Saturday, February 25, 2017

Q.E.D. iff volume 6 review

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Q.E.D. iff, vol. 6, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Turf war, with Wataru taking a bullet to the chest and dying.)

Chikyuu ni Ochitekita to itteiru Otoko (The Man Who Fell to Earth, Magajin R, June, 2016)
This story has essentially two interwoven narratives, so it's a bit wordy to explain. In the first part, starting in 1986, Risa Morita is a young Japanese woman who is hanging out in the U.S. with a guy named Dominique, against her mother's wishes. One year later, Dominique and Risa have moved into the same house in the suburbs, with him openly cheating on her, and Risa unsuccessfully demanding that her mother wire her money that she claims she'll repay one day. Outside, two gang members are shooting at someone off-camera farther down the street. Risa claims that she's just watching a police drama on TV with the sound turned way up. 10 years later, she's still trying to get money from her mother. She's broken up with Dominique and is raising her son, Wataru, on her own from a single-wide trailer home. Wataru is visited by two friends, Sai Lo and Simon Ryu, both of whom have brand new bikes and a wad of $100 bills from working for Simon's older drug-dealing brother. Wataru agrees to join a street gang in order to help raise money for his mother. 4 years later, the boss of Wataru's gang decides to do a hostile takeover of a rival gang's house, killing the guards, the rival's wife and young son. The rival attempts to get the drop on him, hiding inside a cabinet, but the boss grabs Wataru and uses him as a human shield before shooting the rival, and the guy's remaining young daughter. The rival ended up shooting Wataru in the chest, so the boss tells his subordinates to leave him bleeding in the yard, and he'll shoot anyone that tries to help the boy. They leave as the sounds of police sirens draw near. Lying in the grass, Wataru looks up at the stars in the night sky and pleads for them to save him, because he doesn't want to die alone like this.

The second thread starts with the Mystery Club - Queen, Holmes and Mordor - sitting in their new clubroom in their new university, bemoaning the dearth of murder mysteries to solve. So far, all they've had have been requests to find missing pets. Mordor volunteers a new case - he's met a real-life space alien living in his grandmother's house. The other two are tired of alien talk, but their friend insists the "visitor" is real. They go to his grandmother's house to investigate. The old woman had made a fortune running her own company, while raising three children by herself. But now, she's alone in the house because her sons and their families are too busy with their own lives to do anything about her. Suddenly, though, a blond haired guy showed up at her house and is acting as her caregiver, and now the rest of the family suspect him of trying to grift the old woman out of her wealth. The Mystery Club meets the young man, who calls himself Simon, and claims to be an alien. After talking with him for a few minutes, the group gets bogged down in scientific jargon and they run away. Queen realizes that there's only one person that can help them.

At Touma's house, the Mystery Club ask the boy for help, but he turns them down. As they get ready to leave, Holmes blurts out that the "Simon" guy really is weird, talking about the Casimir effect and wormholes. Touma spins around and asks to meet this alien. Simon agrees to meet at a coffee shop, and Touma grills him on what star he'd come from, how he'd used a wormhole to warp to Earth, how the Casimir effect works to allow the wormhole warp, how this effectively acts as time travel to the past of a parallel universe and that he's unable to ever return back to his own home timeline. Touma tries to poke holes in the theory, and Simon deftly presents a believable explanation at every step. At the same time, Mordor's family decides to steal samples of Simon's hair from a brush he'd used in the bathroom, and they send it off to a DNA testing company. A few days later, they get the results back stating that the hair is a close enough match to their grandmother's as to have come from a second generation relative. The only way that could have happened is if the woman's missing daughter, Risa, had a son. The family continues with its research, and it looks like Simon is indeed Risa's son, Wataru, except that the U.S. police files say that Wataru died in a drug-related gun battle four years ago, and that Risa committed suicide shortly thereafter.

(Touma and Simon talk one-way time travel through wormholes.)

