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Posts Tagged ‘Sakaki Kenji’

Enigma 13

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Looks like Kurisu’s just lost one of his key advantages: exclusive knowledge of the password. Whatever on Earth it is that “Q-510” means, Haiba now knows that it’s a password, courtesy of his new improved diary. Speaking of the improved diary, there’s an unclear point as to what exactly it does. In the last chapter, it was clearly Haiba’s hand making the modifications. However, here it seems that the picture is moving on its own. I’m assuming for now that it’s just Haiba’s hand modifying the picture, but better word choice there would have saved some confusion.

Even if Haiba does have the password now, it won’t help him in dealing with Kurisu, at least not directly. He comes up with quite a strategy to provoke Kurisu into pursuit, pretending his power-up allows him to communicate with the main group. It’s relatively common for a character to use a power-up to escape a dangerous situation. It’s considerably rarer for someone to receive a limited power-up and bluff his way to victory, as Haiba does here. Kurisu being a smart, cautious villain ensures the plan’s success, at least as far as keeping him in the picture for now. You know a bluff is good when the main character compliments himself on the plan.

Gloating is always allowed

Kurisu still controls the whole world of the picture, though not to godlike degrees, otherwise Haiba would just be dead. He can still turn a stick into a fully functional katana, though. It works for a mystery-series chase scene. Kurisu himself is actually much less scary than the picture world, which, in a perfectly rigid state, keeps Haiba from any kind of safe haven. Potential weapons can’t be moved, potential hiding places have doors stuck shut, and he’s still being chased by a guy a foot taller than him wielding a katana.

A very visible difference in height

Now locked inside of a supermarket, Haiba and Kurisu begin their game of cat-and-mouse. At least, they would have, had Haiba not immediately and loudly begged the future diary to evolve. That’s not the most savvy decision from someone who knows he’s outgunned.

Haiba’s pleas to his diary don’t seem to have been in vain. He foresaw Kurisu’s attack, and seems to have a counterattack plan involving a cell phone and the password written in blood on the wall. This should be good.

Final Flash: Bluffing is a main character’s best friend, something Sakaki Kenji fully comprehends.

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Enigma 12

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Kurisu just barely avoids the generic evil hostage-taker mold by actually having a legit use for Shigeru; she’s going to get out too, but it’ll be as bait for any traps Enigma has set up around the exit. Given the built-to-kill design of the password games thus far, it’s a legitimate possibility. Even if the current hostage situation blows over, the possibility of traps on the exit cannot be overlooked.

Haiba arrives in the other computer lab, and quickly discovers his powers of observation could use some work. Hiina, the actual smart one, quickly notices that Sudou is wearing a necktie in the drawing, something that is clearly absurd. A fairly obvious detail in hindsight, and it ties into another neat little use of Moto’s power. Another obvious villain flag for Kurisu; he isn’t actually in class 2-C, and seems to be mysteriously absent from the yearbooks. I do love how Hiina’s invisible hand keeps getting used to grab Moto by the jersey – great minor comedy.

Give this man a hand, folks!

Interesting tidbits result from Shigeru’s first attempt to enter a password. Most importantly, one can only make one try at a password. Presumably, that’s just to prevent brute-forcing your way out, but the entry instructions seem oddly specific, to the extent that there’s probably a hidden catch somewhere in them. One possibility is that each password only works for a specific person, which would make escaping really tricky.

Unfortunately, we’re stopped short of seeing Shigeru enter the password as the rescue squad arrives. It’s a little unclear as to exactly how Kurisu evades capture, considering there is exactly one exit, in the direction his pursuers are coming from. Maybe he got off on a higher floor, but that detail could have been made clearer.

In pursuit of the guy with the photograph-based power, Haiba enters the photography lab. Let’s be fair, he doesn’t actually know Kurisu’s power yet, but he is surely screwed. Let the nightmares commence.

More creepy grabbing hands

Now trapped in a flat world where Kurisu is, in his own words, “King,” Haiba’s power undergoes another evolution. Predicting the future while awake is a big step forward. This is still moving fast, but this series seems to be working well at a fast pace, so no complaints.

Final Flash: Our protagonist keeps on getting spiffier powers. Hopefully they stay limited, as it would be a shame to see him breeze through upcoming challenges.

Enigma 11

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

A USB-drive-based password seemed so simple when we first saw it. Too bad the computers don’t have power. This comes as more of a surprise in a manga than I expect it would in an anime; black and white color schemes make it difficult to tell when the lights are out.

Kurisu plays his game pretty smoothly. He splits up the party, then interrogates Sumio about his ability while pretending to have a regular conversation. He can’t be just an amateur, thrust unwittingly into the e-test and just trying to get out of the school alive. The theory of him being a deliberate plant seems a bit more plausible now.

There is exactly no way on earth that Shigeru doesn’t have some kind of power. Her not knowing about it means she’s likely to find out soon. In the meanwhile, Sumio will just have to protect her by… protecting her. That part is a little unclear. I doubt the dream diary as it now stands could be used to deliberately protect one person, as it’s been said before that Sumio can’t exactly use it at will.

