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Q.E.D. iff, vol. 2, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
(Akashi tries to cheat Yuuki out of his script, or at least turn Santa into the fall guy.)
素つ裸の王様 (Sutsubataka no Ousama, The Naked Emperor, Shonen Magajin R #2, 2015)
Yuuki Yuubari is a comedian-wannabe. He'd had some minor success doing slapstick comedy with a partner, but the partner quit and got married, and Yuuki's career went into a downslide. Now, it's his 30th birthday and he's got nothing to show for himself, which really hits home when his younger brother, who's married and starting a family, gives him 10,000 yen as a present. Yuuki knuckles down and pens the script for a new comic play based on the "Emperor's New Clothes". He gives test performances of the play and is generating enough buzz that he comes to the attention of Natsuhiko Akashi, the manager for the famous comic Santa Suzuka. Akashi is really good at his job. So good, that his employer, Gonzou Ishizuchi decided to knock him down a peg by assigning him to Santa, who's always acting like a dumb prima donna. Santa needs more work, but he doesn't have a script, so Akashi suggests that he steal Yuubari's. On the night of Yuuki's big break, Santa visits the dressing room, naked. The script disappears, and Yuuki's younger sister, Mitsuki, asks her friend, Kana for help. Kana forces Touma to get involved, and he figures out that Santa, a big fat guy, had backed out of the room, still naked, with the script clenched between his butt checks. Akashi turns over the script, but then offers to buy it from Yuuki. The guy declines because this is his last chance to show his worth as a comic and he wants to do the show himself. Then, Akashi makes him an offer to join the company as an employee. Touma keeps tripping the manager up, asking for a contract, asking to read the contract first, and then asking for copies. The meeting ends, with Akashi insulting Kana, and Touma being impressed that Kana didn't get angry like she usually does.
(Akashi learning that he's out of a job, and Yuuki getting to play opposite Santa.)
From here, things go bad fast. Akashi works Yuuki so hard the guy collapses and is sent to the hospital. Akashi again tries to buy him out, but Yuuki insists he can still keep working. Touma has Mitsuki start up an SNS campaign to promote her brother, and a kickstarter to raise money for Yuuki's one-man show. This causes Akashi to enlist all of the comedians in Ishizuchi's company to smear him on the same SNS sites, and a counter kickstarter for Santa's own show of the same script (funded by the same comics). It looks to Mitsuki that the big company guys are going to win and she's losing faith. Question: How does Touma break the contract between Yuuki and Akashi?
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Touma calls a surprise meeting with Ishizuchi, attended by Santa, Kana and Mitsuki. Akashi walks into the meeting cold and unprepared. Touma starts out by showing the SNS smear messages as proof that Yuuki was intentionally overworked and his illness was job related. Akashi counters by saying that Yuuki contracted through Santa's company and Santa is solely responsible for damages (Santa's not happy to hear that). Touma continues, showing that the smear campaign was conducted by the same comedians that work for Ishizuchi and were funding Ishizuchi's kickstarter campaign, linking Ishizuchi directly to the attacks on an employee. This is enough to justify bringing a lawsuit against Ishizuchi directly. Ishizuchi capitulates, allowing Yuuki to co-star with Santa on the show based on his script, and he fires Akashi. The show gets produced, and everyone loves it. Afterward, Yuuki gives up show business and starts working at his father's ramen shop, where his girlfriend becomes a waitress. They're talking about getting married. Later, Mitsuki comments that Touma had gotten serious about taking down Akashi only after he insulted Kana. Kana laughs that off as crazy talk.
(Sadok talks about the night of the murder. Upper right: Camellia hits on Derrick in front of Fannie. Middle, Camellia gives Alf the brush-off.)
