Friday, July 1, 2016

Ajin, vol. 7 review

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Ajin, vol. 7 (Good Afternoon, 2015), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: B+.
Sokabe and Tosaki meet under a remote bridge, where Sokabe reports on what's been happening with the rest of the Ajin Research Group, and provides the information Tosaki had asked for. The first thing is a folder on Reiji Akiyama, the guy that had helped Kou escape, and is still presumably trapped in the 50 gallon drum somewhere. Kei had claimed that he still doesn't trust Tosaki, and that he has a second friend that sits out in the woods and waits for a signal at midnight every night. The guy is a firefighter, and an Ajin; if Kei misses sending a message in a secret code they'd created by using their black ghost smoke, the guy will use his ghost to kill Tosaki's fiance. Tosaki takes the threat seriously, and had told Sokabe to learn everything there is to know about Ajin firefighters. The other guy says that he'd used footage from the Ministry of Labor security cameras from the day of the Ajin gathering to identify Akiyama as the best fit.

(Character guide.)

The two men talk for a bit, and Sokabe is miffed that Tosaki is keeping information from him. He comments that they ARE friends, when a bird rustling in a nearby tree causes Tosaki to spin around and pull a pistol out. Then, he realizes that the only people who knew where Dr. Kishi's cabin was are on the ARG board. He tells Sokabe to announce to the group that he'll be attending the next meeting. Just before the flunky leaves, he hands over a padlocked folder, saying that this one is dangerous stuff and to be careful with it - the subject isn't listed in any of the government or police DNA or fingerprint databases. Then, at the next meeting, attended by the two remaining Ajin researchers, the Cabinet member, Sokabe and the General, Takahashi's ghost infiltrates the compound, killing guards along the way, and it meets up with Tanaka's ghost in the meeting room. Both ghosts are confused, because Tosaki isn't in the room. One of the researchers panics and blurts out that they'd been told that Tosaki was supposed to be there. Takahashi kills the guy, accidentally slitting the Cabinet member's nose at the same time. Outside in a parked car, Tanaka complains about Takahashi's brash actions (the researcher isn't on the 11-person kill list) and Gen says that he can't help out in Takahashi's place because he can't manifest a ghost himself.

(Takahashi's ghost kills the informant before dissipating, and the cabinet minister gets cold feet.)

Tosaki watches TV news reports of the attack at the minister's house, and it confirms his suspicions of a mole in their ranks. He's not surprised that humans would aid Satoh in return for assurances of safety. The minister breaks down and disbands the ARG. Sokabe phones Tosaki with this information, and Tosaki decides to keep going with his plan anyway. Sokabe is happy at the way things are going, because with the minister gone and Satoh about to kill Tosaki, he'll have a clear shot at becoming the new head of the ARG. Tosaki tries to think things over, and asks Kei what to do. The boy just stares at him like he's an idiot; it's not like Satoh is going to stop killing everyone in Japan at this point just because the minister tells them to back down. Kei adds that after their ghosts exchanged memories, he'd realized that Satoh isn't a revolutionary or a tactician - he's a gambler. They shouldn't let their guards down until they've reached the end of the game. Later, Tosaki opens the locked folder and reads the U.S. Marine Corps file on Samuel T. Owen, dishonorably discharged (AKA - Satoh).

(Satoh as a child in the U.S.)

