Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ajin, vol. 6 review

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

Ajin, vol. 6 (Good Afternoon, 2014-15), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: B+.
Satoh is slowly working his way up the assassination list, eliminating Takami, from Nakatomi Medical Sciences Manufacturing. People around Japan are talking about him now, but no one has any ideas for how to stop him. At what looks like a remote, abandoned school, Tosaki and his men put Kei and Kou through boot camp. Kei is unhappy at this mistreatment, but Kou is fine with it. Then they go to meet Ogura, who ignores Kou and asks Kei to bring out his ghost. Kei does this, and it immediately starts attacking Kou. Ogura and Kei talk for a few minutes, then the ghost goes for Ogura. Izumi enters the room and her ghost blocks Kei's, and both ghosts disappear. Ogura tells her to not interfere, because "IBM's" fade out after 5 minutes, anyway. Kei speaks up, saying that he's been able to manifest up to 5 ghosts for 30 minutes at a time. Ogura is shocked, and is now really interested in the boy.

("You what the what now?")

Tosaki lays out his plan. The idea is to use two remaining Ajin Research Association members, Keiichi Kai and Naomi Ri, as bait, while making the Forge skyscraper building the battle zone. Kei immediately starts sketching out attack and defense points and routes, stunning Tosaki. Initially, the training is bumpy. The guards don't trust Kei, Kou can't manifest a ghost on command, Kou becomes infatuated with Izumi, Kei learns how to uses weapons almost instantly while Kou just fumbles around with them, etc. Ogura provides his own form of teaching by explaining everything he knows about Ajin and ghosts from research in the U.S. IBM's (or, Invisible Black Matter, as he calls it) is a kind of particulate matter that comes from space somewhere. If a ghost is torn apart, the particles recognize each other and pull themselves back together right away. But, if two ghosts come into contact, the particles can't tell which ghost they came from and just dissipate. As for overcoming Kou's inability to manifest a ghost, the best way is for him to just keep killing himself over and over, until the ghost appears to make him stop. Kou is afraid that if he does die, he may not wake up again. Kei doesn't have this problem, and Kou envies him for it. Kou asks Kei for the easiest, most painless way to die, and the other boy suggests hanging by a rope from a tree limb, and wishes him good luck.

("You don't need to change. Just keep doing what you're doing.")

Kei is feeling like an outsider, and tries asking a question to one of the guards (Manabe), but the guy gets jittery and keeps his hand on the tranq gun, so Kei walks away. That night, as Kei pours over his notes next to a campfire in the middle of the woods, the lead guard, the bald one named Hirasawa, comes out to ask if the boy had a question. Kei says, "no, it was nothing I couldn't figure out on my own." Hirasawa looks at him, then asks, "You lonely?" Kei gets uppity, and claims that he doesn't need anyone, he likes being on his own with no one to get in his way. Hirasawa replies, "that's good," then adds that in the classroom, Kou needs to be a hero and gain all of the attention, while Kei is simply "the creepy one in the corner."

However, this isn't a school, and Kei is a fantastic learner and strategist. There's no reason for him to change that. Kei says that this is nothing he doesn't know, so Hirasawa prepares to leave. But, Kei starts talking about his father. He was a surgeon, and every year he'd get letters from patients he'd saved. Then, one time he got a patient who couldn't find an organ donor. To save the patient, his father located an organ on the black market, but this crime was exposed and he lost everything - family, job, all of it. Kei isn't going to let that happen to him because he's not stupid. Hirasawa walks off, saying, "Do what you have to. Me, I'm following the plan." The next day, though, Manabe looks over Kei's plans, and praises how solid they are. Kei feels a little better about himself.


