Area 51 is a manga by Masato Hisa, creator of Grateful Dead (Monthly Afternoon, 2003-2004, 2 volumes), Jabberwocky (Monthly Magajin Z, 2006-2008, 7 volumes), and NOBUNAGUN (Comic Earth Star, 2011-). It details the life of one Tokuko Magoi (AKA: McCoy), a detective-for-hire working from an office on an abandoned subway platform in the Little Tokyo district of Area 51, in the southwestern U.S. The manga mixes humor, action, pathos and weirdness in unequal amounts. I like it a lot.
Unlike with my other guides, I'm not going to include a chapter list, because there's not as much need for it. I could try cataloging each of the monsters, gods, demons, UMA (unidentified mysterious animals) and in-jokes per volume, but it's easier to just link to the individual volume write-ups and leave it at that. Instead, I'll put character descriptions here and condense what we know of the more important individuals all in one place.
The manga is all about in-jokes. Neon signs in the vampire district all display vampire movie titles. One of the aircraft carriers the U.S. military operating to police the waters surrounding Area 51 is the Thomas J. Whitmore, named after a character in the movie Independence Day. A werewolf killed off early in one story is name Nicholson, and you can guess which Nicholson he resembles. Children in the district read the Necronomicon as a bedtime story, and whole mythos - as with the Norse gods and Christanity - collide and bang elbows all the time. But, along the way there are some secrets that are slow to unfold. These primarily revolve around McCoy and why she currently has an broken sword in her chest to hold the two halves of her body together.
roughly in the order of appearance
roughly in the order of appearance
Nationality/Species: American/Secret Location
Details: Area 51 is the location in the southwestern part of the U.S. that is used as a holding location for creatures and objects that need to be hidden from the general public, ranging from various gods to vampires, Japanese kappa, and Big Foot. It's large enough to have a massive forest and secret onsen in the mountains that almost no one knows about, and is surrounded by ocean to keep its occupants from randomly escaping. We've been told that the normal routes in and out are controlled by the U.S. military, via an aircraft carrier, and the Japanese mafia, who handle smuggling operations with the outside world. The "Roswell UFO Incident" of 1947 was actually just the result of a drunk space alien crashing into Earth by accident. However, the existence of Area 51 was revealed at one point to a character named "Saisho no Hebi" (The First Snake) towards the end of WW II (1944-45) when an American bomber crashed into the ocean, indicating that Area 51 was used to house UMA some time prior to the Roswell Incident.
Tokuko Magoi (Magoi = Black Carp)
Details: McCoy is a female detective who is often seen tracking down stolen objects in and around the Little Tokyo district of Area 51. She started out as a detective in Japan, probably with the Tokyo Police Department, though that's never fully specified. We're given hints that she was on the trail of a killer who had murdered some of her previous partners. She had a boyfriend who may have protected her from an assailant, rather than following the assailant's orders to shoot her. However, the boyfriend seems to have suffered from depression. When McCoy had discovered she was pregnant, she rushed to tell him the good news, only to arrive just has he shot himself in the head with his Colt Government M1911. Shortly following this incident, the killer cut her in half somehow and took the fetus. Some guy wandering past the crime scene discovered McCoy's upper torso lying on the ground and offered to give her the broken blade of the famed sword "Kusanagi no Ken", which could keep her alive with its powers. McCoy accepted this offer, and then moved to Area 51 on the trail of her killer. We've also been told that the killer looks just like McCoy, and that her baby is still alive. (Above, Left: McCoy. Right: Unnamed boyfriend.)
