Cyborg 009 Full Review Project: Manga (1964) Volume 3

So immediately following the end of the last volume where 009 said he didn’t want to hitch a ride on the train because it would slow him down, volume three has 009 immediately jumping on the train and exclaiming “Wow! This thing is really fast!” Guess Joe changes his mind in a blink of an eye too.

0012’s remaining servants, barring one, make quick work of the goons who were trying to steal Kozumi’s potion, and we learn that the fourth member of their team is a seemingly ‘slow’ individual who speaks mostly in mutters. However, he also appears to be kind since he removes Kozumi’s gag, much to the annoyance of the other servants.

Joe enjoys his return to Tokyo, but he quickly realizes that walking around in a bright red outfit with a long yellow scarf is a bit too noticeable, so he heads to his old friend, Scar Nose Yasu’s, house to borrow some less conspicuous clothing. Yasu is more than welcoming of his old friend, insisting to go out and get some food and drinks for him. Problem is, he quickly realizes he has no money.

The mysterious member of the servant group comes around the corner with some bread and milk, which is good news for Yasu who quickly tries to strongarm the groceries from him.

Joe stops him, however, and gives back the groceries back to the guy. Being surprisingly understanding after nearly getting robbed, he happily insists that they both eat some bread and milk with him. They accept, but they’re soon interrupted by the other three servants who attack Joe.

009 is able to defeat Scarecrow, who commits suicide by swallowing his tongue, but right as the other two arrive, the mysterious member starts acting strangely. His eyes are finally revealed from under his hair, and he seems more serious and disturbed than before. He tells Joe one thing before taking the initiative and leaving with the other servants – “Thirteen.”

Throughout the past handful of pages, we’ve been intersecting to a massive humanoid robot in the middle of the sea. It destroys a ship and is later seen suddenly emerging from underground to rendezvous with the other servants. It dumps Kozumi from the car into its body and uses him as a hostage. When 009 arrives, he deduces that this giant robot is the 0013 he’s been hearing about.

009 has an incredibly destructive battle with the robot, who can not only burrow underground like a mole, but he can also detect objects above with electromagnetic sensors. 0013 can also cause massive earthquakes, has an accelerator, though it’s not as fast as 009’s, and is aiming to demolish all of Tokyo from the inside out. It even goes into the city itself to reduce the chance of military interference.

The robot very nearly kills Joe, but opts to spare him this time. He reveals that he’s repaying the kindness that Joe showed him earlier. He’s lived a harrowing life, so he truly appreciates the gesture. Joe deduces that the robot is actually being controlled by the mysterious member of the servant group – the real 0013.

Joe rushes through the incredibly heartbreaking destruction of Tokyo, even rescuing a little toddler who was crying over the crushed body of her mother. With the child still in his arms, Joe makes a plea to 0013 to stop his robot since innocent people are being killed. And if he won’t stop the robot, at least agree to travel to a more void area where they won’t hurt anyone with their battle. 0013 struggles, but Machine Gun isn’t willing to listen to any of this, so he shoots at them. In a cold display, he even says he doesn’t care about the baby in his arms and that she’ll make a fine cyborg. WOW.

Before he can continue his assault, 0013 lops off Machine Gun’s gun arm with a karate chop. Realizing he’s turned on them, Roentgen attempts to attack him, but Joe strikes him down.

Machine Gun tries to kill 0013 with a regular gun, but 0013 karate chops him in the neck, sending him flying down the flight of stairs they’re on, breaking his neck and killing him.

Joe is delighted to see 0013 revolt, but it seems 0013 still wants to fight. He directs Joe to put the girl down first so she won’t be hurt. Joe tries, but the girl is simply too scared. 0013 tries to cheer her up by making silly faces and offering her candy. She smiles, and 0013 takes her from Joe and brings her to a swing set so she can enjoy her candy and have fun swinging.

Joe and 0013 start fighting right there, accelerated so they’re only barely noticeable to the little girl. While the giant robot may have only been able to go about mach 1, the real 0013 is able to go at speeds much faster than 009 to the point where it seems like there are multiples of him.

Their fight ensues, but is soon interrupted by Roentgen, who was blinded by 009 after breaking his cybernetic eyes. Using his heightened sense of hearing, he’s able to find where 0013 and 009 are fighting and strike 0013 on the back with a few slashes of his blade, even while they’re accelerated. 0013 is not pleased by this and smacks him in the head so hard that it kills him.

Joe wants to stop the bloodshed, but before he can get a good shot at 0013, his giant robot shows up. Joe is forced to hold the little girl again, meaning he can’t accelerate (because normal humans can’t handle his speed without dying.) 0013 enters the robot, and all seems lost for 009 until 0013 retrieves Kozumi and releases him.

He doesn’t wish to cause anymore unnecessary bloodshed. He’s finally done with fighting.

We learn of 0013’s truly tragic story. Black Ghost designed him to be fully in tune with this robot, to a point where it’s extremely detrimental for him. First of all, while he can control the robot with his brain waves, he lost the ability to speak. The robot, known as 13 Robo, acted as his mouthpiece. Every thought he had was turned into speech through the robot.

But that’s not all. Black Ghost must have realized what a flight risk he was, so they installed a failsafe in 13 Robo. If he betrayed Black Ghost, the robot was rigged to explode. Realizing that 13 Robo would explode soon, he told 009 and the other cyborgs, who arrived really late to the party and did nothing, to flee.

Joe pleads with him to escape, but he refuses. Either to get the robot further away to lessen the damage or because, like the others, he believed he must die, 0013 insists on staying behind. Hearing one final plea from Joe at the last second spurs 0013 to at least try to make an escape, but he fails.

As he lay on the ground dying he writes “I wanted to become friends.” in the dirt. Joe assures him that they are friends. The little girl hops down to the ground and grabs 0013’s hand. He smiles one last time before his hand falls and he finally passes away.

Joe laments the loss of the friend and becomes more enraged than ever at Black Ghost. He vows to never stop fighting them until they’ve been destroyed and 0013 has been avenged.

I’ve always loved this plotline, and it never fails to choke me up. 0013 is such a brief character yet he makes a lasting impact. In fact, in the 2001 anime, in the end credits, a mockup of 0013 wearing the 00 Cyborg uniform was included as part of the collection of drawings of the main team, like he was spiritually with them.

It always felt like 0013 was more of a hostage of Black Ghost than any Cyborg before him. 0010 Plus and Minus didn’t really have any actual reason for being loyal to them, especially since they robbed them of the ability to have any physical contact with their own twin brother. 0011 was probably the closest example, but he was more tricked than he was held hostage. 0012 seemed to greatly enjoy her power and tormenting the other cyborgs. With 0013, he was forced into obeying.

His hostage situation was basically lose-lose. It’s either allow the robot to cause massive amounts of death and destruction/cause massive amounts of destruction yourself or betray Black Ghost…and cause massive amounts of death and destruction. Granted, at least in the latter, he could die doing the least amount of damage (not killing any of the 00 Cyborgs and stopping the robot’s rampage as well as redeeming himself in the process) as he did here,

Even though I love his story, it’s not entirely perfect. Why did Black Ghost only put a bomb in 13 Robo? Why not put a bomb or termination device in 0013 too? Putting the bomb in 13 Robo without putting anything in 0013 himself to kill him means he could have lived and stayed on the side of the other Cyborgs (and remember, he still has an even better accelerator than 009, and he has an insanely powerful karate chop technique.) Black Ghost had to bank on 0013 being too selfless and honorable to let 13 Robo explode while also sacrificing himself.

Why didn’t they just make 0013 the robot himself? They’ve already shown they’re more than willing to put human brains into giant robots and even sentient houses, so why not put 0013’s brain in the robot instead of having them be two separate beings? How is that a benefit to them, especially since the servants were always complaining about how useless he was? None of this is really a big plot hole or issue or anything, but I’m just wondering what logistics went into those decisions.

Next chapter, we’re starting off a new storyline. 004, 007 and 009 are battling with a fighter plane to help protect Dr. Dolphin and his daughter, Iruka. And yes, that means her name is Iruka Dolphin, or literally Dolphin Dolphin.

I first thought this was an error by Tokyopop, but according to the good folks at Cyborg 009’s Fandom page, Iruka really was Ishinomori’s intended name for her, and some translations opted to change her name to Cynthia to avoid this redundancy. Why did he name her that to begin with? I have no idea. I have a feeling it might have just been a placeholder name until he came up with something else, but he never did….or maybe the dude just really liked dolphins, I dunno. The submarine that the 00 Cyborgs get later is even called The Dolphin and Black Ghost uses dolphin spies……*shrug* Dolphins are cool, though, so I get it.

004 manages to shoot down the plane with his machine gun hand, but there’s a weird tank just around the corner. 004 and 007 are felled by the tank after it sends out a strange signal. After ensuring the doctor’s and Iruka’s safety, 009 heads over to see what’s happening and is also felled by the sound.

Cut to some time in the past where we see 004 shoot at leaves with his dart fingers. Hey, they came back up again! Yay! Inside the house, 007 is practicing some Shakespeare while Joe is reading comics. They get a call from Dr. Gilmore and head out.

On the way, they explain that Professor Dolphin is an old friend of his who lives in Yokohama. Gilmore went to his house, which has this weird sign out front that says “His joke fell flat.”

Cyborg 009 VOL3 SCREEN1
????????

but when he got there, he was smacked with the butt of a gun and Dolphin was kidnapped.

They find a note from the kidnappers telling them to not call the police otherwise Dolphin dies. And it’s signed NN with a swastika.

Dr. Dolphin was kidnapped by Neo Nazis. If you didn’t expect that, congratulations, you’re everyone.

Joe takes Iruka to her dorm to get some of her things so she can stay at Kozumi’s house with everyone else in order to keep her safe while they save her father. On the drive, Iruka explains that she doesn’t know anything about her father’s work besides the fact that he has built many massive robots. He was also so entranced in his work that he constantly neglected her, even forgetting her birthday. She started resenting machines, robots and even her father.

They’re suddenly stopped in the road and gas attacked by a group of men. Iruka is quickly knocked out, but Joe is resistant to the gas due to his cybernetics. He swiftly takes out all of the men and saves Iruka. Joe tries to question one who isn’t knocked out, but he swallows a cyanide pill and dies. What is with the last handful of chapters and people just peacing out the instant anything happens?

Joe contacts 004 and 007 to tell them what happened. They come up with a new plan – let Iruka be taken by the thugs. Joe doesn’t like the idea because he doesn’t want to put her in danger, but he agrees because he knows it’s the best way to find Dr. Dolphin.

Later, the thugs wake up with Iruka unconscious in front of them, They believe Joe must’ve accidentally fallen over the side of the cliff, so they decide to take her and run. They spot the guy who committed suicide, believe he must’ve done it on accident and just chuck his body over the side of the cliff. Who would’ve thunk Neo Nazis would be heartless assholes?

Following a tracking device hidden in Iruka’s watch, the trio follows her to a runway where a plane is waiting. Not wanting her to be loaded onto the plane, because they can’t follow her that way, the group decides to strike, but not for the reasons you’d think. They mostly distract the group and sneak onboard so they can follow her to the main base. On the way, they discover that 007 forgot to pack their super guns, and apparently the place they’re heading to is really cold.

Now. I need you all to prepare yourselves for what I’m about to convey to you. I promise you, with all my heart, I am not kidding when I say any of this. This is happening. Okay? Okay. You ready? Let’s do this.

They land the plane, and outside they see….

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a bunch of giant penguins doing the Heil Hitler salute….

I will give you a break so you have time to parse that information.

Isn’t it glorious? Bask in the everything that is amazing about this. I get to review a manga that literally has the line “Nazi Penguin costumes, eh?” The Neo Nazis decided to dress up as penguins for reasons my brain cannot begin to process.

They are in Antarctica, I think anyway, but this still makes no sense. Even if there were a lot of people around in ANTARCTICA they wouldn’t be fooled by giant man-sized penguins….who are heiling Hitler! And if they would be…..is that some sort of commentary on penguins!?

I haven’t watched March of the Penguins in a long time. Is there a deleted scene with Morgan Freeman narrating the penguins as they partake in their daily reading of Mein Kampf? But they removed it after backlash from the penguin community?! They could have SS lightning bolt tattoos on their bodies. We wouldn’t know. THEY HAVE FEATHERS!

I can’t stop laughing. It’s too hilarious for this world. What was Ishinomori on when he wrote this? And where can I get some?

*sigh*….This is a beautiful day.

004 and 009 grab some of the penguin costumes to blend in, which means we also get them going undercover as nazi penguins….I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying life right now.

The leader brings out Professor Dolphin and asks him about the missing component of the mad machine mark one, which is presumably the tank from the beginning of the chapter. There was one major component Dolphin didn’t map out on the schematics they stole, and they can’t make it work without it. However, Dolphin, knowing how powerful the machine is, would rather die than give them that information. As leverage, they use Iruka instead.

They get the information from him, and 004 and 009 use that opportunity to attack and retake Dolphin and Iruka. They escape on a plane, but it’s shot down. The other fighter plane swoops in and we cut to right where we left off before. All of the cyborgs are down for the count and the Neo Nazis come in to claim their prizes, but the cyborgs come back in full force. 004 uses his leg missile to blow up the tank and that’s that.

Dolphin relays why he made these machines in the first place. During the war, his wife had been badly injured by a rocket strike. She had lost a leg and burnt her face beyond recognition. She went from being a happy, lighthearted person to a dark and gloomy individual. Not even giving birth to their daughter brightened her any – in fact, it tipped her over the edge. She never wanted their daughter to see her disfigured face, so she killed herself.

….Quite the tone change from the nazi penguins…..*cough*

As a result, Dolphin dedicated his life to creating machines that would drive the men who operated them insane – hence the mad machine mark one. His machines were always intended on working against war machines. Iruka happily and tearfully embraces her father, gleeful that he also harbored hatred for machines….

I’ll be honest, I don’t understand this all too much. So…he made a machine that was a weapon that would drive the people who used it insane…but…it didn’t do that. The Neo Nazis weren’t negatively affected – only the cyborgs were. And…you made a machine that would make the operators go insane?….Wouldn’t that make them do even worse stuff because they’re, ya know, insane now? You don’t make any sense, man.

Iruka then says “Machines are evil…” which is Tokyopop’s doing again – the original line was just her saying “Machines…” while looking scared.

Iruka and Joe give each other a pensive look. Throughout the chapter, it had been hinted that Joe liked Iruka romantically, but now she knows he’s part machine and it’s obvious that that’s something she can’t overlook.

Joe, Albert and GB head off back home to reunite with everyone else. And the Neo Nazi penguins were never seen again. 😦

In the next part of our story, the cyborgs and Dr. Gilmore head out from Japan, fearing it’s become too dangerous with Black Ghost back on their tail. They bid Kozumi a fond farewell, and we get this hilaradorable shot of 005 carrying 001 and Gilmore on his shoulders.

Cyborg 009 VOL3 Screen2

Our next chapter, and yes the previous one was just them leaving, is called The Man with the Expensive Castle. Apparently, this was supposed to be called The Man in the High Castle to be a reference to the novel of the same name, but Tokyopop changed it to this stupid one because I dunno. Copyright worries, maybe? I dunno.

Anyway, masked men with jetpacks are kidnapping a little girl who turns out to the be the Prime Minister’s daughter.

The cyborgs catch wind of this and report back….which is when we meet, whom I refer to as……..*sigh* Lil’ 007.

Cyborg 009 VOL3 Screen3

Okay, some backstory. Around the release of volume three came the first film adaptation of the series, which is great! The producers of the movie wanted some manga promotion, so Ishinomori wrote this specific story to tie into the story of the movie. He was fine with doing that, but they wanted one more thing. They wanted to change 007 into a nine year old kid (though he honestly looks like he’s three or four) to help sell the movie to kids.

Reportedly, Ishinomori didn’t want to do this and hated the change, but was basically forced into doing it by his editor. Initially, he wrote this change as 007’s default form de-aging due to him shape-shifting so much, and no that doesn’t make any sense, but go along with it. However, this change didn’t stick forever. He would eventually change back to his adult form without barely a mention of it, though he would occasionally slip back into child form for one reason or another for sporadic amounts of time – it’s really inconsistent and confusing.

Despite the change being forced and hated by Ishinomori, it was apparently quite popular with fans so he made it into a character for a gag series called Cyborg-Chan of which I can find really no information or images. All I know is that it was about a cyborg boy whose power was transformation, exactly like 007.

