Friday, December 1, 2017

Jabberwocky 1914

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

Jabberwocky 1914, vol. 1, Masato Hisa. Grade: A-
I stumbled across Masato Hisa's Area 51 manga by accident a few years ago when I was reviewing all of the manga magazines on the market. He had a funny short story about Cthulhu trying to run a maid cafe, in Comic @Bunch, and I was hooked. After that, I'd occasionally get advertising emails from the Honto book points club for Hisa's other manga, specifically Jabberwocky and Nobunagan, but I didn't like the cover art for those as much, and I stuck with Area 51 to the end. Of course, now that Area 51 is over, I'm becoming more curious about his other titles. He debuted in 2003 with Grateful Dead (about a swordswoman that hunts zombies). After that, some of his other titles include Jabberwocky (2006), Area 51 (2011), Nobunagan (2011), Tsukinowaguma Koroshiya (2014, about a black bear that works as a mafia assassin), and Jabberwocky 1914 (2014).

(Shelty and Saemond, tanjou!)

Jabberwocky 1914 is the sequel to the original Jabberwocky, which followed a woman named Lily and had a whole bunch of cultural references (there's not much of a write-up on this manga to go by). Which brings me to J-14. In the first book, it's Sept., 1914, and the Germans are entrenched in Somme, France, when they're suddenly overwhelmed by monstrous British tanks. The foot soldiers get slaughtered in the trenches, and one of the the lieutenants runs to the planning room for orders, only to be told by his general to hold position and wait. The Lt. senses that they're not alone in the room, and discovers that the general is getting advice from a humanoid dinosaur named Maschief. A long time ago, the dinosaurs ruled the earth, but were mostly killed off at the emergence of humans, and they now want revenge. A small group has been working behind the scenes to get the humans into big battles to kill themselves off, and WW I is their latest venture. The goal is to have 3,000 dead in this battle, which is going to be one-sided because the "British" tanks are designed, built and operated by dinosaurs. The German general gets angry because what he's been told, and the current story now, don't match, so Maschief kills him. Then, a strange woman calling herself "Madam Apricot," appears in the planning room and rescues the Lt. while blowing up Maschief. She says that she's the founder of the Apricot mercenaries company, and she's been hired to protect the German forces from the tanks. The Lt. tries to hire her to take the tanks out, but she refuses, because another team already has that job.

(Maschief and his flamethrowing dinosaur tank.)

Elsewhere, Shelty and Saemond, a human girl and dinosaur boy "brother-sister" team have been sitting around and talking about the development of "mascara" in the U.S. Shelty decides that when this mission is over, Saemond will buy her some mascara with their money from this job. The tanks arrive and the two of them spend the rest of the chapter disabling the things with land mines that are detonated when Saemond shoots them. (Shelty is the master motorcyclist, and Saemond is the marksman). Unfortunately, Maschief survived the blast and he escapes to his masterwork - a flamethrowing monster tank. Shelty and Saemond try to talk the surviving German soldiers into running away, but the humans see one of the dinosaur fighters, and accuse the two of being part of the enemy. Maschief's hatred of humans overrides his sense of duty, and he orders his subordinates to wipe out all the humans, exposing the presence of the dinosaurs to the rest of the world. This prompts the Germans threatening Shelty and Saemond to run away to a nearby wrecked tank that can still move enough to protect them. Shelty and Saemond get trapped behind a water tank, and they're low on ammo - a machine gun with one clip, and a handgun with 3 explosive rounds. As they're waiting, the Germans argue over whether to let their rescuers die on their own. One of the soldiers defends them as being a true brother-sister team fighting to protect each other's back, and the rest of the soldiers finally relent.

("On three.")

Maschief continues to aim the flamethrower at the water tank, and when Saemond deems it sufficiently hot, he and Shelty rush to climb to the top of the tank. Saemond uses the machine gun to open the top of the tank like a sardine can lid, and the high-pressure steam blows them like a piston up into the air. Shelty tries to pinpoint the flamethrower's fuel line as they fall, but the tank moves too fast. Suddenly, the German's ram their tank into Maschief's, and then run away. With their target jammed to a halt, Shelty tells Saemond where to shoot. The scene changes to a hill in the countryside. Apricot is talking to her client, one of the herbivorous dinosaurs that wants peace between them and the humans. He's reassured at seeing Saemond and Shelty running up the hill, hand in hand. The client walks away as Shelty demands that Saemond's share of the money be used to buy her a lot of mascara. However, Apricot tells them that they have to pay for the motorcycle that they wrecked and the explosive rounds Saemond used, which cancels out the money they would have received.


