Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: Geobreeders, vol. 12

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Geobreeders, vol. 12, by Akihiro Itou - Grade: A-
(2006, first printing.) The first two pages are scene shots to remind the reader of where the story left off. Then, Arnold rips the door off the van to stare closer at the Kagura screensaver logo, and Eiko runs up to kick it for ruining the new vehicle. She tries punching the mega-were-cat but it has absolutely no effect. Arnold notices her and she just has enough time to flip the door up to act as armor before he smashes her across the parking lot. Yuka screams out and Arnold turns to face her. However, Yashima is running up and he starts shooting. The Barracuda and the rest of Hounds ground troops are close behind and Arnold takes a beating from the automatic weapons fire, but not as much as the humans would hope. Eiko pushes her way past the forces to the van while Yuka runs into one of the transmitter buildings. Arnold decides to follow her inside. Yuka puts up several protect seals and triggers them on Arnold, but instead of deleting him outright, they just mess his data up so that he looks much more monster-like. He grabs her arm and we hear a cracking sound. Eiko comes up behind him and puts a seal directly on his back, blowing a serious hole in his data. He still tries to regenerate, but his lower half initially looks like a child's. The two women race up the stairs where they get to the base of a transmitter tower, and then climb to a crow's nest landing two-thirds of the way up.

Over on the other side of the plant, chief and his remaining engineering staff are preparing to make a final stand. Were-cats leap out of the forklifts that they're running to get closer to the humans, forcing chief to use the Barracuda mini-gun as a battering ram. One of the women gets the opportunity to use the new laser cannon, and she basically looks away, closes her eyes, holds the trigger down and waves the barrel around. This technique works very well for a while, but the drain on the hanger's power supplies eventually causes a blackout. The mini-gun runs out of ammo as well. The crew panics and demands their chief to come up with a new plan to save them. He tells them he's working on it. He starts mumbling about this really bad, old movie he'd watched long ago - "Project-something". He hated it, especially the closing music. But there's one scene that he decides to recreate, where they're going to go out as "Goldsmiths". As he uses the mini-gun's extensible arm to knock the Barracuda over on its side, one of his men yells out that "Goldsmith" died in the end.

With the chopper lying so that the upper turbine rotor acts as a wind generator, chief shoots away with the TAC weapons. Eventually, though, the data disks fill up, he runs out of viruses to fire, and the batteries go to zero. Just as he's about to use the remaining TAC as a club, Yoda's Hounds force breaks into the building and save the day. It takes chief a few minutes to unwind and accept that the battle is over. The civilians are ushered into one of the Hound vans and the group starts driving away. Chief is already fast asleep on one of the benches, and one of the other men tries hitting on the female laser cannon operator.

Farther away, back near the Horihi station, Maya and Takami have circled the assassin. He taunts them, asking if they're going to actually do something or just stand there. After all, it is 2-on-1. The girls attack, and he easily counters them. Standing on Maya's head, he asks why they're wasting his time. They're not committed to this fight, and this is not like in the manga where the angrier you get the stronger you become. Takami prepares to throw another knife and he simply shoots it, asking if she's going to keep using the same attacks over and over again. While he's distracted Maya cuts his leg off with her claws. He gets excited, now that his prey is going to make the game more fun. A few seconds later, a fire truck is racing up the street to investigate the explosion at the station, and Maya comes flying in through the air to smash through the windshield. The assassin follows, grabbing a hunk of pipe from a street sign and impales both her and the firemen beneath her with it. He rhetorically asks what Kuro-Neko wanted with her, adding that she's all that remains of KN's group in the city. He suggests going to the hospital to kill Taba, and Takami throws another knife at him. He gets annoyed at the interruption and throws it back, embedding the blade in her shoulder up to the hilt.