I thought this change was just stupid. I didn’t really hate it because 007 was already the comic relief so he didn’t act too differently when he was Lil’ 007 but just the fact that they now had a little kid around was annoying on a visual level. Instead of having a goofy bald dude in his 30s making sarcastic quips every now and then to cut the tension we now have a bald kid who thinks he’s funny making almost every line he delivers a joke, cutting pretty much any tension ever when he’s on screen. I tolerate him being here, but adult 007 can’t return quickly enough.

Back to the story, the kidnappers have taken several girls in addition to the Prime Minister’s daughter, and for their safe return they’re asking for….

Also, I’m not kidding. They legitimately ask for 100 billion yen.

Granted, yeah, there’s the conversion rate, which makes this roughly 945 million USD, but there’s also the fact that this took place in 1966, which would mean that amount of money today would be about 7.5 billion USD today. And just for the sake of being thorough, with inflation from 1966 in Japan, 100 billion yen today would actually be nearly 400 billion yen, which equates to 3.7 billion USD.

Joe and the others try to wake 001 to see if he can psychically determine the location of the girls, but he’s fast asleep. Like I mentioned, 001 requires a lot of sleep to function. He sleeps for 15 days at a time and then stays awake for 15 days. He’s got a few days left on his most current sleep cycle, so they move onto other options.

Over the radio, they hear that the kidnappers have established a dropoff location for the ransom money at the summit of Mt. Fuji at four o’clock…..why are they giving away that information on the radio?

009 and 002 head off because they have acceleration switches, but Lil’ 007 wants to go too. Joe, however, forbids it because he’s a child, which is stupid because we know he’s not a child, 007 even points out that he’s not a child, but we have to embrace this change so he gets treated like a child. 007 whines for a bit then turns into a baby shark so he can tag along on Joe’s back. I don’t get why he’d turn into a baby shark for that, but it doesn’t matter, he gets to go.

The exchange is starting, so the boys head into position. The kidnappers aren’t screwing around, but they also won’t show the girls until they have the money in hand. After they kill one of the government officials, the three start combating the kidnappers. Lil’ 007 helps by bopping them on the head with a tiny mallet….Why isn’t he transforming into something that can actually help or at least use his super gun?

Because then he wouldn’t be in child form and this stupid marketing ploy wouldn’t work.

They let some of the kidnappers get away, leading them to their base.

At the base, the kidnappers attack again, and this time 007 actually transforms….into a snowman. And he was able to knock out one of the kidnappers with his teeny mallet because they were stupid enough to hide behind a snowman in the middle of a fire fight.

002 gives them a lift over an electric wall surrounding the base, and after a quick tangle with some guard dogs and robots who look like they have dryer ducts for heads, they infiltrate the main room.

All of the girls are being held in glass boxes strewn about the room. A strange looking man is threatening them with poisonous gas if the cyborgs don’t stand down, but, being super fast, 009 won’t take any of that. It seems like he got more than he bargained for when they’re all suddenly thrust to the floor. The man is psychic and is using telekinesis to pin them down. The man says he needs money in order to build a massive laboratory for all of his experiments, and he’ll kidnap and/or murder all the children he needs to in order to do it. Lovely guy, this one.

He’s about to murder the girls when suddenly 001 bursts into the room with his eyes drawn in that creepy alien way I hate. The man, who, by the way, is never named, can’t match 001’s powers. Using his own telekinesis, 001 breaks the girls free and all of them rush out of the lab as it explodes, killing the man and presumably everyone in the building…The uh….end?

Cyborg 009 VOL3 Screen4
Make it go away.

Yup, that’s the end of the volume. Quite the random note to end on, quite abrupt too, but it was pretty much a marketing ploy anyway.

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And that was volume three! What’s not to love about this volume besides the ending chapter? 0013’s arc was just great. Always been one of my favorites. I really wish we got to see more of that poor guy.

The storyline with Iruka may have been pretty simple and the resolution about her dad really makes no sense to me, but this was pretty much the first time the group were outwardly hated or discriminated against in some capacity because they were cyborgs, and that’s something that they really needed to cover. It was slight because she never really stated she hated them but just saying she hated machines and turning away from Joe at the end, despite everything they did for her, was enough.

Plus, it was a wholly entertaining arc on its own. I mean, come on. NEO NAZIS IN PENGUIN COSTUMES. How can you not laugh yourself into a coma at that whole section? I’m laughing writing this right now.

The main weak point is the final chapter. Not only is it the introduction to Lil’ 007, but the story is bland. Usually, bland plotlines are supplemented with character development or new characters that help pick up the slack, but here there’s nothing.

The best part of the chapter is that the main baddie is an esper, like 001, but he’s ridiculously underpowered compared to 001. Not to mention that this is one of many times 001 is basically a deus ex machina. This guy was seconds away from killing a slue of children with three of our heroes pinned to the ground, and then 001 just bamfs in there, nabs the girls and leaves. The dude doesn’t even get a name.

However, it is understandable that this chapter is so forgettable because Ishinomori’s heart really wasn’t in it, but still.

Join me next time in volume four!


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Cyborg 009 Full Review Project: Manga (1964) Volume 2

Picking right back up where we left off, (The first chapter in the volume is even considered the second half of chapter eight) the 00 cyborgs have successfully infiltrated the Black Ghost base, intent on destroying it once and for all. Some of them are ridden with guilt because destroying the base means they have to kill the soldiers that are inside. They simply have no choice in the matter, however.

Once inside, they aim to blow up Black Ghost’s nuclear arsenal. 009 bumps into their commander, Skull. And I really just can’t help but laugh as Skull’s design here. The art goes through a lot of changes throughout time, but this version of Skull is hilarious, especially given the circumstances. His eyes just look so sad like he’s going ‘*sniff sniff* W-why are you destroying my base? I thought we were friends….*sniff*’ And look at his jaw. It looks like the bottom half of a medieval helmet.

They succeed in triggering the bombs, but they’re very concerned that 009 couldn’t get out in time before the place blew sky high. Just when all seems lost, he pops up and reveals that he was able to escape in the nick of time. He shares the shocking news that, at some point, Skull seems to have turned himself into a cyborg as well, and he has an accelerator just as powerful as 009’s.

They assume he probably died in the explosion anyway, but it’s soon revealed that Skull is alive and well and Black Ghost won’t be defeated as easily as they believe.

Still piloting one of Black Ghost’s old subs, the cyborgs head to Japan to seek refuge with Dr. Gilmore’s old buddy, Dr. Kozumi.

That’s the official end of Part I of the manga, so now we’re onto Part II The Black Ghost, starting with the insanely long chapter nine.

After a brief recap, we cut to the group in Japan where they’ve already taken up shelter at Dr. Kozumi’s house after a month of laying low. (Side note: Dr. Kozumi is a pretty chill dude. He doesn’t do a whole lot, but he’s a very nice guy.) Joe is troubled because he worries that Black Ghost is not entirely gone, but Francoise tries to get him to accept that Black Ghost has been defeated and that they can enjoy some peace and quiet for a change, even if the sudden shift is quite jarring and unsettling even to her.

In the middle of their conversation, Francoise suddenly hears a strange voice saying something about medicines at Dr. Kozumi’s place so they rush back, fearing intruders have invaded their hideout. Kozumi explains that the men must be talking about a potion he’s concocting to restore youth and possibly even grant immortality. However, it’s very far from complete and is fairly dangerous to use right now. That doesn’t stop people from believing he has finished it and is simply holding out on potential buyers in the pharmaceutical world.

Kozumi doesn’t have a care in the world over this because Joe and the others are on the case and he has total trust in them, which was a very sweet thing to say.

Joe gathers the other cyborgs and they head out to find the would-be thieves. They find a group of masked men and start confronting them only to have their targets blasted by a new enemy – the lightning powered 0010! If you’re wondering what I was wondering when I first saw 0010 “Why is he not 010?” then all I have to say is….I dunno. I mean, the project is called the 00 Cyborg project, but it still makes the numbering seem out of whack.

In the month that they’ve been gone, Black Ghost has gone further with the cyborg project and made 0010 – who has intense lightning powers that he can command via his hands and body, incredibly powerful eye beams, and he also has an accelerator that matches Joe’s. 003 is the first to be taken out by him because of course she is, but 004 and 007 fall soon after. Joe faces the new cyborg alone, but can’t find a way to outmaneuver him or overpower him.

What’s worse is that he’s not the only 0010. He has a twin brother with the exact same powers. They’re named 0010 Plus and Minus, and together they can make electric attacks so powerful that no one should be able to withstand them.

Joe struggles a lot with the cyborg duo and is felled by them, but he’s suddenly saved in the nick of time by 001 who has discovered that he has the power of teleportation. As long as the subject is willing to be teleported or is unconscious, 001 can teleport whatever he wants. He managed to teleport 009 before he was fried, but that doesn’t change the fact that Plus and Minus are still right around the corner and need to be stopped.

001 deduces that Plus and Minus each emit the opposite electrical charge of the other, meaning if they hit each other they’ll short out and die. Giving them both the super-speed runaround, Joe manages to force them both into colliding into each other, creating a massive surge of electricity and causing them both to die. As they lay on the ground, they’re seen with their hands touching each other. Joe laments that they were brothers, but Black Ghost made it so they could never touch or hold each other again, which is another testament to their evil.

I always thought Plus and Minus were a really great pair of characters, and I’m sad they never got a proper backstory. Sure, they were loyal to Black Ghost and took delight in taking down the other cyborgs, but they truly loved each other. For the record, we do see a hint at their contact weakness when they nearly short out by simply standing too close to each other and they have to jump away quickly. Afterward, they stare at each other with forlorn looks in the rain. And just for the sake of symbolism, rain is brought up in the next part as being a character’s tears, so it’s not hard to infer that their situation is deeply hurting them right now.

It’s a shame these two were taken out so quickly. They could have been upgradable repeated enemies or good allies. Their weakness was a bit on the ridiculous side, though. Yes, there’s a lot of poetic tragedy in their situation, but…..really Black Ghost? They explode and die if they touch? These two cyborgs who work best when they work together and also move at supersonic speeds making accidental collisions or contact nearly unavoidable at some point? How could you not make some sort of failsafe for that before sending them out in the field?

Once 0010 Plus and Minus are felled, 009 returns to Kozumi’s house where 003, 004, and 007 are resting. 003 is in particularly bad shape because of course she is. However, there’s no time for rest because, believe it or not, the next cyborg in the line, 0011 is knocking on their door.

And by ‘knocking’ I mean he’s destroying the house.

And by ‘0011’ I mean a

GIANT

ROBOT

SPIDER

Yup, skewing pretty far away from the human-given-cybernetic-implants angle is 0011, who is just a brain in a giant robot spider. I don’t actually know what the point is of just putting a brain in a giant robot spider, but believe it or not, in the outlandish design department, 0011 has absolutely nothing on 0012, whom we’ll get to in the next chapter.

0011’s abilities include missiles that contain some weird sticky substance that hardens into a stone-like material used to encase his enemies, an accelerator because everyone needs to have that thing now, flight and a projectile that is filled with poison that can even kill cyborgs.

Unlike 0010, who was brash and itching to fight, 0011 is oddly calm and understanding. He doesn’t want to fight the cyborgs, but Black Ghost promised him they’d put his brain back into his body if he did, so he has sworn allegiance to them. This is obviously a lie, but all 0011 has to live for right now is that promise. He starts his assault, and 005, 008 and 002 rush out first, since 009 is still weak from his battle with Plus and Minus, but he soon follows after anyway. 005 and 008 are quickly encased in that weird substance I mentioned earlier, so they’re taken out of the battle disappointingly quickly, leaving 002 and 009 to battle him.

It’s not quite that simple, however, because 0011 not only has both of their main powers and more, but he’s also incredibly well-armored. None of their shots can even hope to break through his defenses. They only have one option – the sliding doors that cover the openings for his guns. They wait until he opens them back up again and shoot inside, causing him to fall apart.

As he lay dying, 0011 shoots a projectile into the sky and it starts raining. 0011 dies peacefully having gained his freedom from this metal shell he was forced into. He equates the rain falling down his ‘eyes’ being the closest thing he’ll get to crying. But in his one last act to try and achieve his goal he reveals that the projectile is actually causing the ‘rain’ falling around them. It’s poisoned, and 002 and 009 have to act quickly in order to survive. He bids them farewell and explodes.

001 teleports all of them back to the house. First things first, they have to extract 008 and 005 from the stone. They have life-support systems, but they’re running low on power and oxygen. 006 is the only one who can remove them with his flames, but he has to be incredibly careful or else he’ll severely injure them. He’s able to remove them from the stones, though a little on the crispy side, so it’s time to address 002 and 009. In his infinite wisdom, 001 has not only been able to pinpoint what poison is affecting them, but even tells Dr. Kozumi…the…ya know…doctor…what to put in the antidote to save them.

All of the group recovers to full health, concerned about what else Black Ghost might have up their sleeves….and uh….it’s a doozy.

Chapter 10 introduces us to the weirdest cyborg of the 00 line – 0012. I say this because 0012 isn’t so much a cyborg or a robot even….she’s a sentient immobile murder house.

Bear in mind that the 00 cyborgs were created with the intention of mass producing and distributing them to various governments in order to perpetuate war – especially in outer space.

A sentient immobile murder house is one of those cyborgs.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s a really well-designed, powerful and AWESOME sentient immobile murder house, but she’s still an immobile murder house, who, by the way, doesn’t have any external weapons, which means as long as you don’t have a reason to go on the property, you’re golden.

Granted, she does have ‘servants’ which act as her ‘limbs.’ Each servant is their own character, and each is given disabilities that are compensated for with cybernetics. For example, the first servant, Camel (Known as Rakuda in the translation) has a hunchback. Yeah, not the most sensitive of names. I can understand why TokyoPop changed it to the literal Japanese version, if they did that intentionally.

His hunch was made cybernetic, allowing him to open and close it like it a venus fly trap or bear trap. This sounds cool, but unless someone’s trying to tackle him, it’s really inefficient. He can also spit?…I dunno. In his battle with 009, he’s spitting something at him over and over but I honestly don’t know if it’s a projectile or just spit. But get it?….Spit…..Camel….Ha….Ha? I really want to say he just has spit as a ‘power’ because ew no one likes getting spit on.

The second servant is Scarecrow, a man with a prosthetic leg who walks using a cane. His prosthetic is spring-loaded, allowing him to jump very high, and his cane doubles as a club and machine gun.

The third servant is named Roentgan (Lentgen in the TokyoPop version) who is blind. He’s able to see thanks to binocular-esque cybernetic eyes that also grant him the ability to see long distances and through objects. When those eyes are broken, he can track people through a heightened sense of sound, so he’s essentially their 003. Other than that, he has a sword hidden in his cane, which is a bit of a rip-off considering Scarecrow’s cane could be a club or a machine gun.

The fourth servant, The One-Armed Man (He’s not given a name, though in the 2001 anime he’s called Machine Gun) is, well, a one-armed man. His arm was replaced with a machine gun, kinda like 004 but it’s just a literal machine gun instead of a machine gun shaped like a working hand, which seems counter-intuitive. (In the earlier parts of this arc, his hand is a hook hand, but Ishinomori changed his mind on his design and powers.) Reminder – these guys are a package deal with 0012, meaning their designs all came after 004. There’s really no reason why 004 would get a regular hand that doubles as a machine gun but The One-Armed Man would just get a machine gun duct-taped to his stump, basically.

The final servant is one we’ll address a little later because he requires a bit more attention to detail.

We get a pretty nice scene of Francoise and Joe enjoying the fall leaves together.

Aaaannndddd that sweet moment is immediately ruined by 0012 drowning a dog in quicksand right outside the house. Thanks for that….

0012 sends out her servants to lure the cyborgs to her hou–…to…her, I guess, by kidnapping Dr. Kozumi, which they do quite easily by gassing him as he’s leaving his house. They leave Rakuda behind to do the rest.

Meanwhile, we get to see the other cyborgs enjoying some downtime. It’s always nice to just see them hanging out with each other. Albert is showing off the ability to shoot darts from his fingers, which I don’t think ever comes up again, but that’s cool, and Geronimo and Pyunma are making a bassinet for Ivan. They don’t give it wheels, but, being telekinetic, Ivan can just make the bassinet float around. Not sure why he doesn’t just float himself around, but it’s better than needing to carried by Francoise 24/7.

Rakuda goads Joe into battle by popping up wearing Dr. Kozumi’s hat and running off. He’s a bit slippery for Joe, but inevitably gets caught.

They interrogate him, and he reveals that he doesn’t know about their plans, he’s just following orders. He draws them a map to 0012’s location, and 001 reveals that, while Black Ghost is currently an issue right now, there’s another enemy lurking in the shadows – the same ones who tried to steal Kozumi’s medicine most likely (He doesn’t say that last bit, but I assume. They look like the same guys.)

