Saturday, September 19, 2015

Area 51, vol. 2 review

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Area 51, vol. 2, by Masato Hisa. Grade: A
The chapter titles are in English, and there's generally 4 chapters per book, a separator page that contains a sketch and short description of one of the monsters in the previous chapter, and ends with a 4-page section called Hyakutou Saitan, where Masato talks about various creatures in more detail. The overall artwork is fairly simplified, with large blocks of white and black space, but with very detailed backgrounds when needed, and a wonderful sense of movement in the action scenes. There's a very wide variety of character designs, making it easy to tell people apart, with a mix of good-looking, and unattractive people throughout. Part of Little Tokyo contains the Area's red light district, so there tends to be some talk of sex at times, but it's never graphic or outright hardcore. There's some violence, so I guess this manga would rate maybe PG-17 in the U.S. It's definitely not for anyone that's easily offended.

(McCoy versus Homunculus.)

H5) Take Some Sleep
Word that McCoy has shot Big Foot and Fire Salamander gets back to the rival gang's new boss, Poshy Homunculus. Homunculus is a fairly attractive woman with big empty eyes, who had been created for the sex trade. While still young, she found refuge in the nearby ramen shop, where the owner took pity on her and gave her free food. Her favorite seat was at the counter where she could lean against the wall (the heating pipe ran along the wall on the other side). One day, she had enough of being mistreated by her customers, and she stole the shopkeeper's revolver - it was over 100 years old and had also turned into a tsukumogami. Poshy challenges McCoy to a duel, but first she wants to spend an hour revisiting the old ramen shop. We get her backstory, and then she faces down Tokuko in the middle of the street. Pike wants to keep things fair, so Tokuko has to eject 2 rounds from her clip so both sides have the same number of bullets. They start shooting, and at first they're evenly matched, with the bullets intercepting each other in mid-air. But, one of Poshy's rounds gets through, and McCoy fires an extra round to protect herself. Poshy rushes in to shoot McCoy point blank, only to have Pike capture the bullet and shoot it back at her. Poshy gets shot in the head, and manages to stagger back to the ramen shop, where she wheezes that she's always loved being able to sleep leaning against the warm wall.

(McCoy versus Mothman.)

H6) I Was Getting Rid of Coffee & Donut
Little Tokyo is hosting its annual high speed marathon race, with 5 entrants this time. We have Unicorn from Greece, Mothman from America, Velna the Witch from Germany, Basilisk from Libya, and Turbo Baba (Old Woman Turbo) from Japan. As the runners (witch is the only one riding a pumpkin chariot pulled by demon horses) are lining up, McCoy gets a phone call from Kishirou. She comments that he'd told her he was going to stay home and eat donuts with coffee, but the phone changes hands. The new voice on the line belongs to a thug gambler that has broken into the kappa's home and threatens to beat him to death with a baseball bat unless McCoy can figure a way to ensure that Turbo Baba wins the marathon. The race starts, and Pike is wondering what McCoy is going to do. As they drive past the crowds lining the race course, Tokuko sees a gremlin spectator. She shoots Pike, who controls the bullet to turn it into a hook. The bullet grabs the gremlin and carries him into the city's clock tower, which suddenly malfunctions and rings midnight. This causes Velna's chariot to turn into a pumpkin and the horses into mice. McCoy then notices an old weather vane which is on the verge of going sentient. Pike shoots that and pumps out his energy to turn the weather vane into a real rooster. It crows, frightening off the basilisk. As they get near the VIP viewing stands, McCoy realizes that one of the girls there is the daughter of the Greek ambassador. Pike's bullet tears off her clothes, which causes Unicorn to attempt to seduce her. This leaves Baba and Mothman. Mothman has no known weaknesses, and Baba is losing stamina. McCoy is getting desperate when they catch up to the radio announcer's car. The kidnappers are listening to the radio at Kishirou's place, and they're happy when they hear the announcer say that Baba won. They go to the betting room to collect their winnings only to learn that Mothman is accepting the 1st place trophy, and the penalty for losing is that Death gets to claim them. McCoy gets to Kishirou's apartment and unties him. She offers to accept coffee and donuts as a reward, but the kappa asks who won the race. He holds up the ticket he bought for Mothman to win, so McCoy ups the ante to include dinner.

