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Welcome to Motohiro Katou's second series, C.M.B - Shinra Hakubutsukan no Jikenmokuroku (C.M.B. - The Incident Catalog of Shinra's Museum). Technically, we could say this is a museum of natural history, since the word museum in Japan is more often applied to art galleries dedicated to a specific artist. The primary character is Shinra Sakaki, a young boy that was raised as an orphan by the curators of England's Royal Museum of History. Each of the three curators possessed a ring that identifies them as belonging to the museum. The rings are embossed with different single letters, the initials for the words Christus Mansionem Benedicat (or, the names of the Three Wise Men). The origin of the rings figures into a few of the early stories, but they're given to Shinra to show that he's the next heir to the Royal Museum. In the meantime, he ran away to make his own way in the world, and he chose to open a museum in an old building in Tokyo, where the only way in is to climb a tree to reach the door on the second floor. To Shinra, the world is one large natural history museum, and he's willing to explain its mysteries in return for an admissions price, usually in the form of a priceless artifact, or the promise to visit the museum the next day.
Link Index to Individual Volume ReviewsNote: The English titles are those given in the manga.
Volume 1 (Mimicry; Ghost in the Museum)
Volume 2 (Blue Building; The Cursed Mask)
Volume 3 (Lost Relief; Modern legend)
Volume 4 (Judean Fortune)
Volume 5 (Gutenberg Bible; Spirit of Forest)
Volume 6 (Canopus)
Volume 7 (Locust; Iron Door; In the Civic Pool; The Turk)
Volume 8 (One Hundred and 30 Million Victims; A meteorite; A Strange Tale from Kushino Mura; The Statue of a Male Goat)
Volume 9 (The Sun and a Folklore; The Metamorphosis; Abortive migration)
Volume 10 (Sixty million years; The Nail; Summer Holiday at the world end; The Hydraulis)
Volume 11 (The Phaistos Disk; "Hatsugama" Case; Marujima Neko)
Volume 12 (Clay Seal; An Old Woman and a Monkey; The Actress Sees Ghost)
Volume 13 (The Grass in Summer; Mountain Villa in Fog; Asado; The Music Box)
Volume 14 (World's End; Sugoroku; The Woman in the Flower Shop)
Volume 15 (A Thread from Ariadne; Fishing in the Secret Place; His Name is Stan; The Quilt)
Volume 16 (The Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana; The "Leyak"; The Seven Mysteries of the High School; The Khanjar)
Volume 17 (The Natural History of G. Plinius Secundus; The Secret Village; Mosaic; Phantom Car)
Volume 18 (Dragon and Phoenix; Take the"A" Train; The Glass Museum)
Volume 19 (Master of Ginza Mugen-tei; Dance the Night Away; The Arrested President Affair)
Volume 20 (December 27; Downfall; A Piece of Wood; Durer's Rhinoceros)
Volume 21 (A Day of Mr. Fuyuki; The Bottom of a Lake; Elf Door; Vallette's Candlestick)
Volume 22 (Summer Supplementary Lessons; The Glass Paradise; The Screwed Shop)
Volume 23 (The Fourth Plaster Relief; Ashizuri Thick Omelet Shop; Nobody; Sports Ground)
Volume 24 (Nishou-Tei Residence; Diamond Thief; Lacework; Ghost in the Cabinet)
Volume 25 (A Lucky Find; The Bag Story; In The Morning, 8:13; Aromatic Tree)
Volume 26 (The Gondolas, Lion's Land, Sign)
Volume 27 (Aztec Knife, Bomb Threat, Lucky, Giant Monk Drawn on a Folding Screen)
Volume 28 (Kijinuma, Vacant House, Holiday)
Volume 29 (Phra Kruang, Victim, Assailant, Witness, Camellia Mansion, Confession)
Volume 30 (Dreamcatcher, Soya has Disappeared, Joker, Mr. Peter's Legacy)
Volume 31 (Hole to Hell, Ghost Car, Dead Body Moving Around, 27th Detective Conference)
Volume 32 (Light, Interference, Amulet Against the Evil Eye, Grimoire)
Volume 33 (Moving Rock, Unread Collections of Literature, Treehopper, Invisible Archer)
Volume 34 (Disappeared Flight, Mariana's Illusion, Old House)
Characters (as of volume 34):
Shinra Sakaki: A young Japanese boy, age 14, raised in England by the three curators of the Royal Museum, and given the C, M and B rings. He sets up a museum in Tokyo where the only entrance is via a tree to the second-floor door. Shinra transfers into Tatsuki's class in volume 2. He's impetuous and intent on finding things to add to the museum, which is why he sets a "price" for whatever explanations he provides when solving mysteries. He usually starts his answers with "Welcome to the Wunderkammer" (Cabinet of Curiosities). Little is known about his real family. His mother, Haruna Sakaki, died when he was 4, and we still don't have any information on the birth father. Shigeko Kanamori states that Shinra's mother had been "a little strange in the head". His first cousin is Sou Touma, protagonist of the Q.E.D. series.
