Friday, February 27, 2015

Q.E.D. volume 50 review

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

Q.E.D., vol. 50, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
I'm torn over this volume. On the one hand, I want to like the inclusion of science again in the first story. On the other, the main characters are supposed to be Americans, and it's more like Motohiro took a Japanese family and had them hold up signs saying "We're Americans". The main premise behind the motive for the crime is just not believable if the culprit was supposed to have grown up in the U.S. And he STILL can not draw feet...

(Discussing using CCDs to measure dark matter.)

Kansoku (Observation)
Sally Brice was a young student at MIT at the same time Sou attended. He encountered her while she was hiding in a construction pipe on campus (and had gotten stuck) trying to avoid her fellow researchers. She's to experimental physics what Sou is to logic. That is, she's a genius. And Diem Clau wanted to tap into that genius in his attempts to use a germanium substrate in his sensors for detecting dark matter. The experiment failed because Diem's basic work had a lot of flaws. One year later, Sally encountered Sou at a park and thanked him for helping her out of that jam, and asked him to stand by her in the future if she needs it. Jump to the present. Sally now heads her own company producing helium cooling systems for major science projects. She's got the contract for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Cern, and someone sabotages it. The monitors show a shadowy image of the suspect, but when the security guards sweep the tunnels where one of the release valves was tampered with, no one's there. Looks like the suspect is a ghost. Next, the system for one of the telescopes on Mauna Kea is targeted by someone that leaves a small tray of radium near the scope's CCD, with the name "Sally" written on it. The radium introduced noise to the images captured by the CCD. Sally invites Sou to Hawai'i to help her out, and Kana drags herself along in order to get free lobster dinners. That night, Sally's parents, Nora and Leonard, fly into Hawai'i unannounced and meet her at the hotel. Both of them are highly successful, powerful politicians. Leonard is thrilled that Sally's company is running into trouble because he's a doting helicopter parent that wants his daughter where he can protect her. Nora is more practical, and gives Sally a necklace, saying that she's proud her daughter is following her own path.

(Trying to find neutrinos at Kamiokande.)

After the meal, Sally is a wreck. Her self-confidence has been shattered and she talks about closing down the company and returning home. Kana won't hear about it and pushes Sou to figure out what's going on. Sally's company's third major customer is the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Sou lays a trap for the villain, but questions remain: Who is sabotaging Sally's customers? How is he or she getting into areas with extremely high security? Why is he/she doing this? What's the next target, exactly and how does Sou know where to look? Does Sally keep her company or not?

The science revolves around the need for very low temperatures at both Cern, Keck and Baikonur, plus superficial discussions of the search for evidence of dark matter. There's also a brief mention of the super pure water neutrino detector at Kamiokande, in Japan.

(A young boy that likes reading adventure books while hiding in a timber shed at a construction site witnesses a murder.)

Dashuttsu (Escape)
Kana receives a letter in the mail telling her to follow the included instructions for making an escape game. The packet also has 200,000 yen ($2,000 USD) to cover expenses and salaries for any necessary part-time assistants. The game is set up in an abandoned warehouse, and is to consist of a series of puzzles and clues, with a 1,000,000 yen prize for the winner. On the day of the event, Sou and Kana man the registration table by themselves. The author of the game never shows up. Pretty soon, the entrants arrive - the psychic Akimi Maguro, former police detective Yasuji Saba, health food wholesaler Gousuke Tachi, part-time worker Misunoriyuki Iwashi and manga artist Akihiko Sanma. Kana follows the instructions, and takes the group through three puzzles. The first is to open a chest that contains a lion's head ring (owned by a former government official), the second leads to a dummy that is hanging by a noose around its neck, and the third to a child's adventure book. It becomes pretty clear quickly that the ring belonged to someone that had supposedly committed suicide in a storage shed on a construction site. But, there was a witness (a young boy that had been reading that adventure book and had taken the ring afterward) who saw the killer string up the victim, lock the shed from the inside and then escape. Maybe the current escape game is to get revenge on the killer, but the stakes are high - Kana and Sou are locked in with everyone else in the building, and a bomb has been taped to the only exit. None of the contestants can solve the clues, so Sou finds himself having to join in as a participant.

(The part-timer discovers that there's no way out of the game once it's started. The wholesaler finds out that there's no cell phone service, either.)

Questions: Who was the original killer and who was the witness? Why wait 16 years to catch the killer? What was the trick both people used to escape the shed? Is there a connection between each of the contestants? If not, why did they show up to enter the game? Does Sou solve the puzzle before the bomb goes off and everyone dies?

No science this time. And the trick is a variant of one used twice already in previous stories.