However, one of the family members suggests the possibility that Simon may have stolen hair samples from the corpse and planted them on the brush for the family to find. That leaves the family back at square one, so they play detective, with one of the men following Simon to a department store, while the rest of the family pull together to clean the old woman's house and fix up a large gathering dinner - the entire group, consisting of the old woman's sons, their wives and children, are desperate to do whatever is necessary to prevent this interloper from stealing their inheritance, even if that means being together as a family again. Simon goes to the men's clothing department, and enters a dressing room, while his tail talks on the phone to the rest of the family. After a while, the tail gets suspicious and peeks into the dressing room, but it's empty. A few minutes later, Simon is back in the house, but all the doors and windows were locked to keep him out, and Simon doesn't have a key. Looking at the stunned people sitting at the dining table, Simon says that his work here is done and it's time for him to return to outer space. He kisses the old woman goodbye and leaves the house. Mordor walks with him to the train station, and Simon tells him that his star too far away for anyone on Earth to see it. Then, Simon is gone. Back at Touma's house, the Mystery Club demand answers, and Touma reluctantly agrees to give them, as long as the information never gets out to anyone else.

Questions: Is Simon really an alien? How can he teleport? How can he be a genetic match for Wataru, if he doesn't look Japanese, and Wataru is dead? Even if he is related to Wataru, how can he know more about black hole physics than Touma does? The drug lord that Wataru worked for had been caught and given the death sentence; does that tie into anything anywhere?

Science: Discussions of wormholes, and how the Casimir effect can be used to allow one-way time travel.

--- Spoilers ---

Any American reader would probably have guessed at the Witness Protection Program. The fact the drug lord that shot up the rival's house and abandoned Wataru to die had been convicted of 4 murders means that Wataru had lived long enough to testify against him in court. So, the government faked his and Risa's death certificates, gave them plastic surgery and new identities, and shipped them off to their new home. Which just so happened to have been Oxford, where Wataru (now "Simon") has been majoring in astrophysics. Being Risa's son, he'd heard her talking to her mother on the phone enough to know that there had been a spare key hidden under a flower pot in front of the house, which everyone else had forgotten about. As for the trick with the dressing room, Simon had put a suit jacket on a hanger right behind the curtain, then stood in the other corner, out of sight. When the tail tried entering the dressing room from one side of the doorway, he'd pushed the curtain aside and the jacket hit him in the face. During this distraction, Simon slipped out of the room unnoticed through the other side of the curtain. The big question that remains is why Simon took such a risk of blowing his cover by visiting his old family in the first place. The answer is that he originally was filled with rage at the way his grandmother had abandoned him and his mother, and he'd wanted revenge. But, as he was standing over the old woman in her bedroom the first night, she was crying in her sleep, saying that she didn't want to die all alone. That's when he had a change of heart and pretended to have come from an alternative universe to care for her, and was willing to return to Oxford after the rest of the family started paying attention to her again.

(Det. Igusa investigates the death of the TV producer, Egota.)

Kyuuten (Sudden Change, Magajin R, Jan., 2017)
It's Tokyo City, 9 P.M. Police detective Igusa is investigating the death of one Wataru Egota (same "Wataru" pronunciation as in the previous chapter, but using a different kanji). Egota had fallen from the roof of an office building and landed on his back on the roof of a truck that had been parked in the lot below. Egota was the producer of a popular TV police drama series called, "Nangoku Keiji" (Southern Countries Detective). Igusa is familiar with the show, in which the lead detective likes swinging his handcuffs around like nunchucks, and is secretly in love with the female lead "Madonna" character ("Madonna" is being used here in the Japanese sense of "a beautiful woman"). Egota's TV show had been renewed for another season, and he and his crew were in the building to plan out the new episodes. Igusa notices that Egota is holding a fragment of rock in his right hand, and he and the officer on the scene go up to the roof and confirm that the fragment matches a chip from the ledge of the roof. One flight down, the nearest window is sitting open. The officer had talked to the building's watchman and had learned that there had been a notice on the door leading to the roof warning people that the door gets locked from the inside after 8 PM, and to not go out on the roof before then. But, someone had removed the notice from the door and tossed it into the corner of the hallway. Additionally, Egusa's jacket pocket contains a typed letter telling him to meet someone named Yori Nogawa on the roof at 8 P.M. Igusa deduces that at 8, Egota had gone up to the roof and waited for Yori. But, this is in the middle of winter and when he got too cold, he tried going back inside and discovered the door was locked. Egusa then noticed the open window one floor down, tried to lower himself over the edge of the roof, and plummeted to his death when the part of the ledge he was holding on to broke off.