Youko Tainaka is a high school girl who has it rough. Her father had been killed in an accident, and her mother married a good-for-nothing punk. Her step-father demands $200 to go out drinking. Youko refuses, but her mother gives him the money. Youko complains, and her mother tells her to butt out. Youko works part-time at a convenience store and is planning on moving out of the apartment as soon as she has $10,000 saved up. Additionally, one of her classmates, a presumed boyfriend, asks if she'd be willing to move in with him and his family and she happily says "yes." She works herself sick, putting all of her earnings into the bank. Unfortunately, when she comes home one night, she finds that her step-father had taken her bank book and cleared out her account to spend it on another woman. Stunned, she goes to her boyfriend's family's apartment and sees him in the arms of another girl. She goes back home and attempts to commit suicide by slitting her wrists, but her step-father finds her and attempts to assault her. She stabs him in the shoulder with the scissors, so he drowns her by holding her head under water.

When Youko recovers, her mother and step-father are in another room, arguing, with the guy saying that they can sell her for the money. She grabs her clothes and escapes out to the streets. She starts working as a hooker, saving up enough money to stay in a tiny room by herself. Her only companion is a faceless black ghost. But, over time, she gets sick and collapses in a street somewhere. She comes to in a hospital bed, with Tosaki waiting to interrogate her. He introduces himself as an Ajin finder, and asks if she wants to hear about her mother. Youko is dying, and wants to be left alone. However, it turns out that there was a phone call to the authorities that was recorded. While Youko had been unconscious in the bathroom, her scissors wound healed on its own, so her stepfather announced that he was going to hand her into the authorities for the reward money. When her mother tried to stop him, the guy punched her in the face, saying that he can do anything he wants with "his child." His wife saw red, remembering when her daughter had said that all she'd needed was to stay with her mother. The woman grabs a knife and buries it in the guy's back, replying that Youko is HER girl. But, the guy pulls the knife out and stabs her in the chest and they both die. Her mother's last words were "I'm sorry."

In the hospital, Youko says that this is nice, but a little too late. She dies, and Tosaki thinks that she wasn't an Ajin after all. Then she resets and is fully healed again (until an Ajin dies, they suffer through whatever is happening to their bodies. When they do die, they recover a few minutes later.) Tosaki gives her an offer - become a test subject like Tanaka, or become his personal bodyguard and do everything in her power to keep him alive. She takes the second option. Tosaki then tells her to pick a new name, because the old Youko Tainaka is gone now. She takes her real father's surname, and her mother's maiden name to become Izumi Shimomura. As they leave her mother's grave, Tosaki says that he's working on the "Nakamura Incident" and he has no idea where all those talon marks came from. She asks him if he believes in ghosts.

(Kai can't leave well enough alone, as Takeshi watches.)

We get another side story. Takeshi Kotobuki is a 17-year-old in prison. He'd broken out somehow, then came back a few days later, and has been in solitary confinement ever since. The warden and his advisers decide to let him return to the regular shared cells, but they can't figure out how he'd escaped. The shared cell includes some thugs led by a big guy in a bandana, plus Kai. Kai was arrested for aiding in Kei Nagai's escape, and has been in minimum confinement since then. Bandana threatens Takeshi to learn how to escape, himself. Takeshi refuses to answer, so Bandana starts bullying him, getting progressively more violent. Kai steps in to stop Bandana, so he and his two partners beat up Kei 3 on 1 (Takeshi telling Kai to butt out). That night, Bandana breaks Takeshi's arm and prepares to kill him, when Kai attacks again.

Takeshi flashes back to when he'd escaped. He'd gone to the Labor Ministry along with a number of other Ajin when Satoh sent out his rallying cry. But, he'd hadn't wanted to get involved, so he turned himself back in to the prison. (A few feet from him at the time was Kou.) Returning to the present, Takeshi uses his ghost to protect Kai, and to knock out the attackers. Bandana and friends are put in solitary, and Takeshi approaches Kai out in the yard, both of them in heavy bandages. He gives the other boy a cigarette, and asks how he feels about Kei having abandoned him. Kai answers that that doesn't bother him, but if his friend asked for his help, he'd do everything in his power to provide it. Takeshi shows his ghost, and promises to use it, once, to get Kai out of prison if it comes down to that. Kai says, "Understood." (Note that Takeshi's winged ghost is probably the same one shown in front of the Ministry building in volume 3.)

