First up is page 62 for the second graders.
What is annoying here isn't the dastardly boring example of "My pencil is longer than your pencil". It isn't just that, anyway. The whole chapter unites to foster a suicidal dread in adults and children alike. The dialogue is obstinately dull; the only respite being when Paul finally loses all dignity and shouts "What?" at poor Kumi instead of the "Pardon?" we have seen as appropriate until now.
The pair have been set an assignment at school, and jack-in-the-box glory-hunter Kumi suggests that she and Paul study the phenomenon of "heat islands" together. They get off to a bad start when total retard Paul can't figure out why cities are hotter than the countryside, but when in part two the Internet is introduced, we see our American hero nearly swoon in delight. Parts three and four build to the dizzying crescendo of throwing a load of soil and plants on your roof to make it cooler, all the while teaching such marvels as "My bag is as big as your bag" and "Soccer is the most popular of the three" to an enthralled class.
Moving swiftly on, on page 33 of the same book Ken decides that he wants to take up playing an outdated instrument belonging to the Japanese version of Native Americans (the Ainu).
At the same time the New Crown artist decides that it's fine to submit a shoddily drawn picture of Ken and Ratna with water damage for publication.
I don't know which I'm more angry about.
Okay I think it's Ken. The picture connotes such an awful teeth-twanging sounding performance, coupled with Ratna's tone-deaf dry-handed dilated-pupil clap-along that I feel like I can't stop my stomach and intestines from making a fast exit through my backside in a sympathetic bid to end my life.
What the hell is this? The last thing that the poor 3rd graders learn in the year is an edited version of some awful American story called Courage. It features quips like, "Courage is a blade of grass breaking through the icy snow," but also takes a moment to relate to the youngsters with, "Courage is the bottom of the ninth, tie score, two outs, bases loaded, and your turn to bat." Whatever the bloody hell that means.
The single most stupid, however, has to be, "Courage is being the new kid on the block and saying, flat out, 'Hi, my name is Wayne. What's yours?'" Not just because the vocab is much too difficult, but if some kid was called Wayne he'd know better than to tell anyone, lest he find out that their name was Punch In The Face Hurr Hurr You Spazzy Bell-End.
Ultimately the story covers some important ground, but it is hardly worthy of the 3rd grade English finale, and it'd be better served with awe-inspiring tidbits kids can really relate to, like, "Courage is throwing your textbook under a train after making origami cranes out of pages 82 to 85."
Then we're treated to a curious retelling of Alice in Wonderland featuring Humpty Dumpty (end of New Crown 1). I love Humpty Dumpty, and imagine my delight at learning more about his back-story - it turns out his name means his shape! Thanks Japan!
This entire version of Alice is a little odd. She goes to Wonderland as usual, meets Humpty Dumpty and then sings a song about his death which terrifies him. Then it ends with poor egg man wobbling on the verge of tears and Alice warbling with the porcelain-blank darling-face of a stage school brat.
Last but not least is Paul's dad grooming Kumi.
God knows why she was there in the first place - maybe to watch the cat listening to African music and doing a little dance (someones contract was coming to an end, I think), but the way Mr Green tries to gently ease her into her new life as his mistress is more than a little disturbing. Pictures sit atop the mantle to remind the reader of the lives heartless gaijin Mr Green is set to destroy for his selfish sexual desires.
But our Japanese heroine isn't sure about the whole thing. The African music was just the start, and after initially accepting Mr Green's offer of tea she begins to worry. Not just about the contents of the cake which she declines, but the tea itself flashes through her mind in a deftly illustrated thought bubble.
As she stares in vacuous, numb horror at Mr Green's Gary Glitter CDs Paul rushes to the door in a cold sweat. Another one saved, Master Green, and just in the nick of time.