Tatsuki Nanase: An overly-strong tomboy that practices Aikido. She was forced to attend Meiyuu private high school, which is run by her grandfather, so she needs to keep up the "good girl" facade to avoid being kicked out. Her grandfather, Mr. Kyokawa, is old-looking and has a flowing white beard. He's much more free-spirited than befits a school principal, and is quite happy at the idea of allowing Shinra as a transfer student. Tatsuki's father is a regular laborer, while her mother comes from the rich Kyokawa family. For their marriage to be approved, her grandfather made it a condition that their child, or children, had to attend Meiyuu high school. Presently, Tatsuki helps her parents run the family sento (a neighborhood public bath). (So far, we don't know the first names of any of the adults.)
Det. Takeshi Kujirazaki: Tokyo police investigator. He works in the same building as Q.E.D.'s Det. Mizuhara (Mizuhara appears in a cameo shot in volume 2). He's big, gruff and dedicated to his work. Nothing known about his private life yet.
Bia Brust: (Actually, it kind of sounds like "Beer Blast") Investigator working for Europol, mainly focused on trying to arrest Mou for art theft. Initially, he believes that Shinra works for, or closely with Mou, but he seems to have dropped that idea for the moment. He still really doesn't like the boy, though, and only accepts his assistance reluctantly. Nothing else is known about him.
Shigeko Kanamori: Former singer, currently running a Japanese dinner restaurant in Tokyo. She apparently knew Shinra's mother, before she'd died when Shinra was 4. Shige is the one that had been preparing meals for Shinra, up to volume 3.
Mou Sugaaru (Segirl): A blackmarket antiquities broker. We're told in vol. 5, when she first appears, that her grandfather is an antique dealer in Hong Kong, but that's probably just a cover story. She's ruthless and willing to hire killers to create scenarios for tricking other people, but the one rule she seems to abide by is that she never steals anything directly, herself. Nothing concrete is known about her. She looks to be about Shinra's age, and always wears a goth-loli outfit. Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. Cloud. All we know about them so far is that they're rich and easily duped by con artists. They first show up in Elf Door, in vol. 21. In Ghost in the Cabinet (vol. 24), the splash page has the letters M.A.U. in place of C.M.B., implying that her name is Mau, and not "Mao" as I'd been writing it. In vol. 27, her name is given in English as Mou Segirl on the character description page.
Haruna Sakaki: Shinra's mother. She first shows up in volume 6, where we're told that she worked as an archeologist in Cairo, and had uncovered a priceless necklace-like accessory. But, she also had wider-ranging interests in the natural sciences, which is how she met the three curators of the British Museum. We see her in a flashback in Clay Seal, in vol. 12, when Shinra talks about her and Ray Black, while they were all in Borneo.
