro Yumeda, and that he'd seen Mejiro get into the vehicle before setting it on fire. The police don't believe him because there was no charred body inside. Tsubame tells them to talk to the geisha Tsuruko Ichinose, since she had been there, too. The police track Tsuruko to her house, and she says that she'd also seen Mejiro get into the car and set it on fire. Mejiro was the owner of an entertainment theater in Osaka; Tsubame had been a member of his troupe, and Mejiro had been one of Tsuruko's customers. The story apparently ends here with the incident unsolved. Jump to the present. Local historian Takao Fujiwara has been researching this tale, and is trying to pitch it to his editor, Hatoichi Kousaka. Takao thinks he has a best seller here, and wants his publisher to front him the money to buy the diaries of one Kamosuke Yamakawa, a yakuza boss that apparently had loaned cash to Mejiro to keep his theater running. Takao thinks there may be answers in the diaries if Kamosuke had been involved in Mejiro's death, and Hatoichi agrees. Those two go to a used bookstore, but before Takao can get his hands on the books, a woman, freelance writer Suzume Kanemori, grabs them first. There's a struggle and Takao knocks a bookshelf over on top of Touma. Everyone, Takao, Hatoichi, Suzume, Touma and Kana, go to an okonomiyaki restaurant to get both sides to present their claims to the books.

Takao starts, stating that he's writing about Mejiro, from Tsubame's perspective. In this scenario, Tsubame and Mejiro were close friends that apparently had a falling out over Tsuruko. Takao thinks there are 3 mysteries involved (one is what caused the falling out) and he believes the answers are in the diaries. Suzume is also writing a book, this one on Tsuruko. From her perspective, Tsuruko was a flighty girl that had gone from one city to another looking for work, trying to become  a geisha in Osaka, unsuccessfully, before moving on. She had gotten close to Mejiro for the money, but was more romantically attracted to his underling, Tsubame. She has a photo album with pictures of Tsuruko, but the woman seems to be different in each one. Suzume needs the diaries herself for her story. Touma suggests that Takao and Suzume go 50-50 on the books, and each take half the books for 1 month before swapping their books with each other for the second month. When they're done, they can all get together again to discuss their progress. Both sides agree and they go their separate ways.


(Touma talks about the discrepancies in the stories about Mejiro (with the glasses and mustache), Tsubame (tuxedo on stage), Tsuruko (Tsubame's stage assistant) and Kamosuke (panel 2 on the left hand page, with Mejiro) to Suzume (panel 2 of the right hand page) and Takao (bottom left corner).)

Two months later, everyone is back in the restaurant, more confused than ever. None of the stories mesh together. There are reports that Mejiro and Tsubame were extremely close, but refused to see each other. That both men were always seen with Tsuruko, but that they were both vicious rivals for her affections that refused to be seen together. That Mejiro's relationship with the yazuka boss, Kamosuke, was one of predator/prey and that Mejiro may have gone so deep into debt that he'd committed suicide as the only way out, but there's also a report that Kamosuke was Mejiro's main backer for the theater and had been active in getting customers to visit the theater to bring in money. Takao and Suzume are more confused than ever.

Questions: Why are there so many contradictions in the stories, and what's the real truth? Did Mejiro commit suicide, and if so, where's the body? If not, did he manage to run away from Kamosuke to avoid paying off his debts? What is actually in Kamosuke's diaries, and why did they end up in a used bookstore in the first place?

History: We get a brief look into the history of comic storytelling and entertainment theaters in Osaka up to the 60's when the remaining ones went bankrupt in the face of changing tastes and the pressures of movie theaters and TV.

Note: The character names this time are all based on kinds of birds. Tsubame = swallow, Tsuru = crane, Mejiro = Japanese white eye, Hato = pigeon, Taka = falcon, Kamo = duck, Suzume = sparrow.

