Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yoi Otoshi-wo

2014 is the Chinese lunar calendar Year of the Horse. All of the Christmas decorations were removed from Tenmonkan and Amupla by the 26th and replaced with the New Year decorations.

I'm probably not going to be able to update this blog for a day or two, so early "Happy New Year".

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tekken Flipbook

This is the flipbook I did at the Tekken exhibit. I only wanted to do the one book (50 pages) and I spent 3 hours at it. There was no light table or ability to register the pages to each other, and the green pencil kept breaking when I tried to draw in the grass. On top of that, the green color wouldn't scan for the first 5-10 pages when I put it into the computer. But, the final result comes close to the effect I was going for.

Youtube video

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ferris Wheel

Last Friday, I rode the ferris wheel at the top of the main train station building.

(Hello Kitty handwarmer muffs.)


It was windy. I don't like being more than 10 stories up in a Ferris wheel when it's windy.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

C.M.B. volume 04 review

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

C.M.B., vol. 04, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Title splash page.)

Yudaya no Zaihou (Judean Fortune, Monthly Shonen Magajn, 2006).
This story is unusual in that it takes up all four chapters of the book. Things start out with an Israeli archeologst named Carl making a phone call and saying that he's discovered the "Judean Fortune". He next shows up dead in a small stall at the Colosseum with a 3-tonged pitchfork through his stomach. Immediately after, black government vehicles pull up at the Nanase sento, and Shinra gets out. Seems that the murder of a Jewish worker in the jurisdiction of the Vatican, over the possible existence of Jewish artifacts within the Roman ruins is threatening to blow up into an international conflict, so the Vatican contacted the British Museum to be a third party mediator. Which of course means that Shinra is being asked to fly to Italy, but he won't go unless Tatsuki goes with. Mr. and Mrs. Nanase see this as a chance for a family vacation, and the company that had employed Carl is willing to foot the bill. While they're gone, Japanese secret service stay behind and run the sento.

(Tatsuki is the only one that doesn't want to go to Italy for free.)

On the plane, Tatsuki encounters the company's president, the Israeli Jamie Charles. Her company had been contracted by the Israeli government to search Roman ruins for Jewish artifacts. In Rome, the older Nanase's do the tourist thing, while the others meet up with the authorities trying to solve the case: Cardinal Saul, Vatican security member Carlo McPhearson (a member of the Knights Hospitaller), and Israeli investigator Hanna Greenfield.

(Hanna and Carlo don't like each other. They make accusations about why a trident was used as the murder weapon.)

Carl's death is immediately suspicious in that the handle of the trident is 9 feet long and would jam up against the walls around the maze-like area that Carl was found in. And, anyone trying to throw the weapon down into the stall while standing on top of the wall wouldn't have a foot hold for getting leverage with the trident. So, essentially this is another closed room mystery. A second member of Jamie's company, Walter, stole Carl's research data and disappeared. That night, someone dressed up as a knight attacks Jamie and Tatsuki on the street with a sword, and Jamie thinks it's Walter. The next day, the Vatican police locate Walter in a hotel room and burst in while he's shaving. Walter looks up and sees Carlo, Jamie and Hanna in the midst of the police group and points his finger, saying "you killed Carl". He lunges for a pistol in his luggage, and someone hits one of the cops in the back. The cop instinctively pulls the trigger and shoots Walter in the head.

(Tatsuki and Jamie enjoy some of the Italian night-life.)

The police search the room but the research data can't be found. As the body is carried out on a stretcher, Shinra notices that Walter has a braided band on his left wrist. Later, Shinra and Tatsuki are having dinner with her parents, and Shinra comments that he needs to learn more about that wristband. Mr. Nanase holds his hand up and says "You mean, one like this?" He adds that some stranger had been accosting all the Japanese tourists in the area, putting wristbands on them and that he can't get this one off. Shinra and Tatsuki track down the the stranger, who points them to a souvenir seller that hands over a packet, commenting that she's supposed to give it to the first Japanese that approaches her. In the packet are ground-penetrating radar images of the area around the Colosseum, but the images are marked showing that what's buried there is simple stone; i.e. - statue relics. A few minutes later, another knight, this time on a horse, attacks Shinra with a spear, and steals the data.

(Shinra speculates over what the Jewish fortune might be, implying that Carlo may be behind part of the conspiracy.)

