Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Capsule Ball Crystal Ball

At the same time that I'd gotten Mimizuku from the capsule ball dispensers, I also got this crystal planet. 4 in the series, 400 yen ($4 USD). One of the more expensive toys I've gotten so far from the dispensers, but it is worth the price. It's maybe 1.5" in diameter, and has kind of a hologram etching inside (I'm actually not sure how to call this kind of image). The series is all astronomically themed, and this one is of the Cygnus (The Swan) Constellation.

The camera had a lot of difficulty focusing on it.

I got to thinking about what would happen if the ball was back-lit. I have a small pocket high intensity LED flashlight, and I set the ball on that and turned on the light. The Swan lit up almost as if it were fluorescing. Having a ring of LEDs in the flashlight distributes the light across the image pretty evenly. If I had a wide-bore drill, I'd bore out the base and permanently mount it on the flashlight for display. The result is pretty.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Tegetege High School Feb. 25, 2018

On Friday, I had a bit of free time in the afternoon, and I walked over to Amu Plaza to see if there was going to be something going on for the weekend. The crews were just setting up the stage and displays for MBC TV's Tegetege High School event. It's kind of a self-promo, but includes activities by high school students from various schools around the city. I had a full day lined up for teaching lessons on Saturday, but I did want to know if there was going to be anything I'd be missing that I'd really want to catch. I found the schedule nearby, and it looked to be mostly manzai comedy, dancing, live versions of the TV variety shows, and advertising for the TV shows. So, no big loss.

After checking out the Art Fest in Tenmonkan on Sunday, I returned to Amu Plaza at about 2 PM. The event was broken up into two sections (again; they've held similar Tegetege events in Amu Plaza the last couple years). One area is devoted to science activities and cooking, the other has the main live stage.

I've seen chefs blow torch chicken skewers before, and creme brulee, of course, but this fish looks like it's being prepared to double as a katana...

A different group had remote controlled tennis ball and CD disc launchers for shooting at target boards. We never had stuff like this when I was in school. We had rocks that we banged together, and we were satisfied with that. [huff] Kids these days.

One of the live stage things, with the variety show "talent" doing a skit.

Some of the show regulars.

I don't have a TV, so when some of my students talked about "Tatchan", I didn't know who they were referring to. They explained that he's kind of a comedic talent that has a round face. They also said that they've occasionally spotted him walking around the Tenmonkan area near them, and that maybe he lives near there. Two of my students said they've talked to him a couple times in a kombini, and one of them had met him just the week before. So, when I was at Amu Plaza, I took a bunch of photos of everyone on stage to see if someone there was Tatchan (I'm assuming it's the guy at the right of the above shot). But, otherwise I didn't have a whole lot of interest in the stage stuff. I did some shopping for the week, then returned to the apartment in the rain. The rest of the day was spent working on the computer for the blog.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Art Fest, Feb. 25, 2018

Last week, I was listening to the radio, and there was an announcement for some kind of art fair in Tenmonkan, but I didn't catch the date. I was kind of assuming it would be both Saturday and Sunday, so I was a bit surprised when I went through Tenmonkan on Saturday, and there was nothing special happening. I had a full schedule Saturday, and just hung around the school. On the way back home that night, I swung through the same area, and there was a stage partly assembled and covered in blue tarp, which I took as a sign that there might be something the following day.

I came back on Sunday before 1 PM, and sure enough, they had a bunch of tables with people trying to sell paintings and jewelry. Most of it looked like student projects, but I have seen some of the same art at the flea markets at Terukuni shrine before.

There wasn't anything I would have wanted to buy, even if I had a place to display it. But, there were a few pieces that did stand out.

This would make a great manga - Red and the Werewolf. Red: "My, what big... eyes you have..."

Most of the bigger pieces were interactive displays, that people worked on during the day.

There's this one guy that goes around Kyushu taking pictures of cats. He's been selling his coffee table book of photos for a couple years now. He even had a pop-up shop in Taka Plaza a year ago. The interesting thing this time is that he included a shot of the Kitsune mask dealer (right middle photo).

The schedule was a bit messed up this time. The first 4 hours were identified as the "Jack Project", with no listing of individual performers. After that, there were two acoustic guitar players, and one singer, all given by name, but no one I cared about. The weather wasn't that great (it rained most of the day) and I didn't feel like hanging around just to find out if something I liked was going to happen. The guy walking into the shot is K@ito, the juggler that I've written about before. However, he wasn't going to go on stage right away. Instead, the music stand holding the name of the next-up performer showed that there'd be a stage magician starting in 10 minutes. So, I kept wandering around to kill time, with the intent of going up to Amu Plaza 15-20 minutes later.

This one was eye-catching. But, it was in a glass frame, and didn't photograph well.

More manga-ready artwork.

One guy had a Super Famicom game system playing a Street-Fighter-like game he'd written using the Kagoshima local mascot characters as fighters. There were quite a few people lined up to play this.

Don't know if he was selling game cartridges. Or if anyone still has SFC machines to play it on...

