Thursday, November 16, 2017

What makes you beautiful?




Text in the window of a beauty salon:

"What makes you beautiful?
For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others;
for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness;
and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone"

And if that doesn't work, come inside and we'll fake it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Restored Jizo




This jizo (stone statue) is located near the apartment. Over a year ago, someone hit it with a bat or something, smashing the head off. It took someone else several weeks before they got around to putting the red shower cap over the rebar that had been sticking out of the top, to hide the damage. Finally, the statue received a new head shortly before I took this photo. It looks like the locals plan on taking better care of it now.

Follow-up:
During one of the bigger typhoon warnings a few weeks back, someone took the precaution of disassembling the entire structure, wooden frame walls and everything, laying the pieces flat on the sidewalk so it wouldn't be damaged by the strong winds. First time I'd ever seen that done, and of course it was when I didn't have my camera with me. The next day, after the typhoon missed us, it was all reassembled and back in place again, so I missed the shot. However, when the statue was disassembled, the head was missing. I assume that it had been in safe storage during that time.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Aug.-Nov. articles in the media

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from Aug. to Nov., regarding anime, manga and related stuff.

Japan Times

'Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?': Will Japan fall in love with another pair of animated teens?

Anime group launches tourism pilgrimage inspired by Shikoku Henro

'Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution 1': Nostalgic flashbacks get a bit confusing

First permanent Sailor Moon store opens in Harajuku

'One Piece': Manga still popular, influential after two decades

Megahit anime 'Your Name.' to get live-action Hollywood remake

Japan's Health Ministry uses Gundam robot to battle overuse of antibiotics

Hokkaido uses manga to educate people on how to react to North Korea missile attack

Gundam towers over a transforming Tokyo

Daily Yomiuri

40 years later, Moto Hagio resumes an epochal story

Grand finale of ‘Little Witch Academia’ was magical

Peleliu: Guernica of Paradise review

Creator's zeal for Lupin the Third still shines 50 years on

Dien Bien Phu review

Mangaka’s life transformed after son’s birth

Bright notes of despair as disaster looms

Koi to Uso review

Hiroshi Aoshima, Girls' manga composer's, source of inspiration

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san review

Exhibition looks back on history of Shonen Jump

"Ms. Kaguya wants him to confess his love for her" review

‘Fairy Tail’ author looks back on adventure

Squad leader's one-day leave review

Made in Abyss review

Nyx’s Lantern review

Love and Lies reviews

Golgo 13: A record-breaking hero

Asahi

'Yo-Kai Watch' movie No. 4 set for release on Dec. 16 (The clan of Poe)

Live-action ‘Real Girl’ film to open in 2018 starring Ayami Nakajo

Leading anime screenwriter Okada makes directorial debut

Long line greets opening of first Gundam Base shop in Japan

Stage adaptation of 'King of Prism' opens in Osaka, Tokyo in autumn

Stamp rally draws pilgrims to 'Yuri!!! on Ice' city in Saga

The French fall in love with Chi the animated kitten

'Saint Seiya' gets new CGI remake with Hollywood screenplay

Sumitomo to launch 'Dan-Machi’ game in U.S.

'Golden Kamuy' manga slated for anime TV adaptation

Feature film adaptation of 'Macross Delta' takes off

JR giving facelift to Anpanman car train in October

First film in ‘Eureka Seven’ trilogy released in Japan

‘Fireworks’ anime bus moves fans in Asahi, Chiba Prefecture

Godzilla’s face revealed in new teaser for first anime movie

‘Infini-T Force’ to make leap to the big screen in February

'Sailor Moon' gear enables you to look the part of world heroine

Exhibit featuring anime director Makoto Shinkai coming to Tokyo

‘Rurouni Kenshin’ restarts after nearly 2-decade hiatus

Chitose airport animation festival to kick off on Nov. 2

Super robot Mazinger Z reveals its form in film trailer

Ring in 2018 with a ‘One Piece’-themed ‘osechi’ meal box

Sailor Moon store in Tokyo draws child fans, adult fans alike

'Poupelle of Chimney Town' anime movie in development

'Sword Art Online' getting two new TV adaptations

Unretired anime guru Miyazaki reveals title of new anime

Showa Era anime heroes return with modern updates

'Gundam' mascot Haro comes alive as AI-installed talking robot

Season 3 of 'A Certain Magical Index' set to air in 2018

'Fist of the Blue Sky' anime OK'd; manga series enters 2nd season

Extended version coming of anime hit 'Corner of the World'


Monday, November 13, 2017

Bouz Meets Fes, Nov. 11,




The Buddhist Honganji temple periodically holds what they term "Bouz Meets." "Bouzu" means "Buddhist priest," and the idea is to invite people into the temple and let them mingle with the priests, ask questions, or get involved in various family-friendly activities. I saw the sign in front of the temple several days earlier, so I knew that the next Meets was going to be on Saturday. Friday afternoon, as I was going in to the English school, I passed by Honganji, and they had the schedule board up already. I quickly glanced over the musician performers, and there wasn't anyone I had any immediate interest in. Then, one name caught my eye and I had to double-check a few times to make sure I wasn't mistaken. And yes, Bon Deluxe, my favorite Japanese SKA band in Kagoshima, was going to play at 2:50 PM the next day. Unfortunately, I had a class booked from 2 to 3 PM, but I was hoping I could start a few minutes early, and get finished early so I could start my break right away.