All along, the Cardinal and Carlo have been acting suspiciously. Carlo tells Shinra that he thinks that the Judean Treasure is either the Ark of the Covenant, the urn that contained Manna from God, or the Rod of Aaron. The latter two items were to have been put into the Ark, along with the first Torah scroll. The problem is that the Ark had been in the first temple - (Solomon's Temple), which had supposedly been destroyed in 586 BCE when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon.

(The police find Walter, but not the stolen data.)

The second temple of Solomon was built in 516 BCE and disappeared in 70 CE. No one knows where the Ark was taken, but it shouldn't be around Italy. Conversely, Jamie tells Tatsuki that whatever the treasure was, Walter and Carl got into a dispute and Carl was killed over money. Tatsuki asks Jamie about why she started her company, and the woman replies that she'd taken it over from her father, who was also an archeologist until his death a few years earlier.

(Shinra talks about Pope Benedict XIV, who decided in the 1700's to protect the Colosseum from dismantling by people wanting to use the stone for other construction projects.)

Questions: How was Carl killed if the trident wouldn't fit in the corridors around the stall he was found in? Who stole Carl's research data? Who were the "knights" that attacked Jamie and Shinra? If the research data only indicates rock ruins near the Arch of Titus (dedicated to Titus' older brother, who led the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (when the second temple was destroyed) does it mean that there's no treasure? Was a trident chosen as the weapon to send the message that the Christian devil is involved, or because it's the weapon used to spear Christ on the cross? Why did Pope Benedict the 14th insist on keeping the Colosseum in good repair while the other Roman ruins were allowed to slip into decay? Does Jamie's father have any bearing on what has been happening?

(Tatsuki tells Shinra to keep out of the way with the recovered data while she deals with the mounted knight.)

Lots of history. While we do get to see inside the Vatican a little bit (with a cameo appearance by the Pope), and there's some mention of ruins like the Arch of Titus and the Roman Forum, the majority of the discussion revolves around the history of the Jewish people, the first and second temples of Solomon, the creation of the Colosseum, and Pope Benedict XIV.

(The back cover shows the "admissions price" to the Wunderkammer.)

Comments: There's lots of misdirection this time, and turning the story book-length makes it feel fairly drawn out. The first trick, with the trident still wouldn't right as explained at the end, and the motive may or may not make sense depending on what religion you're from. Motohiro kind of makes an unfounded historical leap to justify the "Judean Fortune", and true archeologists may raise objections to it. Still, it's an entertaining story, and Tatsuki's parents get to have fun in Italy for a while. It makes for a funny scene when the Japanese secret service take over the cleaning duties of the sento while the family is gone. Plus, we get to see Tatsuki fight a horse. Shinra's payment for opening the Wunderkammer is an authentic Vatican Guard uniform.

One more side note: Tatsuki makes a big deal about having to leave Japan with Shinra, as do her parents until they learn that they're going to get a free vacation out of this. However, Tatsuki follows Shinra around the world to other locations in later books and there's no further conflict about it. Why she stops complaining is never explained.

Friday, December 27, 2013

C.M.B. volume 3 review

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

C.M.B., vol. 3, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Tatsuki working in the family's public baths.)

Ushinawareta Reri-fu (Lost Relief, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2006).
Sho Bentley is the chief researcher at the British Museum, and he's very upset that the previous curators gave all three rings to some Japanese kid as playthings. He talks to a colleague, who tells him that the easiest way to get a ring is to have the boy hand it over voluntarily. Sho takes his private chef, Linda, to Japan, where they arrive at the Shinra museum just as the boy complains that he's got no visitors. Not having a ladder leading up to the second floor isn't helping things. Sho insults the museum for having trash, and displays with no one to look at them, and challenges the boy for one of the rings. Seems that a few days ago a ship arrived in Tokyo carrying an Aztec stone relief carving. The carving is broken into several large pieces, and the central piece is missing. The bet is to see who can find the thief that took the missing piece. Shinra adds that if the missing piece isn't found, being able to say what goes over the altar of the relief will be sufficient. Sho assumes that the answer is "a human sacrifice" or "a human heart". While Sho runs around Tokyo trying to track down his suspect, Tatsuki yells at Shinra for not taking the gamble more seriously. She's learning that having the rings means that you can amass as much money as you want to conduct research or obtain exhibits, and that they're really valuable. Shinra's main clue to her is the Scrotum Humanum (misspelled in the book as "Scrotum Humnum"), a dinosaur bone that actually looked more like a fossilized human scrotum. That is, be careful about how you view things.