Comments: As I mentioned above, Sally's behavior, and that of her parents, just isn't something you'd see in the U.S. Her father, Leonard, is much more of the typical Japanese doting father. And the motive just falls apart. But, I like the artwork for Cern, Keck and Kamiokande. On the other hand, the escape game is kind of fun, although the clues are sort of forced. I'm not sure many people will figure them out on their own. And it's never really made clear why the killer murdered the victim 16 years earlier. Still, it's an easy read. Recommended if you like the series.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dramatic Communication

I mentioned recently the Japanese tendency to repurpose "communication" to mean something other than "the exchange of information between multiple parties". Here, we have Apamanshop, a real estate agency specializing in apartments and "mansions" (mansions are just upscale long-lease apartments along the lines of a downscaled condominium in the U.S.) I'm not really sure what an apartment finder service considers "dramatic communication", but there it is. Note that Apamanshop is partnered with the FC Barcelona soccer team.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Birds 150225

I've been wanting to go back outside and try taking more bird photos again, but the weather hasn't been cooperating. I finally gave in and went down to Reimeikan again, but this time I went a little earlier than normal, arriving at noon. There were a few birds hopping around, but not many. And other people kept coming in and strolling the paths, chasing the birds out. I stuck around for an hour and a half, and took roughly 100 photos, but most of them didn't turn out. A number of them were very grainy this time, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the angle of the sunlight to the camera combined with the overcast sky. At some point, the sun will come out when I'm awake, and I'll visit the Kotsuki river instead to see what's there this time of year.

The park behind the history museum has a reconstruction of an old Japanese-style thatch-roof house. Very rarely, one of the birds will land on the roof, but they don't stay there long.

This guy refused to stay still, flitting from a sign to a boulder to the ground to a different boulder, etc. None of the shots really came out well.

Except for the shot of his butt.

I finally gave up and prepared to head out of the park. As I was passing the little pond in the middle, I decided to try shooting water bugs. At the time, I hadn't realized that this one wasn't actually just "one bug".

This was probably the best photo of the day.

I got to the end of the park, where the tree branches are all bare. I could hear a lot of birds singing, but I couldn't see them. As I was looking up, I thought that the branches looked interesting, so I took a couple "art shots".

There were a few birds directly above me, but the lighting was all wrong to get any sense of color. So, I went for the silhouette effect instead.

The one at the center of the shot has a kind of ruff at the back of its neck that makes me think it's a kingfisher or woodpecker or something. Wish the weather was better to bring out the plumage.

One last shot as I headed out the door.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Kick Ass

When you really want Kick Ass hair, go to a Kick Ass salon.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lum Decal

On Sunday, Jan. 12, as I was walking from the Kagoshima Global Day music event in towards Terukuni Jinja to see if I could see anyone in kimono for Coming of Age Day, I happened upon this car sitting at the traffic light, waiting for the car ahead of him to make a right turn. I rushed to get my little camera out of its pouch, but only managed to get one photo before the guy drove off. It was that kind of day.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lunar New Year 2015 in Kagoshima

Kagoshima celebrated the Chinese new year over the weekend of Feb. 22 with a 2-day event in the open space in front of the Lotteria in Tenmonkan. I've been told it was sponsored by a tourism agency.

I was walking back from the conversation school at 3:00 on Saturday when I passed by the set up. The event itself wasn't scheduled to start until 3:30. The above booth is for a new Don Quixote (usually pronounced "donkey") store that is going to be opening up in Tenmonkan on Street Car Street pretty soon (if it isn't open already). The table displayed some of the goods from Donkey, and I'm pretty sure the clothes on the rack were available for rental for 500 yen.

At the time, the local girl idol group Seven Colors was in the middle of rehearsals.

Other shops included Shirahama shochu, and a few tables selling tea, soup and skewers of grilled beef. I had one skewer for 500 yen and it was REALLY good.

After the idol group finished, a taiko group set up and started playing. I  was recording it, and the camera battery died after 30 seconds. So I gave up, went home and plugged in the recharger before turning around and going back to the school for the next set of lessons at 5:30.

I brought the big camera with me. I think the difference in photo quality is kind of noticeable.
There were quite a few mascots this time.

If you look closely, you may find one of the mascots dressed as a gray-skinned alien.

Entrance to the event area. You can see one of the local mikoshi (portable shrines) just inside to the left.

A better view of the mikoshi.

Seven Colors were in the middle of their set. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time before my next lesson started, so I just grabbed a few shots and kept walking. My lessons finished at 7 PM, and by then the event was done for the day.

