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Q.E.D., vol. 46, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
(Ayame starts out narrating the story about her birthday.)
Shitsuren (Lost Love, Monthly Shonen Magajin + 06). Ayame Nekoyanagi is a young female rakugo (Japanese comedic storyteller) practitioner, so she starts out narrating this story in rakugo format. Her birthday was 10 days ago, and she's now feeling like she's stumbling under the weight of too many unwanted presents. She's slowly unwrapping and eliminating each one, such as when she broke up with her boyfriend. As she tells the story, we find out that right after her birthday, she'd gotten into a dispute with her mentor, rakugo master Tsunomaru Nekoyanagi, who blocked her chances to break into TV. Right after this, Tsunomaru's partner and main antagonist, Kamekichi Tsubakiya, announces that his 5,000,000 yen ($50,000 USD) is missing from the theater's dressing room. Ayame is visited by her friend, Kana, who is accompanied by Touma. Turns out that Touma has been hanging out in Tokyo's entertainment district and is friends with the theater's owner. Kana forces Touma to find the missing money because both Tsunomaru and Kamekichi refuse to call the police, and now there's a pall of suspicion hanging over all the other rakugo members.
(Old man Kamekichi, the money pouch and the iron vase.)
The story essentially revolves around the inner workings of the rakugo world. Ayame, age 24, had given up working in city hall to start a career as a comic, and her father agreed to this only with the condition that she study under Tsunomaru (her father is a big fan of his). Rakugo tellers fall into 1 of 4 ranks: Shinuchi (headliner), Futatsu Me (second rank), Zenza (opening act) and Zenza Minarai (apprentice). Ayame is a Zenza, which is apparently one reason why headliner Tsunomaru is opposed to her trying to get onto a TV variety show - jealousy towards a more successful underling. As a Zenza, she makes virtually no money. Conversely, Kamekichi, as a headliner, is accused of having blown through all the money he's been raking in. Kamekichi dislikes this accusation, and the next day he brings in the 5,000,000 yen to show off; he claims that he's going to use it as a down payment on a bar that he wants to open up. Unfortunately, the money is in a pouch, and now there's the possibility someone may steal it during the show. One of the other minor performers goes out to buy a padlock, and Kamekichi locks the pouch shut and attaches it to a metal vase. During the evening, one of Kamekichi's students watches the pouch, except when he has to go on stage himself. During that time, Tsunomaru was alone in the dressing room with the vase, but he didn't have a key to be able to get into the pouch. At the end of the night, Kamekichi opens the pouch to reveal that the money has turned into worthless stacks of plain paper.
(The reason Ayame broke up with her boyfriend - her rakugo act consists of stories about his mistakes, which is why she'd forbidden him to attend her shows. He decides to sneak into the audience, anyway.)
Touma notices that 3 of the rakugo stories performed that night relate to people that find, lose or steal money. (Traditional rakugo storytellers have a fixed repertoire of stories that their apprentices have to learn and repeat on stage). Questions: Why were these three stories chosen, and by who? Could they be a message for someone? What happened to the money? Who suggested using a padlock to lock up the pouch? And why did Ayame's boyfriend break up with her?
No science. However, this is the story referred to in First Love, volume 45 as the one that Touma is working on simultaneously, and the key is the same donkey rider puzzle.
(Koyuki finds her father's rejected manuscript.)
Junrei (Pilgrimage, Monthly Shonen Magazine, 2013). In 1941, in Hanoi, a Japanese thief named Seimei Yamai is on trial for murder. The victim, Setsu Usui, had just gotten married 2 months before being killed, and her husband, Shigeru Usui is in the courtroom during the trial. Yamai has been found guilty, and Shigeru pleads with the court to commute the sentence from death to life imprisonment. The court tries to argue Shigeru out of this decision, but he is adamant, saying that putting Yamai to death wouldn't heal the pain in his heart. Yamai throws himself at Usui's feet and thanks him with tears in his eyes. Jump to the present: Koyuki Uchibori is a professional proofreader. Her father, Shouichiro, had been a successful nonfiction writer up until his death from cancer 3 years earlier. While searching in his library for a Latin dictionary, Koyuki discovers a sealed envelope with an unpublished manuscript inside. As part of her studies to become a proofreader, she'd taken a number of night classes, one of which had been taught by Touma, so she decides to ask the boy for help to understand why this one manuscript had gone unpublished. Touma reads the manuscript, and says that while the writing is good, Shouichiro's decision may have had something to do with what he'd uncovered during his research on his subject. Shouichiro had been investigating the Yamai case. Before the war, Yamai would walk around holding a dog leash, and ask passersby for help in locating his pet. They'd get to an empty lot, then he'd hit his victim in the head with a pipe and steal their money. One such victim was Setsu Usui, who apparently died as an accident. Yamai escaped Japan to Hanoi, where he was eventually captured. At the time, Japan had a working relationship with France in the Indochine region, and Setsu's husband, Shigeru, worked in the government's foreign affairs office. The government ordered another worker, Hakuro, to accompany Shigeru to Hanoi for the trial, to ensure his safety during the hostilities in the area.
(Yamai gets caught by the authorities in Hanoi.)
Shigeru and Hakuro took a ship to Shanghai, and were scheduled to ride a train to Hanoi; however, at one stop, Shigeru insisted on getting out and walking the remaining 600 miles on foot alone. Hakuro completes the journey by train, and waits in fear until Shigeru shows up a few months later. During the trial, a Mr. Nguen (sp?) had acted as interpreter for Shigeru, and had reported that Shigeru had offered to take a letter from Usui to a relative in Japan, and send any replies back to Nguen to give to Yamai. After the trial, Shigeru then walked the 1000 miles back to Shanghai before taking the ship to Japan. Hakuro had reported that the "dog leash thief" was still active in Japan, and that apparently Yamai was innocent, and had been forced into giving a confession by police desperate to find someone to hang the crime on. A few months later, Yamai committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell. Shouichiro had talked to Hakuro and to Mr. Nguen's granddaughter, Son Nguen. At the end of the research, he wrote "intentional?" "accidental?" on the manuscript envelope and then hid it away in his library.
(Shigeru pardons Yamai.)
Kana and Koyuki follow Shouichiro's footsteps, locating Hakuro, who is now 100 years old and living in a retirement home. Hakuro had seen the newspaper report of the additional "dog catcher thief" activity and feels that Shigeru knew that Yamai was innocent and falsely accused. They talk to Shouichiro's old editor, who says that Shigeru was probably spying in Indochina for the Foreign Affairs office and that the Yamai case was just a fabricated cover story. They then go to Hanoi and talk to Son Nguen, who really doesn't have anything to add. She comments that Shigeru probably pardoned Yamai out of the love that he'd developed during his 600-mile pilgrimage walk. In the end, Koyuki is no closer to understanding her father's feelings regarding this story, and it depresses her. Back in Tokyo, she takes the manuscript out to her car, where she notices that someone has placed roses on the front hood. She sets the manuscript down to brush the roses off, and someone on a scooter dashes by and steals the manuscript. Questions: Why steal the manuscript now? What does the notation written on the envelope refer to? Why does Touma ditch Kana and Koyuki to talk to one mysterious person right at the very end?
Comments: "Shitsuren" is interesting because of its look at the world of rakugo. The trick that allows the money to disappear from the pouch is a bit contrived, and the motive for taking the money is weak, but the story itself is good. "Junrei" is a much more convoluted and dark tale, with no real trick. It's closer to a real detective story, and the final reveal is pretty depressing. Both chapters are stronger than normal, and are highly recommended if you like the Q.E.D. series.