Friday, June 7, 2013

Review: Monju, Vol. 3

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Seigi Keikan Monju, vol. 3, by Hiroki Miyashita. Grade A
In volume 2, Mana's father says that he's got to go out to the village (from Tokyo) for an upcoming father-daughter event. In volume 3, Mana Kashiwagi is in class at school, excitedly waiting for her father to arrive. At the police box, Shino and Monju are dressed up in suits for the expected visit of their department head, while Junpei has no idea what the fuss is about. Then, the guy Shino has been spying for walks into the room, followed by the slit-eyed underling that had appeared at the end of volume 2. Chief Kashiwagi watches as Toshinari Mitsuhori attacks Monju, complaining of the robot's poor design, lack of balancers and overall inability to protect itself. Shino and Mitsuhori trade blows, with Shino's strike to the eyes causing the other guy to fall backwards. Kashiwagi is satisfied with his surprise inspection and he and Mitsuhori go to the school. However, Kashiwagi gets a phonecall about an emergency in Tokyo, so he drives back, leaving Mitsuhori to greet Mana in his place. The girl is less than happy with being greeted by this slit-eyed snake, who asks her if she isn't afraid of being around the human-killer Monju. Mitsuhori then retreats to a nearby hill with a group of his men to monitor Monju's status. The hope is that the stress caused by a conflict with Mana will activate Monju's "justice execution program", allowing the police to execute him just like they had with Peoples.


(Junpei, Mana, Monju, Mitsuhori and Net Idol Shino.)

However, Junpei interferes, yelling at Monju that he has the police department's seal on his forehead, meaning that he has to protect the peace for the sake of the uniform. Mitsuhori's sensors show that Monju is becoming more balanced again, so he orders a show of force against Mana. Not only does the new situation not cause Monju to unbalance, but it brings Mana back closer to the robot. Junpei learns from Shino that Mitsuhori is her primary rival for research money in the Tokyo PD's robotics department, and that he's trying to get her projects shutdown. Junpei locates Mitsuhori at his perch on the hill overlooking the city, but the guy is a trained martial artist and easily drops Junpei to the ground and puts him in an arm bar. Mitsuhori asks if Junpei isn't afraid of Monju's bug program reactivating and putting everyone in danger again. In response, Junpei allows his shoulder to be dislocated while getting out of the armbar and he elbows Mitsuhori in the mouth. Shino arrives and tasers Mitsuhori until the batteries run out.



We then get a few gag chapters, where the computer-master high school recluse discovers that Shino used to be a "net idol", dressing up in university sailor or french maid outfits, while inviting all the old businessmen visiting her website to go die (she's a tsundere). The website had been taken down and all the photos deleted, but for some reason, some of them resurface, and Junpei, Monju and the recluse work to find more proof of Shino's main weaknesses. Eventually, Shino figures out what's going on and beats all three of them into a pulp. Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Mitsuhori is disappointed that the photos he uploaded didn't generate more of a visible online reaction.


(Old photos of Shino as a tsundere net idol.)

Mitsuhori's mindtrick on Junpei starts having an effect, and he finds it harder to work with Monju. Turns out that Monju had killed a murder suspect when the justice execution program activated, which is what caused the robot to have its memories scrubbed before being exiled to this post in the countryside. Monju's memories are coming back in bits and pieces, which is throwing off his emotional balancer, too. Things do go more or less back to normal after Monju visits Junpei's house and Junpei's mother tells him about her son's violent past. Junpei had been the junior high school's star pitcher, but as he got older he turned into a street thug. One day, a rival gang came to the family's flower shop, destroyed the store and roughed up his father. Junpei discovered that the neighbors blamed his parents for letting him get into this situation, and since his parents were effectively innocent bystanders, Junpei eventually straightened out his act and entered a police training academy. During dinner that night, Junpei attempts to reestablish his partnership with Monju by saying that Shino had discovered a clue to the whereabouts of cybernetics researcher Souichiro Yanagi. Monju accepts the offer by agreeing to learn more about his past.



The next day, Shino, Junpei and Monju pile into Gen's truck (Gen Kashiwagi is Mana's grandfather and former head of the Tokyo PD research department) and drive out to the Alps, in western central Japan. Shino had used Peoples' black box to determine his movements while on the run, to find out where he'd gone when he needed maintenance. Also, he'd have needed a lot of electricity for recharging, and one likely location is Kurobe Dam, near Nagano. They have to hike up into the mountains, with Shino riding on Monju's back, and Junpei carrying their suitcases. Near the top, Monju trips over a power cable running along the trail, and that leads them to an abandoned cabin. In the back is a small grave marker with a flower on it, implying that Yanagi had died and been buried by Peoples. As the two humans start bundling up papers and computer disks for taking back home for analysis, Monju enters the cabin, saying that he senses something inside. He stumbles through a weak part of the floor to reveal a metal door underneath, and then tears the door open to discover another Monju robot, completely wrapped up in black leather belts.

Summary: Mana's father is Shino's boss, head of the Tokyo Police Department's robotics R&D department, and a very ruthless man. His underling, Mitsuhori, is a slit-eyed snake bent on destroying Shino's projects, specifically, Monju. To find out why Monju was fitted with the Justice Execution bug program, the three heroes head out to locate Monju's creator, Yanagi. But, while Yanagi seems to have died some time ago, our heroes instead discover a Monju prototype buried under a cabin in the woods outside Nagano. Lots of crass jokes and dark intrigue. Highly recommended.

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