Eventually, the magician got started. He made a big deal of doing close-up magic, then kneeled with his case a few feet from the audience seating on the ground in front of him. He did a short version of the cup and balls, then a short card trick (making 6 cards alternating red-black-red-black to auto sort all red followed by all-black). He wasn't bad, but he spent so much time talking that in 5 minutes, he'd only done 30 seconds of magic. I got bored and left for Amu Plaza.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Jomon Cup Figures, Mimizuku

I'd gotten one capsule ball figure from this series a few weeks ago, but I was thinking that I had a bit of spare change, and it wouldn't hurt to try again to see if I could get the famed alien this time. These things are (only) 300 yen (3 USD).

Well. I didn't get the alien. This is Mimizuku. While it looks Mayan or Aztec, it was actually created during the later Jomon era (1,000 BC?), and found in the Kanto area (eastern Japan, which includes Tokyo). The word "mimuzuku" translates to "horned owl," and is a reference to the statue's resemblance to an owl. The figure is about 2" tall.

Mimizuku says, "Finish your milk!"

Saturday, February 24, 2018

C.M.B. volume 37 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Image from Amazon used here for review purposes only.)

C.M.B., vol. 37, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

Kurosuro-do (Crossroad, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2017)
Tatsuki and Shinra are bringing some scrolls or screens back to the AV room at the school, when they encounter Yokuyari and a few other classmates standing in front of a big glass-encased painting titled "Crossroads." One of the other students asks Tatsuki, as the granddaughter of the principal, what the story is behind it. She replies that it was created by a former student of the school who had gone on to become a famous artist, and that this painting is worth a few hundred thousand dollars. Yokuyari speculates that at least one other of this guy's paintings must be in the school artwork lockers somewhere, and they'd get paid a lot if they could find it. This leads a few of the students to sneak into the school that night for treasure hunting. Meanwhile, a different group of students are talking about an upcoming school art fair, and what they plan on submitting for it. Susumu Michibata is a mediocre art student, and he thinks he's failing at everything. Then  he overhears two of the others talking about Crossroads, and how you could sell your soul to the devil for riches and fame. Yokuyari and the others of his group get to the art room that night, and find a weird hexagram on the floor, with a monster's face inside. One of the girls screams, attracting the attention of a teacher still in the building, and he makes them clean up the oil paint graffiti with kerosene.

The next day, Michibata is completely zoned out, and his paintings are getting noticeably better. At the art fair, Shinra has a display of minerals and shells for sale, and Michibata asks to borrow one of the shiny ammonites. Shinra loans it to him. From here, little things start going wrong. There's a weird smell of kerosene in the hallways in the mornings, the art room key keeps disappearing, students get strange feelings that something has changed in the art room (like the statues and paintings on the wall), and rumors swirl that Michibata had indeed sold his soul to become a better painter. His painting of the ammonite is really, really good, but the boy can't explain why he's improving. The other classmates go to Shinra's museum to get answers. Shinra relates the story of Robert Johnson  going to the crossroads at midnight one night and selling his soul to become a better blues player. He adds that other countries, including Japan, have their own beliefs in the magic inherent in crossroads. Then, he ends saying that the Robert Johnson story had been told as a joke. The students return to the school and go to the art room, where they're still convinced something's off. When one of them tries to touch one of the statues, the lights turn off and there's a loud thud. When the lights turn on again, all of the paintings have morphed into monster faces. The kids run out into the hallway where they run into a ghost.

Questions: What's going on? Did Michibata sign a pact with the devil? Is everyone going to die now?

Natural history: Just the talk about Johnson and the crossroads myths.
Payment: The other students have do what Shinra tells them.

----- Spoilers -----

The ghost is just Shinra, standing in the hall. He tells the kids to look at the floor, and they realize that the paintings that had been on the wall had floor tile designs painted onto their backs. Looking closer at the walls behind the statues, they discover paint splatters everywhere. Turns out that after overhearing the crossroads story, Michibata had stayed in the art room late to keep practicing. At one point, he was carrying his palette with fresh oil paint, and tripped, spraying paint all over the floor and walls. He moved the statues and other paintings around to block the splatter on the walls, then painted over the smear on the floor with the hexagram to hide it. After that, he'd been sneaking into the room to clean everything up bit by bit, hence the smell of kerosene in the mornings. After giving his explanation, Shinra tells the other students to help clean up the remaining paint. Later, the principal is visited by the school's famous alumni, who is asked how he'd gotten so good. The artist says that it was because he chose to paint more beautiful subjects. The story ends with Michibata returning the ammonite and asking what else there is to borrow. (The moral is that you don't get better by painting what the schools and teachers tell you to paint, you get better by painting beautiful stuff.)

