We are in the throes of the Vietnam arc, and what an awesome yet depressing arc this is. When we last left our heroes, it seemed that Black Ghost was perpetuating conflict in Vietnam by giving an insanely technologically advanced tank, known as a Black Monster, to the Viet Cong, piloted by a mysterious man in black that we now learn is known as Cyborgman.
The horrible realities of war unfold all around us as the 00 Cyborgs, starting with 009, 007 and 004 combat the Cyborgman and his incredible tank. As they struggle with its power, the entire Viet Cong unit that had owned the tank gets blown away by an enemy air raid. They’re able to outwit the Cyborgman and destroy the Black Monster, but there’s a problem. It seems Cyborgman is more of a title, and he’s merely number eight in a line of many copies.
Not only that, but there are just as many Black Monsters around, each with unique designs and powers, and several of them have been ‘gifted’ to the Americans and the South Vietnamese to make the fighting even more intense.
A girl named Ran attempts to infiltrate a South Vietnamese camp dressed as a boy to find her brother. She’s about to be killed by them when 009, 4 and 7 save her, but are subsequently taken prisoner. They learn that both of her parents are dead and that her brother is her only family, but he disappeared some time ago. She had feared he was dead, but then she heard that he had joined the Viet Cong so she went off to look for him.
Turns out, one of the Cyborgmen, number eleven, was her brother. Black Ghost had kidnapped him and turned him into a cyborg. Her brother recognized Ran and turned against his allies, destroying several of them with their tanks. However, he felt he couldn’t go back with his sister. He was ashamed of what he had turned into and couldn’t face her anymore. In order to atone for what he did and destroy one more weapon of war, Ran’s brother bid his sister farewell and self-destructed the tank.
The trio then tried to bring Ran back to a peaceful village, but she revealed the harsh truth of the situation to them – there are no peaceful villages in the area anymore. Their entire country is wrought with war and killing. She has nowhere to go and no one to turn to.
As they try to flee, they’re pursued by robotic snakes that shoot lasers from their heads. They can slither around on the ground and in water and even burrow underground. The snakes are all really a part of the main body of another tank with another Cyborgman intent on killing them. Luckily, 003 and 006 manage to save them by digging a tunnel underneath their location before they were hit with the tank’s missiles. 002 is with them, fighting the tank and the robotic snakes in the air.
He’s giving the Cyborgman a run for his money, but with one massive surge of lasers from the main pod of the tank body, 002’s leg is shot off and he’s downed. Being a cyborg, such a wound is not immediately fatal, but Jet’s still in rough shape. His nutrition pipe and energy pipe have been severed. Proper circulation needs to be reestablished or else Jet may die.
They run into another legion of soldiers (They never specify which side they’re on, though they do mention Americans are their enemies, so that implies North Vietnamese/Viet Cong.) Ran tries to reason with them, but the second commander, Ga Diem, isn’t going to hear any of it. He believes they’re Americans with a unit that shot down one of their ally planes. He smacks Ran away and is about to kill them, but their elderly main commander arrives to spare them. He at least wants to hear them out, so he brings them to their base.
Everything above ground at their base is merely set dressing. These people actually live in a series of tunnels underground. The 00 Cyborgs relay their story about Black Ghost and the Cyborgmen, but Ga Diem shrugs it off as being ridiculous. The main commander, however, believes them, but he can’t assist them since he doesn’t know where the Cyborgmen’s base is.
It’s clear that Ga Diem does know, but he’s zipped up tight and acting ignorant. They leave the cyborgs alone for the night to rest, but Ga Diem puts heavy security on them. Jet is in really rough shape and is quickly deteriorating. They have to get him back to the sub so Dr. Gilmore can treat him, but they’re essentially trapped.
Oh and after this point Ran just kinda vanishes. We don’t even see her arriving at the village. I guess we’re to assume that she takes up shelter in their village, but her future still doesn’t look too bright.
In order to investigate and get Jet to some medical attention, they use 006’s fire abilities to tunnel out. GB transforms into a tiger to tail Ga Diem (but doesn’t realize that they hunt tigers in Vietnam) and Joe runs off with Jet to rush to the sub as quickly as possible.
GB manages to infiltrate the Cyborgmen hideout by posing as Ga Diem, Joe and Jet make it to the sub, but 004, 006 and 003 are cornered by the soldiers again and taken prisoner after the reveal that Ga Diem is a traitor.
Once Gilmore looks over Jet, he claims he can save him, but in order to do it properly he needs advanced equipment that only Black Ghost would have. Joe heads to find the Cyborgmen lair in order to search for adequate parts.
Meanwhile, GB is found out by the Cyborgman #1. 007 makes a valiant effort to fight him, even showing off his true ‘Chameleon’ skills by changing his colors to blend in with the machinery, but the Cyborgman has an ace up his sleeve – an electric field that shocks everything in the room. 007 gets downed, but the Cyborgman is unharmed thanks to his suit. He locks up 007 and puts a helmet on him that makes him unable to communicate through radio transmissions.