Tosaki tracks down an old man that had worked with Owen back in Vietnam. The guy's name is Carter, and initially they'd just spent a couple of weeks together in boot camp in 1969 before Owen was reassigned. At the time, Owen had been known as "Pokerface", in part due to his family lineage - his father was British, his mother Chinese, but he'd grown up in the U.S. After the war ended, Carter and Owen were reunited for a special rescue mission, to get an American POW out of a prison camp. The full team was made up of 4 people, those two, plus two other marines. They got into the camp just fine, but when it came time to take the prisoner out, Owen just turned evil, said, "Play ball" and fired a shot into the ground. This alerted the 100 enemy soldiers in the area and it turned into a blood bath. When it was all over, Owen was missing a leg, one of the two supporting guys was dead and the other seriously wounded. Carter recognized Satoh immediately on the TV, and knows "Owen" is an Ajin, but he can't hate him for that. The prisoner they'd rescued was his little brother. Eventually, we learn that Kei's memory of Satoh as a small boy, being threatened by his father, happened because the boy kept killing every small animal on the farm. The father relented, hugged Samuel and apologized for hitting him earlier. The boy is simply confused over what is happening. Back in real time, Tanaka offs the next list victim and most of his police escort. The remaining cop is an inside man, and asks Takana to shoot him in the middle of his bullet proof vest to make it look like he wasn't complicit. And, Tosaki tells his group that the Cabinet minister has given up, but that he himself wants to keep paying the guards to protect him. One guy wants out, but Hirasawa (the bald one) says he'll only follow direct orders. The remaining two will stay on as long as they get paid, so the first guy sides with Hirasawa. Kou and Izumi are in; Kei asks them to repeat the question because he wasn't listening. Finally, at the enemy camp, Satoh says that he's bored and that Tanaka, Takahashi, Gen and Okuyama (the computer guy) can take care of everyone in the Forge Building. Tanaka is mad at being put in this position now, but he can't back down. Okuyama gives him the building plans in a PDF file on a USB stick.

(Some dreams seem more real than others.)

The "heroes" get to the Forge Security Building, and meet one of the other people on Satoh's hit list - Keiichi Kai, president of the company. Kai says that Tosaki and group can do whatever they need to, but to not let any of the company staff know what's going on. Turns out that he and Tosaki have a history, including a fondness for Tosaki's comatose girlfriend, Ai. They'd been at the same university together, and Tosaki says the guy is pretty much untrustworthy. The second person on the hit list is Naomi Ri, Kai's secretary. She gives a complete rundown of the building's layout, including the number of elevators, the security system at the lobby, the weapons research and development floors, and the server room on the 14th floor. Tosaki asks why she's on the list, and she vaguely replies that there's a solid reason for it. Then, time drags by. Kei has a bad dream with Satoh attacking in a combat VTOL and everyone dying. When he wakes up, he wonders if he'd covered all the possible scenarios. At least 5 days later, Tosaki, occupying the president's office, notices an alarm from the server room. Kei tells them to take their positions - this  is it.

(Tanaka, Gen and Takahashi take turns shooting each other to force resets when they get hit by tranq darts.)

4 hours earlier, Okuyama had come in through the front doors on a forged security pass as a repair technician sent to address a noise problem on one of the server cables. Once in the main server offices, he poured lighter fluid into a wastebasket of shredded paper and set it on fire. The other employees panicked and ran for the exit, but that was jammed shut by Okuyama's ghost. Then the vents opened and the room was flooded with CO2 (the building doesn't use sprinklers on that floor because of all the electronics). A few minutes later, everyone else is dead and Okuyama resets. He gets to the security panel, located in the same office, and deactivates the firewall shutters to allow Tanaka, Takahashi and Gen to shoot their way into the building. From there, Okuyama guides his group up the stairs and around various threats. At one point, two guards approach the server room to check the alarm, and Okuyama tricks them into getting electrocuted. Along the way, Kei poses as one of the guards and pretends to have been killed with everyone else. He watches Tanaka and group go by and verifies that Satoh isn't with them. He and Kou go to the utilities section on the 10th floor, and set up their plan, which involves the big exhaust fan that controls air flow in and out of the rooms throughout the building. The problem is that he can't figure out why Satoh didn't come with. He contacts Tosaki over a private communications link to update him on the current situation. All that's left is to wait.

Summary: Lots of useful background on Satoh, and preparation by Tosaki for the upcoming battle. Lots of violence, too. Recommended to anyone not easily offended by blood and gore.

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