Saturday, October 3, 2015

Area 51, vol. 5 review

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Area 51, vol. 5, by Masato Hisa. Grade: A

(Prince Charming thinks he's found a "triangular-shaped rice ball".)

H17) It Taste Strange
We finally learn Lieutenant's name - A. Felix. Felix visits McCoy's offices on the abandoned subway platform, and he asks her for help. Seems that a terrorist group has resurfaced, but the U.S. Army doesn't know what they're after. McCoy goes out to do some research and tells her new assistant to leave Kishirou's hat alone and go get her some musubi for lunch. Charming has no idea what a "musubi" is, and first tries visiting various shops to ask around. No one has a clue, including the owner of the Area 51 sushi shop. But he'd heard that it's shaped like a triangle, and therefore is probably one of those giant triangle-headed worms living in the forest. Charming tracks down a "musubi", which almost kills him. He's rescued by a forest tengu (Japanese demon), who takes him home and shares a rice ball with him. When Charming asks how to kill a "musubi", the tengu just stares at him, then finally says, if you want a musubi, you just ate the last one. Charming panics and gets the tengu to give him the recipe for rice balls, which include umeboshi - red salted plums. Unfortunately, while the tengu still has cooked rice and seaweed, he's out of umeboshi. Fortunately, the grocery store nearby carries them. Charming rushes to the store.

Meanwhile, McCoy learns that the terrorists are planning to make a golem - a huge mud giant that could destroy Area 51. She calls Felix and alerts him to the danger. To make the golem, they need mud, blood, and a special spell scroll. The terrorists have two factions - one has the scroll and the other has the needed ingredients. Felix takes his men to the one location they know of, a grocery store. Which is where Charming is also headed. The store is sealed off and the soldiers won't let him inside. Desperate, he sees a sign for a fortune teller that promises to "find what you're looking for". He enters the building, and the teller straps him into a fully working replica of a divining rocket chair. He's told to picture what he's looking for, and then the chair launches into space. From that vantage point he locates the "umeboshi" and the chair shoots down into a building where a swamp monster is conducting some kind of illegal transaction. Charming sees what looks like large, red, wrinkled plums, and offers $10 for them. The gang attempts to kill him for the interruption, and he defends himself with his sword. He takes the umeboshi back to the forest to have the tengu make him some rice balls. He then returns to the office, bruised, battered, and filthy. McCoy complains that he's late and she's starving. She wants to eat NOW. Back at the grocery store, Felix's men can't find the scroll, but they locate a memo saying that the terrorists are having a meeting somewhere else at 3 PM to cast the spell on the blood to make one half of the golem (the transformed blood then just needs to be mixed with mud to complete the process). 30 minutes ago. The Army runs to the meeting spot, only to find a dead swamp monster, a bunch of other bodies, a suitcase full of money, and a $10 bill under a small rock (to keep it from blowing away in the wind). Felix yells out that the transformed blood is going to look like big, red, wrinkled plums. McCoy and Charming finish off the rice balls, and she comments that they taste strange this time.

(Charming locates the Horseman's head in with all the cabbages bound for Behemoth, while Pike asks if they should help save their new assistant. McCoy thinks that he should be fine on his own here.)

H18) Her Name is Cowberry
It's a busy day, and McCoy gets three job requests. The first is to find the missing head of the headless horseman. Something banged into the horseman's back at 11 PM, sending the head flying through the air, only to land on a barge of cabbages heading to Ganesh's park, where they're going to be fed to Ganesh's latest acquisition, the monster Behemoth. The second comes from Lieutenant Felix. Someone he'd talked to is going back home after 30 years, and he wants to meet a former flame from 30 years ago, named Cowberry. Supposedly, there are only 2 kinds of people that can leave Area 51 - political leaders and the yakuza, but there is one more. And finally, Amaterasu wants her broken skylight repaired. It was damaged right at 11 PM. Charming comments that he'd been attacked by something while he was outside getting groceries for the night, and it left deep tracks in the ground while also breaking his sword when he protected himself from it. McCoy locates the barge with the horseman's head, and Charming has to fight Behemoth to save the head. When the horseman leaves, McCoy notices the marks on the back of his head, which match the ones on Amaterasu's roof, and those that Charming saw. McCoy tracks down Cowberry, who is an old woman now. The detective brought the golden dragon from volume 3, and she and Cowberry fly into the air to fulfill the client's request to "look down". Turns out that the client is an alien that's returning to his home planet, and Cowberry was an abductee that he'd fallen in love with. The crop circles the alien inscribed all over Area 51 are many, many cowberry's, also known as cranberries. The alien's expectation that Cowberry could see this picture from the air came from the fact that originally she had wings. But after breaking up with the alien, she'd chopped her wings off to pass for human when she decided to marry someone else. She shows McCoy an old photo, then says that her answer to the alien is "no". She wants to stay on Earth. A little later, McCoy finds the horseman again and asks if he is still looking for the one that beheaded him. He answers that that's his only reason for existing and wants to know if McCoy had learned anything. She says, "Yes, her name is Cowberry".

