Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review: Geobreeders, vol. 14

(All copyrights reserved by their owners. Images used here are for review purposes only. From left to right - Mori, Chieko and Kagura.)

Geobreeders, vol. 14, by Akihiro Itou - Grade: A-
The volume starts off with two parallel stories. Chieko's retelling of the events in the early 1970's when she was working for Kagura as a secretary, and the military invasion of the island in real-time by the troops from the helicopter from one of the ships. In the real-time line, the were-cats, most looking like school girls, rip the troops apart. In the past, Chieko, a secretary, was the sole woman in what seems to have been a 4-man operation.


One of the guys complained that Chieko's carefree attitude is costing the company customers. As to exactly what the company does, that's a little less obvious. One day, a visitor stops by, calling himself Mori. He hires the company for a job, and the guy that had complained about Chieko is next seen lying on the table with his guts ripped out. The company president, Hiroyuki Kagura demands to know who had "contracted" the job with "Mori", and he explains that there's been a growing rumor in the spy field that a new threat has appeared, following the defection of Russian spy Yuri Rastvorov to the U.S. via Tokyo. His "backers" want Kagura to go after this threat.

(Mori; name assumed.)

The threat slowly emerges as a ghost-like man in a black trench coat (Kuro-Neko) that wages war through information (both stealing it, and using it to take over machines). The CIA has been chasing after him, and Japan is now getting involved. After giving his explanation, Mori leaves the company and comes back later as "Komori", a prospective employee. Komori is hired on and soon the entire face of the company has changed, to that of a bunch of Mori-look-alikes. One day, Kagura tells "Morishita", "Shitamori", "Komori" and "Rokumori" to man the office and to join him in the car, respectively, to investigate an apparent case of sabotage. Chieko wanted to go with, and Kagura is adamant that she stay in the office to avoid danger.

(The female were-cats still on the island.)

A sub-plotline in real-time follows Yuka's attempts to stay alive. Her "sister" enters the room where she's being kept prisoner, and Yuka speculates that there's no plan to kill her right away, since they could have done that earlier with little fuss.

(Yuka and the CIA agent.)

Her sister prepares to dope her up again, so Yuka tries to bolt from the room, but the guy she'd decked before (probably CIA) is prepared for her and punches her full-on in the face, knocking her out. On the other side of the door, a voice from the hallway asks if everything is ok, and the agent says there's no problem. So, Yuka wouldn't have gotten far in any case. The agent talks about her being interrogated later.

(Yuka's little "sister".)

Based on what Chieko could gather, the conflicts between Kuro Neko and the company started escalating around 1968. A little later, Hiroyuki Kagura gets injured, and Chieko visits him in the hospital with their daughter, Yuma. Mori is asked to take Yuma out into the hall, and Kagura says that he wants to quit this line of work. The carpet bombing in Vietnam is continuing, LBJ is out as president of the U.S., Ho Chi Minh is dead, and the war of information is still going on. He then adds that he's finally seen the "ghost" Mori had talked of, who'd introduced himself as "Kuro Neko". Chieko tells Taba and group that Rika, the second girl, was born shortly after. Later still, in September, "it" started. One night, Mori drops by the house to tell Chieko that he'd seen Kagura on a payphone at a tobacco shop before heading off in the company of two school girls (looking much like the were-cats on the island).

(Hiroyuki Kagura.)

Kagura hasn't been seen since and Mori wants to know if Chieko knows something (Kagura had mentioned that Kuro Neko had suggested an alliance, which would betray Mori). She flashes back to a few nights earlier when she'd overheard her husband talking on the phone to someone about an opportunity for a major event coming up, but she decides to not mention it to Mori. On Sept. 6, 1976, Viktor Belenko defected from the USSR with a MiG jet that he landed in Hokkaido. As the Japanese military goes into a panic, Kagura calls home to apologize and say that he needs to disappear for a while. He's in a warehouse with three of the small female were-cats. A taller woman enters the room, saying that Kuro Neko is busy at a construction site. Kagura wants to know what to call the woman, and settles on "Vashuka", a Russian name for cats, saying that it's perfect for her.

(Little Rika.)

One of the issues that apparently bothers Mori's crew is that the jet had disappeared from radar for a while, and that possibly Belenko's eyes had changed color at some point (marks of being a were-cat). Mori visits Chieko and talks her into scouring the company's records for clues to Kagura's whereabouts. As she's working, she asks Yuma to take care of Rika. That's when Yuma discovers that Rika had been drawing pictures of cats and Soviet jet fighters on the back of some of the company's reports. Chieko finds a lead to one building and Mori rushes there, only to see the place go up in flames. Meanwhile, Yuma goes running in the other direction, to the nearby docks, where she's just in time to leap onto the company boat that Kagura and Vashuka are in. They all sail quietly to the island with the paramilitary buildings at the top of the big hill. Inside, the younger were-cats are interfacing to the electronic world through some old-fashioned monitors to a satellite dish, giving them access to the world 24/7. And the information war continues.