Back with 003, 006 and 004, the robotic snakes find them again at the village and strike. They burrow away from the robots by using 006’s fire, but they’re incredibly persistent. What’s worse is that they can’t burrow any further due to a pocket of poison gas and molten magma resting right below their location.
009 shows up and saves them from the snakes, but scouting bats tell them that the Cyborgman has 007. They rush to the Cyborgman’s location to save 007, viciously pursued by Cyborgmen, the Black Monsters and fighter planes the whole way. Eventually, it just turns into a ‘009’s the main character so let him defeat everything’ fest. Even 004 points out that 009’s a ‘glory hog.’ Narratively speaking, he does have a point. While 003 and 006 have been very useful on a support level, 004, 007 and 002 keep getting cucked while 009 is able to do most of the heavy lifting.
004 does some stuff, but it’s not that impressive. 007 tries to infiltrate enemy lines three times and ends up getting found out three times – one of those leading to his capture. 002 gets a bit of a cool mid-air fight, but gets his leg shot off and spends the rest of the volume in critical condition. Don’t even talk to me about 008 and 005 who basically aren’t in this volume at all. They stay back on the sub and have barely a few lines between them. Gilmore does more than they do. Are they just meant to guard the sub? Why are they not participating at all? Wouldn’t 008 be particularly useful in this situation, being a resistance fighter back home?
009, however, defeats many of the enemies and saves many people with his acceleration powers. He even gets one really awesome scene where he throws Ran up into the air and defeats a bunch of enemies while in acceleration mode and then catches her after he’s done.
It’s quite odd, too. It seemed for the longest time that Black Ghost thought the acceleration switch was the bees’ knees. They were putting it in every subsequent 00 Cyborg after 009, but once they started work on the Cyborgmen they just thought, what, that it’d be better to not put the acceleration switch in any of them or the Black Monsters and give them a massive tube on their faces as an obvious weak point?
When they arrive at the hideout, 007 is able to warn 009 and the others about the trap the Cyborgman has laid since he accidentally broke the helmet while punching 007 in the face. 009 rescues 007, but 004 tells 009 to step aside so he can take out the Cyborgman on his own. In a literal western-esque shootout, 004 does manage to take down the Cyborgman in one shot. Way to take back the badass reins, Albert.
With all the tech in the hideout, they’ve got everything they need to help 002. And thus our volume ends.
Ah, I’m just kidding. I fight pain with humor.
Anyhoo, that was the Vietnam arc, and while it is quite depressing with, by far, the biggest body count of any Cyborg 009 story yet….it’s…kinda to be expected. It is the Vietnam war. Ishinomori was never really shy about his anti-war sentiments, and it really shines through here. Several moments throughout the volume are dedicated to highlighting the harsh realities of war both for the soldiers and the innocents who are caught in the crossfire.
That’s why I wish Ran hadn’t been completely removed from the story once they reached the camp. She had a decent story from an everyday villager perspective, but she’s just kinda forgotten about. She said herself that there was no safe place with the war going on, and even the camp proved to be a dangerous place with the robot snakes popping in, so we’re pretty much just left to assume Ran will live in fear and pain alone for however long until the war is over, and even that’s no guarantee. Which, when you think about it, is even more of a realistic slap in the face. Still, I wish she hadn’t just been abandoned like that.
Though we don’t get a lot of time with him, #11 (Ran’s brother)’s situation was equally sad. Immediately after losing his parents, he’s kidnapped by Black Ghost and turned into a cyborg who is forced to partake in the same war that took his parents’ lives while acknowledging that, even if he did escape, he’d never be able to live a normal life with his sister again. Then he turns on his comrades and kills himself all for his sister.
Then you have the soldiers casually discussing what BS it is that they have to fight in this war. One even mentions that he was a simple farmer before all this and that he detests having to kill and bloody his hands for politicians who can’t and wouldn’t take up arms themselves.
Also, make no mistake, the 00 Cyborgs didn’t end the Vietnam war or anything – they just destroyed everything that Black Ghost injected into it.
Back to the 00 Cyborgs, what a blow 002 took, eh? I remember gasping when that first happened in the anime, even though I knew he was a cyborg so he’d probably be okay. Still, he is human, and such an injury can definitely be devastating.
Also, it was cool to see 007 show off a new power, even if it didn’t help him not get captured. The nickname thing is being brought up a little more than I first thought it was. A volume or two ago, 007 kept referring to 004 as ‘The God of Death’ and it was just weird. He did it like a slip up. “God of Death—err, I mean 004.” Who does that? Usually, it’s the opposite, and done in a sarcastic manner. Like “Albert—err I mean ‘God of Death’”
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