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.

1 comment:

Summer Coffee said...

Thank you for all your updates. I just recently realized that my country has picked up Q.E.D again and published all 50 volumes of Q.E.D already. And I have been living under a rock for so long. It used to be dropped like >10 years ago and was never picked up again, so I gave up and have only tried to find online English scans. Now that I'm happy to find them and can read the full first season.

I only wish the publisher in my country would also release the 2nd season. But I can't be greedy. I will still ready yours to satisfy my curiosity! Also love how you give your comments at the end :)