(Erasing Kagura Company, Generation 1, part 1.)

Pretty quickly, Mori learns about the missing company boat. The fire had been staged, and the crisped body found in the warehouse probably wasn't Kagura's. Chieko doesn't know how to react, and as she sits in the office, she remembers the happy times of just a few years ago. One of the other Mori's breaks her out of her reverie, giving her a handgun "for protection". She hates it and wants to throw it away, but Mori talks her into keeping it. The company had gotten a lot of heavy financing recently, and Mori had purchased a military helicopter along the way. His henchmen, he and Chieko take the helicopter to explore the area reachable by the boat. Mori also comments that by now, 4 days after the event, Belenko is probably in the hands of the CIA.

(Erasing Kagura Company, Generation 1, part 2. Chieko rescuing Yuma.)

On the island, a number of older male were-cats are watching the horizon for movement. One of them introduces himself as "Taki", which had been the name of Raymond Chandler's cat. Vashuka and Kagura talk about "the plan" about to start into action, which is both his, and Kuro Neko's. Yuma asks "what plan?", and her father answers "a bad one". He adds that Mori and the guys in the company want to protect the country, but that's different than "protecting the people". Mori's not interested in protecting Yuma or Rika. The plan is going to involve people dying, which will mark him as a bad guy. In the city, a truck driver announces that he's ready to take his cargo (a crate in the back of the truck) to the airport. And, on the island, one of the were-cat girls announces that a helicopter has been spotted on approach. Kagura checks his pistol and out goes to meet Mori. The helicopter unloads its human cargo of Mori-ites and the battle between were-cats and humans starts. Yuma escapes Vashuka's leash and runs outside to find her father. Chieko runs out of the helicopter to find Yuma or her husband. At the same time, the were-cat electronic warfare element goes on line and the the young female were-cats start taking over various warships. Back in Tokyo, the two male were-cats bringing their package into the military base succeed, and a pair of tanks get commandeered by the warfare element. One tank blows up the MiG still in the hanger, and then opens fire on the other tank. And, in the Kagura office, young Rika is reading Kenji Miyazawa's "Neko no Jimusho" (The Cat's Office). Kuro Neko is standing, watching the tanks blowing up, and he also quotes from The Cat's Office.

Kagura runs out of ammo, and steps out in front of Mori, who prepares to shoot him. However, a Japanese jet flies over the island and drops a bunker buster into the main building, killing everyone inside, and Kagura outside. Chieko protects Yuma, and Mori escapes death with some injuries. Later, Mori visits the island one last time to tell Chieko that he's leaving his job, and that as long as she takes care of the were-cats and they don't start the electronic warfare again, the government will guarantee they'll be left alone. Mori is then replaced by some guy named Sawayama, who introduced himself to Chieko as Shouzou Irie, the current Irie's predecessor. At that time, Kuro Neko disappeared for a while. The story flips back to real time, where Yuma is in the helicopter with Irie III. Yuma says that she's going to keep up her side of the promise. She adds "goodbye, Mom" and "this is my Plan B". The last remaining soldier sent to the island makes it to Chieko's room, and Chieko shoots him with the pistol Mori had given her so long ago. But, another jet zips in and drops its own bunker buster on the island. It goes off just as Chieko says "welcome back home, dear" to the vision of her long-dead husband.

(Yuma, now and then.)

Taba, Maya, Eiko, Yu and Maki make it to the Army's helicopter and hijack it to safety just ahead of the explosion. (#49 stayed with Chieko.) Eiko is going insane at the sight of the island burning and the others have to hold her down as the shockwave hits them. On the other helicopter, Yuma is on the phone telling "Mr. Descarte" that the job is done. She asks about Yuka, and follows that up with "Again?" Yuma says she'll try to get back to clean up the loose end that is her sister.

Summary: If you like action and high drama, you'll love this book. Highly recommended.

I'm getting a little confused regarding the names. The older daughter in Chieko's story is named "Yuma" (雄麻). The younger one is "Rika" (梨佳). And the current president of Kagura Co. is "Yuka" (雄佳). Not sure how Yuka fits into the timeline, since Chieko doesn't seem to have mentioned her being born at all during this, and that Chieko would have been stuck on the island from this point on. Although there is a hint at the end of volume 13 when Yuka is waking up in the room as her "sister" enters, and she has a vision of a baby being held in someone's lap. In the safe room on the island, the older Chieko had walked by a line of photos, one of which showed her holding an infant of some kind.

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