殺人のかたち (Satsujin no Katachi, Shape of a Killer, Shonen Magajin R #3, 2015)
Alf Rets is an Oxford math professor married to Camellia, a spoiled socialite. Camellia had so many affairs and scandals that her parents threatened to disown her if she didn't marry someone they approved of. She agreed to the marriage, but then started hitting on Alf's best friend, Derrick, right in front of Derrick's wife, Fannie. One vacation, the four of them, plus Camellia's family's lawyer, Sadok, went to Malta, where they stayed at the Geometry Hotel (the hotel has a few geometric puzzles in the lobby; the rooms have glass panels in the doors that identify them - the Moon suite, Sun suite, etc.) On the first night, Camellia complained of having a headache and demanded Alf go out and buy sleeping pills. Derrick and Fannie left the hotel to see the town, and Sadok fell asleep at the bar. About half an hour later, Alf returned to the hotel, and found Camellia dead in bed, with a single gunshot through the bed covers. The police come up empty and put the blame on a thief that took all her money and jewelry and left the island. Alf announces that he will find the killer himself. So, for the next four months, he keeps returning to Malta on his breaks, dragging Fannie, Derrick and Sadok with him. He's becoming an emotional wreck, so his friend, Loki, invites Touma to the island to help out. Once there, though, Touma is completely uninterested in the case. Kana wants to whack him in the head, but Loki tells her to wait until the "switch in his brain clicks on" and he gets interested on his own. Kana and two of her friends are looking at the exhibits in the lobby, including the Pretzel Knot (the wiki entry doesn't have the exact same puzzle as used in the book), the Luzin Problem (AKA: Squaring the square) and the phrase "Publish or Perish" written over the lobby doorway. Kana says that "shapes are interesting" and Touma suddenly starts thinking.
(Kana talks to Alf's witness, who says he saw a woman on the beach near the window to Camellia's room.)
Kana is sent out to interview everyone, and the picture that builds up is of a weak-willed, bland husband being steamrollered by a manipulative spoiled brat of a wife. Derrick had tried to get Alf to divorce Camellia, while Fannie was afraid that if Camellia were single, she'd go after Derrick even harder. No one understands why Alf is destroying himself looking for Camellia's killer. Additionally, there's the question of how the killer could get into the room - the door and windows were locked and the key was at the front desk with the attendant. The police think a thief waited until the attendant fell asleep, grabbed the key, entered the room to steal the money and jewels and killed Camellia when she woke. Alf claims that Camellia had wanted separate rooms and that originally she was supposed to be in the Sun room. But, he'd accidentally knocked over the wine stand, spilling wine all over the floor, so they switched rooms. When she was in bed, she was covered in blankets and her face couldn't be seen; he was supposed to have had that room and he thinks that the killer had been after him. Then, Alf finally finds a witness who'd been out fishing that night. The witness claims to have seen Fannie standing on the beach in front of the hotel at 9 PM. When confronted by the police, both Fannie and Derrick admit to the murder. Question: What really happened that night?
Science: A brief description of topology and the properties of shapes, including the Pretzel and Squaring the Square problems.
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Touma points out that at 9 PM, when Camellia had gone to bed, Alf had left the Moon and Sun room keys on the table, where Fannie could have gotten to them and switched in her own key for the Moon room key. Then, she received a note telling her to stand on the beach in front of the hotel (where the witness could see and identify her). She heard a gunshot, and saw Derrick standing in front of the window inside the room. She and Derrick both got to the front entrance of the hotel at the same time the police had arrived, and had concocted the story about visiting the town together to protect each other (Derrick thinking that Fannie's disappearance was suspicious, and Fannie knowing that Derrick was the killer). The problem was that the police didn't follow the clues far enough, so the real killer kept pushing for the evidence that the police were supposed to have found themselves. In fact, the real killer had made sure Camellia would be in the moon room, because it was the only one with the properly-shaped glass frame on the door. The killer used a glass cutter to cut out the moon panel and reached through the opening to unlock the door from the inside. Then he slid the remaining glass down inside the panel to hide the hole. Wearing a jacket that looked like Derrick's, he stood in front of the window and shot his wife. Touma offers to have the police dismantle the door to see the hole in the glass and Alf confesses. He'd agreed with something Derrick had once said, about Camellia being poison, because he'd done all this after she'd poisoned him. But, what had pushed him over the edge was the motto over the doorway in the lobby - "Publish or Perish".
Summary: Both Emperor and Shape are weak. Emperor's main message seems to be "get everything in writing", which duplicates the chief point in Dreamcatcher in C.M.B. vol. 30. Otherwise, it's going to appeal to people that like looking behind the scenes of Japanese comedy teams. I had great hopes for Shape when I saw that the name of the hotel was "Geometry", but there's very little real math in the story, and there's no connection between math, and how the murder occurred. The "Publish or Perish" link makes for an extremely weak motive. I've said before that my favorite part of Q.E.D. is when Motohiro sticks to math, science and logic, which doesn't really happen in either of these stories. I recommend this volume only to fans of the series.