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Gad Guard #5: Acquaintances PDF Print E-mail
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Written by maehara   
Friday, 27 October 2006 00:00
Volume Five (Cover Art)When the responsibility of controlling a techode gets too much for Hajiki, it's time for a change of scenery - so along with Arashi, it's time for the boy wonder to head for the country and get away from the destruction around him.  While there, there's some unexpected news about his father, while back in Night Town Takumi's having to come to terms with his own little change in circumstances...

17 - Gun - Sword - Beast
The police Special Ops department comes to have a word with Hajiki, about possession of an illegal Heavy Metal - specifically, Katana's, and they want the help of Hajiki and Lightning to bring him in.  Of course, he'll be suitably rewarded if he agrees, which makes it a very tempting offer, but Special Ops don't appear to be a group you really want to get involved with.  The police don't seem to be the only ones who are after Katana now, either.  Meanwhile, Katana's busy destroying every Gad he can find, starting with those belonging to Aiko's father, while Takumi's techode continues to rampage out-of-control...

Visit from Special BranchHomeless

18 - The Logic of Those Who Leave
Hajiki's trying to avoid going "home" - wherever that is, now that Lightning's destroyed his real home.  His mother's worried sick about where he's disappeared to, but for the meantime he's happy to hide out in Hachisuka's basement with Arashi and mope.  The way Hachisuka sees it, Hajiki has two options: give up Lightning and go back to a normal teenage life, or challenge Katana again and probably get killed - but which option will Hajiki choose?  Meanwhile, Aiko tries to patch things up with Takumi...

MopingGrowing friendship?

19 - A Road Companion
Arashi break the news of Hajiki's departure to his mother and Satsuki, and is surprised that they don't appear interested in tracking him down - neither do Catherine and Hachisuka, for that matter.  It's only when her brother come to try and persuade her to visit home herself that she begins to realise why Haijiki may be so keen to get away.  Eventually she decides to follow his lead, and heads out of Night Town to try and find him again...

Unforgiving fatherHit the road

20 - The End of This World
While Arashi recovers from her fever, she and Hajiki are staying in a small village - a family there have taken them in in return for Hajiki working in their orchard.  It's as peaceful a life as Hajiki has ever known, but not everyone he's working with is overly pleased to see him - especially after they spot him with Lightning.  When the two decide it's time to move on, they find that Lightning and Hayate are missing - they've been taken by one of the orchard-workers, who challenges Hajiki to a game of chicken if he wants the two techodes back...

Smarter than she looksGrafitti job

If techodes are a reflection of your inner feelings, as is revealed here, then you have to wonder about Takumi's state of mind after seeing Thunderbolt go berserk - you can't help but think that the kid's got to be a little unstable underneath all the "warrior of justice!" bravado.  Aiko also has to come to terms with her feelings for Messcher here - what she's been using him for, what she needs him for (if anything) - and comes to her own decision that neatly opposes Takumi's.  One grows up and moves on, another is stuck not knowing what to do, and the way it plays out as the two of them deal with each other over the course of the volume is quite touching in its own way.

The main focus of the volume is on Hajiki, though, and how he reacts to seeing Lightning destroy his family's home.  It's his first real realisation that his techode is far from being completely under his control, and a combination of guilt at what has happened and a desire not to see anyone else hurt leads him to leave Night Town behind and head out into the country.  Arashi, fresh from another confrontation with her father, decides to follow him, and the two eventually end up in a remote village, where Hajiki works as an orchard picker while Arashi recovers from an illness she picked up during their travels.

These episodes are a complete change in tone over what Gad Guard has done before now, and a welcome one at that.  Fair enough, running away from your problems is never the way to solve them, but Hajiki and Arashi are beginning to learn that now through the time they're spending away from the action.  There's also some good "quality" time for the two of them to spend together, as Arashi finally begins to live up to her potential as the show's romantic interest.  There's a similar sort of feel to the arc in SaiKano where Shuji and Chise attempt to get away from it all (albeit without the same levels of angst and destruction), and for me this was the first part of the series where I actually felt the story was going somewhere, rather than just rehashing the same ideas over again.

While Hajiki eventually gets the urge to return home, though, Arashi's quite happy to stay on the run - until in one of those fortunate coincidences, Hajiki learns from the family he's staying with that his father may still be alive.  With Hajiki having always though he'd been killed years earlier, there's a powerful draw from him to learn who's been telling the truth, and so the volume ends with Hajiki and Arashi determined to head for Unit Khaki, where his father was allegedly last seen, to see what they can find.  This all came a little out of the blue - more evidence that Gad Guard has significantly changed track - but I do like the direction events are now headed in.

This volume starts off pretty much sticking to the same formula Gad Guard's used all series, but by the end of the volume there have been some significant changes to the setting and Hajiki's travels have taken him and Arashi away from Night Town and into a far more interesting story, and that makes this volume a far more enjoyable experience than what we've been given so far.  It's just a shame it took this long for Gad Guard to really get into its stride.

Rating - ****

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