I get home Friday afternoon, and I'm pretty excited. I check my class schedule for Saturday, I compare it to the Meets schedule, and I think I can pull this off. Then, at about 9 PM, I notice some "ticking" sounds coming from one of the windows. It takes me a few minutes, but eventually I go to the window and open the curtains, and yes, it's starting to rain. At 10 PM, the rain is coming down hard. So, of course there's now a chance that Bouz Meets will be cancelled. On the other hand, the music stage is usually set up in the temple's parking lot, but there's nothing that says they couldn't move things indoors (the temple has a big interior).



Saturday morning, the rain has ended and the clouds are gone again. I try to get out of the apartment early for food shopping for the week and to have time to get to Honganji and look around before the class is to start. But, things work against me and I get out the door a lot later than I'd wanted. I arrive at Honganji at 1:50 PM, and I pretty much have to keep going to get to the school on time (it's only 4 blocks past the temple, so I get there with a few minutes to spare). The first thing I notice is that there's no stage outside. They have food booths, an outdoor bar, a nursing station, and a flea market, but no stage. Not a lot of people there, either, maybe 30 or 40, mostly families with kids, but not the kind of crowd from past years. The second thing I notice is Nonki, a surf music guitarist I've met a few times before. He tells me he's going to be playing bass for Bon, and that they'll be starting at 2:40 PM, 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I groan, then keep running to get to work.



The sign for the outdoor bar.



Buddha likes his drinks, he does.


(The back of the Always Burger truck. Big Abe likes his burgers, too.)

I get to the school, teach the lesson, and things run long. Instead of finishing at 2:45 like I'd been hoping, I don't get out the door until 5 to 3. I hit the ground running, and race the 4 blocks back to the temple. I reach the parking lot and I can hear music being piped out to the PA system. I run up the stairs, and find the band inside, just finishing up one song and breaking into another. I whip out my camera and start recording, and put up a heroic battle to keep from wheezing into the microphone and shaking the camera all over the place. It takes a couple minutes to actually get my breathing back to normal. That partly explains why the video is so shaky.


(The main temple room. The tables to the left are for families that want to make their own prayer beads. To the right is the information table, book sales, and a rack of kimono for anyone that wants to play dress-up and have their photos taken.)


(The prayer beads table.)


(Bon on lead, Nonki is to his right.)

Bon always plays the same songs, so there's no reason to keep putting videos up on youtube after every single performance. However, it took me just a couple seconds to talk myself into recording the remaining part of the set for my own enjoyment. I caught the next two songs, then the battery went out on the camera. I'm debating whether it's worth buying a backup battery specifically for these kinds of situations, which only happens maybe once or twice a year. Sigh. Anyway, Bon played 2 more songs after that, and I was perfectly happy to just bop along with the music. And, I ended up uploading the video and a few of the photos to Facebook, anyway.







They finished at 3:20 PM, and then quickly moved their gear off stage to make room for the next group.



Which was a traditional Buddhist troupe. The music was very slow and dirge-like. I took a few pictures for the blog, then went outside to get a kebab sandwich for $6 for lunch. After that, I hung out at a coffee shop until my next lesson was to start an hour later.











Overall, it was a good day. The weather turned out to be nice after all, and I was able to listen to some SKA. And the kebab and coffee were good, too. I would have liked to have talked to the Bon DX band for a couple minutes, but that didn't happen this time. Then again, we're closing in on the Christmas holiday events stretch, and I expect they will play at least once up at Amu Plaza between now and the end of the year. I'll be patient.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Marugoto Fair, Nov. 10-12




I've mentioned the "marugoto" fairs before. They're food and produce markets featuring stuff from a particular region. I'm not sure if this one was specifically for Tanegashima, or if it was for the larger area of Kagoshima prefecture, which includes Tanegashima island. Anyway, they have these marugoto markets every few months, and sell tea, mikan (Japanese oranges), shochu, honey and other foods. This one ran from Nov. 10th to the 12th.



Examples of some of the mikan preserves, jellies and fruit sauces available.



The marugoto markets also usually have a live stage. I'd gone up to Amu Plaza on Friday to see if anything was going to happen there over the rest of the weekend, and saw the crews setting up the tables and announcement boards. I found the schedule and checked whether anything interesting was going to be happening for the rest of the day, or on Saturday. For the most part, the activities on Friday and Sunday were just PR stunts for advertising travel around Kagoshima, and some giveaways. But, there was one band, "A Taste of Honey," that was supposed to play twice on Saturday. I had classes at the English school Saturday afternoon, but I'd be able to swing by the department store for the 10:30 AM performance, at least. So I went home and did a web search on the group's name, and only came up with hits on a black female duo that was big in the U.S. from 1971 to the mid-80's. I didn't think they'd be in Japan for something like this. That only served to increase my curiosity.



