Saturday, October 24, 2015

Area 51, vol. 11 review

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Area 51, vol. 11, by Masato Hisa. Grade: A

The problem with manga like Area 51 is that they're pretty easy to read, and I can finish them in a couple hours. Which means that I now have to wait 6 months for #12 to come out. Sigh. I guess that's the price to pay for liking good action stories...

(White, Suu, B.D. and Gen. They've seen better days.)

H45) This Claw is Me
The story starts out with a wrinkled old cat, Mr. White, burying the body of his dead boss, Didymoceras Awajinse (Didymoceras is an extinct genus of ammonite cephalopod, and the boss is so named because of the shapes of the horns on his head), while talking to Didy's orphaned son. Didy was a rather nasty drug dealer, and his son knows this, but White was one of his bodyguards and the kid respects him for being a loyal retainer. The kid has nothing left to his name and is going to have to fend for himself. White vows revenge on his boss' killer, so he looks up his old partners - the bird guy, Suu; the turtle guy, Gen; and the lizard guy, B.D. Back in the day they used to be known as the "4 Gods" (from a Chinese legend), now though, they're just 4 useless old men. White had been famed for his great speed and strength; Suu for being able to fly and attack from above; Gen for having an unbreakable shell on his back; and  B.D. was an excellent sniper using anti-tank-level weapons. Now, White is a babysitter; B.D. is a drunk in Son Goku's bar; Gen just sits and spouts proverbs while neighborhood kids throw eggs at him, and Suu raises pigeons. White tracks down B.D.'s weapons collection (sold to Suu, then given to Gen) to take out a 2 meter-long sword. Finally, the other three decide to join in for one last fight, recreating the scene from Reservoir Dogs, as they face off against their boss' killer - McCoy.

Note that the "4 Gods" represent the four compass directions north, south, east and west,in Chinese folklore, and are identified as Byakko (White Tiger), Sujaku (Vermillion Bird), Seiryou (Blue Dragon) and Genmu (Black Tortoise).

(It's a beautiful sunset.)

H46) Now You May Sit Down
The battlefield is a half-sunken boat in a lake in the middle of nowhere. It becomes clear real fast that the 4 Gods aren't at the peak of their youth anymore. White is slow, getting winded wielding a mere sword, when he used to be able to throw whole houses around. Gen loses his grip on his barbell weapon and breaks his ankle when he puts too much weight on it. B.D. tries to snipe McCoy from a neighboring building and the recoil from the gun sends him out the opposite wall of the structure. Suu is the first one to fall, with a bullet to the head. Things just keep getting worse for the old guys, as McCoy puts two huge holes through Gen and into B.D., and then blows White half away. White has one solid talon left on his paw and tries to use that to slash McCoy in the chest, but just manages to rip off his own finger. The 4 Gods lose and McCoy leaves. She revisits a previous employer who congratulates her on her work. She demands to know what he means by this, and the guy (unnamed) says that he'd tried to kill Didy 5 times before, but failed each time because Didy owned Pandora's Box, which he used to effectively store the bullets shot at him, kind of like freezing time. The boss hired McCoy to steal the contents of the box two years ago, and when she opened it, time unfroze and the trapped bullets shot Didy in the chest. (So, technically, McCoy wasn't the one that killed Didy.) McCoy protests that she's a repossessor, not an assassin. If the boss uses her like this again, she'll kill him. Then she notices Didy's son in the background. The boy had nowhere else to turn so he'd approached his father's enemy to strike a deal. The boss took the boy in as a sex slave. McCoy sees the glint of hope in the boy's eye, and she tells him that he can't expect her to save him; he has to stand up for himself in this world. She takes the cup of tea he's holding on a tray, drinks it, then slams the cup back down on the tray before leaving the room. In the cup is the talon White had lost on her blouse. The boss asks what that look on the boy's face is supposed to mean, just before the boy gets his revenge. Back at the boat, the 4 old gods notice that the sun is setting and they prop themselves up to enjoy the light glinting off the water for the last time. Son Goku then gets a message that B.D. has died, so he pours out four glasses of whiskey and leaves them on the bar as he locks up early for the night.

(Splash page with the genie and Kishirou.)