Shuro no Koin (Palm Tree Coin, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2017)
The story starts with some guy hiding outside of a village in a war-torn part of the Balkan region, with soldiers executing the other villagers. He returns home to find his parents, wife and two children dead. He runs to the church, where the priest is propped up against the outside wall, dying from a bullet wound in his chest. The guy begs the priest for a miracle, and the priest gives him a small coin instead. In the present, Shinra and Tatsumi are at an outdoor cafe in Athens, Greece, along with the black market witch - Mou. Mou has 3 coins with palm trees stamped on them, which she thinks are the key to a hidden treasure, and Shinra is unimpressed. The boy identifies them as being ancient Greek coins, saying that lots of them keep getting found so they're not worth much. He gives a little history lesson on the centuries-long strife plaguing the Balkans, and Mou jumps in, claiming that there's one small village that has managed to survive all that. According to rumors, a researcher from the Athens university had visited the town, and was told that there's something mysterious about these coins. Mou puts them in a bag and sets it on the table, and almost immediately after a helmeted guy on a motorcycle zips by and steals the bag. Mou blames Shinra for not paying enough attention, and demands that he help get the coins back.

They rent horses, and ride a bunch of mountain trails out to the village. Along the way, Shinra talks about the development of law, from Hammurabi's "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", up to modern-day interpretations. They get to the village, and three older angry men direct them to the nearby small church. Inside is a wooden altar, with two clock faces built into the front, with one pointing to 6:22, and the other to 11:34. The numbers are all represented by Greek letters, and above the right clock is a picture of a crescent moon. Otherwise, there's nothing special there. They go to a cafe and eat lunch, and Shinra continues his law history lesson. We get another flashback to the man and the priest. The man demands to know what the coin means, and the priest leans forward to whisper in his ear. The man screams in despair. That night, Shinra, Mou and Tatsumi return to the church at 11:34 to see if anything else is going to happen. They step inside and Mou notices the moonlight shining through one of the windows is falling squarely on a palm frond-shaped candlestick. She grabs that, then two guys in gas masks enter the church, spray tear gas at them, and make off with the candlestick.

Questions: Who's following them and stealing their treasures? Why? What's the secret behind the coins, and the altar clocks? When will all of this end?

Natural history: Just the history lessons of the Balkan region and Hammurabi law.
Payment: Nothing mentioned.

----- Spoilers -----

The next day, the three are at an outdoor cafe again, and Mou insists that this puzzle is all about money. Shinra gets bored and says, "if that's so, here, have 100 Euros." Mou greedily grabs the bill, proving that the entire thing has been a trick set up by Mou herself, with the "thieves" being played by her minions. If she'd really thought the coins or candlestick were worth anything, she'd never have let go of them. Mou jumps up on the wall behind her, puts on a helmet and jumps off backwards to land on a passing motorcycle. Shinra says that the moonlight falling on the candlestick was just a coincidence, and that it's probably worthless. The big mystery is a lot more cruel.

The main letters on the altar clocks (3-6-9-12) spell out Matthew and Luke in Greek. The clock hand positions, taking into account the crescent moon meaning PM, point to Matthew 18:22 and Luke 23:34 of the New Testament, in which Christ tells his disciples to forgive any transgressions against them, and when he's on the cross saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." In essence, the reason this small village had survived for so long is that they never fought back in revenge (breaking the "eye for an eye" chain of eternal fighting). In the flashback, the priest's last words are "forgive them." The father screams in agony. Shinra adds that the reason is that God's promise is for the meek to be rewarded in Heaven.

KoukuA-11 (Mining Area A-11, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2017)
The year is 2075. Mankind has gone back to the stars, and one corporation has started up an asteroid mining operation on the moon. Their approach is to capture asteroids and put them into orbits around the moon. One worker lives on each asteroid, accompanied by a host of AI-equipped robots. Robot workers do most of the mining, the human is just there to oversee things. If necessary, they have a high-powered rifle with soft slugs for breaking up harder rocks or unsticking stuck equipment. In this setting, Det. Tatsuki is teamed up with astro-engineer Shinra to fly to one asteroid to investigate the death of Magnus, one of the asteroid miners. There's no one else on that asteroid, and the robots are programed to follow Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, and therefore can not cause injury to, or kill a human. On the other hand, Magnus' suited body was found out on the surface of the asteroid, dead, with an apparent bullet hole in the front chest area of the suit.

There are a couple jokes where Tatsuki thinks they've met before, somewhere, and Shinra saying "nope, this is the first time." But otherwise, the story is played like one of Asimov's murder mysteries, with Tatsuki suspecting Pal, Magnus' main companion robot, of killing him somehow (cause of death - a soft slug to the chest). Every time they ask questions about how or why Magnus died, Pal either stops replying, or shuts down. In the housing shelter on the asteroid, they find the rifle, still in its case, but the 7-round clip is empty. And, the main computer has been programmed to show the asteroid's orbit around the moon. Tatsuki is working against the clock on this case. The shuttle rocket can only visit the asteroid once every 28 hours, and before it comes back, a solar flare aimed their way will hit the moon, requiring that all the robots be secured and shut off to prevent damage to them.

Questions: Who or what killed Magnus? Why do the robots refuse to answer direct questions? If Magnus had wanted to kill himself, how could he have pulled the trigger on the rifle, given that the barrel is too long when pointed at his chest? Then, how did the rifle get put back in its case, with the clip removed? What else can go wrong now?

