Saturday, June 23, 2018

Q.E.D. iff volume 10 review

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Q.E.D. iff, vol. 10, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
Two stories this time, and a little bit of topological theory.

Outoro-zu (Outlaws, Magajin R, #2, 2018)
Touma has been requested by stock market trading genius Rich Parman to participate in a gambling game that Parman is organizing on the floating casino ship King Midas (currently near Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. Parman is dying, and he's concerned about the life trajectory of his only daughter, Kate. Kate has become a card sharp, and Parman wants Touma to beat her at her own game to teach her a lesson before it's too late. So, Touma and Kana board the ship for the Outlaws Show, which is the headline entertainment for all the artists, musicians and actors watching on from the dining tables and various locations around this luxury cruise liner. The Outlaws Show consists of 6 groups of players - the husband and wife team, MacGuffin; bag lady Emmett; street hustler Mose, thug Ryuu; Kate; and partners Touma and Kana. Each group is known for their skills in breaking the law. They are each given a key, and three hours to take the keys of everyone else. If there is a clear winner, the person with all the keys gets to open a safe containing a jewel-covered dagger worth millions of dollars. There's a key check every hour - anyone without a key gets ejected from the ship. If, after the time is up, there's no clear winner, the one with the most keys wins. If there's a tie, then no one wins. Several of the participants ask questions - how many people can be in one team; are the rooms off-limits; etc. The main points are that anyone can be on one team, the rooms are monitored from a control room and can be remotely locked if intruders try to break in, and the security guards are unarmed.

The game starts, and the other players run off to start their machinations, while Touma simply lounges on a deck chair. Things get a bit complicated in the first hour, with Kate 3D-printing a copy of her key, Ryuu coordinating a bunch of guys in ship crew uniforms, the MacGuffins studying floor plans, and Emmett sitting in front of a dressing table with a make-up kit and a photo of Kana. Mose hangs at the bar and is surrounded by a bunch of spectators. When he continues on his way, he's shown to be a pickpocket, and had lifted watches and jewelry from his marks. At the end of the first hour, it's Mose that's missing his key and is kicked off the ship (after being told to return everything he stole). Touma admits having been wrong - he'd thought that Mose would have stolen the MacGuffin's key first. Kana asks if he knows who bested Mose, and he says "probably." Kana wants to know how he came to that conclusion, and he responds by going into a brief description of the fixed point theorem (the idea in topology that if you move a group of points around on a surface, there's at least one point that stays fixed in position), and then goes into chaos theory and the butterfly effect. (One example of a fixed point is if you graph the line y=x against the curve y=cos(x), the fixed point is where they intersect at x=cos(x). That is, cos(0.739) = 0.739.) In other words, he's looking at what each of the outlaws considers to be a bad thing or not (armed guards, safe rooms), to extrapolate their strengths, which then lets him predict how they're going to try to get the remaining keys.

In the second hour, Emmett impersonates Kana to try to get to Touma's key (this fails because their key is hidden in Kana's hair), and Kate impersonates one of the crew members to infiltrate Ryuu's team to walk off with their key. Ryuu, meanwhile, has flash-bangs planted around the ship, and uses these as a distraction to attack the ballroom and hijack the safe. But, the lights and electricity suddenly go out, and the ballroom is filled with tear gas. This is the moment Touma has been waiting for, and he races to Emmett's room with his laptop while Kana is to run elsewhere. When the lights and power come back up, the safe is discovered to be open, but inside is a second safe with 6 key locks. Ryuu had thought that by bluffing about having bombs on the ship, he'd be able to force the show MC into opening the safe and handing over the dagger. He's left in a state of shock at learning that the winner needs all six keys, and then the second hour is up.

The remaining five teams are told to produce their keys, and the MacGuffins, Ryuu and Emmett all snarl that they'd been taken somehow. Kate shows that she has two keys, and Kana pulls four out of her hair. Everyone demands to know how this has happened, and the audience is going wild with their online bets for who the final winner is going to be. Touma goes into the first of two Q.E.D. explanations (the splash panel shows "Q.E.D", with the last period missing.