(Sphinx and Bastet.)

H7) Hum... You Look Like A Cat Lover
McCoy and Kishirou are hired by Ra to track down and return his daughter's stolen puppy. His daughter, the cat goddess Bastet, tries to talk to them, but Ra sends her to her room. The dog thief is some guy named (Jack) Nicholson, and he's already dead when they get to his address. They find the puppy, but a huge monster named Black Dog shows up and tries to kill them. Pike refuses to shoot a dog so they run to McCoy's "sister's" house (it's really the home of the video game-loving Japanese goddess Amaterasu, who may or may not be directly related to our hero). Amaterasu is a sun goddess, so her room is in broad daylight, while outside there's a full moon. This unusual situation causes the puppy to turn into a kitten, and the group realizes that Nicholson, who was a werewolf, had had an affair with Bastet and their baby is a werecatwolf. Ra doesn't want the scandal to go public and has sent his bodyguard killer robot, Sphinx, to kill both Nicholson and the baby. Kishirou thinks this is a horrible thing for a grandfather to do to his grandson, which causes Amaterasu to go insane (her own father had cast her into the ocean to die as an infant). But, before she can start her killing spree, Sphinx shows up and cuts the house in two with a laser to get at the baby. McCoy destroys Sphinx, but it self-destructs in an attempt to wipe out the neighborhood. Bastet rushes in to protect her baby, and is killed. Ra states that with his daughter dead, he doesn't care what happens to his grandson. McCoy burns the check for the first half of her payment, and she and Kishirou return home, pretty sure that they'll be able to find someone that either likes dogs, or cats.

(One amusing point is that when Ra gives McCoy the check for the first half of the job, it's paid to the order of "Tokuko Magot".)

(The carp grabs a snack and goes for a swim. McCoy says, "That's why I love this port.")

H8) That's Why I Love This Port
Lieutenant is one of the U.S. military types that keeps the peace around the Area 51 docks. He's hired McCoy to come in as backup in case the latest shipments to the city get out of hand. The first UMA (Unidentified Mysterious Animal) is another kappa, named Kirimaru. Kirimaru immediately recognizes Kishirou, and there's a bit of a reunion, while the new guy tries sweet-talking McCoy. The second monster is a giant carp that belongs to a professor Jisouji. The carp gets loose, eating one of the fishermen on the docks before jumping into the bay. Jisouji's assistant refuses to let Lieutenant's men kill the beast, so McCoy asks for permission to try her hand at recapturing it. McCoy and the two kappa take a boat out, and McCoy and Pike are useless against the fish. Kirimaru and Kishirou team up to use their water powers against the monster, which is then purified and attains its final growth stage as a golden dragon. The dragon is happy to be taken to the professor, while everyone else decides to go home. The two kappa retire to a bar to drink, but things get ugly fast. Kirimaru wants to know why Kishirou has failed in his assignment to track down their race's most treasured artifact, the great sword Kusanagi. He's been sent by their village to locate Kusanagi and kill whoever has it. Meanwhile, McCoy is at the Four-Legged clinic, where her doctor, the Centaur Keiron, is examining some x-rays. They show that the blade for Kusanagi is embedded deep within McCoy's chest, and its mystical powers are the only thing that's still keeping her alive. Which is fine by her, as long as she can track down the one who did this to her and get her revenge.

(On the front cover: From right: Poshy and her gun, McCoy and Pike, and the golden dragon in the background. On the back cover: From right: Golden dragon, Bastet, the Greek Ambassador's daughter, Amaterasu, Sonya the spiderwoman, Cthulhu and Turbo Baba.)

Summary: Basilisks! Cat Goddesses! Bullet eating guns that fall asleep at the wrong time! Mothmen! Dead protagonists and donut-eating kappa! What's not to love! Area 51 - come for the intrigue, stay for the laughs. Exactly my kind of vacation spot. Highly recommended to anyone not easily offended, and thinks that the Necronomicon was written as a bedtime story.

(Keiron: "Something's showing up on the x-rays that I don't like the look of. I'm going to order more tests.")

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