I got to Amu Plaza a little bit after 10:30 AM, and discovered that A Taste of Honey is a brass jazz band from Tanegashima. They did a soft instrumental version of Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon," and other western covers. Nothing really worth recording or sticking around for. I took a few photos for the blog, got some free sample coffee from Kaldi in the basement of the department store, then finished my food shopping for the weekend and returned home to get ready for work at 2 PM.



As mentioned above, I already knew that the Sunday stage events were going to be just PR stunts, but I did want to get some more photos for the blog. I got back to Amu Plaza at 2 PM, and was surprised to hear music as I approached. The schedule board didn't have anything listed for live music on Sunday. I was up on the second floor, and could look down at the stage from there. I didn't recognize the singer at that angle, but he was singing Japanese folk songs, and I didn't hang around long. I went to Seattle's Best Coffee, got a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin, and worked on some Sudoku puzzles. At 3:30, I returned to the stage for the next PR event, and the guy was still singing. I got closer, and finally realized that he was Kodai, a singer/guitarist from Amami who often MC's the marugoto markets. I also know that he's not particularly approachable when he's working like this, so I just took a couple more photos, and waited a little longer.







I didn't catch this mascot's name, but he's representative of a kind of a generic Edo-era bureaucratic type. Maybe sort of a middle-level samurai. He led a jan-ken (rock-paper-scissors) game with the senior citizens in the audience for a 1,000 yen ($10) certificate for the foods sold in the market. That seemed rather paltry. I didn't stick around to see who won. The market was going to be closing in an hour or so, so I went back home to work on the computer. Friday and Sunday were quiet, but Saturday was somewhat better...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Q.E.D. iff volume 8 review


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Q.E.D. iff, vol. 8, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

Umibe no Mokugekisha (The Seashore Eye Witness, Shonen Magajin R, 2017)


(What Hassaku saw.)

This is another one of Motohiro's stories where everything is told from the first-person viewpoint of a character introduced specifically for the story. This time, we get Hassaku Mutou, a second-year high school student living on Kochira island in the Seto inland sea. Generally, Hassaku is an ignorable, average teenager, and on this day he and the rest of the class are taking the ferry to the main island for a school P.E. event. Along the way, the group talks about what they want for their career futures, while passing the fishing boat of the local "Madonna" (beautiful woman), Kyouko Kakimoto. The students play basketball, practice judo, etc. Near the end of the day, one of the more popular girls, the transfer student Rinko Fuji, says "hi" to Hassaku, making the other boys furious with envy. They demand to know how the two of them got to know each other, and Hassaku replies that Rinko had gotten lost on the island a few days earlier and he'd helped her learn her way around. Finally, the friends take the return ferry back to Kochira, and Hassaku glances at one of the storage areas near the warehouses that they're passing by. The door is partly open and he witnesses a man being hit in the back of the head with a piece of plate steel. The next day, he's in his room texting his friends, when one of them sends him a photo of the police surrounding a warehouse building at the docks. Hassaku runs downstairs to the kitchen, and his mother yells at him for wasting his time with text messages instead of studying. Then she says that according to the news, Densuke Kikuchi, a delivery man for a loan company, has gone missing. He was last seen in the container area of the island's docks, and the 12 million yen ($120,000 USD) he had brought with him from Fukuoka was missing. Suspicion is currently on Densuke's partner, a younger man that had driven with him, and has no alibi. However, the police think that Kyouko Kakimoto might have taken the cash, and they search her charter fishing offices and house without finding it. This puts Hassaku into a panic, and he goes to the crime scene to look for clues that could exonerate Kyouko. Once at the storage area, he spots the steel plate, which now has dried blood caked on it, and he realizes that he did indeed see a murder. Then, Rinko arrives and asks what he's doing. He tells her the truth, and she responds by saying that she has a friend back in Tokyo that can help. A day later, Kana arrives, dragging Touma with her (Hassaku is unimpressed).


(Touma recounts what Hassaku currently says he'd seen.)

In the middle of this, Kyouko's father finally dies. At the funeral, Hassaku pledged to Kyouko that he wouldn't stop until he found the killer. Touma tells the boy that he should go to the police with what he knows, and the main detective on the case is initially excited because they've got no leads right now. Unfortunately, Hassaku can't remember if he saw the attacker's face, and can't identify anyone out of the stack of photos the detective shows him. Touma gets the detective to tell them what he does know of the case, and he does so, even though it's highly irregular. The victim and his partner were coming back from Fukuoka with money being delivered to the home office, when Kikuchi got a call on his cell phone to meet someone at the docks on Kochira. The partner had gone to one end of the island to place a call on a pay phone there, and when he'd come back, he found Kochira dead and the money missing. Kyouko is a suspect because she's one of the few people with a working boat.

