Saturday, December 6, 2014

Swallowing the Eath, vol. 2 review


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Swallowing the Earth, vol. 2, by Osamu Tezuka, Grade: B+
I was given this volume after the owner had sold vol. 1 to Book Off, so I don't really know everything that leads up to this part, and the Tezuka fan sites have very little information on either book. The premise is that there's a small island in the middle of the Pacific that is home to an idyllic Greek-like civilization, called Mamoo. On this island is a woman, Zephyl, so beautiful that nearly all men who see her fall in love at first glance. Then, she uses the most powerful ones to do her bidding. One man, a Japanese drunkard named Gohonmatsu, is able to resist her charms, and discovers that "Zephyl" is actually a part played by seven sisters, who take turns wearing a mask that was designed based on the features of the most beautiful women throughout history. Gohanmatsu escapes Mamoo, and the sisters vow revenge. All but one sister, that is. The youngest, Milda, has fallen in love with him. Meanwhile, Gohonmatsu's father is desperate to get his boy back, and is pleading with a powerful businessman to help him.



Swallowing the Earth is described on the fan sites as a send-up of western traditions and modern life of the 60's and 70's. One of the recurring themes is of people wearing masks to pretend to be someone they're not. Volume 2 starts out by saying that black Americans had wanted to pass themselves off as white, and were wearing Caucasian skin suits while partying all night, but that the government had sent out agents to execute them. Another theme is American gun violence, where the U.S. is a cross between the Mafia-driven 1920's, and the wild west. One more is the fragility of the western financial system, which is tied to paper money that's not backed by anything. The Zephil matriarch planned to flood the markets with gold to destabilize the world's governments, and then take over after each country destroys itself fighting over food, clothing and shelter. Before the matriarch died, she tasked her 7 daughters to continue with her plans. I'm not sure of the structure of the first volume, but the second is a series of vignettes with titles taken from classical music theory.


(A mafia gunman gets the drop on his betrayers.)

Adagio Modarato
A short sidestory recapping the use of white skinsuits by black Americans, and the mafia's methods for executing anyone (white politicians, etc.) wearing a similar disguise. One gunman gets the drop on his bosses before they have him killed, then returns to his family's farm, only to discover that the entire family has been replaced by people wearing skinsuits. The fake family kicks him out of the house, while taking in Gohanmatsu (he passes out in the fields from lack of sake). The gunman is approached by the FBI, on Gohonmatsu's trail, and he returns to get revenge. One of the fake members is a Zephyl sister, and she helps Gohonmatsu to escape. But, the family is captured, although the FBI does allow them to take off their disguises in private so that none of the members can see what the others look like. The house is then left empty except for 5 mannequins set around a dining table.


(The farmers are taken into custody by the FBI, leaving behind the mannequins to create the illusion of a tranquil family.)

Barusu Rhapsody
A young man in the countryside in the U.S. lives alone in a small cabin, maintaining a dry oil well left to him by his father. One day, the well starts spitting out water filled with gold dust. The man gets rich fast, but is beset by greedy Americans trying to rush his cabin to get their hands on the gold. The reality, though, is that two of the Zephil sisters had dumped tons of gold dust into a mountaintop lake, then blasted the surrounding hills to seal the lake off. One of the sisters is Milda. The explosion opened up an underground stream that is taking the gold dust to the well. The second sister tries to visit the owner of the well to explain what happened, but both she and the young man are gunned down by the angry mob outside.


(Finding love in one's final moments.)

Intermezzo
Milda returns to Mamoo, where she's imprisoned in a cave by her sisters for treason against their mother. Milda searches the back of the cave, and it's presumed that she finds an exit and escapes. Meanwhile, Gohonmatsu has gotten a job as a deckhand on a ship going to Japan. And, in Tokyo, his father is begging with a businessman friend to get him to help find his son. The businessman is visited by a weird guy calling himself Monte Cristo. Gohanmatsu arrives in the businessman's office, is reunited with his happy father, and mentions Mamoo within earshot of Cristo. Cristo is then revealed to be one of the Zephyl sisters in disguise, but her face has been scarred and she wants revenge on Gohanmtsu for it.


(Gohonmatsu prefers sake to Milda.)

Fugue
Milda finds Gohonmatsu and tries to seduce him, but all he cares about is drinking and passing out. She describes her mother's plan of flooding the markets with gold to destroy the world, but by this point Gohonmatsu is out cold. Cristo finds them, and the two try to out drive her, but finally get trapped on a cliff edge. Gohonmatsu discovers that Cristo is female and starts undressing in front of her, which unnerves Cristo enough that she backs off the cliff and falls into the ocean. Gohonmatsu dives into the water to save her.


(Gohonmatsu gets captured by the military, while the businessman learns that they've killed his daughter.)