Natural history: Nothing. Just repeated discussions of the repercussions of Asimov's Three Laws.
Payment: Nothing mentioned

----- Summary -----

There are a few more clues. The main one is that Magnus' mother had died on Earth a few months ago, and the company had not allowed him to leave the asteroid to attend her funeral. Plus, a bottle of sleeping pills is near-empty, and a couple bags of blood are missing from the medbay refrigerator. Shinra speculates that Magnus had slipped into despair while missing his mother, and had tried committing suicide several times, only to be stopped by the medbots (which needed to give him blood transfusions). The robots can't answer direct questions about Magnus' behavior because that would "damage" his reputation, hence violating one of the 3 laws. As a last resort, Magnus had plotted his orbit around the moon, took the mining rifle outside the shelter, and fired 7 shots at the moon in the opposite direction of his own trajectory. The bullets entered a near-stable orbit around the moon. Magnus then returned to the shelter to take the clip out of the rifle, and put both pieces away in the storage case. Then he waited. When the time came, he went back outside and set himself up as a target, getting hit by one of the rounds in the chest (the other 6 just impacted the asteroid around him). When faced with the truth, Pal escapes the shelter and races across the surface of the asteroid just minutes before the solar flare is to reach them. Shinra is afraid that Pal's memory will be erased by the flare, but Tatsuki has grabbed the rifle (no idea where she gets the bullet from) and she shoots one of Pal's tires, disabling it. They get Pal back to the shelter in time. After the flare passes, Pal states that yes, Magnus had gone suicidal after the death of his mother. This information is relayed back to the company HQ, where they vow to change their HR policies. Shinra tells Pal that its information will save future human lives, and it says that it is happy about that.

Neko no Shippo (Cat's Tail, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2017)
In a town in Japan that is just like any other town here, there are people that like to spread rumors. One rumor is that Sekine, an electrician, has disappeared. One story is that he ran off with a woman, another is that he stole money from his shop and ran away, and a third is that he was checked into a hospital. Meanwhile, Shinra and Tatsuki are nearby, talking to an antique maps expert. They're on a hill overlooking the town, and the old man says that there used to be a painter, Ryouga Itou, that used to spend all his time painting from this hill before the big war. After he died, his paintings were put into storage until his widow bequeathed them to a local museum. When the paintings were unboxed, the curator discovered that the widow had written on the back of one of them "There is gold at the cat's tail." (The electrician, Sekine, was repairing the lights in the room at the time of the unboxing.)

The story switches back to Shun Furuta, an elementary school student. He'd suffered a severe food allergy after eating bread at school the day before and had been hospitalized for a short time. His mother then had him stay at home the next day, where he gets a visit from two classmates, Tomonari (Tomo) and Yuusuke (Yuu). Shun's parents had divorced, and he's staying with his mother now. In the morning, she works as a check-out clerk at a supermarket, and in the afternoon she's a climbing instructor at a gym. Right now, she's at her afternoon job, as the kids talk about the latest rumor - that of the gold at the cat's tail. The most obvious place to look first is at Nekota Jinja (Cat Field Shrine), which is at the top of a tall crag on the ocean coast line. Shun talks the other two into going to the shrine with him. When they get there, they're confronted by an imposing tall rock that's normally closed to the public except for big festivals twice a year. The kids climb part of the way up, then get stuck. Fortunately, Shinra and Tatsuki are out visiting the shrine as well and they spot the kids halfway up the rock. Shinra finds a rope with some buoys, and Tatsuki uses that by throwing one end over the branch of a tree growing where the boys are trapped and then climbing up to them.

The kids are lowered back down to the beach, then Shun gets a call on his cell phone. He's expecting to be yelled at by his mother, but it turns out the call is from the hospital. His mother had been belaying a climbing student when he slipped off the wall and landed on her leg, twisting her ankle. She'll be fine, but she won't be able to work either job for a couple weeks. Shun decides that he's going to find the gold so his mother won't need to work anymore. He, Tomo and Yuu return to the crag, where Tatsuki's rope is still dangling from the tree. They use that to reach the top of the crag, and find the shrine at the top. Inside is a statue of a "beckoning cat." Its tail just points to a blank wall, so they go outside and look behind the shrine, where they find a half-concealed cave entrance. Shun starts descending into the cave, then he suddenly grabs Yuu and they disappear from sight. At the same time, Shinra and Tatsuki encounter Shun's mother hobbling around the streets, looking angry. She says that she can't find her son, and he's turned off his phone. Tatsuki remembers leaving the rope on the tree, and Shun's mother suspects that her son wants the rumored gold to help her out. They get to the crag, and spot Tomo at the top. The woman struggles to climb up the rock face on her own, while Tatsuki takes more time to rock climb up, and Shinra uses the ropes.

Questions: What do Shinra and the others discover when they get to the top? What's the secret of the cave? If the electrician tried to get the gold too, why hasn't he been seen since? Is there any gold at all? Why is there no sound coming out of the cave?

Natural history: Nothing specific.
Payment: Nothing mentioned.

----- Spoilers -----

The rumors of the gold go back to before WW II, so why has no one ever found it before this? One answer is that the very deep cave is like a natural carnivorous pitcher pot flower. The inside is slick and steep - once someone slips and falls inside, they can never get back out. The two boys have landed on one narrow ledge, and the electrician is immobile, but groaning, on another. Shinra tells the boy's mother to call the police and to let professional rescuers handle this. After everyone is safely out of the cave, Shinra has them climb up to the top of the grassy hill that the painter, Itou, used to visit when making his paintings. The key to the mystery is that Nekota shrine is on a crag named Ekajirajima, which translates to "Bay Island," a common place name in Japan. But there's no bay here. In fact, there had been a bay, but a big earthquake hit the area around the time of the war, that had submerged the bayside land, leaving the crag and a few spikes of land sitting out of the water a few hundred feet out. Using the old map that Shinra had seen before, he draws on a clear acrylic board a spit of land out from the beach, then outlines the rest of the town. The spit of land turns into a paw, and the town is the form of a resting cat. Following the river from the inland side of the town takes everyone up to the mouth of the river at the top of the hill near where the painter used to work. So, the cat's tail is the river, and the "treasure" is just the view of the town from this hill. Shun asks about the gold, and is told that that's a story the boy himself is going to tell.

Some time later, Shun is selling "Mystery of the Cat's Tail" tours for 500 yen each, and relating pretty much the same story that Shinra did. One of the tourists asks about the gold, and Shun answers that back before the War, most of the town was just rice fields. When the sun set in the afternoons, the light reflecting off the rice and water would turn color, and the entire "cat" (i.e. - the area occupied by the modern city now) would look golden.

Summary: I really prefer the stories with a lot of science and/or natural history, and we're not getting much of that in this volume. The background on Robert Johnson, and the meaning of palm trees on coins (for victory, peace and/or prosperity) is pretty superficial. The bit on the 3 Laws was ok, but Shinra and Tatsumi run around on the asteroid as if they're at Earth-like gravity, so that was a bit of a plot hole. The need for the rifle for breaking up small rocks is also contrived. Overall, pretty much par for the course for this series. The artwork is good, and the character designs don't change from page to page too much. Recommended if you like C.M.B. as a whole.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Q.E.D. iff volume 9 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Image from Amazon used here for review purposes only.)

Q.E.D. iff, vol. 9, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

Inka (Spirit Fire, Magajin R #6, 2017)
Comic actress Juri Toba is in a haunted house with medium Denjirou Hakone, stage actor Tomohisa Arima, producer Kenji Dougo and writer/cameraman Kowa Kusatsu. It's pretty clear very quickly that these guys are a third-rate youtube video company trespassing on abandoned private property to record a fake haunting. After shooting the opening sequence where the lights mysteriously shut off (Kenji just threw the power switch) the group acts like they've been forced to split up, each one with their own hand-held video camera. The story mainly follows Juri. She's got the camera aimed at herself, when she encounters a floating ball of light, referred to as a spirit ball, supposedly the haunted soul of the previous inhabitant of the house, rumored to have been murdered. She fumbles the camera and yells out for the rest of the crew. Kowa is right behind her, and bops her on the head for almost attracting the neighbors' attention to them and getting the cops called on them. They encounter a pool of clotted blood, and both of them clean it up to hide any traces that they'd been there. Right after this, they find the producer unconscious in the recessed space on the floor in front of the main door. He comes to, and directs their attention to the second floor, where Denjirou has also been knocked unconscious. The remaining person is Tomohisa, and he'd been relegated to the toilets, and hadn't seen or heard anything. The group decides to cut the filming of the show and escape the building.

A day or two later, Juri meets with Kana at a coffee shop to ask for her help. This show had been her first real break as an actress and now it looks like it's going to be cancelled. One of her acting friends went to school with Kana, and he'd suggested Juri contact her. Kana knows that this kind of mystery would bore Touma, so she strikes out on her own to gather clues. They start with the writer, Kowa, who is currently in the studio editing the footage they'd shot. Juri just had coverage of herself, and Kowa and Tomohisa had nothing unusual. Denjirou had a second's worth of spirit ball, then the wall and ceiling, finally a close-up of his own unconscious face. Kenji had a shot of someone wearing a bedsheet like a ghost, then a close-up of his tie. Otherwise, there's nothing to work with. They visit with the producer, and he says that the show's not going to air because Tomohisa had already tweeted out that two of the crew had gotten injured, ruining the surprise. He then goes on to give the background on the house. It had been owned by Toshikazu Shirahama. On the night of the murder, the police had been called to the house, where they found Toshi drunk in the corner of the bedroom, his wife dead on the floor nearby, and a baseball bat on the ground, with both their fingerprints, and blood splatter from the wife. Toshi kept repeating that he didn't have any memories of what happened that night, and that they never owned a baseball bat. The case was pretty clear against him, and he could have been facing the death penalty. On the day of the sentencing, Toshi reiterated that he had no memories of that night, but since everyone claims he did it, he'd accept responsibility for his guilt. The court commuted the sentence to 7 years hard labor, and he committed suicide 2 years after his release. This is a personal connection, though - when he was younger, Toshi was on the university tennis club, and had acted as Kenji's tennis coach. It's the same school Tomohisa is attending now.