The only way on and off Kochira island is by boat - either the ferry, or a personal fishing boat. Kyouko fits the bill, but the engine on her charter boat was being overhauled and had been in pieces on the deck of the boat when the police visited her. Hassaku also works as a part-timer at a gas station, and the manager there fills him on additional details of Kyouko's past - her parents had run the fishing boat charter company, and she'd gone to university where she got top grades. Her father ran off with a younger woman, and her mother continued working to support her school costs. She then got a job in a bank in Kobe. But, her mother died and her father spent all his money on gambling and alcohol before collapsing and being abandoned by his mistress. Kyouko's father was then brought back to Kochira, and he'd been a bed-ridden vegetable ever since. Kyouko had to quit her job and take over the charter shop to pay off her father's loans, and tend to him. However, it seems that Kyouko did make a boyfriend in the bank in Kobe, Rihei Kuribayashi, who has come to the island to propose to her. The situation becomes more complicated when Kikuchi's partner mentions that the bank Kyouko worked at owns the loan company Kikuchi worked for, meaning that Rihei might have learned about the money transfer and decided to take the cash and frame Kyouko for the murder. And, Kikuchi's company is the one that Kyouko's father received all his big loans from.

Kana, Rinko and Hassaku visit Rihei at his hotel, but the man's face doesn't remind Hassaku of anything. At the end of the conversation, one of the hotel staff comes up to mention that Rihei's suit is ready to be put into a tailor bag for his trip back home, and the guy puts on a pair of reading glasses to look at the paperwork. That's enough to convince Hassaku that Rihei is the one that he saw killing Kikuchi. He tells the police, then goes out to Kyouko's boat to tell her that the detectives re-examined the crime scene and found a tailor's tag on the ground nearby, placing Rihei at the scene. Kyouko thanks him, but mentions that she's had enough of the island, fishing boats and the charter company. She's going to go away and escape all this.

Questions: Did Rihei kill Kikuchi? If so, how did he get on and off Kochira island, since he wasn't seen taking the ferry boat? Where did he put the body and the money? If it wasn't Rihei, who else could it have been?

No science this time.

--- Spoilers ---

Touma calls all the witnesses, the suspects and the police together at the docks, and recounts what Hassaku has seen, and that it all points to Rihei being the killer. Except. Touma tuns to Hassaku and the camera viewpoint finally changes so we can see his face directly for the first time in the story. Except, that Hassaku has been lying to everyone all this time, and especially to himself. He actually had seen the killer's face at the time, and the shock was so great that he'd blocked it from his mind. The real killer was Kyouko all along. She'd made the call luring Kikuchi to the docks on the island. Then she'd taken her boat over, met the guy at the shipping containers, killed him, brought his body back to her house and hid it and the money under the covers of her father's bed (which the police hadn't checked during their search of her house). She also spread the parts from a different engine on the deck of her boat so that when the police arrived, it had looked like her boat was dead in the water. When Hassaku met her to say that the police were going to arrest Rihei, Kyouko was in the process of dumping Kikuchi's body into a construction site in the middle of the bay. The police pull a bag out of the water, and Kyouko's one chance at having a new life disappears just like that. Later, Hassaku has gotten over the loss of his "Madonna," and is now close friends with Rinko.


Shiroi Karasu (The White Crow, Shonen Magajin R, 2017)


(Kana tells her idea for a story the newspaper club should run.)

Kana is at her school, trying to give her friends in the newspaper club a story to print - a guy buys a turtle, but it escapes its aquarium. He then gets a baby crocodile, and it then escapes, too. Later, sewer workers encounter a gigantic turtledile that is impervious to their guns. The club writers aren't impressed, so Touma says that he'd actually seen something even more unusual - a white crow. Kana gets disgusted at being upstaged by something so blatantly impossible that she throws a tantrum and refuses to help him clean up the school yard at the end of the day. But then Touma gets a phone call and he drops everything to go help someone.

The scene changes to follow university student Eito Katta. He's having money problems, and is unable to pay for his classes this quarter. When he gets home, his mother tells him that his grandfather has died and has left them some kind of an inheritance. She can't be bothered to go to the reading of the will (there's been bad blood between her and the other family members), but if he wants, he can go in her place. The grandfather, Kouzou Iwanuma, had made a fortune running a gold mining company in Peru, and the money will be split four ways, between Kayo, Kouzou's first wife; Chihaya, his oldest daughter; Eito; and Hinano, Kouzou's second wife and widow. Chihaya hates Hinano, and is really unhappy with Touma and Kana also being at the reading. The lawyer, Makoto Sendai, doesn't know why the two kids are there, either, but they were named as part of the requirements of the reading, and they aren't actually getting any of the money, so Chihaya tolerates their presence. Makoto says that the company had gone bankrupt, and all that remains of the old man's estate is 7,000,000 yen in cash. Between the four of them, that comes out to about $17,500 USD each. Chihaya and Kayo argue that that can't be right, and Hinano leaves, saying that she doesn't want the money, she just can't stand all the bickering. Having finished his duties, Makoto also leaves, but Eito spots the lawyer and the widow outside, laughing and joking together. Eito demands to know what Touma knows, and our hero says that the lawyer has laid a trap for them. Kouzou had a lot of bank accounts, but the lawyer had only showed them the bank book for one of them. They should try tracking down the other accounts and see what's in those. However, Touma is still angry with Kana, and he leaves, telling her that if she's so concerned about these people getting cheated, she should help them herself.