(Shinra does his big reveal to Sho and Linda. The key point is that the two human figures aren't looking in the same direction.)

Questions: What does Shinra's clue mean when applied to the relief? Where is Sho's thief and what happened to the missing piece of the relief? What goes above the altar on the carving? While Shinra is risking one of the rings, Sho's part of the bet is a gold statue from Columbia.

The science involves Aztec sacrifice practices, Carl Linnaeus' view on the purpose of a museum, and the mention of the "humanum scrotum".

(Urban legend about a bamboo sprouting out of a corpse.)

Toshi Densetsu (Modern legend, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2006).
A few of the girls are trading ghost stories in school, and the boys laugh at Shinra for thinking that they're true. The first is a body found in the trunk of a car in the forest, where the dead victim apparently called a road side service company from a cellphone with dead batteries. The second is a body found in a tree next to a busy street - the victim had been dead for months but no one noticed until Autumn when the leaves fell from the branches. The third is a body found in a bamboo thicket, a bamboo sprout apparently growing out from the corpse. Shinra eventually realizes that the 3 stories are related and may have been originally spread by 1 person, with the implication that there may be one more story that hasn't surfaced yet. Meanwhile, Tatsuki is wondering who is preparing Shinra's meals, and he tells her that "Shige" has been feeding him at night. They go to a teishoku (set dinner) restaurant called "Kanariya" (Canary), run by Shigeko Kanamori. Shigeko used to be a singer, but her throat gave out and she had to quit the band. She hasn't been in contact with the other members since then, but the photos she has in the shop from that time indicates that she has a strange sense of humor. Additionally, she knows of Shinra's upbringing and the fact that he was adopted by the "three fathers" of the British Museum. She comments that Shinra's mother was a bit "weird", and had died when Shinra was 4.

(Mihama likes to play the saw.)

Tatsuki and all the other classmates go running around Tokyo trying to track down the person starting the urban folk tales. He turns out to be the owner of the Mihama music instruments store, and is currently buying a wicked looking saw at a DIY home supplies shop. They follow him to a shed, where he claims to be fixing up an old boat, which he'll paint "bone white". The kids are convinced that the old man is planning to kill someone, so they try to sneak back into the shed, only to be caught when Mihama calls the police on them. During this, Shinra is in his museum, feeling lonely because no one is visiting him. He talks about this with Shigeko, and she tells him to make friends, who can then become customers. He takes this the wrong way, and tries to attract visitors by showing them his mummified poisonous frog. This backfires, and Tatsuki promises to help him as "payment" to the Wunderkammer. Shinra invites everyone to the boat shed, and unravels the mystery. As thanks, some of the students print up free tickets to the Shinra Museum, which includes a much-needed map. Questions: How are the 3 ghost stories related, and why is Mihama spreading them? What's the fourth story? Is there a reason why Shigeko's restaurant is named Kanariya?

(Lyrics to the children's song, "Canary".)

No science, beyond the social effects involved in the spreading popularity of urban legends. The story revolves around the lyrics of a popular children's song.

(Back cover)

Comments: The solution to the trick in "Lost Relief" was pretty obvious, and is a common children's puzzle using paper cutouts. However, we are told that Shinra is age 14 right now, and we get to see Tatsuki mopping the floor of her family's sento. Tatsuki talks Shinra out of accepting the gold statue from Sho at the end of the chapter, and it looks like the boy doesn't receive a "payment" this time. In "Modern legend", we learn a little bit about Shinra's mother, and the fact that at least one person in Tokyo knows background information on him. Neither of the stories are earthshattering, but they are fun if you like science with your puzzles.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Betting Swullets

Back in the 80's, when MTV still played music videos, there was one specific video that just blew everyone's mind when it first came out. It consisted of a series of green screen images that allowed 3 to 5 copies of each band member to interact with themselves pretty realistically within an insane asylum. There was one really nice sequence where the camera keeps pulling back out through the peep hole in the iron doors to go from one cell to the next over and over again.