--- Spoilers ---

In the flashbacks, we learn that Mejiro had been the leader of a theater troupe, but that all of his acts had been ridiculous failures until Kamosuke came along. As a child, Kamosuke had dreams of being an entertainer himself, but he didn't have the comic face for it. Instead, he was a fighter, and when he ran afoul of street thugs that demanded money from him for performing on their turf, he punched them into the ground and ended up becoming their gang leader instead. While he took on the role of yakuza boss, Kamosuke still had the soul of an entertainer. One day, he happened to see Mejiro's theater, and was disgusted at the "talent" on stage there. He decided to act as Mejiro's bank to unearth new talent. At one point, he saw Tsubame and his assistant, Tsuruko, doing a magic act. In the middle of the act, after Tsubame disappeared and Tsuruko reappeared in his place, Mejiro came up behind Kamosuke and said that he'd noticed the man in the audience from the back office, and wanted to know what he thought of the magic act. Kamosuke was impressed, and he, Mejiro, Tsubame and Tsuruko all became close friends. But, with the unstoppable march of time, Mejiro's theater went so far into the red that Kamosuke started exploding at Mejiro. Tsuruko disappeared to become a geisha, and Tsubame had been hospitalized in a freak accident, recovering and leaving the hospital in time to witness Mejiro's supposed "self-immolation."

Suzume and Takao demand answers, but Touma says that maybe it would be better if they remained in the dark and their books unpublished. They protest, and Touma gives in. The key point was when Kamosuke had watched the magic act that first day. While Tsubame and Mejiro were always in close contact with Kamosuke from that point, their "banker" had never seen them together at the same time (at one point, when Tsubame was supposedly injured and Mejiro was in the same hospital room with him, in fact the "patient" was just some random accident victim that had his face bandaged and Mejiro had commandeered the hospital room to continue his ruse). In fact, Tsubame the magician was a master of disguise, and he had created the character of "Mejiro" in order to bilk money out of Kamosuke. When his banker wanted to see a return on his investment, Tsubame had hidden behind the Mejiro persona as long as possible before faking his own death. In along with this, by faking the accident that had "Tsubame" in the hospital, he'd taken the opportunity to break up the magic act and send Tsuruko off to another city, which is why Suzume had photos that seemed to be of completely different people - Tsubame had then started disguising himself as "Tsuruko the geisha." After "Mejiro's" suicide, Tsubame spent a couple years pretending to be "Tsuruko". (Actually, that had been part of the magic act, where Tsuruko would "magically" teleport to different locations on stage, when it was really Tsubame pretending to be her on stage with white face and a wig, indistinguishable from a distance.) After Kamosuke's death was reported three years later, "Tsuruko" disappeared and "Tsubame" returned to Japan, claiming to have been in the U.S. during that time.

When Touma finishes his story, Takao's editor is even more convinced that his company must print it to get their money back. However, as the group exits the restaurant they are jumped by street thugs that grab the diaries. A car pulls up with a very old man in the back seat. Kamosuke himself had faked his death to get Tsubame to crawl back out of the woodwork. Tsubame, disguised as "Tsuruko" had stolen his diaries, then sold them last year to the used bookstore when he was running out of money, before finally passing away. Kamosuke knew all along what had been happening behind his back, but he'd put up with it for one reason - Kamosuke loved mandanka.



Summary: I love the science and math stories, and I just finished a long series on my Gakken blog about the Riemann zeta function, so yes, I liked the Ramanujan chapter. The tricks aren't too outlandish, but they're kind of incidental to the story itself. I also enjoyed the history lesson about storytelling theaters in Osaka following the War, but having a magician on the stage, and then adding a disappearing body mystery kind of made part of the trick a little too obvious. I didn't figure out everything on my own, but the final reveals were a bit too telegraphed. Even so, I consider #7 to be one of the better recent volumes. Recommended.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Jewelry UFO edition




Remember the post two days ago for The Kiss line of Beauty and the Beast rings? You can get plastic ones from the UFO Catcher machines for a lot cheaper.