From here, Kana comes up with a plan worthy of Touma - they're going to fake a big gold discovery in Peru, and that the speculator finding the gold is going to make a deal with the lawyer such that he'll need the lawyer's approval to wire the profits to Kouzou's bank. This will force Makoto to identify Kouzou's main bank account in some way, letting them locate the correct bank book to see for themselves where all the money really is. Chihaya and Kayo love this idea, while Eito just goes along for the ride to be able to pay for his classes. To make this work, they need someone to play the part of a metals speculator, and to have a large house for the actor to meet Makoto in. Chihaya knows just the actor, and Kayo's closest friend has a house they can borrow. Kana creates a fake website announcing the metals discovery to back up the speculator's claims. Kana meets the actor at a bar, and he turns out to be an alcoholic. Kayo's friend's house has posters on the walls for a bunch of get-rich schemes. So, both the actor and the house need to be cleaned up. On the day of the meeting, the lawyer arrives and gets introduced to the speculator, as Eito, Chihaya and Kayo watch through a partly open door. The actor slips up a couple times, but recovers at the end and seemingly hooks Makoto completely.


(As Makoto guides Eito and Chihaya through the storage shed, Kana climbs into Kouzou's office to photograph the correct bank book.)

The lawyer gives the actor the bank and recipient account information, but the group is still stuck because the bank book they want is in a drawer in Kouzou's office, and only the lawyer has a key to the door. Kana suggests that they email Makoto saying that there's a problem with the information he'd given them, and ask him to reconfirm the account number. Makoto is forced to return to Kouzou's house, and finds himself surrounded by a bunch of over-eager people. He refuses to let any of the people named in the will into the office, but allows Kana into the room to "keep him honest." While he's digging through the desk drawer for the correct book, Kana edges over to a window and slides the lock open. Makoto leaves, locking the door again, and Eito and Chihaya force him into opening up a storage shed in the back of the house. He lets them in, and points out all the artwork on the shelves, saying that this is all worthless junk, replicas and forgeries that have been removed from the house and are to be disposed of. Meanwhile, Kana runs across the roof of the house and drops down into the office, where she finds the correct bank book and takes a photo of it with her smartphone. Later, the group reconvenes, and Kana shows them the picture she took - it's of the correct page, and there really is only about $70,000 left.

Questions: What happened to all the money? Is the lawyer cheating with Kouzou's widow somehow? After all these charades, is Eito going to have to drop out of school anyway? How about Chihaya - are her two kids going to go hungry? And what is Kayo going to live on since she's too old to find a job? And how long is Kana going to be angry at Touma?

The only math is a reference to the logic question of "how do you prove all crows are black?"

--- Spoilers ---

Kana confronts the three heirs, and tells them that none of them deserve even the $17,000  each they'll be getting. All that junk in the storeroom? Kayo, the first wife bought all that. She's an airhead easily duped by her friend into paying for fake art, and buying into every get-rich scheme that comes along. That's why Kouzou divorced her. Chihaya is just as bad, putting large chunks of her father's money into a theater to bank roll her drunk actor friend. And, while she claims to only be thinking about her children, she spends all her remaining money on herself in order to wear designer clothes and drive expensive cars. Finally, the only time Eito ever visited his grandfather was when he wanted to ask for money. The reason he can't afford his classes is that he keeps losing at pachinko. The three finally shut up and accept what little they are bequeathed.

However. The phone call Touma had received was from Kouzou, when he was lying on his deathbed. The two were chess partners, and Kouzou wanted to ask the boy how to keep his greedy relatives from taking more of his money. He's in love with his current wife, and wants everything to go to her. Touma comments that this is like proving that all crows are black. He and Kana devise a plan to let the remaining heirs "discover for themselves" that there's no money left in the estate.  During the scam, which both Makoto and Hinano were in on, Eito had commented that that "Touma guy" is kind of smart, and Kana had answered back that he's in a whole other world apart from theirs. Now that the plan has played out and Touma thinks that Kouzou would have approved of the outcome, Kana asks why he'd embarrassed her in front of the newspaper club by making such an outrageous claim. He says that he really did see a white crow, and he takes her to a crossover bridge in the city to show her the white crow flying in with the rest of the flock. Kana is happy knowing that an event like this can be the link between her world and Touma's. Touma doesn't know what she's talking about.



Summary: I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I prefer the Q.E.D. stories that are math and science based. The ones in this volume are ok, but I dislike the "protagonist as first person narrator" spins when the reader isn't told everything that the narrator knows. And we get that plot twist type in both chapters this time. When the narrator lies to the reader, it's like they're lying to themselves at the same time, and that undermines their value as a narrator. Anyway, the artwork is good, and I'd just recently read about the crows problem in a book by Martin Gardner on recreational math problems, so that was fun, too. Recommended if you like the series.

Friday, November 10, 2017

C.M.B. volume 36 review


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

C.M.B., vol. 36, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B+


(Visiting the temple Chantam made.)