Details: Something cut McCoy in two, and may have been responsible for causing her boyfriend to commit suicide. What exactly that is doesn't get fleshed out until about vol. 12. Literally. In several flashbacks, it looks like the blood from McCoy's lower body half coalesced into something that took her fetus and swallowed it. Eventually, we learn that it's a doppelganger that liked going around Tokyo and killing its victims before assuming their shapes. Susano had stolen the sword Kusanagi from the kappa tribe and was looking for a "sheath" to store it in. When he discovered the doppelganger, he'd followed it and attempted to coerce its victims into putting the sword in their bodies, but they would just explode from all the power in the blade. Eventually, the doppelganger killed McCoy, and Susano gave the sword to her afterward, which allowed her to come back to like. Since then, the doppelganger has enjoyed tormenting McCoy by using her likeness and the baby in public. In vol. 14, we're told by Felix that the doppelganger had helped the Angels guarding Area 51 in repelling a zombie invasion, and it has been living in their tower, Nikola's Cage, ever since.
Details: Kishirou is currently working as McCoy's assistant on some jobs, and is often the one driving the truck to get away from whatever is chasing them. He originally came from a tribe of kappa (water sprites), tasked by his tribe leader to locate their prized treasure, the sword Kusanagi no Ken. After some mishaps, which included having his turtle shell cut from his back by U.S. soldiers, he discovered that the sword is in McCoy's chest. In volume 2, a second kappa, Kishirou's childhood friend, Kirimaru, arrives in Area 51 to finish the job that Kishirou had failed to carry out. Kirimaru gets killed in volume 3, and Kishirou disappears for a while. When he returns in volume 8, he gets his old job back, and is now carrying the withered hand of his dead friend. The hand helps boost his natural kappa control over water. (Note the bullet hole in the hat in the above picture; received when Kirimaru supposedly shot to kill Kishirou.) (Shizune is to the right of Kishirou, above. She is the younger sister of Kirimaru, and has attempted to kill both Prince Charming and McCoy to avenge her brother's death.)
Nationality/Species: American/Possessed Gun
Details: Pike is a Colt Government M1911 handgun. He is a tsukumogami, which means that after having been around humans for 99 years, he has turned into a self-aware creature. He does need to sleep to regain energy, at which time he looks like a regular gun. When he's awake, though, he's a demon that has the ability to control the bullets he shoots, and to even recycle other bullets shot at him. According to chapter 36, in volume 9, Pike had been part of an art collection owned by a rich man who had a beautiful daughter. McCoy's boyfriend's grandfather was a thief that intended to steal the gun, but had fallen in love with the daughter and had turned himself into the police instead. When the grandfather got out of jail, he started working for the rich guy as a gardener. Some killers broke into the house, murdered the rich guy and kidnapped the daughter before setting the house on fire. The grandfather had been trapped under some fallen timbers, but was able to reach Pike. He shot off his own arm, then caught up to the killers and shot them to rescue the woman. Pike has since then been used to protect weaker people. But, McCoy's boyfriend committed suicide using Pike, and Pike has been in McCoy's possession from that point. He turns into a tsukumogami at the end of volume 1.
Nationality/Species: Japanese/Sun Goddess
Details: Amaterasu is one of several Japanese gods living in Area 51. She's generally depicted as a video game otaku who spends all of her time locked up in her apartment. Occasionally she does step outside, and when she does she wears very provocative outfits. She seems to have something of a protective nature regarding McCoy, kind of like an older sister, or a casual friend. But she has been implicated by fellow Japanese god Susano in volume 8 as having had some part in McCoy's current fate, in that Susano is the one that gave Kusanagi no Ken to McCoy, probably under Amaterasu's orders (Susano lives in Real Tokyo, and was last seen in volume 8). Amaterasu is actually a living ball of energy. To walk on Earth, she found someone that had just died, and then possessed her body. To remain on Earth, Amaterasu must sleep for 1 night every year to recharge her body, during which time she's vulnerable to assassination. In volume 10, she retreats to an onsen in Area 51, with McCoy as her bodyguard, and her body is tended to by the original owner's now-aged baby daughter. The baby daughter retires from this task following this story. (Above, left: Amaterasu. Right: Susano.)
In volume 12, Amaterasu is killed by a Nue, possibly at the behest of the Egyptian god Anubis, but her memories have been transferred to McCoy in secret. In vol. 13, she possesses the Nue and uses it to fight Anubis. She dies for good in vol. 14.