Summary: Lots of useful information on Ajin and ghosts (IBM) now, plus backstory on Izumi, and an update on Kai's status. Looks like Kei is starting to get more serious about fighting alongside Tosaki's men against Satoh, too. Too bad that Kou and Kei still don't like each other... Recommended.

Note: If you look at the back cover, you can see Izumi's ghost trying to make a cat's cradle. Part of Ogura's training was for Izumi to manifest two ghosts at the same time. This she can do, but they don't follow her orders when she ignores one to focus on the other. That is, she can make one ghost do a cat's cradle, but the other one just stands there, and vice versa. This is where Kei is special, because none of his ghosts listen to him.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ajin, vol. 5 review

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

Ajin, vol. 5 (Good Afternoon, 2014), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: B+.
Kei has left a TV, food and water in the truck for Kou, who grimly watches the news reports on the attack on the Grant building. Kei just kills time with his "adopted" grandparents. After the explosion, Satoh's supporters flying in a drone carrying a duffel bag. In the bag are a pump shotgun and a brace of speed loaders. The police have fire hoses turned on to spray the building with water to disrupt Satoh's link to his ghost, and Tosaki orders in Japan's Special Assault Team (SAT) to take Satoh down by shooting him and just not stopping to let him recover. Initially this plan seems to be working, except that two of Satoh's new recruits, Gen and Takahashi, are on the roof of a building and they start sniping the SAT members. A couple other SAT snipers try taking out Takahashi (he has the rifle; Gen is acting as spotter for him), but Tanaka and his ghost track them down and eliminate them as threats (one sniper uses a flare to trigger the building's sprinklers, which confuses the ghost, but Tanaka shoots the guy in the back). (We also get confirmation that people can see the ghosts if they are under great stress.) (And, it seems that Takahashi is a cokehead.)

(SAT is here.)

Eventually, Satoh's ghost starts acting like a bulletproof vest, protecting its partner long enough for him to stand up and start fighting back. Satoh is ruthless, using his death-defying powers as a weapon as he shoots himself through the chest to splatter someone behind him with gore to blind him long enough to take him out. When the smoke clears, all 50 SAT members are down, and Satoh simply walks past the remaining cops, telling them "good jobs, guys." A TV news helicopter has been covering the battle, but the drone clips the tail rotor and it smashes into a nearby skyscraper. The scene changes to the hospital, where Eriko is walking the halls. She overhears two nurses talking about the battle, and saying that they're worried about the sister of that horrible Ajin, Kei Nagai.

One of the TV stations runs an interview with the author of a book on Ajin. The guy has been studying Ajin for years, and claims that all Ajin are evil simply because they don't die. Normal humans die, and therefore they bond together and show love to each other. Ajin don't have this bond, and therefore have no hearts. So, that's why they should be feared. In the countryside, Kei is helping the old woman pick weeds from the garden, and he sees two of the older village men staring at him. He assumes that they've recognized him from the news coverage. The men get together with a couple of other villagers to discuss what to do. Kei joins them in their meeting house and continues to claim that he's the old couple's grandson from Tokyo. He brings out a bottle of sake to share with them, but is shot in the back by a paranoid villager named Kita. Kei recovers, proving Kita right, but the boy runs behind one of the other men and uses him as a shield long enough to get out the door. Kei gets to the house to grab a change of clothes and some gear, and is closely followed by the lynch mob. They threaten the old woman, while the old man intercepts Kei crawling out the back window, and offers to drive him to safety. The guy knew that Kei wasn't his grandson, but accepted him anyway. He says he'll take the boy to a good orphanage or something, and Kei panics and grabs the steering wheel to plow the truck into a tree. The guy is saved by his airbag.

(Tanaka and his ghost eliminate two of the SAT snipers.)