Yama no Ishi (Doctor in the Mountain, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2017)

Tatsuki and Shinra are in Tibet, relaxing after Shinra finished helping the head priest of a Hindu temple recover their "treasures." The priest says that there's someone that also needs the boy's assistance, and introduces a young doctor-in-training to them, a guy named Yamtam. Yamtam grew up in Tibet, and was under the tutelage of an experienced herbalist named Chantam. Chantam was a big believer in examining all elements of the patient before making a diagnosis (such as noticing a leaf on a sick girl's sweater as an indication that she'd secretly eaten a wild plant before coming home and then collapsing. Without seeing the leaf, Yamtam would have accidentally prescribed the wrong medication.) Chantam died of old age a little while ago, bequeathing his fortune to Yamtam to allow him to enter a western university and study western medical practices, but only if the guy can solve a series of puzzles to show that he's ready for the challenge. The first clue is a piece of mountain coral. Yamtam is lost on his own and needs Shinra's help. At the same time, though, three villagers overhear their conversation and rush up into the mountains to steal Chantam's fortune for themselves.

Questions: What's the secret of the coral? How does it relate to the fortune? Is there a real fortune? Do the thieves get to it first? Does Yamtam decide to leave Tibet to go to a foreign university?

Natural history: A description of mountain coral, and lots of traditional Tibetan artwork.
Payment: Nothing specifically mentioned

--- Spoilers ---

Millions of years ago, Tibet used to be under the ocean, which is where the coral came from. Over time, continental plate shifting pushed the land up out of the ocean, and resulted in the formation of the Himalayan mountain range. That's why sea coral can still be found at the tops of the mountains and is called "mountain coral". The thieves go up into the foothills, and locate one of the coral sites under a mound of rocks, but the rocks collapse, injuring all three of them. Yamtam discovers the men and treats their broken bones for free, shaming the guys into apologizing and confessing their plans to him. They return to the village and promise to turn over a new leaf. Shinra and Yamtam work together at nearly the same speed to identify a small temple that Chantam had constructed in the mountains, and had decorated with various paintings, sculptures and other artwork. The paintings depict Yamtam on a spiritual and physical journey, and if taken at face value are completely misleading. But, when interpreted properly point to a second door frame hidden around the front door. Closing the front door and then pushing from the inside causes the second door to open, revealing a very narrow secret stairway leading to the second floor. Yamtam goes up the stairs and finds a small box filled with precious stones worth a fortune. Having seen Shinra's grasp of western science and history, Yamtam prays to the memory of his teacher and pledges to leave Tibet, and then return when he has become a better doctor.





(The death of Kon Souka.)

Rubaya-to no Monogatari (Tale of Rubaiyat, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2017)
Ok, if you're not familiar with the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, then you're going to need a fair bit of background filled in for this next 2-part story to make sense. Omar Khayyam was a mathematician and astronomer who lived in Persia from 1048-1131 AD. His greatest contributions to science include his work on cubic equations, and his efforts at calendar reform. However, his name is most closely associated with a selection of poems (ruba'i is the Arabic word for a 4-line poem in quatrain format with an AABA or AAAA rhyming scheme). Omar was not known as a poet in his lifetime, and it was only through the writings of historian Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani (a younger contemporary of Omar's) that Khayyam was ever identified as a poet. Quatrains from that period have then been assigned to Omar, which may or may not have actually been written by him. The Rubaiyat did not attain any level of recognition in the west until the English poet and writer Edward Fitzgerald started printing his English translations around 1861.

The second major player in this story is going to be Hassan-e Sabbah. Hassan lived around 1034 to 1124, and was a Nizari Isma'ili missionary who converted a Persian community, in the 1090's, in the heart of the Alborz mountains. He then later seized the mountain fortress, Alamut, and founded a group of fedayeen that eventually gained the name "hashshasheen" (AKA: "assassins"). Although the wikipedia entries do not indicate that Omar knew Hassan in any way, Motohiro has them growing up as friends, with Omar being a carefree, wine-loving dilettante, and Hassan as the more serious, unamused one of the pair.

Now, the story. Things start out in Persia, with Hassan meeting Omar in town, and Omar ribbing him with a short poem about drinking (which is against Hassan's religion), which is then immediately recorded by a young boy named Safeed. (Safeed follows Omar everywhere and writes down every poem that Omar recites). Hassan is not amused. Then we jump to the present, where a Japanese guy visits an antiquities dealer in Tehran, Iran, claiming to have an original printing of the Peacock Edition of the Rubayat of Omar Khayyam, and asks the dealer to buy it at a high price. The dealer looks vexed and tells him to wait in a back room while he speaks to a new customer. The Japanese, Kon Souka, goes into a storage room, locks the door from the inside, and gleefully starts opening the chests and cabinets to look at the treasures there. Suddenly, he's stabbed to death, and a bloody knife lands on the ground next to his body.

