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Q.E.D., vol. 34, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
(I want my face on the cover of Taimu. Elly and Alan at the dress fitters.)
Saiyaku no Otoko no Kekkon (Calamity Man Gets Married, Magazine Iino, 2009). Alan Bred - president and CEO of Alan Soft, maker of the Wings OS - and Elly are in Milano, Italy, so Elly can get fitted for her wedding dress. She's complaining that it's too flashy and expensive, and he says that has to be expected from the world's most powerful billionaire. Elly adds that the money could be going to their charity "Alan&Elly" for helping the poor, while he visualizes the magazine articles written on them for the work they've done so far. Suddenly, he gets a call telling him that "W Bank" has decided to use Alan&Elly for their own motives. This puts the two into panic mode and they summon Touma, Kana, Yuu, Loki and Eva to Europe for help. The wedding is set to be held in a couple of days at a castle in France, and Elly explains the issue to the gang. Seems that Bank W is a funding source for third-world projects that always result in the bank making a profit at the expense of the poor and needy. They've got 7,000 of the world's best minds working in Washington, DC, at developing scenarios that can never backfire on them. Such as buying up the land rights around all of the nearby water sources, charging for delivery of the water to the villages, and then failing to finish running the pipelines the last few miles to those villages. Recently, Bank W arrived at one of the villages supported by Alan&Elly and distributed packages of cookies to the starving villagers while announcing that they're doing this on behalf of A&E. A film crew accompanied the Bank W people and the promo video would completely destroy A&E's credibility while boosting W's apparent "good guy" status.
("Do you take...")
Since this is overshadowing the wedding ceremony, the friends are tasked with forcing Touma to solve the problem. He suggests that Loki and Eva track down the camera crew (with offices in France) to get their hands on the raw tape files, while Yuu and Kana go to D.C. to talk to the guy immediately in charge of handing out the cookies in Africa. With nothing to do himself, Alan contacts one of the people he'd encountered from Bank W to try to weasel incriminating evidence out of him. As the clock winds down, all of the leads fizzle out, although one gay baker in Paris attempts to hit on Loki, and Yuu and Kana manage to guilt-trip their guy, who'd been whisked under the rug by Bank W (W had suddenly posted him in a do-nothing job in London to bury him out of the way). Questions: Why did Bank W have a census taker in the truck with the people handing out the cookies? What happens when starving children suddenly get too much sugar to eat? How does Touma save the day? Can Alan save "Alan&Elly'"s reputation in time for the wedding to go forward?
No science outside of a small lecture on how the human body reacts to starvation, and how big think tanks like McKinsey and Company come up with ideas to "help" people.
("My name is Inago Montoya. No, wait...")
Bonari-Dou (Mother Shrine, Magazine Iino, 2009) There is a legend in certain remote parts of Japan called Bonari-Dou. In it, hundreds of years ago, a temple priestess had a daughter. The daughter grew up and decided to get married to a handsome man. The mother became jealous and pretended to discover evil spirits in the village that could only be chased off if the villagers used the handsome guy as a sacrifice. Her daughter's suitor was tied up and placed on a white horse to walk out into a river. At the last moment, the daughter jumped on the horse to drown together with her boyfriend. Devastated, the mother threw herself in a pond, and the villagers erected the "Mother Shrine" (Bonari-Dou) in her memory. Jump to present day. The police in Iwate Prefecture have found the body of one Shinji Fukatsu. He is dead in his car in the middle of the countryside, a pistol is sitting on the passenger seat and he has a bullet hole in his side. Only one shot had been fired. The car was locked, and the police don't know if this was suicide or murder, then they realize that Shinji is the guy that had been married to Shino Shirakawa, daughter of Hari Shirakawa, real estate magnate and the most powerful woman in the region. Scene change - Kana's class is taking the bus to Iwate to meet one of their former classmates - Ryou Shirakawa. Ryou had lived in Tokyo until her father, Shinji, ran off with another woman. Her mother divorced him and moved Ryou to Iwate where she's been living with her grandmother, Hari. Shino, meanwhile, has been working a part-time job in Tokyo to support herself. Hari hates Tokyo, so Ryou's been forced to stay in Iwate, but she's on the school diving team and if she wins her next competition, she'll be able to move back to Tokyo for the next round of tournaments. When the gang arrives at the Shirakawa mansion, they discover the police there investigating Shinji's death. While everyone seems to be glad he's gone, suspicion falls on Shino for having been the last one to see him alive (he'd gotten into a fight with her, punching her in the face before taking her car to drive to Iwate to extort money from Hari).
(Ryou with her qualifying dive. Nozomu and Shino are pictured in the bottom right panels. Kana and a classmate are bottom left.)
Also at the mansion is Nozomu Awakage, a business manager that had borrowed a huge amount of money from Hari for a real estate development project. He needs another few million dollars to finish it, but Hari says "no". That day, Touma and one of the other boys overhear Nozomu talking on the phone to someone. He mentions that if Hari dies, there'd be nothing to stop their company from getting their hands on her estate and wealth. Later, he tells Ryou the Bonari-Dou tale. The next day, the class goes to Ryou's school to cheer her on during her dive. The dive is perfect and she's able to return to Tokyo. That night, Hari has a celebration party, and she announces to Nozomu that she'll give him the money if he does the same dive Ryou did. Nozomu blanches, but says "of course, you want proof of commitment". The next day, Nozomu climbs to the top of the diving platform, but can't bring himself to jump. One of the security guards doing their rounds sees Shino wandering the halls. Time is about to run out when Nozomu leaps into the pool, but as he surfaces, his body seizes up and he dies of a heart attack. Ryou and Kana jump in the water to pull him out and Ryou notices a rock and some rope at the bottom of the deep end. Ryou claims to feel sick and leaves first. After the police finish questioning everyone, they return to the mansion. Along the road, a strange figure wearing a mask and wig points a sickle at Hari to threaten cutting her throat, then runs away. Questions: How did Shinji get shot? What caused Nozomu's heart to stop? Who was the masked figure? Why did Nozomu make the comment about Hari wanting "commitment"? Why does Touma make a big deal about the fact that Hari's living in Iwate makes her blind to something that any Tokyo-ite automatically expects to find?
No science. The tricks are pretty simple.
Comments: Not much to add this time. Alan and Elly tie the knot in the first story, and Kana gets to help a friend in the second. Otherwise, they're both pretty straightfoward mysteries.