H47) Such as Chicks, Motorbikes or Supercars
This is a simple short story. Kishirou is driving the truck, poorly, and he wakes McCoy up when he comes to a stop in front of the office. The kappa goes to a rundown shack that is probably his home, where he joins a dark-skinned guy that is making dinner for the two of them. Eventually we learn that the guy is the genie in the lamp from the Aladdin story, and that somehow Kishirou had found the lamp and the genie can't leave until he makes his three wishes. The genie prepared some fried chicken for dinner, and asks what Kishirou wants to eat the next evening; the kappa wonders if this is going to be one of his wishes and the genie acts hurt. He's in no hurry to return to his lamp, since he's enjoying his freedom too much. Kishirou wants to wish for McCoy to find her enemy, and the genie replies that the wishes don't work that way - they have to be something that benefits Kishirou directly, like chicks, a motorbike or a supercar. The kappa eventually says "I want to drive better". The next day, McCoy is able to sleep while Kishirou drives the truck, and he's now happy. Back at the shack, the genie is making the next meal, saying "2 to go".

(Do not interrupt Medusa during her cigarette break.)

H48) Timing is Most Important
An unknown, unnamed faceless guy is in the cemetery where the dead from the Gods War have been buried, and he's digging up the casket for one of the gods, Skuld, one of the three Norse norns that decides people's fates. He takes the thread wrapped around her arm before leaving (Skuld fought on Odin's side and was killed by Morrigan). This is followed by what seems to be a series of unrelated vignettes. First is a stakeout with McCoy and Kishirou watching a woman whose husband thinks is cheating on him. The woman always stands outside on some stone steps to smoke a cigarette at the exact same time every day. When someone tries to hit on her, she takes her hat off to reveal she's a Medusa, turning everyone in the area to stone (McCoy and Kishirou had been watching her through the truck's rearview mirror and are saved from her blast). #2) Zeus remembers the two kids that had died because of Ginkaku and Kinkaku, and has opened up a museum filled with artifacts, that is free to kids. One of the artifacts is the horn of Amalthea, a cornucopia used in Greek mythology to hold the nectar of the gods. One of the visitors looking at the horn is a fat westerner with a camera. #3) The tanuki, Amechiyo, that runs McCoy's favorite bar has received a new set of clothes from some magazine editor, telling him to wear the uniform for a photo shoot for an upcoming magazine article. #4) There's a little story about how if you put tape in a circle on the floor, your cat will immediately sit in the middle in an attempt to disappear. This mirrors the disappearance of England's famed "big cat" UMA, and ties to the Cheshire Cat. Actually, the existence of crop circles is proof that the Big Cats used them to teleport off of earth. #5) A shady representative of a toy company visits Son Goku's bar and tells him that they've gotten tons of requests for a new line of "Gods" figurines, and Goku came out at the top of the popularity polls, so he wants to measure Goku to get the figurine right. Goku threatens him to meet one requirement - that the figure show that he's taller than he really is. As the representative leaves the Frowers and Fruits bar, he makes a mark on the wall at shoulder height. #6) Finally, we're back at the outdoor cafe run by Derutoro, the goatlike Pan character. He's got two main customers on Wednesdays - Turbo Baba and Keiron. But, there's been a bit of a complication. Baba's picked up a sponsor, a shoe company. The rep from the shoe company has given her a new pair of running shoes, and is the one holding her banana shake when she comes racing up for her final lap. Keiron is enraged that someone else has Baba's attentions.

(The shoe rep talks about cloning and the importance of timing.)

And now, everything comes together. The shoe rep takes his mask off and puts it next to that of a fat foreigner, a magazine editor, a jilted husband and a toy rep. He mentions that cloning animals and people has become a simple matter, what with the advances in science and technology. What's really important, though, is timing. Baba drinks the banana shake laced with the nectar of the gods, and kicks into super-hyper overdrive. Skuld's thread of fate, which is attached to her shoes and each of the killer's targets, rips through the city and tears Medusa, Goku, the tanuki and the Big Cat into pieces all at exactly the same time. The killer picks up the parts that he wants in order to build a Japanese Nue, a monster with the head of a monkey, body of a tiger, tail of the front half of a snake and arms and legs of a raccoon.