They tie Rakuda back up and throw him into a room, but he’s not planning on giving them any more info or helping them. He bites down on a cyanide capsule he had in his tooth and dies.

009 decides to go out and investigate the location Rakuda was talking about. It’s a big fancy house out in the middle of nowhere. He spots the same goons in black from before – the not-Black Ghost-dudes – and they try to hop the wall into the yard, but one of them is shocked by an electric barrier and the others are lost to the quicksand yard, though 009 doesn’t realize this.

He thinks they entered the house, so he goes in after them only to accidentally get caught up in the quicksand. 004 and 007 arrive to help him out, however, having been guilted into it by 003…..Come on, guys, really? 003 needed to push your buttons to help 009? Actually, now that I think about it, why isn’t 003 here if she’s so concerned?

Joe: “Well, I’m glad someone cares about me.” It’s certainly not 003.

0012’s next trick comes in the trees in the yard, the ones 004, 9 and 7 are taking refuge in, having controllable vines that continuously wrap them up and try to strangle them. However, with 004’s knife hand and a few shots from a super gun, they’re down for the count…literally, they’re falling down. The trio then has to hop to the roof for something safe to stand on, but of course not even the roof is safe.

A door opens beneath them, and they nearly fall into a pit of spikes. 007 displays an ability I didn’t know he had, which is the ability to suction-cup to walls. I guess it makes sense if he can turn into anything, though. 009 is holding 004 while hanging from 007. 004 blasts a hole in a nearby wall and they hop through it. As they enter a new corridor, 0012 reveals herself as being the house that they’re currently in. Oh yeah, hey, we got our second woman in the 00 Cyborg series!

AND

She tries to blow them up with a chandelier, and they rush around to find Dr. Kozumi, finding traps around every corner, including a dummy Dr. Kozumi that was actually a bomb.

The next trap is her basically trapping them in her ‘stomach’ and trying to melt them alive with gastric juices IE acid. She damn near succeeds too, but the three are able to blast their way through the walls and escape.

As they’re continuing their search, they stumble upon the goons in black from before….I hope that means the dog’s alive too. I’m just gonna believe that’s what it means.

They’re the ones who sent a fake telegram to Kozumi to lure him out of the house with intentions on kidnapping him for his eternal youth potion, but 0012’s assistants got him first so they tracked him down to get him themselves.

The trio don’t really have reason to hurt them, so they just break their weapons and knock them out.

009, 7 and 4 decide to go straight to the epicenter of 0012 to end this once and for all – they’re going to destroy 0012’s brain. The instant they get close, however, she emits a powerful ultrasonic wave that drives the three to their knees. 009 is just barely able to get a shot off at the wires surrounding the brain, and that shuts off the noise.

0012 switches from being maniacally sadistic to begging for her life, so 009 says they’ll help her if she tells them where Kozumi is. Her servants took him out of the house and are transporting him to Tokyo. Her last word is ‘0013’ before her console explodes and her brain is destroyed.

It’s not over yet, however, because the house starts rumbling and falling apart. The trio barely escapes before the entire house collapses in on itself and sinks beneath the quicksand. 007 believes she was trying one last time to kill them, but 009 believes she was trying to give herself a proper burial. I disagree with both of those theories, however. Considering there seems to be a running theme of ensuring there’s nothing left behind of the cyborgs when they get defeated, or at least assuring they die once they’re caught (The bodies of Plus and Minus were taken in by 0011 and got blown up when he blew up, 0011…well, blew up, Rakuda committed suicide and now 0012 destroyed and buried herself.) I think she was just following whatever orders she had in the case of defeat.

009 rushes off to find Kozumi while 007 and 4 go tell the others about what’s happening.

The final chapter, which is going to explore 0013, is only part of the chapter and only shows Joe chasing after Dr. Kozumi while he runs alongside a train.

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And that was volume two! Admittedly, I am a tiny bit disappointed at how quickly we’re introduced to 0010 Plus and Minus and 0011 only to have them be knocked off rather quickly, but they were memorable in their own right. 0012 was really cool, even though the design makes no sense if you think about it for longer than a few seconds. Now all I can think about is a murder house floating around in space.

Think about how much money they had to have put in 0012. And now think about a show on HGTV that could’ve been made on her construction.

“Now, this is going to be the room that fills up with acid, so we’re gonna knock down these walls here and bring in some super strong steel walls. These are vulnerable to blasts from super guns, but we had to follow budget. A great aesthetic choice the homeowner made here was this exploding chandelier. But it’s also a bit of a money sink for obvious reasons. Really ties the room together, though. We’ve already lost a few workers in the pit of spikes, but they all signed waivers before working, so it’s all good. And as we were putting the final touches on the brain room, we got an offer on the house from someone named John Kramer, who is quirky fella who signed his name with a drawing of a jigsaw puzzle piece. Weird.”

We also got a bit of a power upgrade with 001, a soon to be mostly forgotten power in 004, and it all culminates in the buildup to 0013, who is my favorite side character in the series.

Overall, though, a lot of fun, some really cool action and quite a few funny moments with GB (007). Here’s looking forward to discussing volume three!


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Yu-Gi-Oh! (Manga) Chapter 24 Review (AniManga Clash! Season Zero Placeholder)

Hey guys, who remembers that short Yu-Gi-Oh! Spin-off thinger – Capsule Monsters? I sure do!….Kinda!…I remember it existing. I remember watching some of it and being rather bored.

Fun fact: The Capsule Monsters anime, despite being based on an actual game in this old-ass version of the manga (No idea if it’s played the same way, though), wasn’t something the original anime creators wanted to make. In fact, the series never released in Japan.

Also, apparently, according to the Fandom Wiki anyway (I really question whether this is true), despite never once airing in Japan, there is a Japanese version of it. Why they dubbed it and never released it is beyond me.

Who was actually behind this spin-off no one asked for, no one paid much attention to and amounted to nothing but basically being a money sink? Why, who else but the donut bakers themselves, 4Kids?

Yup, 4Kids, for some inexplicable reason, ‘commissioned, produced and editedCapsule Monsters when Yu-Gi-Oh’s original run was reaching its final season. They also did the kinda skeevy thing of re-editing the series into a movie (Two movies, I guess, technically?) and treating it like it was a new movie based on the series. Because that’s never sketchy or annoying, especially when you’re dealing with something aimed towards kids.

At least they released the movie for free for one day on their website for some reason so some people could be made aware that it wasn’t new content….No idea why they did that, but they did.

I really have to review Capsule Monsters at some point, but back to the topic at hand….Uh…well, more Capsule Monsters.

I brought up the anime because, even when that aired, I didn’t really understand how the game was played nor did I feel very compelled to learn because the anime, to my recollection, was quite boring.

Capsule Monsters, otherwise known as Capsule Monster Chess/Capmon in the manga (sometimes) is Mokuba’s niche game in the manga. I could’ve sworn he was also a player of the game in the anime. I would have bet a substantial amount of money on that….but he’s not. Mokuba not only isn’t an avid Capsule Monster player in the Capsule Monsters anime – he’s not even in the anime. Poor Mokuba. Were you too busy being kidnapped to be in the anime?

What of the first depiction of Capsule Monsters in the manga? Let’s find out.

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The manga actually explains fairly well how this version of the game is played. Capsule Monsters are dispensed in gashapon machines, which I just learned are supposed to be called ‘blind boxes’ in America, but I have never once heard that ever. They’re also called ‘gacha’ machines, and if you play pretty much any MMO or mobile game in existence, that word awakens something visceral in you.

Yugi explains how the game is played, for the most part. The capsules all have one number between one and five on them – this indicates their attack power. Within the capsules are….the uh…well, the monsters, of course. Each player unleashes five monsters onto an 8×8 game board, of which there are 50 different types. This game area mimics the planet of ganastar….I’m not sure why that matters, but okay.

All of the monsters stay within the capsules when they’re setting the game up, so each side starts the game mostly blind to the monsters the opponent is playing, outside of their attack strength. Monsters all have their own ranges, types of attacks and effects, so strategy comes into play when moving the pieces and battling the monsters. Whoever destroys all of the opponent’s monsters wins.

Yugi’s in line to get some capsules when, in typical Yu-Gi-Oh manga fashion, he comes across an asshole. This asshole kid cuts in front of him in line then says Yugi’s too old to play the game, being in high school. This game is equated to chess and yet it’s aimed squarely at middle school and younger?

He lets Yugi get his capsules eventually, though, but Yugi’s money gets lost in the machine. He, strangely, loses his shit and starts swearing at the machine, shaking it violently. Bit of an OOC moment for him. I know he’s passionate about games, but he’s never one to have a temper like that. The old man who owns the candy store that the machines are in starts screaming at him.

Suddenly, Mokuba Kaiba makes his debut appearance, looking just as frightening and creepy as you’d expect in this manga’s art. Apparently he’s such a Capsule Monsters baller that the other kids go silent in his presence. Like Seto is a champion in Duel Monsters, Mokuba is a champion in Capsule Monsters.

So, did you guys forget that you’re reading Yu-Gi-Oh’s early manga days? You did? Oh, let me remind you by showing you this scene where Mokuba, the small child, orders these small child children of the kid nature to attack Yugi. They have a taser………..a switchblade……………..And….I’m not kidding…..A fucking Uzi.

What kind of world does this manga take place in?! Not even the chapter with an actual murderer involved a fucking UZI.

Mokuba wants to fight for his big brother’s honor, so he’s kidnapping Yugi and taking the candy shop’s gashapon machine (After throwing the owner a stack of money to pay for it.)

They bring Yugi to their secret base, which is just a warehouse, so they can play. Beforehand, though, Mokuba’s little goons try to intimidate him some more, saying stuff like he’s wimpy and they’ll burn down his house. Ya know, typical schoolyard stuff.

They cross the line when they try to touch Yugi’s Puzzle, however, because, under threat of smashing it and trying to grab it from him, Yugi instantly shifts to Yami, who flips his shit and screams at them to let go of his Puzzle.

The goons are shocked at this change, but, surprisingly, Mokuba’s not because apparently Seto told him about Yugi’s ability to transform. *shrug*

Mokuba says he stole the gashapon machine to make the capsule picks completely blind so he wouldn’t have an unfair advantage using his own capsules…..then he reveals in inner monologue that he rigged the machine, paid off the candy shop owner from before Yugi even got there and rigged the machine to give him the better capsules anyway, so….I don’t know why he even bothered trying to act like this was fair.

Also, again with making the Kaibas cheaters. Granted, in the 2000 anime, the one and only time you see Mokuba duel, against Yugi, he cheats by trying to steal some of Yugi’s star chips in the middle of the duel, but that was in desperation to keep Kaiba Corp from being sold to Pegasus.

Yugi’s capsules result in attack strengths of 1-1-1-2-4 while Mokuba’s are 4-4-5-5-5….I think anyone with a single brain cell could have deduced that Mokuba rigged the machine just on this result alone without him immediately telling us, but okay.

Before they start, Mokuba lays a bet down. Now, you’d imagine that, considering he’s playing for his older brother’s honor, his wager would be something like Yugi would have to kiss Kaiba’s feet or give him all of his Duel Monster cards or something, right?

……His wager is, if he wins, he’ll CUT OFF ONE OF YUGI’S FINGERS! He’s even holding a folding knife as he says it. What the hell is wrong with this manga?!

Yugi says, if he wins, Mokuba will suffer a penalty game.

Anyway, as expected, even though they laid out the rules at the beginning, much like with the part with Duel Monsters, they just pretty much do whatever without explaining anything. Like, what determines which piece moves how far and when? Why do formations matter all that much if you can move freely? If attack level is all that matters in battles, then doesn’t that mean the match can be decided before they even get on the board? If monsters have effects or abilities, like duel monster cards, where is this information held? In some sort of book or something? Because there’s no text on the capsules or in them.

Yami gets pummeled, only managing to kill one of Mokuba’s creatures on a stalemated attack, so he had to sacrifice his most powerful creature for that.

He’s down to his last monster, and it seems all is lost until, luck of all lucks, Yugi reveals that he was luring all of Mokuba’s monsters into a diagonal line, and his last monster, which is level one, just so happens to have the ability to literally insta-kill any monster with its attack, even if it’s level five. And it shoots this ability in a diagonal pattern, meaning all of Mokuba’s monsters are defeated in one shot.

If you think this situation stinks at all, it’s because Yugi totally pulled this win out of his ass.

Mokuba may be a cheat, but he’s still a Capsule Monsters champion. And even if he cheated in those championships (We don’t know that, but he cheated here and it’s suggested that Seto cheated in his championships, so it’s not a far cry to say Mokuba did too) he definitely knows the game well enough to play the part. He’s making observations about strategy and formation as if he’s a veteran, so he has to be pretty skilled. All of the monsters get revealed at the start of the game, meaning he had to know what that monster was and what ability it had, so he should have been very careful to not do anything dumb like line up literally all of his monsters in a perfect diagonal line right in front of him.

How does this low-level creature have such an awesome ability anyway? If it’s a simple straight diagonal line of insta-kill damage, he could kill a monster from the other side of the board if he aimed carefully. And it insta-kills even the strongest monsters, too?

Granted, they did set this up visually. As you’ll note in the first shot of the game board when they’re done setting up, the bird thing that has this ability is off on its own, further back than his other four creatures, which were meant to cut off Mokuba’s creatures on the way there and set up this line.

The problem is, though, he gambled a hell of a lot here. I know the Heart of the Cards thing has basically become a meme by now, but come on – this isn’t even Duel Monsters. Is there a Heart of the Capsules? The luck in play here is insane. What if Mokuba caught on to his game and avoided the diagonal line? What if he sent one monster off to approach from directly ahead or off to either side? Or what if he spread out his monsters even a tiny bit more? If he didn’t get all of those monsters in one shot, he definitely would have lost. And Yami never once seemed the slightest bit concerned that his plan wouldn’t work. He was sporting a cocky smirk the whole time like his plan was foolproof when it was about as airtight as a moth’s nylon stocking.

I feel like this is the anime version (Season Zero) of the duel with Seto where Seto just pulled a sudden ‘It’s a draw lol’ card out of nowhere at the last minute, right as he was about to lose.

Anyhoo, Yami sentences Mokuba to a penalty game, which is being trapped in an illusion of being sealed in a Capsule Monster capsule (and it has a level one mark on it – nice shade, Yami.) But before it’s closed, Mokuba teases that this isn’t over. Seto is setting up for his revenge against Yugi with something called Death T.

Also, this chapter ends with a pretty cool illustration of a little dice game you can play to try and beat Kaiba. I might try it for myself sometime. It’s a neat little addition.

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So, uh, this chapter was pretty messed up, wouldn’t ya say? Uzis and switchblades and threatening to cut off people’s fingers – all brought to you by elementary school students. Fun fun.

The story is alright. I still think that ending was complete bullshit, but it’s not like this series is a stranger to bullshit wins. Mokuba’s a friggin’ psychopath in this version, and I can’t really tell if I love that or hate it. In the 2000 anime, he’s kinda Seto’s morality pet more or less, but, on his own, he’s really not all that interesting. He’s basically Tristan just with more of a purpose (behind the scenes anyway) and 10000% more kidnappings. He’s a nice little kid with a good sense of justice and very strong loyalty to Seto, and he’s very forgiving, but he’s just not that interesting.

Can I even say this version of Mokuba is more interesting, though? Because he’s just a nutcase. There’s nothing likable about this future mob boss besides his desire to avenge his brother’s honor, and that’s kinda watered down by the fact that he doesn’t even try to face Yugi/Yami properly before cheating. The little prick cheated before he even MET Yugi.

I actually like the concept of Capsule Monsters here, even if I’m still kinda confused about it. I hope it becomes a little clearer when we revisit the game later (at least in Season Zero. We might revisit it again in the manga, I’m not sure. The manga and anime will stray away from each other quite a bit in the future.) I’m not holding my breath, though because even the Wiki page for it says some concepts are just flatout poorly explained, like abilities.

I thought I remembered Capsule Monster toys being a thing when I was younger and turns out I was right. It was very shortlived, obviously, and didn’t get a lot of distribution in stores, but apparently they pushed it enough for me to remember it being in my local Walmart for probably a month before it faded in obscurity.

Also, it seems like this version of the game is played differently from both the manga and anime versions.

Not only that, but apparently there was a video game version of Capsule Monsters made for the Playstation in 1998 called Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster Capsule: Breed and Battle that was only released in Japan. Golly, a video game released in 1998 where you collect monsters in small balls and raise them to help them evolve into stronger monsters that you will use to battle other monsters. How did that not immediately take off?

