Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Geobreeders, vol. 15

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

Geobreeders, vol. 15, by Akihiro Itou - Grade: A-
Itou's starting to pull the "gutwrenching mind games" now, and it's making the series hard to keep reading at one sitting. Plus, there's lots of exposition using more difficult kanji, and I'm getting a little lost in all of it. First printed in 2009.

Back on the main island, the present-day Kagura crew, minus Yuka and Tamaki Sakuragi, make their way to a coffee shop to lay out their next move. Since they don't know who their enemies are, they expect that everyone is. They split up, with Taba going his separate way.

Along the streets, anything and everything electronic sets him into a panic, especially traffic cameras. When he gets to his apartment, he thinks about quitting the company. Eventually he decides to call his mother, but part way through the call the line is disconnected with a burst of noise and he panics and bolts again.

(Taba greets Ayumi after a long absence.)

While eating a snack outside, he encounters Ayumi Narusawa (the female sniper from the Hounds) and she tackles him as he tries to run away. In her apartment, Taba says that he's scared. He's been in frightening positions before, but never like this. Eventually, Narusawa tries to comfort him, and the two end up having sex. In part, she's realizing that she is in love with him.

In an otherwise empty penthouse restaurant, Yuka and her "sister" are having dinner with a scarred man who needs to use a voice box to talk. This guy is "Descarte", and Yuka is being debriefed by the two of them. She refuses to eat, and Descarte reprimands her, saying that she's going to need her strength soon. Yuka talks. There have been 3 incarnations of Kagura Company before her.

(Kagura Co., ver. 3.)

Initially, Yuma had said that their job was "balance" between the humans and the were-cats, but after the third version of the company, she switched to "hunting". With the third version, the choice of leader was through attrition, and the group members apparently fought each other as well as the were-cats. At the end, Rika went up against Ryuu, with Irie III at her back. While sealing away #49 in the protect system, Ryuu fell out of the hole in the wall and managed to escape, although Rika had succeeded in putting a crossbow bolt through the laptop. Because of the visibility of the final battle, Rika had to look like she was going to be interrogated by the police, so Rika and Irie went downstairs with Rika in handcuffs, and she entered a police car. As the car pulled away, the driver turned into a were-cat and Irie waved "goodbye". Rika was eventually taken to Chieko's island, killed and buried. At the end of the story, Yuka is madly devouring her steak. She asks for Descarte's real name, and he replies, "call me Pascal or Hobbes", since names don't matter to his kind.

(Rika's last moments, after destroying Kagura Co. with Irie III's help.)

Afterward, Taba's lying in bed watching TV when there's a news report that members of Kagura Co. have killed a police officer, taken a young girl as hostage, and barricaded themselves in their office building. He apologizes saying he has to go, and Ayumi says that she will wait. Elsewhere, Irie III and Kotoi return to the Hound Ministry office, check in, get a briefcase and join three other "men in black" on their way back out of the building onto the street. Irie says that there's no rush, they have time to get breakfast. Ayumi remembers back when she first joined the Hounds, and her superior asked just exactly what her purpose there was. Deciding on that purpose, Ayumi gathers up her gear and runs outside. While crossing an intersection, Taba sees the traffic camera and freezes, causing himself to be hit by a taxi. He asks the driver for the car, and watches the unfolding news story on the onboard TV. According to the reports, Eiko and Yu were talking to a street cop that had approached their parked car, there was a shot and the cop collapsed. Maki runs up waving her gun, they grab their hostage (Maya) and race off. Taba gets to the crime scene, patrols the area, then roars the taxi through the road blocks and into the wall of the building next to the entrance.

(News coverage taken from a traffic camera.)

