Thursday, February 28, 2019

Twin Cranes

Massive construction project going up across the street from the Yamakataya department store. Great, there goes the view of Sakurajima from the top floor restaurant...

And you think you've got a crazy commute to work.

"Expect construction delays, and please plan for alternative routes to your destination."

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

C.M.B. volume 40 review

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

C.M.B., vol. 40, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

Kiseki no Shinden (Miracle Temple, Monthly Shonen Magajin 9, 2018)
Boa is a female customs guard at the main airport in Cambodia. She frustrates the attempts of one traveller to smuggle a bag of cobras into the country, and that night tells her mother at their hut about the event. Her mother mentions that about one week earlier, a group of foreigners showed up apparently to look into some miracles attributed to a nearby temple. According to her, one of the local boys had gotten sick, and the villagers had taken him into the temple, lit up a bunch of incense, and left him there. A day or two later, he was spotted up and around, wandering back into the village. Boa goes into the main town to drink with a friend at a bar, and overhears Shinra refusing to authorize a group of British medical researchers to use explosives to blow through some boulders blocking the hallway leading into the back of that specific shrine to find the source of the rumored "miracles" (the hall ceiling had collapsed recently). That night, Boa dreams of being attacked by cobras, and wakes up to see smoke coming from the temple. She runs over, meeting Shinra and Tatsuki at the entrance. Firefighters report that the British researchers had used explosives anyway, and are currently scattered around the area, writhing in pain, their faces and bodies swollen up, whispering "run."

Questions: Were the researchers cursed by the god of the temple? Are there really miracles coming out of this temple? What's the connection between the cobra smuggling and the current curse? Are Boa, Shinra and Tatsuki next to die?

Payment: Boa may have paid for desserts at a cafe afterward.

Natural history: Some pictures of Shiva statues and Angkor Wat. An explanation of how certain medicines are derived from poisons and venoms.

===== Spoilers =====

The blast opened up a small passage into the hallway leading deeper into the shrine room. At the far back is a huge wasp nest. The wasps are attracted to sources of light, and they immediately swarm anyone with a torch or flashlight. Tatsuki saves the group by covering them with the large urns lining the hallway. After the wasps settle down, the humans in the building escape and an extermination company is called in to clear out the shrine. Shinra thinks the wasps are the source of the "miracles." Occasionally, the victims of various illnesses would survive being stung, but more often the stings would be fatal. He says that this is the nature of most "miracles," in that there's always a dark side. A few days pass, and a local cop contacts Boa to show her the aftereffects of the cobra smuggling. Turns out that some people allow the snakes to bite them on the tongue because the venom is said to be an hallucinogen. More often, it's simply fatal, as with the current corpse. (Shinra's main science lecture is on how venoms and poisons can be processed into medicines by big pharma for the "benefit of society".)

Urusai Koroshiya (Noisy Killer, Monthly Shonen Magajin 10, 2018)
Tamajirou Momoya is probably the world's worst contract assassin. He agrees to hit Ryuusaku Kakiyama, a smuggler of endangered animal skins, tusks and trophies. Kakiyama lives in a penthouse at the top of a building with heavy security systems. Time after time, Momoya gets past the front door guards, but is thwarted before getting even close to the target. Each time, the other guards beat him up until he escapes to try again a few days later. His daughter, Ichigo, keeps asking if he really is a killer, and suggests that this may be why her mother left him. Finally, Kakiyama is found dead in his office of a stab wound in the chest, and the knife Momoya had left in the building in one failed attempt lying on the floor nearby. The police take Momoya in for questioning, but release him because stupid isn't a crime.

Questions: Who really did kill Kakiyama, and how did they get past all the guards and security doors if Momoya himself couldn't?

Payment: Nothing mentioned, although Shinra receives an ancient Egyptian lock and key set from a collector in Kakiyama's building for an unrelated transaction. I can't find anything online that looks like the lock in the manga. The manga shows a wooden pin that sits in a hole of the door frame inside the house, with a string or strip of animal skin running through a nearby hole in the door. The pin blocks the door from opening, and pulling the string just makes the pin block the door (letting the owner "lock" the door when leaving. The "key" is a length of tubing (or a hollow piece of wood) with a notch at one end. The owner runs the string through the hollow key and out the notch, and inserts the key through the hole in the door. Pulling on the string causes the key to push against the pin, and the distance of the notch from the end of the key is what determines that the door will open properly.

