Friday, January 31, 2014

C.M.B. volume 13 review

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

C.M.B., vol. 13, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

---- Spoilers ----

Four stories this time. They're minor enough that I'll give away the endings for each one. You have been warned.

(On discovering the vacant lot.)

Natsukusa (The Grass in Summer, Monthly Magajin, 2009).
Shinra, Tatsuki and a few of their classmates are returning home after school. They've been given an English writing assignment, and since Shinra already finished it, the others want to copy his paper themselves. As the more obnoxious of the group tries grabbing it from the boy, it gets caught by a gust of wind. The group runs after it, and eventually they find the paper lying in the middle of an abandoned lot. The plot was divided up by the developer, so a small house is at the front and the bulk of the land is around to the back where no one notices it from the street. Shinra starts talking about the flowers and weeds growing in the lot, from the ivy on a water faucet to a specific plant laid out in a straight line, and he realizes that someone used to live there at one time. The group leaves. The next day, everyone is complaining that all of them handed in the exact same assignment and therefore didn't get any points for it. As they near the lot again, Tatsuki goes around to the back and discovers a woman standing there, crying. She immediately demands to know if any of the kids know anything about her father.

(Carolus Linnaeus and his botanical sun dial.)

Shinra is forced to come up with an answer, and he agrees only if the others buy him another expensive shaved ice desert, mango this time. They go to Burger Kingyo (Burger Goldfish) where the woman, unnamed, calms down. She says that her father had collapsed and been taken to a hospital 7 years ago, but never recovered and eventually had died 3 months back. In going through his effects, his grown-up children had found a passport with lots of visa stamps, and the woman had just received a letter from a real estate agent telling her that her father owned that strange plot of land. Her mother had suffered a stroke, and her father had tended to her at home until she died. Their children had grown up and moved out, then had children of their own. The woman believes that her father had been happy playing with his grandchildren, so why had he disappeared to live some kind of a double life? Shinra's explanation is that the guy, after retiring, just wanted to be left alone to do his own thing. There are many kinds of plants in the lot, and based on the patterns, the man had bought a small camper and set it up in the middle of the lot, with a hose running from the faucet to the camper. The plants encircled the camper in such a way as to replicate Linnaeus' flower clock. In the 1750's, Carolus Linnaeus proposed growing flowers in a garden selected specifically so that each species would bloom at different hours of the day. The woman is unsatisfied that her father refused to share this part of his life with her, but at least now she knows what he had been doing before falling ill.

The science revolves around different kinds of plants, and the principle behind the flower clock.

(Shinra chases a butterfly, gets the group lost, then finds a cabin on a mountaintop.)

Kiri no Sansou (Mountain Villa in Fog, Monthly Magajin, 2009).
Shinra, Tatsuki and a classmate are out on a school field trip when Shinra decides to chase after a butterfly, and the three get lost in the hills. Fortunately, they're still within reach of a cellphone tower, and Shinra spots a mountain cabin. They go to the cabin to wait for the teacher to come get them, but a heavy fog rolls in and they have to wait to be rescued until the next day. The cabin belongs to Tamotsu Tsukiyama, a belligerent braggart who produces the TV comedy show O-Zap. With him are his script writer, Kaeru Amagasa, former girlfriend and actress, Chisato Hanamaku, and upcoming actor Tokuji Kirishima. Everyone goes upstairs to their rooms for the evening, leaving Tamotsu in the living room to drink by himself. That night, there's a scream, and the others run out to see Tokuji standing at the foot of the stairs and Tamotsu sitting on the couch, dead, a rope around his neck.

(Tamotsu has seen better days.)