As Takami collapses in shock, the assassin tells her to just sit there quietly while he talks to the important one. Maya says that KN will come back, and he loses it, firing his full clip into her. The fumes from the fire engine's tank ignite and there's an explosion. In the flames and smoke, he doesn't see that she's escaped from the pole. Maya switches to cat form and leaps at his neck, tearing his throat and disabling him. The next ambulance on the scene stabilizes Takami's shoulder and takes her to the hospital, with Maya curled up and sleeping on the roof of the cab. Some minutes later, one of the anti-KN were-cat group leaders walks up and sees the assassin lying paralyzed on the ground. The leader talks on the phone to someone (probably S), ignoring the assassin's mutterings about having been taken by surprise by a lucky shot. The assassin gets annoyed and asks if the leader is listening to him. The leader replies "we don't need you anymore". There's a slicing sound and the body of a dead cat is shown lying in the alley.

(Little Maya gets MAD. Say "Good night, Mister Assassin".)

Yoda's group is driving past the transmitter tower, so Maki kicks Yu out in the middle of the road in front of the truck. It screeches to a halt and Yoda climbs out to yell at them. Chief crawls out of the back of the truck, sleepily looks around, and decides to help, telling his people to get the laser rifle for him.

Yashima orders one Barracuda (B2 or B3) to come over and drop a cable to power the laser. Turns out that the cable has the wrong connectors, and even when things are hooked up right chief isn't ready to take the shot. (Yoda really wishes Narusawa was there now.) Yuka and Eiko get to the top of the tower, with both of them putting protect seals around (difficult for Yuka since she only has the one good arm now). Another helicopter maneuvers over to pick up the two women, and Arnold rips off one of the metal step holds and throws it, tearing off the tail rotor. Now, the catwalk also has the helicopter pilot on it. There's more hijinks, most of which take place on the wrong side of the tower where Maki can't watch it (Yu is busy begging one of the Hound drivers to give her a new truck). The second Barracuda (B3 or B2) tries to back up to the tower, allowing Eiko and the pilot to jump in. Yuka claims to be an injured victim and can't make the jump.

But, Arnold gets a little too close to her, so she steps on his face, over the first Barracuda, and onto the cable leading down to the ground from the second one, pulling the laser rifle out of chief's hands. Finally, with the cable plugged back in, chief gets the shot, carving up the mega-were-cat, and severing part of the tower to skewer him. But, the rifle overheats and when chief drops it, it cuts the main base section of the tower. As the tower topples over toward Yuka, she madly grabs her laptop and deletes the seals in the middle of it. The two remaining sections of the tower barely miss her, but squash Arnold. One of the Hounds confirms that there's a lifeless cat body underneath. Yuka gets bandaged up and is told by the Hound medic that it's just a mild fracture, earning Eiko's displeasure.

At the hospital, Taba has been talking about his near-death experience. He thinks there was something important that had been said during it but he can't remember what. Narusawa tries to kiss him, but there's a disturbance out in the hall. She sneaks out to avoid the scary floor nurse, then realizes that her cell phone battery has been dead all this time. In the hallway, Takami is being wheeled in on a stretcher and she's calling Taba's name. Taba eventually falls asleep. Maya glides into his room, is happy to see that he's ok, and she turns into a kitten to sleep in his pajama shirt pocket. At about this time, Eiko and Maki are alone in the public baths, and they notice that they both have similar keys. Maki says that her's is from a lost-love, and it unlocks her heart. Eiko hits her with a wash basin and says that the one she has is for their safety deposit box at the city bank. This raises the question of what Ryuu has had locked away.

At the end of the battle with Arnold, Yashima has ordered his men to do clean up around the grounds, but it looks like all of the enemy were-cats have been killed or contained. Yashima is looking down at the tower - Arnold's body is missing (possibly having been contained by M4). Out on the road, Irie is driving M4 through a tunnel and is barking orders to prepare M5. As he exits the tunnel, he sees Yashima sitting on the guard rail at a curve in the road, with the Barracuda behind him. Irie tries to back up but two other men shoot out the truck's tires. Irie gets on the radio and tries to joke his way out of the confrontation, but Yashima, Yoda and the two other men draw on him. Kotoi pulls out her pistol as well. Yashima loses his patience and shoots, so Kotoi fires as well, emptying her clip. Irie comments that the bulletproof windshield seems to have gotten in the way. Yashima snarls and says "yeah, but how many polycarbonate rounds from this rifle do you think it'll take before the glass gives?" He advances, still shooting. Irie surrenders and says that he's willing to meet him later. Yashima responds with "I don't want to hear from you, you bastard! I want "that woman" behind you".

