Saturday, September 16, 2017

Area 51, vol. 15 review

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Area 51, vol. 15, by Masato Hisa. Grade: A+
Well, the series has finally ended and I'm both happy and sad. Yes, this has been my favorite manga ever since I discovered it a few years ago, and I doubt there's going to be another tribute to horror and adventure like this ever again (with district names like Carpenter and Verhoeven, and bar and club names from every horror movie ever made), it's been a real trip. But, the finale was pure Hisa, and the artwork and pacing have been all I could ask for. Great stuff.

(The Undine prepares to attack Kishirou, but Gokuu interrupts her. He asks if the kappa wants a nice cup of hot tea, and the answer is "Maybe...")

H62) Your Tenderness Would Be Wonderful If You Were Not Here In This Town
The chapter starts with McCoy eating some fruit in a field in the rain, when a farmer comes up to threaten her, then lets her take two of the fruits since she's human. But, a group of animal-based bounty hunters arrive to claim the $200,000 on her head. McCoy easily dispatches them, then the farmer turns his shotgun on her, saying that he's got a sick wife. Later, McCoy returns to a hut, tossing one of the fruits to the female kappa, Shizune, telling her that she'll have to eat around the bullet hole and blood. Shizune sets the fruit aside instead. Then we get a flashback of McCoy killing Felix, Shizune insisting on tagging after her, the military attacking them for killing an angel, and the two of them finding this hut to hide in. Shizune still wants to kill McCoy in revenge for the death of her older brother, but she's too gentle to be any kind of a threat. McCoy's plan is to force the doppelganger out in the open by having everyone attacking anything that has her face. As they're waiting, the next bounty hunter arrives, this one an invisible man. He's a challenge to defend against, except that he has water dripping off his body from the rain outside, and McCoy and Pike allow their bullets to be sliced open to spill powder everywhere, and Invisible gets horribly burned in the resulting dust explosion. McCoy is merciless in finishing him off, scaring Shizune even more. McCoy exits the hut into the arms of more attackers (the final bounty reaches $500,000). Meanwhile, at the office, Kishirou is patiently waiting for his boss to return, and is casually defeating the bounty hunters that keep pestering him by using water attacks against them. However, one of the intruders is a water-using undine that gets offed by Son Gokuu, who drops in for a visit (the Counsel of Gods have declared McCoy "untouchable", but there's no such prohibition on talking to kappas). McCoy had told Kishirou to wait for her, in case she had a request of him. As they wait, Gokuu asks if the kappa wants some tea using the water from the defeated undine.

(The doppelganger restocks, then prepares to force McCoy out into the open.)

H63) This Is My Hunting Place
Things get a bit messy from here. The Japanese god Susanoo is being shipped to Area 51 from Japan, and he's despondent over the death of Amaterasu. The doppelganger, in McCoy's form, swims out to the ship and lets him defeat her in order to get some of its raw form on his face. It enters in through his tear glands and turns him into a form of blood-thirsty (literally) zombie. Susanoo then attacks the military guards, making more zombies. The standard anti-zombie defenses don't work on these guys, and the carnage spreads rapidly across the zone. Doppel returns to its lair in an apartment in the main city, suffering from "hardening." Generally, doppelgangers can only hold one form for a short time before their outer shell starts stiffening up and cracking. This doppel has been a copy of McCoy for so long that it's starting to panic. But, it can't locate another victim while its current victim is still alive, so it wants to force McCoy out into the open to finish her off once and for all. In the meantime, it drinks a little of the blood from McCoy's baby. Doppel had kidnapped one married couple, turning the husband into a zombie and locking him up in chains to have a hostage so the wife will care for the baby while Doppel is outside. The baby is additional bait to get McCoy to show herself. McCoy's running out of time, too, because her body is breaking up and won't be able to contain the sword Kusanagi much longer. She thinks she has the upper hand, though, since she really knows this town, and the doppelganger has been mostly confined to the Prison of the Angels.

(McCoy faces the doppelganger, and the memories of her lover and lost baby overtake her.)

H64) Finaly, It Is Over
The zombies are undefeatable, and their numbers keep increasing. However, they're blind and keep seeking high areas near water. McCoy deduces that Doppel must be at the top of a tall building near a water tower, and eventually she gets it right. Doppel turns around and smiles, and McCoy goes into a blind rage, becoming half-covered in leather-like straps that mirror her demon gun Pike's true form. Pike gets concerned and tells her to be careful, but she just starts shooting. Doppel says that it's learned all the techniques of its past victims, including the ability to confuse people as to where it's going to move next, the ability to redirect the paths of bullets, and the ability to use its head to spin a bullet back at its shooter. McCoy loses pretty quickly. Finally, she realizes that her human self is getting in the way of her revenge, and she banishes it to turn into a pure monster.