The police can't reach the cabin until the fog lifts, and Tatsuki and her friend blame all this inconvenience on Shinra, so he has to solve the case for them for free. Amagasa claims that he'd wanted to kill the victim a number of times, for forcing him to rewrite scripts overnight, while also demanding he save Tamotsu from angry girlfriends when he was caught cheating on them. Chisato says that Kirishima couldn't move on to improve his career while Tamotsu remained his producer, while Kirishima says that Chisato is jealous of Tamotsu's money and was probably caught trying to steal from him and killed her former boyfriend to keep him from talking. Shinra reconstructs the events leading up to the crime. Amagasa had talked to Tamotsu, and found out that the producer's claim of having lined up a TV show in the U.S. that could lead to appearances on Broadway was a lie. Tamotsu had then wanted to talk to Chisato, and Amagasa warned him to not cause her trouble. To protect her, Amagasa had followed down the stairs behind Chisato and snuck into the toilet without her noticing, but in full view of Tamotsu. After some time passed, Amagasa decided it was safe to come back out of the toilet, only to discover that Tamotsu had committed suicide. Amagasa was forced to clean up after him again - he cut the body down and placed it on the couch, then went to his room to get a drink to calm his nerves. Unfortunately, Kirishima had come down the stairs and found the body by accident.

(Kirishima tries to place suspicion on Chisato.)

No science this time. However - look at Kirishima's t-shirt above. It's advertising Q.E.D.

(Argentine gaucho eat slow-cooked steak.)

Asado (Asddo, Monthly Magajin, 2009).
In the school, Tatsuki is angry. She's been put in charge of her team for the school's summer festival in the next couple days, and none of them can agree on what to do for it. Time is running out and she refuses to let anyone go home until they make a decision. Shinra suggests Asado, an Argentine-style of slow-roasted steak. Japan doesn't allow the import of meat from Argentina, so he picks beef from Australia. The next day, the 6-person team takes 1-hour turns at tending to the meat during the 3-hour grilling. Along with other minor fiascoes, the group witnesses a different team bullying one of their own members, a weak-willed kid named Ryousuke Nako. Nako is pressured into building the team's display on recycling while the others go outside to hang out at a family restaurant. Additionally, one team putting on a magic show is so desperate to get visitors that they have to hand out several hundred fliers advertising the act to every single person in the school. Finally, the guy at the neighboring stand (a goldfish scoop stand) is told to take care of the finished asado when Shinra realizes that he forgot to make the sauce for it.

At the end of the night before the big festival, Tatsuki tries to tell the teacher supervising the recycling team that Nako is being bullied, but the bullies claim to be innocent and Nako won't stand up for himself (part of Tatsuki's anger comes from the fact that Nako's mother is in the hospital, his father is spending all his free time visiting her, Nako is the one preparing dinner for his 4 younger brothers, and the bullies are preventing him from leaving the school until he finishes the festival display for them). The group realizes their steak is missing, and the bullies use this to show that they're being picked on undeservedly (the goldfish guy had to go home, and had hidden the steak at his stand so no one else would take it). Shinra intervenes, and "opens" the wunderkammer for free by asking everyone to show their copies of the Magic show flier. Since the bullies can't do this, it's obvious that they've been off-campus all day, and the teacher punishes them. Tatsuki gives the finished asado to Nako to share with his brothers. The next day, Tatsuki's table is packed with people demanding to buy the next asado, and Shinra tells them they have to wait until it's done.

No science, just a description of gaucho cooking. Note that the English translation of the title, "Assdo," is misspelled.

(Hihimaru makes coffee for the guest.)

Orugo-ru (The Music Box, Monthly Magajin, 2009).
Shinra and Tatsuki are returning to the museum after class when they hear a shriek. They run inside to find Hihimaru (the monkey from volume 12) defending the exhibits from Mao, the black market broker. Mao says that she's there on business, so Tatsuki asks Hihi to prepare a drink for their guest. The monkey then brews a cup of coffee and brings it to Mao. She explains why she's there. She'd brought something that looks like a grandfather clock, but it's actually a music box, in Japanese called an "Orugo-ru". According to legend, the owner was a woman in London in the late 1800's that loved listening to the the music box more than she did spending time with her husband, so the husband blew the box case to pieces with a shotgun. Problem is, there's no sign of any damage to the housing, or any indication that the music box was restored. Shinra promises to look into the matter in exchange for information from her. Mao also has the woman's diary, where she writes about spending hours with the Orugo-ru and how listening to it makes her feel like she's in heaven. The last page talks about her husband entering the room and shooting the music box, and how she ran into the bathroom expecting that he would shoot her, too. But, in inspecting the Orugo-ru, not only does Shinra confirm that it's in perfect condition, but the spring crank is too hard for a woman to turn, and none of the seven metal disks stored inside the housing show any signs of ever having been played.