Youtube link

I've been thinking about that video for the last year or so, but all of my google searches came up empty. Suddenly, Monday night while the radio was playing a heavy metal flashback show featuring just about every major 80's metal band you can think of (Bon Jovi, Metalhead, Dreamscape), they wrapped the program up with Megadeth's Sweating Bullets. That first line "Hello me, meet the real me", had me jumping for google. And now, finally I've gotten my hands on that video again! Happy Christmas to me!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

UFO Kitties

The other day, I was in the game center at Amupla, and I figured I might as well take photos of the Hello Kitty plush toys to send to Bill Griffith. I've always been leery of openly using a camera in game arcades because I expect the employees to tell me I can't do that and to put the camera away. But, both of the staff walked past me as I was taking a shot and neither of them said anything. So, I took pictures of ALL of the machines, plus one of the cellphone straps/keychains promoting the new Conan/Lupin III crossover movie.

On a side note, I got a letter in the mail from Bill saying that he used some of my photos for three of his Zippy the Pinhead strips scheduled to run around the week of Jan. 17. He included printouts of the strips, and they're all as surreal as you'd expect from Zippy.

I didn't bother trying to get any of the toys because the new UFO Catcher machines are programmed to not pick up anything until you, or whoever was in front of you, spends x amount of money (where "x" is significantly more than the plush is worth).

The Lupin III x Conan crossover movie tie-ins.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, 2013

From me -

And from Kagoshima -

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sakurajima Snow

On Dec. 20, we had rain and falling temperatures. This resulted in the Sakurajima volcano being snow-capped in time for the holidays (it melted off by the next day, though). Looked pretty, while it lasted...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tenmonkan XMas Event


As I was walking home from work on Saturday, Dec. 21, I noticed that a stage was being set up in Tenmonkan, in the wider intersection in front of the 7-11. According to the sign board, the show wouldn't start until 5:30 PM, and it would only run until 8 PM. I went home and did some work on the computer, then returned to Tenmonkan right around 7 PM. At that point, Southern Cross was just walking off the stage and the last act, Bon DX, wouldn't start for another 15 minutes. To kill the time, the radio jocks MCing the event - the Tenmonkan XMas Live - introduced JKM. Note that the temperature had dropped down to about freezing, so it must not have been all that much fun for the performers who couldn't bundle up.

Line up:
Yuka Kokarina
Ryouhira Morita
Bon DX


When I first saw him at a different event a couple months ago, I joked that his name was Just Kidding, Man. Actually, it's Janken-man, where Janken is the Japanese name for Rock-Paper-Scissors. JKM was giving away cellphone straps, and he held a couple rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine the winners. Then he handed out a couple more to the children in the audience.

(Bon DX. The shochu table is barely visible in the background.))

After that, Bon DX (Deluxe) took the stage and played 5-6 Japanese SKA songs. Half were too slow for me, but the other half were interesting enough that I recorded them on my digital camera. The most energetic of the group was the one below, which I think is called "Gambare" (Try your best). It was a good set, and some of the best live music I've heard in Japan in a long time.

(Bon DX)

The event was sponsored by a shochu company, which gave away free bottles of Kura no Awa, a sparkling shochu, at the beginning, before I arrived. However, there was a table set up next to the 7-11, and I managed to grab the last paper cup of shochu from the dregs of the last remaining bottle. Essentially, Kura no Awa (awa = bubbles) is carbonated shochu, so it's kind of a high ball. Not bad.

Youtube video

Saturday, December 21, 2013

C.M.B. volume 2 review

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

C.M.B., vol. 2, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Tatsuki, her grandfather, and Det. Kujirazaki. "The caretaker has sworn that"...)

Aoi Biru (Blue Building, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2005).
We get the introduction of the primary police detective that reappears in a few later chapters - Takeshi Kujirazaki. He apparently works in the same building as Q.E.D. Det. Mizuhara, but they don't seem to know each other. Takeshi is a big, gruff guy that doesn't tolerate mistakes from his coworkers, but it's demonstrated pretty quickly that he's more like a bull with its head lowered down when it comes to crime solving. That is, he's not very imaginative, and will lock on to the first viable suspect. In this story, he receives an anonymous letter saying that the culprit in the "blue building assault case" lives in the right-hand apartment of the first floor of the building. The problem is that there is no "blue building" - there's an old 4-building apartment complex, where each of the buildings are painted red on one side, blue on the other, and white on the remaining 2 sides. Plus, the bottom right apartment in the victim's building is unoccupied. In trying to track down the sender of the letter, Takeshi goes to Tatsuki's school, where he encounters the suspicious 2nd-year student Sugihiko Ide. Since Tatsuki's grandfather runs the school, she and Shinra get pulled into the case. Shinra figures things out pretty quickly, and his "price" for giving an explanation is that both Takeshi and Ide visit his museum the next day.