Although, given how badly the arms are sprung on these machines, it may cost you as much as the more expensive The Kiss line to win one.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Free - Timeless Medley



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

As a TV anime, Free! ran from 2012-13, with other releases since then. Timeless Medley is a two-parter, with the first part having come out in April, and this second one scheduled for July. The next movie, Take Your Marks, will hit screens towards the end of the year. If you're not familiar with the story, it's about a group of school friends that set up a swim club in high school.








Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Beauty and the Cheap Kiss




Disney's live-action version of Beauty and the Beast is playing in Japan right now, and the jewelry manufacturer "The Kiss" has come out with a line of branded Beauty and the Beast necklaces and rings in the $100-$200 range, being sold through the Amu Plaza department store.



I wonder if Disney Studios knows about this. And if they do, why would they sign off on this one?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gin Tama Live action



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

I liked the Gin Tama manga somewhat, the anime was ok. Don't really like the cast choice for the live action movie. Looks like a nice try, though. Couldn't find a brochure for it.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Anti-Free Fire




This one's weird. I was walking along the street when I happened past a police box. In front was an announcement display case, and in with the Wanted posters was a poster from the 2016 British movie "Free Fire" (which is showing in Kagoshima right now). What's so odd about it is that the text in Japanese is talking about a 110 (the Japanese version of 911) hotline for reporting anyone that has a handgun. Handgun ownership is illegal in Japan, and only the police are allowed to carry revolvers. So, a British movie about an out of control gunfight in a warehouse has been appropriated by the government to get you to turn in your friends if they have a gun...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Eureka Seven - Hi-Evolution



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

Eureka Seven started as an anime in 2005, and was adapted to manga in 2005, as well as a light novel in the same year. There was one anime movie in 2009. And now, we get Hi-Evolution, which will be a three-parter, with releases spread out over 2017, 2018 and 2019.



I liked the first manga ok, but haven't bothered with the rest of the franchise since then.






Saturday, June 17, 2017

Tokubetsu no Egoist, vol. 2


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

Tokubetsu no Egoist, vol. 2, by Michiharu Kusunoki, Grade: B+
Jin, the famous novelist that claimed that someone was attacking him psychically, turns out to actually be an energy vampire. Because he's excellent with words, his pattern is to tell his victim what they really want to hear, then to suddenly slam them with the things they fear most (for the TV chef who keeps trying to bed handsome men, Jin complements her recipes and her figure, then comes back with things like "You actually believe that, you untalented cow?") He then basks in his victim's raw hatred of him, draining their life force out as if he was sucking on their blood. Reiko is his first target, and he follows her up with the hostess club owner, the chef, and the editor, all the while getting more alive and more obnoxious.


(Jin's having a good night. The chef? Not so much.)

Meanwhile, Kaneki is constantly one step behind. While Tooru can't use psychic powers himself to track Reiko, he does combine simple logic with blind luck to locate Jin's favorite jazz bar (Jin's online profile listed him as an avid jazzophile). Oddly, the old fortune teller had come to jazz bar Bird at the same time, but the shop owner has a fixed "sanctuary policy" in effect and no one is allowed to interfere in the business of any of the other patrons. After Jin leaves Bird, the teller instructs Reiko to breathe deeply to help her recover. Tooru and Mari enter Bird just as Reiko chases after Jin and follows him as he confronts each victim on his list. Rather than siccing Tooru on Jin, the fortune teller decides to relate her own story. When she was younger, she had been a very powerful esper in her own right. Eventually, though, she and Jin had become lovers and she discovered that having sex is one of those worldly things that rob you of your esper powers. Additionally, Jin discovered how to drain espers, and she was one of his first targets. There's no real way to stop him, except to fight him on his own turf. Jin is now driving Reiko's Land Rover, and Tooru has her Porsche. They cross paths on the Tokyo expressways a couple times, and finally Jin focuses on his "ghost writer," who he's known was Tooru all this time.


(Jin likes living dangerously.)