Taba runs up the staircase, remembering that this is what had happened to him the first time he'd encountered Kagura Co. He gets to the front door of the office and Maki starts shooting at him. He gets the gunwoman to settle down, enters the door to introduce himself again, and Eiko smashes into him. Eiko is a mess and has ceased to function anymore. Maki has to explain what had happened. The cop had approached the car, then a sniper on a nearby building shot him. Maki had run up, and the rest was history. (They also recognize the dead cop as someone that had leaked information during an earlier plotline, so the killing may have been some form of retribution against him.) As they sit in the office, deep in despair, Taba rallies them, saying that if they're going to die, they might as well die in true Kagura style, with Maki blazing madly away, Eiko rounding up tons of cash, and Yu sleeping deeply. The group thinks that this is better than doing nothing, so they start making preparations, gathering up supplies, ammo and weapons. They place the protect system seals in strategic locations around the building, then move to the next step. A few buildings away, a pack of female were-cats sit on the roof, watching. One of them asks what they should do, and another answers that Maya had told her to remain uninvolved.

Taba has Maya link through one of the monitors to a news broadcast channel, then he announces himself to the city as one member of Kagura. If the police don't want the hostage harmed, they must meet his demands, which include several bento lunches, some cat food, several cases of cigarettes (for Yu), ammo (for Maki), several hundred million dollars in old 2000 yen notes (for Eiko), and a car and a jet. The police surrounding the building get angry at the frivolity of the demands. Taba also asks to talk to Irie. In a restaurant somewhere, Irie and the other goons are eating soba, and Irie is amused at Taba's methods for getting his attention. Meanwhile Yuka, her "sister" and the CIA agent drive away from the crime scene to meet up with Yuma. Yuka is set free, but when she tries to talk, Yuma slaps her and tells her to do her part of the job. Kagura Co. is heading for another "reset", and Yuka knows what is going to come next.

(Yuma greets Yuka.)

The riot squad storms the building, but when they get to the office, it's empty. The crew had moved rooms, and they trigger the protection system seals, blowing out the floors below the riot squad one at a time. The final seals were a little too old, and they don't blow quite right, so the riot squad still gets a rough landing at the end. The smoke from the explosions gets covered by the news cameras on live TV. Yuma comments that in past resets, events had been low-key enough to be easily covered up, even when Rika had gotten involved, but what Taba is pulling is getting a little out of hand. She focuses on setting up the next version of Kagura Co.

Irie calls Taba, and gets asked two questions. The main jist is "what is the protect system for?" and what happened to the were-cats trapped in it. Seems that Yuma's father had designed part of the system, and it's kind of a prison. The removable disks can't be copied, but the captured were-cats can be released again later. According to Irie, there are two groups - those under Kuro Neko (A) and the ones that act like wild criminals (B). The conflict is between A and B, and the protect system is used by Kuro Neko to control B (more or less). Eiko wants to know where Yuka and Takami are. Irie can't answer for Yuka, Takami is a different matter. Irie says he has another call coming in and hangs up. He tells the caller to not worry - if Taba and company get too riled up, the Hounds will take care of them.

As the minutes count down, Maki wonders where Ryuu is, saying that this is exactly the kind of desperate situation that he'd loved. But Ryuu doesn't make a last-minute appearance, so she prepares to fight alone. Taba comes into the office carrying a box of scavenged snack packages. As he opens up one, he says that he knows how Takami joined the company, and now he'd like to hear Eiko's story. She says that it was nothing interesting. Just trying to escape sexual harassment, etc. When she'd arrived, the company was just a bunch of losers. Yu crawls up asking if that included her, and Eiko's answer is "you were a special case". Yu can't sleep because the floor is too hard on her breasts. Kagura Co. has been nothing but amateurs, and now they're going up against professionals. They switch topics and Taba says that the plan is to escape in the morning and start up their own version of Kagura. They try coming up with names for the new company, but a noise from a corner stops them. Taba goes over to Maya, who is a wired up mess. Taba apologizes for putting her through this, and the were-cat breaks out in tears (Yu and Eiko berate Taba for making girls cry).

Outside, Irie meets up with the leaders of the Hounds regular forces, telling them that they won't be needed; he'll take care of Kagura Co. himself, although this is one time he won't enjoy it. The Hounds leaders try to decide what to do next. And, in the office, Maya tells Taba that in order for them to break up the stalemate, she needs to be deleted so she can get into the protect system.

Summary: This volume recounts the hours leading up to the "reset" of Kagura Co. yet one more time. In previous resets, almost no one survived. This round promises to be no different. Highly recommended.

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