H65) Eyes, Just Like You
Monster McCoy uses her hate to draw on Kusanagi's power, and now, even if Pike's bullets don't even come close to their target, their explosions are so great as to blow off Doppel's right arm and both legs. Doppel can regenerate, but not fast enough to prevent McCoy from getting up close and at point blank. Doppel is realizing that things are looking bad for it, and it starts bawling that it doesn't want to die. At the same time, Pike is trying to break through McCoy's rage to get her to realize that with every shot she's losing life force and is going to die before realizing her goals. Doppel remembers the baby and uses its energy to grab the infant from its caretaker, and throws it in the air at the McCoy monster. McCoy ignores it and prepares to take the last shot that will finish them both. This is when the memory of Prince Charming emerges from McCoy's subconscious and, at Pike's pleading, uses his cane sword to sever the bond between McCoy and the gun. The monster armor surrounding McCoy shatters, and she falls back in time to catch her baby just before it hits the floor. Doppel sees its chance and lunges forward to make the kill, as Pike says it's glad this time that it's such a dangerous object. Pike explodes, destroying itself and wiping out the Doppelganger's upper body. Pike's final words are, "Farewell, my lovely" (in English) (the title of the first Philip Marlowe novel (by Raymond Chandler) to be made into a movie).

McCoy makes it out of the building, and Shizune drives them back to the office in McCoy's truck, crying. At the office, McCoy asks Kishirou to raise her baby for her, naming the girl "Miki" (from the kanji for "approaching future"). Kishirou agrees to this. McCoy says that Miki (later spelled Micky in English) has her father's lips, while the kappa says that she has her mother's eyes. McCoy is last shown holding the baby as Kishirou props her up.

(Part of the montage, where Gokuu has his new face. Genie of the Lamp is the guy with glasses.)

H66) Let Me Be Reckless For Now Even In This Town
Two days later, McCoy's body is laid to rest, and all the loose ends are tied up. Gokuu has been given a new head made out of metal by Cyclops, and Felix has gotten better after being shot in the forehead. Actually, McCoy had used the Needle of Life for the bullet, which restores one person to life, but can't cure diseases (which is why she hadn't used it on herself). Felix retrieved Kusanagi from McCoy's corpse and he gives the cursed sword to Shizuka to take back to Japan and the people of the kappa. After the doppelganger was defeated, all of the zombies it had created collapsed, dead (including the hostage husband of the woman tending Micky). Doppel itself disappeared, and is presumed to have gone into hiding. McCoy's casket is buried as all of her friends stand watch, and then Nemuri, the satori, sings a send-off lament for her. Everyone else leaves, and Kishirou dedicates himself to raising Micky.

From here, we get a 14-page montage with Micky going from a baby to a young adult, getting sick, being rejected for the first time, learning how to cook from the Genie in the Lamp, being taken for rides on Gokuu's magic cloud, applying for a job at a restaurant and making her way up to chief chef, rescuing a boy being beaten up in an alley, dating the boy, and finally getting married to him. Kishirou provides the couple with an armored car, and the couple turn it into Micky's Kitchen, and her customers include everyone who'd ever met McCoy. Finally, Kishirou tells Genie that he wants to call in his last wish - to be told where the doppelganger is. Genie sighs, says it's been a great 20 years, writes the location on a piece of paper, and fades away. The kappa returns to McCoy's old office to retrieve his trench coat and Prince Charming's cane sword. The series ends with him walking away from the camera, saying, "Let me be reckless in this here town."

There's a nice little insert sheet in this volume, too. It's double-sided and folded into 4 squares, the idea being to staple one edge together and cut the other edges open with a paper cutter to create a little booklet. It's a short story entitled "Haggis Pudding." One day, Micky is upset with her boyfriend because he disappeared when they were supposed to go on a date. He did bring back a piece of meat, which Mickey baked into a haggis pudding, but he won't explain how he got it. Kishirou bites into the pudding and spits out a bullet, which he recognizes. A long time ago, he and McCoy had been hunting a huge monster called a haggis. Kishirou had managed to get a rope around one leg, and McCoy shot it in the shoulder, but it escaped from them again. McCoy had pouted just like Micky is now, and Kishirou tells her to go back home to her boyfriend.

Man, I am not happy to see this series end, but it did go out on a high note. Hisa does have a couple of other titles out too, including Jabberwocky and Nobunagan. Manga is getting expensive now (this volume was about $6.50 USD, with tax), so I'm not sure I want to start buying anything else at full price, but who knows. Anyway - highly recommended. And, Farewell, McCoy.

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