After seeing the attack on the Grant building on the portable TV, Kou tries climbing out of the semi trailer, but when he finally gets up to the doors, he finds he can't open them from inside. Then Kei shows up and says he'll help fight Satoh. As the two go through the woods to avoid the villagers, Kei gets a call on the cellphone the old couple had given them. Kita has kidnapped the old woman and has been beating her to get information on Kei's whereabouts. Kita throws the phone on the ground, with the signal still connected, and Kei can hear what's going on at that end. Kita had been getting money from Grant Pharma, but with the attack that's been cut off. He wants to sell Kei for the reward. The boy, pauses, grimaces at the inconvenience, then tells Kou that he'll be right back - he's forgotten something. At the cabin, Kita is railing at the woman when he hears a noise outside. He goes to investigate, there's a gunshot, and the old woman assumes that whatever has happened, Kita deserved it. A few minutes later, Kei returns to Kou, saying that he needed to change clothes. He opens up the carry bag to pull out some styrofoam floats and some rope. The two boys tie themselves together, hold on to the floats, and then jump off a cliff into a raging river below.

(Kita tries calling Kei on the phone. Kei heads back to the cabin.)

Some time later, Kei and Kou are walking and they get tired. Kou goes into a bar, befriends a few salarymen and gets them drunk enough to need to take taxis home. He pockets the keys to one guy's car, promising to drive it to the guy's house, then attempts to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Kei grabs him around the throat and Kou asks if he's trying to kill him. They take a rest break at a diner, and Kou actually calls Kei by name, which is a beginner's mistake. The woman working the register is watching the TV and thinks that she recognizes Kei, but the two boys disappear before she can call the police. Kou drives to the abandoned construction site where he'd first met Satoh, in the hopes of rescuing the firefighter from the drum he'd been sealed in, but all the drums have been removed from the building. He and Kei argue over how to fight Satoh, and Kei keeps saying that it's pretty hopeless right now. They need to find other Ajin that can help them. Then, Kei gets a call on his own cellphone from Tosaki. Kei starts laughing, that this may be their best choice.

(Showdown over the coma victim.)

Satoh goes on again to announce a hit list. There are 11 people that have bounties on their heads for any Ajin that wants to claim them. They're all part of the Grant Pharma ruling bloc, with Tosaki second on the list. The first hit is on Ishimaru, from Nisei Corporation. The second is Sakurai. The remaining ruling bloc members panic, and their lead researcher, Kishi, runs away to hide in a remote cabin with his wife. Soon after, the police report that Kishi and his wife have both been killed. (Ishimaru was apparently found by Satoh's ghost, but there's no information on who got to the others.) At this time, Kei and Kou are heading to Tosaki's suspected location, but find themselves stuck at a police checkpoint.

Soon, Tosaki gets a phone call telling him to turn on the TV. The lead story is a police chase after a car suspected to contain Kei Nagai. Tosaki realizes that the road they're on leads to the hospital his fiance is in. He orders a handful of his thugs to join him and they race to the hospital, too. There, Tosaki finds Kei standing at the head of his fiance's bed. The boy says that he can't control his ghost - if anyone attacks him, it may materialize and hurt everyone in the room by accident. Tosaki goes into a rage at this threat to his beloved, and refuses to trust the Ajin on any count. Then, Kou falls through the false ceiling tiles and almost triggers a blood bath. Kei panics and tells everyone to stop, that all they want is to join forces to beat Satoh. Later, Tosaki's group comes out of the hospital and they tell the cops that this was a case of mistaken identity. The suspect wasn't Kei. Inside Tosaki's car, Kei sees the time and date on the dashboard system and he realizes that the school summer break is finally over (it's Sept. 3rd now.)

Summary: Lots of action, and proof that Kei isn't as cold and heartless as everyone else keeps claiming. The artwork is getting better, too. Recommended.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Toyota Car Show

The open space in front of Lotteria had a Toyota car show one weekend.

I was amused by the paint work on the Sienta, so I took a couple pictures of it.

And, I've never understood this part of the Prius campaign ad. Are they saying that Prius can't live up to the hype? Or that they're lying about the claims they make, just like Mitsubishi did...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tully's Rope

I was sitting the Tully's coffee shop (similar to Starbuck's) on the second floor, looking at the window. It took me a number of minutes to realize what I was looking at, and decide that I needed to get a photo of it.