That diary is .45 caliber

Never mind, it seems like there is a way to bring out the dream diary as needed. It’s just that that method is a bit painful for Sumio. Improvised mop weapons are always a winner.

The results of the prediction are interesting, though given Kurisu’s declaration that he was going to use Sumio’s diary power against him, there’s a notable probability that this reading is false somehow.

Just as planned

Yep, Kurisu had it all planned out, and altered the prediction to get Sumio out of the picture. Now it’s just him and designated hostage Shigeru, and he’s ready to make his break for it. His power, the unimaginatively named “Flat”, is another neat addition to the series’ repertoire. The power to enter and use the contents of flat surfaces can certainly be useful in more mundane settings, in a school building containing thousands of books with millions of pictures inside, it’s virtually story-breaking. Dinosaurs, anyone?

Final Flash: Kurisu is shaping up to be a good villain already. Now that he has a private password and a hostage, this arc can only get better.

Enigma 10

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by CXC Scans]

The group’s back together again, which makes the absence of the mascot guy all the more conspicuous. It is fairly weird that he left the infirmary, given the obvious danger of going out alone.

Using narrative boxes to skip an exposition scene is perfectly acceptable by itself, and thankfully we don’t miss Hiina and Shigeru’s reactions to the truth about the shadow. Those facial expressions are a nice transition out of the first narrative. The second narrative, which is just Haiba speculating about stuff, is less necessary.

Haiba holding onto all three passwords seems like a bad move. It’s understandable given his de facto leader status, but still, leaving all the passwords with Mr. Trusting makes the odds of them getting stolen pretty darn high.

It’s time for the reveal, set to an appropriately ominous tone. When the mask comes off, it’s quickly clear why he was wearing it for as long as he was. Turns out Mizusawa is in fact Kurisu Ryou, the guy with the creepy smile from the first password photo. He’s a flirtatious bishonen, too; I did not see that coming.

The comedy surrounding Mizusawa/Kurisu would be much funnier if this wasn’t a mystery series. Seriously, it’s hard to enjoy a character being extravagant when you know there’s going to be a serious catch somewhere in his story. That said, if this manga does get into a lighter arc or intermezzo after the e-test, scenes like this may well be worth it.

The rivalry over the harem begins

Ryou’s explanation of how Enigma was supposedly mistaken seems extremely fishy. Although it is conceptually possible for someone to avoid revealing themselves simply out of nervousness, in a head-games/mystery series like this one, that’s very unlikely to be the actual reason. On the other hand, Kurisu floating the theory that his mistaken identity was a deliberate choice by Enigma meant to create group conflict, given how little we know about Enigma, does at least raise reasonable doubt.

What uncertainty is raised, though, is not nearly enough to quell said infighting. Takemaru vocally challenging Kurisu is a fairly obvious development, given that he operates on the opposite side of the trust spectrum as Haiba. More interestingly, Haiba sticking up for Kurisu leads to actual punches thrown. The tension between those two was there from the beginning, and to have it reappear here leaves a lot of ways for this plot to play out.

Going bad cop on the good cop

While Takemaru may have left the group, Hiina and Moto following him once again precludes the possibility of the party being picked off one by one. This series seems to be actively avoiding that particular cliché, so far to great effect.

No points for figuring out that Ryou had some sort of ulterior motive. However, rather than something to do with the larger Enigma/shadow plot, it’s just the selfish desire to escape at the expense of the group. Of the available options, that was one of the better choices.

Final Flash: Ryou’s proper introduction, while not itself a fantastic scene, does provide a good starting point for the next mini-arc.

Enigma 9

November 14, 2010 Leave a comment
[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Congrats to Sakaki Kenji on earning enough votes for a top-5 Table of Contents spot and a color page. This manga certainly deserves it.

Last chapter, we were left waiting with baited breath to find out the nature of Matsurigi’s “cubic subtraction” ability. This chapter wastes no time with the reveal: Matsurigi can shrink (and otherwise modify) objects. The ability does fit the name, but I’m not sure how a miniaturized flagpole will solve our current predicament.

Further proving that these abilities are well thought out, the cubic subtraction ability is numbers-based, restricted to powers of 10. This makes it a bit less useful than straight alchemy, but such a limit allows Matsurigi’s character and intelligence to be brought to the forefront. Even the most creative power is still only just a power until it gets paired with an interesting user.

Matsurigi’s motivation is perhaps the easiest to appreciate of any other thus far; he wants to be a doctor because he wants to save lives. His motivation, more than any other, hints at character development he underwent between discovering his power and the current e-test, probably something having to do with seeing his parents work as doctors. It’s an appreciably subtle way of hinting towards something deeper with this character.

Ok, that’s how you use a shrink-regrow power. That whole sequence – shrinking it from 600cm to 6cm to get it through the crack, then partially regrowing it to 60cm to block the heat vent, then returning it to full size to ram down the incinerator door – was an unpredictable level of badass from this character. That’s what I’m talking about; limited powers make their users look much cooler.