A few days later, Anaheeta, a female archeologist, calls in Shinra to help deal with the scandal. The local police aren't interested in the case, thinking it's just a suicide. But, Anaheeta believes there's more to it than that, since the Rubaiyat the dealer saw wasn't in the room when the door was broken down. Sangorski and Sutcliffe is a British bookbinding company that was commissioned in 1911 to create a printing of the Rubaiyat in jewels and gems with 3 peacocks on the cover. This book was lost at sea when it sunk along with the Titanic when it was being sent to the U.S. in 1912. There were a couple of other "peacock editions" printed, but their locations are also well documented. If what Kon had was the real thing, it would be worth a fortune. Anaheeta says that a prince in Qatar had been asking after the book, and that this may be Shinra's first lead. The boy and Tatsuki fly to Qatar and meet the prince, Asfar, and his assistant, Sakanir. They both state that they knew the book Kon carried was a replica, but they'd been told that Kon's boss, a treasure hunter named Bruno, thinks he knows where the original Rubaiyat can be found and wants backers for the expedition.

Shinra flies to Italy and meets Bruno, along with 2 employees - a dark-skinned guy named Plum, and the lighter-skinned woman, Rose. Plum shows Tatsuki the shark bite scars on his arm to demonstrate that treasure hunting is a dangerous job. Bruno discounts Kon as a dealer-wannabe that had kind of forced himself on Bruno. The current discussion is that Omar's own writings are buried in a mountain ruins that could be the original location of Alamut, and Bruno needs someone to front the cash to start an excavation. Rose is staunchly in the "it's there" camp, while Plum is more skeptical. Shinra returns to Tehran to inspect the storeroom Kon was killed in. The room has a small, barred window in one wall, and Tatsuki notices someone looking into the room through the window, so she bolts outside and chases the suspect down.


(Omar tries to save someone whose throat was cut by Hassan.)

In the second half of the story, Tatsuki catches the suspect, only to realize that it's Asfar's assistant, Sakanir. The guy claims he's doing his own investigations to ensure that Bruno isn't trying to rip off his boss. The story then unfolds with Hassan becoming more murderous in killing off infidels and Omar unable to prevent his friend from disappearing into the darkness. Hassan visits Omar one last time, to say "goodbye." He and his men are relocating to Alamut, and he's never coming back to Samarkand. As a farewell gift, Omar gives Safeed's book of rubaiyats to Hassan and the guy leaves in the night. Shinra, Tatsuki, Sakanir, Asfir, Bruno, Rose and Plum travel to Samarkand and inspect the area where Bruno wants to host his dig. Rose keeps talking about this having to be the place, and Plum constantly raining on her parade. Bruno is more optimistic, and Sakanir looks ready to bring out his checkbook. The group stays the night in a kind of inn converted from an old brick and timber grain silo. During the dinner, Plum says he's going outside for a cigarette. A few minutes later, there's a heavy thud. Everyone rushes out, where they find Plum lying dead on the ground near the door. There's a smudgy hand print on the back of his shirt, indicating he'd gone to the top of the silo and had been pushed off, but Sakanir's bodyguards were stationed in the area and they claim they hadn't seen anyone close to Plum on the top of the silo.

Questions: Who killed Kon Souka in the locked storeroom, and did they steal the Peacock Rubaiyat? Are they the same ones that killed Plum? Why kill Plum at all - was he silenced for knowing something? Why haven't Omar's original writings been discovered before, and are they waiting in Alamut for Bruno to uncover them now?

Payment: Shinra gets the Peacock edition of the Rubaiyat that Kon had been carrying.
Natural history: Lots of background on Omar, Hassan, the Rubaiyat and grain silo architecture.

--- Spoilers ---

Shinra realizes that the locked room mystery and the falling body mystery are related, and point directly to the killer's motive. Boiled down, Bruno had sent Kon to Sakanir with a known replica of the Peacock edition of the Rubaiyat specifically to sucker the Prince into funding the excavation of the suspected Alamut site. Unfortunately, Kon didn't recognize the book as a fake and attempted to sell it on the black market to line his own pockets. The antiquities dealer knew something fishy was going on and didn't want any of his customers to think he was handling fakes, and had sent Kon to the storeroom to get him out of the way. The killer didn't want their own plans disrupted, and killed Kon by stabbing him with a spear though the barred window, and used the same spear to lift up the book (which was wrapped up in a scarf) and remove it from the room before the dealer could look at it more closely. (The knife was just something Kon had been looking at in the storeroom at the time.) Later, Plum's pessimistic claims that Omar's original wouldn't be found at Alamut sealed his own fate. The top of the silo was covered with loose wooden planks, and when Plum was walking around up there, smoking his cigarette, the killer used a pole and the support beams within the silo to lever the plank Plum stood on to force him to fall to the ground. The killer then simply used the dust in the ground to draw a palm print on the back of Plum's shirt to make it look like he was pushed, while also attempting to frame Bruno for the incident. In fact, the killer is Rose, and she did everything to make sure nothing stopped the dig for Alamut from going forward. Now that the scam has been revealed, Sakanir decides against giving Bruno his funding. As for the original Rubaiyat... Hassan had it placed in a crate, which was included with everything else on the caravan going to the new hideout. But, during the trip the caravan encountered a sandstorm. That specific crate was blown loose by the strong winds, and it vanished into the sands. Centuries later, the grapes inside the crate had taken root next to a river, and the tree that grew from them became a landmark for desert travelers in need of water. The story closes with an old man commenting that alcohol is what connects people from the past to the present, with a picture of Omar standing and holding a cup of wine.