Inside the building, waiting to be questioned are: Taiga Onda, Anna Tsurumi, Kyousuke Tanizawa, Tsumugi Shakujii, Kazuya Kameshima, and some girl working part-time delivering can coffee to the offices in the building. Onda is the scriptwriter for the TV show, Tsurumi is the actress playing the Madonna character, Tanizawa is the starring actor, Shakujii is a newbie actress playing supporting roles, and Kameshima is the props guy. The girl delivering coffee is Touma's friend, Kana. After getting everyone's statements, Igusa says that this was probably an accident, but there's something bothering him about it. After an hour or so, everyone is allowed to go home. The next day, Kana is upset about having been detained and she tells Touma everything that happened. He's unimpressed by the case, and isn't surprised by Igusa's confusion. The real question is why Egota hadn't simply shouted for help through the open window to the TV staff on that floor in the building, or used his cell phone to call for help. Kana tells Touma to solve the case and he refuses. So, she runs off on her own, and he ends up chasing after her after all. On the roof of the building at the scene, Kana and Touma encounter Igusa, and he recognizes her from the night before. Touma presents what he's guessed and Igusa shares what he knows, adding that the note telling Igusa to go to the roof was signed by a hostess at a bar some distance away and that the woman, Yori, denied writing it or giving it to Egota. Besides, she was working that night and has an alibi. Asked why Egota hadn't tried calling her around 8 P.M., Yori answered that her parents are really strict about her choice of friends and regularly check her phone's address book for weird names, so she never gives her number out to her customers.

(Igusa confronts the suspects. Bottom right hand panel, from left to right: Tanizawa, Onda, Anna, Shakujii and Kameshima.)

Looking at the scene, Touma also points out that the rock fragment had been in the wrong hand. It had broken off from the ledge closer to the corner of the roof, to Egota's left, but the fragment itself was in the guy's right hand. If Egota was reaching for the window with his right hand while holding the ledge with his left, the fragment would have been clutched in the other hand. The case is now looking less like an accident, and everyone's testimony is starting to become more important. On that night, Egota and the scriptwriter, Onda, had called a full staff meeting. Tanizawa had purposefully arrived late because he'd known there was going to be a fight over the two actresses and he wanted to avoid it. When he reached the building, Onda was already in the lobby smoking a cigarette. Everyone else had arrived on time. The conflict was over Egota's and Onda's choices for the actress to play the Madonna role. Egota wanted to keep the current woman, Anna, while Onda didn't like her acting and wanted to dump her in favor of the the new girl, Shakujii, who unfortunately doesn't have much experience as an actress yet. During the meeting, Anna confronted Onda about his not thinking her acting was very good, which created a very uncomfortable atmosphere, and Egota called for a break. Most of the other staff escaped the room, and Onda went to the lobby to smoke. Egota discovered the note in his jacket and went to the roof. Anna went to the prop room, and practiced swinging the show's handcuffs around the way the lead character does in the show. At that point, Shakujii and Kameshima happened up and saw her playing around with the props. Kameshima commented that swinging the handcuffs like that is a very simple trick, so Anna challenged Shakujii to try doing the same thing, swinging the cuffs in a circle and snapping them down in one movement to cuff Anna's wrist to a water pipe running along the wall. Shakujii tried, and hit herself in the face before stumbling forward and awkwardly handcuffing Anna to the water pipe. That's when Kameshima discovered that his key for the cuffs, which is on his car keychain, was not in his suit pockets. He sent Shakujii down to the parking lot to look around his car, as he ran to his desk to check his briefcase. The keys were found under the car, where they'd fallen as he was grabbing his gear to enter the office earlier. Finally, Kana had arrived on the top floor to deliver her coffee, and heard someone call "stop it." She walked down the hallway and found Anna handcuffed to the pipe. Kana had also seen a suspicious car in the parking lot, and when she tried getting closer to talk to the driver, it tore off out of the lot.