(Shinra likes anything related to the natural world.)

At the same time, Shinra figures that it might be fun to go to school as a student for the first time, so he applies to Meiyuu Private High School. He does poorly on the social studies part of the test, but is at university level for math and science, and he's passable in over 5 languages. The only reason he doesn't try getting into college is that he's got no graduation papers from any other schools. And thus he transfers into Tatsuki's class, where she's afraid he'll give away her secret - that she's a violent tomboy who beats up miscreants as a kind of vigilante. In the case, Ide turns out to be a birdlover, and the only place where the anonymous witness could have seen the assault was from the mountainside home of Ide's mentor, the birdwatching Shinsuke Tatsumi. A couple days later, someone breaks into Tatsumi's house, assaults him with a bat and threatens him to not talk to the police anymore. Questions: Why did the witness refer to a "blue building" and why did they get the room wrong? Who actually witnessed the crime and why won't they come forward to the police? How does Ide's hobby figure into the confusion, and why does Shinra tell Tatsuki about crows that use tools (twigs) to get ants from holes in branches?

There is some science this time, specifically optics, and Shinra spends some time talking about different kinds of birds.

(Awa tells Shinra that he'd made his Noh mask studio to resemble a Noh stage to inspire him as he's working.)

Noroi no Men (The Cursed Mask, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2006). Shinra finishes doing Tatsuki's homework for her and demands his price in return - a black-bellied fish. Tatsuki pulls a trick and gives him a taiyaki (a bean paste-filled pastry in the shape of a fish) instead. It tastes good, so he accepts the payment. Then, a young woman, Keiko Yamagishi, stops by the museum to ask Shinra for help. Seems that a Noh theater mask had been sold to an old man who soon died of natural causes. The seller bought the mask back, and is trying to resell it at a higher price. Det. Kujirazaki had shown a photo of the mask to Keiko, who is a folklore specialist, to get her opinion on it. Turns out that Keiko has been on the lookout for this specific mask for 15 years, and Kujirazaki suggested that she talk to Shinra. Keiko claims that the mask is cursed, and Shinra agrees to help if he can get the mask for his museum. The three go out to an estate in the mountains owned by renowned mask maker Saemon Awa. Awa is the one that had made the cursed mask and he wants it back. Shigekazu Iida is the antiques dealer trying to sell the mask for 3,000,000 yen ($30,000) to be able to pay off some debts that have come due. Other prospective buyers are Seimei Enomoto, a professional Noh actor, and Keiko, who says that the mask holds the secret to her father's death. Her father was an arts critic (Kabuki, Noh, etc.), and 15 years earlier he'd committed suicide, leaving a note behind saying that the mask was cursed.

(Awa works in his studio as the mask watches on.)

Initially, the bidding on the mask stalls at 2,500,000 yen, and Iida wants the group to take an extra day to think over how much they want to spend, so everyone stays in Awa's house for the night. The next morning, Awa is found dead in his workshop, with the mask on a table in front of him and a chisel stuck in his chest. Det. Kujirazaki is called out to investigate the case, and all three suspects think it's clearly suicide - the door was locked from the inside, there's no spare key, and the one window was frozen shut (it snowed during the night). Shinra again says that he'll explain the murder if he gets the mask as payment. When it is supplied to the museum at the end, Tatsuki is outraged that the boy would insist on keeping such a horrible thing that was responsible for 2 deaths. Shinra answers back that things have as much value as people, but what he runs is a museum, which contains skeletons, poisonous reptiles and the tools of war. If people want to look at beautiful things, they can go to an art gallery. So, questions: Is the mask really cursed? What is its real secret? Why does Shinra tell the artist that the mask was poorly made? How could someone get into the locked studio without leaving traces behind, and what would their motive be?

No science. The focus is on the kinds of masks used in Noh theater, and the purpose of the "cursed" one (called deigan ("mud eye"), it's used to represent a jealous wife). There's also a brief discussion of what happens when wooden slats in a wall become dry during the winter.

