Title: Bokurano: Ours
Author: Mohiro Kitoh
Publisher: Viz Media (Sig IKKI)
Volume: Volumes 3 and 4 (of 11), $12.99 each
Vintage: 2004 by Shogakukan in Japan, February 2011 and August 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Science fiction, drama, action
By what I pieced together from the story in these two volumes and a quick glance at Wikipedia, here’s the set up for Bokurano: A group of fifteen children (around age 12-13, I believe) discover a cave on a beach during a summer camp. Inside the cave is a man who convinces the children to enter a contract in order to try out a game where they must control a robot and defeat giant alien creatures. Unfortunately, there is no game, and the children have unwittingly signed on to defend the Earth from a series of attacks by the creatures. Each child must take their place in the robot (nicknamed Zearth) at a determined time and fight a determined target(s) withing a set amount of time (48 hours). If they lose or run out of time, the world will be destroyed. If they win their individual battle, the Earth is saved, but the pilot must die (by giving their life force to power the robot). It’s all puppies and rainbows here in Bokurano. They’re eventually greeted by a small creature named Koyemshi, who guides the children and calls the robot for their battles. He’s rather sadistic, but doesn’t seem to have a problem fulfilling the last wishes of the children (whatever they may be). At the start of volume 3, four of the contracted children have already died. The chapters in the series are divided to focus on the specific pilot for that stretch of story, and this volume starts off with Isao Kako. I don’t know how he was written before this volume, but in his few chapters here, he’s either beating someone up or raping someone, so he’s, how you say, difficult to like. And to top it off, he’s a whiny little coward who ends up having to be put out of his misery by one of the female pilots. In this volume, the kids are approached by the Japanese defense force, who wants to take them into protective custody, and hopes to study Zearth. Koyemshi is annoyed at first, but eventually agrees to allow the military to cooperate with Zearth’s battles and watch over the kids. Part of their aim, besides trying to learn as much as they can about such a powerful weapon, is to take out the monsters without involving the children, which they hope will save them. Unfortunately, their weaponry has only a small impact, and they lose a lot of equipment and men for their efforts. And, of course, just piloting Zearth is enough to kill the kids, so there’s not much they can do on that end, either. As Kako’s battle ends prematurely, it’s up to Chizuru Honda to finish off the enemy. A quick crash course of Chizuru’s life reveals that she fell in love with one of her teachers, slept with him, and was then betrayed by him (more raping with kids!). With Zearth, she plans to exact her revenge by killing those who hurt her before battling the monster. However, when she gets to the person who started it all, she’s met with something unexpected that stops her in her tracks and forces her to reconsider her vengeance. And makes her teacher/lover look even scummier, if that were possible. The other children watch in horror as Chizuru goes on a bloody rampage with a cold expression, and when she finally takes down the monster, they are surprised to learn that two pilots are lost with her death.
As Chizuru’s story wraps up, the other pilots come to a realization – there aren’t enough pilots to fight the monsters. Seven lights denoting contracted pilots light up Zearth’s face, but nine children remain. They already know that the youngest, Kana, is not part of the contract, but that still leaves one child who did not make the contract. No one plans on speaking up, of course (unless they simply don’t know themselves). That also leaves them two pilots short to fight the nine monsters (one pilot per monster). To fill up the numbers, two of the military personnel that were watching over the children make a contract, Lieutenant Masamitsu Seki of the navy, and Captain Misumi Tanaka of the air force. Kunihiko Moji will be the next kid to fight in Zearth, but his chapters start off focusing on Seki and Tanaka and their decision to become pilots. The big concern at this point is keeping the military’s involvement with Zearth a secret. Given the not so secretive way their involvement went the first time, their actions have not gone unnoticed (apparently they’re not very good at keeping secrets secret). The story then shifts its main focus to Moji, who has an interesting request for what he wants done with his body. Enter flashback mode, where we learn about a trio of friends and an unfortunate love triangle. As (younger) children, Nagi, Tsubasa, and Moji were inseparable friends. As they grew older and became more aware of themselves as boys and a girl, things started to get complicated, because both Nagi and Moji developed feelings for Tsubasa. When Nagi fell ill with a serious heart condition, Tsubasa promised not to choose anybody (meaning a boyfriend) until Nagi got better. When Zearth came along, Moji decided the only way he could have Tsubasa was to use the robot to kill his friend. That all changed when he learned piloting Zearth would automatically lead to his death, so he changed his mind, which leads to his current request – Moji wants to give his heart to Nagi. However, as Nagi is prepped for surgery, the alien creature arrives and literally puts Moji in a bind that he is unable to escape from. A few bonus pages describe the various futuristic vehicles used in the story.
I’ve been sitting on these for a while, putting them off, and I wish I could have kept sitting on them, letting them sink to the bottom of the pile until I completely forgot about them. Hoping that if I waited long enough they would vanish, or the review would write itself. I whizzed through both of these volumes, not because they were engaging, but because there’s hardly anything there, and I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. Well, OK, it’s not that bad, but it is rather dull and overdone. Not Battle Royale extravagant, but more ridiculous than Evangelion, which are the two series Bokurano immediately reminded me of. Evangelion is obvious, since it’s a bunch of psychologically messed up little kids piloting a giant robot to save the world from alien creatures (apparently the Japanese love putting the fate of the entire planet into the hands of whiny brats). Battle Royale, because of the psychological stress placed on the children, and how they change as a result, for better or worse. All of that seems like it would be interesting, but I found myself bored and disinterested. And a bit confused, since I haven’t read previous volumes, but I was able to piece a good deal together, I think (a quick glance at the Wiki entry explained the rest). Here are some of the delightful things you can look forward to while reading Bokurano: kids getting raped, kids brutally beating each other up, kids killing each other, the worst brother on the planet, a super creepy mascot, whiny kids, useless adults, generic artwork, and slow dialog. The kids have been seriously messed up by their predicament, if they weren’t messed up to begin with, and as I said, the situation brings out both the best and the worst in them. Several of them want to use Zearth for revenge (like Moji, initially, and Chizuru), though others do try to use the robot to protect their friends and family (like Daiichi Yamura and Mako Nakarai in previous volumes). It’s a lot of power, and they don’t have much to lose. If their enemy wins, the entire world is destroyed, but if they win, they still die. If they’re willing to die to protect something or someone, then it’s not so bad, but in Isao Kako’s case, he’s so terrified of dying himself that he ends up not able to do anything at all. I’m not really clear on the mythology here, or the rules of the game. It seems like the kids were essentially duped into piloting Zearth without being aware of the consequences. It also seems that this sort of thing happens on other planets, as well, where each planet is being tested to see if it’s worth its survival. I don’t know if the people chosen to pilot are picked randomly, or what, but it’s pretty messed up at any rate. And to tell you the truth, I don’t even care, as I’m not even remotely interested. Maybe you will be. Someone out there is, or it wouldn’t still be being published (volume 5 comes out in January). I’d rather not have to bother with it again.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.