Natural History: A demonstration of how the Egyptian door lock worked.

Note: I've never seen kanji used to spell out "urusai" (noisy, persistent, "shut up") before. Usually, it's been in hiragana or katakana, or heard in spoken Japanese. It's certainly evocative. 五月蝿い = Month 5 Hae (i), or more literally, "Mayflies".

Note: All the character names include words for fruit. Ichigo = strawberry, Kakiyama = Persimmon mountain, Momoya = Peach Shop.

===== Spoilers =====

In fact, every single one of Momoya's failures were part of a larger plan. One attempt allowed him to put a hook and rope ladder outside the office windows. Another let him put tape over the door lock, and a third gave him access to a security card that he skimmed to get the mag strip data. A fourth resulted in the carving knife being left in the office. And the last had him spilling kerosene everywhere so Kakiyama would leave the office windows open to let out the smell. Finally, when Kakiyama was out visiting a buyer, Momoya entered the office from outside through the open windows using the hook and rope ladder. Inside, he retrieved the knife and hid until Kakiyama returned, stabbing his target in the chest and escaping the way he came in. Det. Kujirazaki comes to Shinra for help, and the boy connects all the pieces. Momoya is arrested for the crime, and Ichigo promises to wait for her father to get out of prison.

Ipanema no Musume (The Girl From Ipanema, Monthly Shonen Magajin 11, 2018)
Shinra and Tatsuki are boarding an airplane, in first class, to return to Japan from Rio, Brazil, for some reason. They are seated next to Takumi Hishizawa, a young Japanese businessman. Tatsuki notices the guy's bandaged wrist, and during the flight back, he tells her about his "girl from Ipanema." His father is a businessman doing some shady under the table deals, and had told Takumi to hand-deliver a memory stick to a partner in Rio, named Oscar. The hand-over was scheduled for 4 days after his arrival in the city, and Takumi had been instructed to enjoy the sights during that time. Pretty quickly, he was a target for an attempted street robbery. The robbery was aborted when one of the members, a beautiful young woman named Sophia, shouted out that the police were coming. The next day, Takumi spotted the woman working at a snack counter on the beach by the hotel. He starts pursuing her, and eventually he gets her to go on a date with him. He's very naive, though, and Sophia yells at him for carrying his valuables on him while he's outside. She gets him to hide the memory stick in a hollow wooden carving of the Christ statue, and to lock up both the memory stick and his passport in the safe in his room.

Takumi moves fast, taking Sophia to a really nice hotel for dinner on the last night before meeting with Oscar. She says that she doesn't know how to behave in these kinds of situations, then gives Takumi a lecture on how "economics" works in a country like Brazil (thieves stealing from each other in what's almost a barter system). After the meal, they go outside, where the previous group of robbers intercept them. The leader accuses Sophia of betraying them (there were no cops during the previous incident). The gang grabs both of them and takes the two to their hideout in an old hotel, places them in separate rooms, and proceeds to beat the crap out of Sophia. Takumi desperately yells out that he'll pay them anything if they stop torturing the girl, and the leader decides to listen to him. The plan is for the leader to go to Oscar's, and call back to Takumi's phone. Takumi vouches for him, and Oscar pays the ransom of $12,000 USD. Later, Takumi will negotiate that out of the payment for the memory stick. The leader leaves, calls in that he's at the gates to Oscar's mansion, and Takumi vouches for him. While the rest of the gang is preoccupied, Sophia makes a break for it with Takumi following after but they're trapped by a guard with a machine gun. Sophia throws Takumi down a laundry chute (in all this, he injures his wrist). Their parting words are for him to "look for the fish of Ipanema." When Takumi ran out of the basement of the hotel, he heard gunfire coming from above him. He got to the hotel, where the front desk clerk returned his coat and phone to him, saying that some girl with green eyes had brought them in, indicating that Sophia had somehow survived being shot at. Takumi got to his room, took his passport and the statue from the safe, checked out, and gave the memory stick to Oscar before getting on the plane. At the end of his story, he vows to find the girl again.