(Shinra shows off his fake mermaid to Kick.)

Kasumi-sou Jiken (Kasumi-so Case, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2017)
Kikuno Tanabata (Kick) is back. She's still a neophyte on the Tokyo Police detective squad, and is accompanying one of the older detectives as he makes the rounds of his snitches, looking for leads. One particular snitch mentions a smuggling ship coming in to the docks that night, and the detective pays him for the tip. Kick asks if they're going to the docks then, and the guy laughs at her, saying "no." Based on his gut feeling, it's a false lead, but she can go instead if she wants to. Being the gung ho rookie, she spends the night outside in the cold and rain and shows up for work the next day, sick. A second veteran detective takes her on his own rounds, and a homeless man tells them that he's heard a rumor that some old guy in town disappeared and a suspicious man has been hanging around the victim's house since then. Kick thinks this is a true lead, and she drags her "sempai" (older coworker) with her to the house. There, they find a guy in a business suit waffling in front of the house. When confronted by the police, the guy introduces himself as Kunihiro Kikuo. His father owns the house, and he'd gotten worried that something was wrong when he'd not heard from his father in a long time. Now that the police are there, he'd like them to go into the house with him to check on the old man. The inside of the house is a shambles, there's some blood on the floor, and the safe has been emptied out. The old man had been renting the place to college students who apparently trashed it. Kunihiro says that he'd been approached by a strange guy from a construction contracting company, who'd given him a business card. Kick and her sempai check out the address - it's an abandoned warehouse, but there's a truck nearby with a shovel in the flatbed. Kick takes a sample of the dirt, but no one in the department wants to commit the resources to find out where the dirt came from.

So, Kick visits Shinra to ask for help. The boy isn't very enthusiastic, until he discovers a yamato senburi in the dirt sample, a rare alderfly thought to have gone extinct in 1957, but had been rediscovered in 1994. Shinra keeps the alderfly as payment, and pinpoints the dirt as coming from a specific region in the countryside. Kick and her partner go there, and poke around in the woods until they locate a fresh patch of dirt, and a hand that's buried underneath. A DNA sample indicates that the hand probably belongs to Kunihiro's father, who is then presumed dead. Kick visits Shinra again to thank him for his help, but the boy takes her to a glass display case to show off the small mermaid body inside. It's a fake, one that had been manufactured by sewing the lower half of a fish to the upper half of a monkey some time between the 1600 and 1800's, and part of an ongoing trade in hoaxes. This is the boy's way of hinting that Kick should be looking more closely into the case.

Questions: What does Shinra's hint mean? Who killed Kunihiro's father, and where's the rest of the body?

Payment: The alderfly.
Natural history: Just the information about the alderfly and the mermaid fake.
Note: "-sou" is Japanese for "apartment block" or dormitory. Therefore, "Kasumi-sou jiken" would be "The Kasumi Dormitories Case."

--- Spoilers ---

Kiku and her partner are in a restaurant eating dinner when the news comes on the TV, showing Kunihiro being interviewed by a news crew. Kick notices something and jumps up in shock. Three month's later, Kunihiro is at a law office, preparing to sign the paperwork for taking over his father's estate, when Kick and the rest of the police department arrive to arrest him. Kick explains that Kunihiro is a con man who would pose as the beneficiary of different estates, and then sell off the houses and land for a profit. The real owner of the house was simply some old guy that suffered from dementia and wandered away one day. Kunihiro staged the entry into the house with the police, the abandoned contractor's office and the pickup truck with the dirty shovel to create the story that something had happened to "his" father, and to make the police complicit in the scam. In fact, the hand that was found in the woods did indeed belong to Kunihiro's own father, who had died of natural causes some weeks earlier. Kunihiro had cut it off the corpse around the time of the funeral to ensure there'd be DNA linking him to the "owner" of the house. What had broken open the case for Kick was seeing the original snitch on TV in the background behind Kunihiro during the interview. She uses this case to show that she is learning to trust her intuition, too.



 

Summary: Well, yes. I do like these books. They're a quick read, and I like the natural history parts. The artwork is good when it's based on real-life photos, although the character designs occasionally suffer from inconsistency and small feet. The mystery set ups can be awfully forced at times, and I don't always buy the characters' motivations. I liked the artwork for Doctor in the Mountain, and the secret doorway. Rubaiyat was pretty good, although the link between Omar and Hassan seems extremely weak (I wouldn't know, though. I don't know anything about the history of Omar Khayyam). The Kasumi-sou Case was also kind of weak, and I don't really care for the entire "gung ho rookie cop" storyline. I liked the information on fake Japanese mermaids, though. Overall, not too bad. Recommended if you like the series.