I returned on Sunday at a little after 2:15. One of the people assisting the mascots insisted on taking my photo with them.

Here we have Yoko. She was pretty good, but I didn't have a good angle for doing a recording. I'm told she's a local cover singer. I tried looking for her in a google search, but very few results came up.

The Shirahama shochu booth. I decided to get some kumquat cider for 1000 yen, and a glass of sakura shochu on the rocks for 300 yen. The sakura shochu was very good and I could feel the kick afterwards.

I like the manga-style advertising poster. The text reads "Your hometown is always new".

The battery in the little camera was fully charged, so I did record some video. Unfortunately, when Seven Colors were back up on stage, the audience space was pretty crowded. I positioned myself to the right of the stage, which turned out to be where one of the more exuberant older guys decided to do his interpretation of dancing and kept getting in front of my camera. Sigh.

Direct youtube link

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Nadesico comments

(Image from Amazon. Used for review purposes only.)

Martian Successor Nadesico, Grade: D
Back when I was still living in Tokyo in '93, I was watching the Irresponsible Captain Tylor TV series as it aired. It was a silly series, but I liked it enough to keep watching. However, I had to move to another city for several months on business and the show wasn't available there. I never did see how it ended. Martian Successor Nadesico started in '96, when I'd moved back to the U.S., and I didn't see any of that at all at the time. But I read comments online in the news groups, comparing the two shows, and Nadesico kept getting the poorer reviews. I also saw some of the still artwork in Newtype magazine, and I started confusing the characters of both shows, so that finally I wasn't sure who was in what series.

I decided to remedy this situation by watching the complete Nadesico DVD set from AD Vision. Again, I hate the American voice acting, so I had the Japanese language on, and subtitles off. And I can see why there were so many complaints about the show. For one, the story and designs were by Kia Asamiya (Compiler, Silent Mobius), and Kia isn't very good as a writer. I liked his Dark Angel manga when it was serialized in Newtype, but halfway through he forgot how to draw and the story fell apart. With Nadesico, the character designs change from episode to episode, and the only really good artwork is in the ship designs. There's no real story, per se, since the series is more of a sitcom in space than anything else. There's a plot, but with all of the jokes and pratfalls it's easy to forget what it is.

The series starts out fine. The colonies on Mars have been wiped out by alien attackers, with the exception of Akito Tenkawa, who, for unexplained reasons, teleports himself to Earth at the last second. The aliens, referred to as "lizards", then turn their sights on Earth. As a last-ditch effort to save the planet, the military leaders find a super ship - the Nadesico - and staff it with a bunch of misfits led by a completely inept captain named Yurika Misumaru. By sheer accident, Yurika runs into Akito, and we discover that the two had been childhood friends before Yurika left Mars and Akito's parents were killed, leaving him an orphan and having to fend for himself. Akito gets enlisted into the crew and becomes the ship's top giant robot pilot against his will. Eventually, he succeeds at defeating the enemy, but only after we discover that the enemy are really the good guys and the humans are the ones that wiped out the enemy's home planet (Mars) first.

Sigh. Where to start? The enemies are called lizards, when all of their mecha look like spiders. And after, when they are confirmed to be characters from an old TV anime. Say what?

Yes, in the Nadesico series, Akito and a few other crew members are fans of an old (fake) Japanese TV series called Gekiganger III, which was designed to look like the real shows of the 70's, such as Getter Robo. In a twist, the "lizards" come from alternate universe where Gekiganger is real, and the Nadesico crew are from an anime show on their planet. Or, something like that.

Enemies come and go, sometimes left behind when one episode ends, with no explanation for why they don't make it into the next episode. Weapons come and go, and the enemy keeps getting bigger and stronger ships, which is important since they lose roughly two hundred ships per battle; they need replacements by the crateful. There's singing and dance numbers that aren't all that well performed, and one full episode is a beauty pageant contest that has most of the female crew members in 2-piece bikinis singing karaoke. The songs aren't that great, and Yuriko wins the contest off-screen in a rock-paper-scissors duel.

If you like Asamiya's character designs, or harem shows, maybe you'll like Nadesico. Oh yeah, the harem thing. Akito is the ace pilot on the ship, he's young and easily embarrassed. So he gets chased by Yuriko and at least 4 other female crew members, although he's not attracted to any of them. A couple of the other characters on the ship have romantic relationships that go nowhere, and there's even a clause in their contracts saying "no relationships while you're a crew member of the ship". Doesn't stop the harem from chasing Akito, though. Anyway, I couldn't find anything about the full series that I liked. Maybe if it were just edited down into a 90 minute OAV it could have been better.

Next up, Captain Tylor.