Shinra's Three Father's (Stan, Morris and Ray): According to Ray Black in his flashback in vol. 12, all three of the British Museum curators were in love with Haruna Sakaki, and they were all devastated when she passed away, which is why they were happy to co-adopt Shinra and raise him as their own son. We see a cameo of one of the men in Spirit of Forest, volume 5, but he's unnamed (probably Stan). We get Ray's full name in vol. 12, and a picture of the three of them together. Stan Bernai shows up in vol 15, and he, Shinra and Tatsuki visit Haruna's grave in Tokyo. Morris appears in vol. 20.
Ray Black: The true adventurer of the three. Loves parasailing, scuba diving and fighting. He'd thrown Shinra into a waterfall pool in Borneo to show him the fish there.
Stan Bernui: The tenacious one. When he sets his mind on doing something, he won't let up until the end. Spent months chiseling through a boulder blocking the entrance into a buried tomb that he wanted to show to Shinra. (In katakana, his name is pronounced "Berunu-i".)
Morris Rand: The mysterious one. Morris refuses to say more than he needs to, giving just the barest explanation and expecting everyone else to figure out what he's trying to get at. First seen working at the Dutch National Museum as head curator.
Sadaman: A medicine man in Borneo who taught Shinra, at about age 9 or 10, how to use botanicals in the rain forest. Killed in a mud slide.
Classmates: There are several classmates that occasionally follow Shinra and Tatsuki around. So far, the only one whose name I've noticed is Yokoyari, the glasses-wearing loudmouth that is incapable of telling ghost stories (The Seven Mysteries of the High School).
Kikuno Tanabata: AKA: "Kick", because she's a better martial artist than the more experienced black belts on the force. She's a new recruit in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and she gets help from Shinra on a case in C.M.B. #33, where we learn she has a strange "mystic mark" on her left shoulder (it looks like the curved "v" artists draw to portray seagulls in the distance). She is the main protagonist in Motohiro's novel, "I Can Make Arrests".
Well, technically C.M.B. isn't really concerned with science like Q.E.D. is. Instead, Shinra's clues involve talking about certain animal traits, and the mysteries often involve artwork, historical artifacts, or things like rocks and bones. I'm more interested in theory and science history, so what I'm going to do here is list the "payments" Shinra receives for solving each problem brought to him. In later chapters, a lot of the work done for "no payment" has to do with protecting the Nanase family in one way or another, so Shinra may be doing it in return for their constantly taking care of him.
Volume 1: Mimicry - A rare specimen of a swallowtail butterfly.
Volume 1: Ghost in the Museum - Tatsuki's father promises to try to get Shinra accepted to a high school.
Volume 2: Blue Building - Detective Kujirazaki and 2 others agree to visit the museum.
Volume 2: The Cursed Mask - A Noh mask referred to as the "deigan" (mud eye), which represents a jealous woman.
Volume 3: Lost Relief - No payment?
Volume 3: Modern legend - Shinra's classmates print up "free entrance" tickets, which include a map to the museum.
Volume 4: Judean Fortune - The Vatican gives Shinra a full set of the Vatican Guard uniform.
Volume 5: Gutenberg Bible - Shinra loses a party-popper surprise box to Mao, but confiscates a Gutenberg Bible, and gets some free cake from Mao.
Volume 5: Spirit of Forest - No payment, although he does get to keep his life.
Volume 6: Canopus - The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities loans him an accessory his mother had found.
Volume 7: Locust - A fairy pitta bird feather.
Volume 7: Iron Door - Mao promises to return stolen statues to a Buddhist temple.
Volume 7: In the Civic Pool - 2 Japanese diving beetles.
Volume 7: The Turk - The Turk.
Volume 8: One Hundred and 30 Million Victims - No payment.
Volume 8: A meteorite - A small meteorite.
Volume 8: A Strange Tale from Kushino Mura - No payment.
