Cyborg 009 Full Review Project: Manga (1964) Volume 4

Volume four starts with chapter fifteen – Empty War. Or as it’s known originally, Vacuum War – a change I’m perfectly okay with. I know the original title was meant to indicate the vacuum of space, but all I see when I hear that title is a bunch of Kirbys, Hoovers and Dirt Devils shooting each other on a bloodied battlefield. Plus, Empty War kinda sounds poetic.

This story is another one of the side stories from Separate Shonen King that ran while Cyborg 009 was being canceled from Weekly Shonen King.

We start with a plane being shot down by Black Ghost. In the debris, a robot is carrying an old man through the air, dodging the fire from the fighter planes and trying to keep him safe. He bumps into the submarine of the 00 Cyborgs, who offer him refuge from the Black Ghost planes. The robot’s name is JQ and he was designed by Dr. Yamazaki, the old man being rescued from the plane.

Yamazaki was originally an engineer at Black Ghost, but when he realized the evils they were doing he wanted no part in it any longer. He remembered how Gilmore and the escaped cyborgs were fighting to take Black Ghost down, so he also decided to leave with JQ and fight for justice. However, Black Ghost quickly found him out and attacked his plane as he was leaving.

Yamazaki reveals the terrifying news that Black Ghost is setting to launch an armed satellite that will be utilized by the countries of the world to shoot missiles at any corner of the globe. It’s being completed today, and he needs their help to stop them.

JQ, 009, 004, 006, 008 and 003 head out to stop the last two rockets heading to the base. While they’re unable to stop one rocket, they do manage to board the second, but they’re forced to leave 004 and 008 behind.

Having hijacked the rocket, rather easily, actually, they get as much important information out of the pilots as possible. Their rocket is merely for transport and isn’t armed, meaning they can’t use it to attack the base. That’s not the worst part, though – apparently the satellite base is only one of two weapons bases Black Ghost has set up in space. Another has been built on the moon.

They plan to destroy the satellite base by setting their rocket to self-destruct at the exact moment it hits the atomic core of the base, which will cause a chain reaction and destroy everything. They’re able to pull this off, but the moon base is another issue. Black Ghost will be on full alert after the satellite explosion, and they don’t have much of a plan to destroy the base in the first place.

JQ heads off on his own to attack the missiles right next to the control dome while 009 takes care of the cyborgs and robots being sent to their location. After the battle, 009, 3 and 6 go to the base to see what happened with JQ and they find the place in ruins. While there are still some rockets and missiles left standing, the place is completely empty and the control dome has been destroyed. JQ blew up four of the missiles simultaneously with his arms and legs, which destroyed the area, but JQ did not survive the blast.

And uh….it’s actually really abrupt. 003 is like “He’s gone. I see pieces of him everywhere.” 006 says “Poor JQ!” 009 says “He will be missed.” then we get one more shot of the rockets and the chapter’s over. That’s pretty disrespectful of JQ. The dude died trying to save the world and then it’s like ‘Press F to pay respects.’ and we just move on.

Overall, though, I wish the ending was a bit cleaner, but I did enjoy this chapter. I liked JQ and Dr. Yamazaki. I actually felt really bad when JQ was killed. He was a very noble and loyal robot, and I kinda liked his dynamic with Yamazaki, but alas, being a side story character, he was destined to die.

Oh except when he came back as a completely new character in the next chapter – A New Type of Bomb (Thunder and Lightning) or The Bomb Model “Raiden”

This story is a Frankenstein’d from Vacuum War and The Man in the High Castle. Almost all of the artwork is just lifted from those chapters with new writing being put in place to make a new story. I can’t find a solid reason as to why this story is the way it is. The best I’ve gathered is that Ishinomori was unhappy with how these stories initially went, or at least he was unhappy with how Vacuum War ended, so he made this story out of recycled panels and dialogue, but it only came out a few months after Vacuum War and The Man in the High Castle, and those stories are perfectly fine, in my opinion anyway. What went so wrong that he felt compelled to go back and ‘fix’ them, but not even really fix them because he didn’t remake either story he just stitched the two together? Also, if speculation is correct, he never considered this to be canon either, so why bother?

To make matters worse, this story’s existence and placement in the magazine and subsequent collections, like the one I’m reading right now, make everything extremely confusing as to the timeline, the canonicity of the stories, even in their own little side-collection of stories, and the status of 007.

