Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kongo Bancho, vol. 4 review

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Kongo Bancho, vol. 4 (2008), by Nakaba Suzuki. Grade: A

The new group of enemy is a little dismayed at having the odds evened out, since they've been told that Kongo is too much for any one of them alone, so they decide to rebalance things by summoning all of the 1,000 students that they've recruited as followers so far. It takes about a minute for Iai, Gouriki and the other two to make mincemeat of them. So, the Ankei Go Rensou take a breather and tell the heroes to wait for the invitation to the one-on-one combat festival. Later that day, Oyanana arrives at the school and wonders about all of the bodies being packed into ambulances for shipping off to the hospitals. He's not happy at discovering all five Bancho in his homeroom, each of them claiming to have been "coincidentally" transferred to the same school in the same class on the same day. Most of the Bancho immediately attract a following from the other students, but they're not interested in the attention, although Nenbutsu does succeed in talking Oyanana into buying a full "Buddha gift pack" for $200 (marked down from $500). Unfortunately, Iai is vulnerable to nosebleeds when noticing how much skin the girls show when sitting next to him. Pretty soon, a messenger pigeon arrives for Hikyou, announcing the time and location of the new battle.

(The research facility/battle grounds.)

It's located in an abandoned research center in the caverns under Mount Fuji. Kongo tells the others that he's heard that it was used for developing a superwarrior following WWII. The center had a "there can be only one" tournament, and there had only been one person left alive at the end of the fighting (quite possibly his father). The center is set up as a series of battle stages, one stage per floor. When they get to the first stage, the Ankei Go Rensou greet them. After a bit of trash talk, Hikyou and Kabuki face off on a large circular platform. Kabuki unleashes a skeleton arm attack (the arms being stored in his backpack) that reduces the platform to rubble. Hikyou finds himself hanging from the edge of his bit of the platform, then says "It should be kicking in about now". Suddenly, Kabuki is suffering from severe stomach cramps. Hikyou mentions the guy's fondness for odongo (sticky rice paste balls), and Kabuki realizes that Hikyou (without his mask) has been the one that had arrived at the school earlier to offer him a platter of odongo (laced with laxatives). Unable to fight, Kabuki runs to the toilet, where he discovers that all of the toilet paper has mysteriously gone missing. Hikyou wins his round by default, while both his teammates and the enemy question whether his methods are really within the rules.

(Hikyou faces off against Kabuki.)

(Second page of Suzuki's preliminary Banchou character ideas.)

Both sides go to the next floor, which has a bunch of wooden poles stuck between the walls. Gouriki volunteers to take this round, because she likes the balance beams in PE in school. Kangoku joins her, balancing his steel prison box easily on the beam. He's been studying a particular form of yoga that lets him control his body to a fantastic extent. Gouriki fails to touch him, while he keeps on smashing into her back. Below them are spikes made of "Gregion" (a material stronger than steel). Kangoku knocks one of Gouriki's ball hammers free and it gets impaled on the spikes. Soon, the other hammer is smashed loose, and eventually, Gouriki herself falls down onto the spikes. But, true to her name of "insane strength", Gouriki flattens the spikes with her body, and walks over them to retrieve her ball hammers. She then attacks Kangoku in a frenzy. While she's unable to touch him, she ends up destroying the walls and accidentally causing the ceiling to collapse. Kangoku attempts to escape the level, but his prison box gets stuck on the debris on his current beam. The rest of his team refuses to help save him, so Gouriki, "the defender of justice" volunteers to get him free. Kangoku is in a panic and happily accepts her offer. Unfortunately, the punch that sends him outside of the collapsing room is so strong as to puncture the prison box and render Kangoku completely comatose. Gouriki escapes the room at the last second, prepares to continue the fight, and discovers that she's already won.

(Gouriki offers to save Kangoku from the falling ceiling.)

On the third floor, Nenbutsu falls into a trap - a cube made of bomb-proof glass, that forces him to face off against Nenchaku. The gloppy one exudes a mucus substance that solidifies rock hard. This battle is played for laughs, and Nenbutsu pretty soon is encased in solid mucus. However, by focusing his air attacks down to the size of pellet gun pellets, he escapes the mucus, punctures a hole in the cage, and blows all of the mucus off of Nenchaku, revealing him to be a very cute young boy (who Gouriki finds attractive) with a 3-meter long tongue. Nenchaku insults Nenbutsu for being bald, but the other guy says that he's keeping his hair inside his head through will power and it really hurts. This turns the battle into a contest of who has to withstand the most pain. Nenchaku draws a line in the mucus on the ground and says that the one that crosses it loses. They then trade insults, and Nenbutsu seems to be ready to leap forward to take a swing at the boy. At the last moment, he makes a stupid-looking face and Nenchaku bursts out in loose mucus, laughing in spite himself. He also took one step forward in reaction and realizes that he'd stepped over the line one split second before Nenbutsu smashes him in the face. Kongo and team head to the next stage without waiting for Nenbutsu to get out of the glass box.

(Nenchaku's real form, versus Nenbutsu.)

This time, the room is filled with what looks like corpses, but are actually puppets that had been used for the original super-man testing program. Iai and Douke take their places, and Douke's "mystery knife attack" is revealed to be a spinning CD blade that Iai easily defeats. After a bunch of fighting, Iai slices "Douke" to pieces and demands the "real Douke" to come out. Two very buxom girls stand up from the middle of the puppets, and announce themselves as the "Magician Twins". Iai gets massive nosebleeds just looking at them, and is reduced to cutting his own eyes with his katana to prevent himself from being distracted by their bouncing breasts. They continue the fight, then break so that the girls can give their backstory (they were born to a famous magician father, and wowed the magic world at the age of three. They practiced magic till their hands bled, but all they cared about was the praise from their father if they performed well. One day, one of the sisters lost her touch and their father abandoned them. They entered the underground, became criminals and eventually were accepted into the Japan Renewal program as Bancho. Iai sets his sword down, and tells the girls to attack him. He slaps them in the face and orders them to quit being so spoiled. Douke loves the "strong father figure treatment", and this is enough for them to fight seriously, as does Iai. Douke takes on a synchronous attack, where the two girls act precisely identically. One girl traps Iai's katana while the other comes in for the kill. Iai's body instinctively responds, pinning the blade with his fingers then twisting to cause the second girl to smash helplessly into the ground. He then shows his own blistered and callused hands to the girls. He claims victory for this round, adding that he looks forward to fighting them again. Behind him, both girls are crying in frustration. And so the volume ends.

(Iai, blinded, fights the "true" Douke Bancho.)

Comments: The series just gets better with each volume. This time, we have the first half of the first team fight. Nenbutsu turns out to be the comic relief of the group, while Iai is the glamor guy and Gouriki the pop idol. Kondo does little more than explain the purpose of the underground facilities beneath Mt. Fuji, and act like a figurehead. Highly recommended.

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