Volume 8: The Statue of a Male Goat - The class draws up fliers for the museum, but Shinra has to give the goat statue to Mao.
Volume 9: The Sun and a Folklore - Mao promises to keep secret the existence of a hidden Incan historical records room.
Volume 9: The Metamorphosis - A painting of caterpillars and butterflies by Maria Sibylla Merian.
Volume 9: Abortive migration - No special payment?
Volume 10: Sixty million years - The promise that a dinosaur fossil will be exhibited in his museum for 1 month.
Volume 10: The Nail - His class has to buy him an expensive shaved ice dessert.
Volume 10: Summer Holiday at the world end - No payment.
Volume 10: The Hydraulis - Mao has to show him her private art collection.
Volume 11: The Phaistos Disk - No payment?
Volume 11: "Hatsugama" Case - An Edo-era kite, top and paddle .
Volume 11: Marujima Neko - The Marujima Neko statue.
Volume 12: Clay Seal - No special payment? (Maybe just the chance to see Ray Black again).
Volume 12: An Old Woman and a Monkey - The monkey.
Volume 12: The Actress Sees Ghost - An old Chinese fortunetelling board, called a Luopan.
Volume 13: The Grass in Summer - His classmates buy Shinra a mango shaved ice.
Volume 13: Mountain Villa in Fog - No payment.
Volume 13: Asado - No special payment.
Volume 13: The Music Box - Mao promises to provide Shinra with information that is featured in World's End.
Volume 14: World's End - No payment.
Volume 14: Sugoroku - Shinra may have helped the victim out because her toy store had lots of rare collectables that he'd bought from her.
Volume 14: The Woman in the Flower Shop - Shinra may have helped the protagonist out in return for his having visited the museum earlier in the story.
Volume 15: A Thread from Ariadne - A wooden minotaur statue.
Volume 15: Fishing in the Secret Place - An offer to fish from a police boat.
Volume 15: His Name is Stan - No special payment. Maybe just the chance to meet Stan Bernui again.
Volume 15: The Quilt - No payment. Apparently the case is taken under duress from both the Japanese and British governments.
Volume 16: The Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana - No special payment. Shinra had been requested to visit Nazca to mediate a dispute and may have solved the crime as part of that job.
Volume 16: The "Leyak" - No special payment. Shinra was invited to Bali by Tatsuki's grandfather and may have solved the crime as part of that trip.
Volume 16: The Seven Mysteries of the High School - No payment.
Volume 16: The Khanjar - A dagger and 3 gold coins from a salvaged Spanish shipwreck.
Volume 17: The Natural History of G. Plinius Secundus - No payment?
Volume 17: The Secret Village - Free hot soup.
Volume 17: Mosaic - A paper drawing of a Setsubun oni mask by Kujirazaki.
Volume 17: Phantom Car - A glass hood ornament by Rene Lalique.
Volume 18: Dragon and Phoenix - A Chinese jade carving of a dragon with a phoenix.
Volume 18: Take the"A" Train - No payment.
Volume 18: The Glass Museum - A glass bowl made about 2,000 years ago in Persia.
Volume 19: Master of Ginza Mugen-tei - Doll of Ryou, the Mugen-tei master.
Volume 19: Dance the Night Away - Possibly, a dragonfly.
Volume 19: The Arrested President Affair - The skin of an extinct Japanese wolf.
Volume 20: December 27 - A fusulinida fossil.
Volume 20: Downfall - No payment.
Volume 20: A Piece of Wood - No payment. Shinra sacrifices a block of wood he'd gotten from another client by placing it at the grave of a woodcarver.
Volume 20: Durer's Rhinoceros - No payment? Maybe just the chance to meet Morris Rand.
Volume 21: A Day of Mr. Fuyuki - A bottle of fruit milk.
Volume 21: The Bottom of a Lake - A magatama (comma-shape jadeite stone).
Volume 21: Elf Door - Nothing. But he might get some cake from Mao later.