To my surprise, there was another video game that came out in 2004 based on Capsule Monsters for the PS2 titled Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monster Coliseum. I had followed the Yu-Gi-Oh video games pretty well when I was a kid, but I didn’t have much money to buy many of them, and I never once remembered seeing this game in stores. Maybe I did – the box art is just the slightest bit familiar – but, again, they didn’t seem to push this game very well. I remember them pushing the Dungeon Dice Monsters game, and I bought that, but the Capsule Monsters game is a blur at best.

Also, it’s weird that they spelled ‘coliseum’ like that, isn’t it? You don’t typically see it spelled that way. It’s usually spelled ‘Colosseum.’ Ya know….like, uh, hm what’s a good example?…..Uhm….Oh, how about Pokemon Colosseum….the game that was also released in 2004?

I’m just poking fun at the Pokemon connection, really, because Capsule Monsters does seem like a fun game and honestly isn’t a ripoff of Pokemon, given the board game aspect and chess-like strategies. I just think it doesn’t do a good job of explaining how different it is out the gate. You hear ‘capsule monsters’ and see that the blurb is just ‘collect, raise and battle monsters in small balls’ and you can’t help but think ‘Pokemon rip-off.’

And, to be completely fair….the concept name of Pokemon was literally Capsule Monsters, so they’re kinda asking for it.

I think if it had taken off more I would’ve definitely gotten into it. Maybe not so much because I was spending enough money on Yu-Gi-Oh cards without buying packs of small toys that probably cost even more. It just seems like, no matter how much they tried, they couldn’t get this game off the ground. They really hit their stride with Yu-Gi-Oh/Duel Monsters, but I think you could still make something great with Capsule Monsters. It’s a shame, really. Seems like a missed opportunity. Maybe the timing wasn’t right or something.

Final Notes: This episode is only extremely lightly referenced in episode 11, and that’s because the Capsule Monsters game played there is basically a mirror of the one played here. Literally everything else is different, including there being a different opponent.


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The Cyborg 009 Full Review Project: Manga (1964) Volume 1

I love Shotaro Ishinomori’s works, but the one that has stayed close to my heart over the years is Cyborg 009. I first remember watching the 2001 series on Toonami way back in the day, and I was very disappointed when the series just kinda stopped. Only half of the series got dubbed, so I was left without any resolution until years down the line when I was able to find a subbed version of the entire series.

Years later, I was happy to see new Cyborg 009 anime being made, but I noticed that Cyborg 009 still stands as one of those franchises that people just don’t seem to talk about very much, even when new stuff comes out. Kamen Rider is by far the more popular Ishinomori title, and that’s very fair. I enjoyed what I read of the manga, but it’s just disappointing that Cyborg 009 doesn’t get nearly the same level of recognition.

So I decided that I’d got back and review all that I could of Cyborg 009 to celebrate the vast series that Ishinomori literally died writing. We’ll explore the characters in all of their various incarnations, talk about some of the topics they address, and even discuss some of the more problematic aspects of the series. Granted, I wasn’t able to get my hands on every single thing Cyborg 009 related, in fact some of it is impossible get right now, but we’ll address that way down the line.

With that, let’s start with the first volume of the Cyborg 009 manga.

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Starting off, you’ll first take notice of Ishinomori’s art style. It’s a bit weird, but it’s also really unique and I love it. It’s goofy and cartoony while also being very stylized and interesting to look at. It reminds me a bit of old cartoons from the 20s and 30s. I especially love when he decides to get into more detail, particularly during scenes that are meant to be threatening and imposing. Don’t get fooled by his goofy cartoony style – he can strike fear and dread into your heart with a single page if he wants to, and he has a lot of talent in realism.

The first chapter sets the stage of our story in the midst of the cold war. A bunch of rich guys are having a meeting with Skull (Who will be known as Scar in the TokyoPop version – which is weird because he doesn’t have a scar…or if he does, we never see it because we never see his face. I’ll be referring to him as Skull though. Also, in nearly every incarnation they call him THE Black Ghost too, but it’s too confusing with the organization being given the same name.), the always imposing leader of the evil organization Black Ghost, which acts as our main antagonist for a long, long time. All of these guys are war mongerers, but they constantly fear that war will become a thing of the past and they won’t have anything to profit off of in the future.

However, Skull offers a proposition. They will perpetuate war and even bring it to outer space by creating cybernetic beings. They will be enhanced for combat, be modified to survive intense environments and follow the whims of their respective governments. Mass produced, they can make millions if not billions of dollars selling them en masse to every major super power in the world.

The rich guys all jump on the idea, and thus the 00 (Pronounced Zero-Zero) Cyborg project was born.

It’s actually a bit scary how much this plot still applies to real life. I mean, we’re not making cyborg soldiers or anything, but there are people who believe war is necessary for both the profit of greedy rich assholes and furthering science. I can’t even believe I have to say this, but the concept of war in space is also one that keeps getting thrown around, no matter if it’s jokingly or otherwise. Unless we’re in the process of developing mobile suits or X-Wings, I don’t want to hear it.

They needed a diverse set of people to experiment on and make a set of prototypes before mass producing the cyborgs, so Black Ghost sent out individuals to kidnap good candidates from across the globe.

This is another reason why Cyborg 009 appealed to me – it has one of the most diverse casts I’ve ever seen in an anime/manga. Each cyborg is from a different part of the globe. 001 is from Russia, 002 is from New York (and is Italian-American, but that doesn’t really come up much), 003 is from France, 004 is from Germany, 005 is Native American, 006 is Chinese, 007 is British, 008 is African and 009 is mixed-race Japanese.

That being said…bear in mind…..this IS a manga from the 1960s….and….uhm….Well…..Let’s just cut to the chase – racism’s here.

Pyunma (008) is the most egregious example of this manga showing its age BADLY. Actually, scratch that, any black person in this manga is problematic because, I’ll just go ahead and say it, it’s very blackface-y. Pure coal-black skin, little ball nose and massive lips all around. The first time we see Pyunma, he’s on a ship that’s delivering slaves and then basically gets saved from slavery to be enslaved by different people.

It should be noted that Pyunma is one of the first ever main characters in manga to be black, which is cool, but that doesn’t change the problems here. He is given several redesigns over time (like many of the characters) and looks so much better later. However, it did take quite a while for these changes to take place. In some versions of the early anime adaptations, even after some tweaks to his design, he still holds some racist qualities in his appearance (IE the large lips are still present in the 2001 anime, even if they’re toned down). He doesn’t really lose those all of those features until the most recent entries in the series.

Chang Changku doesn’t fare much better in the design department. Even in the 2001 anime, he has eyes so squinty that they pretty much don’t even exist. They’re just little shapes like backwards 3s.

Geronimo Junior, the Native American, is referred to as an Indian. Geronimo is down on his luck because he finds it difficult to get a job with people discriminating against Native Americans. His own design doesn’t help much because he fits the stereotype of the large stoic Native American man. He bumps into a producer who offers him a job – a very degrading role playing a caricature of a Native American chief in a folk dancing show (but only after he makes a comment about not deserving a job because he’s a ‘filthy Indian.’) Geronimo, who is usually extremely gentle and quiet, socks him and yells at him for treating his culture and people like sideshow freaks, causing the man to run off – good riddance.

Here’s the thing, though. It’s clear that this manga aims to be open-minded and accepting of all races. Like I said, it definitely has the most diverse cast I’ve ever seen in a manga, and each character gets their own focus and plenty of character development. Joe is obviously the main character, the show’s named after him and all, but I don’t feel like the rest of the cast suffers too much in comparison overall (Barring one thing I’ll get to in a moment). They’re a team. They’re equals. They need each other. They’re a family. They love each other.

This is probably going to come off like I’m making excuses for him, but hear me out – Ishinomori’s art wasn’t just a product of the times, it was also a product of the location. Japan was very isolated from the rest of the world during the time in which he was writing this manga. Seeing people from other parts of the world was rare. At least Ishinomori made the effort to include so many people from various cultures, kept changing his designs in order to be more appropriate and he was open to listening to others about their suggestions. Took way too long to get to a truly comfortable place, but at least it was moving forward.

The entire team of cyborgs never once treats each other differently because of their races. One chapter in this very volume highlights that. Jet (002) points out that Joe (009) doesn’t look Japanese due to his brown hair, which makes Joe visibly upset because he’s always been treated differently and ostracized in Japan due to being mixed-race. However, the other cyborgs all comfort him and say they don’t care if he’s mixed race. Pyunma in particular says they’re all human – or cyborg anyway – and that makes them all brothers. In fact, they tell him he should be proud of his mixed race heritage because it’s a symbol of erosion of the borders between nations and races.

In this group filled with people from every corner of the planet is the one place that Joe finally felt like he belonged.

Racism does pop up numerous times over the course of this series, but never once is it an issue among the cyborgs themselves, as far as I can remember – barring one. The gang that Jet’s crew fights in the manga, the Sharks, is made up of Puerto Ricans, and his fellow gang members throw out a lot of racist comments. One of his gang members even calls the leader a slur. Jet doesn’t say anything racist towards them, but he does accidentally kill the rival gang leader in a knife fight. Jet’s gang and Jet himself are obviously shown to be the ones in the wrong here since they were antagonizing the Sharks, but that doesn’t change what Jet did nor does it change the fact that, in the past, Jet was racist. As the previous scene I discussed shows, however, it’s quite apparent that he is no longer as such. In a weird way, becoming a 00 cyborg made Jet more accepting and caring as a person.

(Pre-posting edit because reasons: So apparently TokyoPop (The version available on Comixology, which is where I got my copy) made some alterations to the script that actually made this scene seem more racist than it originally was….which…uhm….Why? Why did they do that?

Here’s an excerpt from the Cyborg 009 Wiki on the matter:

“Much of the dialogue in Jet’s origin was altered, with one particular example being during the switchblade fight. In the original script, the other Jet gang members chant “Hey, hey!” “Get him!”, cheering Jet on. In Wellman’s script, they instead shout “Let’s go, spic!” and “We got enough of youse PRs!”, with their dialogue now aimed at the Shark leader. This had lead to misconception of the chapter promoting racism (though the Jets are still meant to be racist and discriminatory in the original text, just less blatant and without slur usage).”

So uhm, yeah. Thanks TokyoPop for being racist and making me write more than I had to. Appreciate it, ya dillweeds.)

Likewise, I never once felt like any of the characters acted in a manner that was particularly stereotypical of their race. The only three I’d ding in that regard is probably Geromino, Jet for being an impulsive thug sometimes and Francoise (003) for being…..*sigh* The Girl ™.

Look, as much as I love this series for its diverse cast and stories, they kinda dropped the ball with 003. She literally is just the girl ™. The only girl, mind you. The love interest for the main hero. The caretaker. The support. Her role 90% of the time is to sense things and babysit 001, who, despite his immense knowledge, is still just a baby that needs to be carried around and fed. 003 is consistently the only character in the cyborg team that gets treated differently within the group because of what she was born as, and that just sucks so much I can’t even begin to tell you.

Granted, she’s generally still treated as a fellow cyborg, and she does fight when needed. She’s pretty brave and sympathetic, but she’s consistently the one they need to protect, the one that gets the most questionable comments thrown her way, she’s the most pacifistic of them all and her main cybernetic enhancements are purely meant for support (Enhanced senses, x-ray vision etc.) Her profiles even describe has as being physically the weakest and slowest cyborg, even though she does have superhuman capabilities in that regard. Her support abilities are invaluable to their battles, don’t get me wrong, and depending on the version she does get improvements to her abilities and more to do, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s still the typical girl role of support.

Speaking of characters, we’re soon introduced to our 00 cyborgs one by one.

First up is 001 – Ivan Whiskey.

He has what could be considered the most tragic backstory of all the main cyborgs. His father was a scientist named Gamo who aimed to unlock the hidden potential in the human brain, and he used his son as the main test subject for these experiments. He secretly performed brain surgery on Ivan while his wife, Erika, was away, but she came back unexpectedly. She was horrified at what Gamo was doing and threatened to call the cops, but Gamo, unwilling to give up his scientific advances, hit Erika over the head with a wrench and killed her. The Black Ghost operatives, who seem to have the best timing ever, arrive on scene and offer Gamo a cushy spot on their team of scientists while Ivan gets recruited into the 00 cyborg project.

Ivan’s case is considered one of the most tragic not just for these reasons, but also the repercussions his cyborg nature will have on him in the future. Ivan will never be able to grow up. He’ll forever be more or less reliant on others to care for him in some way, and he’ll never be able to mature or grow as a normal person would. Everyone else is either a teenager or a full adult, even though they can no longer grow either. They can’t have families or find romantic partners outside of their own group (which is why Francoise is the center of a love triangle between Joe and Jet sometimes.) but they can find romance sometimes and lead somewhat normal lives when all of the fighting is over, albeit temporarily. Ivan can’t.

Ivan is later given the nickname ‘The Brain’ or ‘The Electronic Brain’ because he’s the smartest one of their group, their main strategist, and his powers are all in psychic based like telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation and hypnosis.

Next up is 002 – Jet Link. His name is Jet. And later we’ll learn that, because of his flight capabilities, they granted him the “nickname” ‘The Jet.’ In conclusion, his name is Jet. Also, TokyoPop made a flub in the translation and made it seem like even his gang was called ‘The Jets’ which really just seems egotistical of Jet. It’s pretty funny.

Jet was the leader of a gang in New York (and, oddly, the first panel of them shows them dancing in the streets. Jet’s story is based on West Side Story, so maybe that’s a throwback, but it’s really weird given the context.) who started a fight with a rival gang, The Sharks. While having a switchblade fight with the leader of the Sharks, Jet accidentally drove the leader’s own knife into his stomach and killed him. The cops have the best response time ever and immediately drive over as soon as the dude hits the ground, so everyone runs away. Jet bumps into the Black Ghost operatives who claim they’re on his side and want to help him, so they make off with him.

Given the moniker 002, Jet is outfitted with an accelerator and boosters in his feet that allow him to fly at speeds up to mach 5.

003 – Francoise Arnoul, has the funniest backstory. She was just randomly kidnapped. No real reason, just eh, she’s there and she lives in a boarding house so she won’t be missed I guess. That’s not the funny part, though.

Her brother, Jean, who was in the air force, comes home right as it’s happening and we get a very, very long, drawn out comedy sketch where her brother takes various modes of transportation to chase the car in which she was kidnapped, crashes them one by one and then just steals something else to continue. He calls a cop over at first…to steal his bike. Then he crashes it. Then he steals a motorcycle and promptly crashes it into a car, so he steals the car. Then he crashes the car because the Black Ghost guys shoot out his tires. They leave in a plane, so he steals a plane, but the plane is extremely low on gas so he’s forced to bail out before he gets far, allowing the plane to crash somewhere nearby.

And that’s it. She’s gone, and Jean doesn’t pop up much after that. Wow.

As I’ve mentioned, 003 is outfitted with extremely powerful senses such as telescopic vision, x-ray vision and enhanced hearing. She’s also the only one of the group besides 009 to not get a nickname for some reason. I am forever sad that this series predated MASH by so many years, because it was a missed opportunity to call her Radar.

004 – Albert Heinrich has what I would consider the very close second most tragic backstory of the group, and he remains my favorite character of the lot (002 being, fittingly enough, my second favorite, and 007 being my third.) Living in post WWII East Berlin, Germany, Albert longed for a better life with his fiance, Hilda, so he concocted a plan to smuggle them out across the Berlin Wall. Granted, this incarnation’s version of events is a bit goofy, but still.

In pretty much all versions, he tries to smuggle them out by pretending to be a truck driver delivering some goods, but in this version the ‘goods’ are a pair of lions for a zoo. The reason this is kinda goofy is because he dresses up Hilda in a lion costume….And somehow that works.

They’re found out either way and endure a hail of gunfire. Albert crashes the truck and is distraught to find Hilda dead on the ground. Albert himself has suffered many horrible wounds both from the crash and the bullets, but Black Ghost operatives, again having just the best of timing, covertly take him away acting as if they’re going to find him medical care.

Albert’s wounds are so extensive that he winds up being the most mechanical of all the cyborgs with basically only his head being left intact. His entire body has been made into a weapon. He has an electromagnetic knife in his left hand, a machine gun in each finger on his right, and missiles in each knee. He also supposedly has a nuclear bomb in his body, but whether or not that’s true has never been revealed.

I’ve already pretty much explained Geronimo Junior/005’s backstory. The only thing I really left out was that Black Ghost arrives right after he punches the jerk and they offer him a ‘job’ which is obviously just a trick to get him to come with them. However, when they tell him the job is a bit far from home, he tells them they have no home anymore – he just goes wherever he can.