Details: Keiron is the primary doctor in Little Tokyo, working in the Four-Legged Clinic, taking care of the prostitutes in the red light district. Little is known about him, other than he's the one that helps keep McCoy alive, that he has a crush on an ugly Japanese marathon runner named Turbo Baba (Baba = old woman), and that he likes researching Japanese satori (a mythical creature that is said to bring enlightenment). (Pictured above: Keiron and Baba.)
Major A. Felix
Details: A. Felix first appears in volume two as an unnamed military leader tasked with accepting UMAs into Area 51 when they're unloaded in crates from the ship. He's later shown to be in charge of keeping the peace in Area 51, and occasionally asks McCoy for professional help. Nothing much is known about him other than that he is professional, he can act fast when needed, and isn't overly creative when it comes to puzzle solving. His name is given in volume 5, but the initial "A." is not explained and I'm not sure if it's an in-joke or not. His name is accompanied by a short write-up on him, indicating that he'd lost his eye during an off-stage battle with zombies. In vol. 14, Felix says that the blood of the doppelganger had been used during the zombie battle to create an anti-zombie weapon, and that he himself had been killed but resurrected by the angels. He's actually an angel half-breed now, and is killed by McCoy at the end of vol. 14.
Details: Shortly after the the Japanese gods and monsters decided to move from Japan to Area 51, they stepped in to help the Egyptian gods in their battle against the First Snake (which Amaterasu later used to ask for land in Area 51 for her people, and for a seat on the council of gods). At the time, the Egyptians were losing, and the jackal god, Anubis, decided to throw himself into the mouth of First Snake with the intent of killing it from inside. But, Amaterasu then arrived at the battlefield, easily defeated First Snake, and left Anubis horribly scarred and feeling humiliated. From that point, Anubis had sworn revenge against both the Japanese and Egyptian gods, and has been wearing a kind of spacesuit to hide his disfiguration. He finds a Japanese man who lost his wife and child in an incident involving Amaterasu, and he teaches the widower various techniques for creating a Nue (a Japanese chimera), to use in destroying Amaterasu. The plan mostly works up to vol. 12, but McCoy uses a yokai bullet from Pike to transfer Amaterasu's soul into the Nue, and in vol. 14, Anubis goes hand-to-hand against the Amaterasu-Nue, and loses.
Details: Bibi first showed up in chapter 2 as a powerful vampire running an extremely sadistic S&M shop staffed by his "vampire wives". Because the wives couldn't die, the customers would torture them as much as they wanted to. At the end of the chapter, Bibi's face was disfigured by being splashed by silver-infused blood. He makes a reappearance in volume 9 in an attempt to get revenge, but is quickly killed and turned to dust by the time traveling St. Germain. In chapter 10, his dust is partly destroyed as part of McCoy's plan to save a satori named Nemori.
Nationality/Species: Greek/Spider Woman
Details: Sonya is one of several prostitutes working in Little Tokyo's Red Light district. She's a spider with a humanoid upper torso. She makes occasional appearances in the manga, and has helped McCoy a couple of times, from ensnaring a terrorist client in her webbing for McCoy to interrogate, to wrapping Prince Charming in webbing to make him bullet proof. She's developed a crush on Charming, but otherwise nothing is known about her.
Tengu is a long-nosed demon living in the forests of Area 51. He's first met by Charming when the Prince was trying to find "rice balls" for McCoy's lunch. For the most part, Tengu just acts as an adviser on Japanese matters, but he does actively participate during the God War by flying Charming to Odin's tower, Valhalla, in volume 6. He hasn't been seen much since then.