Jin and Tooru go toe to toe, and Jin winds up to make his first pitch, complementing Kaneki on having been so brilliant with his debut novel, "Tokubetsu no Egoist," and his ghost writing work, but Kaneki butts in with a slam of his own and drains the novelist of energy so fast and so hard that Reiko has to jump in to stop him, demanding that they call an ambulance. Jin nearly dies of a heart attack, but he complements Tooru on being a better vampire than him, fully knowing that the only reason Kaneki had won was because Mari, the true esper, had been standing behind him, backing him up.

A few days later, Ryouichi Harada, 55, former editor of Weekly Ace Magazine, visits Jin in the hospital, where it turns out that Jin has been dictating his next book from his bed, and his typist is Tooru Kaneki. Harada is trying to find someone, and Jin tells him to contact Kaneki, since the editor has one of the yellowed business cards of his own. Harada and Kaneki get together, and we're told that back in '95, Harada had been the editor at Ace, a bottom-feeding scandal rag that targeted movie stars and pro baseball players. Touru had worked there for a couple of years as a writer. One of their features had been on a scandal involving a scam artist and a young idol singer named Mayumi Segawa. Tooru claims to be busy with Jin's book, but currently Reiko is overseas and Mari has been out of touch because she misses Reiko. Without them, Tooru doesn't want to get involved with any new weirdness. He visits jazz coffee shop Bird and runs into the fortune teller, who makes him realize that the one Mari is waiting for is really Kaneki himself. So, the two of them meet with Harada in his studio, where he has a vast collection of Ace issues, manga, and bromide glossy photos. He's still an idol otaku, and had been a big fan of Mayumi's. He'd been shocked when he'd learned that the scammer, Keigo Hirasawa, had been arrested in Hawai'i with a call girl named Mayumi, and he was hoping that it was just a name mix-up. But, the real Mayumi disappeared after that and is now rumored to be dead. Harada thinks she's still alive, and he wants Kaneki to track her down.


(Reiko prevents Tooru from accidentally killing Jin.)

Tooru and Mari start following leads out to Mayumi's childhood home, but the yard is now a parking lot. Harada calls in, and says that Hirasawa is from west Shinjuku, so they return to Tokyo. Shinjuku is covered in office buildings now, and Mari gets thirsty, asking to stop at a coffee shop nearby. In the shop, Seven, Mari notices that the old woman working the counter kind of resembles Mayumi, but the ages are all wrong. Mayumi would be 45 now, and the old woman is well into her 60's. Then the woman's husband arrives from his walk, and he's about what they'd expect Hirasawa to look like. They leave, and Kaneki comes back the next day with Harada in tow, and the former editor confirms that this must be the couple he's seeking after. They go outside, and Harada explains his actual motives. Mayumi had been a member of a pop idol trio at age 14, and Harada had indeed been a big fan. He'd gotten a job at a young men's manga magazine as a photographer because he wanted to take bromide shots of young pop stars. When Mayumi turned 19, she started posing for nude photos in adult magazines. At age 24, she encountered Hirasawa when he was 55 and he became her sugar daddy. Someone blew the whistle on him, and he ran to Hawai'i, where he was eventually caught, arrested, and then imprisoned on fraud charges. Unfortunately, while Ace magazine broke the story of the arrest, some of the details involving Mayumi in the case were later found to be wrong by other magazines and Harada lost his job at Ace.