He’s later granted incredible levels of physical strength and durability. He frequently acts as a shield and protector to the other cyborgs when they’re being overrun by an enemy. He’s also given the nickname of ‘The Iron Man.’ I should mention that these nicknames don’t really stick. I was actually a little surprised to go back and read this volume, because I really didn’t remember any of them having nicknames. I remembered 006 being referred to as The Mole once or twice in other adaptations, and 004 mentioned he’s been called The God of Death or The Angel of Death, but that was about it.

Chang Changku or 006 was a struggling pig farmer in China. His farm was failing, he was starving, the last pig he had was too thin, he couldn’t keep up with taxes, he was completely broke, and finally he was driven to suicide. The super timing of the Black Ghost operatives stepped in, however, and shot the rope he was about to hang himself from. They just grabbed him and threw him in the car after that.

He’s been given the nickname ‘Mole’ because he can shoot intense flames from his mouth. The flames get so hot that they can easily melt rock, allowing him to tunnel underground easily. He’s also immune to pretty much all intensities of heat. Outside of 007, Chang is the most lighthearted of the group, typically focusing on cooking when they’re not in the heat of battle (haha, I make puns.) He’s also close friends with 007, and they make a really good comedy duo.

Speaking of 007, GB or Great Britain (His real name is unknown – Great Britain is his stage name) was a struggling actor who basically became a drunkard staggering around in the streets just looking for cigarettes or booze. Black Ghost simply threw a bottle of booze into their car and he jumped in after it, which makes this the second funny backstory to the cyborgs.

007 was granted the ability to change his form into anything he wished. (He couldn’t transform his clothes at this point, so he has to take them off every time he transformed in the early days of the manga.) He was also given the nickname of the ‘Chameleon.’

008 or Pyunma was one of many Africans set on a plane bound for an unknown destination to become slaves. He managed to escape his captors, but was cornered. He begged for his life, and the Black Ghost operatives shot them. Pyunma was very thankful for them saving his life, but they just put a gun in his face and forced him to come along with them anyway.

008 has, arguably, the least impressive powers. He can breathe underwater (Which is a power also given to 009) and withstand high levels of underwater pressure. He also has incredible swimming abilities and propellers in his feet to make him go faster underwater, making him their best sea-faring fighter. These abilities do come in handy more often than in most shows that have a water-based heroes because their base is an island and they travel most frequently via a submarine,

Granted, his skills as a freedom fighter (which we’ll explore later) give him an edge in combat on land, but, objectively, he kinda got screwed in the cyborg powers department considering most of the cyborgs can fight just fine in the water.

His nickname is ‘Merman’ for obvious reasons.

Finally, we’ve reached the titular character of Cyborg 009, Joe Shimamura.

As we’ve discussed, Joe was always treated differently because of his mixed-race heritage. He was orphaned at birth, and when he was old enough to work he quickly ended up in juvenile hall for reasons not given. He, along with another two boys, tried to escape the facility, but one of the boys ended up getting caught, though Joe tried to save him, and the other boy seemingly died from falling off of a cliff. Black Ghost operatives then captured Joe.

Now, something we need to address with Joe is that he has a tad bit of the ‘Main character/leader of the team gets the best stuff’ trope going on. He is told by 001 that they may be great, but 009 is top of the line. Since he was the last one built, he basically has the capability to do everything they can do, which is objectively false, but Joe does have, by far, the most amount of powers and abilities.

His main claim to fame is his speed. Joe has an accelerator switch in his molar that allows him to move so fast that time slows down and sometimes comes to a near halt when the switch is activated. However, even his main power was one adapted by an earlier cyborg. Jet also has an accelerator, but it’s not nearly as powerful as Joe’s.

In addition to that, though, he can also breathe underwater, is nearly as durable and physically strong as 005, has some heightened senses like night vision, an increased sense of smell and electromagnetic detection like 003 (Though why, of all things, give him heightened sense of smell but not sight or hearing?), heightened memory capability, a built-in language translator and even the ability to transmit messages in Morse code. He doesn’t have fire breathing powers, shapeshifting, built-in weapons or psychic powers, but he does have quite the collection.

He’s also noted as being the best pilot on the team. In the first volume, even though he’s never piloted a plane before and is scared out of his mind, he’s able to do incredibly impressive maneuvers, defeat the enemies and land safely.

I just find his situation to be a little silly. Why is 009 the only one who gets powers from previous cyborg models? Wouldn’t they do that with all of them? Why is 008 so blah if he was the cyborg that came directly before 009? Why would they not also include some of the most powerful abilities in the group – especially 001 considering he’s a damn near demi-god.

Yes, as impressive as 009 is, there’s no denying that 001 is just flatout more powerful. The only reason 001 isn’t more of a deus ex machina in the series (even though, trust me, he is definitely a big deus ex machina) is because his psychic powers wear him down so much, being a baby, that he needs near constant sleep. But if they put those powers in the body of an adult and gave them better energy output, he’d be unstoppable. They specifically recruited the guy who made 001’s powers possible, so there’s really no excuse why he’s the only one they allowed to have psychic capabilities.

Either way, Joe gets the best stuff, barring the god-like psychic powers, just cuz. He’s also the leader just cuz. It definitely doesn’t make him OP or anything, but it kinda rubs me the wrong way that there are numerous instances of ‘yeah Joe has that, but better.’ Like 002 was attacked by a Hydra V that pierced his skin with a tranquilizer, but 009 was developed after they created artificial skin to protect against those kinds of assaults so he could get through it just fine, but 002 was downed. Even though, you’d think flying unprotected at speeds upward of mach 5 would warrant some reinforced skin.

Once 009 is complete, he is awakened by the telepathic messages of 001 telling him to run. He is currently undergoing a field test by Black Ghost who are throwing robots, tanks, and fighter planes at 009 to test his combat prowess. With the guidance of 001, he passes with flying colors. The Black Ghost scientists introduce the 00 cyborgs that preceded 009 to him, but SURPRISE, this was actually a staged coups. The cyborgs have brandished some laser rifles and are rebelling against their creators.

They take Dr. Gilmore as a ‘hostage’ and convince 009 to join them. Black Ghost obviously isn’t going to let them go without a fight, however. They want to take them alive because they don’t want to destroy their hard work and valuable assets, but they are prepared to destroy them because allowing their technology and plans to leak to the general public is considered worse than simply losing the cyborgs they have.

It turns out Dr. Gilmore was actually the one who organized this rebellion and breakout in the first place. He felt guilty for all of the terrible acts he had partaken in, so he vowed to free all of the cyborgs and help them with any other troubles they may experience as a result of their augmentation or Black Ghost.

The rest of the volume is them trying to escape from the nearly endless onslaught of attacks from Black Ghost, who are utilizing drone planes, spy robots that take the forms of bats and dolphins, dinosaur-esque attack robots, tanks, massive mechs, submarines, soldiers, basically anything that they can throw at the cyborgs, they are. That’s another thing I really love about this series – there’s such a wide array of various enemies to fight that each have their own powers and abilities and they take on so many forms.

It’s a really cool display of all the cyborgs’ abilities, too. I especially enjoyed 005 just smashing up tanks like they were made of Legos. We may get reminded here and there that Joe is the most advanced 00 cyborg, but all of the characters get a good amount of time to shine in their own regard. Even though I may rag on 003 for being support and not doing much in actual combat, like I said, she is invaluable to their battles and strategies. Without her, they’d be dead.

Now they’ve commandeered a submarine and are trying to infiltrate Black Ghost’s base to try and take it out from the inside.

———————————–

And that was volume one. Phew, that was really a lot to go over, but we had to discuss the fundamentals before we could properly carry on into the rest of the series. Subsequent volume reviews should be shorter.

Overall, this was a really great introduction to all of the cast, their backstories and how they became the legendary 00 Cyborgs. Of course, it’s not perfect for all of the reasons I already explained, but it has really interesting characters, fun art, exciting battles, and even commentary on issues that are still very much relevant today, even if some of the specifics are very outdated. It sets the stage quite well for what’s to come and leaves you wanting more.

At the end of the day, I’m really glad I started this project, and I hope everyone has just as much fun along with me as we examine the rest of the franchise (As much as we can anyway.)

Also, I apologize in advance for flip-flopping over and over between the characters’ 00 numbers and their actual names. It’s a bad habit I got into a long time ago, and I have no idea why I do it.

Recommended Audience: Errrrrrrr…..Well…..Comixology lists this as being for ages 12+, but then again they also put that same rating on frickin’ Tokyo Mew Mew and that’s just…strange. I’d say that rating is much more fitting for Cyborg 009 than TMM. Is this one of those situations where they mis-rate anime and manga just because it’s anime or manga? This volume alone has death, murder, some blood, hinted suicide, racist overtones, alcohol….there’s not really sex or nudity I guess, so there’s that. Sure, let’s give it a 12+


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Yu-Gi-Oh! (Manga) Chapters 22-23 (AniManga Clash! Season Zero Placeholder)

This is another story I’m sorry didn’t make it into Season Zero. It’s weird because this a two parter, so it easily could’ve been adapted into the show without needing to write anything new, but I guess they just didn’t like the story enough.

Hanasaki, the timid kid from chapter three, makes a reappearance. He is a huge fan of the American comic book hero, Zombire – which is literally a fusion of a zombie and a vampire. His father makes sure to get him some cool Zombire merch, like masks, model kits etc. every time he returns from a business trip from America.

His father feels bad for not being around much, especially considering Hanasaki has rather poor health and has spent a lot of time in the hospital. Hanasaki doesn’t have a lot of friends or self-confidence, so his father is happy whenever he can put a smile on his face by getting him Zombire stuff. He’s especially happy that Hanasaki has found some new friends in Yugi and the gang.

(Can I just point out how crazy rude it is to unbox something you find in someone’s room? Let alone if it’s a model kit and choosing to assemble it right there just because you assume the person doesn’t have the time to do it. Even if he didn’t just want to collect it and preserve the box, he still would have wanted to have the fun of putting it together himself. For god’s sake, Jonouchi. Get a clue.)

However, his father’s a bit of an idiot. A well-meaning idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.

To help boost Hanasaki’s confidence, he pretends to be a stranger getting attacked by some goons in the middle of the night. Hanasaki rushes out in his new Zombire costume that his father just bought him and ‘defeats’ the goons with ease.

This plan works wonderfully as Hanasaki pretty much believes he can do anything now. However, I really, really, really need to point out how misguided this plan is.

It’s great that his dad wants to boost his confidence. It’s great that he wants to give him a chance to be a hero like Zombire. But making your scrawny, physically weak, child who has a history of health problems believe he can easily beat up thugs twice his size, especially when he has a hero complex, is not the smartest thing in the world. He may gain confidence, but he may also gain overconfidence and a desire to continue challenging huge people who would wipe their asses with his mangled remains.

What’s even worse is that, 1) These jerks aren’t people Hanasaki’s dad knows well or is friends with – they’re just random thugs he found on the street and 2) when Hanasaki’s dad pays them off, they ask for Hanasaki’s full name and WHERE HE GOES TO SCHOOL so they can supposedly do this again…..And he just gives them that information. There’s a difference between being misguided and being an idiot. I know the 90s were a different time in regards to child safety, but this is too much even for then.

Predictably, the goons arrive at their school and they threaten Yugi, knowing he’s a friend of Hanasaki, so Hanasaki can come in to save him. They run off, and Hanasaki is once again emboldened by his heroism. However, the real reason they did that was so they’d know Hanasaki’s face too, since he was masked the first time they saw him….doesn’t really make a difference because knowing his face doesn’t mean you know where he lives, but either way, they find out where he lives, throw a rock through his window claiming they’ve kidnapped Yugi and to come face them if he ever wants to see him again.

Hanasaki dons his Zombire costume and heads out to save his friend.

Meanwhile, Yugi is getting into Zombire model kits thanks to Hanasaki, but he’s run out of spray paint and can’t color his newest creation. Since all the shops are closed, he runs to Hanasaki’s house to borrow some paint. However, all he finds is his father in a panic, holding the note the goons left for Hanasaki. They call him up and tell him they’ve got Hanasaki and are holding him hostage for 500,000 yen, which is about 4500 USD. If he doesn’t pay, they’ll hurt Hanasaki. And even though they haven’t given his father enough time to do anything, they’re still beating up Hanasaki and even spraying spray paint into his eyes. Yikes…

Yugi, who soon becomes Yami, rushes off to save him, vehement in saving the friend who was only trying to protect him in the first place. Hanasaki’s father is close behind and retrieves Hanasaki while Yugi takes care of the goons.

Before we head on to the Shadow Game portion, let me point out one final bit of idiocy in Hanasaki’s dad. He tells Hanasaki that they should just…go home. *lip smack* First of all, you’re just gonna leave poor Yugi alone with three thugs who have knives? Real nice. Why aren’t you helping him or calling the cops? Yugi’s a kid too. What are you thinking? Second, your child has been beaten and had spray paint shot directly into his eyes. Maybe take him to a hospital first? You’re a terrible parent.

Shadow Game

It’s honestly not much of a game. The thugs chase Yami around as he draws lines on the ground with spray paint. Eventually, they realize he was drawing a maze around them and a discarded cigarette is set to ignite it. As the lines burst into flames, the thugs run away into the water of the dam.

That’s it. That’s all. They don’t even actually go through the maze, they just run away.

Hanasaki refuses to go home, sheds his Zombire mask and heads off to help Yugi fight the goons. He doesn’t get to actually do anything, but the fact that he rushed in either way proved to himself and his father that he doesn’t need some silly costume or some fake super strength to be a hero – he had it in him all along.

This is a pretty sweet couple of chapters. I really liked Hanasaki when we first met him in chapter three, so I’m glad we got more time with him and got to explore his character more. I really wish he was made into more of a regular character, to be honest. He’s very likable, brave and sweet. I think he’d make a great addition to the group – especially in this series loaded with jerks around every corner. The ending explaining that he had the heart of a hero and plenty of courage all along was predictable, but not as much as you’d might think. I was more worried they’d do worse damage to him than they did, just because so many people in this manga are ridiculously evil.

This plot is interesting, even if the choices made by the father are just stupid sometimes. It’s also weird that he decides to do this confidence boost plot thing right as he learns Hanasaki has a group of friends. Isn’t his confidence the highest it’s ever been right now?

Though I do have to say….isn’t he a tad old to be believing he’s randomly acquiring super powers? He’s meant to be the same age as Yugi and the others, which is at least 16, right? Yet he’s leaning into the make-believe so much it’s almost delusional.

The Shadow Game is boring too, but that’s not really the point. The point is, Hanasaki has found a strength within himself that has nothing to do with Zombire, and he has a big heart that allows him to fight for his friends no matter what, even if the enemy outnumbers him and are twice his size. That’s just as good, if not better, as any comic book hero.


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.Hack//COMPLETE_FRANCHISE | .Hack//XXXX (Manga) Review

Plot: In a different re-telling of the events of the original Dot Hack games, Kite is a newbie player in the massive MMORPG, The World. He’s being shown the ropes by his friend, a highly skilled veteran player under the name Orca of the Azure Sea. While playing, Kite and Orca come across an insanely powerful monster that cannot be damaged by any attacks. In an effort to save his friend, Orca ends up getting killed by the beast and somehow his physical body falls comatose at the exact same moment.

Kite, determined to save his friend, is given a special bracelet with the power to defeat the monster that hurt Orca, known in the real world as Yasuhiko. With his online friends and an odd boy with similar powers named Cubia, Kite sets out on a mission to find out what The World really is and how to save Yasuhiko.

Breakdown: Anyone who has played the games will notice that, indeed, this seems like a faithful retelling of the games’ story. However, you’ll note one very important part near the end. Cubia is not a monster. He’s an NPC who befriends Kite and helps him defeat the eight phases with a power similar to that of Kite’s bracelet. He’s given characterization, a personality, a true backstory as both a shadow of the power of the bracelet and maybe some kind of failed being similar to Aura.

Other than this, though, the story is entirely the same as the games, which means that the quality of the manga in comparison to the game (which I find to be great) hinders on how well this change worked. Ultimately, I think it worked pretty well. Having Cubia be an actual character who both tricks Kite and yet seems to actually care for him is an interesting change to the story that helps shake things up a bit more than just essentially being a monster that is anti-Kite’s bracelet.

Cubia’s personality is similar to, yet not copying, Aura’s origins, personality and being. While Cubia is merely data, he’s somehow able to develop feelings and perhaps have some concept of a soul. Despite the fact that he ultimately does become the monster that needs defeating, his evolution as a character is nice to read, and his friendship with Kite was especially well-done.

Cubia has a power to help him defeat the phases, meaning Kite’s not as alone as he feels in this mission, even barring the help of Blackrose and the others. Cubia was a very nice person, seemingly, and they connected on several levels. It was a great decision to have Kite still defend him even while knowing what he truly was. Kite’s level of caring and respect for those he has befriended, no matter if they’re data or not, shone through here.