Maki and Eiko go to the bank and open up Ryuu's deposit box, revealing a 5" floppy wrapped in an old newspaper. Eiko doesn't know how they're going to read the disk, but Maki is stunned at the headline article in the paper. It says that Kagura Company was involved in the kidnapping of a young girl. Police killed 3 of the kidnappers, who used pistols, a knife and a crossbow. They go to the offices and try to find a floppy disk reader. They then fail at making themselves tea, since neither Takami nor Taba are there to find the glasses and tea bags for them. Eiko calls the hospital and talks to Takami, who tells her where to look for everything. Initially, Eiko can't read the disk, but Yu starts slapping buttons and gets the error message "wrong containment system version number". Takami tells them where the older software versions are, and Eiko starts working backwards, from 5.2 to 2.9 before finally getting data, but it's still too complex for her to understand it. Over at the hospital, Takami and Taba ditch Yuka in order to talk in secret. Takami mentions that all of the were-cat files that they'd had in the company were blank. Taba tries to figure out what this means, and he asks Maya to go to the offices to get a laptop for them. Maya arrives in the basement just as Eiko opens the one available file on the floppy. Eiko is saying that there's no way to interpret the file, when Maya's eyes start to glow. Hard drives start exploding and the power strips burst into flames. Eiko screams "the new computers!"


Suddenly, a form works its way out of the monitor, slowly changing into a young girl wearing an older version of Maya's school outfit. Warning messages pop up on the screen, among other things saying "upload complete". A few minutes later, Maya and the other girl are passed out on the floor. Yu and Eiko speculate that the new girl is Maki's love child. They also notice that the girl looks like Maya's clone. Halfway through their tea, they decide that they need snacks and Yu asks why she's the one being tasked to go out and buy them.

Note: When the assassin was beating up on Maya, he said that the one thing he couldn't stand about Kuro-Neko was his slow, plodding methods. And, what he hated about KN's followers was that they never thought for themselves; they only followed KN's orders without any independent thought.

Irie and Kotoi are sitting in an old trolley car identified as a "one-man". Yoda comments about being hungry after all of the activities, and Irie suggests that he go out and get them something. Yoda refuses. Irie then asks Kotoi to get him something and she refuses as well. Eventually, Yuma arrives, carrying with her another novel (this one not really identifiable). Outside, Yashima's two men have been disarmed and detained by Hounds black ops forces. Yuma identifies herself as Irie's and Kotoi's boss, adding that she's wanted to meet Yashima anyway. Yashima wants to get straight to the point, with none of the evasive answers Irie is known for. Initially, Irie starts out stating that the were-cats are phantoms, cats that can change to look like humans, or even ghosts. In the evolution of life on the planet, the were-cats were one more option, and then took on the nature of data when technology could support them. They act out, identifying them as terrorists, trying to eliminate humans as being a threat to them. Yuma comments though that it may be more appropriate to compare them to the scene in Peter Pan when the audience is told to applaud to keep Tinkerbell from dying (i.e. - that is, they're a state obtained when their desire to live becomes strong enough). Because they ARE information, their will to live becomes a fight to control that information.

Yu is going through Yuka's stash of hidden snacks, but it's just leftovers. Suddenly, the new were-cat wakes up and says that everyone in the company's been killed. This makes the others very uneasy. Simultaneously, Taba and Takami are working out what they know about the protect system - there's this floppy that can't be opened with a newer version of the containment software; the deleted were-cats can't be found on the disks in the basement; no one knows how the containment software works, except possibly Yuka; and the assassin had told Taba that Taba would die just like the previous members of the earlier version of Kagura had before him. They both ask "what is 'Kagura?'"