Cool guys don't look at explosions

Haiba reminding Matsurigi of “that man” is a worrisome tidbit. First of all, we don’t have any clue who “that man” is. Also, it feels a little soon (specifically for a mystery series) to start drawing comparisons between the main character and important people from the past. It’s not a huge concern, but this device for building up the main character has been abused a lot over the years.

Of course, there are consequences for Matsurigi’s busting down the incinerator door: Haiba now has blackmailing material to get out of cleaning toilets. This is a delightful short comedy bit showcasing the chemistry between these two characters.

Not friends in everyday life

They’ve acquired the third password, along with a capsule which cures the shadow. Shockingly, Matsurigi not only chooses to avoid taking it, but makes a big show of fooling the others into thinking he has. I can only guess as to what his reasons are, but they’ve got to be good ones.

Now the guy wearing the mascot costume is evidently set for an arc. Talk about total unknown quantities.

Final Flash: The use of cubic subtraction was the most badass utilization of powers this far this series, and one of the best-planned.

Enigma 8

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

I’m interested to see how the moral dilemma the characters were presented with last chapter will be altered by Matsurigi’s shadow-induced selfishness.

In defiance of almost all precedent, this sudden and abrupt shift in Matusrigi’s tone does not go unnoticed. Not only is Haiba immediately suspicious, but the hooded guy also quickly notices the flecks of black on Matsurigi’s hand and keeps the door from being unlocked. My respect for our protagonists is being earned yard-for-yard.

The delay in opening the door gives Matsurigi time to reassert himself and regain control of his body. While it would have been interesting to have him remain as a shadow for the duration of the third password test, this particular action makes up for how abruptly he was cut off last chapter; he’s actually getting to dispense the information now.

Testimony about the shadow shows that it at least has human hands. In some ways, the bad guy is a bit scarier that way than as a formless mass; we now know just enough to prompt speculation, but not enough to formulate anything solid. That uncertainty is what creates effective fear.

Plus, those are hardly ordinary hands

Matsurigi’s reassertion doesn’t mean that he’s going to remain himself forever. Even if he gets out, there’s not any guarantee he won’t become a shadow before the e-test finishes. That’s one plotline that could go any number of ways.

Interesting line of reasoning coming from the hooded guy. I understand his hating Enigma, but another thing gleaned from his speech is that, apparently, even he is concerned about group unity at this point. I guess somewhere along the line he observed that this group of people can function effectively together. In any event, nice subtle attitude shift.

Youthfully rebelling into camaraderie

So, we go for that standard third option: choose both and save everything. That is a tad disappointing, but it does give us the opportunity to see a new power demonstrated.

Apparently, Sumio can do something like telepathic communication now. Weird. Now that we’ve seen him do this, I’d kind of like to see an explanation for his new powers sooner rather than later. As it is, I’m a tad confused about what all he can actually do.

They open the password door, and Matsurigi is now ready to free himself through his new power, something called “Cubic Subtraction.” A little surprised they opted to show his power rather than the hooded guy’s; this makes me all the more curious what his will eventually be.

Final Flash: This chapter produced unpredictability on a page-by-page basis. Not in the sense of inconsistency, but in the sense that the next step is never boringly clear. Mystery series can thrive on this balancing of suspense and surprise.

Enigma 7

[scanlation by CXC Scans]

Sensible decision of the guys to leave someone behind to guard the girls. There will indeed be no lame hostage plots in this manga. Well, the president is already captured, but none of the “save the distressed damsel” plot that lesser series seem to love.

Matsurigi is indeed in the incinerator. Strange, though not entirely off-base, for him to cite his student council duties so insistently now. He’s clearly not the leader figure after being captured so easily. Still, it does provide us with a solid moment of comedy.

Student council members: They just always know

The next password hunt/test begins. This time, it’s a moral dilemma problem. One key, two doors, and something important behind each one. Fairly standard setup. Of course, ever the hero, Haiba vows to get both.

Moto vanishing the door is a pretty good utilization of his power. This is a clever way for him to contribute, and it also soothes one of my few lingering worries about this series. Up till now, we were dealing with puzzles deliberately written to make characters useful. While they were well-written puzzles, they were situational. Moto’s actions here show that Sakaki Kenji is abundantly capable of applying set powers to a wide variety of situations.

Opacity doesn't stand a chance

Unfortunately, seeing through the door does little to help the guys figure out a way past it. Matsurigi, about to be taken over by the shadow, seems resigned to lose his life anyway. Too bad he went under before he was able to spill that one critical bit of information about the shadow’s identity.

The shadow taking over Mitsurigi triggers an abrupt personality change. Evil Mitsurigi now is demanding to be freed. It seems like he’s going to play Haiba and Moto’s humanity against them. This would be an appropriate time for the hooded guy to step up to the plate.

Final Flash: Very solid chapter. This series has a good way of delivering situational uses for the limited powers it gives its characters.