This story starts off with a plane being shot down by Black Ghost fighter planes. We see a robot in disguise, C-11, who is totally not JQ with a darker head, introduce himself to Dr. Yamaz—Kaminari. C-11 was originally sent there to kill Kaminari, but he has defected from Black Ghost and plans to save him instead – and save him he does.

Meanwhile, on the Cyborgs’ submarine, they catch wind of the news of the attack while simultaneously getting the news that his granddaughter, the Prime Minister’s daughter from chapter fourtee—I mean not her – was kidnapped. He was working on a weapon called Thunder and Lightning which would send snowflake shaped nanomachines into the sky and explode. He didn’t work for Black Ghost, but they wanted his weapon, which he wouldn’t hand over. So, of course, they sent a killer robot to kill him in his plane while also planning on shooting down his plane, almost certainly killing him….WHILE kidnapping his granddaughter? Well, that’s doesn’t make any sense.

They do get information on the location of Black Ghost’s base from the recon dolphins they spot outside, but they don’t reuse the dolphin ‘torture’ scene from chapter fifteen.

The base infiltration scene is lifted entirely from Vacuum War, barring some new shots of 007 and 5. Then when we get outside, it’s back to chapter fourteen and now, despite being shown as an adult about a page prior, 007 is a child again because he was a child in chapter fourteen. Also, despite the fact that we were near Japan all of a page ago, we’re suddenly in some snowy tundra because that’s where we were in chapter fourteen. They explain away the snow by reminding us that the weapon he created uses nanomachines that, for some reason, look like snowflakes.

Also, somehow, despite escaping the planes and Black Ghost with C-11, Kaminari was captured off-screen, I guess?

We get a repeat of Lil’ 007 knocking some guy out as a snowman, and this entire fight scene was ripped from chapter fourteen. Because they’re recovering Kaminari here, they redraw the shot that was originally 002 giving 007 and 009 a lift over the electric barrier to showing 002 grabbing Kaminari and lifting him up.

One of the kidnappers activates the weapon, which causes the snow to explode….but I’m 99% certain it’s just repeat shots of the electric barrier from chapter fourteen.

Anyway, 007 had a growth spurt due to the weapon because he’s now back to being an adult again. Back on the sub – by the way, the other cyborgs saved his granddaughter off-panel – Kaminari explains that his prototype for the weapon wasn’t ready, but he knew he needed to deliver something to them or else they’d kill his granddaughter, so he loaded up the place with gunpowder and, when the snow exploded, so did the base.

009 tells him to use his brilliant intellect for good now, and the story ends.

….So…I had to go back and see what happened because the introduction scene is really confusing. I guess C-11 died in a missile explosion while trying to cause a distraction? They don’t really make it clear. There’s a final panel before we cut to the cyborgs where there’s a black blotch on the ocean floor and I honestly couldn’t tell if that was meant to be C-11’s body or part of it. Also, despite the pilot of one of the Black Ghost planes saying “He’s gone.” I guess that was when Kaminari was spotted by the Black Ghost planes, somehow, and taken away. How did they see him in that barrel? They couldn’t last time.

I don’t really get why Ishinomori made this story. If you ask me, it’s just a very sloppy retelling/chimera of two solid standalone stories. If Ishinomori really was unhappy about how Vacuum War ended, he should have just redone the story from scratch instead of making this because it almost feels like he missed a deadline and just threw this together. It’s not terrible, but I’d much rather take the other two stories on their own.

The next chapter, the 00 Cyborgs are attacked in their sub while Black Ghost utilizes all of their undersea friends – I mean fearsome creatures to attack them including their signature recon dolphins, swarms of regular fish, a manta ray with cameras for eyes, attack sharks, TIGER SHARK MISSILES which are exactly what you think they are, and a giant octopus which tries to crush their sub. I love this series with all my heart.

After 009, 008 and 005 take down the pursuing Black Ghost sub, with 009 hitching a ride on a sea turtle (How can you not love that imagery?) they chart a course for the Indo-China Peninsula because Gilmore had heard rumors that Black Ghost is funding a superhuman guerrilla unit for the Viet Cong in the civil war with Laos. They must head there, investigate and take down Black Ghost if they’re involved.