Questions: How did the losers lose their keys? Will Touma win and show Kate the error of her ways? Or, is something else at play here? Is "Rich Parman" just a silly name, or does it have a deeper meaning somehow?

Science: The Fixed Point and Chaos Theory expositions.

----- Spoiler 1 -----

Emmett is a young woman who is a master of disguise. She had originally wanted to pose as Kana, but the girl never left Touma's side, so she switched over to a normal-looking woman and hung out next to Mose, stealing his key while the thief was picking the other guests. She then dressed like Mrs. MacGuffin, and tricked the husband into giving her that key. As mentioned above, Ryuu's team pretended to be members of the crew in order to pull a guerrilla attack on the ship and commandeer the safe, only to have Kate dress up in a crew member's uniform and walk off with the suitcase Ryuu had locked his key inside (having swapped that key out with her 3D-printed copy). Emmett, thinking her room was safe, had left her three keys on the table near her bed, so when the lights and power died, Touma used his laptop to hack her door lock and walk off with them. On top of this, the MacGuffins are professional safe crackers, and they're the ones that had knocked out the power and air conditioning, and used tear gas to clear the room, only to realize that they hadn't allowed themselves enough time to tackle the second safe. This leaves Touma ahead with four keys and Kate with two. The audience yells for Touma to simply bide his time, wait out the clock and win by default. But, card sharp Kate challenges him to a hand of poker - winner take all. And, if Touma wins, he gets an extra $30,000,000 out of her own pocket. Touma takes the bet.

Soon after, all the guests are kicked out of the ballroom, and have to content themselves with watching the poker match on closed circuit TV. However, there are table top cameras so they can see the players' hands. Touma's first cards are a pair of threes, and Kate has an Ace and a bunch of garbage. Kate takes 4 cards, and Touma asks for 3. Kate gets 2 pair, Aces and twos, while Touma has three 3's. But, when they lay their hands down, Kate reveals a full house - two Aces and three 2's, and Touma has four 3's.

Questions: How did Touma win the poker hand?

----- Spoiler #2 -----

The MC, and dealer, takes off his disguise to show that he's actually been Rich Parman all along. Kate rushes to his side, apologizes for being a bad daughter, and demands that her ailing father sit down, rest and stop pushing himself to the brink of death. Touma is allowed to walk off with all the winnings, but he says that he won't take the dagger or the money. That's not why he agreed to enter the Outlaws game. He goes down the outer ladder of the ship to take a speed boat to shore.

Questions: Why is Touma turning down the money? Why is he really there? Why is the makeup of the audience so important?

----- Spoiler #3 -----

All along, the audience, made up of wealthy athletes, musicians and actors, has been using their smartphones and tablets to place bets with the onboard gambling system. In fact, everything about this ship and the Outlaws Game has been a scam to allow Rich and his daughter to infect the phones and tablets with virus software for gutting everyone's bank accounts and credit cards. Kana's task when the lights went out was to sneak into the control room and get proof from the computers there of the virus. As Kana and Touma leave on the speedboat, a submarine pops out of the Gulf, accompanied by power boats filled with cops to arrest the bad guys. At the end, Kana asks how well Emmett had impersonated her, and he repeats that she doesn't want to know (Emmett had actually tried to seduce Touma as Kana).