Yuka is standing right around the corner listening, and looking very upset. At Kagura, the women don't know what to do about this new development, and Yu grabs the newspaper to ask if this new were-cat is the "hostage" mentioned in the article. Maya volunteers to do a data read on the newbie. The newbie says "who are you" and is told that Maya is her "younger sister".

Maya does a mind-meld and sees shards of memories, including Ryuu looking down at her, the Yuka-character laughing and looking maniacal, blood, a circuit board, and flying shell casings.

(#49's memories.)

Back in the trolley car, Yoda is getting upset the more he learns. He asks what the purpose of Hound is and is told that it's the public face, the weapon to be used against the were-cats, while Division 2 works behind the scenes gathering information on citizens through-out the city using things like the N-System. All in the name of protecting society. Yoda demands to know what Kuro-Neko's goal is, but an incoming phone call interrupts him. Yuma is told that three women have left Kagura company carrying "object A and object B". She tells Yashima that as they can see a new emergency has come up and she has to go. Since she doesn't have a business card, she puts down a piece of paper with her contact information on it, adding that they can meet back here in the trolley car if the need arises again. She leaves and Irie and Kotoi follow after her. Yoda picks up the paper and reads aloud - "Kikushima!?" Yuma continues walking out to the parking lot where a military helicopter is about to land. With an insane look on her face (similar to the one on the Yuka-character in the new were-cat's memories as she is about to fire her crossbow), Yuma says that big events are starting to develop from today.


When chief talks about "Project something" he's probably referring to the Matthew Broderick movie "Project-X", where the chimpanzee Goliath goes insane at the end and starts destroying the lab equipment before dying of radiation exposure. But I may be wrong.

As Irie and Kotoi sit in the "one-man" train car with Yashima and Yoda they start sketching each other on one of the stamp pads provided by the museum. Kotoi draws Irie as the bucktoothed self-portrait character by Shigeru Mizuki. He draws her as a childish scrawl. She's not impressed by his (lack of) skills and he just crumples up the paper to throw it away.

On the front of the one-man car is an ad for Weekly Shonen King magazine, which ran from 1963-88.

"One-Man" seems to be a brand name for a trolley car that has a single operator/conductor. Not getting significant information on this on the net right now. In any event, we're shown that the meeting with Yuma is in a trolley car exhibit in a train museum, probably near Nagoya.

Summary: Big things are set in motion and can't be stopped now. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Travel promotions

I can't say that the following is unique to Japan, but I really haven't seen anything like this in Austin or Minneapolis. Over the weekend there were a series of stalls set up in front of the Kagoshima-chuo train station advertising various tourist destinations, like Osaka, Hyogo, Kobe and Himeji, apparently sponsored by Japan Rail (JR). One set of booths was handing out plastic tote bags, while the other set had omiyage (souvenirs and snack foods) local to those cities. Omiyage tends to be overpriced and kind of uninteresting so I didn't bother with it this time.

(The tote bag booths, about 15 in total.)

However, the tote bags did have a couple of things worth noting. In most cases, the bags contained city maps, and brochures for hotels, restaurants and sightseeing spots. The stuff that I considered worth keeping included: two packets of "gourmet" instant coffee; an Osaka refrigerator magnet; a plastic bookmark, three clear folders (one for the Tezuka Museum near Takarazuka) and 2 pads of Osaka Station notepaper. Score!


Saturday had the better freebies (the coffee and magnet), while Sunday had the mascot figures and women in miko dresses. I can't be sure, but there's a good chance that the two in white makeup really were miko (geisha in training). Some of the staff would eagerly run over and ask if I wanted my photo with the mascots and miko, while in the case of parents, one adult would try to convince the child to stand next to the miko long enough to take the shot (usually a futile effort). There was also a contest with 15 questions, one per booth, where you'd get something like "our city has 5 main attractions, 4 of which are..., the fifth one is: A, B or C". Since it was in Japanese and it would have taken hours to find the answers from the brochures, I passed up the chance to try to win a free coupon for the Kagoshima Amusement Plaza inside the station.

