Saturday, March 3, 2018

Nobunagan, vol. 4

(All rights belong to their owners. Image from Amazon for review purposes only.)

Nobunaga, vol. 4, Masato Hisa. Grade: A-
We get several pages of exposition showing that Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), after retirement, was hired by the British secret service to identify and dissect carriers of a certain weird "infection." These carriers were all females, from a very specific cross section of the British population, and the results of her work were misinterpreted by the police, press and public and misnamed as that of "Jack the Ripper" (1888). Ripper's E-gene holder, Adam, wants to keep this connection a secret, and right now, only he, Shio and Dogoo know that the E-gene "Ripper" is really "Florence Nightingale." He cuts Shio free from the EIO, and has her protect him as he uses Nightingale's analytical powers to locate the monster's biggest weak point. Then, he and Shio cut free one of the sensor boxes from the transport spike pods and mount it on his back. Shio radios HQ to have the tanks fire more sabot rounds on that sensor/transmitter's location, while Ripper holds Shio in his arms, and presses his sword blade against the armored surface of the monster. The spikes from the sabot rounds hit the transmitter solid on, and the force transfers to the sword blade, smashing a hole in the monster's shell. Ripper and Shio fall into a tunnel-like passage in the monster, where they're immediately pursued by smaller bomb insects. The two split up, with Shio running to the inside of the monster's head. She reaches the back of it's remaining good eye, and uses the Nobuna-gun to blow its brains out.

Back at Upala, Hunter's pheromone spray has caused most of the bugs to slaughter each other, leaving one last really big bug to contend with. Suuho uses her bike treads as a launch platform for sending Geronimo at the bug at high speed. Geronimo dices it into pieces and it dies. Everyone else collapses in exhaustion, and it's up to Hunter to radio HQ and say that the mission has been accomplished. All the fighters are returned to the base, where they sleep a lot. Shio is the first to wake up, followed by Suuho and Newton. Those two get the hots for Shio and drag her kicking and screaming into the showers, Gaudi acts jealous, saying that something about Esui (Suuho's E-gene holder) is really, really good. Capa and Gandhi rush over to the shower door to listen in, while Hunter remembers the bet made in Upala. He's the clear body count winner, and he makes Geronimo and Ripper promise to praise his fighting skills when they drop in on Galileo's hospital room the next day. When they do visit, Geronimo is wearing a dress, indicating Lemon, Geronimo's E-gene holder is a girl. However, Galileo is still smitten by Vidocq, and she ignores Hunter to praise Vidocq for his brilliant plan in defeating the bugs. But, Vidocq just looks pissed and stares at Shio's back. (We get a hint that there's a fourth squad fighting a different monster in Sydney, but there's nothing on who the E-genes are.)

Shio pulls Adam to the side, and gets defensive about why Ripper had come to save her. She's determined to make this all about her importance to the team, but Adam confuses her by saying that Nightingale's warning to go save her because she's "important" wasn't just because she's a gene holder. Shio blushes. And thus ends Stoneforest Strategy

The scene jumps a few days, with Shio and Newton preparing to fly on a modified A-10. The gun's been pulled out to make room for Shio to ride in the nose of the plane as the main weapon, and Newton is to stand behind her to use her megaton boots to stabilize the Nobuna-gun's recoil. Shio is very happy. The problem is that a new batch of EIOs are threatening the California coastline, and Shio is expected to use the Nobuna-gun to strafe every single one of the lizard-like monsters on one pass. At the end of the run, Shio is completely wasted. Iyo orders them to take a side trip to the San Francisco air base for a little R&R. In fact, though, D.O.G.O.O. has flown Shio's friend, Kaoru Asao, from New York (she'd graduated from high school and taken a vacation trip to the U.S.) specifically as a reward for Shio's hard work. Newton tries to french kiss her, and Asao instinctively throws the woman to the grown, then apologizes, saying that she's been studying judo since junior high. Shio and Asao catch up on what each of them has been doing, and Shio tells her that the only reason she's been fighting is to protect her friend from the monsters. Asao reminds her that she's not alone anymore. Then Shio has to go back to work.

The next day, a giant salamander EIO attacks San Francisco, and that's the last we see of Asao, and most of the rest of the people living in the city. Shio repeatedly searches the database of survivors, unable to find Asao's name in the list. A little more time passes, and team two is fighting land-based dinosaur and lizard-like EIOs that have taken over San Francisco, using body kite suits to air jump from a plane into the city. Shio has become a soulless god of death, mercilessly destroying EIOs, with the rest of the team struggling to keep up with her. One of the larger monsters knocks her helmet off, and she just stares back with empty eyes. Ripper doesn't like what she's become.

Name updates:
Suuho (operator: Ibukigeen (Esui) Eldeneverug (sp?))
Geronimo (operator: Lemon)
Cesare: One of the members of team 4, located in Sydney, Australia. Nothing else is known about him or the rest of the team.

Summary: The first two-thirds of the book is a fun romp against the EIOs, and there's a fair amount of slapstick humor thrown in. The last third turns real dark really fast. The switch is so unexpected that I still feel like part of the story was cut from the book. It's almost like the editors decided to not renew Hisa's contract, and he had to figure out how to set up the series ending prematurely. The character designs are becoming a bit more sketchy, but the action sequences keep getting better. Recommended.

Cover: Ripper and Nightingale


Jung-Wei Chen said...

Well, you are not wrong about the series ending prematurely; Hisa-sensei mentioned in a couple tweets a while ago that he was actually asked to "speed up" the ending, which is why the pacing becomes whiplash in the last 2 volumes, alas. I can also confirm from a personal source (that asked to remain anonymous) that it is indeed due to contractual issues...basically, I believe around volume 4-5 (can't remember which one) he was told he only had a year left and they weren't going to renew the contract, so....

TSOTE said...

Jung-Wei - Thanks for your comment! It's a shame that Nobunagun wasn't extended longer, but I still feel that Area-51, which came afterward, is his best work so far.

Jung-Wei Chen said...

I am still hoping Hisa's works will be licensed in English eventually, as Jabberwocky and Area 51 are in French so seems like they are OK with licensing those out. Though, Nobunagun I don't know...I heard from my friend the publisher doesn't seem interested in licensing that series overseas... I do hope you get a copy of Vol 6 of Nobunagun though! I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the series as a whole.