(Fun fact: The labels on the liquor bottles in Amechiyo's bar include Wild Phoenix 120, Kemool Jin, Don't Panic Vogon Jin and The 3rd BH Planet Jin.)

(Son Goku testifies at the Counsel of 10 Gods meeting.)

H49) Thank You
McCoy and Kishirou are driving the truck near the cafe, and McCoy jumps out of the cab to shoot Baba in the leg. Keiron thanks her, as otherwise the nectar of the gods would have caused Baba to keep running until she dropped dead. The group gets together at the Four Legged Clinic, and now includes Lt. Felix, who is investigating the cause for the deaths of the 127 people resulting from the Baba incident. Keiron identifies the drug in Baba's drink as nectar, and Kishirou says that it must have come from the horn of Amalthea. Turns out that he and The Beast had gone to Zeus' museum together, where he'd read about it on the information plaque. Felix doesn't know if the horn has been stolen, but he is aware that a banned book went missing from the Army base library - something with a really long title but was written by a Swiss scientist in the 1800's about using electricity to bring dead bodies to life. Felix wants to talk to Zeus about the horn, which will have to wait until the Council of 10 Gods meeting concludes. They're having an emergency meeting right now to determine whether Son Goku's beheading constitutes a terrorist attack on them. Goku is testifying on his behalf, and getting some strange looks because his partner, the boar Hakkai, had mounted a large tea kettle on his neck and then tried to draw a face on it. There's a tradition of headless people running around in Area 51, so Goku's case isn't that rare. Goku says that he's just a bar owner now, not a deity, so it probably wasn't a terrorist act. When the meeting ends, Tsukoyomi and his minions get angry because it looks like Amaterasu has given them the slip again. She's climbing out the back window of the restored Gods of Earth restaurant, where McCoy is waiting for her. The two of them drive off, and McCoy asks why the mummy had tried killing her at the onsen before.

(Jump starting a Nue.)

Amaterasu answers that the sun god Ra has been caught up in a huge scandal following the news that Bastet had a baby outside of wedlock with a werewolf, and that Ra's henchman, Sphinx, had killed Bastet. The question became, what happened to the baby, Ra Ra? Amaterasu says "I took care of it", causing McCoy to screech to a halt and demand to know what she means by this. Amaterasu smiles, and answers that she'd found a pair of space aliens to adopt the kitten and take it off-planet, adding that she didn't want to do anything to make McCoy hate her (spoken kind of as a lover). McCoy blushes as Amaterasu teases her. Anyway, the Egyptian gods now have a vendetta against Amaterasu. The two women decide to go to a bar for drinks, but the place is closed. Pike calls McCoy's attention to the pool of blood she's standing in, and she realizes that it's coming from under the door. McCoy breaks into the bar only to find the dismembered body of Amechiyo, the tanuki barkeep, although his arms and legs are missing. McCoy uses the phone behind the bar to call Keiron, while Amaterasu helps herself to some free whiskey. Between them and Kishirou, they realize that someone is making a Nue. Meanwhile, Felix and Zeus arrive at Zeus' museum in the middle of a crisis. Apparently, some crazed drug user shot a few people with a gun before taking a child as a hostage. Felix is about to take matters into his own hands when Zeus summons his lightning and zaps the bad guy. At the same time, Keiron talks about Luigi Galvani's experiments in animal electricity. Normally, you use normal electricity to animate normal animals. But the parts taken to create this Nue are from demi-gods and semi-deities, meaning the criminal is going to need the lightning from a god to kickstart his creation. Zeus's lightning hits the bad guy, and his mask falls off to reveal a charred mess of a face. The criminal says "Thank you" before turning to ash. But, a cable falls from his back. The cable directed the lightning to the guy's lab, where it, and his soul, enter the "hyper Nue". The killer's goal? - To guarantee that he'll be able to assassinate his hated enemy, Amaterasu.

Summary: This volume is just all kinds of good stuff, from the Reservoir Dogs in-jokes to the Vogon Jin, the picture of Cthulhu on the back wall of Amechiyo's bar to "tea kettle head Goku". The cardboard box from "" that cats like to sit in is great, too. Highly recommended.

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