That coupled with the game’s story makes for a really good manga, but I do have to say that people who have played the games are still going to know every thing that happens through the whole manga, including pretty much everything about Cubia even if he is an NPC here. They make the big final battle really awesome in manga form and it’s just a great read the whole way through, even if it is fairly short.

I will say that they go through the Phases a bit too fast for my liking. Cubia himself defeats some without our knowing. It makes the journey seem very quick and rather simple, making Kite’s later push against his friends for fear of their lives seem a bit drastic and sudden.

Recommended Audience: There’s virtual violence and one shot of Balmung getting attacked that was pretty damn graphic for a MMORPG. Plus slight non-ish nudity by Aura. 10+


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Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru (Manga) Volume 9 Review

Plot: Who are Iku and Yori’s real parents? Is it possible that they’re still twins?

Can they create groinal friction without judgment? Can I find it within myself to care about these horrible, horrible characters?

Breakdown: The first chapter shows Yano taking Iku to an amusement park to distract her from Yori seemingly making eyes at Mori. Meanwhile, Mori, for some reason, heavily flirts with Yori even though she knows they’re half-siblings – guess incest runs in the family…..That was more of a joke than I intended.

She brings him to her house to see some photo albums of her father as a younger man and to basically confirm that her father and Yori’s mother had an affair. Her father comes home and confirms her suspicions, knowing Yori would notice quite soon after meeting Mori.

The next chapter has Yugo denying that he’s Yori’s father, acting like he was joking about him being his real father. He tells him the story about his and Saki’s relationship. He was a bad boy, she was a very strict kinda manipulative person who would purposely push his buttons. He was annoyed with her at first, but quickly fell in love and started doing bad things on purpose to get her to scold him.

However, in spite of his feelings, she was already engaged with Shunpei since before they even met. He admitted his feelings toward her, but she refused him on those grounds, despite seemingly loving him back. He states they were never together so it’s impossible for him to be Yori’s father.

Yuugo admits that he’d love to be Yori’s father and he is affectionate toward Yori because he’s Saki’s image…..even though….you’d think it’d be more understandable to be affectionate towards Iku. I mean, Yori’s been noted as looking exactly like Yuugo, not Saki. Iku’s more Saki’s image.

Anyway, he’s lying. He takes a hair from Yori before he leaves and intends on using it for a DNA test. Turns out, Yuugo and Saki did bump uglies once….On her friggin’ wedding day. She’s even in her wedding dress when they do it. That’s fucked up.

The next chapter starts with Yano and Iku coming home from the amusement park. Yano stops the car when he sees Yori and Mori together and freaks out at Yori telling him Iku’s been worried sick. He begs him not to hurt her again. Yes, Yano, yell that out as loudly as you can.

Mori explains the situation, and Iku is shocked.

Iku: “But then Yori….wouldn’t be my brother?”

Mori: “Exactly.”

No, not exactly. Half-siblings are still siblings. Their situation would only be slightly less squicky.

Yano kidnaps Yori to talk more about what happened. Yori explains that, even though Yuugo stated he wasn’t and couldn’t possibly be his father, there’s still the odd issue of Iku’s paternity booklet with the missing sections about her parents. He’s struggling because, even though he’d love to find out she’s not his sister, telling Iku that her mom and dad aren’t her biological parents would crush her.

Wow, an understandable and heartbreaking revelation and normal mode of thinking. Good job, Yori!

They bring the information to Yano’s personal family doctor for analysis and she says that with both the mother and the father information left blank, she was likely abandoned and the Yuki family adopted her.

Yori: “Is this a dream come true?” Wow, a single page to go from ‘Good job, Yori!’ to ‘Go to hell, Yori!’

Giving him some credit, even though he also says he now feels like he might be the luckiest man in the world, he’s still conflicted because the news will hurt Iku. Yano tells him to not feel guilty because now he can freely tell Iku he loves her in front of everyone without judgment.

Uhm, Yano, first and foremost, please don’t tell him to not have even a semblance of healthy character development.

Second, no. No, he can’t.

Even when you’re not blood related, it’s still a social taboo to date your siblings. Even though he can be a little more free about it, they’ll still likely get whispers and snickers and even harassment. I also can’t imagine their parents would be cool about it. Their mom seems to be aware that they’re not fully blood related (maybe their dad too?) and she is having panic attacks left and right whenever she believes the two might be romantically involved.

The chapter ends with him dreaming about the happy life they might have a chance at having – being able to hug, kiss and tell her he loves her, but most importantly, make her happy.

The start of the next chapter has Yuugo confronting Saki explaining via a DNA test, he has proven that Yori is his son. Saki doesn’t seem surprised, and Yuugo demands to know why she never told him if she knew. She begs him to not say anything because it would destroy her family.

Yuugo relays to her that Yori visited him, investigating whether Yuugo was his father or not and seemed disappointed when he told him he wasn’t. Saki is shaken, but seemingly not for this revelation. She’s moreso putting two and two together and believes he was disappointed because he wanted to not be fully blood related to Iku so they could be romantically involved.

Flashing back to more proof that Iku’s a dumbass, we’re shown Yori teasing Iku for not even getting up to a 20 on any of her quizzes in any of her subjects. How the hell did this girl even reach this level in school? How is she not flunking? Yori can only do so much. What does she do all day? She’s has no skills or hobbies, yet apparently studying never crosses her mind. Even people pretending to pay attention can eek out scores twice as good as hers.

Don’t tell me it’s all the fooling around with Yori because she was getting these grades long before she hooked up with Yori and when he was at the other school.

This is meant to depict another one of many instances where Saki has been suspicious about their feelings for each other.

Back in the present, Saki says she won’t give into Yuugo’s blackmail, though we never learn how he blackmailed her. I get what he’s holding over her, but what is he asking for?

But speaking of blackmail, Saki straight out asks Yori when he gets home if he loves Iku. Yori coolly, and without missing a beat, blackmails her, stating he knows everything about her and Yuugo and Iku’s adoption. If she so much as breathes a word to Shunpei or Iku about it, he’ll tell them everything and destroy their family.

He goes even further explaining just how much he loves Iku and blames Saki for his deep feelings of guilt all of these years when he could’ve been free to love her like he wanted if she just spoke the truth.

Later, he shows that he’s flaunting his newfound freedom in front of his mother, knowing he has her in a vice. He takes a barely dressed Iku into their room to get freaky under the guise of ‘studying’ and Saki collapses on the stairs in emotional agony, knowing she can’t do anything about it.

I know Saki’s definitely guilty of a lot of things, but Yori is a stone-cold pile of shit.

The next chapter starts with Yori and Iku about to get it on in their bedroom while their mother sits in the stairwell, debating what to do. As Yori’s about to get down and dirty, their mother bursts into the room to stop them, no longer caring what Yori does because she feels her duty to protect her children from a mistake is more important than the happy lie she’s created in their family.

She tells Iku that, despite the odd paternity booklet, she is 100% Iku’s mother and Shunpei is her father. She is also Yori’s mother, but as Shunpei walks in the room to see what all the fuss is about, she admits that Yuugo is Yori’s father.

The last chapter of the volume shows Saki on her wedding day. Yuugo tried to convince her to run away with him and elope, and she was actually extremely happy to hear him say that. However, she was too dedicated to Shunpei. She couldn’t break his heart.

For the first time and the last time, they decided to have sex. She slept with Yuugo on her wedding day, and Shunpei on her wedding night. Having sex with two men in a 24 hour period and getting two of her eggs from the same cycle fertilized by each of the men resulted in the previously discussed heteropaternal superfecundation – the creation of twins born of two fathers.

She tells Shunpei, who should really be wondering what the hell half-naked Yori and all-naked Iku are doing in bed, that she’ll accept a divorce if he wants one, but he refuses. He actually knew about Yori’s parentage all along, but he didn’t say anything and continued to keep up her lie because she chose to stay by his side all this time. He knew this whole situation caused her great pain, but she kept through it to be by his side.

So, before I continue, some side notes tell us that Yori’s next dialogue is knowingly horrible and he feels guilty about it before he even says it. Keep that in mind.

Shunpei tells Yori that it doesn’t matter if they’re not blood related, he will always be his precious son. Yori says, and I’m directly quoting here.

Yori: “I’m sorry, Dad. I am not happy at all. I like mom and dad, but I have thought about how good it would be if dad wasn’t my dad and how great it would be if mom wasn’t my birth mother. Just now, mom said all of this is my responsibility. Therefore, can you give me Iku?”

Yup. Garbage person. He basically told his parents to their faces that he enjoyed the idea of them not being his real parents and started a negotiation to be ‘given’ Iku, like she’s restitution.

And don’t give me anything about this being less bad because he realizes it’s a shitty thing to do.

To quote Todd from Bojack Horseman – “You can’t keep doing this! You can’t keep doing shitty things and then feel bad about yourself like that makes it okay. YOU NEED TO BE BETTER!”

But we’re not done.

Yori: “I don’t need dad or mom. That’s why….I’m taking Iku! Because I only need Iku!”

The volume ends with kidnapping. Swell.

———————————-

This volume is horrible. Yuugo’s being a dick. Mori’s being a creepy bitch. Yori’s being a dick. Saki’s a terrible person who got off too easily. Shunpei’s a bit of a doormat. Iku….Iku is literally not doing anything. She’s responded to everything in this volume with the same look of blank surprise. She seemed slightly upset when Mori told her Yori might not be her brother, but that was about it.

Yori uses his manipulative garbage person ways to more freely boink his sister and then uses them again to get Iku, acting like he’s entitled to her and Iku just goes with it. Iku you are one step away from being a prop, but that’d be a compliment because props actually have functions.

Some people have this weird view on love that it’s romantic to seem like you care about literally no one else but the person you love, but that view always struck me as toxic and horribly unhealthy. Love should make you a better person, not further drive you into dickery. You shouldn’t feel like you can be a heartless monster to people, especially your parents, just because you love someone and want to be with them.

There’s not much else to say about this volume. Everyone is terrible. Everything is terrible.

Next volume is our finale! Can they clean up this mess of glorious proportions and somehow make me not want to throw my computer out a window?

Stay tuned.


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Hell Girl (Manga) Volume 3 Review

Chapter 11: A Gloomy Job

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Another story that wasn’t mirrored in the anime, A Gloomy Job focuses on a middleschooler named Mayu who is trying to save up money for a trip to the beach with her friends, but she can’t earn the money quickly enough without a job. She decides to lie about her age in order to work in a theme park for just long enough to earn what she needs.

She lands the job and instantly befriends another employee named Aida. Working under the attractive and charming Nakatani, she enjoys her time working in the theme park. Until, that is, Aida falls ill and starts missing work. Mayu is concerned, but doesn’t think anything too severe has happened until she learns two things – Aida supposedly told Nakatani that she was leaving for another job after she came to pick up her check, and Aida’s sister told Mayu that she hasn’t seen Aida in three days.

She goes back to the theme park to pick up her check, but before she can ask Nakatani more questions she accidentally knocks a handbag over, spilling its contents. Among the items is Aida’s last paycheck.

Mayu confronts Nakatani about it, and he reveals everything. He sent Aida to work in a ‘shop.’ He shows a photo to Mayu depicting Aida crying as she’s grabbed by a bunch of seedy men. Apparently, Nakatani makes a habit out of luring young girls who are desperate for money down to the theme park for some good quick cash. Then, when he’s about to give them their paycheck, he blackmails them somehow and forces them to work in the ‘shop.’ For Aida, she needed the money from the job to pay for tuition to beauty school, and he blackmailed her by taking risque videos of her and posting them on the Internet. For Mayu, she needed money for her trip, and he found out she wasn’t allowed to be employed due to being too young.

Nakatani tries to get her to cooperate to work at the ‘shop’ too, but Mayu isn’t having it. To force her into submission, he throws her into the haunted house attraction that emulates a ride through hell. He pushes her into the pit, breaking her leg.

She still has her phone, so she threatens to call the cops, but Nakatani simply laughs and throws money onto her, claiming he’ll easily be able to frame it as an accident – a middleschooler faking her age for a job and trying to steal money from her employers accidentally falls into an attraction while trying to escape.

Instead, Mayu uses her phone to access Hell Correspondence and sends Nakatani to hell. After a pretty decent hell torture scene, we cut to a little while later where we see Mayu in the hospital recovering from her broken leg. A detective informs her that they were able to save Aida thanks to her testimony, but Nakatani is still missing.

With the familiar black curse mark emblazoned on her chest, Mayu laments that the grown-up world is no place for a kid like her.

I liked this story alright, but, logically, there’s a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make sense. Most blatantly being that of, golly gee Nakatani, I’m so sure no one will suspect you of wrongdoing considering every girl who comes under your employ goes missing or will be found murdered….There’s only so much fudging the time cards will do for ya, buddy.

And, really, “You can’t call the cops because it looks like you stole money and tried to escape.” Uhm, first of all, Aida is missing, and the last place she was seen was in the theme park, meaning Mayu has leverage in getting the cops to snoop around on that. You kept an incriminating photo of her on your phone and supposedly uploaded lewd videos of her to the Internet mere days before she went missing. Not to mention that you kept her paycheck and purse for no other reason than because you’re too stupid to destroy evidence.

Second of all, you really think Mayu’s stupid enough to DIE in this pit, suffering for days or weeks of a broken leg, starvation and dehydration just because she’s afraid that she might get charged with stealing $85? As a minor? And the theft story makes no sense anyway. She decided to steal from the place in which she was employed….on pay day? When the only reason she took the job was to get five days worth of wages, of which she was also getting overtime because Aida was missing? And, what, she decided the best escape route wasn’t just, ya know….taking any walkway in the park and instead thought it was better to go through the haunted house?

Come on, dude, be less dumb.

Chapter 12: The Cheat

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No anime mirror this time either. This story focuses on Saori, a girl who is attending a prep school to get a recommendation for a prestigious high school. Her father used to teach at that school before he died, and she wants nothing more than to attend the school and make her father proud.

However, she does very poorly in classes because she’s not good at studying. She’s always bottom of the class in exams and worries that she’ll never be able to get into her father’s school.

The class president, Hayasaka, who is always number one in class, offers to tutor her, and he’s such a good teacher that she catches on extremely quickly to the material and shoots up in the exam scores. Hayasaka is so impressed with her hard work and progress that he asks her to go out with him and she happily accepts.

He gives her a nice ring, her mom gives her some money as a reward for doing well at school, which she spends on contacts to replace her glasses, and everything seems to be looking up. She even manages to beat out Hayasaka for the top spot in exam scores.

When that happens, everything starts going downhill again. She loses her ring, which devastates her, and she develops a cold after looking for it in the rain, which makes her unable to do as well on her next test.

The shit really hits the fan when her teacher calls her in and points out that her English paper is the exact same as Hayasaka’s, and since Hayasaka was a good student from the beginning, he instantly suspects her of cheating this whole time. He also says he was planning on writing a letter of recommendation for her father’s school, but now he’s reconsidering.

Every student goes really overboard with their reactions. The insults I get, but they started TEARING UP HER TEXTBOOKS the instant they hear about the accusations. She’s shocked when she tries to get Hayasaka to defend her and all he does is call her pitiful for what she has done.

No one, not even her mother, will believe that she didn’t cheat, so she decides to contact Hell Girl and send Hayasaka to hell….which is weird, because she doesn’t know at this point that Hayasaka did it.

I mean, there are no other suspects, but still. She doesn’t have all the information yet.

With a straw doll in hand, she overhears Hayasaka explain to one of his friends that she was legitimately being nice to Saori at first to help her out, but didn’t realize she would start surpassing him in scores. He couldn’t stand for that, so he decided to make her sick to start tanking her grades, then he swapped their answer sheets and copied her paper to frame her for cheating.

Upon hearing this, Saori pulled the string and Hayasaka was ferried to hell. His hell torture is pretty entertaining. The Hell Team tests him by asking him questions as he hangs over a pit filled with acid. For every wrong answer, he’ll be lowered in. He answers correctly, but is lowered anyway because they accuse him of cheating. After some more questions, Hayasaka’s rope breaks and he falls into the acid.

Afterwards, that familiar hellish magic seems to be worked again because Saori has been cleared of her accusations, everyone loves her now and she’s got the grades to go to any high school she wants. She aims to someday be a teacher like her dad, even with that curse mark emblazoned on her chest.

This story was very, very predictable. The instant you see Hayasaka you know he’ll be the target, and the instant he offers to help her you know he’ll sabotage her. Saori is a very likable main character, though. Her motives were sweet, and I really felt bad for her since she was trying her best but just couldn’t understand the material through studying or the manner in which her teachers were conveying.