The city of Nagahama is promoting the three Azai princesses of the Sengoku (Warring States) era (Yodo, Ohatsu and Oeyo). I don't really know this story, but apparently it was turned into an NHK period TV drama recently. As part of the promo, the princesses' story was included as a 16-page manga booklet in the handouts. Note that the Kaiyodo toy company has its museum here near the Nagahama train station.

(The clear file for the Tezuka Manga Museum.)

There was also a flier for Osamu Moet Moso. This exhibit had been at the Tokyo Anime Center some months ago. It's basically a reworking of Osamu's characters by various artists in "moe" style (cute and sexy).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Seen around, 4

I don't think I've written about Techno Parking before, but it does turn out that I'd uploaded the photos twice, apparently thinking that I would do the write-up some weeks earlier. Anyway, this is a fairly popular unmanned parking lot system in Kagoshima.

The parking spaces are clearly numbered and the directions spelled out.

Park, leave, come back, enter your space number and pay what you owe.

Note the tire shredder bar under the car. Don't pay before leaving, and you still end up paying.

All of the tourist maps I looked at had this one spot marked as "Statue of Hat". Expecting to see a great big hat sitting on a pedestal, I decided to check it out, even though it was a bit of a walk, being about a kilometer along the Kotsuki river from the Meiji Restoration Museum. The title in the pedestal in Japanese does indeed read "Statue of Hat".

One day, I was walking along route 20 to get to a community building called "San Eru" (possibly meaning "3-L"). On the fourth floor they have public access PCs, with printers and scanners hooked up, for 200 yen for 2 hours (I didn't have a printer then). As I crossed Takenohashi bridge, I came to a "rest home" for street cars (route 20 is a street car line). Note that the above car announces that it runs on Perth Street at one end...

And Miami Street at the other.

Seems that Kagoshima has had a lot of different car designs recently.

Tree Roots along one wall of the Tsurumaru Castle ruins. With the volcano ash and white wash, they almost look petrified.

Ok, I admit that Tsukimidai street is in Tokyo (near Noborito, actually). I just hadn't gotten to running these photos until now. "Tsukimi" is "moon viewing", and in Japan the "man on the moon" is actually a rabbit pounding mochi (rice cakes).

Back in Kagoshima, we have St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit priest who was the first westerner to introduce Christianity to Japan. The Xavier monument is 2 blocks south of Nakanohiratori street, half a kilometer from the Kagoshima-chuo station.

The marker text reads:
"The Monks in White
Introduction of Christianity
... the history of Japanese Christianity starts here ...
Ninshitsu, the Buddhist priest in Charge of the Shimadzu family temple, Fukushoji, writes of Francis Xavier as a polite and intelligent man of great erudition. Their intimate association is recorded in Discussions between a White Monk and a Black Monk. It was on August 15, 1549 that Francis Xavier led by Kagoshima native Yajiro, first set foot on Satsuma soil and introduced Christianity into Japan.

Takahisa, the 15th Lord of Satsuma, met Xavier at Ichiuji Castle in Ijuin and gave his permission to preach Christianity in his territory. Later, however, Takahisa's attitude stiffened owing to Buddhist opposition and the lack of trading benefits from Christianity. Xavier left Kagoshima to preach the gospel in Hirado, Yamaguchi, Sakai and Kyoto. He returned through Okinohama in Bungo (Oita) to Malacca, and died in 1552 in China. During his stay in Japan he was appointed the first Provincal of India. This stone is part of a commemorative chapel which was built in the Meiji era and bombed in World War II. In 1949, St. Xavir's [sic] church was built with a contibution from the Vatican to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of Xavier's arrival in Japan, and his bust was erected.

Made by Kagoshima sculptor, Yanagita Sho."

Across the street is the more modern St. Francis Xavier church.

(Travel route.)