Thursday, March 3, 2011
Review: Geobreeders, vol. 16
Geobreeders, vol. 16, by Akihiro Itou - Grade: A-
Maya repeats that she wants to be deleted to get into the protection system and try to ask the criminal were-cats imprisoned there to come out and help protect Taba. Naturally Taba and Eiko object, but Maya says that this is the only thing she can think of to contribute to the team, especially since all of them are supposed to go out in true Kagura style, and she is a member of Kagura. Taba relents, but he broods about it in the office as Eiko and Yu set up the protection seals. Elsewhere, Yuma gets a call saying that some were-cats have started an attack on a Japanese ship. She's being forced to split her resources - she calls Irie to clean up Kagura while she handles the ship attack.
Taba makes Maya promise that she will come back at the first sign of trouble, then presses Enter to delete her. Time speeds up for Maya and she can actually watch the delete process from within. She arrives in a black space, but soon figures out how to move into the light. Her clothes automatically form around her as she enters an area that looks like old Tokyo, and is occupied only by cats. The cats appear suddenly, first as formless/almost-human blobs, then take on the forms of various tabbies and aged elders. None of the cats want to leave this space, in part because you slowly lose your memories of the outside world and none of them can remember what they've left behind; and partly because there's been this endless cycle of Kagura members suddenly appearing and asking for help - this time is no different. Maya asks what this place is called, and one cat says "this is where we go when we've lost our bodies, this is the afterlife".
(Maya in the process of being deleted.)
Back in Kagura, the blast from the 4 seals throws furniture around the room and leaves a crater in the floor. Taba, Eiko and Yu check all of the monitors to find a trace of Maya. Taba notices a dot in one window of a Hound screen, and declares that that must be her. The dot gets surrounded by a cloud of angry black on the screen as Maya is attacked by a software protocol. Then a software version of a younger Taba (iTaba) responds to her cries for help and moves her to another partition on the server hard drive. Hours pass. iTaba wanders the streets of the town with Maya, talking about their shared pasts, and the fact that he knows why she's there. They arrive at an empty auditorium, and iTaba tells her to give her speech - the others are listening although they're not actually present. What finally appeals to the others is the idea of breaking the "constant loop" of Kagura forming, were-cats being captured, and Hound wiping them all out. Various criminal were-cats stand up in the bleachers, ready to act.
(The hard drives start getting reformatted.)
At the office, Yu has noticed that the reporters have all pulled back, and there are no police in sight around the building. There is one lone car sitting in the parking lot, with two men in black suits sitting inside. Maya sends a message to the monitor saying that she's ready to come back, making Taba feel relieved. But suddenly large chunks of the screen turn black. Something is causing the hard drives to be deleted and reformatted. However, the only one that should be able to do this is Takami and she's not there. Taba yells to pull all of the power cords to try to at least limit the damage. Inside, great big black pillars slam down on the were-cats and sections of the town get walled off. Maya tries to exit, but she's forgotten how. She panics, saying that there are so many things that she wanted to say to Taba, about all of the times he treated her nicely, and how she was never able to help him in return. iTaba says that he remembers the first time they'd met, when she was a kitten sitting in a cardboard box, abandoned outside of a shrine. Maya thanks him.
On the monitor, the word "arigato" appears, followed by noise. Then her file folder shows "file not found". Inside the computer, everything has gone black. Taba goes into shock. In another building somewhere else, a group of men stand around Takami, and one asks her if she's done. Takami is drenched in water and looking doped up. The guy asks again and she dully says "yes". Another one grabs her wrist to take her from the computer and out into the hall.
The two men in black suits get out of the car and approach the building. Eiko drags Taba over to the center of the room, and she, Taba and Yu are strapped into climbing harnesses. Eiko blows the protection seals on the floor, showing that they are directly over the pit created by the falling riot squad in the last volume. As they head past the lobby to get down to the boiler room, they notice that Maki is missing. The gunslinger is standing in the lobby. When the two men enter, she says that she's been waiting years for them. They look at each other, then hit the releases on their briefcases to pull out machine pistols. There's a glorious gun battle, but while Maki slowly takes damage, the two men are protected by kevlar armor under their suits. When the others run through the hallway next to the lobby and see her through the plate glass windows, she yells "This is the Kagura way!"
(Gunfight in the lobby.)
But, a third guy enters the room behind her and puts a bullet in the back of her head. She drops, and the attackers open fire on the hallway windows. Eiko gets them to a firewall and lowers it quickly. Taba is trying to curl up into a ball, so she yells "we can either fight here, or run away, but I will not allow you to just give up!" The attackers prepare to blow out the firewall, so Yu gets to the manhole cover leading down into the sewers.
(Two of the men in black suits.)
Yu goes down first, and discovers a trashed-out old minibus, with a cigarette pack on the floor (while not specifically shown, it's good odds that this is K-4, which was first featured way back in volume 1). She takes out the one remaining cigarette and sits dead-eyed in the driver's seat. Taba is halfway into the manhole when the firewall gives way. As Eiko dashes for the exit, one of the men starts coming through a second door behind her, gun blazing. She turns around to force the door closed, and ends up getting into a fist fight with the guy. She goes back into the hall, and Taba grabs the guy's gun and follows her. Two of the men are already down, but the third is an experienced boxer. Even with her brass knuckles on, Eiko's having trouble. She yells at Taba to get out of there, and keeps fighting. She drops the third guy and runs for the exit. But one of the other two gunmen recovers and draws on her. Taba gets into the manhole, and as Eiko runs up, she's shot in the leg. She collapses close enough to the exit to push the cover into place. Just at this moment, the protection system containment bunker explodes. Eiko and Taba had rigged the building to blow up, with a timer set to go off about 6 minutes after Maya was lost. It's been 6 minutes, and the shockwave of the blast in the basement rips through the boiler room, incinerating all three of the men, and Eiko.
(As the wavefront hits.)
In the sewers, with the cover safely in place, Yu and Taba have gone numb. All that's left is for them to leave. They roar out of the sewer and into a drainage culvert. With the high walls of the culvert surrounding them, the minibus is limited to just "forward" and "back to the wreckage". The police gather along bridges running over the culvert and shoot futilely at them. As the minibus nears the bay, Taba suggests heading for the sea, and Yu jokes about keeping on driving to the next country. They banter about not having roads, and the minibus needing to learn how to fly. They approach a construction site in the middle of the culvert just as Irie crosses over a bridge, pulls out a mini shotgun, fires, and keeps walking. The pellets stay in a tight formation and rip through the driver's seat and into the flatbed in back. Yu takes the full blast through her stomach. She manages to keep the minibus traveling in a straight line up the side of a dirt pile, but it flips on its side and slams into a crane. Yu had said that she felt like they were always the tires of a car, as long as the tires kept moving, there was a sense of progress. It was when she'd had to sit still that she felt like life had stopped for her. Taba finally understands what she'd meant. Yu makes Taba promise to keep moving, then goes limp as the fuel from the tank pools around her.
(Yu and her last cigarette.)
Taba heads away from the wreck. Then a young patrol officer runs up, pulls his gun and yells at the one remaining Kagura member to stop and turn around. Taba still has the machine pistol from the man in black, and he spins and prepares to start killing. However, the ash from Yu's cigarette falls into the gas pool and it roars up fast, allowing Taba to run away. The cop tries to fire, but his pistol is shot out of his hands. Up on a building roof, Ayumi is walking away from her rifle, radioing in that she's fired one round. Her superior officer acknowledges this and says he'll cover the paperwork, but this is going to be her ass in the fire (since Hound was ordered to take no action regardless of what happened, and Ayumi is a member of Hound). Suddenly the line goes dead with static, and the police bands are filled with orders to surround various streets.
During all of this Yuma had taken Yuka to a hidden safe house, and was watching with a smile as Yuka cracked from the shock of watching on TV everything she'd put together going all to hell. Eventually, Yuka says "enough, I understand. I'll work on making the next Kagura Co. Will there be a place in it for me?" Yuma answers yes, but under only one condition - that Yuka forget about everyone that she had been working with. As the names "Eiko Rando", "Maki Umezaki", "Yu Himehagi" and "Yoichi Taba" are recited, Yuka turns and asks "who are they?" Later, Yuka strides arrogantly down a hallway, ordering over a cell phone for certain files to be deleted, then realizing that she needs a new laptop and demanding to have it today. She throws the phone to a man in black walking behind her.
Kuro Neko is standing on the roof of a building in Tokyo, a line of young female were-cats linked, holding hands behind him. Presumably the were-cats are setting up an interference pattern to confuse the authorities. Kuro Neko looks down, a smile on his face, watching Taba. He says, "some day, you may return. Right now, your job is to just keep running."
And, Taba runs, in pure, blind terror. The narration reads "Kagura Total Security was formed to protect humanity and society from supernatural forces. Freely using a computer program from their leadership to combat the enemy, these salarymen work without paid vacations. To bring public peace and order to society, they come in to the office even today."
Note: In all of the other volumes, the last page says "Volume n end. Continued in volume n+1". However, this time, we just have "volume 16 end", with no indication that there is to be a volume 17.
Summary: If you liked the light-heartedness of Geobreeders at the beginning, the ending is going to be a major downer. This volume recounts the end of Kagura version 4, paving the way for the loop to start all over again.