Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: Geeobreeders, vol. 13

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I've mentioned a number of times that one of my favorite manga authors is Akihiro Itou, creator of "Geobreeders", "Wilderness", "Lawman" and "Belle Starr", and that I consider him woefully under-appreciated, by both western and Japanese fans. While "Geobreeders" has been translated somewhat into English, it's only the few OVAs that were made, and the first few volumes of the manga. I think that part of the problem is simply that Itou works at a slow pace, which allows fans to get bored and move on to other stuff that comes out faster, like Bleach and One Piece. The first volume of the manga came out in 1995, and is only now up to volume 16 (compared to One Piece, which started in '97 and is at volume 61). Then again, Itou did fall ill last year and stopped working for a long time, so that doesn't help with his output.

When I came back to Japan in July, 2008, the first thing I did was go to a used bookstore and try to track down the issues of Geobreeders I'd missed while out of the country. After a while, I was able to get up to volume 13. After that, the books seemed to come out very infrequently, and most bookstores didn't carry them. The only way to guarantee finding them is to go to Kinokuniya. Finally, last week, I went in to the East Shinjuku Kinokuniya and bought numbers 13-16. I wanted to get #12, but it was out of stock, and I couldn't remember what the last number was that I'd read. As it is, I breezed through #13, which I had seen before, but this time the story made a lot more sense (thank you, JLPT, for forcing me to learn more kanji). The artwork and action are still as good as I remembered it.

Geobreeders, vol. 13, by Akihiro Itou - Grade: A
I'm not going to summarize the entire book - there's too much action, and I don't know how many people here are really interested in it. Besides, I'm picking up in the middle of the story. It'd be better to go back and start from the beginning for yourself. Suffice it to say that Itou is to manga what film is to live action. His pacing and camera positioning is cinematic in nature, and he knows how to draw people running away from stuff that is blowing up. He switches easily from serious drama to comedy and then back, and his characters are well-drawn and easy to tell apart. (Vol.13 was published in Sept., 2007.)

(The clone's memory of Ryuu fighting Rika.)

The story: Taba (the male part-timer working at Kagura), Yuka (Kagura's president) and Takami (the cute computer hacker) are in the hospital recuperating from the damage received in the last fiasco. While Eiko (the accountant), Maki (the gunslinger) and Yu ("I'll drive anything that has a steering wheel") are preparing to take the company's boat out to a mysterious island that they've just learned about. Seems that a computer disk that they'd gotten their hands on had contained an earlier, twin version of were-cat Maya, who'd been told that if anything goes wrong, retreat to the island. Taba escapes the hospital to reach the boat, but Yuka is just a little too far behind him to catch up. She arrives at the docks to watch the boat speed off, and then is tazed and kidnapped by a mysterious figure in a black limo. Up to the last minute, she was desperately trying to get the group to stay away from the island.

On the boat, Maya is in shock. She'd mind-melded with the older clone, identified only as#49, and had witnessed the deaths of all of the other were-cats during an incident about 10 years earlier. Ryuu, apparently the gunfighter that Maki had fallen in love with, had been a key member of Kagura at the time, and he was trying to save #49 inside the software protect system. Rika, Irie's boss, arrives and puts a crossbow bolt into Ryuu as he throws himself out the window. This is the last thing that #49 remembers before being freed by the new Kagura staff. At the same time, Yuma and Irie (considerably older and more mature-looking now) take a Hound helicopter out to a battleship floating on the ocean. The crew on the ship is on alert for pirates, and they automatically fire on Yu's boat as it tries to get to the island. There are actually 3 ships in the area and they launch a barrage on the Kagura boat as #49 tries to get Maya to regain consciousness following the earlier shock. Then, Maya and #49 team up to try to launch an electronic attack against the ships as Yu tries to steer past the incoming shells. Finally, Maya gets one of the ships to launch a chaff missile, leading to the three ships taking each other out, but not before the Kagura boat gets demolished. The team paddle a rubber raft to the island as one of the ships sends out a helicopter with troops after them.

Back in Tokyo, Yuka wakes up from the drugs that had been pumped into her, and fights past a guard with a silencer that had tried to enter her room as she was leaving. Unfortunately, she collapses in the hallway and gets tasered again. When she comes to again, a young woman sticks her head into the room and calls her "sister". On the island, part of the team climbs up a hill to the ruins of an old paramilitary center that used to be the old Kagura headquarters, according to one of the signs. There's a grave marker to one side, with the Kagura dog logo on it, and a burned out bunker that seems to have been destroyed by a bunker-buster missile. The name on the grave marker is "Rika Kikushima". A group of female were-cats, referring to themselves by numbers 1-50, confront Taba and crew. Then an old woman, called "#0", or as she refers to herself "The Founder of Kagura", shows herself and tells the humans to follow her into one of the buildings where she'll answer all their questions. Maki asks if she's the caretaker for the female were-cats, and the woman replies that it's part of the contract she has with Kuro Neko. She starts out by saying that the story could be told as SF, suspense or romance but she'll try to present it as a normal tale. But Eiko interrupts her and asks who she is. The woman very politely apologizes, introduces herself as Chieko Kikushima, and thanks them for taking care of her daughter, Yuka.

On the island, Maya is called "#107".

Summary: Geobreeders 13 is action-packed and lots of fun to look at. Highly recommended.

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