This leaves the current situation: Egota died from a fall from the roof. He didn't try calling for help first, and he hadn't seen the sign on the door saying that it autolocks. Tanizawa had mainly stayed around the lobby, talking to Ando. Ando had left the meeting to go to the lobby, and supposedly he'd been there at the time Egota fell. Anna was handcuffed in the prop room. Kana had arrived on the top floor approximately when Egota fell, and can confirm Anna was still handcuffed then. Kameshima had been in his office before going to the parking lot to check on Shakujii. And, Shakujii, the new girl, had been going through the gear in Kameshima's car (he'd given her a keyfob to electronically unlock the car) and eventually she found the keys under the car. The last piece of the puzzle was Yori's tie to all this. She was working at the bar as a hostess. She likes dressing up in fancy clothes and heavy makeup, but when she goes home she watches variety shows on TV and has to answer to her parents about her whereabouts. She'd met Egota when he was producing one of her favorite shows and he'd stopped at the bar one night for drinks. They'd been secretly seeing each other since then.

Questions: Was Egota's death accidental or premeditated? If someone killed him, who was it, why and how?

Science: Nothing.

--- Spoilers ---

Touma tells the detective, Igusa, just enough to get the guy to call all the suspects together, and he attempts to relate what had actually happened at the scene. Igusa does relatively well at first, saying that the night watchman had gone his rounds that evening, starting from the roof, then going down one floor at a time, locking up the stairwell doors and checking that all the offices were locked on each floor before going down to the next one and repeating the process. After that, Igusa gets bogged down and Touma takes over. The motive revolved around Yori. The hostess still lived at home with her parents, she liked variety TV shows, and she didn't wear really elaborate nail art on her fingernails. Conclusion? She's still in high school and therefore is under aged. The suspicious guys in the car in the parking lot that Kana spotted? Papparazi trying to sniff out a scandal to write about in their rag paper. The result? Anna was afraid that a story about their producer dating an underage girl would have caused their show to be canceled. So, she chipped out the fragment of the ledge and put it in her purse. The day of the meeting, she stole Kameshima's keys and threw them under his car. Just before the meeting, she put the note in Egota's jacket pocket and tore the warning notice off the roof top door. She staged the confrontation with Endo during the meeting to clear the room and to get Egota to find the note and go to the roof. In the prop room, she waited for Kameshima and Shakujii to get close and then started swinging the handcuffs around, manipulating Kameshima into talking Shakujii into showing off. The new girl was expectedly clumsy, and didn't realize that Anna was wearing a large bracelet under her sweater sleeve. After Kameshima and Shakujii ran out to find the key to the cuffs, Anna pulled her hand out of the bracelet and walked over to the window, opened it, and called to Egota to come over and climb down one floor and enter the building through that window. Egota objected, but Anna claimed that because the watchman had locked the stairwell doors, there was no way to get to the roof to open the roof top door for him, and it's cold enough that he's going to freeze to death if he stays up there all night. Egota climbed over the top railing, lowered himself to the window, and as he was about to come inside, Anna gave him the rock fragment to hold, then pushed him hard in the chest. He shouted "stop it," which is what Kana heard as she was getting out of the elevator. At the same time, Anna heard the elevator chime as it reached the top floor, and she raced back to the prop room and recuffed herself to the pipe before Kana found her. As she's led away by the police, Anna asks Ondo if he still dislikes her acting, and he just smiles and turns away.

Summary: Two pretty solid stories this time. I like the first one for the physics explanations of the advantages and disadvantages of using wormholes for warp travel, and the second one for the plot. I had a second explanation for how the suspect could have pulled their trick, but I hadn't gotten the motive down. Overall, not bad. Recommended if you like the series.

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