Friday, November 8, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 45 review

Well. Finally. Last volume of the series, for the moment.
Actually, if you've been following these reviews, you'll have noticed that I've been posting them twice a week, and that I first started this schedule back in June. Just to let you know, I can read one volume cover-to-cover in about 4 hours, and it takes about 2 hours to write the review and proof it. I've been reading them at about 4-5 books a week. So, while I expect this one to run sometime in November, I'm actually writing it on Sept. 1st. And, there's a very good chance that #46 will come out at about that time, so maybe I'm not quite done just yet. Also, as of Sept. 1st, I can't find a copy of #28 used or new in any of the stores in Kagoshima. So, my calculations are based on my still not finding it here by November. (Edit - I found #28, obviously.)

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

Q.E.D., vol. 45, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Prosecutor reciting the details of the murder case. The victim was killed with a professional-level bat that is serialized. The number traces back to an office worker richer than he is skilled: After losing a weekend game, he threw the bat in the trash. It's thought that the suspect took the bat to commit the crime, but she's much lighter than the victim, so the bat would have been a poor choice of weapons.)

Kinsei (Venus, Monthly Magajin Plus 05, year not given). This story is interesting in that there are two narratives running interspersed through the chapter. In the first, a spacegirl named Serge (Sa-ge), from Venus, arrives on Earth to give an astronomy lesson to an anthropomorphized raccoon boy. They get in her starship and visit various planets, the sun, and spots around the galaxy. Eventually, the raccoon starts complaining that this is boring, asking when the evil aliens will attack so they can act as agents of justice to save Earth. Serge replies that this is just a science textbook and that the science is the story. In the second narrative, 3rd-year university student Naoki Tsuchiya visits the apartment of fellow student Masaki Mokume for a planned lunch, when Mokume yells out that he's just seen Takuya Mizushima get hit with a baseball bat in the dorm apartment across the way. The two of them run to Mizushima's place, but the door is locked. Mokume gets the landlord, who opens the door to reveal Mizushima lying on the floor, dead. Four days later, the police question the victim's girlfriend, Sayaka Himichi. Because she was seen driving her car in the neighborhood, had the only spare key to Mizushima's apartment, had an argument with him over money a couple days earlier, and a bloody bat was found near by her apartment, Sayaka is charged with the murder. However, the prosecutor on the case, Yoshie Higaki, wants to tie up all the loose ends before pressing charges, and she's not sure this is a slamdunk case. Det. Sasaduka suggests that she talk to Touma first, and eventually the evidence starts falling apart. Suddenly, a second suspect turns up - Kenji Kinyama, a student living in the apartment below Mizushima's, who works nights and had complained about the noise from the floor above. An anonymous tip causes the police to visit Kenji's apartment, and a jacket with the victim's blood is found in his closet.

(Serge takes the readers on an educational trip to the stars.)

Questions: Who is the real killer, and how does he set up the other suspects? Eventually, the two narratives combine and we're shown a faceless child reading "Serge the Venutian's Vacation Trip to the Universe", a primer textbook, at the time that his friends decide to read a more interesting monthly manga magazine about alien invaders on earth. When the killer is arrested, he says that both the victim and the suspects were bad people and that he's just acting as an agent of justice here.

The science revolves around astronomy lessons on Venus and the Sun, and a suggestion of how Earth and the moon were formed from a collection of space debris. The character names are all in-jokes again, where the first kanji of each person's last name relates to one of the planets: Moku (wood) - Jupiter, Mizu (water) - Mercury, Tsuchi (dirt) - Saturn, Hi (fire) - Mars, Kin (metal) - Venus. The prosecutor's name uses the character Hi (you), meaning "the Sun". Note that the planet names consist of one of the elements plus the character "sei", meaning "planet". This ties in with the Japanese words for the day of the week (Nichi-yobi = Sunday, Getsu-yobi = Moon (Mon)day, Ka-yobi = Fire (Tues)day; yobi = "day"). There's also another in-joke; the coffee shop Kana visits is "Turkey's Coffee", a play on the "Tully's" chain.

(Investigating the thud from the balcony.)

Hatsukoi (First Love, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2013). Tomotoshi Koba is an average second-year student who is an average runner on the school's track team. But, for some reason, the most beautiful first-year student, Rena Nitobe, asks to go out with him. Naturally, the rest of the class chooses to torment him by sticking trash in his mailbox, putting hate mail in his shoe locker, and writing Rena's phone number on toilet stall walls (causing her to change phone companies). One girl that likes Koba is Ako Tsunishi, and she's trying to protect him from some of the attacks. Koba's main friend is Masanori Kawauchi; Masanori lives in the apartment below Koba's parent's apartment, and the two of them get together to play video games. Masanori tells Koba that if he really loves Rina, he should protect her no matter what. And then there are two guys that want revenge - Saizou Ushidu, a photographer that stalks Rina in the hopes that she'll become a talent idol and he can sell his photos to magazines; and Kaiga Kenbashi, a star basketball player that lied about dating Rina.

(Loyd's Trick Donkeys. Cut along the dotted lines and then try to get the riders to sit properly so it looks like the donkeys are racing each other.)

One day, Koba and Rena visit Koba's apartment, but just as they get to the front door, there's a loud "thud" from the outside balcony. They investigate and find a dead body wrapped up in a cloth. Suddenly, there's an approaching police siren and Koba tells Rina to leave before the police show up and things get complicated. At about the same time, both Koba and Rina notice someone following them. Well, almost immediately, Koba's attempts to protect Rina unravel, and her parents prevent her from seeing him again. Later, the victim is identified as Ushidu, and the police find surveillance footage showing Kenbashi holding a similar cloth bag on the 17th floor of the building across the street. There's a thought that Kenbashi and Ushidu had a falling out and the basketball player killed the photographer before throwing the body to the balcony on the building below. But, because of the way the balconies are constructed, there's no clear path the body could travel, and suspicion remains on Koba. Desperate, Koba seeks out the "MIT grad kid with the amazing reputation" and begs for help. Although Touma is already on a case (to be described in Shitsuren (Lost Love, Q.E.D. volume 46), Kana has given him a handmade scone to eat so she tells him owes her and needs to solve this case, too. Kana does agree to help him out by doing the footwork. She finds out that the shadowy person Rina saw was Ako Tsunishi, who was trying to protect Koba. At the time of the main events, she was on the street looking up. If a body had been thrown from the 17th floor of the building Kenbashi was in, she'd have seen it. After a few days, there's a funeral ceremony for Ushidu, and afterward, someone pushes Koba down the flight of steps in front of the shrine, breaking his arm. Questions: Who killed Ushidu and why? How was Kenbashi lured to the other building and why? How did Ushidu's body land on the balcony from above if no one saw it happening? Why did Rina date Koba in the first place, and do they get back together again after all this?

(Touma talks about Sam Loyd.)

No science. There is a little sleight of hand at the beginning, when one of the other students steals one of the scones that Kana made. This builds up to include an explanation of the trick donkeys by Sam Loyd (1841-1911). Sam was a chess player, puzzle author and recreational mathematician. Apparently, he was also a liar and thief, stealing credit for a number of puzzles from other people.

Comments: I like the artwork in both of these chapters, especially the trick donkey paper sheet, and the solar system textbook pages. I'd never heard of Sam Loyd before, and now I'm going to have to study up on him more. The murder mysteries are just so-so, and the motive in the second one is really weak for the amount of work to pull the trick off. As for why Rina likes Koba - there had been a photography exhibit in the school, and there was one photo of a bird that she'd thought was really funny. The only other person that had had the same reaction to it was Koba, which is why she asked to go out with him. On a different note, in "Kinsei", Kana gets jealous when the prosecutor shakes Touma's hands a little too vigorously. Initially, she suspects that Higaki likes Sou, but at the end it's revealed that she secretly has a crush on Det. Sasaduka.

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