(Back cover.)

Comments: The artwork starts out pretty strong in the first few chapters of the series. Motohiro already has a fair amount of practice with manga by the time he tackles C.M.B. The tricks aren't all that difficult, and they take a backseat to the natural history lessons regarding birds and Noh masks. The real weakness is still with motive. There's virtually no motive at all in "Blue Building", although it is a bit more reasonable in "The Cursed Mask". Recommended if you like natural history and conventional detective stories.

Friday, December 20, 2013

C.M.B. volume 1 review

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

It's time to tackle Motohiro Katou's second series, C.M.B - Shinra Hakubutsukan no Jikenmokuroku (C.M.B. - The Incident Catalog of The Shinra Museum). Technically, we could say this is a museum of natural history, since the word "museum" in Japan is more often applied to art galleries dedicated to a specific artist. The primary character is Shinra Sakaki, a young boy that was raised as an orphan by the curators of England's Royal Museum. Each of the three curators possessed a ring that identified them as belonging to the museum. The rings are embossed with different single letters, the initials for the words Christus Mansionem Benedicat. The origin of the rings figures into a few of the early stories, but they're given to Shinra to show that he's the next heir to the Royal Museum. In the meantime, he's been sent out to make his way in the world, and he chooses to open his own museum in an old building in Tokyo, where the only way in is to climb a tree to reach the door on the second floor. To Shinra, the world is one large natural history museum, and he's willing to explain its mysteries in return for an admission fee, usually in the form of a priceless artifact, or the promise to visit his museum the next day.

C.M.B., vol. 1, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Tatsuki meets the curator of the Shinra Museum.)

Gitai (Mimicry, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2005).
This is where things start out. The first few pages discuss the era of European exploration, from the late 1400's to about the mid-1800's. Cultured landowners in Europe would collect artifacts brought in from the New World, and display them in rooms in their houses, called Wunderkammer, or "the cabinet of curiousities". Over time, the collections got quite big and work started on building the British Royal Museum, which was established in 1753. To protect the knowledge in the museum, Queen Charlotte knighted three men, established them as curators, and gave them each a royal ring. Together, the rings contain the letters "C", "M" and "B". The meaning of the letters can be thought of as either the initials of the words Christus Mansionem Benedicat (May Christ Bless This House), or the generally accepted names of the Three Wise Men (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar). From here, the story switches to the viewpoint of Tatsuki Nanase, 2nd year student at the famed Meiyuu private high school. She puts on an act of being well-raised, gentle and polite to avoid getting kicked out of the school, but in reality, she's a trained aikido practitioner willing to beat up thugs to protect weaker students. Her friend, Tazaki, is on her way to the biology lab, where her older brother is the teacher. When they arrive, another group of students discover a half-charred corpse lying on the floor of the classroom. Tatsuki notices a strange boy sitting in a tree outside, watching the room with binoculars. She runs outside and gets her bike to chase the boy as he rides the bus out to a Tokyo suburb. She loses him at a bus stop, and guesses that he went through the woods and climbed a tree to get into a house from the second floor. She follows after and discovers that the building is the Shinra Museum.

(Insects get displayed at a collector's meeting.)

Inside, she meets the boy, who introduces himself as Shinra Sakaki, curator. He's excited to have a visitor, and shows off things like a mummified poisonous frog, and an 18th century Italian flintlock sword rifle (which is still loaded; he blows the head off a nearby dinosaur statue). He assures Tatsuki that he's not involved in the crime and she leaves. The police establish that the fingerprints of the arms next to the corpse aren't from Mamoru Tazaki, so the biology teacher isn't dead, but he is now wanted by the police for questioning for a possible homicide. Tatsuki starts reading up on spontaneous human combustion while working at her family's sento (public bath), as the press mercilessly harasses her friend. To track down Mamoru, the police are questioning the 3 people scheduled to visit him that day, although all of them claim that he was a no-show for their appointments, and Tatsuki follows in the police's footsteps. Mamoru was a bug collector, and wanted to show off a very rare insect that he'd just collected. Realizing that she's already met someone that likes bugs, Tatsuki returns to the museum to get Shinra's help. He does agree, but because he's running a museum, he has to charge an "admission fee". He doesn't want money, instead he asks for Mamoru's bug when it's found. Turns out that the "human candle" corpse is just the result of a trick and the killer took the bug. He can't resist showing it off in front of an audience, so Shinra stages an insect society meeting with the help of someone who put up ads for it at Nanase's sento.