003 suddenly bursts out that she doesn’t want to go. She’s seen enough killing and destruction, and she wants it to end. Gilmore reminds her of the grim truth, however. They have to stop Black Ghost at all costs or else they’ll perpetuate war and bring about the destruction of the world. They’re the only ones who have a chance at taking them down.

But enough of that, it’s time to be attacked by an army of jellyfish and a plesiosaur! This crazy train ain’t stoppin’. The jellyfish are, somehow, draining all of the power from the sub. When 008 and 9 investigate, they spot a frickin’ plesiosaur who wants to destroy the sub among the mass of jellyfish.

009 gets attacked by the jellyfish, and all of his energy gets drained by them, but 008 saves him and returns him to the sub. 009 is okay, but they have to figure out how to get out of this jam……or jelly….fish. 😀

They decide to forcibly wake 001 up from his deep slumber, and he uses his psychic powers to power the sub manually and move the sub away from the jellyfish. However, the plesiosaur continues to pursue them. 005 decides to fight it, and he RIPS THE THING APART WITH HIS BARE HANDS. 005 needs more spotlight pronto.

They manage to get a sample from the plesiosaur and two of the jellyfish. After analyzing the jellyfish, Gilmore realizes that they weren’t modified by Black Ghost. Their insane power-draining abilities are a result of nuclear bomb tests performed underwater during the war. Realizing that war creates just as much suffering in the environment as it does in the lives of everyday people, the 00 Cyborgs reaffirm their resolve to stop Black Ghost and end war.

We then get a prologue that leads us into chapter eighteen. It philosophizes on the nature of man, violence and war while showing a depiction of war throughout history from the times of cavemen to the 20th century. It’s quite troubling, especially when Ishinomori starts showing images such as tanks driving right next to a dead body, someone running up to hug the body in despair and someone getting executed via firing squad. I was going to take a potshot at 003 for suddenly bursting out like that because I felt like it was another instance where she was just being ‘the girl’ of the group and getting overly emotional, wanting to quit, but after reading this section, I don’t think such a thing is warranted.

It is a little irritating that 003 was singled out for that scene, but I can completely understand why any of them would want to quit after everything they’ve seen, especially if no end seems to be in sight for them. And 003 does have to see and hear the horrible details of everything they go through. Many times, she has to sense things that the others can’t see or hear. In that regard, I feel pretty bad for her.

The prologue ends with us arriving in Vietnam – the US forces rolling up and destroying a bunch of stuff before one of the tanks gets destroyed by a strange man in a full-body black suit driving a weird black domed tank.

Chapter eighteen starts and we get more backstory on the situation, questioning why the American troops were having such difficulty taking on the Viet Cong. It’s chalked up to either the Viet Cong using the confusing terrain to their advantage since American troops aren’t used to fighting in these dense jungles, the American troops being unable to discern between North and South Vietnamese people, which allowed the north to deceive them OR….Cyborgs, robots and super tanks that turn into robot spiders.

See what happens when you fall asleep in history class, kids? You miss all the cool robot spiders.

Anyway, it uses its buzzsaw arms, because, yes, it has those too, to cut a pathway through the jungle. And then it uses its suction cup feet to climb up a rockface.

This thing is really sick. Just look at the blueprints.

It’s awesome.

The man in black gives the tank to the leader of the Viet Cong unit without any compensation and leaves. Joe, GB and Albert are watching all of this from the shadows, but they suddenly trip a booby trap and that’s where volume four ends.

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All in all….this volume was…okay. Forgive my lack of enthusiasm, but this volume just didn’t have a lot going for it. Most of it was filler a la forcibly included side stories. This doesn’t mean the stories were inherently bad just because they were filler – I quite enjoyed the story with JQ – but the second story was just a recycled confusing okay story at best.

The only true saving grace of this volume was the storyline with all of the awesome undersea creatures Black Ghost was utilizing – plus the super mutated jellyfish and the PLESIOSAUR, that weren’t even created by Black Ghost. That chapter was just buckets of fun, even if it ended on a downer note.

Right when we get back into the thick of things, the volume ends.

The volume wasn’t bad by any stretch, but it wasn’t quite as the same level as some of the previous volumes.

Fear not, though, next time, in volume five, we’re really heating things up as we delve deep into the Vietnam arc.


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