During this period, Mari has become close friends with Hirasawa and Mayumi, accompanying the old man on his daily exercise walks and spending time in the shop with them. Harada now wants Tooru to interview the couple to get their side of the story so that he can get his job back at Ace. Tooru hates this idea, but is told that if he doesn't do it, Harada will get someone else to write the article, someone that may be more hostile to them. Kaneki gives in. However, he's still working for Jin as a typist. Jin is finally out of the hospital, and he runs into Mari, who notices that there's something wrong with his right wrist, and she takes it, possibly helping to heal a very old disability. Jin is starting to become a normal human again, and he comments that the Mayumi story may be Harada's last chance to return to Ace. Then he leaves. Kaneki writes up everything he knows about the old couple, and gives the manuscript to the old woman at the shop. She confirms that she really is the former pop star. However, she was the one that had called the cops on Hirasawa, with his blessing. When she was younger, her parents were having trouble raising the money to keep their house. She'd started singing, and then posing for nudie magazines all as a way to make money to help her parents. When she met Hirasawa, he'd decided to play robin hood for her, defrauding companies to the tune of 1 billion yen (back in the 90's, this would have been around $10 million USD). The bulk of the money was redistributed to other people, and some to her. But, when she tried to get the money to her parents, she'd found that they'd both been killed in a car accident a few days earlier. Up to that point, Hirasawa was like a kindly uncle to her, and they'd never had sex together. They agreed for him to look like he was running away and for her to call the cops on him. She had plastic surgery to look 20 years older, and she waited for him to get out of jail. After, they got married, and opened the coffee shop.

Both of them are willing to let Kaneki's story run in Ace, which Harada is more than eager to do. But, Tooru has a really BAD feeling about this, and he confronts Harada over it. The other guy is now working at Ace again as an editor, and he desperately wants this story as his comeback prize. He and Tooru are outside near a park, arguing, and suddenly, Harada grabs his chest and falls to the ground, pleading for an ambulance. Nearby, Mari is watching from a crossover bridge. Tooru tells the editor that he's fine, he just needs to take a few deep breaths. But, there's no guarantee as to what may happen "next time." Harada eventually agrees to not run the story after all.


(Looks like Mari is causing Harada's heart attack.)

The next yellow business card comes from Shouko Kashima, 45. She and Tooru had both been winners of the same "best young writer" awards, along with 2 other men. The other two guys never wrote anything again, but Shouko went on to break a couple big investigation reports and is now much more successful than Tooru is. The two of them had slept together for a short time, but she was something of a gold digger, and she'd dropped him in favor of someone more powerful they'd met at a bar. Those two had gotten married, had a child, and then gotten divorced. Right now, she's looking for someone, and having no success. She gives up and calls Kaneki for help. They meet, and she tells him that she's trying to find the mythical real estate developer Juukichi Oomura. He'd been a big operator during the "bubble" era in the 80's, then disappeared without a trace. Kaneki takes the case, and figures that if someone was a developer, they'd do land deals in Ginza, and if anything happened in Ginza, the coffee shop owner at Bird would be the one to talk to. So, he goes to Bird, where the fortune teller is waiting for him. The owner and the teller state that Oomura had made all his money in west Shinjuku, so Tooru goes there and talks to Hirasawa at cafe Seven. Funny enough, Hirasawa had grown up with Oomura and they used to play together as kids. Back then, the Yodabashi water purification plant had been located in west Shinjuku. But that had been torn down in the mid-60's and replaced with office buildings. Right now, Tooru's focus seems to be on neighborhood 6 in west Shinjuku (nishi Shinjuku 6 choume) and Aoume highway. Tooru and Mari meet up with Shouko and he gives his report (no immediate progress). Shouko looks increasingly unhappy, and Kaneki is somewhat relieved to realize that the older woman is staring at Mari. The girl returns home, and Shouko prevents Tooru from leaving too, demanding that they go drinking together. As always, she's a truculent drunk, and eggs him into taking her up to her hotel room. But, she passes out before she can try seducing him, and he tucks her into bed and runs away. The next morning, she meets with an older guy that was on an errand for locating old books for her, and he tries to talk his way into her room, so she comes up with an excuse, dashes to the reception desk to drop off the books, and runs to the lobby just in time to encounter Jin.

Jin just likes hanging around the hotel now because this is where Mari passes by in the morning, and he's taken to watching her recently. Shouko is less than pleased at seeing the girl again. Jin talks about John Lennon's song "Mother," Lennon had been singing about a form of love that Mari has, but that both he and Shouku will never experience. That day, Tooru visits a house in Meguro and introduces himself as an acquaintance of Hirasawa's before asking to talk to the person inside. The chapter ends with Kaneki meeting with Shouko again the following day to give a report update.