Minuet
In an unrelated side story, a young doctor working at a hospital for the mentally unstable is focused on trying to cure a pretty young woman suffering from amnesia and loss of speech. The hospital's chief medical officer suggests a highly questionable technique developed by the Nazis, which would allow someone to enter another person's thoughts and witness past events directly. The doctor agrees to this. During the procedure, he learns that the woman was the daughter of a wealthy businessman who was deep in debt to the yakuza. To clear his debts, he sold her to the yakuza leader, who then sexually assaulted her. The doctor "defeats" the bad event blocking her memories by beating the villain up. When both of them recover from the procedure, the woman recalls the treatment by her father and the assault, and commits suicide by diving out the window. The doctor claims that everything is all right, because the woman is now living inside his own head and they will be together as long as he lives.



(Gohonmatsu refuses to say where Mamoo island is.)

Polonaise Melancholic
Japan is visited by mysterious black planes that drop leaflets and soldiers into the country. One commander of the invading army, a Japanese soldier familiar with Gohonmatsu, enters the SDF offices and forces the military leaders to sign over control of Japan to him. He then returns home, which is the same place that the businessman friend of Gohonmatsu's father lives (from Intermezzo), and he rapes the young woman there (possibly a half-sister). He also orders his men to kill anyone that tries to approach the piles of gold now filling the streets. The businessman goes to Gohonmatsu's house to ask for help after his paper money empire is destroyed by the flood of gold into the country. His daughter sees her father's car near the factory's slums, and gets out of her own car to join him, but she gets too close to one of the piles of gold and is killed by the commander's men. Gohonmatsu rushes out of his house to investigate the noise, and is captured by the commander. The commander takes the drunk to the SDF HQ and tries to torture him into revealing the location of Mamoo island and the Zephyl sisters. As this is going on, Milda is caring for Monte Cristo. Cristo listens to the news, and learns that Gohonmatsu has been captured. She and Milda develop a plan, using the Zephyr technology for making mannequin clones. Milda seduces the commander and gets him to visit Crito's mansion. While he thinks he's having sex with her, the reality is that he's been drugged and is making out with the mannequin. After convincing him to release Gohonmatsu, Milda reveals her trick. The commander attempts to shoot her, but is killed instead by a gun hidden in a cat statue, operated by Cristo. Milda picks up Gohonmatsu outside of the SDF HQ, and the military tries to pursue her. To protect them, Cristo dresses up as the commander and orders off the chase. However, her car tire is jammed up by a small pile of nuggets. She's taken off her mask, and as she removes the gold from the tire, the army shoots and kills her. Milda drives out to the countryside and gets up into the mountains. She finds an old woman that makes a potato shochu from roots growing from the side of one cliff. The woman was just about to commit suicide by burying herself with the remains of her deceased husband. She completes this task, leaving the otherwise barren land to the newcomers. Gohonmatsu is desperate to find the potatoes to start making his own alcohol, and Milda throws herself at him to at least get a kiss from him first.

Presto Pathetic
The chaos is over, and Tokyo is just a steel canyon made up of empty office buildings and walls of glass windows. A few stragglers try to scrounge for food, but it's a hard life. One day, the hooch dealer rolls into town to swap potato shochu for whatever people have to offer. It's Gohonmatsu, with Milda. A few local bullies attempt to beat the location of the potatoes out of them, but are easily defeated. One scrounger is tempted to get some shochu, but all that remains in his possession is his wedding ring, which he plans to hock in exchange for food. Milda is pressuring Gohonmtsu to marry her, so he turns over the cart and everything in it for the ring. They find a church and get married, but immediately after the ceremony the Zephyl sisters arrive to kidnap Milda. They gas Gohonmatsu. When he comes to, he rushes to Haneda airport and boards what he thinks is the sisters' plane (since they're the only ones that can still afford the fuel for it. Unfortunately, the plane takes off under remote control and is empty except for him and a time bomb. The bomb explodes, destroying the plane and killing Gohonmatsu. Milda is in tears, and the sisters prepare to put her in a second plane to return to Mamoo.

Coda
20 years have passed. Milda has borne Gohonmatsu's son, Ropponmatsu (Gohon = 5 trees, Roppon = 6 trees). The world has changed drastically, and small ports have sprung up around the globe. Ropponmatsu is a ship's captain, commanding a small crew on a schooner. The crew catches one man that's been stealing food from the larder, and hang him from a yardarm. The ship arrives at the Mamoo port, and Ropponmatsu is summoned to meet Milda. She shows him the glass casket her mother is in, and talks about her mother's plan to destroy civilization so that mankind has to return to their more primitive roots. The boy doesn't care to listen to ancient history like this, and isn't interested in getting vengeance on his aunts for his father's death. Then, the aunts arrive, all looking like middle-aged spinsters. They can't trust the boy, and want him imprisoned in the same cave Milda had been in. Milda resists, and the sisters order the guards to kill her. Ropponmatsu talks the women into giving him some sake to drink first, and he uses that as a weapon in a battle that results in the remaining sisters and guards being shoved into the cave. He locks the gate doors, then runs to his ship to grab several sticks of dynamite he had as cargo. The other residents of the island flee, and he blows up the main building the sisters lived in, killing everyone still inside. Then Ropponmatsu and his crew sail off to their new futures.

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