Friday, July 13, 2018

Mugen Shishi, vol. 2 comments

(Image from, used for review purposes only.)

Mugen Shishi (Fantasy Gentleman), vol. 2, by Yousuke Takahashi, Grade A
In the comments for vol. 1, I said that these wide volume editions of Mugen Shishi are pricy, at a little under $10 USD each. The thing is, I like the artwork, and Takahashi's sense of humor. Plus, I wanted to know what other monsters he'd come up with (since the first book does include a lot of macabre adventures). Besides, Maruzen Books only has 5 of the wide volumes total, and that's not an insurmountable hurdle. So, I bought #2 and #3.

Turns out, though, that book 2 forgoes supernatural horror to focus on something even worse - family. In the first chapter (End of the Year Mugen Shishi), Mamiya Mugen has to run around saving girls from trouble, while his mother and their mutual friend Atsuko enjoy themselves at the family's mansion (because Doctor Lao blew up Mamiya's house with a package bomb). When he finally gets home, he has to help his mother with the dusting and moving furniture.

In Ninpu Mugen Gaiden (Ninja Mugen Legend) Mamiya convinces an older ninja master to take him on as a student, and then proceeds to outdo the master at every single task handed to him (the goal is to rescue other missing students the old man has kidnapped and put to work in his gold mine). With Zeppurin wo Nottore (Ride, or Find, the Zeppelin), Doctor Lao has been hired by a Nazi named Schmidt to hijack a zeppelin doubling as a casino. One of the customers is Yukie Mugen, Mamiya's mother, who turns out to be one of the most successful gamblers in the world, and is completely unafraid of people shooting guns at her. Mamiya is close behind to rescue her, but it's really Schmidt and Lao that need saving. The zeppelin makes it's way to New York, for Nyu- Yo-ku no Mugen Shinshi (New York Gentlemen Mugen), where Yukie's husband, the mad Kyoushiro Mugen (note that the kanji for "kyou" can translate to "someone with a mental abnormality) has succeeded in stealing the account books of two rival mob bosses (Brando and Bogart), and is also wanted by Gagney of the FBI, but this was partly at the behest of Sister Maria, who runs an orphanage. Mamiya finds a way to trick the FBI and the bad guys, but it still results in a massive gang war between Bogart and Brando, and Mamiya and his father have to use tommyguns to shoot their way out of a tight spot. Which goes badly, and they end up in bandages and casts and following Yukie as she goes on a shopping trip around the city.

Mamiya gets back to Tokyo in time to see Atsuko carrying around a baby in Idai naru Chi (Blood of Greatness). Actually, it's Atsuko's friend's, Sakiko's, baby and Atsuko was just caring for her while her friend was busy, until the baby got kidnapped by Nazis. Actually, Atsuko had been hired by the Nazis as a surrogate mother, to give birth to Hitler's baby, but she bonded with the child and ran off with it, and the Nazis want it back. Along with the Brits and the French. Mamiya succeeds in retrieving the baby and defeating the Germans, while the British agent on the case relents and lets Sakiko keep it. In Hakui no Mugen Shinshi (The White Robe Mugen Gentleman), Mamiya is hired by a Japanese general to track down one Lt. Yonoi. Yonoi had stolen a truckload of weapons and explosives, then disappeared. Mamiya finds him in a Japanese field hospital, and masquerades as a nurse to trick the guy into giving the location of the truck. Yonoi falls in love with him, and reveals that the general was planning on using the gear to stage a military coup. Mamiya uses the truck to blow up a dam and wash the dirty soldiers into oblivion, and Yonoi goes bonkers at learning his "nightingale" is male.

We meet Kyoushirou's sister, Madam Neko, in Mugen Shinshi tai Neko Nekofujin (Gentleman Mugen vs. Madam Cat). Neko is trading in fake coins, and Mamiya has been hired to stop her. We get into what is literally a game of cat and mouse as Neko poisons the boy and tries to feed him to a snake. Neko's next job is smuggling drugs disguised as the leads of No. 2 pencils. The round finally goes to Mamiya, who drilled holes in the fuel tanks of Neko's getaway plane, and her minions have to paddle the life raft back to the U.S. This is followed by Yume In Dai Sa-kasu (The Great Dream Circus), where Mamiya has been hired to find a runaway bride. The girl is supposed to be married off to the son of a wealthy landowner, but she'd rather wed her boyfriend, a stagehand working in a traveling circus. She's currently disguised as one of the lions. The circus acts succeed at storming the landowner's estate and whisking the girl out of the country on a train commandeered by Kyoushiro. Unfortunately, Mamiya finds himself alone with the land owner's son, who turns out to be gay.