Summary: Sometimes, your greatest enemies become your best friends. Kaneki continues to act as a person locator for those past associates that want to cash in on his yellowed business cards. Nostalgia about Tokyo's checkered past ensues. It's a fun read if you're willing to be patient. Recommended.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Craft Boss Coffee Latte




I saw this one in the vending machines when I was out walking around one day, and I needed something to drink. It's pricy, 140 yen ($1.30 USD) for 6 ounces, and the bottle is just cheap plastic with a fancy-looking label wrapped around it. For being a "Craft" coffee product, it's very disappointing. Everything "screams" bottom of the barrel. And it doesn't taste like anything. The flavor is just sweetened artificial creamer. Not recommended.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

King of Prism movie advertising



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

Yes, I like checking out the local movie theaters to see what they're advertising each week. This time, though, I found a LOT of brochures pushing movies based on anime or manga. So, here's what we have this time, starting with King of Prism.



I'd never heard of "Pretty Rhythm" before, but I guess it started as an arcade game, and was adapted to anime in 2011 and 2012. The idea is that you have a world with "prism stars," skaters, that perform in "prism shows," which are a combination of singing, dancing, fashion and ice skating. The current movie follows Shin, a boy who wants to become a prism star.









Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June 2nd Moon




The skies have been as erratic as ever, but generally cloudy at night. However, the air was clean on the 2nd, and I had the little pocket camera with me, so I decided to see what it could do on the Program setting. Not too bad.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Windows Live Movie Maker


I've been making videos for my blog for 8 years. I think I have over 160 videos on youtube now. I've been using Windows Live Movie Maker all this time, and I've never liked it. The crossover fade function never worked right, and there's no way to strip the video from part of the file to replace it with a still photo while the audio track keeps playing (i.e. - A-B roll). That is, if I want to give a presentation and display a slide during a voice-over, MM can't do it. So, yeah, I've wanted to use some other package for the last 8 years, but I'd never actually gotten around to trying anything else. I don't quite trust freeware off the net, and I didn't want to spend money on a commercial program.

Well, my old laptop went wonky and I had to switch to a newer machine that didn't yet have the service packs loaded on it. Then, when I had some free time, I checked whether this new laptop had Movie Maker, and I discovered it didn't. Then, I learned that Microsoft had stopped supporting MM for Win 7 a few years ago, so it's not on their update server anymore. That left me with no option but to get something else. I still don't trust internet freeware, so I went to Bic Camera and looked at what they had. There were three titles, all with three price levels - entry level for editing wedding videos; mid-level with more effects and support for other video formats; and high-end, which mainly means having extra third-party audio editing software bundled in.

Based strictly on price, and the screen shots on the box, I went with Vegas Movie Studio 14 Platinum from Magix, for 7,500 yen ($70 USD). The only difference between Platinum and Suite is that Suite includes Acid Music Studio and Sound Forge Studio 10. I trust Acid Studio, and I can get that off the net for free. I haven't really had much of a chance to do anything with Vegas yet. In fact, the only reason I started using it at all was that I'd wanted to play some of my latest videos from the Kagoshima Music Fest on my new Zenpad, and they were too large. Vegas is a fairly complex package, with lots of features, and all the menu items are in Japanese. Magix is actually a German company and their English website is pretty poorly laid out. The only way to get to the support page for accessing the English user manual PDF is to click on the Buy Now button. Sigh.

Anyway, I figured out what I wanted relatively quickly. The process:
Start Vegas with a new project.
Drag and Drop the desired raw video file into the directory window.
Wait until Vegas stops prepping the file (10-20 seconds for a 10-minute video).
Drag the desired video file from the directory window to the timeline.
Wait another 20-30 seconds for Vegas to build up the preview.
Click on Project Settings and change the video format to 640x480, 29.5 frames/second.
Click on File, Make Movie.
On the first screen, select Save to Hard Drive.
On the second screen, change the format from .wmv to .mp4, specify the output file name and directory, and click Ok.