The sign says "Evacuation rope". I'm not so sure that little anchor is going to take all of my weight if I need to leave in a rush...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cheech and Chong pillows

You know, you're just walking down the street. You see a plain casual, upmarket clothing store. And then you see this...

And you know that you're not in Kansas anymore.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Godzilla Dydo Figure

Dydo can coffee had a tie-in with Toho Studios to produce a line of 5 Godzilla desktop figures. Mini-ra holds rubber bands, King Gidora holds MP3 player earbuds, Mecha Godzilla is a smartphone stand, and Caterpillar Mothra is a business card stand. The packaging is printed with sprocket holes along the edges to represent movie film.

Because these figures were sold along with the can coffee (130 yen), I was able to pick the one I wanted from the cooler case. I got Godzilla. He stands about 1" tall, and is maybe 2" tail to nose.

The paint job is pretty good, and G looks sullenly happy. The desktop versions of various figures seems to be catching on as a genre. I don't know if this is a good or a bad thing.

They're so cute when they're small.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Dance Fest

Another hectic week. I'm in the middle of a translation clean-up project that will run until the beginning of July, and I've got my regular teaching work on top of this. I was busy all Friday and Saturday, so I couldn't get up to Amu Plaza to see if anything was being scheduled for the rest of the weekend. I knew that nothing was going on in Tenmonkan, and Berg Plaza only seemed to have another of their craft shows. The weather was bad Saturday, but by evening the sky was clearing off, and the near-full moon was really bright and clear.

So, naturally, when I was getting ready to wake up Sunday morning, I was a bit miffed that we were in the middle of a full-blown major thunderstorm. I still needed to finish off the current set of files for the translation clean-up, so I focused on that during the early afternoon. There was a music event at Wicky's House, in Tenmonkan, a fund raiser for the earthquake victims in Kumamoto, that I wanted to go to. That was set to run from 2 to 5 PM, and Bon DX was going to be attending. But, with the heavy rain, and the proofreading work, I figured that I'd have to try going the next time something like that is held.

(Hikaru Band)

I needed to do some food shopping, so when I got done working at 4 PM, I checked the weather - the rain had stopped. I headed out for Amu Plaza first, to see if anything was going on there. And, yes, there was. A bunch of companies were sponsoring a one-day dance festival. I missed all of the dancing earlier in the day, which wasn't a big loss because I'm not a jazz dancing fan, and they keep using copyrighted music that gets blocked on youtube. The Hikaru Band was just finishing up their set. They were ok, but the mix was wrong, and the female singer sounded painfully shrill. I didn't bother trying to record them.

I just took a few photos and went into the department store to do a little shopping. Then, I came back out to see what the next act was like. I also looked around the event space to check out what they had. Half of the booths were for arts and crafts, and the other half had over-priced food. I did kind of want to get some grilled chicken from a place that calls itself Miracle Chicken, but they apparently just weren't attracting customers and had packed up and left before I could make up my mind to spend money. Also at the event was the Japan Self-Defense Forces reps, with "Mamoru-kun" (Mr. Protection), the foamhead mascot above.

(Cool Beats)

The next group was the Cool Beats. They did a good rock/jazz/pop set that was too short, at only 15 minutes. I managed to record their second song, then I went to the west side of the train station because I'd been told that there was a second stage. Unfortunately, the other stage had a solo folk singer that was spending all his time talking about himself, so I gave up and returned to the main stage. Cool Beats had finished their set then, and the dance groups were getting ready to compete again. Instead of sticking around I went to Tenmonkan to finish off my shopping. I wanted to get the next volumes of Q.E.D. and C.M.B., but they haven't made it to Kagoshima yet. Both books came out on the 17th in Tokyo, so I'm expecting I'll be able to get them on Monday.

The weather never really got good during the day, and it was very humid. After completing my shopping, I was happy to return home and get into the air conditioning. Not one of the most exciting weekends. But, I'm not going to turn down work projects if they mean being able to bring in a little more money.

Direct youtube link