(The history of music boxes in 2 pages.)

Shinra gives Tatsuki a brief history of music boxes, from the first 13th century Belgian hand-cranked wooden cylinder that played bells, to the 1760's when London watch makers tried applying their craft to make the mechanisms smaller. The challenge was in affixing the little teeth to the cylinder, so the solution in 1870 was to use a larger, replaceable, disk with holes drilled in it. The big music boxes were popular for a short while, until being replaced by records and gramophones in the late 1890's. That night, as Shinra is pouring over the diary, Hihimaru gives him something to drink. The boy is shocked to realize that although he was expecting to get coffee, what he's tasting is hot cocoa. This gives him the hint he needs, and he realizes that in the diary, the woman used "orugo-ru" as a keyword for her boyfriend. The music box had never been used, which is why it's still in good condition. It had been cleaned, once, to remove the blood splatter after the husband killed the boyfriend. Shinra uses Luminol and a black light to demonstrate to Mao that his theory is correct. Mao leaves, promising to pick up the music box the next morning and give him his information then. However, when he wakes up, he discovers that Mao had removed the orugo-ru in the middle of the night. On the other hand, Hihimaru had stolen the crank handle, guaranteeing that the black market broker will be coming back soon.

No real science. Just the history lesson on music boxes.

(Back cover.)

Comments: The shorter stories have a tendency to feel like puff pieces, or filler. The artwork is good, but there's not much character development or plot line. The Asado and Summer Grass stories are ok, although I did like learning about the flower clock. Mountain Villa is ignorable, but the information on the music box was good. Overall, this volume is recommended if you like the rest of the series.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Store Greeter

This statue was at the front entrance to a home furnishing and supplies store. Looks like Elmer Fudd found a job after the layoffs at Warners Studio.

(It was a really bright day, and the sunlight reflecting off the shiny white statue kept washing out the camera.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sea Bird

I was down at Kinko Bay one afternoon recently, and I saw this little guy resting along the walkway next to the water.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rocket Marathon Poster

Tanegashima is the island south of Kyushu that has the JAXA rocket launch site. Here, we have a poster using the "Space Brothers" anime characters to advertise the marathon being held on Tanegashima next March.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Picture in Window

I found this old picture in the window of a nearby construction building.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

C.M.B. volume 12 review

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

C.M.B., vol. 12, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Shinra finally gets to meet Ray Black again.)

Fuudei (Clay Seal, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2009).
Pierre Cohen is a curator at the Louvre, in Paris. He's in charge of the safekeeping of clay urns from Mesopotamia. The urns had been used for transporting goods between cities several thousand years ago, and the process was to put a clay tablet recording the shipment inventory in the urn, and then sealing the cover of the urn with a special twist of clay. The merchant's mark would be embossed on the clay twist before it dried. The only way to open the urn would be to destroy the seal. However, by using x-rays, Pierre has discovered that all of the larger urns have had the inventory tablets removed without damaging the seals. He and Matilla Collin, the x-ray specialist, decide that they can't call the police, so they contact the British Museum instead. A few days later, Shinra and Tatsuki have arrived in Paris, and they're now waiting for one of Shinra's "fathers". Suddenly, the guards push the tourists back to allow a parasailer to land. Shinra rushes to greet the guy, calling out "Ray". Ray Black is an older, thinner guy that is absolutely reckless. He flies off to put his gear away, then joins the others inside the Louvre. Pierre explains the problem, and Ray is willing to let Shinra solve the case.

(Shinra and the clay seals.)