It sucks that she was manipulated by Hayasaka. In another universe, that would have been a great origin for a romantic couple in a shoujo series. Cute class president helps a girl get into the school her deceased dad once taught at and helps her realize that she really is very smart but she just learns in a different manner than others. Meanwhile the guy could be under a lot of pressure to be perfect or something and she helps him relax and let go of perfectionism. But that’s a story for a different manga, I guess.

Chapter 13: Love Betrayed

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This is the story of Kana, one of two managers of a soccer team captained by her boyfriend, Ogata. There are strict rules against interpersonal relationships between those in the soccer club, so they keep their relationship strictly under wraps.

The only one who knows of their relationship is Kana’s best friend and co-manager, Yukari, and she’s obviously the target. This is one of those stories where they try to keep the target a secret. They’re doing all sorts of shitty things to the MC and we have to figure out who it is before the MC does. But they make it very obvious. Razor in the laundry? Gee, the only other person who touches that is Yukari. Her new shoes that she bought to match Yukari’s all cut up? Gee, that’s another thing related to Yukari, and she also knows where your locker is. Window suddenly broke in the room you were alone in, burning your leg with scalding hot water? Gee, Yukari, the one who took you off field duty and knew it’d be your turn to make tea, do you know who did this?

Granted, it’s obvious from the get-go. Any story that has two girls who are best friends and one cute popular guy being involved with one of them will always play the ‘I hate you because I liked (Guy)!’ card.

To their credit, they did throw me off the scent for a minute. A guy on the soccer team named Yamane appeared and it seemed he might have been harassing Kana because he was jealous of Ogata, being passed over by a scout for him, and knew they were dating. A shirt of Ogata’s had also been destroyed, which indicated more of an attack on him than Kana. Yukari tells her that he called her and told her he was the harasser and that he was in a nearby park. She told Kana to meet her there so they could confront him.

Yamane approached her before Yukari could arrive and tried to stab her with a knife. Yukari arrived to stop the attack and convinced her to not tell anyone or else it could negatively affect Ogata and the team.

The next day at school, the coach calls Kana into his office and shows her a picture that was sent to him that depicted Yamane and Kana during the attack, but it was staged like he was embracing her. Since relationships between club members is strictly forbidden, he tells her she should quit.

Ogata is also about to confront Kana about a photo that was sent to him, but before he can talk much, Kana decides to break up with him, fearing for his safety.

Kana believed Yamane was responsible, Yukari suggested she call Hell Girl on him, and with a smirk, she basically gave herself away entirely – yeah she was behind everything, but let’s keep going. Kana is indeed about to call Hell Girl on Yamane, but Ogata suddenly calls and Yukari is sent to hell.

We finally get Yukari’s evil….and completely stupid plan. She was indeed the one who was harassing Kana, though Yamane was the one who ripped Ogata’s shirt. Yukari blackmailed him with that information into attacking Kana so she’d quit being manager. She wanted her to send Yamane to hell so her loose ends would be tied….but….that doesn’t make any sense nor does it solve anything.

Yukari’s main goal was to get Kana to quit as manager so she could go to the county sports meet with Ogata without Kana and possibly also get her to break up with Ogata. But if she sent who she believed to be her harasser to hell, she’d be free to go. So, if she just didn’t quit and said there was nothing going on between her and the now-gone Yamane, or if she said she saw the error of her ways and broke up with him, then….she’d be fine to go.

None of this should have lead to her breaking up with Ogata either. She wouldn’t even talk to him about the photo. And if she did believe Yamane was responsible for all this, then breaking up with him wouldn’t be for his safety since Ogata’s the main target of Yamane’s ire.

How does Kana sending Yamane to hell even help her? She was already blackmailing him so he’s not much of a loose end to tie up. She literally says “If you’d sent Yamane to hell, my plan would have worked!” Uhm, how? Does sending him to hell make her quit the club? She already broke up with Ogata, isn’t that what you wanted? She probably would have quit after that anyway because being in the club with her ex around, especially when she didn’t want to break up with him, would’ve been too tough for her.

Now you might be wondering how Yukari got caught and how the target shifted from Yamane to her. Well, right as she was about to enter Yamane’s name into the system, Ogata called and told her that the person who sent him the photo was someone who knew of their relationship. What the picture showed and what was in the message are never seen, but Kana figures it out since Yukari is the only one who knew of their relationship.

Her motives were not only her own love of Ogata but because she had never liked Kana. She always hated her, in fact. Yukari found Kana annoying, especially when she made gestures like buying the same sneakers as her.

Her hell torture is okay but kinda boring. Basically, she watches the school staff watch a bunch of videos depicting her concocting her schemes and then a fake Kana who is crying blood asks her questions about why she did it. In the end, she’s lost to a sea of skulls.

After that, Kana is happily back with Ogata, but she’s now destined for hell herself.

This story was a big mixed bag. On one hand, I applaud them for realizing the predictability of the plot they set for themselves and trying to throw the reader off course, but on the other hand….they just went with the obvious culprit in the end anyway, so their efforts were pretty much ruined. I was actually about to eat some humble pie when Yamane came up. I was like “Yup, Twix, that’s what you get when you’re all cocky. You were wrong and an idiot.” But nope. I was right and a smart brain person.

Bonus Chapter: Tacking Stitches

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Returning to the anime for a tad, we have Ai’s backstory, which is being given in a different manner. The backstory is the same, but how it’s presented is different from the anime.

A girl named Rie has been dating a boy named, coincidentally enough, Sentarou Shibata, for a few years now. However, she’s recently spotted him getting friendly with another girl, so she called Hell Correspondence to get revenge.

Rie starts having second thoughts and tries to give the doll back to Ai, but they try to explain to Rie that hatred drives humans. Living in hatred is much harder, and she’s taking the easy way out by giving the doll back. To highlight this, they give Ai’s backstory in regards to Sentarou and the Seven Sending ritual.

Ai is so pissed off about this case, considering the boy’s name, that she actually tries to kill the boy herself in order to prod Rie to pull the string. Rie refuses, however. She explains that she was too hasty and wants to believe in Sentarou more so she can have a future with good memories with him. She also tells Ai that the past Sentarou probably liked her too.

Ai quits her assault and leaves. Sentarou explains that the girl was his club manager and they became close while discussing problems in the club. He apologizes and says he’ll never give her a reason to feel insecure again.

Meanwhile, Hone Onna tells Ai that Sentarou (the original) actually built a shrine in her honor. While Ai can’t say she’s forgiven him, she does say this with a smile on her face, kinda implying that she has.

While this is a sweet enough story, it’s also very lame in comparison to the anime version. I get that the anime had all that buildup with Hajime and Tsugumi that the manga didn’t have, but this version is still kinda lame. She slaughtered a whole village and lived out 400 years immersed in hatred, but one conversation with a girl who barely knows her situation telling her ‘I think Sentarou liked you too’ is enough to chill her out and have her make some modicum of peace with her past?

As for why Hajime and Tsugumi don’t appear in this manga at all (at least yet, they might be thrown in there in future installments.) it’s supposedly for a simple and kinda stupid reason – Eto thought it’d be too difficult to work in the long-running story of a man throughout this series when it’s in a Nakayoshi style. Nakayoshi is a popular monthly shoujo manga series, and considering she specifically pointed out that Hajime’s a man, I guess she means she couldn’t figure out how to tell a man’s story in shoujo style….Then just have it more focused on Tsugumi?

I get if she really thought she couldn’t make it work, though. That kinda begs the question as to WHY the manga is in such a shoujo-y fashion anyway. It’s a very depressing horror series – why choose a shoujo style for it?

Anyway, there is one more bonus chapter called Sakura Uta, but it’s mostly just Ai having a nice dream about Sentarou back in the good ol’ days. It’s kinda sweet.

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And that’s it for volume three! Surprisingly, none of the stories were reflected in the anime, barring the bonus chapters, and even those were just loosely based on the anime stories. The chapters we do have were, admittedly, lackluster. While I didn’t hate or even seriously dislike any of the entries, I can’t deny that most of them are just too silly or nonsensical. My favorites of the volume are probably Love Betrayed and The Cheat. Admittedly, Love Betrayed is similarly nonsensical, but I like how Ogata and Kana worked together to take down Yukari, and The Cheat was the best story out of the whole lot in regards to overall quality.

As for the one story they did mirror from the anime, like I said, it was cool to see the backstory itself in manga form, but the bookend story was just lame. At least the main conflict had a sweet resolution, but that’s about all I can say for it.

Next time….


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Higanjima (Manga) Volume 5 Review

Plot: Akira manages to free Atsushi from Miyabi’s mind control, and the group makes their escape. Most of them make their way across a rope bridge, but Atsushi chooses to stay behind for the sake of buying them time and getting his revenge on Miyabi. As he brandishes his sword, we learn why exactly Atsushi has such a personal vendetta against Miyabi.

Breakdown: Fresh off the heels of Atsushi being mind-controlled by the newly revealed main baddie, Miyabi, and Yuki supposedly being stabbed by him, this volume is actually more about backstory than anything.

I was relieved that the most badass person on the team wasn’t going to be a puppet of Miyabi for long, although I have mixed feelings about the backstory between the two.

Two years ago, Atsushi came to the island to get a marriage blessing from his beloved Ryouko’s parents. To do so, he had to present an offering in a shrine that the villagers were afraid of. It’s fine if you leave it alone, but Atsushi’s curiosity got the better of him and he couldn’t help but enter. There were legends of vampires surrounding the shrine, and Ryouko desperately wanted to turn back.

When Atsushi heard a voice asking for help, that wasn’t an option anymore. In a room in the back of the shrine was Miyabi who seemingly feigned being ill so Atsushi would let him out and unleash him upon the island once more.

He did, and everyone on the island paid for it. The reason Atsushi hasn’t escaped the island in the two years he’s been there, despite having commandeered a boat, is because he feels guilty for letting the vampire virus loose on the island. And the reason he has a personal vendetta against Miyabi runs deeper than infecting everyone with this virus.

Miyabi got to Ryouko and paralyzed Atsushi with a quick bite before biting her and brutally raping her right in front of him. She died as a result of being drained.

Even though the Ryouko backstory’s a bit cliché, I liked how this entire volume played out. We end on another cliffhanger in present time, even though I sincerely doubt Miyabi’s dead.

Atsushi continues to be a badass, and I commend the others, despite being incredibly weak and wounded, for trying to help Atsushi however they can from the other side of the bridge. They could’ve been gone and in that boat ten times over in the time they had, but they stayed to ensure Atsushi had a fighting chance.

Something I should note, though doesn’t really bump up the content rating too much since we’ve had graphic sexual content already, is the rape scene. Not only is it a rape scene, so of course the content rating rises here, but they do a ridiculous job trying to ‘censor’ Miyabi’s genitals. There is a closeup shot, right on, fully erect, details intact, and they think it’s censored just because it’s in silhouette.

I’m very intrigued for the next volume, and I’m especially looking forward to more Atsushi badassery. Miyabi is shaping up to be a decent antagonist, but I’d like to see more to him besides ‘he’s evil just because evil.’

Rating: 8/10


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Hell Girl (Manga) Volume 2 Review

Chapter 6: Ice Shadows

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This chapter was not one mirrored in the anime, but it is very well-written and quite intriguing. Saeki is a great ice skater and top of her team. Despite this, she screws up in a big competition and has been skipping practices, so she’s overlooked for the spot in the national competition for a girl named Eri, with her substitute being Marie.

Saeki is infuriated at this, but can’t figure out what to do to get her spot from them. Her friends tell her about Hell Girl, but that’s not an option for her because she has two targets and Hell Girl only allows one entry. However, that doesn’t mean Hell Girl is completely useless to her.

She concocts a plan to have Eri and Marie send each other to hell. She tricks Eri into thinking Marie sicced a bunch of bullies on her, and she tricked Marie into thinking Eri tried to kill her by locking her in a room with a gas leak.

Her plan seemingly works – the two send each other to hell and she is chosen to skate in the nationals.

However, all is not as it seems.

Saeki is actually the one going to hell. Eri and Marie figured out easily that she was behind everything. They also had great trust in each other to not do such terrible things since they had been best friends for over ten years. Saeki was the one who planted those ideas into their heads, and she was the one who just so happened to save Eri from the bullies and Marie from the room of gas.

They both entered Saeki’s name into Hell Correspondence, and now they’re both marked for hell, but they’ve still got each other and their bright futures as ice skaters ahead of them. Eri even wins first place in the nationals, much to the delight of Marie who was cheering her on the whole time.

But….this is really confusing.

Why are they BOTH damned to hell? This has never happened in any other Hell Girl story I’ve watched or read. Even if they both contacted Ai at the same time, she wouldn’t give the offer to both of them. It’s always just a one-way street – a soul for a soul.

In fact, in one episode of the anime, a client tries to use the doll on someone, but Ai tells her she can’t because someone else is about to pull the string on her target.

It is a beautiful gesture that they basically agreed to go to hell together (even though I’ve explained before why that’s also pretty dumb) but I just don’t think this would fly with how Hell Girl operates.

Another curious thing in this episode is Ai at the very end. She’s watching the girls skate and is very happy and content. I really don’t think Eto gets it that Ai is supposed to be emotionless.

Oh well, at least they didn’t have Ai wait until the girls were about to commit suicide to give them the offer this time.

Chapter 7: Family

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So, this chapter starts with a flashback to the death of the main character, Chiaki’s, mother on her death bed telling her and her sister, Chisa, that they need to live good lives because she’ll be waiting to reunite with them in heaven.

Well…..Wonder where this could possibly be going.

Chiaki is in college, I think, but she’s coming home for a weekend visit. Their mother has been dead for over a year, so their father has hired a local woman named Yurie to care for the house and Chisa while he’s working.

Despite having a nice reunion with her little sister, Chiaki is troubled when she realizes Chisa is very visibly afraid of her new babysitter. Yurie claims Chisa is just having a hard time accepting her into the house, so she’s lying and making up stories when everything she’s claiming she’s doing is explained through other means. For example, Chiaki found the framed picture of her mother that she kept by her bed in Chisa’s room, with the glass of the frame cracked, and Chisa claimed she was protecting it from Yurie since she threw it in the garbage. Yurie, on the other hand, says the frame broke when she was cleaning Chiaki’s room and she set it aside for when she’d get a new frame for it…..but why would she keep the broken glass hanging around? That’s a hazard in a house with a little kid.

Chisa tells Chiaki that Yurie is very mean to her, yelling at her all the time and hitting her. Chiaki doesn’t believe her for quite a while until she discovers all of the bruises on Chisa’s chest. She calls Hell Girl before Yurie can react to the accusations about the bruises. When she talks to her dad and Yurie about it, they claim she kept falling off of her tricycle, causing the bruises, and that maybe, at worst, Yurie overreacted when she told her to be more careful.

Chiaki decides to accept that story, because apparently she’d rather believe the word of this woman she literally met that same day instead of her own flesh and blood. (Her father only corroborates Yurie’s claim because that’s the story she told him.)

She leaves to go back to school, but suddenly gets a panicked phone call from her sister. Chiaki rushes home and finds Yurie slicing off Chisa’s hair. She decides to stop playing nice and just tell Chiaki that, yeah, she’s an abusive bitch who hates kids. The only reason she took this job to begin with was because their father has a good salary and a nice house, so she can eventually marry him and get his money.

Chiaki threatens to go to the cops, but Yurie says it wouldn’t matter anyway because they’d never believe them over her….Uhm…why? The kid is covered in bruises and has her hair lopped off. She’s clearly very scared and jumpy when touched, which are clear signs of abuse. And now she has an adult witness to back her up, one who just got sliced by the accused, but yet Yurie believes the cops would never believe them?

Because this is Hell Girl, where everyone’s over the top evil, Yurie lunges for Chiaki to stab her to death with the scissors which is, uh….yeah, how would you ever explain that away, darlin’? “Oh Chisa and Chiaki’s dad! Chiaki just came home for a surprise visit less than a day after she went back to school – and in the middle of the school day no less – and suddenly decided to run around with scissors. She tripped, fell and stabbed herself 18 times with the scissors! What a tragic accident!”

Chisa jumps in front of Chiaki as Yurie attacks, but Chiaki pulls the string and immediately sends Yurie to hell. The hell torture this time around is pretty creepy. She’s surrounded by a bunch of children seemingly soaked in blood and grabbing for her. Yurie doesn’t show a drop of regret, and Ai ferries her away to hell.

Meanwhile, Chiaki laments on failing to uphold her promise to her mother. She’ll never reunite with her in heaven now, but she doesn’t have any regrets because she saved Chisa’s life. Their dad reveals that, per Hell Girl magic, I guess, they found out that Yurie was accused of committing marriage fraud several times and abusing the husbands and children in those families, too. The cops are looking for her, but they can’t find her.