The Council of 10 Gods
Details: The Council of 10 is responsible, to some extent, for setting policy in Area 51, and for protecting the region from rogue deities. They are hinted at in volume 3, and make their first official appearance in volume 4. In vol. 5 we're told that there had been a behind-the-scenes power play between Zeus and Hades for the Greek seat at the table, and that Hades had supposedly killed his younger brother in a coup. However, Zeus survived, underwent plastic surgery and turned into an old man running a small electrics recycling shop. The Council encountered Saisho no Hebi once before and trapped him in the body of a braindead human that was then locked up in a high-security prison. Hebi tricks McCoy into breaking him out of prison and he ensnares the Norse god Odin, to trigger the God War. At the time of the God War (volumes 6-8), Amaratsu was sitting in for Tsukuyomi, indicating that it's possible for junior gods of the same faction to act as proxies for the official representative. After the God War, Sun Wukong (Son Goku) retired (missing his right leg), Hades was killed (maybe replaced by Zeus) and the remains of Odin's body were fed to the Fenrir Wolf prior to Fenrir's being frozen in time. Odin's army of dead soldiers and Valkyries pledged their allegiance to Amaterasu, raising the question of who will take Odin's place at the table, or if his seat is being retired. We haven't seen the new Council yet, so we don't know what the extent is of the shake-up. The Council had met at the Gods of Earth restaurant (now destroyed). The council consisted of Ra (Egypt), Morrigan (Celts), Marduk (Mesopotamia), Odin (north Europe), Mokosh (Slavic), Shiva (India), Tsukuyomi (Japan), Tezcatlipoca (Aztecs), Seitentaisei (AKA: Sun Wukong and Son Goku, from China) and Hades (Greece).
Currently, Goku has retired, Hades is dead and has been replaced by Zeus again, and Ra is killed in volume 12. In volume 12, there's a hint that Amaterasu was the original representative for Japan, but she had McCoy's face.
Saisho no Hebi
AKA: Hebi, the First Snake
Details: According to Hebi himself, he was one of the first forms of life to be born in the primordial murk of the early oceans on Earth. He turned out to be immortal, and wanted to know why he was all alone, since none of the other life could communicate with him. When humans showed up, he became resentful that "God" only talked to them and not to him. It's implied that Hebi was "that snake" in the Garden of Eden. Then, during WWII, an American bomber crashed into the ocean near where Hebi was located. There was one survivor inside, and when Hebi possessed his body he learned about the existence of Area 51, and the fact that there were a lot more than just ONE god who had been ignoring him. So, Hebi went to Area 51 and attempted to kill all the gods. He was subdued by the Council of 10, and imprisoned in the head of an unnamed braindead human. In prison, Hebi was visited by "that person", who told him that Kusanagi no Ken could help him get revenge on humans. At that time, "that person" looked like McCoy and was holding an infant in her arms. Hebi used that information to get McCoy to spring him, and to attempt to get Kusanagi out of McCoy's body. Hebi tricked Odin into attacking the Council of 10, backed up by every snake-related deity and demigod, who all recognized Hebi as their leader. Odin thought Hebi had killed the Fenrir Wolf, which would prevent Ragnarok, and his own death, from happening. During the God War, Hebi fought McCoy, and lost against Prince Charming's lack of fear and hate. McCoy used Pike to shoot a piece of the Kusanagi sword at Hebi, which ripped him out of his human body and trapped him in a stone pillar. The pillar was caught in Zeus's lightning bolt and fired into space. At the end of the war (volume 8), the pillar was left sitting on the moon.
Details: In volume 4, McCoy is trying to track down a thieving tsukumogami vase and finds herself deep in a forest and in the middle of an 800-year war. In a retelling of the Snow White story, the Queen's mirror had turned into a tsukumogami, and the Queen's reflection escaped to take refuge in a neighboring castle. Snow White is actually the mirror image of the queen herself, and the two have been at war ever since. Snow White has been eating the flesh of a mermaid to remain young, and had hired the tsukumogami vase to steal a Japanese box containing trapped time. The idea was to use the trapped time to kill everyone in her castle so she could escape. The plan backfires, and only Prince Charming survives. With nothing left to do, Charming agrees to become McCoy's assistant while Kishirou is AWOL. During the God War, Charming gets Sonya to wrap him up in silk for armor, and he entered Odin's tower, Valhalla, to rescue McCoy from Saisho no Hebi. He saves McCoy by sacrificing himself in volume 8. He was a master swordsman, and had been given an unbreakable blade by Cyclops. The sword was found in the forest, in volume 9, having fallen from the tower when it blew up.
Details: Cyclops is a master machinist. He first appears when McCoy hires him to use Zeus's lightning bolt weapon to manufacture a bullet and a tooth for use in breaking Saisho no Hebi from prison. In vol. 5, he ran afoul of two sadistic assassins from China (Son Goku's "Journey to the West" demons, Ginkaku and Kinkaku). He got chopped up, but survived and created himself a new prosthetic arm. In his last appearance, he made a new, indestructible sword for Prince Charming.
Nationality/Species: Greek/3-Headed Dog
Details: Cerberus is Hades' pet Jack Terrier with the ability to shapeshift into a huge 3-headed beast. He's first identified in volume 5 as a puppy that frequents Zeus's small electrics repair shop. He's adopted by Zeus after the God Wars, following Hade's death, in volume 8. (Above, from left: Hades, Cerberus, pre-surgery Zeus.)
Details: St. Germain is a big, mean guy in a trenchcoat, with a machine gun and the ability to travel through time. He's incredibly arrogant and hates when people don't treat him with the respect deserving of a Count. He first appears in volume 9 when Bibi is trying to get revenge on McCoy. Germain dusts Bibi, then warps out only to reappear at 3:10 PM that day in an attempt to kill the satori, Nemori. He is instrumental in McCoy's plan to save Nemori (the plan of "one object can not occupy the same place at the same time"). He may have made his last appearance in volume 10.
Details: A Satori is a Japanese creature that can bring about enlightenment. Here, Nemori has been brought to Area 51, where she'd been working in a brothel in Little Tokyo. She was in high demand because she would sing for her clients, and the song would be so powerful they'd never come back again. At one point, she was encouraged to give a public concert, but during that one of the audience members shot her in the head. Keiron saved her, but she disappeared before the surgery was complete. When she resurfaced, she was locked up in a suitcase and being used by a minor crime gang to run a fake psychic fortune telling scam. Nemori was reading people's minds, and building up full copies of the customers in her head. She'd become a savant, reading everyone's thoughts automatically. Keiron hires McCoy to rescue Nemori, but Keishirou has to do the job. The problem is that Nemori's memories are escaping her head, and when that happens, the real person blows up (ref. St. Germain and "one object can not occupy the same place at the same time"). St. Germain knows that Area 51 is about to be destroyed and he wants to eliminate Nemori as a threat so he can continue his time traveling uninterrupted. She can use her fur to create a bomb-proof shell, making her almost indestructible. In volume 10, McCoy succeeds in subduing Nemori, and Keiron performs an additional surgery that removes her ability to build up perfect memories of people. She's happy now, and acts like a young teenager, but can only remember things for 18 hours, with no long-term memories.
Volume LinksVol. 1 (Introduction)
Vol. 2 (Kappa conflicts)
Vol. 3 (Kappa conflicts, prison break)
Vol. 4 (First snake wants Kusanagi, introducing Charming)
Vol. 5 (Ginkaku and Kinkaku versus McCoy and Zeus)
Vol. 6 (Start of the God War)
Vol. 7 (God War)
Vol. 8 (End of the God War, good bye Charming)
Vol. 9 (Return of the kappa, start of Beware 3:10)
Vol. 10 (End of Beware of 3:10, Amaterasu reset)
Vol. 11 (Start of Hyper Nue/Amaterasu must die)
Vol. 12 (Continuation of Amaterasu must die.)
Vol. 13 (End of Ameratsu flash-back, Amaterasu returns.)
Vol. 14 (Amaterasu and Anubis both die; start of McCoy's attack on the doppelganger.)