At the same time, Tatsuki is boiling over, waiting to demand an answer from Ray as to why he allowed Shinra to come to Japan on his own. At dinner that night, Shinra tells her that when he and his mother were living in Borneo, Ray joined them. They were at a river and Ray had thrown him over a short waterfall and jumped into the water after him. He saw all the fish swimming in a pool and that was when he fell in love with nature. When they surfaced, his mother grabbed him, kneed Ray in the face and told him to stay away from her boy. The next day, Ray tells Tatsuki that all three of the museum curators loved Haruna Sakaki, Shinra's mother, and were devastated when she passed away. That's why they were willing to adopt her son. When he was old enough, Shinra ran away by himself to start his museum in Japan, and they weren't able to track him down right away. As he leaves, Ray says that they are going to solve the case of the clay seals by setting up a trap. And for traps, you need bait.

------ Spoilers ------

The trick is to wrap a towel around the top of the urn and then tighten it until the weakest part of the seal - the twisted ends - pops apart. This only works on the larger urns; the bands will break for the smaller ones. But, neither Shinra nor Ray knows who the culprit is. They leave the investigation at this point and Shinra and Tatsuki go to the airport to head home. Actually, they do know, but there's no proof. As Shinra explains the answer, Matilla, the x-ray specialist, who had been the last one to handle the urns after x-raying them, and had taken the tablets out for sale on the blackmarket, tries to sneak up on the boy to stab him with a knife before he can make his report in England. Matilla is about to attack when Ray leaps out of the crowd and wrestles him to the ground. When the police escort Matilla away, Tatsuki remembers Ray's comment about needing bait for a trap. She yells at Shinra that he can never see Ray again.

Lots of history about caravan practices in Mesopotamia, the use by merchants of personalized hand-held seals for embossing the clay urns, and we get to learn more about Shinra's mother.

(Toki, her son and daughter-in-law, and the tax accountant enjoying a nice quiet dinner.)

Rouba to Saru (An Old Woman and a Monkey, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2009).
One of Tatsuki's grandfather's friends needs help cleaning up a storage room, so Tatsuki and Shinra spend the day at the home of Toki Hinogure. Toki is getting on in age and has been in and out of the hospital for respiratory problems. She also has a pet monkey, named Hihimaru, that likes wrestling Shinra to the ground. During the evening, Toki is visted by her adult son, Hayao, and his wife, Chika; and by Takeshi Umiyama, a tax accountant. Chika argues with Hayao over a rumor that Toki will bequeath all her money to the monkey, and if he doesn't confront his mother over this, she'll divorce him. Additionally, Toki wants her money back from Takeshi, and he asks for more time on the loan. Tatsuki doesn't like the murderous atmosphere in the house and she figures that Toki is in danger. Everyone is going to sleep over for the night, so before going to bed, Tatsuki tells Toki to lock her door, and then she sets up a guard post in the hallway to watch the door. She wakes up the next morning as Chika bangs on the door to get Toki to wake up. There's no answer and Hayao tells them to call an ambulance and the police. A locksmith unlocks the door. Inside, Toki is lying dead on her bed, with Hihimaru sitting on her chest.

(Toki goes to bed without eating.)

Det. Kujirazaki is assigned to the case, and he tells them that the cause of death was neurotoxin poisoning - someone had access to the fugu puffer fish. At first, the poison was found in the bottle of water that Tatsuki had given Toki that night, but that's not directly related to the case. Toki had complained of stomach problems and didn't eat dinner with the others. The only other option is that someone trained the monkey to unlock the door so they could slip into the room while Tatsuki was asleep. Questions: How did the killer get the poison to Toki, and was she really the intended target?

No history or science, although there are some nice pictures of wind-up dolls and swords in the storeroom. When Shinra asks what will happen to Hihimaru, Kujirazaki answers that it will be either sent to a zoo or a care center, so Shinra decides to solve the case in order to take the monkey in to his museum.

(The fortune teller recognizes the famous actress and asks if his nephew is dating her.)

