(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
(Kana working at the karaoke box the night before the night before Christmas, charging extra to take event photos of the customers.)
Kurisumasuibuibu (Christmas Eve Eve, Great Magazine, 2006). What makes this story stand out is that Kana presents it to the audience as a form of rakugo - Japanese comic storytelling. It's the night before the night before Christmas, and Kana and Touma are working part-time jobs at a karaoke box to raise money to buy presents. Tsutomu Tokunaga is the manager, his girlfriend, Youko Hagio, is the chief manager, and the other part-timers are Masataka Fujimura and Yuuzou Iguchi, plus there's the chef, Ayumi Watabe. It's a bad night for everyone all around. Youko had emailed Tsutomu saying that he doesn't have to come in to work anymore, and she's taking her anger out on everyone else, too. Masataka, a high school student trying to get a date for Christmas, gets punished for making a mistake on the customer sign-in sheet. Yuuzou is an older salaryman that had been laid off from his job a couple years ago and is desperate to get money to buy a hot-selling video game for his disenfranchised son. And Ayumi is trying to prepare herself for telling her parents that she's quit university when they visit in 2 days. Touma is sent outside to hand out fliers to drunk office workers in the freezing sleet. Then all hell breaks loose. With one hour left before closing, the team has discovered that Yuuzou's wallet is missing; fresh mud tracks in the employee break room indicate that there's a thief in the building; related to the thief, there's only 8 names on the customer sheet but 9 of the rooms are occupied, so someone's trying to crash in the karaoke box but the group can't tell who or where; Youko fires Tsutomu; and everyone is going to be forced to stay late without pay until the problems are resolved, since Youko refuses to bring in the police.
(Wrap-up, with Kana dressed up as a rakugo comic.)
Everyone is accusing and screaming at each other. When Touma enters the building, having been completely forgotten by the rest of the group, covered in ice, Kana declares that Santa has finally arrived.
==== Spoilers =====
The "errors" portion of this comedy of errors gets resolved very quickly. Earlier in the day, Yuuzou was trying to fix a broken TV, and he'd reached behind a sofa to check the cords running to the outlet. His wallet had fallen behind the sofa when he wasn't paying attention. The footprints came from the janitor, who had finished mopping the floors that afternoon. The bottoms of his boots had been wet, but no one had noticed the water drops at the time. When the water dried, it left caked dirt behind. As for the unaccounted customers - Masataka writes the names in katakana, and Youko writes in kanji. It just so happened that two parties with different names, but similar appearance in spelling in the two alphabets, had arrived one after the other and Masataka had greeted the one group and Youko the other. When Youko looked at the sign-in sheet later, she thought that the same group had been recorded twice, and that's why she punished Masataka before erasing one of the two names. Finally, Youko was angry at her boyfriend because her friends claimed to have seen him with another girl. Her friends didn't actually know what Tsutomu looks like, except that once she had pointed him out to them on the street. Unfortunately, Youko had always described Tsutomu as a very tall basketball player. So, when her friends looked across the street to where she was pointing, they assumed that the tallest person - a friend of Tsutomu's that was walking with him - was Tsutomu. So, naturally, when they saw the friend with his own girlfriend, word quickly got back to Youko that "Tsutomu" was cheating on her. The evening ends well, with everyone getting out on time, Ayumi promising Masataka to hook him up with one of her friends, and Masataka giving Yuuzou his certificate for a free copy of the game Yuuzou is so desperate to find. Youko realizes that pretty much every single error was caused by her alone, and Tsutomu promises to stick by her to help her karaoke box become more successful in the future. The scene returns to the high school stage where Kana wraps up her story, and the audience applauds politely.
(Break-in 101, according to the net.)
Tsumi to Batsu (Crime and Punishment, Great Magazine, 2006).
Kunihiko Sendakawa is an angry university student that feels fate is against him. He's been struggling to graduate from school while running himself ragged with a part-time job at a convenience store to make enough to pay his bills. He's angry at seeing other guys with girlfriends, and at spoiled adult children living off their parents with heavy drinking and hours spent losing money at pachinko. He wishes just once for fate to turn in his favor. He hears a group of neighborhood women talking about a string of break-ins, and decides that he can do a copycat crime to steal some money and blame it on the other burglar. He returns to his apartment and searches the internet for suggestions. He gets a pair of gloves, a new set of sneakers that are a couple sizes too small for his feet, a cigarette lighter and a squeeze water bottle. His first target is his own apartment, where he heats the window glass near the latch with the lighter and makes it shatter with the cold water. He reports the break-in and the loss of about $50 (which for him is big money) to establish himself as a victim.
(Timing is everything. Try to avoid robbing a place where the owner has just been killed.)
A little later, he hits an upscale house in the neighborhood, but as his luck would have it, the old man inside is lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood. Kunihiko is now looking at a murder charge, but keeps hoping that his status as "a victim" will protect him. Kana's father, Det. Mizuhara, slowly closes the noose around his neck, and the only real question is: If the body was lying face down in the blood, how was Kunihiko able to describe what he looked like?
No science. Just an exploration into the Japanese mindset of "blame the 'victim'".
Comments: Not one of the stronger volumes this time. Pretty typical mystery solving, recommended if you like this sort of thing.