Questions: How did Sophia survive being shot at nearly point-blank? Why does Shinra say that it's better if Takumi minds his own business?

Payment: Nothing mentioned.

Natural history: Nothing.

===== Spoilers =====

Shinra was sleeping through all this, and he gets up to go to the toilet. Tatsuki meets him in the cabin attendent's area and asks what he thinks about everything. Shinra states that no gang would simply accept back a traitor like that. Normally, they'd shoot the girl and dump the body somewhere.This was never about a street robbery or a ransom. Instead, Sophia was a plant to get close to Takumi to get him to put the memory stick in a mass-produced souvenir to be placed in the hotel safe, and to get him to show her his passport at some point. Takumi was a complete rube, and when told to lock up his passport and the statue in the safe, would have used something like his birthdate for the lock combination. Since his birthdate was printed in his passport, that was an easy giveaway. Then, instead of going to Oscar's, the gang leader went to Takumi's hotel, where Takumi vouched for him, allowing him entrance into the hotel. He had Takumi's room key from his jacket, and got into the room, opened the safe, and switched statues. When Takumi got to the hotel and received his jacket back, all he cared about was being able to use the card key to get into his room and verify that his passport and the statue were safe. He never checked inside the statue before giving it to Oscar, and because his phone is turned off and stowed in his bags, he's unaware that his father is angrily trying to call him to ask why the transaction failed to happen. The real clue Sophia left behind was "to search for the fish of Ipanema." Ipanema refers to a neighborhood at the edge of Rio which has a river running through it where the water is polluted. There are no fish, so Sophia was saying that Takumi would never find her again. The chapter ends with the gang leader dropping Sophia off outside Oscar's mansion while there's a reception party going on inside. The guy asks if "the boss" will be ok, and Sophia reassures him that everything will be fine. She goes through the gates and tells a minion that she has something that Oscar wants. The minion leaves and a waiter asks her if she'd like a glass of champaign. She apologizes for not having seen him, saying that she doesn't know how to behave in sophisticated settings.

Botoru Shippu (Bottle Ship, Monthly Shonen Magajin 12, 2018)
The island of Malta is used as an international tax haven. One guy trying to make his fortune there as a beginner private banker is Rakuo Katakake. He's completely outclassed by the veteran Swiss banker, Poshette Boston, who steals a potential client from him. When Rakuo complains to a friend in a bar later on, the friend points out failed Hong Kong banker Echo West who is even worse off (West got into an altercation in Hong Kong and escaped to Malta some years ago to avoid getting arrested). Shinra and Tatsuki are also in Malta to do a trade of a diagram of an early Xebeg ship for a 17th century ship in a bottle, with the millionaire Land Sale. Land came from a wealthy family, and spent some of his time yachting. But, through a series of bad business deals, a divorce, and some other stuff, he'd sunk to living in Malta, trying to build his own ship in a bottle, and putting money into questionable speculative business investments. After taking the ship diagram, Shinra and Tatsuki returned to their hotel, and spend a couple days hanging around the city before getting ready to go home. They get approached by Interpol agent Bia Brust, who is currently in Malta to investigate the death of one Land Sale.

Apparently, Land had been murdered in his office on Friday between 3 and 4 PM, and his body wasn't found until his secretary came in for work on Monday. Cause of death - strangulation with a piece of rope. The secretary was a former model who wasn't really suited for the job. She'd stay in the office to announce Land's next appointment then go to a coffee shop next door to chat with the owner. Friday was Land's "searching for pearls" day. He'd sit in his office, and have bankers and brokers come in to pitch various business schemes to him for 20 minutes each. If he liked a specific scheme, he'd sign the contract then and there, and put some money into it. During the period between 3 and 4 PM, he had 3 appointments, first with Boston, then Rakuo, and finally with Echo. All three of them claimed that Land was alive when they left the office, and the secretary hadn't talked to him before going home for the day. The most obvious suspect is Echo, who has a history of violent behavior, but when the police dusted the office for fingerprints, the only prints on Land's desk were his own and Echo's. That doesn't make sense. Additionally, Land had been working on building his ship in a bottle, which was found shattered on the floor near his body. Shinra thinks this is a clue.