Chan no Yuurei (The Actress Sees Ghost, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2009).
Tienraku Tin is a detective in Hong Kong working on an open case in which a businessman fell from the roof of his building into a dumpster and was killed on impact. It's ruled as accidental, but when Tin is walking past the front desk, he hears a reporter asking the guard about an earlier accident where a car hit a guardrail and went over a cliff into the ocean. Back in Japan, Shinra and Tatsuki are visiting a Chinese fortune teller because the boy has become fascinated with an old fortunetelling board called a Luopan. The old man, Kaiman Uon, is irritated and keeps saying that he won't sell the board. At that time, Tin comes into the shop to ask his uncle for help. Tin has been assigned to escort the actress Shinrin Chan and her manager, Shouchon Shuu to see a fortuneteller. Shinrin claims to be haunted by a ghost, and Kaimon performs an exorcism for her. But, the ceremony backfires and she sees the ghost even more.

(Shinra asks why Shinrin only sees the ghost near water.)

A big festival is coming up and the government has selected Shinrin as their chief hostess for the event. But, she's coming unraveled and turning into an emotional wreck. The ghost sightings occur whenever she's near water - by a fish aquarium, on a ferry boat, or when swimming in a pool. Tatsuki had seen her in an alley in Chinatown, asking an old woman for a da siu yan (to have a curse placed on someone). Eventually, Tin realizes that the body in the dumpster belongs to Yan Chin'u who had once been rumored to have been dating Shinrin. Then, a video surfaces on the net purporting to show someone coming out of the building stairwell and pushing Yan over the edge. The video is a fake, but it may be intended to blackmail Shinrin. When the big day comes, Shinrin is a quivering mess and her manager is completely unable to get her to go to work.

(Shinra plays with the feng shui board.)

Questions: Why is Shinrin being haunted? Could she have been the one that caused the other car to go through the railing into the ocean? Who made the fake video and why? The night Yan died, someone had been seen pushing a big trunk into his building and a big puddle of water was found inside the elevator, is that relevant?

No science, just mentions of the use of the luopan and da siu yan. Shinra agrees to solve the case in exchange for the luopan (Kaiman tells Tatsuki that it's just an old board, and he's been having fun pulling the boy's leg over it).

(Back cover.)

Conclusion: I liked Clay Seal, and the personality of Ray Black. The trick with the towel isn't all that clever, but the information about the seals is interesting. The trick in An Old Woman and a Monkey is very simple and the motive is basically just bad timing. The Actress Sees Ghost is very convoluted, and harks back to the old Columbo TV series again. All three stories are equally entertaining, but I recommend this book if you want to see one of Shinra's fathers and learn more about his mother.

Friday, January 24, 2014

C.M.B. volume 11 review

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

C.M.B., vol. 11, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Temis goes diving before her ship blows up.)

Faisutosu no Enban (The Phaistos Disk, Monthly Magajin, 2008).
Three stories this time. In the first, we see a woman on a boat getting ready to do some scuba diving. Shortly after she enters the water, the captain opens the drink cooler and discovers a ticking time bomb. The bomb goes off, killing the crew and stunning the woman. The scene shifts to Santorini island, in Greece, where Mao is paying off on her agreement from the last story to show Shinra her private collection. She, Shinra and Tatsuki enter a small shop and are met by Bia Burusuto (Sounds like Bea Brust), an Europol agent investigating Mao for dealing in stolen goods. Bea tells them that Mao has at least 13 shops set up around the world, that they know of, and this is the smallest one. Shinra sees a ring in a case, and he's thinking about buying it, except that Mao already has a customer lined up for it. The ring is related to the "O-Parts", which in English are called OOPs (Out-of-Place Artifacts). In this case, the ring was used to make the Phaistos Disk in the 2nd Millennium BC as an example of moveable type predating the Gutenberg press by a long shot. The customer is Pan Sirius, younger brother of the Greek shipping magnate Andres Sirius. Andres is currently going through a nasty divorce with his wife, and is on his way to visit his girlfriend, Temis Trey, the victim of the earlier boat bombing, in the hospital.

(Shinra relates the events when Pan was found kneeling over Elias.)