In the second story, it's Oct. 31st, 1914. Apricot and Saemond are riding in the sidecar of Shelty's bike. They get to Shandong, China, which has been occupied by Japanese forces and now has many buildings in the Japanese style. Three thieves steal their supplies, and Apricot tells the kids that they'll have to pay for replacing the supplies out of their own pockets, so Shelty goes crazy with the bike to incapacitate one of the men, and Saemond shoots through the crowds to hit the second in the leg. When Shelty reaches the third guy, he's grabbed an old man as a hostage. The man tells his captor that he's made three errors. First, he's picked a decrepit old man instead of a pretty young woman with a child - which lacks leverage. Second, the hostage is shorter than the thief, leaving the thief exposed to sniper fire. The thief yells at the old man to shut up, when the guy adds, "Third, you picked Jigorou Kanou (the founder of judo)," and he throws the thief into a wall. Apricot comes up and introduces herself. Turns out that Kanou (who had saved Apricot when she'd stolen a dinosaur egg a long time ago and was nearly killed by her pursuers) was one of Apricot's teachers. Now, he's the client. It seems that one of his students had gone insane and killed several bystanders before being shot in the head by a policeman. The student had said "dinosaurs killed me," making this case something Apricot might handle, and he wants to know what had happened to his student.

The group goes to an abandoned beer factory that the student had last visited. Apricot notices scratch marks on the ground next to one keg, and drains it to show that it wasn't quite full. She drunkenly busts the cask to reveal a chest hidden inside. In the chest is a diagram that Shelty suspects is some kind of a sound weapon. Outside, Kuun, a dinosaur with extra-big ears, is talking to a pterodactyl minion named Sharpei about his plan to wipe out all the humans in the city as revenge for their ancestors. His master weapon is almost complete, and he wants Sharpei to take care of the intruders. The pterodactyl flies off and reaches the warehouse, turning on the speaker system he wears as a backpack. Saemond notices a sudden sound, but the three humans can't hear it. Suddenly, they're consumed by fear and the illusion of being stomped on by a big T-Rex. Kanou and Apricot mistake each other for dinosaurs and try to kill each other. Shelty just breaks into a blind run. Saemond grabs her, and she stabs him in the stomach with a knife. Saemond pulls out his pistol and fires. The blast next to her ear wakes Shelty up, and the bullet hits Sharpei in the side before wrecking the machine. Sharpei escapes. Saemond comments, "so that's what a sound weapon is like" and collapses as Shelty screams, realizing that she's severely hurt her brother.

(Madam Apricot explains the "@" sign.)

A couple notes: The volume starts out talking about the "@" at mark. While many people think they know what it means, in fact it's representative of a embryonic dragon in the shell, and is pronounced "knights in the shell." The idea being that baby dinosaurs grow up to be soldiers in the war against humans. Next, one of the reasons other dinosaurs hate Saemond is that he's of a breed that lacks teeth. Fossils of this breed are usually found along in with fossils of nests and eggs, implying that this breed eats those precious eggs. Saemond was saved by Apricot as an egg, before the dinosaur leaders could order his death.

Summary: I haven't found the original Jabberwocky in the stores here yet, so I can't comment on that. And I was hoping to locate used copies of any of Hisa's books in Book Off, but I couldn't. I like J-14. It's not quite the madcap laugh-filled drama of Area 51, but the artwork is just as good, and the action flows fast. It's just that manga is getting pricey, and one volume is over $6 USD now. I don't want to spend a lot of money on books that I'm just going to turn around and sell to Book Off for almost nothing (my apartment is too small to keep a lot of books in bookshelves). Fortunately, there are only 3 volumes in the J-14 series so far, so it's not like I have a lot of catching up to do. I probably will get books 2 and 3 in the near future. Recommended to anyone that doesn't mind historical revisionism.

No comments: