Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quick review: Yuukoku no Rasputin, vol. 2

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

A year ago, Yuukoku no Rasputin volume 1 came out (dated Dec., 2010, which means that it hit the shelves at least a month earlier). This is the manga version of Masaru Satou's novel Kokka no Wana. Masaru had been a Russian foreign affairs officer stationed in Moscow between 1998 and 2002. "Yuukoku no Rasputin" is a fictionalized account of what happened leading up to his arrest and and eventual conviction. The artwork is by horror artist Junji Itou (Gyo, Spirals) and Takashi Nagasaki produced the adapted script.

The primary groundwork leading up to Mamoru Yuuki's arrest - his dealings with the Russian government and some tit-for-tat public works that get twisted into "proof" of embezzlement - is laid out in volume 1, and then further illustrated in vol. 2. This time around, we're witness to more of the cat-and-mouse games the prosecutor, Takamura, uses against Yuuki in order to bring down Yuuki's boss. The premise of Masaru's account is that the boss, based on Muneo Suzuki, is the victim of party politics, and was railroaded for being on the losing side of a political war, that the entire case against Yuuki and his boss was simple misrepresentation of normal activities in the foreign affairs office. In this sense, volume 2 is one big mind-game played out between the "human information vending machine" Yuuki, and the guy that "keeps plugging in 100 yen coins", Takamura.

(Yuuki (left) uses mental gymnastics to hold his own against Takamura (right).)

The artwork is solid, trademark Junji grittiness, and the pacing is slow and deliberate. Don't expect "The Bourne Identity" here - no big brawl scenes or car chases. Just one person's attempts to keep his sanity within the Japanese penal system as a criminal suspect, where even the opportunity to enjoy a spoonful of ice cream has to be considered part of a "relaxing vacation". Recommended.

(Fictional version of Muneo Suzuki.)

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