Questions: Who killed Land? How did they do it in what is otherwise a locked room mystery? Why? Why wipe the desk clean before Echo entered the room? What's the importance of the broken ship and bottle?

Payment: Shinra wants revenge for the death of a client.

Natural history: Nothing specific. Just some nice artwork of old buildings in Malta, and model ships.

===== Spoilers =====

Echo lied about Land being alive when he left the room. When he'd entered, he'd thought that he was the only one there. Eventually, he saw Land's body on the floor behind his desk, panicked and ran. He hadn't told the truth because he expected the police would use his past reputation for violence against him. Rakuo also lied about having the 3:20 PM appointment. At 3 PM, he was the only one in the lobby when the secretary called out the name of the next appointment. Rather than wait, he claimed that the 3 PM appointment was his and he went into the office, where he talked Land into signing a contract for the scheme he was pushing, providing evidence that Land was still alive then. The real killer was waiting outside, and when Rakuo left, he came in to claim the 3:20 PM appointment slot. Land knew the killer, which is why he continued to work on his ship in a bottle while the other guy talked, and walked behind his desk. Land didn't suspect a thing until the rope went around his neck, and in his struggles he knocked the bottle onto the floor. The killer is Boston. And, because he wears extremely expensive clothing, he probably still has Land's DNA on his thousand dollar silk tie from over the weekend (rather than wanting to take it in for dry cleaning right away). Bia rushes out of Land's office, radioing his men to apprehend Boston (the motive is that Boston had been embezzling Land's money, and Land would be figuring it out sooner or later).

Note: Rakuo's ultimate dream is to make enough money to afford the kinds of clothes Boston wears.

Note: Shinra ends the chapter by saying that the ship on the floor indicated that Land trusted whoever killed him, making this the final "message in a bottle."

Comments: Lots of silliness and plot holes this time. I do like the artwork of snakes and wasps in "Miracle," but "Noisy Killer" is just dumb. It's hard to believe that a contract killer would expect to get more work if he had a reputation for being incompetent, no matter how clever the actual hit was. "Ipanema" was fairly generic, but I did like the building artwork for Malta and the ships in "Bottle Ship." Again, I love the stories that incorporate a lot of science and natural history, but there's not much of that this time. Recommended for those that like the series.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Q.E.D. iff volume 12 review

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

Q.E.D. iff, vol. 12, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

Ii Yatsu (The Nice Guy, Magajine R 6, 2018)
Argent Roserio is a naive Italian web-journalist wannabe traveling in the area between Turkey and Syria. He's convinced that this is the only way for him to get to the truth of the conflict there. His taxi driver betrays him and hands him over to terrorists who then hold him as a hostage for ransom. Meanwhile, in Oxford, England, Touma and Kana are visiting Loki, who is preparing to present a research paper. Kana wants to use the trip as an excuse for eating scones with clotted cream, and tries to drag Touma to some shop on a guide map, but they quickly encounter Sheena Sando ("sando" is Japanese for "sandwich"). She's a white hacker, a contractor that restores computers that have been hijacked by ransomware. She knows Touma from his days as a fellow white hacker at MIT, and now asks him for help with a home electrical problem (her long-range satellite dish stopped working). Sheena teaches Kana how to make scones as Touma does stuff to her laptop. She mentions that she really needs to get back online quickly because her current job is a hostage negotiation - her ex-boyfriend has been kidnapped.

When Argent had been preparing to go to Syria, Sheena told him that it was either that, or her. Argent insisted on leaving, so she broke up with him. Some days ago, she intercepted a signal from someone named "X" demanding money for Argent's release. When she talked to the Italian embassy, and Argent's uncle, it seems they'd also received demands for money. The government isn't helpful, and the uncle is former military and wants to take matters into his own hands. Touma concludes that there are actually three competing groups claiming to have Argent in their possession - X, and two others hoping to steal the money from X when it's delivered. Sheena, Touma and Kana visit the embassy, and Argent's mother, and the mother forces the embassy agent and the uncle to work together with Touma to do whatever's necessary to get her boy back.