(When Hades killed Zeus.)

H19) Zeus Has Died, Right?
Some street kids are watching an episode of the anime Jabberwocky (Masoto's earlier manga title) on the TV in Zeus' used electronics shop. He chases them away, while also grousing at a small dog that's hanging around out front. At her office, McCoy is visited by Hades, Zeus' older brother. Hades had killed Zeus (according to legend; it's not something that happened in the manga), but it's come to his attention that the tooth McCoy had left behind at the prison when she sprung Hebi was probably made from Zeus' lightning bolt weapon. The reason Hades had killed his brother was to be able to take his seat in the Council of the 10 Gods. If it becomes public that Zeus isn't dead, Hades will have to fight him again. McCoy tells Hades that the tooth could have come from some other lightning-using god, and he leaves saying that that's what he wanted to hear. However, word on the street is that Zeus may be alive and there's a huge bounty on him. In his shop, Zeus (who'd undergone plastic surgery to have his appearance altered) is surrounded by smoke.

(Ginkaku, left; and, Kinkaku, right.)

One of the two street urchins shows up in the middle of the smoke, holding a bottle trap. Zeus is sucked into the trap, and the child runs across the street to give the bottle to someone named Ginkaku. Both Ginkaku and Kinkaku are demon brothers from the Chinese "Journey to the West" legend, and are acting as bounty hunters right now. They've got various treasures that make them almost invincible - the trap bottle, a fire glove, and the Seven Stars sword that has been melted down to make rifle rounds. They're also incestuous sadomasochistic lovers. They kill the one urchin and ignore the other, while maintaining their stakeout of Zeus' shop. They see McCoy dropping by and prepare to simply kill her.

(Zeus prepares to use his lightning weapon against the mutated Ginkaku, when the dog that has been hanging around his store suddenly makes an appearance..)

H20) Only That Dog Knew
Zeus, trapped in the bottle, attempts to use his lightning to escape. This fails, but it throws off Ginkaku's sniper shot. McCoy tries to escape, but is caught by Kinkaku, who tries to roast her with the glove. There's a lot of running around, fighting and stuff, until McCoy manages to pull the stopper out of the bottle. She gets Pike to shoot a bullet into the jar, which cracks it. Zeus uses his lightning again, this time shattering the bottle and getting free. He fries Kinkaku, but Ginkaku, who's still standing on the roof of the building on the opposite side of the street, uses the Seven Star bullets to turn himself into a full-fledged demon. Zeus prepares to use his lightning bolt weapon to defeat Ginkaku, but that's going to tell the world that he's still alive. Then, Zeus notices the small dog that had been hanging around his shop. It turns into a monster, eats Ginkaku, and runs away. McCoy explains that Hades had given them a hint before - as long as everything was settled quietly, he wouldn't have to kill his brother again. Right now, the only other one who knows that Zeus is alive is the dog. It returns to his owner and takes its proper shape as Cerberus before settling down next to Hades. On the final page, we see that Hades really misses being able to hang out with his brother.

(Hades and his pet, Cerberus.)

(Who both miss Zeus.)

Short Story: Until You Finish Area 51
This was the other story I fan translated. Masato is given an ultimatum by his editor to finish the latest chapters before the deadline. He fails, and it looks like he's going to get his fingernails torn out in punishment. Again.

(Prince Charming, and Joe, the alien. On the front cover, McCoy and Cerberus.)

Summary: Ginkaku and Kinkaku are really over the top. Their interactions aren't overly gross or explicit, but most western readers are going to be turned off by them. Otherwise, this is another great book. Recommended, with reservations. I loved the musubi story.

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