Mamiya tracks his father down to Manchuria, in Kyokuhoku no Mugen Shinshi (Arctic Gentleman Mugen). He's currently romancing Su Lin, a pretty Chinese woman claiming to be the daughter of Ivanoff, a close friend of Kyoshirou's when the two of them had fought together as mercenaries during WW I. Su Lin says that her father (who had married a Chinese woman) had stolen the famed Nautilus submarine and hidden it in an ice flow in the arctic. In fact, Su Lin is a spy for some Chinese group, and plans on killing Mamiya and his father as soon as the Nautilus is located. Kyoushirou realizes this early on, and is only in interested in finding the body of his old friend (who had been horrible at reading compasses and had gone north by accident after stealing the sub) and giving him a burial at sea. Their main mode of travel is a blimp operated by Doctor Lao and his closest minion. Kyoushiro and Mamiya abandon Su Lin with the sub, but are soon fired upon by Japanese Zero fighters who destroy the blimp, leaving Lao, Mamiya and the other two stranded in the steppes of Mongolia. Which brings us to Kouya no Mugen Shinshi (Gentleman Mugen of the Wastes). Mamiya and Kyoushiro have given Lao and his minion the slip, but are near starvation. They're rescued by a beautiful Mongolian girl and one of her relatives. The girl is the leader of her tribe, and the Japanese military wants her shipped to prison by train, which is a task handled by Madam Neko. The other Mongolian tribe members hire Kyoushiro to rescue their leader, and the Japanese general that hired Neko decides to betray her. So now, it's the Mugen family against the Japanese army, and the army doesn't stand a chance. In the end, though, Mamiya and his father just receive a pair of horses for getting back home, and Neko steals the money bag from her brother

We're coming down to the wire, starting with Oodourakudou no Mugen Shinshi (Gentleman Mugen of Arcadia). Mamiya and his father are still on the steppes, when they rescue someone from a plane crash and bring him to a yurt for treatment. The guy is a Russian scientist who had been working on a deadly nerve toxin before stealing a plane and flying off with the only sample. The herder that owns the yurt comments that his sheep have been dying off mysteriously lately, so it must have been because the scientists had been testing the toxin on them. He gives a vial to his rescuers, and Kyoushiro immediately takes it, races to town, and sells it to whatever government agents he can find (really, he's selling vials of well water, and keeping the real vial to show to other suckers). When Mamiya manages to find his father again, a major war breaks out between Kyoushiro and all of his defrauded clients, just as Yukie and Atsuko find them and burst into the room. The real vial falls on the floor during the melee, and a stray bullet smashes it open. But, the herdsman realizes that the reason his sheep have been dying is that they've been overeating. Seems that the toxin doesn't work after all. In the end, Yukie and Atsuko go shopping and meet up with Kyoushiro, Neko and Mamiya in Manchuria at a hotel run by Neko. While the others enjoy dinner, Kyoushiro refuses to eat because he knows his sister has poisoned the food. The others quickly spit the food back out.

And this leaves us with Eiga Kinima no Mugen Shinshi (Gentleman Mugen of the Movies). Kyoushiro and Mamiya slip out of the hotel late at night and go their separate ways. Mamiya gets his pistol pickpocketed by a small Chinese girl. The girl spots two Chinese thugs (Lao's men) attacking a woman and tries to rescue her, only to learn that guns have safeties. Mamiya arrives in time to chase off the thugs, and when the girl learns that the woman is a Japanese actress, she leaves, too. Mamiya is then hired by the movie director and his cinematographer to find out who's been sabotaging their film set. The film is supposed to include a big battle with the Japanese actress being rescued by marauding bandits, and is being shot on location near an old abandoned mine. The mine is currently being used by Doctor Lao to store his stolen wealth, but Lao hasn't been seen for months, and his men are looking for a new boss, who just so conveniently has been found - Kyoushiro. Meanwhile, the pickpocket found a different way into the mine and is claiming the horde for herself, and the Japanese army is using a different shaft to hide mortars, ammo and rifles. Kyoushiro tries to seal his son in the mine by collapsing two of the entrances (after having Lao's minions remove the gold and jewelry), which attracts the attention of the army. Mamiya finds the mortars and another exit, and begins lobbing shells on everyone. The film director immediately starts filming the destruction, but Mamiya and the girl aren't trying very hard to aim the shells at any one group. Lao and his sidekick FINALLY reach the cave from their long walk from the Arctic Circle, and get bombarded, too. The director gives up on his movie, the army and the thieves are chased off, and the pickpocket gets enrolled in Madam Neko's school for how to trick men (lessons also attended by Yukie and Atsuko.

We do get a short illustrated text story - The Girl in the Mist. This is told from the point of view of an unnamed, faceless man that is rescued from a river by Mamiya. The guy describes a dream he has, in which he sees a woman in a mist and he becomes obsessed with killing her. He actually goes out to a bridge that he sees in the dream, sees the woman and chases after her. Soon, the person is back in Mamiya's office, dripping wet, and describes being the woman from the mist that is chased by a strange man that wants to kill her. The story ends with Mamiya saying that the guy suffers from a split personality, where one half of his brain wants to kill the other half.

Summary: Great artwork, wild characters, wonderful backgrounds, and silly humor and stories. Highly recommended if you can find it.

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