During all this, we also get a parallel story of a middle eastern refugee trying to escape his home country by paying smugglers to get him to Europe. Unfortunately, most of the other refugees in the truck die from the heat, and the final destination is a prison camp run by the traffickers. The boy tries to escape from the camp multiple times, and on the last attempt gets free and almost dies in the desert. Ultimately, he spots a car passing by on a distant road.

When we do get glimpses of Argent in the kidnapper's hideout, he's being beaten by one captor, while a second one treats him more nicely by bringing him extra food and water.

Questions: How do Touma and group plan to rescue Argent without getting caught in the crossfire between X and the two rival terrorist groups? What's the connection between the refugee boy and everything else? Why does the uncle not want to play along with Touma's plan? Does Sheena get back together with Argent?

Science: Nothing. Just some history about the local region between Turkey and Syria.

===== Spoilers =====

X tells Sheena via her spy dish to deliver the money to a specific location in the desert. The drop-off point is approached by car on a road that runs along the top of a ridge. There's a side road that runs down along the ridge face to the ravine below, where X is supposed to be waiting with Argent. The region is littered with wrecks of tanks and other military vehicles from past battles. Kana takes a car to the meet-up point, where X and his partners are waiting with Argent. They make the money-for-hostage swap, then spot one of the rival groups waiting to ambush them with an RPG. In the ensuing gun fight, Kana gets Argent to a group of boulders and pulls out the end of a cable, some harnesses, and a paraglider chute. At the same time, Argent's uncle shows up in a one-man attack helicopter and starts shooting at the enemy, too, (there's never an explanation of how he got it, outside of his having been in the military before). Touma is hiding in a bush, and he gives Sheena the order to hit the gas. She's driving a jeep hidden in one of the burned-out tanks. Touma jumps in the jeep and it tears off, with the other end of the cable attached to her rear bumper. The cable yanks the harness buckled around Argent, Kana and the parachute, and they go airborne and disappear to freedom, leaving the money and everything else behind them. Over 10 years later, Argent is back in Syria, commenting on how peace has finally returned. He remembers having been treated well by one of his captors from long before. Behind him is a shadowy figure, who says that he'd been a small boy trying to escape to Europe, and had been about to die in the desert when some traveller from Italy stopped their car and saved him. The guy turns out to be the nice one from X's group, and he really wishes he could say thanks to his "good Samaritan."

Saisei no Toki (Playback Time, Magajine R 1, 2019)
Ei'ichi Kurisu is a magazine writer currently doing a story on a mystery body case from 17 years ago. He's in a small town with his writing partner, Gentoku Aoyama, doing research. One day, Kurisu approaches a building contractor, Marumachi Mogai, to shake him down for money ($30,000) based on what he'd been able to dig up. One week later, one of Kana's friends, Marina Mogai, asks Kana to bring Touma out to this village to help her with a problem. Kurisu's dead boy was found on a grassy sand bar in the middle of a river, and her boyfriend, Seiji Kurima, is being interrogated for the murder because he'd threatened the reporter on the day of his disappearance.

After a lot of footwork, and some threatening of Aoyama by Kana and Marina, we learn more about what happened long ago. It starts with Seiji's father, back when he was in high school. Shousuke Kurima had been on the school baseball team with Marumachi. But after graduating, he became a drunkard and a gambler. The team's manager was one Kyouka, who started dating Shousuke at one point. But, he abused her endlessly and sponged money off her. One night, they were driving home and Shousuke had too much to drink. He ran into a tree, totalling the car, putting a deep gash in his forehead, and badly injuring Kyouka. Terrified of the police finding him, he ran off to Tokyo, where he found a job at a construction company, and room at a company dorm with a guy named Kousaku Sumiya. Back in the village, Kyouka was taken to a hospital, and was tended by Marumachi.

