Friday, August 23, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 19 review

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Q.E.D., vol. 19, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Yamazaki practicing as Macbeth.)

Macubesu no Bourei (The Ghost of Macbeth, Great Magazine, 2004). Kana is at the swimming pool in Touma's apartment building, complaining that he's reading while he could be swimming. A guy comes up and takes the book from Touma and tells him that this is just words - he should stop by the next day to see the real thing. Sou had been reading Macbeth, and the guy is Junzaburo Yamazaki, a famous actor that Kana had seen in can coffee commercials on TV. He's in the middle of rehearsals for Macbeth at a nearby hall. His counterpart, playing Macduff, is Kyoshi Kawaoka, an arrogant up-and-coming actor. Yamazaki and Kawaoka are constantly at each other's throats, in part because the older veteran actor is feeling threatened at being pushed out of the play, and the younger one can't pull off serious dramatic theater yet. Things come to a head: Kawaoka kills Yamazaki, and stages the body so it looks like he got drunk and drowned in the apartment building's pool. We get another Colombo-style story, and it's up to Touma to unravel the killer's alibi.

(Kawaoka finds himself haunted by Yamakazi's ghost.)

Touma actually did like his neighbor and he's not happy that he was killed. Along the way, Kawaoka starts living Macbeth's life, seeing the old king's ghost everywhere he goes, especially in the King's throne on stage. The only real question left for the reader to answer at the Q.E.D. point is "how did Kawaoka smuggle Yamazaki's body out of the theater in an apparently empty box?"

No science, just a recap of the storyline from the Shakespeare play.


Kenja no Isan (The Sage's Bequest, Great Magazine, 2004). June 24th, 2004. There's an old house that has just been purchased, and the school's architecture class instructor has offered Touma and Kana part-time jobs photographing the place before the new owner has it torn down. The instructor warns them against going into the basement - there'd been a big explosion in the place a long time ago and it's been abandoned ever since. Looks like the blast occurred downstairs and it's unstable now. So of course, while Touma is taking pictures of the various insects he finds, Kana goes into the basement and happens across an old lab. When she gets close to some large electrodes, there's a flash. She recovers, and finds herself in June 17, 1924. There's a boy in Showa-era clothing that looks like Sou Touma, but he says his name is Souichiro Toba. He's a university student, but his sponsor has just died and his funding is about to be cut off. Kana explains what she thinks has happened (a time jump) and Toba says it's something out of H.G. Wells. Einstein's general theory of relativity had been published in 1916, and Toba thinks that time travel is possible - if the girl returns to where she arrived, there should be a return hole back to her own time. They go to his apartment, where his younger sister, Yuuko, makes dinner. They discuss the loss of the student funding, and Toba seems as lazy and carefree as Touma. She drags the boy to his sponsor's lawyer. The lawyer explains that while the main inheritance is tied up, there's a rumored "pocket fortune" that is up for grabs to whoever can find it.


The sponsor was Torao Ryuumonji. He'd made his fortune in oil and had three children from different wives. His house is next to the one that had the explosion. The children are Unosuke, Saruhiko and Kumi. Unosuke is footloose and unfocused. During a drinking party, his father had shown him a pocket watch stuck at 8 o'clock and told him about the importance of using your time wisely. Saruhiko shared his father's passion for western movies and film technique. Torao pointed to a map and said the fortune was above the earth at the northwest. Kumi loved her father's dog, and was told to look with the eyes of the self-portrait hanging high up on the foyer wall. The house itself is large and has strange artwork painted on the walls in a "modern western style". As Souichiro and Kana interrogate everyone regarding the pocket fortune, the self-portrait disappears. Kumi is kidnapped and the kidnappers demand the return of the painting. Kana finds out that the mad inventor next door is working on a time machine and she's very interested in learning more about it.

Unfortunately, the scheduled time for meeting with the kidnappers at a meat packing plant is the same time as when Kana is supposed to act as a guinea pig for the experiment to return to the future. Toba goes to the meeting place and is attacked by masked men that seem to be friends of Unosuke's. They're about to throw him into a meat grinder when Kana shows up and trashes their butts. Seems that the inventor is behind on his bills and the electricity was cut off to his building before the experiment could start. The two go back to the house and Toba finds his focus for solving mysteries. He explains that Saruhiko had made a film negative of the portrait and used his father's projector to illuminate the picture with chromatically opposing colors, making the whole thing turn gray. He was the one to climb the ladder to check the picture, and stole it at that time. Kumi, naturally, staged her own kidnapping to get the picture back. Toba then tells Saruhiko to climb back up the ladder and look in the direction that the portrait had been facing. The man does so, and discovers that the "modern lines" on the walls of the main room spell out the word "inu" (dog). The specific kanji used has different interpretations within different contexts. In the Edo era, the hours of the day were given animal names, so Unosuke takes this to mean that he gets the gold watch. Kumi gets her beloved dog, and Saruhiko gets his father's den filled with film stuff (inu can refer to compass directions, specifically northwest. The den was the northwest room.) Toba, in turn, becomes executor of Torao's main estate and empire.

Kana goes back to the mad scientist's house, where the electricity is restored, and she says goodbye to Toba. There's an explosion. She's back in the present and Touma is standing over her, asking if she's ok. It had taken Touma 5 minutes to notice she was gone and find her. They go outside where there's light so he can check her head for injuries. As Kana wonders if it had all been a dream, an old man and his driver sit in a limo across the street. The driver asks her "grandfather Souichiro" why he bought the building if he was just going to tear it down in a week, and the man, whose face is not shown, replies that there was "an old memory I wanted to relive."

We get some science, with a description of complementary colors, and a lot of Showa-era artwork. The time jump lab is pure Telsa in construction, and the image projector is a Japanese design that used light reflecting off paper rather than projected through film.

Comments: The Macbeth story is Colombo-like, and I kept expecting Yamazaki to be faking his death, since he was supposed to be a great actor. But, the ending is good. "Sage's Bequest" is an interesting mix, because 1920's Japan was a lot more intellectually active, with influences coming from old Edo, modern Europe and America. Having someone that believes time travel is possible based on ideas from Wells and Einstein isn't that far-fetched. The wrap-up strongly suggests Kana's adventure wasn't a dream, which means that this story is more SF than mystery. Still, recommended.

1 comment:

Summer Coffee said...

The time travel case was adapted to the live action before, and I remember I was really surprised watching it given how heavily scientific the previous cases were. Although, we can't argue that this is 100% bullshit either, as there's still a lot of things left unproved by science. Actually the ending of that case still gave me a bittersweet feeling until this day. Also recommended :)