Friday, 25 April 2008 16:00
If you kill in the name of saving life, does that make you a hypocrite? Does showing your human side make you less effective as a warrior? Does fighting for something you believe in take precedence over the rest of your life? Just a few of the questions that Kazuki and Tokiko must deal with in this volume of Buso Renkin. At least they don't venture into deviant dress sense, unlike some other characters...
18 - If You Doubt That You Are a Hypocrite
The disappearance of so many people from Koushaku's mansion has drawn the media's attention, and Kazuki's having problems keeping his mouth shut about his involvement. Tokiko has no such problems - to her, they've just dealt with a problem that needed dealt with, and with that done it's likely she'll be moving on to her next assignment - but she finds herself having to deal with Kazuki's emotional backlash to what he's just been through. He's no warrior, and dealing with Koushaku and his homunculi has been difficult for him. The fight's not over yet, either - thanks to the intervention of his grandfather, long thought dead, Koushaku has survived. Now, as Papillon, he's ready to make his comeback...
19-21 - Kazuki & Tokiko's Choice
Instead of being reassigned, Tokiko finds herself enrolled in Kazuki's school, lodging in the same dormitory, and with Kazuki now a fully-fledged Alchemist Warrior the pair are all set to carry on the fight against the homunculi. Her early plan of being a loner and staying away from her new classmates soon goes out the window - her connections to Kazuki see about that - and as soon as she's settled in the school she and Kazuki receive their new mission: to find Dr Butterfly (aka Koushaku's grandfather) and destroy his organisation, the League of Extraordinary Elect. Kazuki's also about to learn that Koushaku is still alive, and looking forward to renewing their rivarly - but Kazuki still isn't sure that being an Alchemist Warrior is what he really wants...
22 - Night in the Dormitory
It's Bravo's plan for Kazuki to attend class during the day and train by night to hone his Alchemist Warrior skills. Tokiko would like to help with the training, but Bravo won't allow it - as he sees it, she's too protective of Kazuki, and that would only get in the way. Instead, she's tasked with protecting the kakugane they recovered during their last battle - and it's not long before the LXE come looking for it...
23 - Warrior Tokiko
Jinnai: the latest member of the LXE to make himself known, and he's after the kakugane that Tokiko's protecting. He also has the ability to hypnotically control others, and so Tokiko finds herself not just facing the homunculus, but also the rest of the kids in the dormitory, who are dancing to his tune. That makes her job a whole lot more difficult - she finds it difficult to fight without harming the school kids - but that may have been what Bravo was hoping for...
24 - Destroy All Enemies
Dealing with Jinnai seems to have helped Tokiko recover her killing instinct - after seeing her fight here, its clear that she's not someone you ever want to annoy. But Papillon is watching from the sidelines, and once Jinnai is defeated he takes his kakugane and sets about dealing with Tokiko himself. He's not able to follow through on his threat to kill her - this time, at least - but he does retrieve the kakugane, and that's going to make him more powerful the next time he appears. The encounter does serve one useful purpose, though: Tokiko now has a renewed sense of purpose, and if anything is even more powerful than she was before...
25 - The Hayasaka Siblings
The Hayasaka twins are famous at school - President and Vice-President of the student council; Ouka the school beauty, Shusui a boy who just wants to become as strong as he can. Only problem is, his kendo skills have reached the point where no-one else in the club can touch him - if he wants to progress, he needs a new challenge. Kazuki, fresh from his special training with Warrior Chief, may just be that challenge. They're also members of the LXE, but don't be telling anyone just yet...
26 - Training Day
Dr Butterfly assigns the Hayasaka twins to track down the Alchemist Warriors at the school (Koushaku's refusing to reveal their identities) and deal with them - if they're successful, he'll grant their dearest wish, whatever that may be. But they're not homunculi, and other members of the LXE don't believe they should have been given the job. Add in that they've both been given kakugane to help them with their task, and suddenly there's an incentive for disgruntled homunculi to engage in a little factional rivalry...
One of my biggest grips against shounen fighting stories is that the morals of it all are never really explored - kids just fight, and kill, for nothing other than proving how strong they are or to become stronger themselves. It really annoys me - fighting has consequences, in an ideal world I'd like to see them properly explored, but the likes of Naruto or Bleach never really get into that territory. So colour me surprised that, for this volume at least, Buso Renkin does. Not in a huge amount of detail, true, but Kazuki has real issues to deal with and he's shown to struggle with them, and I like that. Of course, if those issues are dropped now and never seen again, I'll be feeling cheated and annoyed, but for now Buso Renkin earns extra brownie points for doing what most manga of its ilk never bother to.
Along with the fighting, there's a fun little sense of humour running through this volume, with the appearance of the various LXE villains being the centre of it - they're designed and dressed in ways that you'd associate more with people inclined towards particular fetishes, if you know what I mean, and the reactions they get from others when they appear in public are good for a laugh. Cheap laughs, yes, but laughs nonetheless, and the joke brings a good sense of fun to the volume.
Add in Bravo's over-the-top attitude to everything and some good scenes where Tokiko gets to show her softer side - she is just a teenage girl, after all - and there's a lot to like with this book. The more I read of Buso Renkin, the more it grows on me, and while this volume isn't quite as good as volume two it's still thoroughly enjoyable. Well worth a look.