For the next 2 years or so, Shousuke and Kousaku were drinking buddies, but Shousuke would bum money off him to gamble on the horses, and they'd fight when Shousuke refused to pay the money back. One night, the two had a massive fight outside a bar. Shousuke returned to the dorm, bleeding from a knife wound on his face, saying that Kousaku had attacked him. Shousuke then went back to the village, where he checked into the hospital for stitches. Marumachi was the only one to visit him in the hospital. Eventually, he gave up gambling and drinking, married Kyouka, and the two of them started up a boat rental company on the river running through town. Kousaku was not seen after that day. However, his body was found in the back of an abandoned house up in the mountains, 14 years later. There was a rope noose around his neck, and the police ruled it a suicide. Shousuke was briefly suspected of killing his partner, but the body was too far away for him to have taken it to the site and then coming back before getting to the dorm (witnesses at the bar and dorm confirmed he'd been out of their sight for 30 minutes, and the body was located 1 hour away up the hill).

It's this death of Kousaku that Kurisu had been digging into. On the day of the reporter's disappearance, he'd been in the cafe that Seiji works at part-time, and had been overheard bragging about blackmailing Marumachi a bit earlier. Since Seiji is dating Marumachi's daughter, he attacked the reporter for saying bad things about the family. When Kurisu's body was found on the sand bank in the middle of the river, the only way to get to the sand bank was by taking one of Shousuke's rental rowboats. Shousuke himself couldn't have been involved this time, because he was busy taking care of Kyouka - she's currently suffering from cancer and her husband is the one administering her shots for her, and otherwise shuttling her to and from the hospital. Shousuke's son, Seiji, could have taken one of his father's boats, but his alibi was that he'd still been working at the cafe that evening.

The detective on the case, Kasuo Mizude, discovers that Touma is a good sounding board for ideas, and tells him that Kurisu and Aoyama had been staying at a hotel near the train station for several weeks, working on their story, but that they were running low on funds. On the day of the disappearance, they checked out of the hotel, and Kurisu had told Aoyama that he'd just been given $30,000 for their story. Problem is, the money never turned up. Kurisu was known to frequent three spots at night - an izakaya (a kind of pub), a ramen shop, and a restaurant, but his choice of eating places was unpredictable any given night. If someone had wanted to kill him, it would have been difficult to prep for any one spot. Only one of the three places was near the river, and if a boat had been waiting along the shore for some days prior just for this opportunity, someone would have noticed and commented on it. Oddly enough, along with the stolen boat was a report of one of Marumachi's construction company's front-end scoop shovels being stolen and discovered in the neighboring hills.

Questions: Did Shousuke kill Kousaku, and if so how could he have driven the body to the abandoned house 1 hour away in 30 minutes? Does Kyouka die of cancer? How could Kurisu have been predicted to be at the restaurant near the river such that the killer would know to steal a boat to take the body out to the sand bar without anyone seeing them?

Science: Nothing.

===== Spoilers =====

Actually, it turns out that Kousaku's and Kurisu's situations are identical, and this is what everything revolves around. Kousaku also had three places he frequented at night. To prepare, the killer stole a shovel truck and parked it in a lot near one location, put a boat near the second, and had his car in a parking lot near the third. When the victim left their location for the night (the bar for Kousaku, the restaurant for Kurisu), the killer strangled him and used the method for that spot. In Kurisu's case, it was the boat to take the body to the sand bar. For Kousaku, the killer put a noose around his neck and used the shovel truck to throw the body directly up the hill. Just by accident, the body landed in an abandoned yard and was not found for 14 years. But, why would Kurisu try to blackmail Marumachi, who was not involved in the first death? And what happened to the blackmail money?