Daiingumesseji (Dying Message, Magajin R, #3, 2018)
There's a resort hotel on a small island south of the main Japan chain that has a ghost hotel near a beautiful sandy beach. One day, while Touma is vacationing on the island (he takes an annual break in the village nearby to read all the books that he'd been stockpiling for the year, and refuses to do anything else until he finishes them), some demolition crew members prepping to blow down the hotel drill into a pillar and discover the white bones of a corpse hidden in the cement. There's no real police force on the island, only a small detective agency, and the villagers try to get Touma to help them solve the crime, but the boy says no, not during his vacation. This forces Kana to do all the footwork to find out what's going on. Meanwhile, the detective, Tokuji Nakanosato, is hired by one of the people involved with the abandoned hotel, and he tasks his assistant, the young woman Rika Hachijou, to talk to the "police rep" on the island (which turns out to be Kana, the daughter of the Tokyo Police Superintendent). Rika and Kana then strive to figure out what's going on.

The cast consists of Kimiai Ooga, the real estate manager trying to sell the old hotel; Miwako Kashidate, a land developer; Chiaki Mihara, a labor lawyer; Bunji Sueyoshi, a former General Affairs Office director; Mei Yuhama, the construction head for the hotel project 30 years ago; Ryouzou Karataki, a prefectural assembly diet member; and, Tomoko Oosaka, a tax counselor. Basically, 30 years earlier, Mei ran the construction project to create a luxury hotel facing the beach front of this island. There were labor disputes, and reports of unsafe working conditions, and Chiaki was brought in to represent the workers legally against the construction company. For the most part, things were going ok, and a big ribbon cutting ceremony was scheduled. Chiaki disappeared about that time, and Mei was never seen again after the ceremony. With Mei gone, the hotel was abandoned and the project went nowhere. Kana says that based on the evidence, the corpse in the pillar is that of Chiaki, and the belief is that Mei killed her before running away to avoid exposure. However, the pillars had been poured long before the ceremony, so there's no explanation for how the body could have gotten there after the fact.

In the present, the other characters all act suspicious in one way or another. Kimiai is the real estate agent trying to unload the property, and looks to be at his wit's end. Miwako is a brash middle-aged woman that always wears dark sunglasses, and a scarf over her hair, and walks with brace crutch on her right arm. She's the one offering to buy the property, but only if the price is cut in half. Ryouzou had possibly taken bribes under the table when this obviously unwanted hotel was being built during the economic bubble. And, Bunji may be complicit. Finally, Tomoko claims she can't remember anything about what happened so long ago. Rika points out that her accounting records for that project from that period are all wonky, and Tomoko insists, with the steady gaze of the insane, that all the numbers must have been correct at the time, someone must have messed with them since then.

After interviewing everyone and getting nowhere, Rika suddenly calls Kana to report that her boss, detective Tokuji, is in the hospital with a head injury. Tokuji had looked at the case files, then called all the suspects out to the hotel to meet him at 11 AM that morning. Around noon, Rika had gotten a call from the authorities saying that her boss had been injured. She got to the hotel as Tokuji was being loaded into the ambulance. She saw the suspects nearby, and Ooga explained what had happened. He'd gotten to the hotel 30 minutes ahead of time, and as he'd walked into the lobby, he met Miwako, who was approaching from the back end of the first floor. She complained that the place was a mess and he should drop the price more. Ryouzou was coming down the stairs from the second floor, and Bunji entered from the outside rear door, claiming to have been walking in the overgrown garden path outside and gotten lost. Last to arrive was Tomoko, through the front lobby doors. They waited together, and when Tokuji failed to appear at the appointed time, Ooga called his phone, and the group heard it ring from up on the third floor. They went up, and identified the room the sound was coming from. But, the door was found to be blocked from the inside by a small refrigerator, and Tokuji was in the room, lying unconscious on a rotted mattress. The guest room was small, empty except for the mattress, and with one small window boarded up from the inside. It's a locked room mystery. Tokuji remains unconscious for the rest of the story.