As one of the clues to the solution, Shinra talks about mimicry, and how the Walking Stick can protect itself by looking like a plant stalk. First, it has to look the part, and second it has to move such that birds won't notice it. That's the key to finding the murderer, who is indeed one of the three people Mamoru was supposed to meet that one day. Questions: Why was the corpse half-cremated, with the hands and lower torso remaining? Who did it and why? After the case is solved, Tatsuki's friend agrees to let Shinra keep the bug, which is a rare Bhutan Swallowtail.

The science consists of the history of the Royal Museum, a brief discussion of mimicry, and a look at past reports of human combustion. We also get to see all three of Shinra's C.M.B. rings, which he keeps on a necklace around his neck. Additionally, we find out that Shinra is very naive about certain aspects of modern day life, such as what vending machines are and how to open push-tab soda cans (which he wants to open with a blowtorch).

(Yoshiko gets introduced to Shinra.)

Yuurei Hakubutsukan (Ghost in the Museum, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2005).
Yoshiko Tachibana is a security guard at Y Museum, working the night shift to support herself and young son. The museum is in a former bank that had been used as an air raid shelter during WW II, and a shelter during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1925. It also was rumored to have a bank safe that disappeared with all the money of the local familes. The pain and regret of everyone involved has led to the rise of rumors that the basement of the building, which now houses exhibits of rocks and crystals, is haunted. Suddenly, the lights go out and Yoshiko can hear the sounds of people crying. She spooks. Later, she goes to the aikido dojo for practice, where she is friends with Tatsuki Nanase. She tells Tatsuki her problems, and she goes to get Shinra to help at the Y museum. There, they run afoul of a very strict curator, who is dumbfounded to see that Shinra owns the C.M.B. rings. Things go a little smoother then, with Yoshiko being around to bring in drinks and snacks from the new cafe across the street (it's not open yet, but the museum staff goes there sometimes because the owner is friendly and the coffee is good.

(Shinra gives Tatsuki a hint towards solving the ghost mystery; not all "rocks" are just plain lumps of rock.)

A few days pass and Yoshiko is about to lose her job. One of the office staff had locked the weekly admissions money in a desk drawer over the weekend before taking it to the bank on Monday, and when the drawer is opened the envelop is gone. Yoshiko is the main suspect because she was the only one in the building over the weekend. The bank is temporarily closed, and Yoshiko is panicking over how to get money to care for her baby. Tatsuki tells Shinra, and he wants whatever is pulled out of the building as payment when this is done. As clues to the mystery, Shinra talks about how archeologists need to look at the things found along with broken shards and bits of rock, and how "a chunk of rock" is more than "just rock". He gives Tatsuki a sledgehammer and they enter the Y museum in the middle of the night. Questions: Is the museum haunted? If not, what is going on that causes the lights to go out and voices to start crying? Why is Yoshiko's losing her job central to the mystery? Is there a connection to the unopened cafe? Does Shinra get his payment?

The science consists of a discussion of crystals, crystal radios and the importance of proper procedure when excavating stone-age carved rock tools. During the story, Shinra tries building a platform next to a second-floor window so that the delivery company can bring in a washing machine (he's been doing all of his laundry at the dry cleaners until now). The platform collapses and the dinosaur statue inside the museum loses its head again. As payment for solving the mystery, Tatsuki gets her craftsman father to build a new, more stable 2nd floor loading dock, and her father suggests that Shinra should try attending Meiyuu high school.

(Back cover.)

Comments: The first chapter very clearly establishes the pattern that the later chapters will follow, with the development of the mystery, Shinra's demanding payment to solve the problem, his use of "contract for payment accepted, Welcome to the Wunderkammer", and the final receipt of some kind of payment, which may or may not be what he'd asked for. In the second chapter, we learn that Tatsuki's father likes to test her aikido skills, and that the family owns and operates a public sento. Her mother comes from a very wealthy family, and to get her family's blessing for the wedding, Tatsuki's grandfather made the couple promise that their child would attend the high school that he runs.  Recommended if you like natural science, birds and bugs.