Pan offers to take the group out on the Aegean sea on his yacht. During the ride, which includes a free lunch, Andres' wife Elias shows up to talk to Pan. A minute later, there are 2 gunshots. The group runs down the stairs to the main deck where they find Pan kneeling over Elias' corpse, holding a gun. Bia is put on the case and Mao's ring is confiscated as evidence, so she demands that Shinra fix things so she can get it back. The investigation stalls when a suicide note in Elias' handwriting is found, and it looks like there are 3 equally likely solutions: 1) Elias committed suicide; 2) Pan killed her, missing the first shot, which put a hole in a window, and then hitting her with the second; 3) a diver entered the yacht behind Elias and shot her from the doorway. Pan, Andres and Temis all had motive; and both Pan and Andres practice clay pigeon shooting everyday, which leaves gunpowder residue on their hands and clothes. Shinra mentions that the Phaistos Disk has yet to be translated because there are too many possible meanings for each symbol. This is the key to solving the current case, which also has too many solutions. Main question: Who is the killer if it wasn't suicide?

The science relates to OOP artifacts, and there are mentions of both the Mayan rocketship, the 500-year-old jet plane and the thousands-of-years-old crystal skulls. We also get to see Gutenberg again.

(Kantarou shows off his $30,000 tea cup.)

Hatsugama Jiken ("Hatsugama" Case, Monthly Magajin, 2009).
It's the beginning of the new year, and Shinra has been invited to the Nanase household for dinner. He marvels over all the food, prompting the family to ask him what he's had for previous new year celebrations. He answers that Shigeko Kanamori had been making bento dishes for him before going off on vacation herself. So, he'd eat alone in the museum. Kana vows to demand an accounting from Shinra's foster fathers if she ever meets them. Then, her grandfather drops by to relate his own tale of woe. He's a member of an exclusive tea ceremony school, and the leader is a guy that loves showing off his skills. The leader, Kantarou Kuromatsu, head of the Kuromatsu department store chain, is holding a Hatsugama (tea party) at his house, and the old man wants to bring Shinra along to put Kantarou in his place. Thus it is that Tatsuki and Shinra find themselves at Kantarou's house with the other two guests - Masahiro Asano and Tomoko Nakahara. Asano is president of a distribution company that wants Kantarou to buy more products from him, and Nakahara is a university professor asking for more donations to her school. Kantarou turns down both requests saying that he can't justify them, then brings out his latest acquisition, an authentic Kuroraku tea cup that he bought for 3,000,000 yen (30,000 USD).

(Shinra gives a brief history of the top, kite and paddle.)

Tatsuki's grandfather (finally given a last name here - Kyokawa) asks Shinra to make a comment about the tea cup. The boy doesn't care about that; instead, he comments on some toys that had been set out to decorate the room. The kite, badminton paddle and top are all antiques and worth a lot of money in their own rights. Kantarou is stunned to learn that the toys are worth anything, and that's enough to make Kyokawa happy. At the end of the day, as everyone is getting ready to go home, Kantarou discovers that the tea cup is missing, the box it had been in now holds the top. Kantarou accuses one of them of being a thief, and Shinra promises to explain everything in exchange for the kite, paddle and top. Since everyone had been in the tea room with the cup at different points during the day, all of them had opportunity. Questions: How was the cup replaced by the top? Why hadn't Kantarou noticed the difference in weights when he'd held the box before? Where is the cup now? Was there an ulterior motive in stealing the cup?

The only science involves a discussion on gyroscopes. There is some history on the tea cup, top, kite and paddle. Otherwise, this is just a minor story about people that like practicing cha do. One side note is that during the time Shinra is at Kantarou's, Sou and Kana, from Q.E.D., try dropping by the museum to say "Happy New Year", but they leave before Shinra gets back.

(Hideyoshi locks himself in his house following his wife's death.)