Rika is frustrated that her boss has left her in this position, and as she's ranting, she throws herself into Tokuji's chair. She spots the case file, which includes Chiaki's photo, taken some time shortly before she disappeared. She's wearing the same clothes that the corpse was found wearing. This proves that Chiaki was the victim, and the most suspicious person she knows of is Bunji, who had entered the hotel from the back side. The room Tokuji was found in was also at the back side of the building. Obviously, Bunji had encountered Tokuji early in the morning, conked him on the head, carried him to the guest room and put him on the bed, slid the refrigerator in front of the door, then used a length of wood to prop up a corner of the sheet nailed to the window so he could slip through, then let the sheet snap back into place before lowering himself to the ground with a rope hanging from the railing up on the roof. Rika tells her deductions to Touma. The boy has just finished the last of his book reading, and he says "well, that's certainly a possibility, too." However, when Touma, Kana and Rika eventually do meet the culprit at the hotel, we get a first-person view from the culprit, with no hints as to who it is, and Touma's doing all the talking.

Questions: Is the corpse that of the rights lawyer Chiaki, or not. Why would Bunji kill her? How did Tokuji get locked in the guest room, and why didn't Bunji just kill him outright?

Science: None.

----- Spoilers -----

Touma's explanation starts with the floor layout. Originally, the plans did not include the three central pillars in the middle of the lobby, and their positioning now doesn't line up with the other pillars making up the lobby walls. What had happened is that when the lobby was being built, the construction head, Mei, had wanted the lobby open and spacious. But, the building inspector had come in and complained to Ryouzou that the floor above the lobby wasn't rated for the building's weight. Ryouzou yelled about this to Mei, and she decided to pull the decorative sheeting off from the fronts of the existing 6 pillars around the walls, and fitted them together in the middle of the lobby to create three empty shells in the middle of the floor. To all intents and purposes, the lobby now had proper load-bearing pillars, and the inspector signed off on the project. Mei attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, and everything seemed to be fine now.

However, Chiaki had seen the lobby plans in her work with the laborers, and she knew what Mei had done. To keep Chiaki silent, Mei grabbed a crowbar, and attempted to kill the lawyer with it. Unfortunately for Mei, Chiaki was able to defend herself, taking damage to her right arm, and she killed Mei in self-defense. Chiaki then switched suit jackets with Mei, stuffed her into one of the empty pillars, and used one of the nearby cement trucks to fill up all three empty pillar shells. After this, she disappeared to parts unknown to make a new life for herself as a land developer. She'd come back to buy up the hotel before anyone could tear apart the pillars to find the body. When Tokuji got too close, she found a linen closet on the third floor of the hotel, and moved the refrigerator and an old mattress from another room into the closet to make it seem like an abandoned guest room. She led the detective into this room, hit him on the head, placed him on the mattress, then used a rope to lower herself down the clothes chute in the linen closet to the laundry room below. This is where she was coming from when she met Ooga at the lobby.  In fact, Chiaki is Miwako Kashidate. She'd been faking a limp and using the brace crutch to hide the huge ugly scar on her right forearm she'd gotten when Mei attacked her with the crowbar. She'd given herself away when she'd described a part of the hotel interior no one should have known about otherwise. Chiako prepares to leave the hotel, because there's no proof of her wrong-doing. She comments to Rika, though, that while people's memories fade after 30 years, the scars don't. And, she's been waiting for 30 long years for this moment to arrive; she's willing to wait a bit longer for her own time to come.

Summary: I found Outlaws to be entertaining and fast-paced, and I was completely unable to tell where the story was going. The ending fooled me, too. Nothing about this was overly probable, but it still fell into the realm of a Hollywood action movie. And, I liked being able to learn about the Fixed Point Theorem. There never really was a dying message in Dying Message. It's a more straight-forward mystery, and I figured that Miwako had the best chance of being the villain based strictly on appearances and behavior, but I couldn't explain why. The locked room mystery wouldn't have worked as described, because there would have been scrape marks as fridge and the mattress were dragged into position, if they hadn't completely crumbled after rusting or rotting in the sea air for 30 years. The mossy floor would have shown shoe marks leading to the clothes chute as well. Etc., etc. Still, it was a fast read. Recommended if you like the series.

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