Saturday, May 19, 2018

Ajin, vol. 12 review

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Ajin, vol. 12 (Good Afternoon, 2017), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: A-.

To recap, we have Satou, the main bad guy, claiming that he wants to create Japan as a new country just for Ajin (demi-humans), and he has 4 people working specifically for him towards this goal - Tanaka, two coke heads, and a computer wizard with a limp. Satou betrayed Tanaka, who had tried to set up a parlay with a Japanese cabinet minister to declare a truce. That was a trap, and the cabinet minister had Tanaka tranq darted and hauled off in a car to be taken to prison for further torture and drug development experimentation. On the good guys' side, Tosaki, Kei, Kou and Izumi have finally committed themselves to the last battle, and have split up. Tosaki, the enforcer for the company that had been torturing Ajin, disappears on his own quest and is not seen in volume 12. Izumi, Tosaki's Ajin bodyguard, takes pity on Tanaka and vows to rescue him. Kou, one of the younger Ajin, accompanies Izumi. And Kei, the young brilliant Ajin strategist has his own plan, but stays in contact with the others via smartphone.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Prime Minster had been scheduled to give a talk at a military base, but it was interrupted by something that looked like Satou. The real Satou pretended to be a misunderstood cameraman, and had tricked the base commander into taking him into the most secure part of the compound for protection. The fake Satou turned out to be a black smoke ghost hiding in Satou's discarded skin. The fake threw out 3 satchels into the audience that had been waiting to hear the PM speak, causing everyone to panic and run. A pickup truck raced out to the field to rescue the PM, and the ghost managed to reach the truck and almost touch the PM before dissipating.

So, we have Satou in the basement of the base, his two cokeheads outside the barrier walls, and his computer guy hiding in a command room somewhere. The PM is being whisked to safety, while the cabinet minister and his guards are driving off to deliver Tanaka to some prison. Kou and Izumi are in pursuit of Tanaka, and Kei's whereabouts are unknown. Plus, there are three satchels with X's on them in tape on the ground near where the PM was supposed to have given his speech. The crowds are running off in panic, leaving a bunch of military personnel standing around acting confused. We're now caught up.

Most of the bystanders are running from the field, but there's one guy still standing near one of the satchels. He approaches it, and one of the soldiers yells at him to back off and leave the grounds. The guy ignores the orders, reaches the satchel, bends down and opens it to reveal a bunch of weapons. He pulls a pistol from the satchel and starts shooting at the soldiers. We get a flashback, where the two cokeheads are in the woods with several people just standing round. The computer guy is on the phone to them, saying that he'd set up an website and asked for anyone that wanted to help Satou in his "cause." While over 100 "normals" had left messages on the site, only 12 had shown up at the rendezvous site in the woods. These 12 are told to go to the military base the day of the PM's big speech, and wait for the right moment. When they see the satchels, they are to take the guns out and shoot any soldiers they encounter. The scene returns to the present, and that's what happens. The soldiers hesitate to fire on civilians, which is their mistake. When everything is over, all of the soldiers that had been on the field are dead, while "Satou's minions" only lost 3 of the original 12.

Kou and Izumi jump in a car and race off, but they quickly lose the cabinet minister's cars. Kou has Kei on the phone, and he makes some suggestions for where their prey may be heading. Kou is driving, and he picks up the trail again. He's on a side street, and can see the other cars a block over through the trees. Kou gets ahead of the others and tries to cut them off, but the next alley is too narrow for his car to fit through. Izumi jumps out and runs headlong into the street, where the lead car smashes into her. All three cars stop, and the guards and drivers get out to check the body. Izumi recovers fast enough to start shooting to kill the guards, while Kou comes up and darts whoever he can from behind. Soon, Izumi reaches Tanaka, but he's not willing to help them stop Satou. Izumi gives up and tells Kou they're leaving, but Tanaka recognizes the boy and decides to reveal a secret. Way, way back, when Kou had tried joining up with Satou, there had been a fireman Ajin that had been at the same meet-up. The fireman refused to play along with Satou, and had helped Kou escape. But, Tanaka had managed to catch the fireman, and Satou had had the guy sealed up in a 50 gallon drum. Tanaka now has a change of heart and tells Kou where to find his rescuer. Kou runs off, leaving Tanaka and Izumi with the Cabinet Minister, who is still unharmed. The two decide to leave the minister alone, but he tries to tranq them in the back, so Izumi spins around and puts two bullets in his right arm and blows off his trigger finger. He screams, as Izumi and Tanaka leave (Tanaka seems to be taking on the role of Izumi's bodyguard).