Marujime Neko (Marujime Neko, Monthly Magajin, 2009).
Hideyoshi Hiraya and his granddaughter, Yuki, are visiting the museum to ask Shinra for help. Seems that Hideyoshi has been having a string of bad luck, and a souvenir he'd bought for his late wife near the time of their honeymoon, a porcelain cat, might be the cause of it. Yuki had been talking about the problems to Tatsuki at school, and Shinra had asked if the cat had something like the Greek "alpha" character on its back. Yuki said "yes", so the boy tells her to have her grandfather bring the cat to the museum. However, rather than giving an answer he just asks the old man to give him the cat. Yuki and Hideyoshi storm out and Tatsuki is left having to apologize, since Shinra won't explain himself. Then, over the next few days, even more strange things happen. First, there was a broken window in the house, then a string of firecrackers exploding in the backyard, a shoestring breaking (a sign of something bad about to happen) when Hideyoshi is preparing to go fishing with a friend, and then finally, as he's about to climb a ladder up to the roof, the bottom rung breaks and messes up his ankle. He's taken to the hospital, and there he decides to give the cat to Shinra because he's convinced it's cursed.

(Hideyoshi has a bad dream.)

The cat is called a Marujime Neko, which is a variant of the maneki neko legend. In one version (The Temple Cat), during a storm a wealthy feudal lord was standing under a tree near a shrine when he saw a cat raising its paw as if to tell him "come here". When the lord approached, lightning struck the tree. To thank the cat for saving his life, the lord became friends with the shrine priest, the shrine became prosperous and began making maneki cat statues. But, there's at least a second legend (The old woman's cat). An old woman and her husband had to get rid of their beloved cat because they were so poor. One night, the cat appeared in both people's dreams telling them to make a clay sculpture. The next day, the two make a clay statue of their cat, and it sells very quickly. The couple keeps making the same statue and become prosperous. According to Shinra, the couple's name was Marujime, and they marked their statues with the circle (maru) around the "jime" (〆) character, and they're now collector's items.

--- Spoilers ---

During the time Hideyoshi is having his problems, he's visited by three people: Yuki, the house caretaker, Yoshie Kawamura, and his fishing friend, Akira Yano. However, there are two others that visit sometimes - Yuki's parents. When the firecrackers go off, and when the window is broken, Yano is mysteriously right at the door. Yano tries to get Hideyoshi to go fishing to get out of the house, but when his shoestring breaks, he refuses to leave. On the other hand, Yoshie is the one that asked him to climb up to the roof for some reason. Questions: Is the cat cursed? If not, is there a different reason behind Hideyoshi's "bad luck"? Is there a reason why Shinra wants the cat but won't explain himself to Tatsuki?  Actually, the answers are addressed when Shinra asks if the old man has been robbed recently. He sends Yuki to the cabinet that has the photo of her deceased grandmother, and she discovers that the money and bank book are gone. Shinra then says that the window had been broken to make the old man check his valuables so the thief would know where they are. The thief had planned on taking them when the old man went to check out the firecrackers, but Yano's surprise visit thwarted him/her. Finally, the thief sawed through the ladder rung to put Hideyoshi in the hospital and out of the way. The culprit is then shown to be Yoshie. And the reason Shinra wants the cat is that Hideyoshi had locked himself up in his house following the death of his wife, and the only way to get him back outside and living again is to move the memento of her to the museum so he has to leave the house to visit it.

No science, just the history of the Marujime cat.

(Back cover)

Comments: Some nice artwork in this volume. I didn't know about the OOP artifacts or Marujime Neko before, so those were interesting. Fortunately, the motives are a little more reasonable this time around, and that's good. Overall, recommended.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


A few weeks ago, I was walking through the Yamakataya department store when I encountered this big squirrel mascot. His name is Minto-kun. I think he's promoting skin care products or something. Regardless, the young girl in her mother's arms was terrified by him. What's interesting about this costume is that the person inside can move their hands from the arms of the costume up to the ears to make them wiggle, and back.

(Can you guess where his hands are?)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Anti-Violence Poster

I've mentioned manga artist Reiko Saibara before. She illustrated this poster warning against violence against women and children, found in the lobby of the City Hall building.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kagoshima Tea

(The red apron reads "Kagoshima Tea".)