I have to believe this revelation is Hell Girl magic, because otherwise this is twice as depressing. They could have known the truth about her almost immediately and Chiaki wouldn’t have had to sacrifice herself.

Truth be told, this is one of those situations that seemed largely avoidable. She should have called the cops before she called Hell Girl. And I doubt she had enough vengeance in her heart to even contact her if she didn’t even really believe Chisa very much. Technically, it’s a good thing she did call Hell Girl then because otherwise she or Chisa may have died, but it also could have been avoided entirely if she called the cops.

Granted, yeah, the cops are very spotty when it comes to situations like this. I’m not even really certain which side their dad would be on, which in itself is kinda stupid. They’re not even dating or anything, and she’s been their housekeeper/babysitter all of a month, but it’s implied that their dad is willing to believe Yurie over Chisa and Chiaki on everything. Still, calling the police should at least have been a step. Hell Girl is typically a last resort type of deal.

Not saying this situation isn’t believable at its core, however. There many real circumstances similar to theirs, sadly.

Still, this was a good but fairly sad story. Like I said, you pretty much know what will happen the instant they throw in that flashback to the mom dying, but it still really sucks that Chiaki will never see her mom again in heaven.

Also, small note, this is finally the first time we fully see the client receiving the doll and pulling the string in the manga, so that’s pretty cool.

Chapter 8: Distorted Love

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Another chapter that was never reflected in the anime, this story is about a girl named Mei and her close friend, Tsukasa. For the past three years, Tsukasa has been hospitalized with a severe illness, but he still holds firm to his dreams of someday becoming a detective. Mei visits him every day and brings flowers to him sometimes, but she has recently started getting stalker-esque obsessive text messages.

She doesn’t tell Tsukasa about it in fear of making his condition worse, but the stalker’s behaviors are escalating. He’s broken into her room to steal her school albums, and someone in a rabbit costume (she loves rabbits) grabbed her and said threatening things to her.

Mei believes she hears someone call the guy in the costume Yuki, who was an old classmate that she spotted a little while ago. Thinking he must be the culprit and realizing the cops nor her mother will help her, she calls Hell Girl. Stopping myself for a minute there, it’s pretty unreasonable that her mother simply doesn’t believe her on any of this. She even said she was wrong about the intruder in her room when Mei specifically said stuff was stolen from her room. Why is her mother so flippant about this? Is it Terrible Parent day in Hell Girl world?

She’s kidnapped by the man in the bunny costume and knocked out. When she awakes, she’s in a beautiful dress. The stalker explains that he read in her album that she wanted to get married, so they’re going to do so today. Mei pulls the string on the doll, but, shockingly, nothing happens. When the stalker reveals his identity, it turns out it was actually the florist who was selling her flowers to give to Tsukasa for several months. His name is, coincidentally, Yukee.

So….did Yuki get sent to hell? She did pull the string, but they never reveal if she has a curse mark. Why did Ai allow this to happen? Isn’t she unable to provide a doll if the target isn’t ‘correct’?

Mei is terrified, but Yukee soon vanishes before her eyes. He has been sent to hell by none other than Tsukasa.

He had found out about the break-in from her mother, and he found out everything else on his own. Tsukasa did some investigating into Yukee, whom he found to be suspicious. She was always getting the stalker texts on Wednesday, and her room was broken into on a Wednesday, which is the Yukee’s day off. He had done this investigating the night before, working on the computer all night when he was told not to, which lead to him developing a bad fever.

When he called to talk to Yukee, he said he was doing a wedding ceremony. I assume Tsukasa knew Mei was missing somehow, so he called Hell Girl and pulled the string in the nick of time.

Believing his time left in the world of the living is very short, he was content with accepting his fate in hell soon. He had been able to save Mei’s life, and that’s all that mattered to him. Mei is, of course, devastated and proclaims tearfully that he’ll get better and be a detective like he always wanted. Either way, they’ll spend as much time as they can together before fate pulls them apart once more.

Even though there were a bunch of conveniences in the story to make the mystery and resolution work, I absolutely loved this story. The mystery was intriguing, and the scene where the string pull doesn’t work really throws you for a loop. You’re left seriously worried about Mei after that happens because string pulls always work in Hell Girl. The service is designed to not really be able to target the wrong person, so having the string pull not work and the reason being that Mei wrote the wrong name into the website was really shocking.

I’m still wondering whether Yuki was sent to hell or not. I’d think not, but I can’t be certain. Like I said, nothing like this has ever happened before and they never reveal if Mei has a curse mark. The only other circumstance I can think of that was kinda like this was in one of the first chapters where the client sends her tormentor to hell, but it’s revealed that the target wasn’t the only one doing the abuse, but that’s really not the same because Yuki was entirely innocent.

The relationship between Mei and Tsukasa was also beautifully sweet and tragic. They’re so great together, and it makes me so sad that their relationship will almost certainly end soon and badly. And they’ll never be reunited in the afterlife….

Chapter 9: Lost Cat

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Oh boy, an animal in a Hell Girl story? I can only imagine happy things happening.

This story focuses on a girl named Maki befriending a rather quiet and somewhat unfriendly girl named Juli after they bond over caring for a lost cat named Mikey. They become very good friends, but things all spiral downward when their substitute teacher, Takamine, enters their lives.

Takamine is one of the most ridiculously over-evil antagonists I’ve seen since the episode Bound Girl (And that one also included animal abuse….) The instant she sets foot in the classroom, the first thing she does is take a collection of paper cranes the class had made (and Maki had started) for their actual teacher who is on maternity leave and crumple them up. She claims that anything that isn’t schoolwork is a waste and will be destroyed.

Juli is enraged by this and grabs Takamine, which earns her a stint in the English room, which is apparently full of garbage. Takamine insults her hair before taking her there, and then drags her by the hair to the room. But that’s not all. Takamine also gives her heaps of work based on things their class hasn’t even covered yet and tells her she can’t go home until she’s done.

Maki helps her out with her work, but Takamine just keeps piling on Juli. She completely removes Juli from the class list, refuses to include her in roll call, and she has decided that she no longer gets a desk and will have to work in the closet from now on.

Meanwhile, the rest of the class isn’t getting away scot-free. They’re being given incredibly hard tests day after day and exhausting all of them.

Believe or not, we’re still not done. Maki spots Takamine trying to force feed Juli tuna eyeballs for lunch, and when she tries to tell the principal about it, he doesn’t believe her. Her friends also don’t want to get involved for fear of Takamine’s wrath. They tell Maki to do the same, but she refuses to abandon her friend.

Instead, she contacts Hell Girl and gets her doll, but she hesitates because of the price she’ll have to pay.

Things come to a head when Maki hears some girls talking about hearing meowing coming from a garbage bag Takamine was carrying to the river. They were worried, but too afraid of Takamine to do anything about it. Maki rushes to get Juli and they head to the river, seeing the garbage bag floating downstream – and indeed there are meowing sounds coming from it.

Juli jumps into the river to get Mikey, but they both vanish underwater. Juli ends up in critical condition as a result, and Mikey seems lost forever. Takamine has the balls to come to the hospital and mock Juli to Maki’s face, calling her an idiot for trying to save the cat and saying the cat was a piece of trash who needed to be thrown out because it was something that had nothing to do with schoolwork. She finishes off by saying if Juli dies because of it, it will be perfect because she was toxic trash too.

You see what I mean? This bitch is too ridiculously over-evil. I mean, good job in the realm of making me hate her guts, but she’s almost comically malicious.

Hearing those final words from Takamine, Maki angrily pulls the string. Takamine’s hell torture is pretty good. All of her personal items are destroyed by the hell team, their heads all turn into weird mutated tuna eyeballs and to top it all off they tie her up into a trash bag and throw her into the river Styx where she’s finally ferried…or floated…down to hell.

After that’s all said and done, Juli recovers and she and Maki enjoy class with a new substitute teacher who is much nicer, promising to always be friends forever.

But wait.

Could it be!?

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YAY MIKEY’S ALIVE!

I was really surprised that they chose to do this. They very rarely ever let the animal live in these stories, and I’m not even sure how he survived. It’s implied that Ai may have saved him because she was holding him while delivering the hell torture to Takamine, in which case you’re aces in my book, Ai.

All in all, I really loved the friendship development between Juli and Maki, and I truly appreciate that they let the cat live, but Takamine is just super-villain levels of evil. She doesn’t even try to hide that she’s doing all of this absolutely terrible shit, but the principal refuses to believe Maki when she tells him about the bullying just because grades are up? Come on. Can’t any authority figure be competent in this universe?

Chapter 10: Friends

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We’re back with another story that was somewhat mirrored in the anime in the episode of the same name. The names of the characters aren’t the same: Minami is Azusa here, and Shiori is Hitomi.

The circumstances of their friendship is also different. In the anime, they had only recently become best friends since Minami was a transfer student and Shiori had befriended her. In the manga, Hitomi and Azusa had been best friends since they were little. She used to protect her from boys who would pick on her, and as a result she became very clingy to Hitomi, though Hitomi didn’t seem to mind.

In the anime, Shiori just ditches Minami as a friend once she becomes friends with two other bitches, and for some reason they can’t allow her to also be their friend. In the manga, they go to a group date with a bunch of guys for karaoke. Azusa is very nervous around guys because they picked on her so much when she was little, but with Hitomi by her side she decides to go for it. She takes a liking to a particular boy, but decides to not pursue anything because Hitomi clearly liked him.

The next night, she gets a text from the guy that was seemingly asking them all out on a group date again, so Azusa accepts, but she finds out the next day that he was only asking Azusa out, which devastates Hitomi. She and her friends instantly vilify Azusa for what she did, not even trying to hear her out. Hitomi also blocks her number, so she can’t call or text. When she visits her house to talk about it, Hitomi flips and even accuses her of being a stalker.

The same thing happened in the anime, for the most part. Shiori’s new friends were telling her how stalker-y Minami was because she was texting Shiori once every half hour, and they even told the teacher so she’d get her to leave her alone.

When Minami approaches her in person, at school, Shiori accidentally falls over. Even though it was clearly an accident everyone blames Minami and acts as if she did it on purpose.

In the manga, things get even more heated. Using the photos they took earlier, Hitomi makes cards with Azusa’s number on them that basically amount to ‘for a good time, call…’ kind of cards. She sends them out to guys all over town, and Azusa starts getting messages and calls from weird guys. Some of the guys even approach her and try to get her to come with them.

Azusa recognizes the handwriting as Hitomi’s but calls the police to help find the perp and keep the creepers away from her house.

Unable to take any more, Azusa calls Hell Girl and gets the straw doll. The only difference between the anime and manga here is that Azusa is much less malicious than Minami. In the anime, Minami is so set on giving Shiori her just desserts that she expresses a desire to pull the string right in front of Shiori’s face. Azusa does no such thing.

She keeps the doll in her desk and leaves it one day. Hitomi starts having random wrist pains, so she heads to the nurse’s office. On her way back, she sees the doll in Azusa’s desk and believes it’s a voodoo doll with which Azusa used to give her wrist pain.

This is way more justifiable than in the anime, where Shiori just thinks it’s a voodoo doll for really no other reason than it’s a funny looking straw doll.

In both versions, Hitomi/Shiori takes the straw doll and nails it to a shrine post to curse Azusa/Minami, but obviously that doesn’t work.

Later, Azusa stays home from school due to a fever. I forget why, but the same happens in the anime.

While at school, in the anime, Shiori’s friends just randomly ditch her for a new third member. And, since it’s established that groups of four friends are forbidden by god or whatever the writing is doing to justify this, she now has no friends.

In the manga, her friends start turning on her when they hear of her sending out the cards. They also get concerned about being involved with her since they know Azusa called the cops for what Hitomi did. This is also much more justified of a turnaround for Hitomi/Shiori than the anime.

In both versions, they contact Azusa/Minami and try to make up, which Azusa/Minami eagerly accepts. However, Hitomi/Shiori pulls out the doll and suggests they curse their classmates with it, even explaining that she has needles with her to do the deed. Azusa/Minami explains that the doll doesn’t work like a voodoo doll and that she’s the only one who can use it. Hitomi/Shiori keeps pushing her to use it, even after Azusa/Minami explains that the doll sends both the target and the user to hell, not realizing that she’s the target and not caring about what happens to Azusa/Minami. She forces Azusa/Minami to pull the string and Hitomi/Shiori is sent to hell.

Azusa/Minami falls to the ground in despair in both versions, but what Ai says to her is drastically different. In the anime, as Minami says she didn’t want this, Ai says she indeed did want this, as evidenced when she said straight to Ai’s face that she wanted to pull the string in front of Shiori. She allowed herself to be consumed with hatred, and now she has to pay for it.

In the manga, Ai tells Azusa that her own weakness caused all of this. If she had just been stronger and not relied on Hitomi so much, none of this would have happened. Ai tells her to become stronger and make better friends, which she vows to do, even if she’s marked for hell.

In the end, the manga is SO much better than the anime’s story. The anime had a stupid reason for breaking the friends apart. Suddenly deciding that you want to be friends with two other girls and not including your other friend just ‘because’ didn’t make any sense to me then and it doesn’t now. Thinking your friend stole a guy you were clearly interested in…..is still kinda stupid just based on the fact that they only knew the guy for one night, but these are teenage girls, so shit happens.

It’s implied that Hitomi even purposely set all of this up to get Azusa to leave her alone because she was too clingy, and it that’s true then there are way better ways to do it than making everyone think she’s a creepy whore.

In the anime, they weren’t even friends that long anyway. She was her first and best friend at her new school, but they didn’t have the same history or dynamic as Azusa and Hitomi.

What Hitomi did to Azusa was also worse than what Shiori did to Minami. In both scenarios, she made many people at school not want to associate themselves with Azusa/Minami, but Hitomi went the extra mile to make people think Azusa was basically a call girl – even floating her photo and phone number around to skeevy guys. Azusa could have really gotten hurt if one of those guys got aggressive with her.

Finally, Azusa is objectively better than Minami. Azusa’s character flaw is in her weakness and codependency whereas Minami’s is that she suddenly let herself be consumed with an almost ridiculous level of hatred for someone who didn’t even do that much to her. I’ve had friends treat me way worse than that and I never felt a desire to not only send them to hell but basically mock them as I do it.

I don’t believe Azusa’s weakness is really the core cause of the blame here, but it’s a part of it. Many Hell Girl cases are created as a result of personal weakness. They want a relatively easy method of taking care of a problem in their life – one that can’t be traced back to them from a legal standpoint and doesn’t actually get blood on their hands. There’s still a hefty price, but, siding with Hajime for a bit, numerous instances of Hell Girl usage is fairly petty and could have been fixed without Hell Girl if the effort was put in.

If Azusa had just accepted that Hitomi was an unreasonable bitch that wasn’t worth being friends with, she could have just laid low for a while, stopped contacting Hitomi, let Hitomi move on, especially if her goal was just to get Azusa to go away, and then eventually go make friends with other people. The others won’t be hungup on the betrayal crap forever, especially since it was a dude she liked for all of a few hours. Azusa didn’t even do anything with the guy. She just accepted his offer. Teenagers get past this shit real quick.

Likewise, if she hadn’t been chewing at the bit to accept Hitomi’s apology despite the shitty things she did to her, then Hitomi wouldn’t have been able to force her to use the doll. Hitomi probably would have just tried to use the doll herself, nothing would have happened and that would have been the end of it.

It makes a little more sense for her to do this in the anime because Shiori didn’t do something like herd a bunch of perverts to Minami’s location acting as if she was a slut.

The absolute ending was also much more hopeful than the anime’s. In the anime, the only ‘bright’ spot is Minami looking forward to seeing Shiori again in hell. In the manga, she decides that she wants to be stronger and seek out better friends than people like Hitomi. She may still be destined for hell, but at least she’s more determined to live a better life as a stronger person who surrounds herself with good people for as long as she can.

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And that was volume two! Definitely heaping loads of improvement from volume one, and they’re certainly getting better at communication between the anime showrunners and the manga author for important elements of the Hell Girl universe, like the straw doll and a bit more implementation of the hell team as actual characters. Not everything is meshing between versions in that regard, but it’s gotten a lot better. At least we’re finally past her phase of needing the person to be on the verge of committing suicide or murder before she finally shows up to help the client.

The start of the next volume notes that it was released right when season two of the anime was debuting, so that’s pretty cool. She also mentions she’ll be putting more of the hell team in the stories, which is great. Not sure if the author intends on including Hajime and Tsugumi or Ai’s backstory, but time will tell I suppose.


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