Kana admits defeat and asks Touma for help. He sets up an appointment with the Tokyo prosecutor's office, where one of his acquaintances there fills Kana and Juri on the details of the murder case. According to the police report, the neighbors around the house had heard Toshi and his wife shouting at each other earlier in the day. The conclusion was that Toshi drank heavily that afternoon (there were two empty whiskey bottles on the table), and that he'd killed his wife with one blow of the bat, then passed out in a corner, where the police had found him. The only unanswered question is where the bat had come from. At the end, the lawyer mentions that one other person had shown interest in the case some time earlier - Kenji, the producer. The only one acting suspiciously right now is the "spirit medium" Denjirou, who had disappeared right after the filming, and has just been found in Osaka. Juri and Kana travel down there, where Denjirou says he wasn't trying to run away, he just had a new job that he had to start. He says that he never thought the house was haunted, he was just reading from the script. Further, while he'd never passed the Japanese bar, he had studied law when he was in university. As part of his studies, he was in the court room during Toshi's sentencing phase, and he was there when Toshi pleaded guilty. If there is a spirit ball in the house, it's not Toshi's seeking revenge against the police.

Questions: What actually happened the night Toshi's wife died? Who killed her? Where did the bat come from to be used as a murder weapon? Who attacked Denjirou and Kenji in the house during the filming of the show, and what about the pool of blood, the guy in the white sheet, and the spirit ball on the recorder? Does it really matter that Tomohisa had tweeted about the show and got it cancelled?

Science: None.

----- Spoilers -----

To get to the heart of the case, the culprit is Kenji, the show's producer. He'd stood in front of the front doors of the house and used a flashlight to shoot the "spirit ball" on his own camera (which Juri had accidentally seen reflected a little farther down a side hallway). Kenji had then shot images of the hallway, before putting on the sheet, sneaking up behind Denjiro, and hitting him in the head with a stick. With Denjiro unconscious, Kenji switched cameras, aiming his at Denjiro's face, and putting the other camera under the sheet to shoot a close-up of his tie. Kenji had poured the blood in the hallway earlier to slow down Juri and Kowa, knowing they'd try to clean up the mess, so he could return to the front door and pretend to have been hit from behind when they showed up. Kenji had originally planned to leak the story to twitter himself to have an excuse for cancelling the show, but Tomohisa had beat him to it. The motive was that before the shoot, Genjiro had told Kenji about having been in the courtroom when Toshi had confessed to the killing, and Kenji went into a rage that someone as pure and focused about tennis as Toshi was could be a killer. He set up the entire ruse to get revenge on Genjiro. Touma has the gang meet in the old house, with the police waiting outside. When Kenji confesses to the attack, the police come in and arrest him for assault. As for the baseball bat - Toshi and his wife had used that as a prop for holding one of the windows open during the summer to get a breeze at night. During the day of the killing, she and Toshi had gotten into a big argument over something not specified, and Toshi started drinking. His wife retreated to the bedroom to get away from him, and used the bat to prop the sliding door closed. Toshi bashed the door in, picked up the bat, and hit his wife in the head with it, which is why both their prints were on it. In the end, Touma suggests there really are spirit balls, and that they float among all of us.

Utsukushi E (The Beautiful Painting, Magajin R #1, 2018)
Get ready for some really bad names, because that's what you're going to get. In England, Inspector Bone Ivory is getting close to retirement. One day, he's driving outside of London and sees a car with suspicious liquid coming out of the trunk. He pulls it over and has the driver pop the trunk open, which reveals the dead body of Russian crime boss Ink Black (the driver of the car was one of Ink's thugs, Grass Green, and the passenger was another thug, Cloud Gray). Cloud is arrested, but posts bail soon after and walks free. Ivory investigates the case, and there are some loose ends he's struggling with. At this time, Kana and Touma show up at Scotland Yard. Ivory had worked on a case in Tokyo with Kana's father, and her father wanted to give him a pair of katana-like pruning shears as a retirement gift. Touma is just there to carry suitcases.  Then, the results come back on Ink Black's autopsy report, and Ivory has to go out to the scene of the crime, and he drags Kana and Touma along with.