Seventeen years ago, Kousaku and Shousuke had been in their dorm room together, when a photo of Kyouka fell out of Shousuke's bag. Disgusted, he cursed that it was of someone he'd dumped, and he balled it up and threw it in the trash. Kousaku, at that point, had had enough. After preparing, one night he went to the bar with Shousuke, and staged the fight in the back alley in front of their coworkers. He then killed Shousuke, took the body to the shovel truck, changed clothes and ID, and used the shovel to throw Shousuke into the air. He slashed himself in the forehead to duplicate the victim's car crash scar, and returned to the dorm room, dripping blood, to say that "Kousaku" had attacked him. Kousaku, now going by the name "Shousuke," travelled to the village, checked into the hospital for stitches, and was immediately identified as an imposter by Marumachi. "Shousuke" explained what had happened to both Marumachi and Kyouka, and they decided to cover for him. He and Kyouka got married and started up the boat rental company, and with the $30,000 he took from Kurisu (the reporter had discovered Kousaku's secret) the night of that murder, he was able to pay for the last set of treatments that send Kyouka's cancer into remission. Kyouka tells "Shousuke" that she's loved him ever since the first day they met. Kousaku then agrees to turn himself over to the police. Kousaku shakes Touma's hand for finally letting him come out of the shadows, and as Marina watches her boyfriend's father prepare to go to jail, she comments on how quickly someone's life can be turned upside down.

Comments: Well, I still prefer the stories that revolve around science and math. The Nice Guy was hard to follow, and there were too many loose ends. Playback Time (my choice of translation, the other options being "regeneration" and "rehabilitation") was so transparent that I'd figured out most of the tricks very early on. One trick not mentioned above was in how Kousaku planned to have an alibi with his car if he needed to use it. He'd parked it for the day at an outdoor parking lot, so that if the police checked the electronic tracking system, the car would be shown to have been there all day. The thing is, the car had really been in a space between the real parking places and the sidewalk, so the space the police would be verifying would actually have been a few feet farther over and occupied by another car. I doubt something like this would work in real life, given the way modern parking lots are designed, and the fact that they have paved surfaces with the car spaces marked in bright yellow paint. Anyway, recommended to those that already like the series.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Tegetege High School, Feb. 23

Meanwhile, up at Amu Plaza, the local MBC broadcasting studio was running its semi-annual live broadcast of their "Tegetege High School" show. I hear this occasionally on the radio on Sundays. In part, it's a way for high school students to show off their talents in front of an audience, and it's also a way for the station to advertise some of their new upcoming shows. I forget what tegetege means. It's Kagoshima dialect for "silly" or "humorous", I think.

As per usual, the event is divided into two parts. The first is held on the promenade in front of the main department store, and consists of children's activities run by some of the school students. These included a small coffee kiosk (200 yen ($1.75 USD) for a 6 oz. cup of coffee), an art table for young kids, and hands-on displays of robotics kits.

Each year, the robots get a little more sophisticated. Here, we have a wireless RC soccer ball-kicker. Unfortunately, whenever someone tried to get it to kick the ball, it would just fall over.

This is a cleaner bot, which can put small objects into a tin box.

A can stacker.

And a tennis ball launcher.

The wall showing the studio personalities, the list of other guests appearing during the weekend, and the kids participating in the various events. One of the twitter hashtags is "kono rajio ga yabai." Traditionally, "yabai" means "dangerous," but lately has been used as a slang kind of form of "extreme" or "exciting." Therefore "This radio program is great."

I had to make a run up to the main post office nearby at noon on Saturday. At that point, one of the main local celebrities was warming up the audience, with a school girl MC trainee, prior to a group of three other girls showing off their skills at filleting fish.

The sign reads "The Hero is High School Student."

Most MCs I've seen are incapable of entertaining people without reading from a script.

After this, I had to go to the English school at the other end of the city for lessons, and I didn't get out at the end of the day until everything here was already finished for the night.

I got back to Amu Plaza at 3 PM on Sunday, in the middle of the rain. The rain did taper off a couple hours later, but it had a big impact in reducing the crowds at the robots and crafts tables. The main stage show in the middle of the afternoon consisted of kids singing on stage. They had presence, but still needed a LOT more practice. I wasn't really interested in recording anyone, because what I was hearing wasn't that great, and because of the copyright issues for the songs they were picking. But also, I later saw people closer to the stage holding up "no camera signs." Sigh. At least, no one accosted me about taking pictures...

There was a photo op point nearby for getting your picture taken with the MBC announcers.

An hour later, there was a different event that seemed to be an interview with this guy. I checked the schedule, and I don't know if the "Gorgeous" over his photo was supposed to be descriptive, or if that was his stage name.