Kou goes to an abandoned love hotel, and manages to get the drop on the computer guy (he's running his operations from the staff room). The computer guy does have monitor cameras in the hallways, and motion detectors, so he has a bit of a warning that Kou is arriving. He opens a desk drawer, revealing a pistol and some handheld device. He grabs the handheld, which may be either a calculator or a cell phone, and pulls out the lithium-ion battery just about when Kou reaches the staff room and darts him. Kou finds three large drums in the basement, plus a welding rig. He uses the rig to open the first two drums, revealing two unconscious Ajin. He opens the third and finds the fireman. The guy had been in the drum for weeks, suffocating to death then recovering only to suffocate again. Kou yells at the guy to get a grip on himself, and the fireman snaps awake. Kou drags the guy out of the basement, promising the other two that he will come back for them later.

In the basement of the military base, Satou locates the weapons storeroom, and uses one of the soldier's fingers to get past the fingerprint scanner. Cnl. Kouma, one of the guys that could have teamed up with Tosaki in fighting Satou, tells his men that the reason the SAT forces had lost to Satou at the battle at the Forge Building was that they'd allowed themselves to be afraid of dying. But, the men here now have one job, and one job only - to blow Satou into so many little pieces that he can't regenerate before being subdued. They move out and try to engage the enemy. The problem is that Satou is former special forces, and he's been practicing with his ghost A LOT. The battle wages on for hours, with the building being heavily damaged. In the end, though, Satou wins. Kouma and every other soldier lie dead on the ground. Satou is impressed at how tired they'd made him during all of the fighting. Then he shoots himself in the head and fully recovers again.

The PM's bodyguards take the PM to Iruma, Saitama, north of Tokyo. Deep underground is a secure holding facility. The guards get the PM to the holding room with no problem. There are two bodyguards and a couple soldiers; the two guards stay with the PM, while the soldiers wait outside. They believe that the holding area is secret, and no one will ever be able to locate it. However, the job of the fake Satou black ghost was to put a tracking device in the PM's jacket pocket back when they were in the pickup truck. The PM finds the device just about when Satou's two cokeheads show up and eliminate the soldiers in the hallways. They state that they have no interest in trying to get to the PM, and they just stand around outside the security door, while the PM and his guards inside the room try to figure out what the game is.

Finally, Kei decides that it's time for him to act. He's outside the military compound, and he's blocked by a 20'-tall wall. He finds a bottle and breaks it, then goes through his plan in his mind. Unfortunately, the glass shards aren't big enough. So, if he bites off his fingers and throws them over the wall, his hand will automatically fully regenerate without decomposing those fingers first. Then, if he presses the stumps on his hand against the wall, the black smoke will turn the wall into material for rebuilding his fingers, creating finger holds for him to hold on to. Then, he just has to repeat the process on his other hand, until he reaches the top. It should take 5 rounds to reach the top, and if everything goes right, 5 minutes. Worst case, 10 minutes. Eventually, the camera shows a close up of 7 fingers in the grass inside the wall, and a lot of blood at the top of the wall where the barbwire is pressed down. Kei leaps down from the top of the wall, and uses his phone to tell someone that "he's in."

Summary: Great artwork this time, and a lot of fantastic action (not much story or plot, though). This volume is extremely violent, and there's a massive body count, with no seeming end to the battle. Kei and Satou are in the military base. The PM and the two cokeheads are somewhere in Saitama. Kou, the fireman and the computer guy are at the love hotel, and the computer guy probably set up the lithium-ion battery to explode to kill and reset him before Kou can escape. Tanaka and Izumi are loose somewhere, and Tosaki's a complete unknown. Highly recommended if you like action manga.

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