Saturday, July 15, 2017

Box, vol. 2

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Box, vol. 2, by Daijirou Morohoshi, Grade: A
The survivors, Megumi, Kouji, Chieko and Shinichirou, continue down one of the cave-like passages, with everyone but the architect helping push the wheeled box containing the fused Tani husband and wife. The passage splits a couple of times, so Shinichirou, and then Kouji, go exploring on their own. The wheeled box is set in an alcove, and Megumi and Chieko go together down a third passage. The ultimate result is that Chieko confronts Megumi for acting too much like a girl, while the boy wants to know why "premonition woman" keeping using "desu/masu" speech forms (entirely too polite for normal conversations). They end up fighting, and Chieko pushes Megumi through a wall (in this area, the passage walls are very soft and crumbly), revealing Kouji standing in the next passage over. The three of them enter a room with the next door at the same time as Shinichirou. This time, though, the door doesn't open. They try solving Shinichirou's block, but to no effect. Eventually, Kouji realizes that all of the doors so far have moved in directions that imitate his puzzle box. And, if that's the case, the next move is to go back to door 3 and close it again before this new one will move.

(The group encounters branching passages and splits up)

Kouji, Megumi and Chieko go back to where the Tani box is waiting, but there's still the issue of how Kouji will get through the monsters waiting for him farther on. Suddenly, the box opens and Tani sticks out his hand with his cane, and the box closes again. They get back to the previous door, and Kouji bolts through it, bashing his way through the monsters. Chieko stays by the door to let the boy back in again, while Megumi returns to get the Tani box to safety, promising to join the girl right away. But, the passage is very rocky, and Megumi can't push the trolley up the bumps on his own. Kyouko happens by, and mentions that there are secret passages behind the walls, if he wants to explore them on his own, which he does. But, the cube's caretaker arrives, and is still very angry at the Kyouko for evading her monsters earlier. They end up fighting, with the caretaker using a special attack to collapse the floor and bring down the ceiling. Kyouko counters with a similar attack, which threatens to drop the Tani box down a deep hole. Shinichirou gets concerned about all the rumbling and goes back to where Chieko is waiting. She attempts to open the door at the agreed upon time, but Shinichirou stops her, yelling that Kouji has probably abandoned them, and there's no reason to risk letting the monsters into this part of the passage.

(Kouji realizes that the doors in the Cube correspond to the sliding panels in his puzzle box.)

Kouji gets to door 3, but it won't budge. Chieko and Shinichirou squabble, until Makoto shows up. The dismembered folk lore researcher has turned into a monster himself, and he starts to menace Chieko. But she plays on his rather obvious affection for Shinichirou, so the monster chases the architect down the hall. Chieko opens her door, allowing Kouji to finally close his. Chieko returns to the Tani box, but there's now a big hole in the way, and the route behind her is filling up with monsters. Meanwhile, Megumi discovers Kouji, and the two of them retreat into the secret passage Megumi has been following.  There's another quake, bringing the Tani box closer to Chieko, sealing off Megumi's tunnel, and bringing a ton of rocks down on Makoto to save Shinichirou. The Tanis open their box to let Chieko in to wait in safety; the cube caretaker decides to help Shinichirou; and Megumi reveals to Kouji that at times he really has felt like a girl trapped in a boy's body. Shinichirou wants out of the game, and the caretaker shows that she knows all about him - he's a scam artist who had designed his buildings with cheap materials, and the places had collapsed in an earthquake. He's currently on the lam, trying to avoid the media hounding him. She says that yes, there is a way for him to leave the game. A little later, Kyouko happens by, and the architect "tricks" her into accepting his puzzle box and entry ticket stub. Unfortunately for him, that's exactly what she'd been hoping for, and she gladly takes them. The Cube allows her replace Shinichirou in the game, but it's angry at the architect, and the guy discovers that he's melded into the wall. He yells for help as he slowly turns into a wall monster.

(Kyouko happily takes the puzzle box while Shinichirou brags about tricking her. It doesn't immediately dawn on him that there's a price to be paid for making the Cube angry.)

There's another quake, and Megumi's tunnel collapses, dumping him and Kouji into the room with the Tani box, but on opposite sides of the hole. Kouji tries to find a passage to get over to the opposite side, as Megumi reaches the box and the Tanis open the door from inside to let Chieko out. She's furious at having been left on her own, and she slaps Megumi in the face. The Tanis beg them to not fight. Then, one of the bigger monsters reaches the pit and heads for the box. Megumi forces the Tanis to get out, and they hobble down another passage. The quakes get stronger, and loose rocks fall on everyone's heads. The fused Tani husband and wife claim they can't go any farther, and they sit down to rest, only to begin melding into the wall as well. They say that they're happy with this, as they've both lived long lives and want all of this to end. They give their puzzle card to Megumi, and disappear under the rubble. Kouji comes up, too late to do anything to help. Kyouko shows up with Shinichirou's puzzle box and ticket stub, saying that she's part of their party now, and that the guy had given them to her willingly. The group heads for where Shinichirou was last seen, but his body is missing, and there's a huge tear along the entire wall heading in the direction of the next door. Shinichirou peers from around a corner, and it's apparent that he is a monster, with bricks for a body. He chases Kyouko around, demanding revenge, and she uses the same tricks the caretaker had to collapse the floors and walls (doing so only when the rest of the party are looking the other way).

(Omake puzzle page, and the caretaker watching as the cave collapses.)

The biggest monster so far crashes into Shinichirou, and he absorbs it for a "power up." The caretaker is waiting for Kyouko, and tells the woman they better hurry up, or everyone is going to die here. The woman asks if all the damage they're doing is going to inconvenience the next group of puzzlers after them, and the caretaker (who has also been called akuma shojo, or "devil girl") simply says that there have been times when no one has gotten out alive, and the damage doesn't matter because the Cube always resets at the beginning of the next game. The only way out is to get to the farthest area at the back of the Cube and claim whatever is it that akuma says is "the prize" (to do that, they need to solve all the puzzles, and collect all of the reward cards into one place). Eventually, Kouji locates the next door, but Chieko and Megumi are still in a different passage, and the precog goth loli claims to be tired and needing a rest. She refuses to go any farther, and Megumi waffles over whether to leave her behind. In the end, he can't do it, and it turns out that the girl is just messing with him anyway. Kouji doubles back, berates both of them for taking too long, and they return to the room with the door. The problem right now is that the door is up 10 feet above the floor, and there's no steps leading to the ledge in front of it. Kyouko runs into the room, chased by the block monster, and she collapses another part of the wall to slow the thing down, inadvertently creating a rubble pile hill up to the ledge. The group reaches the ledge, with Kouji pushing Chieko's butt to get her to move faster (she is still barefoot, having lost her shoes in the cutting people in two box room) and she stops to complain about being sexually harassed. The block monster starts coming up the rubble, and everyone races for the door. Kouji slides it open, and the group rushes through, closing the door behind them. The entire room collapses, destroying Shinichirou, and just leaving the wall and the door behind. On the other side, akuma shojo congratulates them for clearing that stage, and gives a puzzle card to Kouji. She points them to the next door and disappears into the shadows. The volume ends with the remaining heroes - Kouji, Megumi, Chieko and Kyouko, going through the door and finding themselves on a narrow staircase winding around the inside of a very deep pit.

Summary: I'm enjoying this story, and I can't wait to find out what happens next. The artwork is uneven, and characters' faces can change from panel to panel, but the dialog and interactions are fun, and I like all the puzzles, and omake gags on the splash pages. Highly recommended. Book three should come out in the Fall of 2017.

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