Volume 21: Vallette's Candlestick - A silver coin from Malta.
Volume 22: Summer Supplementary Lessons - Another expensive shaved ice dessert from his classmates.
Volume 22: The Glass Paradise - No specific payment.
Volume 22: The Screwed Shop - An ammonite fossil.
Volume 23: The Fourth Plaster Relief - A chunk of plaster from a fire.
Volume 23: Ashizuri Thick Omelet Shop - No payment.
Volume 23: Nobody - A confiscated elephant tusk.
Volume 23: Sports Ground - No payment.
Volume 24: Nishou-Tei Residence - The floor plans for the Nishou building.
Volume 24: Diamond Thief - No stated payment.
Volume 24: Lacework - A piece of 18th century Italian lace.
Volume 24: Ghost in the Cabinet - Shinra doesn't appear in this story.
Volume 25: A Lucky Find - Another shaved ice dessert.
Volume 25: The Bag Story - No payment; Shinra loses a bet over an Italian leather bag.
Volume 25: In The Morning, 8:13 - No payment?
Volume 25: Aromatic Tree - A human bone with a camphor scent.
Volume 26: The Gondolas - No stated payment.
Volume 26: Lion's Land - No stated payment.
Volume 26: Sign - A pocket watch.
Volume 27: Aztec Knife - The Aztec knife.
Volume 27: Bomb Threat - No stated payment, although Shinra had been hired by the Blue Bull consumer electronics company to consult on the installation of a dinosaur exhibit.
Volume 27: Lucky - No stated payment.
Volume 27: Giant Monk Drawn on a Folding Screen - Shinra doesn't appear in this story.
Volume 28: Kijinuma - Shinra gets a free dinner plus a rare Japanese stag beetle.
Volume 28: Vacant House - An Edo-era scabbard with a hollow katana used as a wallet for small coins for samurai that didn't have pockets in their clothing.
Volume 28: Holiday - A small pouch containing a few pieces of raw platinum ore.
Volume 29: Phra Kruang - A small protective Buddha pendant, which gets buried with its original owner.
Volume 29: Victim, Assailant, Witness - No specific payment, but Shinra does get a free New Year's dinner from the Nanase's.
Volume 29: Camellia Mansion - A smoking jacket that has patches sewn on it with designs from the Japanese hanafuda playing cards.
Volume 29: Confession - No direct payment. Shinra identifies the killer of someone that used to visit his museum all the time, so this is his way of saying thank you to his visitor.
Volume 30: Dreamcatcher - The dreamcatcher.
Volume 30: Soya has Disappeared - A souvenir key holder from Hakone.
Volume 30: Joker - A painting used for the back of playing cards, by Owen Jones.
Volume 30: Mr. Peter's Legacy - No payment?
Volume 31: Hole to Hell - Access to records from an old Shinto shrine.
Volume 31: Ghost Car - A slice of peach.
Volume 31: Dead Body Moving Around - The chance to stay out of jail. Three idiots botch the site of a murder, and bring the corpse with them to Shinra's museum to beg for help.
Volume 31: 27th Detective Conference - $10,000 prize money for solving a detective mystery, which then goes to pay for a mikoshi (portable shrine) that had been damaged in a mudslide.
Volume 32: Light -An old nomad blanket
Volume 32: Interference - No payment.
Volume 32: Amulet Against the Evil Eye - The amulet.
Volume 32: Grimoire - A jade cat statue.
Volume 33: Moving Rock - A small carved netsuke.
Volume 33: Unread Collections of Literature - No payment?
Volume 33: Treehopper - A Brazilian 3-lobed treehopper.
Volume 33: Invisible Archer - A slice of cake, and a 4-leaf clover.
Volume 34: Disappeared Flight - No payment mentioned.
Volume 34: Mariana's Illusion - A wooden Pachamama carving.
Volume 34: Old House - A free dinner with fresh-baked bread.