The best regularly released historical fiction manga is back this week and it’s a real treat. It’s not only continuing the great story, but split in half it’s basically two entirely different setups with beginnings, middles, and ends. The hunt for the tattooed prisoners is still on, but threats are aplenty!
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Asirpa and Sugimoto are faced with a shocking truth–Noppera-bo, the criminal mastermind behind the stolen gold hoard…is Asirpa’s father! To confirm this they decide to go to the impregnable Abashiri prison to attempt to meet him. Along the way, they find more clues to the location of the gold and make a stop in a hellish hotel. Meanwhile, Toshizo Hijikata lays down his own brand of justice in a lawless town…
Why does this matter?
Satoru Moda has done an impeccable job with this series, weaving in non-fiction facts with great character writing. As the story has progressed new threats have emerged and the variety is quite impressive. Tracking down enemies, escaping snipers, breaking out friends from prison…the list goes on. This volume is no exception as it contains a labyrinthine hotel of death and a small town shootout.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This volume opens with Asirpa, Saichi, Yoshitake, and Kiroranke basically filling readers in on what has happened and where we go from here. That helps get things in order so we won’t forget, but it then throws much of that out and dives right into a killer labyrinth house of death. I don’t want to spoil it at all, but there are some surprising twists (and twisted imagery) in this horror house. It’s a great time for such a story since Halloween is around the corner and there’s some haunting stuff afoot in this first half.
The second half focuses on old-timers Toshizo and Shinpachi who are looking for a tattooed skin that is rumored to be in a small town. They soon discover rival gangs run the show and that town politics are very complicated. This second half has a Yojimbo vibe that is unmistakable. The old men play both sides like a fiddle and it’s fun to watch things play out. There’s a heck of a lot of fighting in these scenes too that rival any of the best westerns. Speaking of westerns, the story delves into some handgun history directly tied to the old west that adds an allure to the story.
The art is exceptional when it comes to environments, but what really took me aback was the fight choreography. It’s easy to follow and highly entertaining. It’s great to see master fighters mid-fight be impressed with one another and that happens a few times in this volume.
It can’t be perfect can it?
As I noted above the opening drops a lot of exposition on your head only to get sidetracked by another mission. I loved this side mission, but it makes you scratch your head a bit as to why we needed to be filled in on the bigger story beats.
The second half of this volume loses sight of our main heroes for a very long stretch which is rendered extra awkward since we leave them in a very dicey place. This volume then has the gall to thrust a single page poop joke with the very same characters at the end the book. Truth be told, a lot of the humor in this volume, and in the series as a whole, doesn’t really work. It relies on bathroom humor, jokes about genitals, or sometimes both at once. It’s rather childish, especially compared to the adult nature of the story and how serious it takes the historical facts.
Is it good?
This is an excellent volume that never lets up on twists, turns, and a lot of action. It’s a shock to the system in the best of ways, delivering two very satisfying stories.
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