Saturday, July 1, 2017

Tokubetsu no Egoist, vol. 3

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Tokubetsu no Egoist, vol. 3, by Michiharu Kusunoki, Grade: B+
There are a few intertwined story threads in this chapter. With the first, Kaneki continues his search for the famed real estate developer, Juukichi Oomura, and presents his results to his new client, Shouko Kashima. Kaneki has been visiting various associates of Oomura's around Tokyo, and not making a lot of progress. Shouko tells him to let it drop, but the guy has developed an interest in the chase. Meanwhile, Kaneki also has a chat with his former clients, Jin and Harada, to discuss a shared dream that both he and Mari had in the past. In the dream, in a previous life, there is an oni (demon) living in a mountain pass, and he kills and eats anyone that tries to go through the pass. Kaneki thinks that that oni was Mari, but everyone else - Mari, Jin and Harada - say that it had to have been Tooru himself. Jin also talks about the powers they have regarding the soul, and how it's at the center of the "heart" and "feelings."

(Shouko has Mari kidnapped, and Tooru can tell she's in danger.)

With the third thread, Mari gets one of Shouku's books to read to understand her better. The two of them meet, and Mari asks if the writer believes in psychic powers or past lives. Shouko claims that she doesn't, it's just that she writes about them in her work. After Mari leaves, Shouko breaks out in a cold sweat. She now fears Mari's abilities, and she talks an old acquaintance (a yakuza bartender she'd met when she was researching a story in Roppongi) into attacking Mari. The next day, as Mari is going to meet Kaneki, Shouo intercepts her and states that Kaneki is waiting for her in the hotel room Shouko is boarding at. It's a trap, and the bartender attempts to sexually assault Mari to rob her of her powers. Outside on the street, Kaneki can sense that Mari is in danger, and he rushes into the hotel and up to Shouko's room, yelling "stop it!" When he gets there, Mari opens the door, as inside both Shouko and the bartender are writhing on the floor with apparent heart attacks. Mari warns Shouko to stay away from her, saying that something like this could happen again at anytime. As Kaneki and Mari leave the hotel, Kaneki remembers more from "the dream." He'd been that demon, and he'd eaten the bones and skin of 99 travelers through that mountain pass. The last victim was a priest (probably Mari). 7 days later, the demon started to change, and headed off on a pilgrimage. After walking for 300 years, the demon suddenly realized that his features had changed and he now looked exactly like the priest. At the end of the story, Tooru breaks down and starts sobbing, which causes Mari to panic because he's getting her school book bag all soggy.

(Shouko and the ex-yakuza member suffer sudden chest pains.)

A little time passes, and Shouko has moved on, starting up a serialized story in one of the newspapers. Things seem to be a little better between her and Kaneki. Meanwhile, Tooru's research on Oomura has borne fruit in a way - Tetsuya Oomura, Juukichi's 50-some year-old son has come out of the woodwork and wants to make contact with him. Tetsuya owns an entertainment production company, called Shift Agent, and Kaneki's editor wants to interview him for a possible business tie-up. The interview goes ok, and after the two of them leave, Tetsuya follows Tooru, producing a yellowed business card and claiming that they'd met at a host club 15 years ago. Tetsuya hasn't seen his father in a long time, and wants Tooru to look for him, too. Initially, everything seems to be on the level, and the owner of the jazz coffee shop, Bird, offers what he knows about the Oomura family - Juukichi's first wife died, and Tetsuya was a step-son adopted from his second marriage. But the second wife filed for divorce, and everyone in the family was estranged after that. There's additional information from the fortune teller regarding the water purification plant that used to be in west Shinjuku, about how magic collects over bodies of clean water, and that certain special people can see that magic in the form of a big, self-moving mist.

(Tetsuya tells Tooru and Reiko about the nightclub his mother had opened up in Roppongi (with Juukichi's money), presumably for spreading rumors about construction projects to local government officials. In fact, she'd fallen in love with the work as a bar hostess.)

Mari insists on meeting Tetsuya as well, and she tries probing him during the conversation, to find out what kind of person he is (same as what she did to Shouko when they first met). After the meeting, Mari apologizes to Tooru that she messed up, and she collapses unconscious to the ground. Kaneki gets her to a hospital, where the doctors find nothing wrong with her. She just seems to be in a deep sleep, which continues for 16 hours. Kaneki goes to Bird for help, and Tetsuya follows him in a second taxi. The fortune teller explains what Mari had been trying to do, and then says that Kaneki has been kind of slow in awakening to his responsibilities - he's going to live until age 90, but he's now past the prime of his powers. He better start taking up the slack faster now. Kaneki leaves the bar, and encounters Tetsuya, who drains him of energy, warns him against ever meeting with him again, and leaves, laughing. As Tooru lies helplessly on the ground, Reiko comes up and tells him to breathe deep for a while. Turns out Reiko had gone to Shikoku for 2 months to research Kaneki's and Mari's childhood homes, and ended up on an extended pilgrimage walk around the island. Before she'd left, she'd put GPS trackers on both her Porsche and the Land Rover, and she's been spying on Kaneki's travels this way. She'd just gotten back to Tokyo, and she followed Tetsuya in a third taxi, and had been watching the confrontation between the two men.