You can see the preview mode play as the movie is built up, which is fun, and it's significantly faster than Live Movie Maker, but in a large part that's because I want a smaller file (a 10 minute video is 1-2 gigabytes in HD format, and 130 meg for the video size I selected). What really matters to me right now is that the smaller files run on the zenpad with no problems, although the color blocks are being pixelated, and the new videos don't look anywhere near as good as the demo movies that come with the zenpad. I need to find out why the demos look so much better. But, at the moment, I'm kind of back to where I had been with Live Movie Maker for doing video editing, which is an improvement from not being able to do editing at all.

Vegas does have A-B Roll capabilities (being able to run two synched videos side-by-side and choosing which one to view with a common audio track), plus title, credits, and special effects options. I don't need most of that for what I do, right now, but it's nice to know that it's there. Now, I just have to wait until the next music event to get something I want to record and edit.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mascot Parade June 10




Over the weekend, the space in front of Lotteria was used to host a stationery products fair. I was cutting through the area on my way to the school and I ran into a parade of foamhead mascots that were getting ready to tour the rest of the shopping complex. The fair didn't have anything interesting enough to take pictures of, but I did want to snap a couple of the mascots here, because they were ones I haven't seen before.



Not really sure who the horse is supposed to represent. I've seen the tiger in back before, and that's for some chain store. The thing in the background with the white face and red ears is the mascot for the Red Cross blood drive center.



This guy was kind of questionable.



One of the women accompanying the parade was handing out stickers for Obiko-chan. (An obi s the cloth that wraps around the waist and acts as a belt when you're wearing a kimono. The character is advertising for a city that makes kimono.)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Zenpad



(My new toy.)

I've resisted the urge to buy a smartphone so far because I can't justify the expense, and being tied into a 2-year phone contract. However, I've been itching to get a tablet computer for some time. It's the kind of thing that would be useful in my work as an English teacher, for displaying in the free talk lessons the photos and videos I've taken, and as a spell-checker look-up. I finally decided to commit to one, and after looking at all the CNet.com reviews, I settled on the Asus Zenpad 8. After tax, and with a 64 gigabyte Micro SD card, the total package came to about 30,000 yen ($290 USD).

It's taking some time to get used to it. There's already a couple of things I don't like (not being able to create directories from my laptop when tethered through the USB cable, and not being able to easily find the icon for bringing up the WiFi connections list when I go to a place with WiFi access). But, those are relatively minor. I'm still struggling to get things working the way I want (figuring out what to name the links for the HTML pages I'm writing for the dictionary files I want to use). I had been having problems playing Windows .wmv videos - Android doesn't support .wmvs right out of the box, and the apps I downloaded off Google play kept freezing the video portion, or stuttering on the audio. I finally discovered that the problem is that I'd created the .wmvs in large screen, hi def format, and the file sizes were just too big. Resaving them in a smaller 640 x 480 format works much better. But now, I'm having issues with the zenpad automatically changing the screen brightness on me all the time.

Otherwise, I am having fun with it, and I'd like to believe that it will get easier as I get more practice on it.

Yes. I'd like to believe that.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Tokubetsu no Egoist, vol. 1


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

Tokubetsu no Egoist, vol. 1, by Michiharu Kusunoki, Grade: B+
Kusunoki started drawing manga professionally with Aitsu to Lullaby in 1981 ('81-'89, Weekly Shonen Magajin), and is probably best known for his street racing manga, Wangan Midnight ('93-'08, Young Magazine). Several of his titles feature street punks and fast cars. With Tokubetsu no Egoist ('15- , Big Comic Original), the story turns more to low-key psychic battles, with people occasionally driving around in Porsches and Land Rovers. The character designs are reworked from his previous titles, making Egoist pretty recognizable if you've seen his other works. Egoist is on hiatus right now, though, as Kusunoki reports having medical problems.


