Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tamashin, vol. 5, review

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

Taimashin, Vol. 5, story by Hideyuki Kikuchi, art by Misaki Saitoh, Grade: A-
It's been quite a while since I last commented on Massatsu Nooto Taimashin Mashintaidouhen, or "that shojomanga from Comic Birz about the guys using acupuncture needles on demons". Well, when Book Off had its discount sale on 105 yen manga, I located copies of volumes 4, 5 and 6, and figured that now was a good time to pick them up. I wasn't really sure if I'd already reviewed vol. 4, but at about 95 cents US a copy, it wouldn't matter much if I got it again. I even read all the way through 4 and still couldn't remember if I'd written it up or not. Naturally, it was one I'd reviewed, but I think my Japanese has improved enough that I could understand the story much better this time around. And having just finished it again, I could figure out the story in vol. 5 that much better.


(Jingo Kisou and Mayu Touka)

We left our heroes, Taima, Jingo Kisou, Kyougo Ayakashi and Maki Togetsu, on the Touka estate. The Touka's have spent centuries associated with the demon world, and over the last few years the demons have been replacing the family members in order to walk on earth. An abandoned part of the estate, called "Fake Town" by Kurusu, is overrun by humans-turned-demon, and a few real demons. Taima and Jingo had been investigating the family's main home and dealing with the Touka matriarch, while Jingo had turned himself into a demon to study one of the demon's vital points. Maki had escaped the main house in the company of Mayu Touka (the last remaining family member not yet demonized) and the frog-like priest, Garama, only to be forced into Fake Town. Maki gets bitten in the neck by a human-turned-demon, but is saved by the U.S. Army-trained Hayato Kurusu. Kurusu heads deeper into the bowels of Fake Town to rescue Mayu and Garuma, leaving Maki alone in a safe camp protected by various high-tech forcefield generators and a stack of rocket-powered needle launchers. At the end, Kurusu is watching a group of humans-turned-demon (HtDs) roasting and eating a fellow HtD, while Maki is talking to a real demon that had dropped by to unload food-quality HtD body parts on a pair of newly-turned HtDs (the pair had been masquerading as Mayu and Garada, and were killed by Kurusu).


(Maki and Taima)

Vol. 5 starts out with Hayato speaking into a wrist recorder, documenting the behavior of the HtDs during their feeding frenzy. He gets a little too weirded out and bumps into a wall, attracting the pseudo-demons' attention. He dispatches them with a "shower of needles" and continues to the next bonfire visible in the underground parking garage. Back at the safe camp, the real demon decides to eat Maki. She's still weakened from the neck bite and simply tries to talk her way out of the situation by inviting demon-kind to their new home - America. The demon likes the idea, but he still plans to eat her first. Maki does manage to trigger an Army-made laser and the beam lances the demon through the head. It asks how humans know where the demon vital spots are, and Maki just acts coy. However, her next attack with a guided-rocket needle is less effective and the demon replies that true demons are able to move their vital spots around at will. Finally, it swallows her whole, but a second demon shows up and sticks the first one in the back with a needle - Jingo, as a demon, was able to hear Maki's voice from miles away and he arrived in time to make the first demon throw her back up. There's a big battle.

Maki wakes up, with Taima and Kyougo standing over her. As her boss applies needles to remove the remaining effects of the demon blood, Maki talks about how the second demon defeated the first and then disappeared. Kyougo notices the laser and asks if Kurusu was here. Maki says that he had been, but had left to find Mayu and Garada. Taima tells her to give him a full report on everything that had happened.


(Kurusu and Mizuki fight it out.)

Farther in the parking lot, Mayu and Garada have been tied up and propped against a crumbling wall. Mayu's older sister, Mizuki, walks up, saying that it's time for Mayu to be replaced by a real demon, and Garada turned into dinner. Before the conversation can go much further, Hayato arrives and shoots Mizuki with a needle rocket. One of the advantages of spraying out thousands of tiny needles is that you don't need to know where a vital spot is to hit it. Mizuki fires some of the needles back, but they're blocked by Hayato's high-tech suit jacket. Hayato tries to turn Mizuki back human, but the most crucial needle hit her wrong - a demon arm reaches out of her mouth, removes the needle and retreats back inside her body. Mizuki recovers, and collapses the floor under Kurusu, so he blows her in two with a wrist rocket. Her hand flies forward and locks itself on Mayu's ankle. Hayato can't remove the hand with his needles, and a new demon is about to approach. Jingo also arrives, in demon form, but the technique wears off at the wrong moment and he reverts to his human shape. The new demon sends out a "dummy" (something that looks roughly like a human that occasionally attracts human prey), then starts eating the dummy itself. Mayu gets so upset at the carnage that she grabs Kurusu's needle gun and shoots the demon in the head. This just makes it ask who is interrupting its meal. Jingo had been trying to get the other three to run to safety first, but it's too late now, so he uses a needle to put the two civilians to sleep then turns to face the new demon. The demon says that it's going to show them how true demons fight - it uses its blood to make an army of lesser demons that merge into a giant homunculus. The homunculus creates a massive bow and arrow and fires off a shot. The arrow zooms past Kurusu and Jingo to explode into the far wall of the parking lot. The flying debris alone threatens the unconscious humans. As the two fighters goad each other, the homunculus readies a second arrow. The volume ends with Jingo telling Hayato to watch how a real Japanese acupuncturist takes out enemies with a needle.

Overall, the artwork is just a bit better than in previous volumes, but the story is starting to pick up a lot. There's enough humor to offset the more gory parts, and I do like Misaki Saitoh's character designs. It's not perfect, but still recommended if you like light horror.

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