I generally go to bed late, so I normally don't wake up before 10AM, and I certainly don't go to the train station right away. However, one Saturday I had to modify my schedule, and I found myself at Chuo station at 9:30 AM. None of the stores were open yet, but there was a ceremony being conducted in the main plaza in front.

Kirishima, the area north of Kagoshima, which includes the regional airport, is home to a number of tea plantations. And on this day, they had set up stalls to sell fresh tea leaves. The ceremony was to hand out an award to some leading figure in the tea producer's association.

The woman on the right has a tray holding a gold statue. The one on the left has a framed certificate. The one in the middle has a camera.

Advertising inviting people to visit Tanegashima, an island of tea-growing robots. (Also, home of Japan's rocket launch site.)

Fresh tea leaves. As I was taking the photo, the guy running the table gave me a free sample cup of tea.

The other tea sellers.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Zippy the Pinhead Crossover

I mentioned last month that Bill Griffith was going to use some of my photos in 3 of his Zippy the Pinhead strips. Well, 2 of them have run already and the third will come out on Feb. 2nd. Unfortunately, the server hosting those comics doesn't allow cross-linking, so I can't (legally) display them here. Instead, I'll just include the links and you can see them at the Seattle PI site. All of the photos have appeared in this blog in the past, if you want to try to find them yourself.

Jan. 17 strip
Jan. 20 strip

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Kitaro DVD Review, vol. 17

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

Gegege no Kitaro Magazine DVD Series, volume 17

(Manga and TV series versions of the tanuki family.)

So, yeah, another 20-page issue. No posters, and because there's another 2-part TV episode on the DVD, there's only descriptions of 3 episodes. We do get the History of Gegege, the Kitaro goods section (notebooks and pencils) and Where's Yamada? (a few background scenes), so those regular sections are included this time. To make up for the shorter page count, though, we get several more Original Art pages. What I want to highlight here is Mizuki's multiple approaches to any given yokai. Over time, his art style developed, as well as his sense for the actual nature of specific monsters. In this issue, we get the Tanuki (raccoon dog) as it first appears in the manga, its adaptations to the different TV seasons, and two - count 'em - two Original Art interpretations.

(Tanuki family; Original Art version 1.)

There's no featured supporting yokai, so page 2 just starts out with the TV episode descriptions. The episodes on the DVD are: Youkaijuu zenpen and kohen (Monster Beast, Parts 1 and 2, 05/26/68 and 06/02/68); Hakusanbou (White Mountain Priest, 06/16/68); and, Denki Yokai (Electricity Monster, 06/23/68). Note that with Youkaijuu, Kitaro is turned into an animal. "Hakusan" can be treated as a proper name, and "Bou" can be used to mean "priest", "monk" or "boy". So, "Hakusan-bou" could be translated as "Hakusan the Monk". As for "Denki Yokai", while "Denki" means "electric" or "electricity", the yokai in question is a Japanese thunder demon, so it refers to his lightning..

There's no special video on the DVD this time. I haven't checked, but I expect the easter egg is the same "walking geta" as before.

(108 Tanuki; Original Art version 2.)

The new yokai to appear in the TV episodes are: Happyakuya Dakuni (108 Raccoon Dogs), Youkai Juu (Subtitled: "Kouryuu" = Rain Dragon), Oonamazu (Big Cat Fish), Hakusan-bou and Denki Youkai (Subtitled: "Kaminari" = "Thunder").

(Youkai-juu = Rain Dragon.)

The original art pages are for: Gyobudanuki (Shape-shifter Raccoon Dog), Happyakuya Danuki (108 Raccoon Dogs), Youkaijuu (Rain Dragon), Hakusanbo and Denki Yokai (Electricity Demon).

(Back cover, with Where's Yamada, and the Kitaro notebooks and pencils.)

I mentioned a few months ago that the magazine editors were running out of "new" material to cover in the DVD magazines, and that seems to be what's finally happening now. At some point, all we'll be getting is the TV episode summaries and the cover art...