(Kaneki meets the old fortune teller after 23 years. She's sleeping.)

There's pretty much nothing on Egoist on the net in English at the moment, and nothing on wikipedia. The full title, "Tokubetsu no Egoist" can be translated as "The Special Self-Centered Person." It comes from the title of the break-out novel written by the protagonist, freelance writer Tooru Kaneki. When he was younger, and just out of university, he'd encountered a street fortune teller (just referred to as "Old Woman") who told him to get a cell phone, and have 100 business cards printed up with his name and phone number. He was to then hand the cards out to people that he'd meet, telling them that if they ever needed his help, to contact him. 23 years later, on his 45th birthday, he meets the woman again, and she takes the last remaining yellowed card from him, saying that his job now is to wait for people to contact him, and put them in touch with the one with actual psychic powers that is the really special one. Kaneki's only real ability, other than as a writer, is that he can see people's auras, and he'd given the business cards to those that had the stronger auras around them.


(Kaneki, Reiko and Mari meet Jin, the famous writer.)

In the first volume, Kaneki is bemoaning the fact that he's celebrating his 45th birthday alone. He meets an old lover, Reiko, who had dated him when she was 18, and she's now a stock manager and wildly wealthy (she's the one that owns both a Porsche and a Land Rover, and has a penthouse floor at the top of an exclusive condo in the heart of Tokyo). Looking at her, Kaneki starts wondering just what exactly it was that he'd been doing with his life all this time. Soon, he gets a call from the agent for the famous novelist, Jin Kitamura. Kaneki and Reiko visit him, and he looks like a wreck. Back when he was still an unknown, Kaneki's editor had offered him work ghosting on one of Jin's novels. The two had met at that time, but Jin hadn't known who his ghost writer was. Jin claims that he's the victim of a psychic attack and that the attacker must be one of 5 people on a list he's made. 4 are individuals Kaneki doesn't know, and the fifth is "that ghost writer." Reluctantly, Kaneki takes the job against his own best interests. Reiko puts him in contact with a powerful psychic that she'd accidentally bumped into with her car, the 16-year-old high school girl, Mari Misaki.


(Kaneki and Mari try to track down Reiko, who's currently at Bird, with Jin.)

Things build up slowly, with both Mari and Kaneki mentioning that they'd been born in small countryside villages (as had Jin), and that their powers may be rooted in that. The two of them meet the others on Jin's list (a hostess bar owner, the hostess of a cooking show and owner of a food research kitchen, an illustrator and a book editor). They all act friendly at the start, but turn viciously hostile when Jin's name is mentioned. At the end of the volume, Reiko meets up with Jin and they go out for a night drive, before the writer invites her to his favorite jazz coffee shop - Bird - in Ginza. Kaneki and Mari get alarmed that Reiko has disappeared on them from her apartment and Kaneki is forced to learn to drive the Porsche on his own. Mari keeps telling him to "look within, from behind his stomach" to try to determine where Reiko might be right now. On the last page, Reiko is looking like she's in distress for some reason.


(Jin tells Reiko that she's in the way.)

Summary: Egoist builds up slowly. It's not an action story per se, in that while there is some racing around in cars, it's just a carefree pastime and not part of a desperate chase sequence, and there's no real combat ever. Things are more cerebral, with a lot of clever dialogue throughout. The artwork is good, with light, thin lines and a fair amount of background detail. I've got the first three books, so I am going to read them all, but it is time-consuming since the story is so text heavy. Recommended.



I should mention that imagined and remembered sex features kind of heavily in this story. There's some female upper nudity, but nothing overly graphic. One of the key elements is that someone with psychic powers loses them if they get too "worldly". That is, having sex, drinking, smoking, all contribute to one's psychic abilities getting weaker. It's one of the reasons Kaneki is abstaining from sex now.