The murder had supposedly taken place on the rolling estate of Fox and Rose Vermillion. They'd just had a charity party the day before the murder, and Ink was one of their guests. He was also there to receive a suitcase filled with 2 million pounds in notes, for which he gave Fox a signed receipt. After the party, Ink insisted on staying overnight, and was shown to a guest room. The next morning, Fox and Rose ate breakfast by themselves, then Fox took his horses out for exercise with his horse handler, Lake Blue, and Rose wrote up thank you notes to the party guests. The housekeeper (Plum Purple) and the maid (Milk White) went to the servant's entrance to pick up the day's vegetable delivery and discovered a note on top of the package, which they handed over to the butler, Wood Brown. Brown read the note, which said that the writer knows that a group of illegal refugees is living in the Vermillion's boat house, and that the police should be notified. Fox and Rose already knew this and had fought over it. When Wood showed Rose the letter, she ordered him to take food, blankets and unused clothes to the boat house to give to the refugees. While Wood was gone, Cloud Gray came to the house to pick up his boss, Ink. White went to Ink's room, but he was gone, the room was cleaned up, and the briefcase with the money was missing. Cloud pulled a pistol to threaten the family, but Wood came back from the boat house and got the drop on Cloud from behind with a shotgun. Wood got Cloud to hand over his pistol, which was then locked in a cabinet. Wood took Cloud's key and drove his car around to a parking lot in the back of the mansion, and then everyone took part in searching the mansion for Ink.

Eventually, they gave up, and Cloud came to the conclusion that Ink absconded with the money, leaving him and Green to explain to their higher-ups in the mafia what happened. Wood gave the car keys to Lake, who retrieved Cloud's car. Cloud and Green left to go to the airport to fly home, when Ivory spotted the blood at the back of the car, pulled them over, and discovered Ink's body. The question then is why Fox gave Ink the 2 million pounds. Fox explains that the family had come upon hard times, and he'd needed to borrow some cash. Fox had met Ink at a financial party, after an introduction by the president of a gas company. Ink was a loan shark, and eventually, he wanted the loan paid back, at interest. To raise the money, Fox had sold one of the family's oil paintings at an auction 2 days before his charity party, and wasn't able to wire the money to Ink any earlier because he had to wait until the auction house paid him. Then Ink showed up at the party and collected the money then. Now, they've got Ink's body, but the suitcase is still missing.

When Fox and Rose finish their story, Kana notices that it's snowing outside. Det. Ivory didn't put snow tires on his car, so Rose talks her husband into letting the detective, Kana and Touma stay overnight. Kana loves the food they get for dinner, but otherwise the time is spent interviewing the staff and worrying about what they learn. Ink's autopsy report set the time of death around noon of the day his body was found in the car. And, everyone in the estate had alibis during that time frame. Wood had helped Rose check the thank you letters she was writing. Fox was at work. Lake was at the pub drinking beer. Milk and Plum were in the kitchen preparing dinner, and the refugees were all at the boat house. The only real option was that somehow Ink had snuck out of the mansion, hid in the parking lot, and got into the car before Lake brought it up to the front door. And that Cloud killed Ink after leaving the estate but before Ivory found them. Either Ink or Cloud stashed the money somewhere to pick it up later unnoticed. But, if Cloud killed Ink, why not do it at the mansion and leave the body there?

Questions: Who killed Ink? Why? Where's the money?

Science: None.

----- Spoilers -----

16 days after the murder, Touma is back in London to talk to Ivory. The detective has enough evidence to pin the case on Cloud, but he'd mentioned before that to him, a case is like a beautiful painting when all of the pieces fall into place. Touma asks if he's unsatisfied with his painting as it stands now, and Ivory decides to listen to the boy's solution. The only real possible suspect is Wood, the butler. He was everywhere, and he's the one that had access to Cloud's car before the body was found. He also had motive, wanting to protect his employer. However, Ivory has no way of connecting the butler to the mafia leader. In fact, the night of the charity party, Wood had suggested that Ink stay the night, which Ink then insisted on doing. The next morning, Wood left the letter on the food delivery at the back door for Milk to find, he stabbed Ink in the chest with a knife in the guest room, and wrapped the body in a bed sheet. He packed Ink in the back of his own car, covered him with sheets, and went into the house so Milk could show him the letter. Wood took the letter to Rose's room, but she was so busy with her letters she never noticed him change the hands on the grandfather clock near the door. When he showed the letter to her, Wood called her attention to the clock, creating the alibi for both of them. He helped her with the thank you notes, corrected the time on the clock, went to the kitchen, got the food, clothes and blankets from Milk and Plum, then drove to the boat house. After he was done there, he went back to the parking lot behind the mansion, and moved Ink's body into the trunk of a rental car that looked identical to the one Cloud was renting.

On returning to the mansion, Wood intercepted Cloud in the house, where he confiscated both Cloud's gun, and his car key. Wood parked Cloud's car, then gave Cloud the key to the second car to hold onto. After the search of the house turned up empty, Cloud gave the key for the second car to Lake. Lake didn't know which car Cloud had arrived in, and he used the key fob to unlock the wrong car by remote. Lake brought the car with Ink's body up to the front door, and then Cloud and Green drove off, unsuspecting. Wood's plan was for the body to be discovered by the rental car people, but Ivory got involved by accident. Touma's final bit of proof is just about to arrive. He and Ivory are sitting in a coffee shop across the street from the auction house that had sold Fox's painting for 2 million pounds. Who was the buyer? Well, the person walking through the entrance of the auction house to pay for his new painting is a butler named Wood Brown, carrying a suitcase holding 2 million pounds (the painting is to be returned to its place in the mansion). Ivory gets up to talk to Wood, however, the implication is that the crime is still going to be hung on Cloud. Ivory just wants to confirm what Touma had told him.