(Tooru saves Mari and Juukichi from Tetsuya's assistant.)

Things start to fall into place now. The owner of Bird confesses that he's in fact Juukichi Oomura. A long time ago, he and his first wife had been out drinking, and she had decided to lie down in the middle of the new express road on the west side of Tokyo. She noticed the white cloud coming from the Shinjuku water treatment plant, and called her husband's attention to it. As he looked at the cloud, a car came down the road and hit his wife. She wasn't too severely injured, and the driver had been drinking and didn't have a driver's license. Juukichi told him to leave before the police arrived. His wife recovered, but turned alcoholic and eventually died 3 years later. Later, the driver tracked him down and offered him a large sum of money to stay quiet about what happened. Using the esper powers he'd gotten from the magic cloud, combined with yakuza muscle and pressure from leveraged bank loans, Juukichi began buying up land around west Shinjuku for development, and became extremely wealthy. He attracted the attention of a woman that was working as a bar hostess, and they got married. She already had a teenage son, Tetsuya, and the two of them produced a second son, Shiina. Eventually, the woman got tired of him and left to start working in a bar in Ueno, taking Shiina with her. Tetsuya had worked in Juukichi's construction companies for a while, then he left also after seeing the magic cloud in the Tokyo night sky. The problem is that Tetsuya's only desire had been to receive his mother's approval, and she only loved Shiina.

Actually, 15 years ago, Shiina had his own bar in Roppongi, from the money his father had given his mother, and Kaneki had met him there, giving the younger Oomura his business card at that time. Tetsuya had paid an assistant to kill his younger brother and stage it as an accident, and Kaneki had ended up being one of the reporters writing up the story a few weeks later for the paper he was working at. Tetsuya took the yellowed business card from his brother's effects, and then wanted to use it to leverage Tooru into tracking down his father. After the construction bubble burst, Juukichi took the remaining money he still had access to and went underground. He changed his appearance and finally opened up Bird in Ginza. An interesting sidenote is that rather than doing most of his development in Shinjuku, Juukichi had focused on Roppongi, Shibuya and Ginza, which are famous as Tokyo's Night Roads. The reason is that those three areas used to have rivers running through them, which had been used as dumping points for refuse and waste. As such, they were the lowest points in the city, and where all the bad magic energy would flow (as well as being the more dangerous places to be at night). After the Shinjuku water treatment plant was paved over, Juukichi had hoped to raise parts of the city to redirect the magic flow.

Reiko and Tooru run into Tetsuya, and during a minor confrontation, all three of them see the magic cloud drifting in the air in the direction of Mari's hospital. Mari wakes up at this point and goes to the window to look at the cloud as well. The next day, Mari checks out, and tracks down Tetsuya. They go toe to toe, and this time Tetsuya is the one grabbing his chest and breaking out in a cold sweat. They separate, and Tetsuya orders his assistant to kill the owner of Bird, and to make it look like an accident again. The assistant grabs the old man when he goes out for a walk, but Mari had been with him, and she interrupts the assailant as he's trying to think of what to do next. The guy tries to attack Mari, but Tooru can tell she's in danger, and he reaches the alley they're in, in time to grab the assistant's leg and give it a hard twist. Mary, Juukichi and Tooru run away, and Tetsuya walks up to tell his assistant that the guy is useless and he's fired now. The assistant goes into a rage, and stabs Tetsuya in the stomach with a short knife. The assistant tries to threaten his former boss, saying that the knife wound won't kill him, but he'll never know when the next attack might strike from the shadows around him. Tetsuya doesn't bluff easily, and the assistant panics and runs away screaming. Reiko finds Tetsuya sitting next to the sidewalk, and the production agent talks about how he also had been trying to change the flow of magic through Tokyo, with no luck. A little farther away, Mari looks at the sky and asks if the other two can see the magic cloud heading to west Shinjuku from the ocean. Tooru says that he can, but Juukichi can't anymore.

Summary: This series started out looking like it was going to be about one man having to meet up with 100 former contacts and having to help them solve their problems. It's now more like Tooru having to make amends to the people he ate when he was a demon in a past life. However, since Kusunoki himself is suffering from health problems, we're going to have to wait for a while to get the next chapter for volume 4. In the meantime, if you want a history lesson on the development of the wards in Tokyo from the 60's on up, then the first three books are worth reading.

One more comment: Reiko knows of a geneticist working in a small university lab in Tokyo, and she had brought in both Kaneki and Mari for swabbing and possible DNA testing. we still don't know what the results were, though.

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