I took a couple more photos before spotting the no cameras sign, and then I left to do a lot of shopping for the week. The rest of the evening was spent working on the computer.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Attaka Dashi, Feb. 23

The weekend wasn't all that great. We had rain on Friday, partly-cloudy skies on Saturday, and rain on Sunday, again. There were only two events that I knew of - Attaka Dashi Matsuri here in Tenmonkan in front of Lotteria, and Tegetege High School up at Amu Plaza.

I think "attaka" is Kagoshima slang for "warm, or hot." "Dashi" is a soup or broth. Dashi is often used when making fish soups. Attaka Dashi Matsuri then is an opportunity for some of the local restaurants to sell their foods to people that want to warm up in the middle of winter. Now, granted, it never got near freezing in Kagoshima this winter, so there's not a lot of compelling reasons to want to eat hot soup outside (or, the hot ramen at Ramen Oh last weekend), but a few people dropped by to try some of the food.

Beyond the soups, there were tables selling tea and shochu, and this truck selling pizza.

At 1 PM, I was on my way to the school to start my first class on Saturday. Not that many people at the time. I did have a break between 4 and 6 PM, but I wanted somewhere I could sit and read manga for 2 hours. Instead of coming back here to eat, I just went to Tully's and drank coffee and had a hot dog. I didn't come back on Sunday for various reasons, so I have no idea if there were more people then. It's nice to see that these events are taking place, because it demonstrates a little bit of "outside culture," but I'm not all that compelled to spend my money on stuff like this, normally.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Doraemon Moon Movie Display

"Doraemon in the Moon" (the Japanese version of "the man on the moon"). He's everywhere.

Regular big poster version.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Social Dancing Sign

"Social dancing is good for making your heart and body happy." Bad manga art is everywhere.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Ramen-Oh 2019

The latest competition for deciding which restaurant has the best ramen ran over the last weekend. 700 yen per bowl ($6.50 USD). I've had some of the ramen before, and I wasn't all that hungry when I went down to Dolphin Port during my break between 4:30 and 5:30 PM. I just swung by long enough to tell there was nothing on the event stage schedule to watch, then I went to Tulley's coffee shop to play with a Two-Square cipher.

20 lines, no one waiting...

The only event at the time was a ramen exercise dance. Copy-righted music, so I couldn't upload video to youtube. Very silly, though. The characters went through fake exercise moves, pretending to eat different kinds of ramen. Other stage events included dancing by 1BelieveFNC, and interviews with some of the Kagoshima United soccer team players.

Roly poly fish heads.

The foamhead is the mascot for Kanoya, the city that hosts a big rose garden show in the Spring and Fall.

People did like the ramen, anyway.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Art Fest Feb. 16

There was an Art Fest exhibit held by a local design college in Tenmonkan on Saturday. It may have been on Sunday as well, but I didn't go to Tenmonkan on Sunday, and the sign doesn't seem to give dates, so I don't know for sure.

There were maybe 20 tables in the arcade, with artists looking like they were between 16 and 48 years old. Some, if not all, of the art and crafts were for sale, but I didn't see anything I wanted for the apartment. A lot of it looked amaturish, but some was promising.

This artwork was from a sign placed next to the event stage. I didn't see a schedule and there didn't seem to be much in the way of stage activities for the day, but I like the spirit of the sign.

Three of the foamhead mascots posed for shots for a professional cameraman who looked like he was related to the SDF. And that was that for the art fest as far as I was concerned.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Licca-chan Exhibit Poster

Licca-chan is Japan's answer to Barbie. I think the 50th anniversary exhibit was at the Prefectural Cultural Center, but don't quote me on that. Doesn't matter that much to me, I'm not going to go to it. I just want to show what kind of posters you can find lying around here.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Conan Goods Shop Ad

This ad board is promoting the Drum Tao taiko group, and it would be very easy to overlook the more money-oriented ad also on the board.

The Detective Conan Plaza goods shop, running at the Yamakata department store from Dec. 27 to Jan. 8. If you have way too much money burning in your pocket after getting those little gift envelopes from your relatives on New Year's Day.

Follow-up - I don't know of anyone that visited the goods shop, or bought anything there, so I've no idea if it was popular or not.