Summary: Inka was ok, but as always, the motive is weak. Beautiful Painting was a bit better, but I kept hoping that we weren't going to get another "the butler did it" thing, because that would have been way too obvious. The only thing that I couldn't guess on my own was Wood's use of a second rental car. The actual solution is a bit unsatisfying as it stands. There was blood, which should have clotted, flowing out from the trunk hatch, but no one at the mansion noticed this when Grass drove down the driveway. And, the auction house should have taken a percentage of the sell price for the painting. But, Motohiro makes it look like all the money Fox made in selling the painting was given to Ink, which was then taken by Wood to pay back to the auction house without the auction house taking their cut (unless Wood made up the difference from his own pocket, but that's never mentioned). Anyway, the artwork is good, as are the character designs. The names in the second story are dumb, but not unexpected. Recommended for anyone that likes the rest of the series.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

MOS Slogan

The MOS Burger fastfood shop underwent renovations at the end of 2017. One of the updates was the display of their slogan on one of the inside walls.

"MOS BURGER stores aim to provide delicious taste, health and happiness to customers and local communities, while also serving as a place where customers can recharge themselves for tomorrow."

In other words, "Beat Starbuck's at their own game."
Don't know how successful they'll be at this, but it is true that it's getting harder to find a free table because of all the school students camped out, doing their homework over a single cup of coffee.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Panacea and Nose Glass

I eventually broke down and took photos of the Nose Glass sign, simply because the name runs counter to the idea of "eye glasses". Panacea is a "relaxation" shop - that is, they give back massages.

Nose Glass - Wear and Zakka. Of course, now I have to figure out what a "zakka" is. "雑貨" translates to "miscellaneous goods" or "sundries." I guess the place sells clothes and accessories.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Saigo Marche

I went up to Amu Plaza Friday evening to get some post-Valentine's Day desserts from the food court in the basement of the department store, and discovered that they were putting on another Saigo Takamori-themed arts and crafts event this weekend. However, this time the sponsors had markers set out for people to draw on the big inflatable Saigo.

A small sampling of the writing on Saigo's back.

I got back to Amu Plaza on Sunday.

At this point, there was a promotion going on with a bunch of the local foamhead mascots, which apparently included rock-paper-scissors contests for children for small prizes.

Some of the foamheads.

Plus the big Saigo mannequin.

One of the vendors was selling products parodying Puma and Starbucks. (Buta = pig.)

Another interpretation of Saigo.

More mascots promoting a local area trying to get more tourists. I didn't catch which city they represent, but apparently they just started using these characters one month ago. Foxes.

Otherwise, another quiet weekend overall.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ramen Oh

Kagoshima had another of their Ramen Oh contests (King of ramen noodles) at Dolphin Port over the weekend. The idea is that 18 of the big ramen restaurants in Kyushu face off, while a nearby live stage provides entertainment. You have to buy tickets at the entrance gate, at 700 yen ($6 USD) for one bowl of ramen each. The ramen dealers have little portable kitchens set up in a long line, and you exchange your ticket at the kitchen of the restaurant of your choice for a bowl of ramen, and a token. When you're done eating you drop the token in the box of the restaurant of your choice at the voting booth. At 3-4 PM Sunday, the restaurant receiving the most tokens is announced as the new "Ramen King." I'm not that big of a ramen fan to want to spend $6-$12 for one or two small bowls of noodles unless I'm really hungry. Besides, I had 4 hours to kill between classes this time, and I intended to find a quiet coffee shop to sit down and read manga, so I saved my money for that. I just hung around Dolphin Port long enough to check the event schedule for the stage, and take a few photos for the blog.

Most of the stage events consisted of advertising for the restaurants, promotions of the Kagoshima United FC pro soccer team, and manzai comedy (Japanese slapstick comedy duos). The only real music was by Cherries Union (former members of the Cherries elementary school student jazz players), 1 BelieveFNC (a kind of AKB-48 rip-off), and NEONE & Flamingo Rouge (pictured above).

NEONE & Flamingo Rouge did j-pop. I don't know if it was covers or not, but it wasn't really anything I felt like recording. I listened to two of their songs as I flipped through the schedule booklet to see what all was going on. When I finished, I decided that I might as well try recording one song, but that's when the singer announced that they were done for the day. The next stage event was going to be a talk interview with someone from one of the local TV station shows, and I had no interest in that.

The portable ramen kitchens. Things were kind of unbalanced - the lines for ramen were longest for booths 1 and 18, and nonexistent for all the other competitors inbetween.

Ramen Kokoro had the best-looking manga-influenced artwork.

We had rain on Friday, but perfect weather on Saturday and Sunday. The volcano was quiet, too. For the moment...